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Alice Koller

  • [Theorists who] tell themselves that they are not doing philosophy, while they are in fact reflecting upon the foundations of the theory of [their subject], suppose that the alternative to doing philosophy in such matters is not-doing-philosophy, whereas the alternative is merely doing-philosophy-badly.

  • I've arrived at this outermost edge of my life by my own actions. Where I am is thoroughly unacceptable. Therefore, I must stop doing what I've been doing.

  • ... I can recognize what's true about myself when I see it. It's whatever I find myself refusing to admit, whatever I say no to very fast.

  • ... when something intolerable is in my life, I head for the water. It leavens me in some way. Some middlemost part of me is soothed and silenced by it.

  • Perhaps loving something is the only starting place there is for making your life your own.

  • If I'm not loved when I love, the lack can't be repaired by any action of mine or repented by the person who doesn't love me.

  • For a man, a woman can be either a vessel or a friend; for a woman, unless a man is her friend, sex is merely a temporary connection.

  • Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than of the absence of others.

  • ... solitude is an achievement.

  • I have become that third gender: a human person, the being one creates of oneself.

  • Work is a world apart from jobs. Work is the way you occupy your mind and hand and eye and whole body when they're informed by your imagination and wit, by your keenest perceptions, by your most profound reflections on everything you've read and seen and heard and been part of. You may or may not be paid to do your work.

  • ... human beings can ask questions. 'Can': are able to. Not 'may': are permitted to. And being able to ask but not asking, people abdicate, tissue by tissue, their chief difference from stones.

  • What is it to mourn? It is to be hurled into pain so vast that you cannot imagine it in advance of being incorporated by it, a pain that usurps all other thinking, all other feeling, a pain that occupies you as you occupy the house you live in.

  • Mourning is one of the prices of loving, the sorrow a permeating heaviness that constricts your doings to one single doing: trying to match the present absence with the past presence, and failing, remembering.

  • It takes a very long time to learn that a courtroom is the last place in the world for learning the truth.

  • To everyone else, the death of that being you love for his own sake, for her own sake, is an event that occurs on a certain day. For you, the death only begins that day. It is not an event: it is only the first moment in a process that lives in you, springing up into the present, engulfing you years, decades, later, as though it were the first moment again.

  • I collect fierce beauty, and I am curator of my own collection. I do not house it in a building: most of it cannot be housed at all, and some part of it is in me, in some sense of 'in' that philosophers still quarrel about.

  • Long ago I understood that it wasn't merely my being a woman that was preventing my being welcomed into the world of what I long thought of as my peers. It was that I had succeeded in an undertaking few men have even attempted: I have become myself.

Alice Koller, U.S. writer, philosopher