The result of a passionate interest in common
Even the most brilliant thinkers, from Socrates [Unlink] to Satre, live lives in time. A childhood, an adolescence, an adulthood; these are common to me and you as well as the greatest writers. Furthermore, many of the great thinkers we esteem in our Western culture lived somewhat unevetful lives. What distinguished their life from say a common laborer was their work. Therefore, what provided the grist for their work? One might say that they were brilliant and this alone was sufficient to distinguish their lives from the masses. Intellect alone can not devise situations or thoughts from no where; there must be a basis and that basis is most common, if not always, observation of the common, of the quotidian. Critics of this idea may argue that these thinkers were products of fine educations and were well schooled in the classics. This, they may point to, is the real basis for their knowledge. I would agrue that although it may be a benefit to study classics and be well schooled in diverse disciplines, these pursuits merely refine and hone an ability each and every person has, the ability to study human nature. Where best to study human nature than in the day to day routine each one of us can witness in him or herself or those around us.
I propose that the two best disciplines to understand this power of the commonplace and its ability to cause a groundswell of thought are philosophy and literature. Every school of philosophy, from the Greeks to our day, share a common mission or intent and that is to understand and explain human existence, with all of its concommitant features. Generally speaking, the Greek philosophers, epitomized in Aristotle [Unlink], attempted to set down rules for human behavior founded on logic. These rules applied not only to the rare forms of human behavior but largely focused on the more mundane motions of daily life. Many of Aristotle's rules were based on his observations of others as well as himself. Contrast this venture with the existentialists of our century who attempted to look behind the real motivations of human behavior as well understand man's relation to the Universe. To do this, what did these philosophers do? They studied sand maker skills around them; they submerged themselves in the commonplace, in cities with hordes of annonymous people. While the existentialists, as well those philosophers before, exploited their uncommon eduation and intellect, the basis for their movement was ordinary human behavior and existence.