Philosophy on Thinking
The website opening page presented the site theme – we are our choices.
Making choices is an intellectual activity of an individual brain, an effort philosophers call thinking (2) responding to a “call” (1) also originating in the subconscious mind. Our target is confined to the significant sociotechnical system problems we call Category three.
“Thinking” underwrites choice making by comparing the knowledge about candidate fixes to a prioritized value system also held within the individual’s brain (3). Choices made that turn out to be good attest that high-stakes thinking took place. 1 2 3
The theme is so central to our life’s trajectory it is expressly connected to this page:
- Scope of page subject matter
- The logical couplings between theme, the sociotechnical system, and this page
Scope: The first record that a human thought about thinking was carved on pyramid walls as worker graffiti, the monster organization building the pyramids was recognized as dysfunctional and facing the reality involved thinking. This page covers the philosophers of thought from the Greeks to recent times.
Connections: The takeaway from philosophy about thinking is that no one could ever define it. Know that thinking is the centerpiece of life, but the process itself remains invisible. Everything in the record is peripheral and speculation. The best we have is inferring that philosopher-grade thinking took place – in hindsight. You will get fresh insights from reviewing their work.
Overview on Thinking
The website approach to knowledge transfer about “thinking” is historical. The first folks into the phenomenon of “thinking” were labelled philosophers when they first formulated a body of knowledge about thinking from their “radical” perspective some three thousand years ago. A millennia later, sciences and arts and craft disciplines emerged that took the philosophers challenge to further refine “What is thinking?” After Plan B came alive in 2013, we had the evidence to specify how, exactly, to prove that high-stakes thinking took place after it took place. Our contribution towards advancing the knowledge of that paramount human competency is provided on page “Our Take.”
It is been established, beyond dispute, that you are your choices. Societies are their choices. It has been established by the process of elimination (POE) that the intellectual activity of making choices is thinking-driven. No one has ever figured out another way, besides thinking, that choices can be made that bypass the human mind. In fact, once there is a call to select and candidates exist, the subconscious mind makes a choice in the first centisecond. Good or bad it’s always first. Nothing can alter its stage-center performance.
With the paramount importance that thinking for selection holds, its significance is never diluted or diverted in guiding our work. Just because it is taboo to discuss thinking in polite company, in no way does it diminish its apex position in determining the quality of life of our species and its survivability.
Men in the middle (MitMs), as a class in social hierarchy, have by far the most and toughest choices to make of any other level in the organization. That’s why they are the keystones of the social ecosystem. Making good choices for Cat 3 problems always involves many intermediate choices with a premium on appropriate and protracted “thinking.” Making bad choices is a nobrainer, one and done.
The centerpiece of intelligence is appropriate selection, a think-driven process. The facts of what is scientifically called “thinking” include:
- Less than 1% of the population knows the sociotechnical scope and mechanisms of thinking
- Less than 2% of the population knows or cares that intuition is not thinking
- Less than 3% of the population is aware there is a process for effective thinking
- Less than 2% of the population knows or cares what triggers their thinking process
- Less than 1% of the population knows or cares how it thinks
With this operational reality, one need not feel curious about why risen civilizations invariably fell.
The logic to thought aversion is straight forward:
- Everyone agrees – humans are their choices. Beyond dispute.
- Appropriate selection is the definition of intelligence
- Only “thinking” can underwrite appropriate selection
- Thinking is the core competency of a well-lived life
- Thinking is socially and vigorously discouraged
- Nobody thinks
In ordinary life, people say things like “Oh, I just had a thought” or “I was thinking to myself.” By this we usually mean instances of inner speech or visual imagery, which are at the center of our stream of consciousness—the train of words and visual contents represented in our minds These trains are indeed conscious. In neurophilosophy, however, “thought” has a much more specific sense. In this view, thoughts include only nonsensory mental attitudes, such as judgments, decisions, intentions and goals. These are amodal, abstract events, meaning that they are not sensory experiences and are not tied to sensory experiences. Such thoughts never figure in working memory. They never become conscious. And we only ever know of them by interpreting what does become conscious, such as visual imagery and the words we hear ourselves say in our heads.
Theory states that to be considered conscious a mental state must be among the contents of working memory (the “user interface” of our minds) and thereby be available to other mental functions, such as decision-making and verbalization. Conscious states are “globally broadcast.”
Conscious mental states are simply those that you know of, that you are directly aware of in a way that doesn’t require you to interpret yourself. You do not have to read your own mind to know of them. Now, whichever view you adopt, it turns out that thoughts such as decisions and judgments should not be considered to be conscious. They are not accessible in working memory, nor are we directly aware of them. It is the “the illusion of immediacy,” the false impression that we know our thoughts directly.
Take conversation. While you are aware of what’s said, the interpretative work and inferences on which you base your understanding are not accessible to you. All the highly automatic, quick inferences that form the basis of your understanding of what’s said remain hidden. What rises to the surface of your mind are the results of these mental processes. The inferences themselves, the actual workings of our minds, remain unconscious. We are aware only of their products. Access to another mind is not different in any fundamental way from access to my your own mind. The same sorts of interpretive processes still have to take place.
There is a great deal of experimental evidence from normal subjects, especially of their readiness to falsely, but unknowingly, fabricate facts or memories to fill in for lost ones. Moreover, if introspection were fundamentally different from reading the minds of others, one would expect there to be disorders in which only one capacity was damaged but not the other. But that’s not what science finds. Autism spectrum disorders, for example, are not only associated with limited access to the thoughts of others but also with a restricted understanding of oneself. In patients with schizophrenia, the insight both into one’s own mind and that of others is distorted. There seems to be only a single mind-reading mechanism on which we depend both internally and in our social relations.
We believe subjectively that we are possessed of far greater certainty about our attitudes than we actually have. We believe that if we are in mental state X, it is the same as being in that state. Once you believe you’re happy, you are. But that is not really the case. It is a trick of the mind that makes you equate the act of thinking one has a thought with the thought itself. Consciousness is not what we generally think it is. It is not direct awareness of our inner world of thoughts and judgments but a highly inferential process that only gives us the impression of immediacy.
