Free Thinker

A Welcome to Ouroboric Philosophy

In Uncategorized on April 18, 2011 at 1:22 am

And the serpent said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. For God doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your eyes shall be opened. And you shall be as Gods, knowing good and evil.

— Genesis 3:4-5

The ouroboros (οὐροβόρος in the original Greek) is an image or archetype of a serpent shaped into a circle, clinging to or devouring its own tail in an endless cycle of self-destruction, self-creation, self-renewal, the Eternal Return of the Self in and for Itself. Such a definition will inevitably appear pompous, perhaps conceited; but that isn’t the intent. What language, and philosophical language especially, should be allowed to do is to try to exhaust, however imperfectly, the richness of imagery that an idea may call forth. While this effort may be ultimately futile, like aiming for a target too distant and too high, in the case of the potentially endless explication that may be admitted by notions such as self-concern, self-reference, self-reverence, the simultaneous transcendence and becoming of oneself — notions implicate in the ouroboros concept — it may be a healthy exercise in the vital step, for writers and thinkers, of coming up with material to write about.

Of course, there is the further point to be made to the effect that a recursive, self-concerned examination of the ouroboric themes of self-destruction and self-renewal — and the possible inspirations to be drawn vis-à-vis freedom, metaphysical or psychological, from the image of the ouroboros — is fitting to the very object(s) of consideration, and explicates its (their) meaning(s) in form and not merely in content. If the structure or the color of philosophical writing — even amateur and non-professional examples — were to better reflect the concepts it undertakes examinations of, many of the problems attendant to the indeterminacy of language and meaning would become less pronounced and more approachable in a practical way.

If you enjoy the kind of thinking and writing that grows out of the effort that will be made in this venue, then both of us are in luck. This blog should be read for fun, because you like it, or not at all. Humor, especially humor self-directed, is a strength and one of the principles in the running for those that may rightly be called universal, in reference to all of Being (to draw upon another ouroboric theme). Of course it is often very enjoyable to engage matters that may be called serious, though it is debatable whether such things actually exist. Every attempt at writing is, in many ways, biographical, and this aspect of the process is acknowledged and will not be avoided. There is simply too much to a life not to take some of it as inspiration or material for examining themes such as the continual destruction and renaissance of the self, however that may be conceived, so I want to explore that avenue of thought and develop it into something that may be useful to others as well as to myself.

As a final, closing thought, I’d like to note that ouroboric philosophy is more of an æsthetic vision, or a concept without actuality in the Hegelian sense. It takes an image, the ouroboros as its starting point, and seeks to draw out whatever that image inspires, hopefully in a healthy and life-affirming way that sheds light on some facet of human experience or other. It is an organic process, one that will develop, unfold, mature, and eventually die, a cycle that is, ideally, its own reason and justification and ground of freedom and value. So expect no final or absolute truths here. We are interested in life and freedom, and in what particular images/visions (categories to be explicated at another time) can offer toward those teloi. Anything beyond that modest goal is far too serious to be addressed by reasonable people.

  1. stumbled upon this after waking up after a good nights sleep and thinking about the ouroboros and what it could actually stand for. i came to the same conclusion as you did in the sence that the serpent eats its own tail in order to grow, but in doing so eats more of itself. a beautiful way of showing the constant effect of life. to live, you must kill, but by killing you live. a lovely concept. i love the image you have by the way ^_^

    cheers for a good read.

  2. Hello! My name is Drew and I’d like to use this image for a tattoo if possible. I’ve always liked the symbol and when looking for an image to use for a tattoo I came across this. If this isn’t yours would you mind directing me in the right direction to where to ask for permission. Tattoos are art and I don’t like stealing. 🙂

    Thank you!
    drewrypope A T g mail . COM

    • Hi Drew, unfortunately I don’t know who created this image originally. It’s my favorite ouroboros image and I think I just found it by doing a Google image search for “ouroboros”. However, I’m sure the artist, whoever he or she may be, would be flattered if you were to use their art for a tattoo. After all, it’s not as if you stand to benefit commercially from using their image for your tattoo. But obviously that’s entirely your call. Cheers!

  3. I don´t think ouroboros actually eats its own tail, I believe that what really matter is the movement cycle , the death generating the life, two different worlds, where one begin the other ends, but they never catch up one to another.

    Really nice image!

  4. also would like to use this for a tattoo. please direct me to the artist

    • Unfortunately I haven’t been able to find the artist; this is my favorite ourobouros image, and if I recall I found it just by searching for “ourobouros” in Google’s image search. Best of luck to you!

  5. Most Distinguished and Learned Sir and/or Madame
    May I please report your article in its entirety with Proper Credit to the Other and the name url of blog. Thank You

  6. Thank you! I hope you will write again soon. Thank you Again!

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