The true peculiarity of philosophy lies in the interesting individuality which is the organic shape that Reason has built for itself out of the materials of a particular age. The particular speculative Reason (of a later time) finds in it spirit of its spirit, flesh of its flesh, it intuits itself in it as one and the same and yet as another living being. Every philosophy is complete in itself, and like an authentic work of art, carries the totality within itself. Just as the work of Apelles or Sophocles would not have appeared to Raphael and Shakespeare — had they ever known them — as mere preparatory studies, but as a kindred force of the spirit, so Reason cannot regard its former shapes as merely useful preludes to itself.

— G. W. F. Hegel, The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s System of Philosophy

I promised myself that I wasn’t going to devolve this column into a series of complaints and recriminations. And now looking back over what I have written in the past several months, I am coming to the conclusion that that is exactly what I have done. It is troubling.

I am having trouble responding to unforeseen setbacks. Something goes wrong – plumbing, a work process, my sense of balance – and I seem unable to compensate adequately or appropriately. This is disturbing, because my very livelihood is predicated on the need for me to step up and solve unforeseen problems when they arise. Because they will arise. They always do.

Without delving too deeply into the details of the past couple weeks, let me say that there have been a string of serious problems that have arisen at work and at home—although the ones at work have been more serious than the ones at home. They have, in effect, tapped-out my reserves of confidence. Before the injury, I prided myself on my ability to “arrive at the middle term” as Diderot might have written. That ability has taken a beating.

I have been slower to solve problems. In some cases, I have been nearly incapable of continuing to work at a solution. And while this has been happening my faith in myself has waned. I would like a ‘win’. I would like a string of ‘wins’. I think that would go a long way towards restoring my confidence. In turn, that would help me to be a better problem-solver.

Perhaps it is fitting that as I write this, I am in the middle of a large-scale server upgrade to work’s most important server. I have been anxious about this project since it was first proposed. Now it is here. It is going well. The difficult part of the project was at the beginning. Now that we have passed that milestone, the rest of what remains is quite routine. Tedious, but well-understood and progressing along nicely.

Maybe I can write this down as a ‘win’. I’d sure like to.

Philosopher: Yet you must have sinned at least once against the rules of art, you must have let fall one of those wounding bitter truths — for I believe that in spite of the vile, abject, scoundrelly part you play, you have at bottom some delicacy of soul.

Rameau: I? Not a bit of it. The devil take me if I know what I am like at bottom. As a general rule, my mind is as whole as a sphere and my character as fresh as a daisy. I’m never false if my interest is to speak true and never true if I see the slightest use of being false. I say whatever comes into my head — if sensible, well and good; if silly, no one minds. I take full advantage of free speech. I have never in my life thought before speaking, nor while speaking, nor after speaking. The upshot is, I offend nobody.

–D. Diderot, Rameau’s Nephew

Advertisements