The Art of Self-interrogation
Questioning to the Nth Degree
“The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” ~Ken Kesey
People are psychosocial sponges. They are easily manipulated. They are easy to trick. They are easy to convince. This is because most people don’t question things. They don’t question themselves. They don’t question what they read. They don’t question their religion. They don’t question the law. They don’t question authority. They don’t question the government. They don’t question the “profoundly sick society” they grew up in.
And it’s precisely because they don’t question things that tiny deceptions take root and eventually grow into giant devils that eat away at their reasoning, twist their logic, and leave them “convinced” of things that, when weighed against universal law, are simply invalid and unhealthy.
So, why don’t they question things? The simple answer is: fear. Most people are afraid of the answers they’ll come up with. What if the answers are scary? What if the answers prove that your job is immoral? What if the answers reveal that you’ve devoted your life to a folly? What if the answers expose your government for war crimes? What if the answers make you so uncomfortable that you must reevaluate your core values? What if the answers reveal that your core values were never healthy to begin with? What if they were nothing more than hand-me-down, outdated nonsense reeking of parochial ignorance? What then?
The purpose of self-interrogation is to be ruthless in your inquiry, despite fear. It’s using the question mark like a scythe that cuts through all the superfluous. It’s being fierce in the face of willful ignorance. It’s grilling your worldview to the point it collapses in on itself and you’re forced to build all over again from a fresh perspective. It’s going all in on being skeptical and circumspect. It’s transcending the need to cling. It’s rising above faith on the wings of reason. It’s taking an idea or concept into deep consideration and then letting it go. As Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
The trick (after questioning everything to the nth degree) is to find something valid and healthy to fight for—not against. To find something worth defending. To find something worthy of your courage. To discover a healthy cause and then uphold it. But to be flexible enough to adapt and overcome it when the time arrives. As William James said, “We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause.” And how amenable he is in improving (questioning) it to the nth degree.
“Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of intelligence.” ~Ludwig Wittgenstein
Self-inflicted philosophy takes the battle against bewitchment to the next level. First, by attacking self-perception and, second, by attacking cultural perception.
Self-inflicted philosophers have no scruples when it comes to interpreting reality. They take nothing for granted. The very concept of Belief is a bad word. There is no place for belief, only thought.
Self-inflicted philosophers don’t believe that they certainly exist, they think that they probably exist. But even the interpretation of existence itself could be an illusion, so self-inflicted philosophers remain circumspect regarding interpretations no matter how “true” they may seem.
Clear interpretation requires clarity of perception. All perception begins with the self. Therefore, all interpretations begin with the self. It is for this reason that self-interrogation is the primary tool of a self-inflicted philosopher.