Could Socrates live without conversation? If a thought exists, it must manifest itself, come out and be revealed. [One American philosopher said]: "I will know it is the end of the world when I wake up in the morning and there is no conversation about philosophy". Piatigorsky understood conversation as "unending"; as a dialogue that started a long time before us, travelled through us and will be continued long after we are gone. At the same time Piatigorsky always stressed that there is only one real conversation - it is that conversation which is worth much more than those who speak it, as external instruments to this unending phenomenon. It is that conversation which has no speakers and simply has the "spoken". In the same way Piatigorsky spoke about thinking - it is not important who speaks, it is important what is being said. And we know - truthfully - how difficult it is to exclude oneself from dialogue, how difficult it is to admit that it wasn't us who caught the thought but that it was us who were caught by thought that "ascended" onto us, its accidental and temporary possessors. ("...In the focus [of philosophy] lies not the man but thinking. Whose thinking it is, is largely inconsequential")
"Joyful self-exclusion" is a phrase that belongs to Piatigorsky. The worst enemy is, of course, yourself. Alexander Piatigorsky managed to rid himself of this obtrusive enemy. He reached that point of freedom from self when he could reflect on his own, habitual, native, shackling thinking and "joyfully" exclude himself from it. Perhaps there exists no other type of freedom anyway.
"Man is given ethnos, language, fate. Any preset peculiarity of world outlook, national, social or any other, is the prison of others' opinion from the very start. Man's main enemy is his own cowardice and amorphousness, which make him so susceptible to living by others' world outlook. The bloodiest murders known to history were executed not only by fanatical dictators but also by simple men, incapable of independent thinking."
This article is written to present Alexander Piatigorsky to the reader who is not familiar with him - not from the public, formal side - but from behind the scenes, i.e. those who never knew him as the eccentric philosopher, the "accountant with a shamanic timbrel" (G. Amelin), the merry, lighthearted thinker and guru. There was something daemonic and mystifying about him in the cunning and humour which he exuded. Every encounter with him was entrancing and always immensely interesting. "The interesting persuades the listener, spectator and reader to let go of their convictions..."
Those who are curious about Piatigorsky's biography may look him up in Wikipedia but they are not likely to find anything except basic facts of his life which are of little importance to those who really want to know him. Alexander Piatigorsky came into this world in 1929 in Moscow, the city of his first love, and departed from it in 2009 in London, the city which became his last love. Everything that took place between these two "events" is a series of trivial facts which passed by and did not really affect this fantastic man.
He was expelled from two schools for underachievement. After graduating from Moscow State University, he taught at a school in Stalingrad; then he was employed as junior research fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow but was soon expelled for lack of subordination and public voicing of his views. He turned from institution to institution looking for a job but eventually was invited to leave the USSR by Moscow's chief KGB agent. From 1974 he lived in London where he taught at the University of London. He wrote books and travelled the world with his lectures.
In London he found that which was so lacking in Moscow - anonymity and privacy (in Moscow he was fashionable, popular, and sought after). He liked to repeat that London is not a curious or inquisitive city and so is neutral to all its inhabitants. It welcomes everyone and towards everyone it is equally indifferent. It's as though London is saying to us: "Do what you want or don't, be what you want or don't be altogether, go where you want - it is no matter, no one will notice anyway, especially me". And that is precisely what Piatigorsky did as he fell in an unreciprocated love with London. He measured its streets lanes and squares with his sweeping footsteps; acquainted himself and became friends with its buildings. He could walk around for hours (from pub to pub) and talk, talk, talk...