Even before this blog got rolling, I happened on Kelly Jolley’s remarks on “The Considered Experience of an Author.” [ Quantum Est . . . January 12 ] He took an author’s considered experience to be a legitimate source of insight about, and partial confirmation of, a perspective in play philosophically. We could listen to suggestions, and learn. All exchange among philosophers needn’t be argument or detached quasi-objective exposition.
Within a few weeks I began drafting portions of my introduction to Excursions with Kierkegaard: Others, Goods, Death, and Final Faith, coming out this October. I couldn’t resist quoting. Thus
We should not discount insight lodged in what Kelly Jolley calls “the considered experience of its author” (rather than lodged exclusively in meticulous reasoning or argument). A writer gives out a prospect we’re invited to share, all the while knowing that it is, in due time, “open to analysis and to disagreement.” Therein we encounter “experience as something to which we can be loyal, something to which we can rally, something that can obligate us, something that can be educated, … [experience] as accumulating, as having weight.”
Kelly puts his points beautifully, and I’m glad to have quoted and amplified them. What brings this to the fore this afternoon is a blurb written for Excursions by George Pattison. In a moment of praise, he says that my new work is, “in particular, the kind of philosophy that, in Mooney’s own words, reflects ‘the considered life-experience of its author’.” I was flattered to think my ‘considered life-experience’ might have worked its way into my essays, and was happy Pattison saw this as a strength, not as a retreat from rigor into sentimentality. And I was also – well — aghast to hear Kelly’s words now appearing as my own. Of course my text and footnote show otherwise, giving credit where credit is due.
A wider lesson here is that words are on loan, only temporarily our own. We borrow them from here and there, and outfit, score, and rearrange them in new ways. They then take on a life of their own, and may or may not return home (whose home?) in acceptable dress.