I like big books and I cannot lie.
The current one, coming in at 1,019 pages, is called Four Ages of Understanding: The First Postmodern Survey of Philosophy from Ancient Times to the Turn of the Twenty-First Century, by John Deely. A big book deserves a big-ass title.
It came to my attention in the usual way, i.e., some combination of angelic causation and complete randomness, nor can I yet say whether or not it is raccoommended. In fact, I don't even know exactly what it's about.
I mean, while the subject of the book is obviously What It's All About, I don't yet know the author's slant on W.I.A.A. I see it has something to do with the centrality of language -- of a logocentric universe composed of speech -- and that is what intrigued me, because hey, that's what I think.
My point this morning is that this doorstep isn't just my problem, it's yours, since I'll apparently be immersed in it for awhile. At the moment I'm only up to page 17, so I don't yet have much to say except that I like his colloquial style.
In fact, if you're going to write a book this long, you had better be a congenial companion, otherwise your would-be reader will never make it through. Rather, it will have to be one of those books you've pretended to have read, like Being and Nothingness or The Phenomenology of Spirit.
Although the book looks forbidding, the first sentence belies its serious length and weight: "I came from my Parkview house to the Hispanic gathering in Jackson Park just in time for the food (having been able to see when the time was right)."
So he announces right away that he's a Regular Guy.
"Where have you been?" a lady unknown to me asked from across the table at which I took a seat.
"Writing a book," I replied, taking my first bite.
"Oh?" queried the stranger. "What about?"
"The history of philosophy" I said, taking another bite....
"Hasn't that already been written" she said, less a question than a hint I was wasting my time...
"Not so" I countered. "Besides, I have an angle."
An angle? That's your excuse? It had better be some angle!
Ironically, the book is dedicated to me. Or will be if I make it to the end: to those few who will read every word.
Hmm. Perhaps this has a double meaning, you know? No one can literally read every word of this logorrheic cosmos, but I can try. Obviously Deely did.
I'm going to jump ahead to the last page:
For postmodern times and the immediate future of philosophy, the clear and central task is to come to terms with "a universe perfused with signs," if not composed exclusively of them.
Again, that is precisely how I look at the cosmos, and have ever since I heard a late night ramble by Terence McKenna on the subject back in the mid-1980s. He was high on psilocybin, while my excuse is that I had probably been up for at least 24 hours, which was my custom back then (I worked the graveyard shift and thought real men didn't require sleep).
In any event, I remember the exact words pronounced in that slightly nasally and quizzicaloid voice of his:
I don't believe that the world is made of quarks or electromagnetic waves, or stars, or planets, or any of those things. I believe the world is made of language.
He also made it clear that "it is no great accomplishment to hear a voice in the head. The accomplishment is to make sure that it is telling you the truth." Hence the title of his book, True Hallucinations.
Likewise, any idiot can write a 1,000 page book, although reading one probably takes a special kind of idiot. Let's see what the critics are saying, i.e., amazon reviewers:
This book should be on the shelf of every person who takes ideas seriously.
Well, that's true of countless books. The question is whether or not it should be taken off the shelf, let alone read.
I'll keep you posted. Literally, of course.
Meanwhile, my takeaway from chapter one is that: every animal lives in its own "objective world" which consists of the objects necessary for its survival (including objects to avoid); that these objective worlds are, ironically, a kind of dreamland; that "to wake from this dream is to discover the Other in its otherness"; and that philosophy must try to avoid becoming just another one of those somnolent hallucinations.
So, just like back in the 1980s, I'll do my best to avoid sleep and try to discern which hallucinations are speaking the truth.