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Dako
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PostSubject: Interview with The Underground Man   Sat Feb 14, 2009 2:04 am



Interview with The Underground Man


Thank-you very much for responding to this interview request from Dissidents Philosophy Forum. For those not familiar with The Underground Man, he is one of the originals, the first wave of ephilosophers! An avid creative writer and poet, some of his work can be read here, Explorations of the Abyss. Now, let's see what we can learn about this major contributor to the ephilosophy movement...


Some of your readers, myself included, my be wondering,

"The Underground Man may refer to:
  • The Underground Man (novel), a 1997 English novel by Mick Jackson
  • The narrator of Notes from Underground, a 1864 Russian short novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Underground Man (film), a 1981 Argentine film by Nicolás Sarquís."

How did you get into philosophy? Is this something that started when you were young, or was there some particular happening or identifiable sequence of events that led to it?


How and when did you get into ephilosophy?


You have been active in ephilosophy for a while. Long enough that almost no one from the days of your early posts is still around. Why the long standing interest and commitment?


You have quite a large collection of writings. Are there any works that you really stand by? That define you? That are better than others? Which and why?


This is Ginkgo. It's leaf is distinct in shape and its seeed is tasty when roasted. What does this image mean to you?


"Is time merely not the movement of thought?"
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with The Underground Man   Sat Feb 14, 2009 1:46 pm

Well hello hello, This should be fun.

To begin, my cybertag is a reference to Dostoevsky's narrator of Notes from Underground, a character who at the time I had greatly, to my own shame, resembled and identified with. I didn't do the vile things he did but I did share many of his psychological and philosophical complexes. Like an inferiority complex compensated with a superiority complex (I was either an insect or a Napoleon). And Napoleon, just for reference, was both. Social outcast, miserable and philosophical yet intensely irrational - I was under the impression that my whims differentiated me from the rest and authenticated my own individuality, freedom, and humanity. I was wrong.

Despite changing drastically over the years, overcoming those puerile complexes, I decided to not change my nickname as a kindly reminder (and warning) to my present self of my origins and past.

Quote :
How did you get into philosophy? Is this something that started when you were young, or was there some particular happening or identifiable sequence of events that led to it?

I got into philosophy by watching the Matrix, duh! Seriously though, my father died when I turned twelve and this led me to ask what seems to be a very natural question, "What is the meaning of life?" It was really with that question that everything started. At the time I had thought the question was original, none of my teachers or friends had ever asked it nor had I read about it anywhere, so I already had the psychological makeup of a kid who goes, "I'm a genius! I've had a totally original question!" only to go, oh, I see, it's been asked before. I'm an insect. I would have many such experiences like this growing up. Some of which have given the confidence in myself to believe that one day I may truly have an original thought, one that is, of course, not already taken. Schopenhauer wrote on this subject with great inspiration: think about a philosophical problem for yourself first and then find the philosopher who has already thought and written about it. He suggested that that be the way philosophy should be done, to my own misfortune, as this had already been "my" idea.

At about thirteen-fourteen, I had the opportunity to sit in on my cousin's college philosophy lecture which happened to be on Socrates -- the man who questioned everyone. This was already who I was, to put it frankly, inquisitive and annoying. Socrates was, back then and to this day, a man that greatly inspired me; thanks to whom I am constantly reminding myself to be mindful of my ignorance.

So it all began with the seemingly simple question of the meaning of life, death, what happens after death . . . is there a god, if there is a god do I have a free-will, if there isn't, do I have a free-will, and on and on.

The Matrix, which I saw at 14, really opened my mind up to philosophy even more so that by the time I was 16 I had read through Descartes's Meditations. I did not understand a lot of it - I did not have the vocabulary to -- ontological was an alien word that made no sense whatsoever -- but I admired a thinker who could logically build one proposition on another to weave something coherent and cohesive. At the age of sixteen I was greatly impressed as I had never gone further than two-pages of such thinking, whereas Descartes had a whole book. I wanted to become like that. I also read a lot of Dostoevsky and the characters kept referencing philosophers and ideas I had not heard of and I had desperately wanted to become part of the conversation.

To think through extended and developed ideas one has to think on paper. And that's partly what led to ephilosophy. Aside from wanting to acquaint myself with all sorts of philosophical jargon that make people give you a weird look if you mention the term outside a philosophy classroom (or worse, expect you to explain it to them) I wanted to immerse myself with people of varying backgrounds, education and opinions in order to debate and finally settle on the "truth." I really am a great fan of dialectics and rational discourse, with oneself (Descartes's Meditations) or with others (ephilosophy). On top of which Benjamin Franklin's autobiography has always remained an inspiration to engage with other people. A line I very much have taken to heart out of that book is, "Thinking makes a full man, meditation a profound man, discourse a clear man." I've really had a lot of greese wiped off my lenses at ILP and the academy. And for that I am greatly in debt and appreciative for the experience.

