Experience has taught me that imponderables are all-important; when science declares that it can concern itself only with that which can be measured, it classes itself with the child that counts on its fingers and brands Shakespeare and Shelley as Charlatans.
“But it must be understood from the outset that we are not concerned to vindicate any one set of philosophers at the expense of any other, but simply to settle certain questions which have played a part in the history of philosophy out of all proportion to their difficulty or their importance.” (134)
Language, Truth and Logic is a brief and charmingly audacious effort to retire metaphysics and its related issues. Ayer is a mid-20th-century exponent of the Anglo-American analytical tradition in philosophy (including the work of Bertrand Russell and others) which seeks to reduce the discipline to applications of logic. His arguments are sympathetic to the earlier empiricists and positivists, but show more sophistication in pointing out and sometimes surmounting their shortfalls. I am most in accord with his “emotive theory of values” as a method of dispensing with the philosophical concern over ethics.
Ayers’ professed opposition to “schools” in philosophical discourse reminds me of the ultra-Protestant Plymouth Brethren “coming out of sect” in 19th-century England: they paradoxically insist on a narrowing of their field while claiming to transcend distinctions within it.
The 1946 introduction to the second edition consists of Ayers reconsidering and fine-tuning many of the details in the body of the text. Accordingly, I saved it to read until finishing the original eight chapters. In retrospect, however, because of the intricacies of the arguments, a reader would be better advised to read the 1946 remarks in sequence after each individual chapter.
Although mystics (and magicians, to a lesser degree) are unlikely to find this book easy or pleasant, it would be an invaluable supplement to their intellectual diets. After passing through this crucible, they might proceed to the more congenial offerings of a thinker like Gregory Bateson.
Of what use the wisdom of Virginity to him who has been raped by the seducer, ignorance? Of what use sciences or any knowledge except as medicine? Hidden treasure does not come at the word nor by digging with your hands in the main road. Even with the proper implements and accurate knowledge of place, etc., may be but the acquisition of what you possessed long ago. There is a great doubt as to whether it is hidden, except by the strata of your experience and atmospheres of your belief.
Austin Osman Spare, The Book of Pleasure
A thing is not esoteric because it is secret or kept hidden. It is esoteric because its existence is in some sense unmanifest, private, and by its very nature not available for examination from the outside: it is only available to participation, not, ultimately, merely to examination. In other words, the realm of the esoteric is, before anything else, the realm of consciousness, of experience.
Even though tourists appear to be physically present in Nature or Culture, in effect one might call them ghosts haunting ruins, lacking all bodily presence. They’re not really there, but rather move through a mind-scape, an abstraction («Nature», «Culture»), collecting images rather than experience. All too frequently their vacations are taken in the midst of other peoples’ misery and even add to that misery.
Hakim Bey, Overcoming Tourism
I’d come to live as a human, to experience all the human traditions. And spending many a beautiful afternoon cooped up at the library service desk in order to make sure a bunch of middle schoolers weren’t playing dirty dating sims on the computers apparently counted as one.
You and I have both known him, and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s an experience we shan’t ever forget. And even when he and I met in the middle of China, with his mind a blank and his past a mystery, there was still that queer core of attractiveness in him.
James Hilton, Lost Horizon: A Novel
Gentlemen, we are men of experience. Self-interest is immutable, but its dictates vary daily.
Sara Hess, Deadwood, s02e10