Hard Problems


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Bill Vallicella writes a very fine, thought provoking, blog, The Maverick Philosopher. It’s one of the handful of blogs I read top-to-bottom, which is to say I read every post as they land in my rss reader. I read it for several reasons. One, Mr. Vallicella is a fine writer,and he moves through knotty subjects carefully. Two, he’s got a very rigorous perspective, yet he’s chosen to offer ideas and reasoning rather than polemics and ideology. Three, he’s interested in areas I’m interested in, such as metaphysics, and traditional ways to frame philosophical problems. Except, I’m interested in such things, and he’s a dedicated expert.

He also readily admits when his arguments are tentative or provisional. His is an attractive humility in contrast to a whole raft worth self-satisfied “I know I know” types of rationalists and religionists blogging in the philosophere.

A few days ago he offered a fascinating look at meditation, Mental Quiet and Enlightenment/Salvation. His particular starting point determines his viewpoint, yet he’s forthright in framing his view as being provisional, while he writes with a neat turn of phrase:

There is a passage somewhere in al-Ghazzali where he points out that a person who climbs to the top of a minaret is more likely to feel a cooling breeze than one who remains on the ground. Similarly, the gusts of divine favor are more likely to reach one who has made the right preparations, entry into mental quiet being one such preparation. This image suggests that salvation cannot be caused by the seeker, but must be graciously received. ‘Own-power’ is not enough; ‘other-power’ is needed. Mental quiet is thus a state of mental receptivity or passivity, a state of interior listening in which one opens oneself to a possible communication from beyond one’s egoic consciousness.

For a phenomenologically-minded Jamesian fallibilist like me, The Maverick Philosopher is a counter-intuitive choice for a mental workout, yet I’ve learned a bit, and enjoyed the mostly graceful presentation.

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