You can still have free will and be responsible for your actions. Conscious and unconscious are not separate spheres; they operate in tandem. You are not simply puppets manipulated by your unconscious thoughts. Conscious reflection does have effects on your behavior. It interacts with and is fueled by implicit processes. In the end, being free means acting in accordance with one’s own reasons—whether these are conscious or not.
According to Global Workspace Theory, a mental state or event is conscious if a person can bring it to mind to carry out such functions as decision-making or remembering, although how such accessing occurs is not precisely understood. Investigators assume that consciousness is not the product of a single region of the brain but of larger neural networks.
The thinking knowledge void has been noted and recorded by prominent philosophers and “thinkers” for thousands of years. The aversion to thinking is easy to detect. It is first infused by our social conditioning. Many of the choices being made and implemented by the population are obviously bad, harmful choices that deliver consequences, not hoped-for results. It is as impossible to make good choices without thinking as it is impossible for risk-informed thinking to make bad choices. If you don’t know your choice is a good one, because you thought it through, it’s bound to be a bad one.
To go from intuition, a nobrainer, into the strenuous mental labor of competent thinking is no small feat. It takes time and it ends with a cognitive leap, not a crawl. You have agency to control your efforts. No one can do this for you.
This page provides the best available philosophical knowledge about “What is called Thinking?” It is for reference purposes when your thoughts about thinking mature from your thinking experience. For now, learning about requisite Cat 3 thinking is to appreciate just how complicated and multi-faceted making prudent choices in high-stakes conditions can be. You must wean yourself away from simple cause/simple consequence thinking – the curse of reductionism is to fail.
While Plan B is a most extraordinary gift we have proudly given to human society, our paramount gift to humanity is at a level above. It is the most awesome statement about creating a flourishing society since the ancient Greeks. It provides the practical process by which the Cat 3 issues that prevent a society from flourishing are resolved. Its principles and rules announce that it is impossible to resolve a Cat 3 problem by a direct front-to-back approach. The only way to learn the path to Plan B success is to first solve the problem and then evaluate the material distinctions between a Plan A transposed into a Plan B ideology. It sounds crazy that you must first solve the Cat 3 to learn how to solve Cat 3s, but the brute reality of that statement is derived throughout the website. Evidence for its truth has been provided by the ancient and honored profession of philosophy – Cat 3 impotent.
What is philosophy? With this question we are touching on a theme which is very broad, that is, widespread. Because the theme is broad, it is indefinite. Because it is indefinite, we can treat the theme from the most varied points of view. Thereby we shall always hit upon something that is valid. But because, in the treatment of this extensive theme, all possible opinions about thinking intermingle, we are in grave danger of having our discussion lack proper cohesion. Martin Heidegger 1956
In order to discuss the philosophy, science, and art of Cat 3 thinking, it is necessary to understand as demonstrable fact that a straight line of logical thinking to solve a Cat 3 issue, like OD, is impossible. How can there be a blazed path straight to a mythical destination? The reality of Cat 3 is the process of elimination (PoE) for both goal and method. There is no alternative to the PoE. It takes high-stakes thinking in both social and technical arenas and hard bark for absorbing failures without getting deflected or depressed. Getting to the mist-shrouded goal cannot be forced.
To an impartial observer, the basic situation with Cat 3 matters is ludicrous. As we validated in 2013, you have to first solve the Cat 3 matter before you can specify the range of particulars of cause, effect, process, and all the benefits in solving it.
The philosophers of human thinking never had a precedent of successful Cat 3 thinking to use as a standard of care. To philosophize on pieces and parts of the puzzle of thinking does not advance the PoE. It diverts thinking to lost causes. The fact there is now a standard of care for Cat 3 problem-solving is the last thing society wants to hear. You can test that statement anywhere and see for yourself. Then think, does a nation-wide refusal to think appropriately account for the current state of global affairs? You bet.
This page covers the subject of thinking from the perspective of science and the producers on the front lines who engage the kind of thinking that underwrites appropriate selection (intelligence). Except for the last section, this page was assembled from gleanings taken from the scientific literature on thinking, from Plato to Martin Heidegger. Some of this offering will be found quite rational, some will baffle you until you pay the thinking dues to grasp it. Why persevere? It’s the most important functionality of species Homo sapiens. It determines your life trajectory. As Carl Jung stated, if you don’t think the consequences are ugly, in reflex self-defense, you will call it fate.
Thinking is a way of life. It is a gathering and focusing of our whole selves on what lies before us and a taking to heart and mind these particular things before us in order to discover in them their essential nature and truth. Learning how to think can obviously aid us in this discovery. The conception of truth as the revealing of what is concealed, in distinction to the theory of truth as correctness or correspondence, is probably philosophy’s most seminal thought and philosophy’s essential task, as philosophers see it. The nature of reality and of man is both hidden and revealed. It both appears and withdraws from view, not in turn but concomitantly. Only the thinking that is truly involved, patient, and disciplined by long practice can come to know either the hidden or disclosed character of truth.
Thinking is unlike any other act insofar as it is an act at all. It is a calling in more than one sense of that richly evocative word. Thinking defines the nature of being human and the more thoughtless we are, the less human we are. You come to know what thinking means by thinking. Doing so justifies itself. To think is to be underway.
The philosophers ask:
- What is designated by the word “thinking?”
- What does the prevailing theory of thought, namely understand by thinking?
- What are the prerequisites we need to perform thinking rightly?
- What is it that commands us to think?
The fourth question must be asked first. Once the nature of thinking is in question, the fourth is the decisive question. But this is not to say that the first three questions stand apart, outside the fourth. Rather, they point to the fourth. The first three questions subordinate themselves to the fourth which itself determines the structure within which the four ways of asking belong together. It cannot be answered by ingenuity.
What is being talked about and what is being said are not identical. We may have a correct idea of what is being talked about and fail to reflect on what was said. Thinking encompasses both.
A common denominator statement by all philosophers on thinking is that nobody thinks. Everyone has heard the equivalent statement by thinkers in other disciplines going back thousands of years.
Since the thinking process itself is invisible and unknowable, on what basis is the claim being made? What indicators are being observed to surmise that “thinking” is not taking place? For the complaint to be universal across time, the conclusion is that the distinguished observers are noting that society in general and individuals in particular are not solving the important, unavoidable problems deemed to be solvable, even by those who fail to solve them.
