Styles of Thinking

By Matthias Mauderer

A recent conversation with Glenn Wallis launched an episode of thinking which I realized is characteristic for me. Due to a psychic liability, on which I do not want to elaborate further here, I have, and as I recall it, always had, incredible problems standing up for my very own style of thinking. When I say “to stand up for,” I do not mean to occupy a combat poise towards styles of thinking other than my own. What I rather mean by “to stand up for” is the ability to present one’s own style of thinking as a legitimate player in the vast field of the universe of thinking.

The liability I mention above engenders an immobilization of my own style of thinking and forces me to copy the styles of thinkers other than my own. For some time, this copying feels good, for it takes a while for me to realize that I had been alienated from my own thinking style. The episode of thinking I will try to expose in what follows is the one that is being suppressed in times of such an alienation. That is to say in what follows, I stand up for my own style of thinking, freed from alienation.

To begin with my exposition, maybe I should talk of styles rather than of one style of thinking I’m playing out. One of those styles is the non-standard style. This style approaches all thoughts as immanent materialities with absolute no possibility to transcend these materialities towards the Real. Within this style, I do not try to capture a representation of the Real. The point of this style is to treat all those immanent materialities as legitimate parts of the Real. These individual parts cannot represent the whole, but they can be used for taking their content and put it into practice.

The other style I practice is the philosophical style. This may sound contradictory, for philosophy is a style that reaches for the Real. For me, it is not contradictory. As Goethe says: “Two souls alas! are dwelling in my breast.” In some sense, I leave open the question of whether it is possible to say something about the Real. And I think it is important to mention that I practice philosophy with utmost circumspection and modesty. In my experience, it is absolutely incontestable that some philosophical positions convince me more than others. And what is equally incontestable is the experience that these convictions may shift over time when new thoughts enter the philosophical arena.

Maybe other thinkers skilled in non-standard philosophy will throw their hands up in despair when reading this. It is my task to bear this. For me personally it makes sense, and I see a lot of coincidences between those two styles. Both styles take certain ideas to heart, meaning that they engage with different ideas in order to create something. This choosing may rest on different grounds. While the non-standard thinker takes certain materialities (ideas) without seeing any possibility that these ideas point towards the Real, the philosopher opts for certain ideas because she sees some kernel of the Real in them. And who knows, maybe this is so.

Be that as it may, both the non-standard thinker and the philosopher see a use in making ideas alive. From ideas flow actions, from ideas flow experiences.

I am currently reading a book titled Indispensable Goods, written by Tom Pepper. Regarding the styles above, he clearly belongs to the philosophical style. I warmly recommend the book to anyone. It is chock-full of ideas that could be relevant to build a better world. And this clearly is one of my goals, one of the reasons why I love to think as much as I do. And in the end, I think, it is not that important if those ideas reach beyond immanence. Of course, it would be a problem if the transcendence (the reaching for the Real) is used to ground one’s ideas in an absolute truth. That is exactly why I talked above about doing philosophy with utmost circumspection and modesty.

Just look at me. I seem to have a certain propensity to reach for the Real. For example, I like to think that we humans are deeply embedded parts of a vastly interconnected universe. I take this idea to be “Real.” I can’t really explain why I have this propensity (I am working on an explanation). But no matter if this idea is seen as having a relation to the Real (Yes. I am guilty as charged!) or if it is seen as an immanent materiality, the idea effectuates something important. And it is in this effectuation where I see the connection between non-standard philosophy and philosophy. Take the idea of interconnection. This idea entails that my actions have consequences, consequences not only for me but for my environment of which I am a deeply embedded part. So keeping this idea to heart will, I hope, change the way of seeing my actions. So regardless of whether the vector of our idea points towards the Real or not, the idea has an effect. And that is central, I think.

So what I have in mind as a future project is a platform (on the web, in physical reality or wherever) where ideas can be shared. Philosophers, non-standard philosophers, artists or whosoever has the possibility on this platform to share a plethora of ideas. The platform enables a mutual exchange on these ideas, an exchange about our reasons for choosing certain ideas, an exchange about where we see the potential in the ideas shared.

I know that this is not at all a new concept. And by the way, it is not very well-engineered in the moment. But I think I can do something with it in the future. If you take Incite Seminars by Glenn Wallis, this is an example of a concept which is very well-engineered and which also serves as a platform for philosophers and non-standard-philosophers to share their ideas, “infecting” and inspiring others with those ideas. If you look at those seminars, you will realize that there are indeed many philosophers at work. So I think it is important to say that philosophy is not something bad or something we should abandon.

As I said, what is important is the making alive of ideas.

To give you an idea of where I am searching for ideas waiting to be made alive for the time being, I will now add a list of some of the books that are on my idea expedition list in the moment, and will end my short essay with that list. It is not just a list, but should help to underline what I’m after here:

  • Bailly, Lionel, Lacan: A Beginner’s Guide
  • Brandom, Robert, Articulating Reasons: An Introduction to Inferentialism
  • Clark, Stephen R.L., Can We Believe in People? Human Significance in an Interconnected Cosmos
  • Deacon, Terrence, The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain
  • Evans, C. Stephen, Kierkegaard and Spirituality: Accountability as the Meaning of Human Existence
  • Hegel, Georg Friedrich Wilhelm, The Phenomenology of Spirit
  • Keller, Catherine, Cloud of the Impossible: Negative Theology and Planetary Entanglement
  • Laruelle, François, Clandestine Theology: A Non-Philosopher’s Confession of Faith
  • Lightman, Alan, Searching for Stars on an Island of Maine
  • McIntyre, Lee, The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience
  • Oppy, Graham, Naturalism and Religion
  • Oresekes, Naomi, Why Trust Science?
  • Pepper, Tom, Indispensable Goods: Thoughts on Ideology, Agency, the Meaning of Life, and Other Somewhat Important Things
  • Pippin, Robert, Hegel’s Practical Philosophy
  • Steinhart, Eric, Believing in Dawkins: The New Spiritual Atheism
  • Tallis, Raymond, Aping Mankind: Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity
  • Turner, Denys, The Darkness of God: Negativity in Christian Mysticism
  • Zabala, Santiago, Being at Large: Freedom in the Age of Alternative Facts
  • Zimring, James C., What Science Is and How It Really Works
  • Zizek, Slavoj, Disparities


Author: Matthias Mauderer is a man who does not want to tell much about himself. He tries his best to make it through life, always having had problems to determine exactly who he is respectively to see a meaning in such a determination. He simply is who he is, holds down a job as social pedagogue, loves making and hearing music, is fond of thinking about everything else and spends as much time as possible with his family.
See also The Arena Under the Dome.

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