I.1 The Philosophical feeling: to go past each other

Below parts of a translation of Jean Grenier’s text ‘La Choix’ / The Choice. Other bits and bops of my translation can be found here. 


Of the gap

‘We are not of the world’, that is the first thought that kindles the fire of philosophy. Not of the world and yet in the world, living, happy to be alive, acting, happy to act. It is not that the world appears to be bad to us, but that it appears to us as other. Pessimism is not necessarily the starting point of the philosophical reflection, and neither are the considerations of evil, of old age or of death, that incite us to pose the questions which are most important to us. Rather it is a quite everyday sentiment, a sentiment of strangeness [d’éstrangeté]. Pushed to the limit, this sentiment of deviation becomes not merely the start but even the goal of philosophy: disorientation [dépayser].

Au contraire, the sciences and the arts look to familiarize us with everything that surrounds us. They will have us believe that, if we let ourselves be guided well, we’ll arrive at knowledge of the elements and choose the forms. The wild things of first can be approached with less and less respect for the very great. 

[But] philosophy starts with revealing the distance, to not say the inaccesibility. (And thus with a tendency to depreciation according to the scientific spirit, or to appreciation according to the philosophical spirit; the one says: that is not all that much: the other that that is all).

The philosophical state is a state of rupture with the world, which contrasts to the state of unity in which the child and the man who innocently enjoy his senses live. Even more than a sentiment of dispossesion and disenchantment, it inspires a surprise vis-a-vis a reality which reveals itself to be very much different from that which we expected. The transition from childhood to adulthood is that of moving from the domain of the possible to the the domain of reality. Man more and more feels the constraints of the things pressing down on him: he acquires the sweet, but fruitful, sentiment of necessity.

[But] the philosopher, he, does not resign, he protests the real, and its explication of the world. Even if he agrees with the scientist, his concern is different, in that he does not want a mere explication, but a justification.

Translation HvS