It begins on the first day of teaching, now entering my thoughts as the new school year approachesâ€¦so rapidly. The course to come will be splendid, the best ever: I feel so â€œsharp,â€ so ready to espouse/spout the truth to come!
I note all the students sitting there, not merely at ease, or with various sorts of questioning appearances. Rather they are mostly staring at me, â€œtheirâ€ teacher; rather staring â€œthrough meâ€ looking to seeâ€¦what, who? Am I, can I ever be, who they want somehow to penetrate; to beâ€¦?
In those instants, beyond the talk which I talk of the course to come, I wonder who they are, who they see in me. And who am I, runs so rapidly in my being, that I find it difficult â€“ so difficult to grasp my own â€œpresenceâ€ â€“ and remain the teacher I would be, even as I am anthropologist to them and to my own being.
Writing in response to Christopher Kelty’s post on Savage Minds about Experimental Philosophy (x-phi), I am pleased, perplexed, pensiveâ€¦ I have lived (still do!) the life of the Anthropologist who would be doing philosophy, and imagine that we might one day find each other. Soon?! Maybe.
Trained principally, to study language and behavior and sociality/culture, I begin by including â€œmyselfâ€ in the study of anyoneâ€™s language, culture, thoughtâ€¦Who am I, where am I, how did I get here, how to be the â€œmeasurerâ€ of all things?
As a self-proclaimed â€œAnthropologist of the Ordinary,â€ I understand the temptations to study the â€œexotic,â€ but note that the ordinary human is much more exotic than we have noted. The human body which exists in the world with othersâ€™ bodies (the Pragmatism of G.H. Mead inserts itself into this approach) is a brilliant and ongoing piece of work, that we seem to want to underestimate as some derivative of the idea of mind.
This, to state that Experimental Philosophy which would be Anthropology, should begin not only be â€œaskingâ€ others, but observing others and oneself (asking). We note that the infant â€œattachesâ€ itself to its m/other â€“ survives and â€œemergesâ€ to become a self. The infant, in effect â€œjoinsâ€ or â€œbecomesâ€ its m/other; it is student, thence studies her presentation of the world and language.
On the questions of our being, not â€œcogito ergo sum.â€ Rather I â€œamâ€ because; because m/other sees â€œsomebody thereâ€ and the (philosophical) anthropologist observes the small and large of the persistent interactions between infant and m/other. â€œEventuallyâ€ the social child â€œemergesâ€ from these intense interactions to become it-self. Be there, and try to seeâ€¦
The locus/origin of morality is located here â€“ out of the (moral) commitment which m/other invests in her childâ€™s being: confirming that there is â€œsomebody thereâ€ (as Elaine Morgan stated it), and engaging its being. The nagging question of â€œcertaintyâ€ of knowledge is located here, as well as the locus of morality.
It is the m/other who confirms being untilâ€¦until the child grows and become â€œdangerous to itselfâ€ as it moves, runs, jumps (especially with gravity). Her â€œjobâ€ â€“ at this point â€“ is to get her child to â€œtake care of itself as she wouldâ€ â€“ the onset of morality, conscience, consciousness, which has perplexed us forâ€¦ever.
So, now we can begin to examine how each of us comes to trust oneself in the ordinary: driving on the freeway at 80 mph, knowing â€œwhereâ€ one is and is going, whether the architects and builders of my 20th floor condo knew what they were doing â€“ rises excitingly as each next storm floats into my visionâ€™s sightings.
What is the human face â€“ so complex â€“ what does the face do when it sees othersâ€™ faces â€“ a great deal! How do we â€œknowâ€ others: mainly by and as their faces! What is a face? â€“ how do faces â€œhappenâ€ â€“ get their shapes, genders, ages, beautyâ€¦? Very complicated, but essentially absent â€“ so far – from the quest for knowledge?
How does a powerful person: body, facial presentation, â€œconvinceâ€ anyone (students?) to hear what they want us to hear? Where is the locus of our integrity: how to tell oneself, trust oneâ€™s knowing? What is the nature of our â€œcontractâ€ with others and the world? â€“ ask our m/others, whose contracts with each of us who got to here, was and remains powerful and enduring.
So, ask others, but also observe them, and oneself observing! Toward a â€œweddingâ€ of Experimental Philosophy and an Anthropology (of the Ordinary)â€¦