One last thing that should be said, I was in and out of college for a long long time, many times without any access to an intellectual environment. Ephilosophy provided just a challenging enough environment to keep me happy. And it would be remiss not to mention the role of Marijuana and all of the "philosophizing" I did growing up on the stuff.

Quote :
You have been active in ephilosophy for a while. Long enough that almost no one from the days of your early posts is still around. Why the long standing interest and commitment?

For one, I like to test what I learn in the academy against minds from all across the world who have had different professors with different interests and life experiences. Another major reason I still engage is because I have taken so much away from ephilosophy as a youngster that I feel the need to give back to those that do not have access to university or have never studied philosophy on an academic level. It's a question of ethics. Also, I know the power of ephilosophy and the e-community, as can be illustrated by a story dating several years back.

I had been undergoing a serious spiritual and I guess existential crisis. I lost my belief in god, teleology, and despite reading guys like Nietzsche and Sartre, remained unconvinced that life was still worth living. Seriously. My personal life was horrible, I was alienated and marginalized from everyone (including family and acquaintances) and had been depressed for several years. I thought it was time to go. Off a bridge, by my house. I had been thinking about it for over a month. It was the most rational, analytic thinking I had ever done. I was literally weighing the pros and cons of suicide. Finally the pain got so bad, the reasons were overwhelmingly pro, and I decided that within a few weeks I was going to do it. But since I was going about it in such a "rational" way I decided to post a suicide note on ILP to see if maybe I missed something in my meditations. You know, to gain a little clarity. Well the response was overwhelming. First of all it blew me away how much empathy complete strangers showed -- that alone radically changed my perception of people and the world. To be sure for me the world remained a Kafkaesque cold grey place, but now it was full of warm bright hearts who fought for each other and supported one another. I had never had or seen that. I found my meaning of life finally, to live for those people, to suffer and fight for those warm bright hearted people who suffer and fight right along you in this absurd life. In a very real sense I owe my life to ephilosophy (and to a degree, the wanting to take it, but, hey, all is fair) and how could I not remain loyal to such a place? I know the power first hand of connecting to people on an anonymous forum, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

Quote :
You have quite a large collection of writings. Are there any works that you really stand by? That define you? That are better than others? Which and why?

Oh yes, definitely. Many of my works I'm still debating over with myself: whether or not I ultimately agree with their message. See, when writing poetry, not so much prose, but in poetry, I tend to find that I'm only able to really read the work only days if not weeks after the work is written (sometimes months). It's an odd thing that I can't really explain. But of those that I have written and really read, these would be some that define me (and I'll post only those with philosophical themes so as not be kicked out of Athens by Socarates).

The poem that started it all, goes to emphasize my identity crisis and the ever-shifting "nature" of I.

egress

I've lost all sense of the me
who goes around by the name of i
if you ask who is the me
who lost the i, i shall respond
it certainly is not me
though he claims to be i
if you ask how do i know
that this is not me, surly,
i have a sense of what i should be
i'll retort, i am what i am,
but i'm not what i was—and no sir! no ma'am!
I'm not this i who claims to be me.

The following poem is probably one of my favorites. It's about religion, meaning of life, spirituality, nature of writing poetry, art feeding off of art, flight, madness, etc. The '2' represents that this work has been rewritten from its original form.

It's just something I do

When the philosopher met the poet (I guess it was my Mill moment):

a little child|a buddha

sits|contemplates|focuses
all inner wisdom within
a lost matryoshka made of flesh

driving|home|from the shopping-mall
a concrete American slab of stores
on long land|is|unaware|disconnected
from the slab of states sewn together
one island hop away

a little child|Rodin's thinker

sits|contemplates|strength
iron|steal|stone|sitting within
Rodin's thinker,
crys

Finally, last one I'll post (though I have many more poems on a wide-range of themes); this piece emphasizes what I'm trying to do with poetry, art, and writing in general. You might say it has a romantic metaphysical bent to it (and though I'm not a fan of metaphysics I do tend to believe there is something language can unleash within an individual mind). Perhaps emotion and the imagination (whatever that is, and whatever it is that powers it).

Dyaaaaanaaaaaamooooooo

my storm sleeping inside, sits, waits
eagerly anticipating its thunderous
explosion of cataclysmic energy
manifested through the fired ignition

of sporadic word droppings, forwards
backwards, like waves, aiming for
an organically molded origami to
conjure, be conjured, by orgasm’s

unguided missiles propelled and
constructed by artistic yearning
to transcend boundaries of frosted
meanings! unsufficiable words!

to break text through paradoxical
absurdities and and and transcend
time-spaced delusions stamped
and mailed through the ineffable

vortex of letter combinations;
silently yet yet yet swiftly
all underground prospects tremble
as my storm takes form, form!

