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Thinking out of the box

“There are no right answers to wrong questions,” said Ursula K. LeGuin. If our questions are wrong, there is a need to alter the entire framework of the way we investigate the world. Hayden Carruth wrote: “William Blake once remarked that he had to create his own system of thought in order to avoid being enslaved by those of others, and Sartre has said that genius is what a man invents when he is looking for a way out.”

Sometimes the "wrong questions" are promoted with the intention of suppressing the thought of others. Sometimes they have this effect accidentally, originating only out of the vanity of philosophers. Rollo May: "The shelves of college libraries are weighed down with books that were written because other books were written because still other books were written – the meat of the meal getting thinner and thinner until the books seem to have nothing to do with the excitement of truth but only with status and prestige."

Getting out of the box and helping others to do so is hard work. After all, as a Yiddish proverb had it: "Not everyone is happy with his appearance, but all are happy with their brains!" We must remember it starts with thinking differently. "We are not in charge of the world. We just live here and try," as Donna Haraway put it, "to strike up noninnocent conversations."


Ursula K. LeGuin, quoted in The Village Voice, quoted in The Week, June 7, 2013, p. 19.

Hayden Carruth's introduction to Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea

Rollo May, Power and Innocence: A Search for the Sources of Violence, New York: W. W. Norton and Co., 1972. p 69.

Yiddish Proverb. Quoted by Rabbi Nilton Bonder. The Kabbalah of Envy: Transforming Hatred, Anger, and other Negative Emotions. Boston: Shambhala, 1997. p. 40.

Donna Haraway, "Situated Knowledge: The science question in feminism and the privilege of partial perspective." Feminist Studies, 14:575-99, p 593-94. Quoted in "Ecological Feminism and Ecosystem Ecology" by Karen J. Warren and Jim Cheney, Ecological Feminist Philosophies, ed. Karen J. Warren, Indiana University Press, 1996. p 257.


Crazy quilt in support of President Cleveland and Vice President Thomas Hendricks (American, 1880s). Public domain. From and Wikimedia Commons.


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