As the common thread of the assertion is the failure to solve solvable problems, failures that can’t be hidden, we conclude that philosophers have used problem solving as their measurement standard of thinking. How could the solution to a Cat 3 problem come about without thinking? It’s not a stretch of the imagination to note that the tougher the problem, the higher the thinking competency and persistence required to solve it.
The way is focused on arriving at what is needed, and thus required of us, if we are ever to accomplish thinking in an essentially fitting manner. No one knows what is called “thinking” until he is capable of necessary preparation.
The most thought-provoking thing about our thought-provoking age” is that “we are still not thinking,” it has always been thus stated since the early Greeks.
Greek thinking was bound to suggest that the important thing for us is first to see that our modem way of representational ideas, as long as it stubbornly holds to its way, blocks its own access to the beginning and thus to the fundamental characteristic of Western thinking.
There is something which every thinker has to see afresh each time, else he is not a thinker: that everything that lies before us is ambiguous. This ambiguity declares itself for the first time, and definitively.
The basic character of thinking is constituted by propositions.
Accordingly —what is called “thinking,” insofar as it follows this call? Thinking means: letting-lie-before-us and so taking-to-heart also: beings in being. Thinking so structured pervades the foundation of metaphysics, the duality of beings and Being. Such thinking develops its various successive positions on this foundation, and determines the fundamental positions of metaphysics.
Thinking, then, is not a grasping, neither the grasp of what lies before us, nor an attack upon it. What lies before us is not manipulated by means of grasping. Thinking is not grasping or prehending. In the high youth of its unfolding essence, thinking knows nothing of the grasping concept. The reason is not at all that thinking was then undeveloped.
The wish to understand a thinker in his own terms is something else entirely than the attempt to take up a thinker’s quest and to pursue it to the core of his thought’s problematic. The first is and remains impossible. The second is rare; and of all things the most difficult. We shall not be allowed to forget this difficulty for a single moment. To speak of an “attempt at thinking’’ is not an empty phrase meant to simulate humility. The term makes the claim that we are here taking a way of questioning on which the problematic alone is accepted as the unique habitat and locus of thinking. But in view of the rashness of our public, it stays caught in an insidious ambiguity against which the individual is helpless.
The way of thinking cannot be traced from somewhere to somewhere like a well-worn rut, nor does it at all exist as such in any place. Only when we walk it, and in no other fashion, only, that is, by thoughtful questioning, are we on the move on the way. This movement is what allows the way to come forward. That the way of thought is of this nature is part of the precursoriness of thinking, and this precursoriness in turn depends on an enigmatic solitude, taking the word ‘‘solitude” in a high, unsentimental sense.
No thinker ever has entered into another thinker’s solitude, Yet it is only from its solitude that all thinking, in a hidden mode, speaks to the thinking that comes after or that went before. The things which we conceive and assert to be the results of thinking, are the misunderstandings to which thinking ineluctably falls victim. Only they achieve publication as alleged thought, and occupy those who do not think.
The answer to the question “What is called thinking?” is, of course, a statement, but not a proposition that could be formed into a sentence with which the question can be put aside as settled. The answer to the question is, of course, an utterance, but it speaks from a correspondence. It follows the calling, and maintains the question in its problematic.
To answer the question “What is called thinking?” is itself always to keep asking, so as to remain underway. This would seem easier than the intention to take a firm position for adventurer-like, we roam away into the unknown. The movement, step by step, is what is essential here. Thinking clears its way only by its own questioning advance. But this clearing of the way is curious. The way that is cleared does not remain behind, but is built into the next step, and is projected forward from it. Thinking is task-driven.
That appearance, and the apparent indifference of the “is” that goes with it, may hold the only possibility for mortal men to reach the truth. The phrase “being is” keeps an infinite distance from empty platitudes. On the contrary, it holds the most completely fulfilled secret of all thinking, in the first intimation of its statement.
But the way of thinking is of such a kind that this crossroads can never be crossed by a once-for-all decision and choice of way, and the way can never be put behind as once-for-all behind us. The crossroads accompanies us on the way, every moment. Where does this strange triple way lead? Where else but into what is always problematical, always worthy of questioning?
It rests on the stubborn and widespread prior assumption that one can enter into dialogue with a thinker by addressing Him out of thoughtlessness. And here thoughtlessness is to be found not so much where someone untrained in philosophy asks his questions, but rather where every seemingly pertinent and apposite citation from all of the world’s philosophical literature is indiscriminately thrown in.
For there is no universal schema which could be applied mechanically to the interpretation of the writings of thinkers or even to a single work of a single thinker. For all true thought remains open to more than one interpretation —and this by reason of its nature. Nor is this multiplicity of possible interpretations merely the residue of a still unachieved formal logic.
For Plato is considered the greatest thinker, not only among the Greeks, but of the entire West. Why? Not because his thoughts have ever been established as the greatest in terms of what the task of thinking is. I would not know how that could ever have been done by any thinker. Nor would I know by what yardstick we could ever appraise any thinking as the greats. As great—quite possibly. But thinking so far has presumably not even raised the question in what the peculiar greatness of Plato’s thought consists —assuming the greatness of any given thinking lies in the wealth of its problematic. Plato is considered the West’s greatest thinker because Platonism had a powerful influence on Western thinking.
When we are questioning within this problematic, we are Thinking itself is a way. We respond to the way only by remaining underway. To clear the way—that is one thing. The other thing is to take a position somewhere along the road and there make conversation about whether, and how, earlier and later stretches of the way may be different, and in their difference might even be incompatible.
The term “conversation” does, of course, express the fact that the speakers are turning to one another. Every conversation is a kind of dialogue. But true dialogue is never a conversation. Conversation consists in slithering along the edges of the subject matter, precisely without getting involved in the unspoken.
Forever to formulate ideas and make talk about the way. In order to get underway, we do have to set out. This is meant in a double sense: for one thing, we have to open ourselves to the emerging prospect and dilution of the way itself and then, we must get on the way, that is, must take the steps by which alone the way becomes a way.
