The philosophical method of Henry Bugbee
In the Preface of The Inward Morning — Bugbee, Henry Bugbee presents his method. Here are some interesting points.
- He prefers to use the journal form to present his philosophical exploration to maintain emotion in his work. This intention confirms that his work is an example of Lyrical philosophy. The journal form allows the presentation of the history of the ideas as they arrived to the subject, which is what poetry and narrative does (Poetry and narrative trace their history so readers can re-enact them).
- He describes the arrival of his ideas as Meditation. When they come throughout “the very rhythm of daily life,” he allows them to come and direct where they wanted to go. He lets them flow. He does not prevent them from departing, and does not make more of them as they presently are. (To do: Thoreau has a similar approach. Include that here.)
- He uses the day as a form of constraint to his work. His work starts and ends within the day. Again, this is very Thoreauvian not just because Thoreau contemplated about The day as a context for one’s work, but also because the cyclical nature of the day is mimicked by Walking; it is leaving and returning, a romantic excursion (Thoreau and the literary excursion — Buell).
- Bugbee sees philosophy’s goal as to uncover the “truth underlying human decision.” We meditate because we are uncertain. We do not know what to do. We are unsure. In this sense, this uncertainty is a form of bondage that prevents us from achieving true freedom. Meditative thought is what helps us to confront the uncertainties and to push the will towards clarity and decision-making. The uncovering of such truth is necessary to achieve certainty, for man to know how to act and act appropriately at any given moment. Once certainty is achieved, and one acts wholeheartedly, true freedom is achieved. This is finality. This happens in a daily basis (“Meditation is of the day precisely as the human will is”). Every day is a battle between the will and bondage.
- As it is in finality of action, finality in word spoken can also be achieved. Every word you speak or write now or today is “final” in the sense that it represents where you are now. Even if the ultimate understanding is unrealized and you are still bondaged by uncertainty, the word you write or speak today, which itseld represents uncertainty, is final. Saying it as it is even if you are still uncertain signifies that the will has won. It is as if you are declaring “I am certain of my uncertainty.”
- I find that this issue of finality, certainty, and freedom is very much connected to an insight I had before that learning how to live is difficult because We learn to live while we are living
Bugbee, H. (1999). The Inward Morning: A Philosophical Exploration in Journal Form. The University of Georgia Press.
And since the themes which occupied me in these pages undergo as much reflective analysis as they do, why not organize at least some of the ideas which are recurrently developed into a more systematic form? Why not cut free from the bad days and supply a better substitute for the continuity of those days in the overall task? Over and over I tried to act on such con- siderations as these. And each time the heart went out of the ideas themselves. They lost their actual exploratory cast. I found I was in danger of betraying the very undertaking in which experience yielded them their measure of meaning and support.
As I would put it now, the guidance of meditation, of the themes received in meditation, is the fundamental feature of the work; and the themes of meditation live a life of their own, perhaps wiser than one knows in their advent and departure, in the things they gather to themselves as relevant to their formation, in the memories with which they visit one and establish their own concrete meaning. It was my work to attend upon such themes, in the very rhythm of daily life; to follow them where they might lead; not to put them off when they came to me, not to bid them stay beyond their actual departure; and not to try to make more of them than I presently could.
The present day—that is the dwelling of meditative thought. Con- sequently this work is in journal form. Not because it is a philosophi- cal notebook or diary; it is neither of these. It is basically a work which required to be done within the day, from the actual human stance which the day might afford, whatever that day might bring.
Meditation is of the day precisely as the human will is. For meditation is the thoughtful reckoning of the will with its own life: Its concern is that of truth underlying human decision. Cut off from the central nerve of responsible being, the themes of meditation fall dead. My task has been that of overcoming such abstraction, to ac- comodate the life of spirit with all the mind. These pages may serve as a record of such a tendency of thought, and they may testify with some accuracy to the unpredictable alternation between bondage and freedom in which the ambiguity of the human condition is lived, but now and again resolved.
What I have called finality proves to be the unifying theme of the work. By finality I intend the meaning of reality as realized in true decision. The vein in which it comes to us is the vein of wonder, of faith, of certainty. It is the ground of ultimate human concern with which the will is informed. It comes clearest in every unique deed of purest generosity, in which a man gives of himself without stint and with all care. In this disclipined liberality is true freedom.
The term ‘finality’ seems to me just: It stands for what is first and last with us. It is redolent of all first and last words—words in which human destiny comes to ultimate articulation
The tone of a final word is the tone of reality as definitively given. Accordingly finality must harbor all that requires expression as genuine in human life, including all man- ner of contraries, such as those our evaluations so often express, as in speaking of good days and bad days. That meaning of reality which is final and decisive comes to us as redeeming, authoritatively demanding, and promising. A final word cannot be the mere con- trary and correlative of others. It must be a word in which all words come to a unity of affirmation. It must be found anew, again and again, as just that word which a man can give now, steeped in all that is unknown and cannot be known in our lives. It cannot be made captive in terms themselves, or in any of the cumulative resources at our disposal. It comes to meet us in our acceptance of the frontier of our daily lives.
Thus the meaning of a final word is universal; it is uniquely spoken, or not at all; and it is never said once for all. For the meaning of reality is not independent of the life of the will. In this life we all move from day to day. The more faithfully we do so, the more ours is an eternal present, and the more we can share in testifying that this is indeed our life.