I never got that into Radio Head's later stuff or anything else on Pablo Honey (the other songs were actually produced by a person that didn't produce "Creep"), but there's something wrong with you if Creep doesn't give you goose bumps or help you get through a rough night. I mean, it's one of the few archetypal songs for a certain feeling that I associate centrally with philosophy. Novalis said this best (if I remember right Heidegger endorsed it wholeheartedly); philosophy starts with a feeling of homesickness, a feeling that you don't belong here.(What follows is inspired by, and not meant as a criticism of, the above. I should also note that I'll be out of town for a few days, and unlikely to be able to respond to any comments until I get back.)
Homesickness is feeling that you belong somewhere else, not just that you don't belong here. And "Creep" is also about feeling like a creep, of course, inferior ("I wish I was special, You're so fucking special, But I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo"). So this isn't exactly homesickness. It's more like homelessness. A weirdo has no home, no place where he belongs.
Homesickness is more what Van Morrison expresses in "Astral Weeks" ("I ain't nothing but a stranger in this world, I got a home on high"). That might inspire a kind of platonic philosophy (or suicide), but doesn't seem typical of what drives most of us.
The view of Plato and Aristotle that philosophy begins in wonder is something else again. Actually I don't know what they meant (so maybe it isn't something else). Aristotle wanted to understand the world in a seemingly familiar, rational way. Plato seems quite different, and yet (apparently) they belonged to the same world.
Wittgenstein contrasts the attitude toward a miracle and the scientific attitude (in his Lecture on Ethics), with science beginning almost exactly where astonishment ceases. We might regard someone's head's turning into a lion's as a miracle, but once we start investigative surgery we are into the realm of science instead. Science can be done in a spirit of wonder and reverence, but it is an attempt to investigate and understand so: a) it is not reverence alone, and b) it requires that one not be paralyzed by wonder.
And then there's Heidegger:
Das Erstaunen ist als pathos die arche der Philosophie. Das griechische Wort arche muessen wir im vollen Sinne verstehen. Es nennt dasjenige, von woher etwas ausgeht. Aber dieses "von woher" wird im Ausgehen nicht zurueckgelassen, vielmehr wird die arche zu dem, was das Verbum archein sagt, zu solchem, was herrscht. Das pathos des Erstaunens steht nicht einfach so am Beginn der Philosophie wie z. B. der Operation des Chirurgen das Waschen der Haende voraufgeht. Das Erstaunen traegt und durchherrscht die Philosophie.(Something like this: The feeling of astonishment is the arche of philosophy. We must understand the Greek word arche in its complete sense. It names that whence something emerges. [...] The feeling of astonishment does not simply stand at the beginning of philosophy as, for instance, hand-washing comes before a surgeon's operating. Astonishment carries and pervades philosophy.)
Maverick Philosopher comments:
Heidegger's point is that philosophy's beginning, the pathos of astonishment, is also its principle. As such, it is not something left behind as philosophy progresses, but something that pervades and guides her at every step. This, I would add, is one of the differences between philosophy and (positive) science. The aim of the sciences is to dispel wonder, perplexity, astonishment and replace them with understanding, an understanding that makes possible the prediction and control of that which is understood. Philosophy, by contrast, not only begins in wonder but is sustained by it and never succeeds in dispelling it.I'm not sure about this. Not as an interpretation of Heidegger but as a matter of fact. Not all science aims to dispel wonder. And I wonder about the claim that philosophy is sustained by wonder. Heidegger's philosophy might be. But how much philosophy in the empiricist tradition, for instance, is like this?
Then there's Wittgenstein's saying that a philosophical problem has the form: I don't know my way about. This isn't wonder exactly, and Wittgenstein (who I think wanted to revive wonder) wanted to dispel this kind of confusion, not to be pervaded or guided by it.
