Crealectic Philosophy: Creation, Possibility, Joy and Health

It is a matter of fact that there is something called “analytic philosophy”. This is a social fact because of the vast amount of courses and philosophy departments in the Anglo-Saxon world that are denominated under this label. So-called “analytic philosophers” usually accept to be called analytic philosophers; many of them present themselves as such. The recent history of analytic philosophy is well documented, and most of it is post-Wittgensteinian. Wittgenstein (1889-1951) was a philosopher for whom most philosophical questions derived from a misunderstanding of our uses of language. The ambiguity of our grammar and vocabulary generates a fluctuation in concepts that, according to Wittgenstein, traditional philosophers mistake for a metaphysical mystery (later, an analytic philosopher, Walter B. Gallie, would say that most philosophical concepts are “essentially contested”).

Now, Ludwig Wittgenstein was a very disturbed person mentally, and his existential anguish and ressentiment towards his father was never digested: his fragile mental health permeated his thinking. He was poisoned by doubt and a serious deficiency in any form of faith: it was difficult for him to sustain a belief for more than one day: he was, psychologically, a destroyer. But even Wittgenstein, at the end of his life, admitted that there should be a such thing as a healthy mind. And he became fascinated with the idea of the self, which apparently was not only an effect of the language. We don’t believe we are a self only because we say I, otherwise anyone capable of saying I am would be mentally healthy.

More or less at the same time than Wittgenstein, but at the opposite spectrum of philosophical style was Alfred North Whitehead. Like Wittgenstein, Whitehead received a thorough training in logic, but after a while he lost interest in his mathematical skills and engaged in metaphysics, perhaps as a consequence of the death of his son, aged 19, during the first World War. Whitehead’s philosophy is highly speculative and Byzantine. Some parts of it are relatively easy to accept: for example he believed, like most process philosophers, that the universe had a divine ground which he related to a force of continuous creative flux. While he was a very creative thinker, his pedagogic skills in writing are close to zero. The result of Whitehead’s lack of interest for clarity is that his magnum opus, Process and Reality, is a very difficult book to read and understand. The effect of such a lack of care for clarity in explaining such a baroque personal system was devastating for speculative philosophy in the Anglo-Saxon world: many philosophers who did not feel poetically oriented felt insulted by Whitehead’s incomprehensibility and decided to adopt Wittgenstein’s view. They rejected speculation and metaphysics and focused on language and logic.

Some decades later, it became usual for analytic philosophers to call “continental philosophy” any form of thinking that they considered speculative or ungrounded. This of course was not directed only against French or German philosophers such as Bergson or Heidegger, accused of being mystical; analytic philosophy was also suspicious of dialectic philosophy (derived from Hegel and Marx) because of its political relationship with communism. Analytic philosophy, with its engineering view of the world (Wittgenstein himself was an engineer), became the official philosophy of capitalist regimes, while dialectic philosophy remained for a while the official mode of thinking of communist minds. These of course are broad generalisations and we can observe in the last decades that some analytic philosophers tend to become more mystical (for example David Chalmers and his pantheism). And dialectic thinking as been detached anew from Marxism, at least partially.

My view is that both the analytic and the dialectic ways of thinking are useful, they are often necessary but not sufficient. We need today a crealectic philosophy. And while I have coined the term “crealectic”, I have by no means invented crealectic philosophy, which I claim is the way of thinking of many philosophers since the Ancient Greek Heraclitus all the way to, for example, Merleau-Ponty at the end of his life (he called it “hyper-dialectics”).

So what is crealectic thinking, in short? In this post, I will define it in contradistinction to analytic and dialectic thinking. Both analytic and dialectic philosophies tend to be philosophies of necessity: their natural ground is determinism. They tend to see the world as a giant machine with a logic that is unfolding according to its own deterministic rules: they are fascinated by science and laws. Even in Hegel’s spiritual dialectics, there is the notion that the Spirit of the World, which is One, unfolds in a logical manner, logical step by logical step. The ground of crealectic philosophy is the notion of creation and therefore the concept of possibility, rather than necessity. Creation is not always logical because it relates to multiplicity and alterity. The primum mobile of crealectic thinking is infinite possibility, which at least asymptotically touches the impossible. This mode of thinking calls for a metaphysics of possibility (Deleuze called this virtuality or difference).

Of course, thinking about the concept of possibility is not new in philosophy, since Aristotle’s notion of dynamis (potential) or Duns Scotus medieval idea of compossibility (later rediscovered by Leibniz). It is even fair to say that some analytic philosophers have been thinking about the concept of possibility which they often relate with the epistemology of modality (how can we say that something is possible, necessary, impossible?). Again, my point here is not to oppose the three modes of thinking in a little war of academic power (although historically analytic philosophers have done much to try and eliminate all other forms of thinking from philosophy departments so it could be a strategy to fight back). My intention is to show there are complementary modes of understanding and that we should value them all. Given an unclear or unknown situation that we wish to understand, we can divide it into parts that we know and see how they function together like a machine (this is the analytical mode of understanding), we can discern the tensions and oppositions at stake and attempt a binary synthesis of these forces and tensions (this is the dialectic thesis-antithesis-synthesis method), or we can approach the situation crealectically: look at the possibilities that the situation allows for, in other words see a situation or a phenomenon as a set of actualisations in the making, perhaps conflicting, perhaps harmonizing. What bifurcations or compossibilities will become actualised? What will be made impossible? What possibles led to the current phenomenon?

Any “part” of the world is a complex set of compossibilities, possibilities and impossibilities in a state of more or less stabilised or chaotic flux, where we observe the emergence of permanences, plateaus of repetition, patterns of organicity. One of the biggest mysteries of nature is not only that the divine stands for infinite possibility, but also that some parts of the world seem stable for a certain period of time: there are forms that thrive, formal patterns that repeat themselves, possibilities that reiterate and thus become a norm, a natural law. It might be possible that we humans could have three or ten arms, but the norm is that we are born with two arms. This is where crealectic philosophy finds its practical side: some possibles are healthy, some are unhealthy. A healthy possibility is one that will allow for more healthy possibilities. There is a strong relationship between the concept of possibility and the concept of health. Because a healthy form of life is one that maximises its possibilities of agency, probably under the economical principle of a maximum effect for a minimum effort (two arms does it). Spinoza foresaw this relationship and pinned it under the concept of joy, which meant an increase in power for a self, which is an increase in possibilities.

Creation, possibility, joy, health: those are the four core concepts upon which a crealectic philosophy must be grounded.

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