Sunday, March 27, 2011

from PKD and Philosophy

I dropped out of college very early and began to write, pursuing my interest in philosophy on my own. My main sources were poets, not philosophers: Yeats and Wordsworth and the seventeenth century English metaphysical poets, Goethe, and then overt philosophers such as Spinoza and Leibnitz and Plotinus -- the last influencing me greatly. Early on I read Alfred North Whitehead and Bergson and became well-grounded in process philosophy. I did take a basic survey course in philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, but was asked to leave when I inquired as to the pragmatic value of Platonism. The Pre-Socratics always fascinated me, in particular Pythagoras, Parmenides, Heraclitus and Empedocles. I still view God as Xenophanes viewed him. Gradually my interest in philosophy passed over into an interest in theology. Like the early Greeks I am a believer in panpsychism. Of all the metaphysical systems in philosophy I feel the greatest affinity for that of Spinoza, with his dictum, "Deus sive substantia sive natura;" to me this sums up everything (Viz: "God i.e. reality i.e. nature.") After flirting with bitheism for years I've settled down to monotheism; I regard even Christianity and later Judaism as heavily dualistic and hence unacceptable. To me the truth was first uttered (in so far as we know) when Xenophanes of Colophon, an Ionian, stated, "One God there is…in no way like mortal creatures either in bodily form or in the thought of his mind. The whole of him sees, the whole of him thinks, the whole of him hears. He stays always motionless in the same place; it is not fitting that he should move about now this way, now that. But, effortlessly, he wields all things by the thought of his mind." My interest in Pythogaras came from reading Wordsworth's "Ode," and from there I passed on to neo-Platonism and to the Pre-Socratics. The German Aufkl @ rung influenced me, especially Schiller and his ideas of freedom; I read his "Wallenstein" Trilogy. Spinoza's views regarding the worth of democracy also influenced me
http://www.philipkdick.com/media_bertrand.html

6 comments:

  1. I continue to be bemused and intrigued by the continued overlooking (deliberate?) of most PKD academics of this interview, along with most other specific comments by PKD about what influenced him, in other interviews and his essays. He used the word "Zeitgeist" more than once and I find it most telling.

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  2. seems like a huge omission to me if they're ignoring it. I found this interview to be hugely influential when I first read it as a 19 year old philosophy major. scholars should be taking seriously what PKD means when he calls himself a "fictionalizing philosopher," although they are free to disagree with him about what his work means.

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  3. "Fictionalizing Philosopher," indeed!! That itself is worth a book length study. But perhaps that is too convenient, not obfuscating enough, makes too much sense. And then there is his mention of panpsychism, or the German aufklarung...Have ANY of these been given cogent critical discussion in academia??

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  4. I agree that there should already be a book-length study on PKD calling himself a fictionalizing philosopher. Deserves more attention than all this "postmodernist" nonsense because PKD was not a postmodernist. I've been looking into Plotinus and Neoplatonism, as well as the medieval+renaissance philosophy behind Bruno, Spinoza and Leibniz, in order to better understand Dick's "panpsychism" and other philosophical approaches. I've asked Gabriel McKee and Erik Davis, two of the leading authorities on PKD+Religion, if they know anything about studies on PKD+Plotinus etc. but haven't heard much back. Guess I'm gonna have to do my own. If you know any references to these philosophers in PKD works that I may have missed please send them. As soon as I finish with the "selected letters" I plan to go through the complete stories looking for references to pantheist and other weird religious philosophical ideas, but I don't know Dick's early novels as well...

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  5. You are quite correct to note that the attempt to mold and manipulate PKD into a "postmodernist" niche is "NONSENSE." Quite so. It was a quick-and-convenient label, a faddish thing. And the cutesy nickname they came up with for it, POMO, still reminds me of Porno, whenever I see it in print. I suspect cogently and critically pursuing the "panpsychism" or "Spinoza" or "Nathanael West" or "Black Humor" PKD aspect was just too much work for them. Very little public relations value for publish-or-perish points, or tenure tokens. Will start checking my resource for you. Hope at least an essay by you about this will ensue soon.

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