On the Term ‘Particular’

On the Term ‘Particular’

Posted on:Feb 04 2015
Captured by:Flint M

What is particular? Now, I know that there is a long-standing exploration amongst philosophers between the universal and the particular. I cannot engage in this debate for multiple reasons. First, I am completely unprepared. Leibnitz might have been the “last man who knew everything,” he could and did read every important book in the western world (I assume). I cannot do this. I cannot go back far enough nor can I read wide enough to understand the difference between the universal and the particular as it has been debated these last few thousand years.

What, then, am I to do when I try and understand the notion of the particular? On the surface, this reflection seems as though it concerns the universal and the particular, but in particular, it concerns the notion of understanding anything when I must first engage in a full understanding of what has been said before, in a world where what has been said before has multiplied so exponentially that I cannot get to my saying because I am so worried about what has been said. I hardly think that a literature review is sufficient in most cases, and even if it were, it only captures what somebody has said in print. If I want to stand above all of those previous findings and debates and then, in their context, add knowledge, I must somehow have been able to grasp the expansiveness down to the particular, down to what has been said before. I do not think I can do this.

This leads to a problem that is, in particular, more particular than my focus on the particular – that if I were to try to understand the particular in light of all that has been said, I cannot even begin. The thought is overwhelming. I am left to try to understand the particular through my limited context, and in particular through my own reason. This leads to an intellectual insecurity. Why should I start this over? Should I know what has been said so that when I think, I can at least begin further down the intellectual trail?

It seems as though I am destined to come to a tentative meaning of any particular notion, faltering in particular because I cannot possibly do what is necessary to grasp the whole of the subject matter. This leads me into a sort of trap. I am held hostage by my capacity to absorb information. I cannot transcend this point if I am confident that my own thinking is sufficient. But is it? I do not think so, and so I consign myself to knowing something. The problem is something is not sufficient. In fact, if I were to agree with Descartes’ intuitive grasp of the whole, as expressed in his geometric method, then I might say this leaves me “stuck” somewhere in a conundrum between one inferential point and another, never grasping the end-to-end sequence, unable to provide a unity. Perhaps then I should express my thinking within the safety of ambiguous language a la Nietzsche. I cannot say, but then that is the problem. I cannot say precisely because I cannot know.


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