Thinking is a curious thing. There is a sort of paradoxical circularity to it, a kind of solipsistic embroilment with ideas and ways of perceiving that, although one’s own, since they are in one’s head, so to speak, are also mostly not one’s own, since most of what we believe, the bases of all personal reflection, consists in ‘inherited opinion.’ Of course, when people engage in what they would call ‘reflection,’ most naively assume themselves to be the masters of all the elements of the cogitations over which they preside and undertake. It is simply not so.
But the paradox of the circularity of thinking or reflection isn’t only that it is a private activity performed on the basis of assumptions and prefigurations that were never one’s own to begin with, assumptions and prefigurations really of a ‘public nature,’ but that by engaging at the level of reflection these inherited or inculcated ’habits of opinion and perception,’ we can manage to fashion entirely new opinions and modes of perception that, emerging from our personal effort, not only bear the stamp of ourselves in their originality, but reveal to us aspects of ourselves in our relations to the world around us hitherto unobserved, unnoticed, or hidden. Reflection can be revelatory in surprising and unexpected ways. Sometimes the discoveries are liberating, suggesting new opportunities for action, reasons for keeping certain hopes and aspirations alive. Sometimes the discoveries amount to great disappointments, pointing to severely constraining limits, becoming sobering insights into why certain desires or ambitions, simply being impossible, are for the better forsaken.
So far, in its level of abstraction, my statement of purpose is almost meaningless. But I begin, here, at a more general level, so as to be better able to eventually drag whomever may have stumbled upon these publicly posted remarks down to a very concrete and pedestrian level, to get my reader first to admit that he comes here with a set of pre-established assumptions, and that if he wishes to increase his chances of discovering something new about the world and his place in it, he may well have to make an effort to think his way past a host of convictions with which he has by now been inculcated by the accidents of birth, upbringing, education, and so on. If you have already made up your mind about everything, if there are no possible errors of convictions in your mind on all the big issues of life, if you have sworn fealty onto your death to this or that particular religious, political, economic, or national creed, then here, amidst these ramblings, you will surely waste your time. For I propose to enquire into a range of subjects critically if not always without prejudice and in so far as I am able. On the other hand, I do not take myself all that seriously. I recognize that one can always be entertained by the quaintness or queerness of other people’s opinions, and if that is your reason for tagging along, then by all means. As much as I find that other people utter and write the strangest things, others must likewise regard my opinions, not all of which, I am certain, are not in fact delusions.