If philosophy has a single imperative for the world, not just in what it says but also what it does, it would be, uninterestingly, to think deeper.
‘Think things deeply’ as an imperative is perfectly meaningless when considered on its own. Obviously nobody intends to think in a shallow manner. In fact, to think at all is to deepen, ‘thinking’ being as it is commonly seen as an atmospheric surplus to the day-to-day getting stuff done. A z-axis. However, why is it that a call to think deeper has any sense at all? It must make its request relative to some surface, something flat and thin that we inhabit in this day-to-day getting stuff done. Which is…? The lazy response is that we are some kind of flatlanders, inhering like decals onto the appearances of things. A surface of deceptive images. If we take this route then to think deeper is just to simply point one’s head at the underneath or the overhead, or even the upside down, that which our two dimensional natures fail to be able to grasp.
So let’s say we’re floating around in a pool that’s obviously too big for us, with a life vest, hopefully, dipping our heads occasionally in wonder what’s beneath this surface. Well, more water. What did you expect? But while most of us get spooked by the darkness and the unbearable masses that open up beneath us, it seems like there are those that perceive a glimmer, coming from somewhere down there. And in the weird way sound waves dislimn under water, we hear them shout back at us: “Think deeper…”
But this is not a success story. Should we push the metaphor further, calling forth the lack of oxygen, the hostile underwater world, sharks, tides, sunk ships? It all boils down to this: More water; instead of a happy treasure hunt at the bottom of the ocean, we’re prolonging a seemingly unending z-axis, raking away everything that’s in its way. In our most exhausting moments we feel like admitting that there’s no fundamental ground to be sighted, or even touched, that those that keep pushing us, talking of shimmering yonder are only hallucinating, and we should just sow all of our life vests together and live in the limited comfort that floating on an immensurable surface can offer… Are we taking the metaphor too far?
So let us witness: We can see Axel Honneth diving into the bosom of ideology in his attempt to free himself from it, trying to solve a fundamental problem of Critical Theory: reification. The cogito cracks open like an egg, inside just more and more layers of Being. Nietzsche, one of the most radical ‘divers’ recalls how getting rid of the ground will also rid us of the surface — and calls for our rejoicing. Coraline, in her escape from the confinement of the wish and the dangerous corners of imagination, will happily jump into the confining arms of the family. And, even machines perhaps carry their maker’s mistakes, and always imagine just another heaven beyond, another cage to bust out of… But let us not despair, for what gives us strength to rekindle our efforts, to attempt anew, is thought itself, calling us from the depths. Can you hear it? Splish.