Thinking, then, is here not taken as an occurrence whose course is open to psychological observation. Nor is thinking conceived merely as an activity that has norms and a scale of values. Thinking can he guided by validity and authority only if it has in itself a callings directing it to what there is to-be-thought. The question “What calls us to think?” brings us also to the problem that thinking, qua thinking, is essentially a call.
Instruction on what to understand by “thinking” is given by logic. Incompatible things cannot be made into a unit by a spoken statement.
- Thinking does not bring knowledge as do the sciences.
- Thinking does not produce usable practical wisdom.
- Thinking solves no cosmic riddles.
- Thinking does not endow us directly with the power to act.
As long as we still subject thinking to these four demands, we shall overrate and overtax it. Both excesses prevent us from returning to a no longer customary modesty and to persist in it, amid the bustle of a civilization that clamors daily for a fresh supply of latest novelties, and daily chases after excitement.
If we are to think of man not as an organism but a human being, we must first give attention to the fact that man is that being who has his being by pointing to what is, and that particular beings manifest themselves as such by such pointing. Yet that which is, does not complete and exhaust itself in what is actual and factual at the given moment.
Thinking, however, is a matter common to all mankind. The thinking process in use depends on the stakes. Where there is thinking, there are thoughts.
The first thing to put into the language of thinking is the essence of idea formation.
It is impossible to glean the nature of thinking from the mere signification of one solitary word in one particular language, and then to offer the result as binding. Surely not. The only thing we can glean that way is that something remains doubtful here. However, the same doubt affects the common, human, logical thinking
But precisely because thinking does not make poetry, but is a primal telling and speaking of language, it must stay close to poesy. And since science does not think, thinking must in its present situation give to the sciences that searching attention which they are incapable of giving to themselves.
If thinking is set over against science, it looks by scientific standards as if it were miscarried poesy. If, on the other hand, thinking knowingly avoids the vicinity of poesy, it readily appears as the super-science that would be more scientific than all the sciences put together.
What is unthought in a thinker’s thought is not a lack inherent in his thought. What is un-thought is there in each case only as the un-thought. The more original the thinking, the richer will be what is unthought in it. The unthought is the greatest gift that thinking can bestow. But to the commonplaces of sound common sense, what is unthought in any thinking always remains merely the incomprehensible. And to the common comprehension, the incomprehensible is never an occasion to stop and look at its own powers of comprehension, still less to notice their limitations. No common sense, whose soundness lies in its immunity to any problematic, had ever caught on to anything at the source, had ever thought through anything from its source.
Yet all along our way a steady light is cast on thinking. This light however is not introduced by the lamp of reflection. It issues from thinking itself and only from there. Thinking has this enigmatic property, that it itself is brought to its own light—although only if and only as long as it is thinking, and keeps clear of persisting in ratiocination about ratio. Thinking is thinking when it answers to what is most thought-provoking. In our thought-provoking time, what is most thought-provoking shows itself in the fact that we are still not thinking.
We are already on our way toward thinking, presumably from a great distance, not only on our way toward thinking as a conduct someday to be practiced, but on our way within thinking, on the way of thinking. These things will give us food for thought, if only we do not reject the gift by regarding everything that is joyful, beautiful, and gracious as the kind of thing which should be left to feeling and experience, and kept out of the winds of thought. Only after we have let ourselves become involved with the mysterious and gracious things as those which properly give food for thought, only then can we take thought also of how we should regard the malice of evil.
How shall we ever be able to think about the oft-named relation between thought and poesy so long as we do not know what is called thinking and what calls for thinking and therefore cannot think about what poesy is?
The question “What is called thinking?” can never be answered by proposing a definition of the concept thinking and then diligently explaining what is contained in that definition. Thinking is thinking only when it pursues whatever speaks for a subject. Everything said here defensively is to protect the subject.
Surely, as long as we take the view that logic gives us any information about what thinking is, we shall never be able to think how much all poesy rests upon thinking back, recollection. Poetry wells up only from devoted thought thinking back, recollecting.
The leap alone takes us into the neighborhood where thinking resides. We come to know what it means to think when we ourselves try to think. If the attempt is to be successful we must be ready to learn thinking. As soon as we allow ourselves to become involved in such learnings we have admitted that we are not yet capable of thinking.
Man can do so. This possibility alone, however, is no guarantee to us that we are capable of thinking. For we are capable of doing only what we are inclined to do. And again, we truly incline only toward something that in turn inclines toward us, toward our essential being, by appealing to our essential being as the keeper who holds us in our essential being. What keeps us in our essential nature holds us only so long, however, as we for our part keep holding on to what holds us. And we keep holding on to it by not letting it out of our memory. Memory is the gathering of thought.
Only when we are so inclined toward what in itself is to be thought about, only then are we capable of thinking. We learn to think by giving our mind to what there is to think about.
How does traditional doctrine conceive and define what we have named thinking? What is it that for two and a half thousand years has been regarded as the basic characteristic of thinking? Why does the traditional doctrine of thinking bear the curious title “logic?”
Whatever our judgments may turn out to be, they are all baseless as long as what supports them is opaque. For they are in fact supported by that “at first” which looks on terms as terms, not just at first but always, which looks on them, that is, as kegs and buckets.
What about this much-invoked “at first”? What we encounter at first is never what is near, but always only what is common. It possesses the unearthly power to break us of the habit of abiding in what is essential, often so definitively that we never come to abide anywhere. Between the unintelligible word, and the mere sound grasped in acoustic abstraction, lies an abyss of difference in essence.
You cannot get your act together, GYAT, without some thought-driven choice making in solitude. Rodin got it right.
Now Status (philosopher’s predictions)
Wallowing in deterioration and depression, the world, men find, is not just out of joint but tumbling away into the nothingness of absurdity, drifting blindly towards the worst. It is the Age of remote-controlled public opinion.
For we must first of all respond to the nature of technology and only afterwards ask whether and how man might become its master. And that question may turn out to be nonsensical, because the essence of technology stems from the presence of what is present of which man never is the master, of which he can at best be the servant.
