I loved getting this letter from you. The fact that you are genuinely wrestling with these questions, with meaning, with purpose, speaks about you as a rare individual. The struggle to become awake, I suspect, is the most meaningful struggle. So few bother with it when all is said and done. And if we have been “put here” somehow, it feels like “waking up” through intellectual excitement and becoming aware through love are the reasons.
Regarding to your latest MOL statement, there’s a lot I’d like to respond to, but for now it would be this:
Collins holds that “Like any other sacred object created by social rituals, the modern self is something of a myth. It is nowhere near as autonomous and individualistic as it makes itself out to be.” And, Heidegger’s “authentic self” seems to become clearly inauthentic as soon as one remembers that “one is not only allowed to be an individual, one is actually required to be so.” I interpret this to mean that we have no choice but to pursue authenticity in individuality. It is a forced being that we must take on.
What are we? What is self? I tend to think that we can’t know what we are, we can’t define ourselves through the lens of our mind. I think one could argue that Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is at least partly about this question. He writes, “The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” (5.6). And “Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be found? You will say that this is exactly like the case of the eye and the visual field. But really you do not see the eye. And nothing in the visual field allows you to infer that it is seen by the eye” (5.633).
His point, I think, is that the thinking self can’t catch itself objectively– the thing that would be apprehended is that which must be apprehending. The eye can’t see itself.
Does this mean that the self is a “myth”? It does if you value only the results of the intellect. But, thankfully, there are other modes of perception besides the mode of rationality. I think this is what you’re hinting at when you say that philosophy is severely limited. I agree. For my part, philosophy acts as a stimulant, as a diving board into the EXPERIENCE of the transcendent, of that which is ultimately ineffable. This is Bergson’s point and the reason why I think he’s so cool.
In short, I know myself, but I don’t “know” myself through thoughts. In fact, thoughts tend to take me further from myself.
I’m gone for some of Thanksgiving. Hopefully our time will intersect and we can go out and talk.