ON ALAN WATTS AS A PRECURSOR TO POST-STRUCTURALISM

Interesting post by Samir Chopra on Alan Watts and philosophy. I see no reason to be ashamed of liking Alan Watts and I think that reading his books is far better preparation for studying Deleuze or Lyotard or Serres than reading Freud and Lacan. I used to think that he was a useful supplement to Quine, too. He is part of the reason why I could never completely buy into the TEL QUEL crowd of Kristeva, Sollers, Barthes, and Derrida. I think that the first thing I ever published was in 1976 in a “counter-cultural” magazine, where I compared Watts and Althusser on the ideological construction of the subject. In contemporary Continental philosophy I see him as a precursor to Laruelle’s elaboration of “non-standard” philosophy. It is true that his popular style can lead to  superficiality or to corniness that makes us wince, but he did a lot to free Eastern type philosophy from its dogmatic shell. He was in many ways an early adopter of trends that are only now beginning to play themselves out in full.

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4 Responses to ON ALAN WATTS AS A PRECURSOR TO POST-STRUCTURALISM

  1. skholiast says:

    There are a number of “pop” writers from that era whose work ought to be retrieved. (Robert Pirsig is a prime case in point.) I still occasionally refer to Watts’ work layering Christian theology with his mishmash of Zen, Taoism and Vedanta (and I do think it is a mishmash, but so much of the history of philosophy is just that).

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  2. Waldgaenger says:

    “It is true that his popular style can lead to superficiality or to corniness that makes us wince”

    If philosophers were to be judged by what their philosophy leads to in other people… Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Badiou, cringe, cringe, cringe, cringe.

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  3. Bill Benzon says:

    Watts on why he gave up taking LSD: “When you’ve gotten the message, you hang up the phone.” I read a number of his books back in the day and quite enjoyed his autobiography, though I remember little of it now.

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