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This Post Needs No Title

May 25, 2012

I would roughly divide philosophies into two categories, ‘crazy’ and ‘sensible’. Of the two, I definitely prefer the former. Sensible philosophies are noted for their sobriety, propriety, rationality, analytic skill and other things. One definite advantage they have is that they are usually quite sensible. Crazy philosophies are characterized by their madness, spontaneity, sense of humor, total freedom from the most basic conventions of thought, amorality, beauty, divinity, naturalness, poesy, absolute honesty, freedom from inhibitions, contrariness, paradoxicalness, lack of discipline and general yum-yummyness. Their most important advantage over the sensible philosophies is that they come far closer to the truth! Many philosophers of the “sensible” school will surely dispute this, and ask me whether I can “prove” this statement. My answer is, “Yes, quite easily, providing I am all owed to give a crazy proof rather than a sensible one”. But of course they will not allow this!

It is of interest how different people fall into the two categories. In general I would say that psychologists, psychiatrists, economists, sociologists and political scientists tend towards the “sensible”, whereas artists, poets, musicians, and (to my great delight!) chemists, theoretical physicists, mathematicians — especially mathematical logicians — tend towards what I call the “crazy”. I have found from experience that the most brilliant logicians I have met have both a deep understanding of  the “sensible” and also a wonderful feeling for the “crazy”. And no wonder! Crazy philosophy is the most refreshing thing in the world, is thoroughly enlightening, and is an absolute prerequisite to understanding things as they really are.

One marvelous thing about this whole crazifying process is that it makes one ever more loving, lovable, and tolerant. If one goes crazy enough even sanity — normally so gruesome — becomes bearable after a while. At a still higher stage of craziness, the entire duality between craziness and sanity becomes transcended, and the two are seen to be really the same thing.

I am in no way against sensible philosophy. It only serves to show how wonderful crazy philosophy is by contrast.

— from The Tao Is Silent  by Raymond Smullyan

Several days ago I was sitting on the toilet and thinking, “Well, I suppose my greatest living heroes would have to be Bruno Latour, Werner Herzog, and Raymond Smullyan.” But then it occurred to me that, given his advanced age, I could not be entirely confident that Smullyan was still living. So I checked Wikipedia, and discovered that not only was his death still unreported but, as I wrote on Tuesday, he had an upcoming birthday, today, the 25th of May. So here is another quote and a picture, both from around three decades ago. This Book Needs No Title and The Tao Is Silent are the crucial works for me. Both are best described as Smullyanesque. Many people love his books of logic puzzles, they are considered the best of their genre, but I could never get too much into that; I suppose I am too lazy to work out the problems, no matter how much Gödelian bliss they promise. But his miscellaneous philosophical musings remain an abiding inspiration and pleasure to me, as they have since I was an alienated school-hating teenage intellectual for whom Smullyan was a saving friend, ally, and crazy uncle. May the death that he does not believe in never extinguish his flame!

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  1. So Crazy It Just Might Work « Subverbo

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