Dick is evidently not an academic or professional philosopher, but an amateur, or perhaps that most splendid of things, what Erik Davis calls a garage philosopher. As someone who gets paid to teach philosophy for a living, I find Dick compelling as a philosopher because, whatever he lacks in scholarly rigor, he more than makes up for in powers of imagination and in rich lateral and cumulative associations. Indeed, if one defines a philosopher along the lines offered by Deleuze and Guattari―namely someone who creates concepts―then Dick is a philosopher. The naïveté of Dick’s approach to philosophy, like his use of secondary sources like Encyclopedia Britannica and Paul Edwards’s fantastically useful Encyclopedia of Philosophy, permits rapidity of association and lends a certain systematic coherence to his concerns. If Dick had known more, it might have led to him producing less interesting chains of ides.
For more see:
Besides weaving elements of 2-3-74 into a number of novels, including the masterful VALIS, Dick cranked out what is known as the “Exegesis”—a couple million mostly handwritten words that restlessly elaborate, analyze, and pull the rug out from under his experiences. To judge from those portions that have seen the light of day, the Exegesis is an alternately incandescent, boring, and disturbing document, where sparkling metaphysical jewels and inspiring chunks of garage philosophy swim in a turgid and depressing sea of speculative indulgence and self-obsession.
In prefatory comments to this talk, given on the opening day of the 2012 seminar, Lethem explains that it will be a “plate-spinning act” encompassing and weaving together a range of provocative observations. He promises to tell us “the difference between the true and the real”; to provide “a pocket defense of the … metafictional tendencies in the literary arts”; to reveal “why sharks save swimmers,” “why paranoia is bad in life but good in art,” and, finally, “why money is like language.” Along the way, Lethem touches on Samuel Delaney’s novel Dhalgren, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the “garage philosophy” of Erik Davis, as well as the works of physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson, economist Daniel Kahneman, and anthropologist and anarchist David Graeber.
[UPDATE–May 22, 2012] Simon Critchley just published the latest instalment of his three-part series portraying Philip K. Dick as a “Sci-Fi Philosopher”. See:
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