Building Education for the Commons
What does a philosopher want? The question of desire is anything but straightforward. Most things we desire as human beings are basic, food, water, shelter. Humans also desire to reproduce themselves, a desire to replicate ourselves in the world. But as Freud pointed out sometimes our desires are hidden from us, they are unconscious. This raises the question, What does a philosopher want?
There are many answers to this question. A philosopher wants truth. A philosopher wants clarity. A philosopher wants to speak using language that makes sense.
What makes this question deeply problematic is that the philosopher today is often associated with being a “professional.” A professional philosopher is one who is a professor assigned to an institute of higher education whose job it is to teach their subject to students within that institution. The institution, in other words, delimits and defined not only what the philosopher is, but her or his desires in relation to that institution.
But the logic of thought, of thinking, is not one that is so easily limited to the expectations of an institution. Thought takes flight on the level of wonderment and stays in flight in the very act of questioning and creating things, concepts and ideas for which no definitive answer completely satisfies. Put differently, the desire of the philosopher who seeks truths in the world, is restless and nomadic; thought is never at home with itself. If answers to our most basic questions in life had answers then thinking itself would stop within the zone in which telos and curiosity meet. In this respect, what a philosopher wants cannot to be defined by any institutional norms or determinations, but the enjoyment and tease of thinking as such. Thinking that never settles and never fully satisfies the destiny of thinking’s desire.
This is the philosopher’s strength, that the ground of truth in reality is not reducible to dogmatism, as with fundamentalist theology, but unfolds infinitely through itself. That we can say about the world that it’s possibilities always exceeds it’s determination, is what gives to the philosopher a task that no matter what doctrines or ideologies may be installed, there is always within that horizon something more. Excess. That in the heart of things, there is a revolt against their configuration and circulation within a dominate ideology.
In this precise sense, the desire of the philosopher joins with an irruptive impulse, a revolt that lurks in the shadows of all things. The philosopher therefore is the nomad that knows the secret of excess, that the world is revolting against itself expressing a desire to be freed from the symbolic enfolding in on itself. If Freud once said, “Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.” Then in this respect, the philosopher is the one who risks knowing something more is there, that new worlds are possible.
Is this not to say that the philosopher, worthy of the flight of thought, is the revolutionary in that she knows the world is not what it appears to be. This poses a problem for the dominate rulers of the world whose power is given in relation to the world as it is, and thus whose power is threatened by the possibility of a different world.
In this respect, the philosopher is like a “ghost rider” riding out the storm of existence created in the vortex of what is, and what is possible.