Alleyway philosophy

Imagine philosophy being a city, Philosophy City. It’s not specified how big this city should be, use your existing experience. All the residents are philosophers, this is not a dismal condition if you think about all those philosophers who said everyone is doing philosophy at some points in their lives. Imagine then the citizens being all the people, at the time when doing philosophy. When they are not, they are elsewhere.

This city has a lot of alleyways.

Most philosophising citizens use the main streets, the broad streets, the avenues most of the time. There’s public transportation and buses and street cars only fit into, well, streets, and they are not called alley cars for a reason. For instance there’s the Logic bus and there’s an Epistemology Bus, then there’s the Philosophy of Science street car and the Political Philosophy tram, that goes quite far out, to the suburbs. All these vehicles have a stop at the city centre, at Metaphysics Square. Sorry, I forgot to mention that there’s a river slicing through the city, the river called Life, and one side of the city is called Analysis, and the other side …well I forgot how it’s called, but it’s on the bigger continent. There’s private transportation too, cars, that do or do not belong to the citizens, are or are not equipped with driver bots. Every such vehicle can carry only 1 study unit, say 1 argument or 1 detailed study or 1 monograph around.

Most philosophising citizens have been in the alleyways in only a fraction of their time. Alleyways do not have a good reputation, they are used for rubbish or as little rear access or service roads. Also crime is a concern, though I must tell that the kind of trouble philosophising people can cause is somewhat pushing the limits of being called crimes, The only real organised crime network is robbing people of their arguments and overcharging access to philosophical studies. 

Alleyways are everywhere in the city, more in the old city though. Actually, there are more alleyways than normal streets, an oddity thanks to the architectural style, a fact that went unnoticed in the last two thousand years, not because the statistics was not there, but because it was inaccessible. Legend says, known only to a few alleyway enthusiasts, that the original map of the city was a double map, one showing the main streets and another, the so called shadow map, showing the cross-links of the alleyways. The city is rapidly growing, and constantly being rebuilt, so are the alleyways, their network gets more complex, but also many disappearing.

People of the streets have their focus on two main things, one deals with the situation presented by Closed Lifespan and the overwhelming mark biological aging leaves on the trajectory of human lives and the unfolding and modification of life plans. Limits, constraints, scarcities, fragility, vulnerability, pain, death. The other focus is on things thought to be existing in an infinite, perpetual realm, being themselves infinite and designed to last forever. No limits, no constraints, abundance, power, invincibility, neutrality, distance. Hardly any cross-talk between the two domains as it is built on an underlying binary opposition, backed by a sort of black and white thinking.

People can talk at the alleyways too and the chitchat there is more polyphonic, diverse and open in the sense of being critical to the point of utter self-criticism. It’s more imaginative and it’s completely lacking authority views. 

There are hardly any alleyways totally out of use but there are quite many alleyways the entrance of which are almost unrecognisable for most philosophisers. Different causes behind the unrecognizability, but one cause can be lack of training or sensibility in a particular field. 

Once there was an aging/longevity biologist who discovered for themself a never before recognised alleyway, that showed up one day between two big houses. In Philosophy City, alleyway show up once there’s been a breakthrough reached in particular fields, in particular sciences, say, that warrants a new philosophical angle. Our particular biologist had philosophical training (mostly analytic) and was particularly focusing on longevity since an early age. So he was not even in the city in his main professional life. He started to walk down the alleyway and a curious thing happened, suddenly a default philosophical problem, that of human lives in general (and other living things as well if you wish), started to appear before his eyes, from a new angle. You see the 2 big above-mentioned problematics and ontological domains, Closed Lifespan and Immortality suddenly lost their exclusivity and their binary opposition. What was there though is Open Lifespan, the possibility of an indefinitely long, open-ended healthy lifespan, a scenario, constantly limited by the reality of biomedical technology. Not simple scarcity, but not simple abundance either. Indefinity and Indefiniteness. Not essentially bounded but definitely mortal. 

As the longevitarian biologico-philosopher (call him A shall we) walked in the allyways, turn followed a new turn and lead to other alleyways. Sometimes streets had to be crossed but there was always an alleyway nearby to disappear from the noise and follow the track leading to the next problem. With the help of his phone A made something akin to a map, and that map got bigger and bigger every day spent in the alleyways. What’s more, for A, all alleyways he entered on a new day, led back to alleyways already walked upon, but then shortly thereafter showed the way to new ones carving out uncharted territories on the map. Soon A convinced some of his friends to join the journey and most friends stayed throughout. The alleyways got busier and busier, still limited by space, hardly anymore by time. The bigger streets got under-crowded, public transportation could hardly be called public anymore, as it started to lack the presence of the community it was supposed to serve. Many started to use bikes in the alleyways though. Since it was Philosophy City, one day the alleyways themselves started to get bigger and the big streets started to shrink in size, following up the changes in the demography. Finally the alleyways of Open Lifespan became the normal streets, and a big chunk of the normal streets all but disappeared, another big chunk have been turned into new, suspicious alleyways. But by this time, the main thing on the people’s mind was something other, than Open Lifespan. No wonder, one day a new alleyway opened up for another philosophising citizen leading her on a new transformative adventure eventually leading to a massive re-build of the old-new city. When others found the map of A, that map seemed only liked a fragmentary blueprint of this old-new city, gone, yet strangely present in some of the dark old alleyways, waiting to be re-discovered again.

The Open Lifespan book is the blueprint of that fragmentary map.