Against Depth

There is nothing in this world which is as infuriating and vain as the supposition that things inhere in human concepts. No, that is the second most vain thing. The most vain thing is to say that the reverse is true – that human concepts inhere in things. Yet, is this not the totality of scholarship aiming to uncover the nature of anything? Is this not even the totality of the positing of the word “nature”? For, do we not in “nature” understand a microcosmic understanding of a macrocosmic “Nature?” And is not “Nature” none other than All that is? So do we not mean in “nature” a particular instantiation of All that-is, namely, that which is?

Surely we do. And, by this, we certainly mean that the objects of our thoughts are inherent in the referents external to us. And certainly by that we mean to recognize referents objectively insofar as they are. Ah, but now this is a contentious statement! So, instead, let us say that “nature” states how a thing actually is, as opposed to how it is apparently. Never mind the epistemological assumptions had in such a concept, no, never mind them at all. Take it for granted that appearance differs from reality and that only by dense, endless cogitation can we ever hope to understand anything. Never mind that, once we’ve understood, we’ll be old, decrepit, grey, and with a mind of mush so dissolved from the acid of thought that in will be little more than paltry porridge of memory.

What is the use in explaining things until their final ends? What is the utility in probing into a text and asserting of it implicit classifications, technicalities, specialized terms with per se referents whose existence is only insofar as it is communicable to the rest of the text? Why, indeed, must one spend ages, monumental aspects of their life, studying the works of someone else just so they can make a statement about that thing really is? I damn how it really is! Let reality perish. Let it die under its constant anxiety and worry that what-is is insufficient.

All that matters to me is that a life is well-lived and that all individuals have the opportunity for such a life. Aside from this, what else matters? No, what else can matter? If a thing falls within the scope of a life well-lived, is this not good enough for its being good? If a thing produces the opportunity for such a life, who could deny it? Anyone, apparently, so long as they dig into the thing enough such that its innards spill out and the entire thing bleeds in a gory end to its miserable existence. Isn’t it obvious that when we probe and pick at anything for all time that it cannot help but die? We cannot unearth the structure of a thing without doing away with that structure which stands before us. That is, we cannot seek without first denying. We cannot find depth without first breaking apart what presents. Who would appreciate the shape of an egg by cracking it so as to peer into its yolk?

It is a damnable absurdity. “But,” my ideological opponents would tell you, “we cannot trust the prima facie! We must go beyond and probe the depths of reality!” Give me a break. Look at the farmer in the field who earns his living tending to his sheep. What need does he have of scooping out his sheep’s stomachs to make sure they’re healthy? He sees that they’re healthy, he sees that they’re unhealthy, and that is enough. If he were to cut them open willy nilly with the fanatical precision that so many scholars enjoy of their so-called “logical analysis,” he’d kill the beast altogether! He’d screw the pooch! In short, he do away with the damned thing that was in front of him in search of something occult and hidden. The thing he wanted to investigate is now dead. What was the point?

One might say that there is a superior “understanding” to be had in a thing when we probe into its depths. Sure, just as much as there’s superior understanding of “me” when you shove a medical probe down my throat. Sure, now you know what’s on the inside of me. Sure, now you know more about my biology. Sure, now you know what’s hidden. But what do you know about me? Surely you know about my body, but what is that? Is that me? No, of course it isn’t. I’m more than my body, wholly and truly. It won’t do you any good to peer deep into my gullet so as to uncover who I am. Nor will it do you any good to dissect a text for all time with questions which go beyond the immediate scope of what it presents. If a thing bears no indication of a scruple you raise, that is, your scruple is outside its express language, what gives you the right to raise it? Sure, you certainly can – you’ve got free will. But, when you do, you’ll have missed the point of the text! This is of necessity! Who could know me as I present myself by looking in my guts? No one. Who could know a text as it presents itself through logical divisions, reifications, footnotes at the end of every sentence, translation caveats, etc. etc. etc.? No one. What will they find instead? A dense a mass of nothing – a moving pile of ugly, bloody guts which comes to nothing except by the presentation in which it was packaged. If the writer wanted such dense analysis, he would’ve said so. If God wanted us to peer in each other’s throats to understand each other, we’d have the immediate means to do so. In both cases, there is no immediate means. No, we must go mediately, through our own assumptions about the connection between the depths and the face, in order to extract meaning from the former.

Now, am I saying that there’s no utility at all in analysis? No, not at all. What I am saying, however, is that if you merely want to live a good life (who among us doesn’t?), there’s no point to it. If you want deep knowledge of the etymology of Aristotle’s technical terms, sure, go for it. But can you really say that such knowledge is going to radically distort anything someone of moderate intelligence couldn’t already have gleaned generally from their personal reading of the text? No, of course not. If it did, what the hell would be the point of writing the text? If there is no self-sufficiency and self-contained meaning according to the prima facie view of a thing, then there’s even less reason to probe it! For, in this case, we’ve somehow got meaning in the depths producing obscurity on the face! What an absurdity! What a rank, meaningless meaning. So there must be self-sufficient, self-contained meaning on the face of things – of me, of texts, of everything. And, if we live by acting (and certainly we do) then how can one find a necessary, sufficient relation between a degree of knowledge had of a thing and the extent to which they “truly” know it? What does this even mean? Is not the act of reading enough for a valid understanding? Is not moderate analysis enough for another valid understanding? Can these be contradictory? Surely not. Sure, one might argue as such, but to do as such would be to assert the absurdity that first-hand meaning somehow came to nothing. No, if it did, its because it has been misunderstood.

The question raised contrary to the lattermost point is, then, “well, what are the criteria for judging understanding in distinction from misunderstanding?” To this I say – there are none, at least, not as concerns the mystery that is man’s life – the point is to live it. One can certainly have a misunderstanding of math, or physics, or biology, a lexicon, semantics, plot-structure, etc. But as concerns relations between things, their overall, general being, that knowledge which helps us to live, these are nothing but intuitive aspects of all objects which are immediately recognized by every mind in some capacity. To try, then, to develop one’s understanding otherwise, to negate the intuitively understood, is exercise in futility, as we must always have recourse to some other means of intuitive understanding! To logically analyze is to rely on the intuitive capability for question. To criticize is to do the same and posit alternatives.

It is only when we accept the prima facie for what it is, a presentation for us to act on outside of mental cogitation, a thing to be engaged with as a part of life and not as some speculative exercise in determining final ends, summa bona, teloi, eudaimonia, or whatever, that we accept IT and not something we’ve made of it. We cannot help but impose assumptions on things – of course it will be the case, then, that this acceptance of that which is before us is fundamentally an acceptance to us. Nagel’s “view from nowhere” need not concern us. What we have before us, to us, is enough.