(words combining, foundations
forming — forming an origami
of atomic energy condensed,
coalesced and nurtured, ordered!

only to induce disorder: to unleash!
shocking dancing bombardments
of violent electric energy sending
everyone into an effulgent orbit)

a hieroglyphic jack-in-the-box

BOOM



Quote :
This is Ginkgo. It's leaf is distinct in shape and its seeed is tasty when roasted. What does this image mean to you?

Yes, it is a Ginkgo! I see you're well informed on botany. And your question, on what this image means to me is precisely my question to you and anyone else looking at it. These Ginkgo leaves are taken from my favorite scene from Italo Calvino's novel If on a Winter's Night a Traveler . It is a philosophical exploration of perception and categorization. I'll post up the scene in its entirety a little later, as I've been rather wordy, and have consequently become pressed for time which is turning out to be more than just the movement of thought. Unless it is only because I think so, or we think so. I can't believe I wrote that and you found that, do you know how long ago that was written? Many many thoughts ago.
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with The Underground Man   Sun Feb 15, 2009 9:39 am



Part II

This is a very interesting interview! The Underground Man has been exceedingly open with his replies, exemplifying the principal: How can you be a philosopher, if you can't tell the truth? I expect we can learn even more from him...


Quote :
... "What is the meaning of life?"
Your remarks here are very honest and straight forward. Someone reading this interview would most probably be very thankful for your sincerity as it reveals quite a bit about what creates and motivates a philosopher. There are several similar lines, this one from Spinoza, "A free man thinks of nothing less than of death." How do you think of death these days?


Quote :
Schopenhauer wrote on this subject with great inspiration: think about a philosophical problem for yourself first and then find the philosopher who has already thought and written about it.
Originality is another recurrent issue with philosophers. It sometimes takes a while to discover one's own unoriginality. But it really isn't so easy to get over this need for specialness?


Quote :
Aside from wanting to acquaint myself with all sorts of philosophical jargon that make people give you a weird look...
Is it a "weird look", or a look of envy? There is arrogance about being a philosopher?


Quote :
I like to test what I learn in the academy against minds from all across the world....
This contest can sometimes get very heated. How do you keep your cool?


Your truthfulness with respect to the subject of drugs and marijuana is appreciated. Drugs, and this drug, have had a huge impact on philosophy. One wants to say, drugs are indispensable to philosophers. That can't be right?


Have you considered a bona fide academic career?


You talk about Dostoevsky in past tense, are you through with him?


Camus called suicide the only important philosophical question. Though these days perhaps it might be environmentalism; is this an issue you are concerned with?


Quote :
...the academy....
Sorry, what is this?


Quote :

These Ginkgo leaves are taken from my favorite scene from Italo Calvino's novel If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. ... I'll post up the scene in its entirety a little later
Note to readers: a section of this text can be found here.
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with The Underground Man   Thu Feb 19, 2009 9:29 pm

Sorry about the delay, university life takes up way too much time and energy.

Quote :
There are several similar lines, this one from Spinoza, "A free man thinks of nothing less than of death." How do you think of death these days?

I hate it. Wait. I'm stealing from Hemingway. I still hate it.

I'm not a Buddhist and admit that I am attached to life.

If death is nothing other than the negation of life (as Kojeve conceptualizes it in the most rational philosophical account that I've read on the subject) then when it actually occurs it will be a release from this very Shopenhaurian-world I am caught in. Not in a metaphysical sense of his Will, but in a phenomenal interaction of different forces. For example, someone else's anger playing upon my self (which Schopenhauer in Volume II of The World as Will and Representation compares to the strings of a violin). All these different forces are playing on my strings, sometimes beautiful notes, sometimes Waltzes, sometimes Wagnerian cacophony. If death negates that then depending on how the music is I'll either welcome the closing of the curtain or be dreading the end of the play.

For me death has only hurt me through taking away those that I love. Everything else about it has seemed to have a positive effect. I don't waste my time thinking about death because that is a waste of life--which because I have spent so much time thinking about death I have grown to value enormously. Living under its shadow, under the idea that this is the only life I'll have, with Nietzsche's Eternal Recurrence playing in the background of my psyche, death is that which forces me to make the most of every evanescent moment. Having said that I spend a lot of time walking around the cemetary. Most poetic place on earth for me.

Quote :
Originality is another recurrent issue with philosophers. It sometimes takes a while to discover one's own unoriginality. But it really isn't so easy to get over this need for specialness?

I don't know about others; for me originality is a motivation for egocentric reasons. Here, once more, death is playing a role in life. I have a desire to be remembered and to be remembered for something profound, deep-yo, meaningful. If I simply build on others (which is impossible not to do, there is no escaping context and Historicity) then that is scholarship. Which is fantastic and great and meaningful in it's own right, but given history and the achievement of philosophers who have continually been able to push forward into new territory, see things that the greatest minds in the past were unable to (for whatever reason, history, context, life's intrusions), then thanks to this I am still able to cling to the notion that new ground can be broken. And if I have the luck to do it, it'll make my ego happy. And if I can't do it in philosophy (which I think is incredibly difficult and a lifetime task) then I'll strive to do it in art.