The essence of technology pervades our existence in a way which we have barely noticed so far. Neither the industrial workman nor the engineers, let alone the factory proprietor and least of all the state, can know at all where modem man “lives” when he stands in some relatedness or other to the machine and machine parts. None of us know as yet what handicraft modem man in the technological world must carry on, must carry on even if he is not a worker in the sense of the worker at the machine.
Important as the economic, social, political, moral, and even religious questions may be which are being discussed in connection with technological labor or handicraft, none of them reach to the core of the matter. That matter keeps itself hidden in the still unthought nature of the way in which anything that is under the dominion of technology has any being at all. And that such matters have remained unthought is indeed first of all due to the fact that the will to action, which here means the will to make and be effective, has overrun and crushed thought.
One-track thinking, which is becoming ever more widespread in various shapes, is one of those unsuspected and inconspicuous forms, mentioned earlier, in which the essence of technology assumes dominion. We travel on right into being horrified at one-sidedly dogmatic statements.
Our age rages in a mad, steadily growing craving to conceive history in terms of universal history, as an occurrence. Its frenzy is exacerbated and fed by the quick and easy availability of sources and means of presentation. This sounds like an exaggeration but is a fact: the unexpressed archetype of the portrayal of all and everything in terms of universal history that is palatable today (1950) is the illustrated weekly. Universal history, operating with the most comprehensive means, assumes that a comparative portrayal of the most varied cultures, from ancient China to the Aztecs, can establish a relation to world history. This world history, however, is not the destiny of a world but rather the object established by conceiving the world in terms of universal history, thus: the occurrence, to be presented from every angle, of every human achievement and failure that can in any way be found out.
World history, however, is the destiny whereby a world lays claim to us. We shall never hear that claim of the world’s destiny while we are engaged on world-historic voyages. But this rise from unconcealment, as the entry into what is unconcealed, does not specifically come to the fore in the presence of what is present. It is part of presence to hold back these traits, and thus to let come out only that which is present.
Public opinion today (1950) cherishes the notion that the thinking of thinkers must be capable of being understood in the same way as the daily newspaper. That all men cannot all follow the thought processes of modem theoretical physics is considered quite in order. But to learn the thinking of thinkers is in essence much more difficult, not because this thinking is still more involved but because it is simple – too simple for the easy fluency of common notions.
Man must move in a realm of ideas which blink at everything and can do nothing else but blink, in consequence of an unearthly fate that forbids modem man to look beyond himself and his type of ideas.
We moderns can learn only if we always unlearn at the same time. Applied to the matter before us : we can learn thinking only if we radically unlearn what thinking has been traditionally. To do that, we must at the same time come to know it.
For the world of today’s expression is shot through with blindly adopted and un-reexamined ideas and concepts. How could this confused manner of forming ideas be called thinking, however loudly it may claim to be creative? We are capable of thinking only if we try first of all to develop the process.
A real openness in his relatedness to Being is a necessary though not sufficient condition for saving man. And yet, precisely when thinking plies its proper trade, which is to rip away the fog that conceals beings as such, it must be concerned not to cover up the rift.
We see from every angle, with the aid of our sociology, psychology and psychotherapy, and by some other means besides, that all men are soon placed in identical conditions of identical happiness in the identical way, and that the identity of the welfare of all men is secured.
Yet, despite this invention of happiness, man is driven from one world war into the next. With a straight face, the nations are informed that peace is the elimination of war, but that meanwhile this peace which eliminates war can be secured only by war.
Proof enough to such failure to comprehend, which man is convinced he was born comprehending everything, that it is now being imposed upon society with an untruth and sham. The one thing of which sound common sense is least capable is acknowledgment and respect. For acknowledgment and respect call for a readiness to let our own attempts at thinking be overturned, again and again, by what is unthought in the thinkers’ thought.
Every doctrine of man’s essential nature is in itself alone a doctrine of the Being of beings. Every doctrine of Being is in itself alone a doctrine of man’s essential nature. But neither doctrine can be obtained by merely turning the other one around. Why this is so, and generally the question of this relation existing between man’s nature and the Being of beings this is in fact the one single question which all traditional thinking must first be brought forth to face a question of abysmal difficulty, simply because our seemingly correct posing of the question in fact muddles the question fundamentally. We ask what the relation is between man’s nature and the Being of beings.
Men live very fast—men live very irresponsibly. This is called ‘freedom.’ The thing that makes an institution an institution is despised, hated, rejected: men fear they are in danger of a new slavery the moment the word ‘authority’ is even mentioned. The public figures who in the course of current history emerge in the limelight are as far from the thinker’s nature as is humanly possible.
Tradition in fact comes toward us because we are its captives and destined to it. The purely historical view of tradition and the course of history is one of those vast self-deceptions in which we must remain entangled as long as we are still not really thinking. That self-deception about history prevents us from hearing the language of the thinkers. We do not hear it rightly, because we take that language to be mere expression, setting forth philosophers’ views. But the thinkers’ language tells what is. To hear it is in no case easy. Hearing it presupposes that we meet a certain requirement, and we do so only on rare occasions. We must acknowledge and respect it. To acknowledge and respect consists in letting every thinker’s thought come to us as something in each case unique, never to be repeated, inexhaustible – being shaken to the depths by what is unthought in his thought.
All this is in fact quite in order, as soon as we regard the common as the only legitimate standard, and become generally incapable of fathoming the commonness of the common. This floundering in a commonness which we have placed under the protection of so-called natural common sense, is not accidental, nor are we free to deprecate it. This floundering in commonness is part of the high and dangerous game and gamble in which, by the nature of language, we are the stakes.
How do things stand with judgments on the present? They describe the age as on the decline, as sick, decaying, stricken with “loss of center.” What is decisive about such judgments, however, is not that they evaluate everything negatively, but that they evaluate at all. They determine the value, so to speak the price range into which the age belongs. Such appraisals are considered indispensable, but also unavoidable. Above all, they immediately create the impression of being in the right. Thus they promptly win the approval of the many, at least for whatever time is allotted to such judgments. That time now grows steadily shorter.
Judgments on the age which issue from other sources are just as much in the right. Indeed they are, in that they are correct, since they take their direction from, and conform to, facts which can be brought in by the carload for documentation, and can be documented by adroitly selected quotations from learned authors. An idea is called correct when it conforms to its object. Such correctness in the forming of an idea has long since been equated with truth.
