Voluntarism: the new First Philosophy

First philosophy is the ultimate set of presumptions that constitute both the striving of the subject and the tone of the whole panoply of being-here. Even the simplest and most attenuated question is the ripe fruit of a mountain of metaphysical presumptions.

The perennial discovery of all trenchant philosophical questioning is that the most compelling object to investigate is the questioning mode itself, with all of its world-making prejudice and, most of all, its undying conatus, its inertia of striving and prehensive abundance of being. The questioning why is perpetually replenishing and mysterious—the most interesting object.

When the inquiry circumnavigates the whole universe and finally returns to itself as final cause and determination, there is a sense of great excitement and wonder. Nothing is more inspiring than finding that the ultimate horizon of discovery is actually the heart of the discoverer. We know that this is both the right endpoint yet also impenetrable. (If it were penetrable, that would be a nightmare. Being walks on the rock of paradox.)

The questioning mode is also the most elusive object. The questioner is tasked with catching itself in the creation of the object and trying to pin that down. The goal of understanding is finding how to make the object (in the imagination). The goal of philosophy is finding how to make our making of the object.

Understanding how we make making is also a magickal moment. Theorizing about theorizing, speaking about speaking, mapping about mapping—this is the one place where object language and metalanguage unite. We make a square by making a square. Thinking about a circle is drawing one. Perceiving a circle is drawing one. How we think about a circle, and how we make a circle, are both accomplished by drawing a circle.

This is real first philosophy. The true foundation of all is the one that pops into existence despite our meticulous efforts at clearing everything away and beginning from scratch. What emerges from the authentic motivation of the questioning act itself? The entire theoretical realm. One’s essential motivation in a world places a pervasive cast on the world. And this cast is a priori because it is prior to, and necessary for, the conceptual appropriation of that world.

The prejudices in our system-building determine the ultimate reality of the world and of the self. One interest upshot of this fact is that our activity of questioning determines the object present before us, which is our life.