The relationship between philosophy and life is not always comfortable. Sometimes, it seems like philosophy is some mad abstraction, an insane series of propositions that have nothing to do with life. Monadologies, disseminations, dialectics, moral imperatives: they can seem at such a great distance from eating, fucking, working, sleeping, at such great remove from day to day existence.
To this, I have two responses. On the one hand, there are those philosophies that — at least to me — are insane abstractions — Hegel, Kant, and the rationalists. They do so many bizarre, beautiful things, as if they're forging the most intricate Calder mobile ever, all gossamer and thought. In this sense, these philosophies are immediate in the same sense that a Calder or Pollock or Matthew Ritchie is. They insist as affective forces only the affect comes from concept rather than percept.
And then there is the philosophy towards which I gravitate — the phenomenologists, existentialists, and much of what's happened since. Bergson says he wants a philosophy that is absolutely at one with the particular thing, a philosophy that, in some sense, becomes that thing — or becomes with that thing. It is philosophy as drape of the world, not in the sense of covering it but in the sense of moving with the world's every move. A philosophy of agility and precision. A philosophy of infinite generosity, lending itself absolutely to the world.
Both of these visions of philosophy are quite different than an ideology or code — philosophy as mandate. That shit's just plain old strange — and, I want to say, is not philosophy. It's, well, ideology or morality. The question, then, is not: Does Nietzsche think I should do x or y? That is silly ideology. As Nietzsche says, the greatest gift a student can show him is to walk away or slay him. It is not to follow him.
When I taught MFA students, I did not teach them theory to be applied to their art. I taught them moves, possibilities, that were in the philosophy much as if I were showing them how Mondrian approached geometry or Klee the line. Theory, in this case, does not sit above the world; it does not explain the world: it is of the world, goes with the world, nudges the world and is nudged back.
After spending time at a good museum or gallery — after seeing, say, 3 or 4 works of art that rock your world — you see the world a little differently. Van Gogh makes me see the world as so much viscous: the world is thick with itself. Matthew Ritchie teaches me to understand the speed and complexity of the emergent world. A philosopher does much the same thing: after reading one, you see the world anew. And that is fucking glorious.
Philosophy is not something one lives by — that's religion, that's ideology. No, philosophy is a) something one might do (I do it! Sometimes!); and b) it is something that one goes with, one engages.