How to think the concept of Legacy? Or, more pertinently, to where we do assign it?
Philosophy since Hegel has performed a curious inversion of our common sense view of time —that of history, or the past, being suitably done away with. Not at all! Every morning we step out of bed into a world that we have prepared in the past, the fridge just there, the blackened coffee pot exactly where it was laid this time yesterday, prior engagements made through last year’s phone (screen’s cracked, that was a night, still works though); we literally dwell within the past. Out on the street every cigarette butt, wad of gum, and crack in the footpath breaths the past up to us. The past is unchangeable, that is its mark, but it is far from gone. The opposite is the problem, there’s always too much of it everywhere, layers upon layers, and us Pompeiieans all.
And in thought too, always perhaps too much of the past. The projects and ideas of bygone times form horizons around our moment, themselves the subtle drift away from earlier sediments. But this itself is a blessing: so much driftwood! And this sense of past thought coagulating and crystallizing everywhere can give a new sense, force, and import to philosophy. The philosopher doesn’t soar through the cloudless sky of reason and bestow meaning on a formless physical landscape — they dig through the layers of meaning, historical and active, uncovering caverns and forgotten byways. New potentials.
Thus, when a previously intractable philosophical problem is resolved in a novel way, the repercussions of this ripple out much further than the dusty annals of unread philosophy journals. What was previously a tightly wound knot in a layer has been disentangled, a little fresh space opened up, a bubble of the future, of possibility. Much in the way an old armory may be cleared up and repurposed into a night club, kindergarten, or clandestine refuge for the homeless.
Truthfully, such digging and untangling and spelunking may be done without a single word being sounded, that is to say, without the least contribution from philosophy. It may instead be accompanied by a cry, a crashing of glass, and vigorous doing. That being said, if there is something to say about this doing, if there is to be an announcement, a warning, a buttress, a song, a dimly remembered cavern map, ears for the sound of echos, and a sharpening stone for pick axes, philosophy, that old mole-rat, is ready to rear its head.