Alexander Moiseyevich Piatigorsky. Photo source: rigaslaiks
On January 30, 1929, the outstanding philosopher and buddhologist Alexander Pyatigorsky was born.
I was lucky: in August 1990, I saw Piatigorsky in person at his lecture at the Independent Institute of Cinematography, created by Alexander Sokurov.
Very eccentric, very passionate — and his main passion — is a passion for the unexplored, the beyond. The passion that is the essence of a philosopher, but without which — even if only for a moment in life — any person cannot be a human being.
If we try to define the main theme of Piatigorsky’s philosophy, it is, of course, thinking. And again — the contemporary marketing spirit (even in education, culture, and science) has completely distorted the essence of what thinking is. Hence, all sorts of chimeras arise — critical thinking, lateral thinking, design thinking.
Piatigorsky is radical: there is only one thinking — philosophical thinking and no other (even in science, there is no thinking, as Heidegger accurately noted — science does not think).
Thinking, according to Piatigorsky, is thinking about thinking, in fact, the boundary of the boundary, which is nothing, productive emptiness, infinite possibility.
From this fundamental attitude, Piatigorsky follows the following thought — thinking gets rid of the philosopher’s «I» and thus gives freedom, and there is no freedom other than freedom from one’s «I».
Piatigorsky is paradoxical: he says — in direct contrast to Descartes: «When I am in thinking, I do not exist and therefore I am free».
For Piatigorsky, to have your «I» and give it significance means to denigrate philosophy and make your «I» vulgar. And vulgarity, according to Piatigorsky, is the worst evil — everything else grows out of vulgarity.
It is difficult to accept this.
Piatigorsky is convinced: there is no place for anything human in thinking — neither love nor hate, neither preferences nor rejections. And if we think in this way, then — as a consequence — a full, authentic, that is, unique life is possible.
Piatigorsky proposes a strange and terrible thing: forget society, forget the nonsense that Aristotle wrote, saying that man is a social animal. Not social and not an animal, but a solitary being who lives by one thing — going beyond his limits, not a one-time going, it is a path, a process.
I want to let you, the reader, hear the voice of Piatigorsky himself. The voice of paradox and pure thought. Piatigorsky wrote this text, «The Statutes of Thinking», shortly before he left in 2009.
He must incessantly remain in fear that he will die, being unable or not having time to realize his thought of himself as an external object alien to this thought and to realize this thought itself as alien to all his past and present objects, first of all to himself.
This is Noble Fear.
He must deeply despise in himself all those low and small things (such as resentment, envy, and malice) which he has been accustomed to observing in others and which he has forgotten to reflect in himself.
This is Noble Contempt.
He should constantly try to stop perceiving any negative factors acting — whether from society, close or distant persons and circumstances — as directed against him personally but see in them only an obstacle to his mental efforts, the cause of which is in himself.
This is the Noble Effort.
He must cultivate in himself a complete disregard for both positive and negative evaluations of his behavior or way of life by others. For his behavior is in his working with his own thinking, and his way of life is nothing more than the changing guise of an actor or jester playing the part of himself.
His working slogan should be: «Lascia dir le genti» («Let the people speak», Dante). He sees the unreality of his social status and does not care about his ethnic rank.
This is Noble Neglect.
He should clearly realize that any knowledge (philosophy, science, whatever) that he has not attained, by the very fact of its inclusion in the field of his consciousness (whether by fate or chance), gives him a unique opportunity to change himself.
This is Noble Understanding.
He needs to be extremely attentive to what is happening here and now for the subsequent conscious neutralization of all facts, events, and circumstances as nothing more than external occasions for his thinking or their rejection by his thought. Then, they are reflected as alien to his thinking and insignificant to him as a thinker of them.
But suppose he relaxes his attention to them (facts, etc.) for a moment. In that case, they will immediately become as significant and important for him as they are for the average thinking, i.e., non-thinking person. Then he is gone — both as a thinker and as a person.
This is Necessary Attention, which cannot be noble, as nothing necessary can be.
Let him, realizing the impracticability of all the six articles of the Statute, recognize that all the more he must strive to fulfill them».