As someone whose eccentric use of philosophical language is sometimes criticized, I was delighted to come across this passage in Stengers Thinking With Whitehead. Stengers writes,

Bergson names and describes duration, but his text induces the experience of it, induces the trust that transforms experience into experimentation on duration. And it is precisely at this point that he coincides with Whitehead, for the concept of nature also depends on a “literary” apparatus liable to induce a perception of what we are aware of in the mode that this concept has the task of exhibiting.

The purpose of a discussion of such factors may be described as being to make obvious things look odd. We cannot envisage them unless we manage to invest them with some of the freshness which is due to strangeness. (Whitehead, The Concept of Nature, 107 – 108)

One of the ways of conferring a bizarre appearance upon any kind of experience, without recourse to the particular experience provided by hashish, listening to music, hypnotic induction, or the philosopher’s meticulous description, is to call attention to the “constant factors,” those we neglect because they inevitably belong to all experience, but which no experience exhibits in particular. The point is thus to create a contrast between what I say I perceive and what is always exhibited by what I am aware of. (62 – 63)

There is a poetics of philosophy that is like a use of language against language. It is this poetics that we perpetually complain about when reading philosophers and bemoaning their difficulty. Philosophy renders what is familiar strange. Yet this practice of rendering the familiar strange is not done out of any sort of perversity, but is rather undertaken precisely to bring forward that which withdraws. Stengers will write that “[w]hat is required by our instinctive knowledge, far from leading to a foundation of knowledge, as conditions would do, instead refers each mode of knowledge to its operations, its choices, its ambitions, and priorities. Without a beyond. At its own risk” (49). The poetics of philosophy is a sort of choice, a selection, exercised at the heart of being, bringing that which, due to its ubiquity, was before invisible. Yet to exercise such a selection language must lose its familiarity so that the possibility of a manifestation might become available for thought.

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