There is the danger that the thought of man today will fall short of the decisions that are coming, decisions of whose specific historical shape we can know nothing—that the man of today will look for these decisions where they can never be made.
At the same time we are warned against the other way which is also open, the one that mortals usually follow. But that way of itself never leads to what is to-be-thought. However, the warning against the usual way of mortal men does not mean that this way is rejected. Warning is a form of preserving us from something. There speaks in the warning a call to be careful, to have a care for something. The thinker is being warned against the usual way of mortal men : against mistaking the common view, which has a judgment ready beforehand on all and everything, for the way of thinking, just as though generality, and the habit of generalities, were bound to be true.
Man so far is the last man. But if this manner of living being, ‘‘man’ in distinction from other living beings on earth, plants and animals, is endowed with “rationality” and if ratio, the power to perceive and reckon with things, is at bottom a way of forming ideas, then the particular man must consist in a particular manner of forming ideas.
To judge is to form ideas correctly, and therefore also possibly incorrectly. In order now to show in what way our assertion about the present age has the nature of a statement, we must demonstrate more clearly how things stand with judgments, that is, with the forming of correct and incorrect ideas. Where do we have those ideas? We have them in our head. We have them in our consciousness. We have them in our soul. We have the ideas inside ourselves, these ideas of objects.
What calls us to think, and thus commands, that is, brings our essential nature into the keeping of thought, needs thinking because what calls us wants itself to be thought about according to its nature. What calls on us to think, demands for itself that it be tended, cared for, husbanded in its own essential nature, by thought. What calls on us to think, gives us food for thought. What gives us food for thought we call thought-provoking.
What are the prerequisites we need so that we may be able to think with essential rightness? What is called for on our part in order that we may each time achieve good thinking? ‘‘What is called thinking?” says finally: what is it that calls us, commands us to think? What is it that calls us into thinking? What is it that directs us into thought, and gives us directions for thinking? A thinker’s essential thoughts do not become in any way less true simply because we fail to think them.
We must learn thinking because our being able to think and even gifted for it, is still no guarantee that we are capable of thinking. To be capable, we must before all else incline toward what addresses itself to thought, what is most thought-provoking. Most thought-provoking in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking. What is the ugly scene with humanity in these times but live nonstop demonstrations that not thinking doesn’t work.
How is the term ‘‘thought-provoking” to be understood? Thought-triggering is what gives us to think. Some things are food for thought in themselves, intrinsically, so to speak innately. And some things make an appeal to us to give them thought, to turn toward them in thought: to think them. As he draws toward what withdraws, man is a sign.
What is thought-provoking, what gives us to think, is then not anything that we determine, not anything that only we are instituting, only we are proposing. According to our assertion, what of itself gives us most to think about, what is most thought-provoking turns away from man. It withdraws from him. Being struck by actuality is what we like to regard as constitutive of the actuality of the actual. However, in being struck by what is actual, man may be debarred precisely from what concerns and touches him. The event of withdrawal could be what is most present in all our present, and so infinitely exceed the actuality of everything actual. Whatsoever directs is what calls on us to think.
“Thought-provoking” here means what gives food for thought. Most thought-provoking is not only what gives most food for thought, in the sense that it makes the greatest demands on our thinking; most thought-provoking is what inherently gathers and keeps within itself the greatest riches of what is thought-worthy and memorable. How much more mysterious will matters be in that realm where that which must be thought withdraws from man and, at the same time, in its withdrawal, comes to him.
We receive many gifts, of many kinds. But the highest and really most lasting gift given to us is always our essential nature, with which we are gifted in such a way that we are what we are only through it. That is why we owe thanks for this endowment, first and unceasingly.
How can we give thanks for this endowment, the gift of being able to think what is most thought-provoking more fittingly than by giving thought to the most thought-provoking? The supreme thanks, then, would be thinking? And the profoundest thanklessness, thoughtlessness? Real thanks, then, never consists in that we ourselves come bearing gifts, and merely repay gift with gift. Pure thanks is rather that we simply think—think what is really and solely given, what is there to he thought. All thanking belongs first and last in the essential realm of thinking. When we think what is most thought-provoking we think properly.
Once again fathom the implications of the precursory question “What calls on us to think?,” without involving us prematurely now in the mystery, and also fruitfulness, of the question. The presumption is that we can always ask this question only in a thinking way, and only in that way can pose the question in its befitting problematic.
That which directs us to think, gives us directions in such a way that we first become capable of thinking, and thus are as thinkers, only by virtue of its directive. It is true, of course, that the question “What does call for thinking?,” in the sense of “What calls on us to think?,” is foreign to the common understanding. But we are all the less entitled simply to overlook the fact that the question “What is called thinking?” presents itself at first quite innocently. It sounds as if, and we unknowingly take it as if, the question merely asked for more precise information about what is supposedly meant when we speak of such a thing as thinking.
Thinking here appears as a theme with which one might deal as with any other. Thus thinking becomes the object of an investigation. The investigation considers a process that occurs in man. Man takes a special part in the process, in that he performs the thinking. Yet this fact, that man is naturally the performer of thinking, need not further concern the investigation of thinking. The fact goes without saying. Being irrelevant, it may be left out of our reflection on thinking. Indeed, it must be left out. For the laws of thought are, after all, valid independently of the man who performs the individual acts of thinking.
The meaning of “call” in the sense of “instruct, demand, allow to reach, get on the way, convey, provide with a way” does not immediately occur to us. We are not so much at home with these meanings of the word that we hear them at first, let alone first of all. We do not have the habit, or only just barely, of using the word “call” in this sense. And so it remains unfamiliar to us. Instead, we follow the habitual signification of the verb “to call,” and do not give it much thought.
The relation between what is named and its name can always be conceived as a coordination. What makes a call upon us that we should think and, by thinking, be who we are? Naming is a kind of calling, in the original sense of demanding and commending. It is not that the call has its being in the name rather every name is a kind of call. Every call implies an approach, and thus, of course, the possibility of giving a name. The call is the directive which, in calling to and calling upon, in reaching out and inviting, directs us toward an action or non-action, or toward something even more essential. In every calling, a call has already gathered. The calling is not a call that has gone by, but one that has gone out.
