Herewith a link to dg’s distillation of 30,000 years (give or take) of Western philosophy. The idea for this essay came from reading Witold Gombrowicz’s wonderful little book A Guide to Philosophy in Six Hours and Fifteen Minutes. DG thought six hours seemed a little long and tedious and that he could condense all the important points into about fifty minutes. This essay is a version of the lecture dg gave at Vermont College of Fine Arts last January (in the event, he was not able to get ALL of philosophy into the time slot), including his own incredibly helpful diagrams and sidebar comments which clear up the complicated points.
Plato was right when he said that we can only know what we know already, that knowledge works by identity. What we cannot know, cannot access, we also cannot experience, and yet this unknowable is all around us, lies inscrutable and threatening behind everything we do know, crouches even within our hearts in a place Freud called the Unconscious. Mostly we cannot escape the feeling that it is watching us, waiting to trip us up, or sometimes bless us. At the end of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenstein threw up his hands and wrote that we must remain silent about the things whereof we cannot speak, by which he meant a long list of absolutes including God, the Good, Beauty, etc. But that sort of realism has never stopped humans whose imagination is prolific in inventing dream meetings with the Other. The history of our philosophies has been a history of such dreams.