Pilpul

Yesterday, Vicenzo Di Nicola, a Canadian psychiatrist, published a manifesto in Aeon announcing a Slow Thought movement, stumping for the liberation of thinking from the mania for urgency, from geopolitical boundaries, from tradition and dogma, and from destination. Slow Thought is an object in itself, never complete, always contingent and improvised, "an appeal to reflection before conviction, clarity before a call to action."

In his essay, the author notes that the mode of thinking he advocates is asynchronic, structured not sequentially in conventional time but "structured by the slow logic of thought." This leads him to observe that one method of Jewish Talmudic exegesis is pilpul, described as a form of philosophical dialogue in which the argument is not constrained by the need to progress through an historical chronology, but  following a logic of thought that's outside of chronological constraint, so that an ethical question posed in Moorish Spain is answered by an ancient Babylonian text from centuries before.

I suspect this does little to accurately convey pilpul, and may actually distort its meaning, but there's something in Di Nicola's explanation that I love—the idea of an answer lying patiently in wait for the right question. Of taking something known and thinking about what it means through a process of determining what question it might answer.

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Di Nicola's essay resides here. Not compelling prose, but the piece has its moments.