But from what other source could the calling into thought come than from something that in itself needs thought, because the source of the calling wants to be thought about by its very nature, and not just now and then? That which calls on us to think and appeals to us to think, claims thought for itself and as its own, because in and by itself it gives food for thought. When we ask, then, What is it that calls on us to think?,” we are looking both to what it is that gives to us the gift of this endowment, and to ourselves, whose nature lies in being gifted with this endowment. We are capable of thinking only insofar as we are endowed with what is most thought-provoking, gifted with what ever and always wants to be thought about.
When we follow the calling, we do not free ourselves of what is being asked. The question cannot be settled, now or ever. If we proceed to the encounter of what is here in question, the calling, the question becomes in fact only more problematical.
What is That which directs and disposes us toward the basic characteristics of what in time develops into Western-European thinking? What is it that calls, and to whose call something responds in such a way that it is then called thinking? The poetry of reason.
When we are called upon, we are not only commanded and called upon to do something, but that something itself is named in the call. In the wording of the question, the word ‘‘think” is not just a sound. All of us have already had some ideas about the word “think,” however vague. True, all of us should be greatly embarrassed if we had to say, straight out and unequivocally, what it is that the verb “to think” designates. But, luckily, we do not have to say, we only are supposed to let ourselves become involved in the question. And if we do, we are already asking: what is it to which the word “thinking” gives a name? Having started with the decisive fourth question, we find ourselves involved in the first question as well. There is a curious advantage in that. With a worn-out language everybody can talk about everything.
In order to perceive a clue, we must first be listening ahead into the sphere from which the clue comes. To receive a clue is difficult, and rarer the more we know. Clues have forerunners to whose directives we respond sooner and more easily.
To the most thought-provoking, we devote our thinking of what is to-be-thought. But this devoted thought is not something that we ourselves produce and bring along, to repay gift with gift. When we think what is most thought-provoking, we then give thought to what this most thought-provoking matter itself gives us to think about. This thinking which recalls, and which qua thinking alone is true thanks, does not need to repay, nor be deserved, in order to give thanks. Such thanks is not a recompense; but it remains an offering; and only by this offering do we allow that which properly gives food for thought to remain what it is in its essential nature.
“If thinking could dispose of that which ever and again gives food for thought, dispose it into its own nature, such linking would be the highest thanks mortals can give. Such thinking would be the thankful disposal of what is most thought-provoking, into its most integral seclusion, a seclusion where the most thought-provoking is invulnerably preserved in its problematic being. Not one of us here would presume to claim that he is even remotely capable of such thinking, or even a prelude to it. At the very most, we shall succeed in preparing for it.” The 2013 achievement refutes this claim.
What long since and forever gives us food for thought, remains in its very origin withdrawn into oblivion. The question then arises how we can have the least knowledge of what is most thought-provoking.
This most thought-provoking thing, in which the essence of modem technology also keeps itself hidden, appeals to us constantly and everywhere indeed, what is most thought-provoking is even closer to us than the most palpable closeness of our everyday handiwork and yet it withdraws. But if we are to perceive what gives us food for thought, we must for our part get underway to learn thinking.
The temporal is what must pass away. And time is the passing away of what must pass away. This passing away is conceived more precisely as the successive flowing away of the “now” out of the “not yet now” into the “no longer now.” Time causes the passing away of what must pass away, and does so by passing away itself yet it itself can pass away only if it persists throughout all the passing away. Time persists, consists in passing. It is, in that it constantly is not.
What is the origin of this long familiar idea of time as that which passes away, the temporal as what must pass away? Did this definition of time drop out of the sky, like an Absolute? Is it obvious merely because it has been current for so long? And how did this idea of time gain currency? How did it get into the current of Western thought?
What in time is present, and therefore of the present? Only the “now” is of the present time at each given moment. The future is the “not yet now” the past is the “no longer now.” The future is what is still absent, the past what is already absent. In being, present in time at the given moment is only that narrow ridge of the momentary fugitive “now,” rising out of the “not yet now” and falling away into the “no longer now.”
What in time is in being, present? The “now” of the given moment. But each “now” is in its present being by virtue of its passing. Future and past are not present they are something of which we may never say simply that they are being present. What is past, present, and to come appears in the oneness of its own present being.
Our attempt to indicate what the words “thinking,”” “thought,” and “memory”” say might serve to point at least vaguely toward the realm of speech from whose unspoken sphere those words initially speak. Those words bring to light situations whose essential unity of nature our eyes cannot yet pierce. One thing remains obscure above all else, our dowry.
Only because we are by nature gathered in contiguity can we remain concentrated on what is at once present and past and to come. The word “memory” originally means this incessant concentration on contiguity. In its original telling sense, memory means as much as devotion. Memory in this originary sense later loses its name to a restricted denomination, which now signifies no more than the capacity to retain things that are in the past.
We defined memory as the gathering of thinking that recalls. As soon as we give thought to this definition, we no longer stop with it or before it. We follow that to which the definition directs us. The gathering of recalling thought is not based on a human capacity, such as the capacity to remember and retain. All thinking that recalls what can be recalled in thought already lives in that gathering which beforehand has in its keeping and keeps hidden all that remains to be thought.
Memory is not just part of that capacity to think within which it takes place, rather, all thinking, and every appearance of what is to-be thought, find the open spaces in which they arrive and meet, only where the keeping of what is most thought-provoking takes place. Man only inhabits the keeping of what gives him food for thought—he does not create the keeping.
The present is that part of the flow of time dividing the domain of reality from the realm of hope.
To be or not to be
Every translation is already an interpretation. Every interpretation must first of all have entered into what is said, into the subject matter it expresses. To enter into what is said in the phrase “being is” remains uncommonly difficult and troublesome for the reason that we are already within it. To think and to be is the same.
The essential nature of thinking is determined by what there is to be thought about: the presence of what is present, the Being of being. Thinking is thinking only when it recalls in thought the essence. And that is the duality of beings and Being. This quality is what properly gives food for thought. And what is so given, is the gift of what is most worthy of question.
