I produced five full length 'academic' papers in the last 6 months or so. I had intended to try and publish a few of them, but found myself profoundly frustrated with the process.
Showing my writing to others, in particular, occasioned challenging conversations, and feelings of alienation. I am inclined to alienation, so this is not altogether surprising.
Yesterday I spent time with a friend (a pleasure) and spoke with him about my frustrations.
I fear that I was irritable at the time, as I was expressing my irritation with how my writing is often met. "My writing," I said to him, "is the answer to a question and the solution to a problem." "How Collingwoodian of you," he humorously replied, as we just read R.G. Collingwood's Essay on Metaphysics together. Collingwood defines thinking as a series of questions and answers, and encourages other to write, not about him, but about the problems that he is addressing.
I want my problems to be shared. "I show people my writing and everyone takes issues with my formulations. 'This isn't clear...'. 'This metaphor doesn't quite work...'. 'This is ambiguous...'. These are proper critiques of my writing, and I want to learn to engage in the craft of writing, editing, considering audience. But I also get frustrated when I feel I am told that I am inventing problems, asking the wrong questions, or otherwise misguided.
I want to feel like I perceive reasonable problems in the world, and that my problems can be shared. But it is difficult when there is a lack of agreement in what problem, what situation, we are even dealing with.
I have recently decided to not pursue a PhD, and to attempt to write beyond academia. I have also recently outlined a project of substantial length.
There are a variety of to frame the project, but one is to discuss the relationship between 'general psychology' and ontology.
I have recently been reading Niels Engelsted's book Catching up with Aristotle, an attempt to articulate a 'general psychology' that could offer greater unity to the fractured discipline of psychology. Engelsted argues that the Soviet psychologist Aleksei Leontiev and Aristotle shared a four-part scheme to capture the meaning of 'psyche', or soul, as they appear in the world: sentience (in basic life), intentionality (in conscious life), mind (in animals with locomotion), and human consciousness (in animals with a social debt economy).
I am highly attracted to the project of general psychology because it is identical with the question, 'What is life?'
The question of general psychology cannot be raised without asking about the general nature of things, or the question of ontology or being. 'What is life?' cannot be asked without also asking 'What is the world?'
The fusion of general psychology and ontology is a feature of our present situation. I said to my friend, 'Behaviorism as a general psychology is predicated upon or consonant with materialism as a general ontology'. He asked me to repeat this. It felt like one of those simple and crystal clear formulations, obviously oversimplified, that I should hold onto.
My friend was pointing out the theoretical extremes of my political analysis; my insistence on the significance of 'local teleology' for psychology and philosophy, my desire to attack materialist, crude 'empiricism', and the like.
I understand this sentiment, and am also surprised by it. Pre-reflective experience is so theoretically intricate, so implicitly theoreitcal. Our entire situation feels so materialist, so behaviorist.
How could we possibly approach general psychology differently without rethinking ourselves ontologically?
And, yet, I speak so often of the impotence of philosophical analysis.