I will begin, to the best of my ability, with the pre-philosophical attitude. In this I am surely doomed to fail. The pre-philosophical attitude is that stance in which there has not yet been a split between appearance and reality. The way things appear is the way they are. There is not yet any sense that in reality things might be different than they appear and for this reason there is not yet any call for philosophical reflection. I am trying to begin as Plato’s prisoner in the cave staring at the wall where what you see is what you get and there is not yet any reason to question what I see. In the pre-philosophical attitude the earth is stationary, I know what it is that I think, the sun and moon rise and set, etc. Everything is as it appears. I begin in the pre-philosophical attitude to begin thinking once again about things and objects. I am not suggesting that the pre-philosophical attitude should be the authority that decides what things are.

Nothing could be more evident than that we are surrounded by things of all kinds. Some of these things are inanimate and natural such as rocks. Other things are inanimate and technological or carry the imprint of human work such as the table at which I am now writing. Yet others are living like my dog sitting next to me or my wife sitting across from me or the bird flying in the sky. As I write the last sentence I involuntarily cringe. To call my wife, dog, and the bird flying in the sky things seems to denigrate them. It seems offensive.

Already I have learned two things: First, I have learned that things or objects belong to different kinds. There are inanimate things, technological things, and living beings. To this list we should add art things such as the painting that hangs on my wall. They are all things, but they differ– perhaps –significantly from one another. I will have to inquire into what those differences are and what distinguishes them at some point. But I will have to start by some time asking myself what makes a thing a thing in general or what is common to all these things as things.

Second, I have learned that things have different degrees of value. If I wince in counting my wife and dog as things, then this is because calling them thus suggests that they are of equal value to rocks when that certainly not the case. They differ in value and dignity than the mere rock. Even placing my wife and dog in the same category fills me with a sense of unease, for while my love for our dog is immense and I would risk or lay down my life for my dog without even thinking about it (e.g., if we were on a lifeboat I would share our limited food with our dog), nonetheless there is something unsettling in putting my wife and a person in the same category with dogs and birds. This worth is not of an economic or monetary kind. It is not a price. Rather it is an esteem or dignity. Perhaps later we will have to explore whether this shouldn’t be questioned.

For the moment, though, I have learned that I must inquire into value and how we rank things in terms of dignity and worth. It is as plain as day to me that some things are filled with an aura of dignity and worth, yet what is this strange phenomenon of value that shines forth from some things? What is this esteem and from whence does it come? In the pre-philosophical attitude it seems self-evident that the redwood forests, the beautiful animal, the rock formations of Goblin National Park, the person, the work of art shine with dignity and that it is sacrilegious to destroy or harm them. I grasp it immediately in these things just as I see things immediately and experience a sort of animal faith that they are really there and not just illusions. Yet this worth, this value, this dignity is not a feature of things like their color, texture, and heft that I can point to. Yet it’s there. How is this to be thought?

I now glance up at the sky as a cloud passes. Is that cloud a thing or object I wonder? Somehow the cloud seems less an object than a cat, table, rock, or person. It somehow seems wrong to call the cloud an object, but surely it is something? And what of the crowd I saw yesterday milling about campus? Is it an object or is it just a group of persons? In other words– now a third thing, this time a question –where do we draw the line between objects and, for lack of a better word, non-objects? We seem to rank some things as more things than other things. Why? And should we? I will leave off here, hoping that questions will begin to percolate marking the transition from the pre-philosophical attitude to a philosophical attitude where how things appear no longer indicates that it is so evident as to how they are.