The Chaotic Mind and the Purpose of Philosophy

Micha's earlier post really got me to thinking. What does one do when one's earliest memories are thoughts of suicide? Most turn to religion to help bring peace to their mind. I tried that. Although when your first memories (around age 7 for me) are suicidal, your worldview tends to be a rather amorphous agnosticism. This drew me to philosophy. (I bet you already figured out that I was talking about myself. Give yourself a reward. ;-)

My mind remained in chaos, but at least I was able to find tools to manage that chaos. Eventually, I broke out of the amorphous mush of agnosticism and began to make my way into existentialism. By junior high, my particular brand of existentialism consisted heavily of Nietzsche, the scientific method, Socrates, and a surprisingly persistent bit of Voodooism/animism that I picked up while in Southern Louisiana. From the internet, I picked up discordianism. (In case your wondering, I'm a second generation libertarian on my dad's side ;-)

Then my chaotic mind became excessively so at the end of my freshman year in college... I experienced clinical psychosis. I was never a threat to others. I had synthesized Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra with Plato's Republic. Reality became the variable in order to permit this feat of mental gymnastics, but reality didn't stop varying. Every new bit of datum I gained regardless of whether it was graffiti on the wall, a cartoon on television, or the minute hand on a watch got integrated into this synthesizing monster that had become my mind.

For the first time in my life, the chaos internal had become for me also the chaos external. It took me less than a day to commit myself to a private psychiatric hospital. (I was insane not stupid. ;-) That night, as I was lying strapped to the bed staring out of the skylight, I was uncertain that time was passing. I thought, "Just because the sun came up repeatedly in the past, I could not know that it would come up again, tomorrow." Although a bird might fly by your window eight times, there is no certainty that it will come by a ninth.

At this point, my earlier epistemic process began a reversal. It occured to me that perhaps nothing was true. My mind began to identify any possible contradictions. Whenever I came across one, I threw out both ideas. I eventually completed this exercise to find that I had thrown out almost everything. I felt empty. Yet, I still had something. I had what was implicit in that process.

I had the law of non-contradiction. Existentialists of all stripes believe that they can be certain that they as individuals exist. I found that even that was not foundational.

I had read something that Rand had written prior to going into that hospital. I had read Anthem. I still think that is the best introduction to Rand's work out there. The old Nietzschean in me still advises to skip most of the nonfiction and keep with the fiction. (I read the non-fiction anyway, but don't weight it as highly.)

It's true. I pity Kant. When I was Nietzschean, I despised Kant. I now know better partially through the influence of Rand and partially from an experience that I had sometime later.

People often debate the purpose of philosophy. I have known it thoughout most of my life. The purpose of philosophy is to make my life better.

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"The purpose of philosophy

"The purpose of philosophy is to make my life better."

Oh so you are THAT guy. I had no idea. Just teasing BilLee, I enjoyed the post.

BilLee, thanks for that

BilLee, thanks for that great post. Was the first psychiatric help you received after you were in college? No need to answer that, but if it was the case, I'm so sorry to hear you suffered dealing with the problem on your own for so long. Although, it is quite clear you are quite brilliant, what with all the channels you found for the chaos in your mind. Is there a book in you on this topic? You sound as if your recall is wonderfully clear, and back to age 7? I would think your insights would be invaluable.


Hey, I was Nietzschean.

Hey, I was Nietzschean.

"From the Military School of Life. What does not kill me makes me stronger."
(Twilight of the Idols, "Maxims and Arrows" 8).

Rainbough actually remembers being in the crib at age 3. My memory is nothing compared to hers, but thanks for the compliments.