Quote :
Is it a "weird look", or a look of envy? There is arrogance about being a philosopher?

I get all sorts of looks whenever I take out my philosophical arsenal. Looks of annoyance, irritation, competitiveness. I had a paper displayed in one of my classes and the day after it was up I got these rather cold looks from two girls, one of whom said, "Oh look there he is.." in what struck me as a very hostile tone. It's different with different people, depending on their interests and beliefs.

I hear a lot these days of people attacking particular philosophy professors that they don't like with remarks like, "All that philosophy gets to him. That shit fucks with your head, you know." I've heard a lot of those comments from different people, all of whom were, interestingly, of a religious background.

Quote :
This contest can sometimes get very heated. How do you keep your cool?

To maintained dispassionate dialogue I have to sometimes, provided I'm on an internet forum, take a few days after a rebuttal before responding. If I really get angry, I go write a poem.

Quote :
Your truthfulness with respect to the subject of drugs and marijuana is appreciated. Drugs, and this drug, have had a huge impact on philosophy. One wants to say, drugs are indispensable to philosophers. That can't be right?

It's certainly not right. In fact I enjoy marijuana and can be philosophical on the stuff because I'm philosophical off the stuff. Most people, in my experience, resemble apes rather than philosophers when they're high. Moreover I have discovered in rigorous environments where intellectual stimulation occurs on a near daily basis, such as in a university, the effect of that on the mind is just as great as the drugs I've used in the past. Studying phenomenology, for example, I had visual experiences of the same effect as shroom trips. Studying Schopenhauer and art-history not only was I tripping after class but it was much more powerful than any ecstasy trip I've ever had. Not that that's really stopped me from still using drugs every once in a while, but by no means are they necessary for philosophy or deep experiences.

I'm actually in the process of writing a philosophical and psychological exploration of marijuana use in a book I'm working on. So the really in-depth answer to that question will be in the book, which if ever gets finished and published, I'll post an Amazon link to on this interview (fingers crossed).

Quote :
Have you considered a bona fide academic career?

I have and still am. But I'm more interested in living life to the excess (going against the philosophical mantra 'all in good measure'). I love life and art, and these are my biggest drives. The academy will use up too much energy and time to actually be able to create. Though, maybe, I'll teach literature one day if I become published. The problem is that teaching, scholarship and art, all demand excellence. This forces one to have to choose one to the exclusion of the others (Kierkegaard chose philosophy over family; I choose art over a doctorate). How lovely it would have been to be a Nabokov; but I'm not at that level.


Quote :
You talk about Dostoevsky in past tense, are you through with him?

Nice observation. No, but I like him a lot less after studying him formally. He still has a lot of penetrating psychological value to draw from, but that's about all I find interesting in him.

Quote :
Camus called suicide the only important philosophical question. Though these days perhaps it might be environmentalism; is this an issue you are concerned with?

Yes, but I don't do anything about it and am not well-versed on the subject. At best I vote for environmentally-friendly political candidates and one day will own an eco-friendly car.

The academy is my term for university. Makes me feel more Greek and ancient.
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PostSubject: Re: Interview with The Underground Man   Tue Feb 24, 2009 12:56 pm



Part III

Pardon me too for being a bit slow -- now without further delay, Part III of Interview with The Underground Man! Throughout this The Underground Man has been very truthful, and how can you be a philosopher if you can't tell the truth? So let's push that...


Quote :
How lovely it would have been to be a Nabokov....
The author of Lolita. A nice lead-in to the subject of sexuality; which comes up in his unique poem On a Toilet Vitrine,

On A Toilet Vitrine

Her bathroom,
Marina, my cousin,
who I am angry at
right now, is soo
pretty!

...
Spoiler:
 

How does (your) sexuality affect (your) philosophy? (...and it's hard to miss that you're a nice looking guy. How do you think about your looks? You must get all the girls?)


Quote :
I love life and art....
It would be a fair guess that poetry is your major interest. How about other mediums? Have you a favorite painting of painter? Sculpture? Ballet?


And we haven't forgotten this promise!
Quote :

These Ginkgo leaves are taken from my favorite scene from Italo Calvino's novel If on a Winter's Night a Traveler. ... I'll post up the scene in its entirety a little later


Your readers will have seen that you've "New York City" listed as you location. This must be rather an interesting place to live?


"The City That Never Sleeps." Insomnia isn't uncommon in the philosophical community. Has this been an issue for you too?


Should elementary and secondary students have philosophy class along with reading, writing and arithmetic?
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