Final goods, embraced for their goodness alone, not for what they otherwise achieve or buy, easily pass by unnoticed. One ﬁnal good is the wonder of communicative mutuality, where shared words seem part of a couple’s dance ﬂowing ﬂawlessly in ways that would seem, were we to notice, inﬁnitely apt and pleasing.
When this happens with colleagues or friends, with children or lovers, it marks an instant of faith not just as promise (we do strive to connect) but as harvest. It’s not the shared achievement of a negotiated settlement or new piece of observational knowledge or interesting philosophical result, important as these may be, but rather a wedding of persons, words, and worlds, grounded experientially, radiating the sense that we belong to each other and belong to the world.
Whether or not we ﬁnd such mutuality in philosophy, we are happy to ﬁnd it somewhere – perhaps in poetry, sport, companionship, love, singing psalms, or frolicking with pets. When he plays with his cat, Montaigne famously wonders whether his cat isn’t just as much playing with him. Of course, it is – in a wonderful rapport! Communicative rapport with my cat, when it happens, just is my cat’s communicative rapport with me – a dance of hand and paw declaring indubitable reciprocal understanding. Yet Montaigne shares his thoughts in an age tilted toward skepticism and worry over connection. For an instant he plays with the voice of disconnection or difference (between human and other animals) and of doubt (about communicative connection). Yet in the long run, I’m sure, he lets himself marvel. He knows his cat plays with him, and reclines in that ﬁnality – we need nothing deeper.
[Sentences lifted from Excursions with Kierkegaard, out this month from Bloomsbury.]