The first service that man can render is to give thought to the Being of beings, and that is first of all to pay it heed. What it says speaks long before thinking gives attention and a name of its own to it. When thinking is expressed, this unspoken something is merely clothed in a word. It is not an invention but a discovery, discovered in the presence of the present, already experienced in language.
Thinking transcends the particular being, in the direction of its Being, not in order to leave behind and abandon the particular being, but so that by thus ascent, this transcendence, it may represent the particular being in that which it, as a being, is.
The duality of individual beings and Being must first lie before us openly, be taken to heart and there kept safely, before it can he conceived and dealt with in the sense of the participation of the one, a particular being, in the other, Being.
If we were to examine what everyman has in mind each time he hears or repeats the word ‘being’ we would gather most varied and most curious information. We would have to face up to a strange confusion and probably to recognize that the notorious chaos of the state of the world today expresses itself even in such inconspicuous fields as the range of meanings this word seems to have. In fact, that chaos may even have its roots here. But a still greater puzzle is that men nonetheless understand each other. All things are reduced to a common denominator, which then nominates for us what is so commonly understood by a ‘‘being.’’ We are always able to point out directly by all kinds of simple indications, what the word “being” means.
The words “being” and “to be” say nothing graspable. On the other hand, they are the highest rubrics of philosophy. But these same rubrics, when used with emphasis, strike us as alien substances in the language. They disturb the harmonious and artless progress of natural speech. Ultimately, there is a chill around these terms. We do not quite know where the chill comes from—whether it comes from what they indicate, or from the frozen, spectral manner in which they haunt all philosophical discourse and writing. All this will cause misery to a man who is honest with himself, who will not let himself be confused by all the uproar about Being and Existence.
The terms “being” and “to be” have long since played the role of decisive rubrics in the conceptual language of philosophy. The much-vaunted philosophia perennis which is to outlast the centuries, would crumble in its foundations if the language of these rubrics were taken away from it. If we stop for a moment and attempt, directly and precisely and without subterfuge, to represent in our minds what the terms “being” and “to be” state, we find that such an examination has nothing to hold onto, all our ideas slip away and dissolve in vagueness. Not entirely, though, because there are always echoes, dark and confused, something of the kind that is vouchsafed to our opinions and propositions- If it were otherwise, we could never in any way understand what we nonetheless constantly repeat at present.
It is time, it is high time finally to think through this nature of time, and its origin, so that we may reach the point where it becomes clear that all metaphysics leaves something essential unthought: its own ground and foundation. This is the ground on which we have to say that we are not yet truly thinking as long as we think only metaphysically. When metaphysics inquires into the nature of time, it will ask its questions in the way that is in keeping with its general manner of inquiry.
Metaphysics asks: what is being? Starting from being, it asks for the Being of beings. What in beings is in being? In what does the Being of beings consist? With reference to time, this is to say: what of time is truly in being? In accordance with this manner of inquiry, time is conceived as something that in some way is something that is in being, and so the question of its Being is raised.
All our daily life and all we do moves within what we have in view, and necessarily so. Even the sciences stay within it. And how is it one-sided? Is it not one of science’s highest principles to explore its objects from as many sides as possible, even from all sides? Where is the one-sidedness in that? It lies precisely in the sphere of scientific exploration. Historical science may thoroughly explore a period, for instance, in every possible respect, and yet never explore what history is. It cannot do so, scientifically.
The sciences are fully entitled to their name, which means fields of knowledge, because they have infinitely more knowledge than thinking does. And yet there is another side in every science which that science as such can never reach: the essential nature and origin of its sphere, the essence and essential origin of the manner of knowing which it cultivates, and other things besides. The sciences remain of necessity on the one side, in the sense they are one-sided, but in such a way that the other side nonetheless always appears as well.
The sciences’ one-sidedness retains its own many-sidedness. But that many-sidedness may expand to such proportions that the one-sidedness on which it is based no longer catches our eye. And when man no longer sees the one side as one side, he has lost sight of the other side as well. What sets the two sides apart, what lies between them, is covered up, so to speak. Everything is leveled to one level. Our minds hold views on all and everything, and view all things in the identical way. Today every newspaper every illustrated magazine and every radio program offers all things in the identical way to uniform views.
The one-sided view, which nowhere pays attention any longer to the essence of things, has puffed itself up into an all-sidedness which in turn is masked so as to look harmless and natural. But this all-sided view which deals in all and everything with equal uniformity and mindlessness, is only a preparation for what is really going on. For it is only on the plane of the one-sided uniform view that one-track thinking takes its start.
Whence do the sciences derive the right to decide what man’s place is, and to offer themselves as the standard that justifies such decisions? And they will do so just as soon as we tolerate, if only by our silence, that our standing face-to-face with a tree is no more than a pre-scientifically intended relation to something we still happen to call ‘”tree.” In truth we are today rather inclined to favor a supposedly superior physical and physiological knowledge and to drop everything else.
Within psychology it never becomes clear in any way what it is to which ideas are attributed and referred, to wit, the organism of living things, consciousness, the soul, the unconscious and all the depths and strata in which the realm of psychology is articulated. Here everything remains in question and yet, the scientific findings are correct.
Philosophy cannot be based on history or the science of history nor on any other science. For every science rests on presuppositions which can never be established scientifically, though they can be demonstrated philosophically. All sciences are grounded in philosophy, but not vice versa.
In saying this, we have mentioned only the lesser relatedness of thought to the sciences. The essential relatedness is determined rather by a basic trait of the modem era of which the literature we have referred to also forms a part.
That which is, appears today predominantly in that object-materiality which is established and maintained in power by the scientific objectification of all fields and areas. This materiality does not stem from a separate and peculiar power-bid on the part of the sciences, but from a fact in the nature of things that we modems still do not want to see. Three propositions will serve to indicate it.
- Modem science is grounded in the nature of technology.
- The nature of technology is itself nothing technological.
- The nature of technology is not a merely human fabrication which, given an appropriate moral constitution, could be subdued by superior human wisdom and judgment.
Our laws of thought for solving Cat 3 problems
- Law of optimality
- System, not reductionism
- The subconscious mind always goes first
- No losers
- No attempts to defy natural law
- Aligned value system
- Unity of responsibility: clear, legitimate, freely taken, responsibility for good results