Astonishment does not lead me to philosophize, at least not directly. The thing that astonishes me most is human life or, to be more accurate, my children. But I have no inclination whatsoever to investigate scientifically or philosophically as a result of this astonishment. I sometimes also have the feeling that I live in paradise, and I can't imagine tackling this intellectually (unless re-reading Father Zosima counts). In case this makes me sound insane let me clarify. What I mean is that I live in a place that is very green (slightly overgrown, in fact), in which wild animals are a frequent sight (every time I see deer I want to take a picture to capture the experience, which is Gollum-like of me), and that this makes me very happy. These feelings don't incline me to religion or prayer. They just make me smile. Or not just that. They also make me curious about reading works by people who have had similar feelings, and think about trying to work out some sort of ethical theory or "philosophy of life" based on the recognition of the importance of stuff like this (roughly speaking, life or (environment + family)). But I can't help feeling that developing a philosophical theory of anything would be the wrong response to the feelings I'm talking about. I don't want to express or articulate these feelings. I want to have them, to live in them as much as possible. And it's not as if I have realized something about nature or my children that other people have not realized about theirs. There isn't any news that I have to share with other people. Although I do think we all tend to forget what matters most to us a lot of the time. It might even be necessary to forget from time to time, to be distracted from paradise. Such distraction seems inevitable, anyway, but I also feel obscurely that it might be needed, too. That the way in to paradise is to return, through the door marked 'Exit.'
What distracts us, for the most part, is people, human affairs. Which might be why hell can seem to be other people. It isn't the people, it's the games they involve us in. (Eat this apple, apply for this position, fill out this form...) I don't see any way to avoid all of these games, but it might help to remember that this is all they are, i.e. human institutions of no cosmic significance even if people die because of them. (What does "cosmic significance" mean though? I don't know. Perhaps something it could make sense to worship. A tree or an animal, perhaps, but certainly nothing institutional or conventional.) Politics is part of this, although bad politics are so bad that good politics might be necessary. Even at best, though, I can't help thinking that politics are a necessary evil.
Philosophy seems to me to come from two sources: idle speculation and a certain sense of impossibility or paradox, to which speculation might lead you. Feeling weird and unspecial has nothing directly to do with these, but the people who don't (feel as though they) fit in are probably more likely to have time to speculate (and to be less caught up in social stuff). Speculation might lead to all kinds of creation but it also seems vain. It is, I think, what a lot of people think philosophy is all about. More powerful, though, is the gravitational pull on the attention of things that seem both necessary and impossible: how can this grey lump be the seat of consciousness?, how can these physical objects have free will?, how could the universe have a beginning and yet how could it not? These questions are not institutionalized. (They don't belong here.) They are not scientific. We only sort of, at best, have any methods for dealing with them. They look like expressions of wonder but they feel like scientific questions. That is, someone might hold a brain and say "So this is the seat of consciousness? Wow!" but that isn't what happens in philosophy. Philosophical questions are not rhetorical. We want answers. But we don't really get any. At most we get candidates for answers, maybe candidates we like very much. But no hands-down winner as long as the question remains within philosophy. The questions of philosophy are weirdos.
Those are not the questions that interest me primarily though. I don't work on metaphysics or epistemology. I'm more interested in the nature of these questions than in the questions themselves. Perhaps because I've learned that staring at them gets you nowhere and hurts (my brain, not my feelings). And because as far as there is any solution to these problems, or a method for solving them, I think it lies somewhere in the Kant-Schopenhauer-(Nietzsche-Heidegger)-Wittgenstein-... tradition, and I'd rather look for it there than try to find it by myself. And because these questions seem like another form of distraction, a human creation irrelevant to the question of how to live. And that's not really a question, of course, but an assignment, and what matters is doing it well, not knowing how to do it. It's a puzzler, though, a bit like being lost or finding oneself in a place with no marked paths. The question is not so much "What the hell am I doing here?" as it is "What the hell am I doing here?" To the extent that you don't simply follow convention there are no rules to tell you what to do. And it is obvious to everyone that simply following conventions is not the best possible response to the assignment. But that's about all that is obvious.