Text by Tomass Stepiņš
A few years ago I used to write various sorts of texts on this and other webpages. The writings were of multiple purposes and types, yet they all were similar in regard to being in the public space. I entertained the thought that my love for writing and the pleasure I derived from it was more than a phase that many of us venture through. However, as more time passed by, it became significantly harder for me to fill the blank page in front of me. Even more so, it was and still is unbearable for me to read anything that I have written and posted in the past with the pretension of being something of cognitive value. I am unable to look upon my earlier texts without embarrassment and a strong dislike for my ignorance and literal clumsiness. I have no doubt that this short text will fall into the same category within a few months. However, I decided to investigate this phenomenon, which, I presume, haunts many of us. I am aware of the psychological disposition called imposter syndrome. I am unsure whether its vague description fully fits the nature of my angst, but there is definitely a lot of common ground.
I have noticed that my shame and disgust is aimed towards the texts which I myself at that time labeled as philosophical in their nature, yet I am more tolerant towards those which I wrote in a more poetical manner. The cause of this presents itself to me in the following way. Whenever I decide to comment on some cultural or political processes or even more so whenever I touch upon the noble subjects of metaphysics, epistemology and the like, I have to assume myself in a somewhat of an authoritative position over the reader in the particular matter. If, for example, I decided to write and post a text on the problems discussed in B. Russell’s “On Denoting”, I would have to label myself more knowledgeable in this question than the reader. This is because if it weren’t the case, I would have to ask myself: “Well, why do I suppose that I have a right to say anything about Russell when there are academics out there who have devoted their lives to interpreting and analysing this text?”
Whenever I write something to post in the public space, I intend for it to have some value, therefore if I cannot make my writing valuable to the reader, there is no point in publicizing it. It is because of this I would not be able to bring myself to write and post something about Russell when the potential reader of this hypothetical text could simply choose any essay of a well-known Cambridge academic instead. There is no doubt that this text will be much more enticing and useful than anything I could write, which brings me to think that my contribution to the texts on Russell would be completely useless – it would resemble an attempt to invent the wheel in the 21st century.
One could make the claim that while my text would obviously not have the same degree of plausibility and literal magnificence as that of an established scholar, it would serve some purpose in, for example, bringing the name of Bertrand Russell to attention for some of our followers who wouldn’t otherwise learn about him. This is true to some degree, yet I still have to confront two issues. The first one is the probability that I have erred in my research and writing, perhaps I have gravely misunderstood a key passage of Russell’s and now my account of it is completely nonsensical. If I return to the scenario in which our follower learns about Russell for the first time from this text of mine which is riddled with mistakes, the consequences are terrible! I will have led my reader astray and his understanding of “On Denoting” will be very misguided. Therefore they who write a text with the intent of being educational have to be extremely responsible and brave in their work. The second issue is the probability that at least (and most likely far more than) one person with far more polished knowledge of Russell will stumble upon my text. They might not express their dispositions and their critique of my writing, but I will have to live with the knowledge that I have probably been ridiculed in my ignorance and that for some my text has been no more than a laughing stock.
The texts that I have posted in the past came with misguided courage and an extremely naïve belief that I am versed in the matter well enough to offer something to the public space. This naivety is amplified by the educational current in which I still find myself in. What I mean by that is we as a species accumulate knowledge at dazzling speed, especially as children and adolescents. This is what makes me cringe at myself as I see my inaptitude when I reflect upon myself and my knowledge on something a few months ago.
A solution can now be proposed and it is very simple – one has to hit a wall and halt in their educational journey! This way, I will be able to post a text and not be embarrassed by it when looking back at it a few months or years later. I say this in a somewhat joking manner, yet this line of thought brings us to an ancient conclusion, which is freely attributed to many thinkers: “The more I know, the more I know I don’t know.” The further my education takes me, the more courage I have to gather to write, say, and even think something. It is the latter that I found the most unsettling and weird. My past self would have scorned at such a phrase, yet at some points, philosophy resembles wandering through an unknown place with a blindfold (a veil of ignorance, if you will) on my eyes. I cannot see, therefore I have to clumsily swing my arms around and touch my surroundings in order to grasp the picture, but it is often a frightening process; some things I am scared to touch, some things require assumptions which are scary to draw. Sometimes I think that I’ve acquired an idea of my surroundings only then to realise that there is so much more around me. The bottom line is, it is hard for one to be confident in one’s writing while the blindfold is on, but it cannot be removed.
I do not pretend that I pose a solution to this thought pattern, even more so, I am thoroughly unsure whether it is something that has to be solved, however, this does remind me of an imperative formulation of Nietzsche’s eternal return, which I encountered some time ago: Will only that which can be willed to occur eternally. An artificial counsel can be constructed on the basis of similarity: Write only that, which can be willed to be read eternally. One can only strive towards it, yet you should not take advice form me as I have probably already broken said advice with this text.