Considering the Practical Implications of Philosophical Discourse


Many of us can theorize about the ideas of Chardin or even Soleri and yet the idea of practical philosophy is to link to theories with our practical experiences. Many times I felt frustrated listening to School of Thought (and I know I am not the only one who has felt this way) observing that Soleri had created a barrier between the reality at Arcosanti, and the philosophical theories behind what he calls Arcology. What’s more is that ideally a linkage between our own practical goals of being more sustainable and effective in this world and the vision of sustainability that many of us seem to share would be clearly marked out. I dont feel this is the case at Arcosanti.

The question to me is why? I guess the answer I came up with is age old and indeed paradoxical. When our reality becomes or sppears more and more unchangeable (or we at least impart that attitude or perspective), then often we engage in a distancing whereby our ideas become removed from the everyday reality upon which we live. Soleri while offering a venue to discuss world urgent issues in School of Thought never offers its participants a set of steps for creating a process for actually engaging in changing or affecting the issues being discussed even at some small level.

In all fairness its possible that it is not his intention to attempt to mobilize people or at least not at School of Thought. Yet my view is that all that we do should be engaged in not just contemplating ideas and theories of what the world should be but putting words into actions that lead to the realization of our ideals on an everyday basis. That is where the Latin word Praxis still has relevance in that it links education and philosophy and understanding of knowledge with the idea of a upward momentum of human evolution and development.

As Ghandi said famously “be the change you want to see in the world.”

The idea is for us to contemplate ideas with the plan that they will actually lead to our enhanced ability to function in the everyday world so that what we see as the practical reality will become more optimized and in line with we consider as our ideals and aspirations of creating a better world not only for ourselves but for others as well.

So I share this remarkable story of how a woman scientist recovering from stroke used her disability to actually gain a new experience and perspective on life. Judy Tart after reading Taylor’s book,  My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey writes about a neuroanatomist who had a stroke from which it took 8 years for her to fully recover.

She was able to observe in great detail what was happening to her, moment by moment.  As she lost her verbal, cognitive, left-brain functions, she found herself in a completely altered state of consciousness – vast, peaceful, and all-knowing – which she believes to be the right brain, though it sounds very much like a description of a mystical state, and also very like what are called “near-death” experiences.

“As the language centers in my left hemisphere grew increasingly silent and I became detached from the memories of my life, I was comforted by an expanding sense of grace… my consciousness soared into an all-knowingness, a “being at one” with the universe…”

Her account of how she overcame the temptation to just slip into euphoria and peace and was able to summon help and save her life is fascinating, but just as interesting, to me, is how she consciously restructured her brain during her long recovery from her stroke.  As she regained her verbal skills, she found that she began running negative circuits that had been active in her previous life.  She found she no longer wanted to live this way, and determined to give energy to positive circuits, joy and compassion and not reinforce her old negativities.  She suggests that all of us can do the same, since our brains are not fixed entities as was previously thought, but are capable of great changes throughout life.

Finally, for anyone who has a family member suffering from a stroke, she has a wonderful set of suggestions for how to work with them and understand what they may be experiencing in a very deep and compassionate way – pretty far from what we currently do in our treatment and rehabilitation of stroke victims (or any form of brain damage).

More about Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor discussing her stroke and the incredible experience she had at a stroke: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/03/13/when-a-brain-scientist-suffers-a-stroke/?emc=eta1

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One thought on “Considering the Practical Implications of Philosophical Discourse

  1. I came to your blog via a search for Jung. I have recently discovered the ideas of de Chardin’; the idea of the noosphere is a most exciting, liberating idea. I thought to myself, “Aha! So that’s what’s next!”

    Progoff’s Intensive Journal is a system of written exercises designed to connect one’s psyche to it’s appropriate expression in ordinary life, and ultimately, to add to the building blocks of the noosphere. I am studying to become a workshop leader, and it was within that program I first learned of Chardin.

    Just now, I viewed the video of Dr. Bolte Taylor’ TED talk. This is an interesting, enlightening and instructive account of the stroke sequence from not only a patient’s inner experience, but of a neuroanatomist’s perspective.

    I work in a hospital that specializes in stroke management, and I will pass the link on to my colleagues. Thank you!

    As for Acrosanti– that is another new idea for me, worthy of more investigation. I will also send the link to my Italian cousin in Italy, and ask his response to it.

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