Among themselves, certain great thinkers tend to pay little attention to the various “ideas” espoused by their knowledge-loving brethren, favoring instead those obscure insinuations that hide between, behind and beyond the actual text. For whether a philosopher wants to acknowledge it or not, every European thinker since the 4th century B.C. can be more or less relegated to either this or that side of the Aristo-Platonic divide.
As such, once the budding Thinker begins to realize the philosophical lineage from which he hails (and is unconsciously bound), he profits little from treating the particular words of his fellows in any manner beyond the casual and, in truth, would do well to keep many a “profound” notion at arm’s length, and to see them instead as the vectors which may potentially infect the genesis of one’s own “original” thought with the pathogens of a rival cosmology. For nothing is worse to he who endeavors to think – and feel – on his own than the yapping truism of some centuries-dead sage, no matter how luminous the grating bark may seem to others.
With few exceptions, the greatest philosophers prioritize methodology over content, seeking in the writings of their kinsmen not what to think or why but potentially how, that which may be divined through the careful consideration of the form and structure of sentence (or their equivalents), the placement of periods and commas, the employment of colons and semicolons – all so that he may settle once and for all in himself which is, indeed, the literary medium most capable of expressing the body’s strongest sentiments; mediums which are, in fact, far better at revealing the true origin and intent of a philosopher’s mind than any one idea is able to convey.
In his reading, the young Thinker should become something like a trapper forever on the hunt of the self-reference that may betray a certain philosopher’s peculiar way of life: did he rise early or late? Work a common job and thus write on the side? Was he poor or born into a nobility? A professor perhaps? A founder of a “school”? And what about his mood: did depressions or pathologies or physical ailments keep him from working for any notable length? And how did those maladies sway his view of the cosmos and through what set of eyes did he perceive that cosmos? Were they religious eyes? Homosexual eyes? Married eyes? If so, how many times – and mistresses? Children? Bastards? Did they respect him? Did he them? And what of the length of his days and the manner in which he died? Was it hemlock administered by the state or the stake and flame by the Church? Was it exile? Boiling oil? Pneumonia? Plague? Was he hewn down in battle or did his god swing low in his sweet chariot one night to carry him safely home?
And if self-reference is important, how much more the ultimate prize the Thinker seeks in the great works of the past, that which has the power to at least partly reveal the source and sustenance of the Great Minds’ luminous insight: did such men inherit their “gift” of madness, or did they perhaps willfully induce it with the assistance of a drug or soothsayer or esoteric practice, without which the great mind may not be all that great after all?
Said another way, was the Philosopher “called” or did he through his own stupid audacity choose the philosophical calling for himself, an act that, to some, imbue his words the subversiveness of a usurper, a Fool, an anarchist, a trickster-god even; a foreigner who – though he may be allowed to settle within the legal bounds of the sacred city – will never be considered a rightful citizen according to the ancient laws of the land; a man who’ll always walk its golden streets with odd mannerisms and strange dress, an immigrant through and through cursed forever by his funny accent and unpronounceable name, condemned to carry his vestments of provincial ancestry ever before him, no matter the degree to which he attempts to assimilate the norms and habits of his hosts, they who hail from primordial kings: demigods of which our man’s sole worth is to tie their unkempt sandals whenever they pass.
Devil walks into bar. Orders drink. Asks Philosopher sitting next to him: “And what do you do?”