In his Vermischte Bemerkungen Wittgenstein said the following: “The proper greeting among philosophers should be: Give yourself time!” While reclining today on a rock in the Lofoten Islands, almost as in David's painting of Madame Recamier, I thought of the implication of Wittgenstein’s statement. I also tried to get a real feel for it. I did. For it struck me that on the level of enunciation this is obviously a total call for silence. The fact that it is significant for philosophers to give themselves time is equal to saying that what philosophers should do is to keep quiet. As time is an illusion it will never arrive. Hence whatever the philosopher might have to say will never find its proper time. So keep quiet. Write nothing. Say nothing.

On the emotional level Wittgenstein was an optimist. He really thought that he would find another philosopher of his caliber with whom he could engage in that exchange: give yourself time. Listen to that, ‘give yourself time.’ Say it again, ‘give yourself time.’ Well, for all the longing excitement in this statement, and for all my sensing Wittgenstein’s breathing on me as he wants to let me know that he really wanted to say these words and not just put them on paper, the fact is that he never did. He couldn’t find another to say them to. I’m tempted to say that this is his tragedy, but I’m afraid that this is rather the other philosophers’ tragedy. They’ve all gone into the race for words, and not to mention the race for getting indexed in this or that academic 4.3 rated solid journal, and finally, not to mention all that referencing. Footnotes after footnotes after footnotes, all the names must be referenced, for we are a community, and if I don’t reference your name, you will not reference mine, and lo and behold, at the end of the day we won’t get points enough to fulfill the annual quota for what is called original and stolid research. 

So, Wittgenstein was one of a kind, and he understood what the illusion of separation is all about; the fear of being separated from your peers, or the loved ones, or your enemies. He spent time in Norway for lengthy months, eating beans and collecting stones. You know, the round things with funny structures in them. He was following the tradition of philosophers before the days of ‘make an impact’ in the world. In the old days philosophers used to write treatises on nature. Not a single reference to other brains. They would walk about in a nice peripatetic fashion, contemplate what they saw and scribble their thoughts on something that was not all glossy paper with a nice picture on the cover. No bullets either filling the content. The formalists of Empedocles’ times had a different notion of what keeping it simple is. Oh, the illusion of clarity. Wittgenstein also understood that. 

Nowadays not even the phenomenologists are allowed to just sit and stare, you know, to give yourself time. Though their discourse tends to be less ‘clear’ than the ones into counting fallacies. The phenomenologists are still getting away with some circularity, perhaps even write about roundness, stones, space, and the like. But they are not free from references. Nope. Namedropping has become an establishment. Now we have institutions that hire professional work to keep the gates not only free of sleepwalkers and those who dive their noses into unconsecrated wells, but also to instruct on what goes and what doesn’t. 

I like Iamblichus, and his adamant pointing out that Plato was not against diviners, creative thinkers, and the likes of Wittgenstein. No. Plato considered the bachoi to be the true philosopher, namely the one who was the torch-bearer and the seer. The bachoi, the philosopher/diviner would drink from the “lake of memory” (See the poems of Parmenides) and then hell would break loose. No logic here. Only passion. The only antidote to conformism.

So, while reclining on my stone today, with Wittgenstein urging me on to speak on his behalf, I thought of how lucky we both are. To be free. To be free even of expecting that out here, of all places, we might run into another whom we could greet with the words: give yourself time. For time, as Wittgenstein and I know, doesn’t exist. Only stones.


Patricia Anne Cain Filgate said…
Nice post ! Thank you. I was thinking about this today, as I sat and watched an aspen tree shimmer and wave. We need this time so badly, in a society that values "productivity" above all, and where many do not value thinkers. Happy stone sitting to you, Camelia. xx Patrice
Camelia said…
Thanks Patrice. They say that time is irredeemable, but I'm not so sure it is. I can't be against our time and its ideology of productivity, but I can be against the names and titles we crown ourselves with when they fail to reflect their essential nature. To me, a philosopher is never a politician engaged in rhetoric and nothing else, nor an academic with 'responsibilities', but one who observes. And that's all.
ChasingPatterns said…
Thank you for this reminder of the value of what, to me, is our intellectual/spiritual wholeness. As I have struggled to conform myself to tenure-track academia, I have become increasingly disappointed and heartbroken by the discouragement and apparent dishonor we receive within the academy when we seek true depth--beyond disciplinary boundaries or particular theoretical frameworks. We are asked to crush the very seed of intelligence. Funny, I, too, was writing about stones today.
Camelia said…
Thanks for your comment. I don't want to say that I'm glad that my words resonated with you. Not with this topic, which brings out the crass stupidity of institutionalized thought. Let's just say that I know many academics who are completely devoid of both Intellectual and spiritual integrity, and who yet are in fairly high positions of power and setting the record for what the even stupider media construes as 'success' cases. I try to steer away, but by virtue of common academic interests, our paths cross. I wish that things would be different so that I wouldn't have to say that I waste my time.

Lovely post about stones. And thanks for the reference to Caetano Veloso. He's one of my favorite intellectual singers.
ChasingPatterns said…
Yes, unfortunately, some engagement with that world seems unavoidable, and "learning the ropes" entails a sort of desensitization, steeped in distrust. It is good to read your words, at least. I am glad that you enjoyed my stones post. Thank you.
Pablum said…
I came to this page today, while looking for a copy of this particular image of Wittgenstein ...but stuck around to read your perceptive essay ... and now I'll have to come back to read more!

I disagree with you, though, that Wittgenstein would advocate "just observe" -- except, perhaps, in special instances (like basking on the rocks in Norway). Though he removed himself from the fray for periods of time, he certainly wasn't passive towards the events of his times. More importantly, as a philosopher, the development of good observational skills was meant to provide the material for replacing the traditional philosophical "must be" with bits of what actually is. If the job of philosophy is to describe, then one must first observe.

Anyway, I liked the spirit with which you spoke for LW. Thanks.
Camelia said…
Thanks, Pablum. Of course, insofar as Wittgenstein believed that ALL is a language game, he was interested in what was going on in the world. What he got exasperated with, however, was people's failure to acknowledge that ALL is a game. For if we all understood that, we would just relax and start playing perfectly, as others have also said.

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