Philosophy can be a bit like a computer getting creakier. It starts well, dealing with significant and serious issues that matter to anyone. Yet, in time, it can get bloated and bogged down and slow. Philosophy begins to care less about philosophical questions than about philosophers’ questions, which then consume increasing amounts of intellectual attention. The problem with philosophers’ questions is not that they are impenetrable to outsiders — although they often are, like any internal game — but that whatever the answers turn out to be, assuming there are any, they do not matter, because nobody besides philosophers could care about the questions in the first place.
This is an old problem. In the sixteenth century, the French scholar and doctor François Rabelais satirized scholastic philosophy in his Gargantua and Pantagruel. In a catalogue of 139 invented book titles that he attributes to the library of the Abbey of St. Victor, he lists such titles as “The Niddy-noddy of the Satchel-loaded Seekers, by Friar Blindfastatis” and “The Raver and idle Talker in cases of Conscience.”
Centuries later, we seem to be back to the same problem. This is how philosophy speaks today: “The Failure of Class: Postcapitalist narrative and textual precapitalist theory” and “Deconstructing Lyotard: Cultural narrative and premodern dedeconstructivism.” Or: “As Lewis taught us in a classic series of articles, trope theories Gettierise zombie arguments” and “While the contextualist disagrees, we still hold that supposed mind/body ‘problems’ cannot generate an unacceptably Russellian picture of the world.”
Do not try to understand these lines. I produced the first two using a “Postmodernism Generator,” and the second two using an “Analytic Philosophy Generator.” They sound like real examples of contemporary scholasticism — philosophy talking about itself to itself in its own jargon. Such scholasticism is the ultimate freezing of the system, the equivalent of a Windows computer’s “blue screen of death”: so many resources are devoted to internal issues that no external input can be processed anymore, and the system stops working. The world may be undergoing a revolution, Rome may be burning, but the philosophical discourse remains detached, meaningless, and utterly oblivious. Time for an upgrade.
Read the whole thing. Flip on your brain’s comprehension and application switches first. It’s amazing that all too many of us need to be reminded to do these things. I think that’s a summation of this essay.
If you are a star trek fan you’ll likely find the story interesting, but at the end of the piece there was a really telling bit concerning the third story in the arc.
Memory Alpha summarizes an early scene:
Captain Picard, himself undergoing repairs of the emotional kind following his assimilation, is packing to go to Earth. He is visited by Troi, who asks him where he’s going. He tells her he is going to go to La Barre, France, his home village. It will be the first time he has gone home in nearly twenty years. Troi says she finds it interesting that Captain Jean-Luc Picard is going on vacation so easily and they could hardly pry him out of his command chair for a vacation for three years. Picard tells her simply that it’s Earth, it’s home and he doesn’t think he needs a much better reason. He tells her her assistance has been invaluable to him, but that he’s much better now, saying his nightmares have ended and that what he needs now is some time to himself. Troi agrees, but states that his destination could stand some scrutiny. Picard tells her if she wants to think that his going home is a result of being assimilated, feel free. Troi reminds him that it’s just going to take time. His assimilation was an extremely traumatic event and he won’t recover so quickly and that it’s perfectly natural to spend time trying to find oneself again.
In the episode the homecoming isn’t as easy as it seems because Picard and his brother have unresolved issues that rise to the surface. It is the meat of the episode but apparently Gene Roddenberry didn’t think so as related by writer Ronald Moore: (emphasis mine)
We had to kind of fight for “Family.” [Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry hated it. He wanted to throw it out. My only story meeting with Gene was that episode. It was me and Michael and Rick Berman, who was running the production side of things, we all met in Gene’s office and Gene just said “this isn’t the 24thcentury.” “These brothers reflect outdated, 20th-Century modes of childhood development. Mankind had solved these kind of issues by then. I hate this.”
And that my dear friends speaks volumes about how the left sees things.
One of the great truths of the universe is that Humanity really hasn’t changed in millennia , the basic drives and desires are the same and have been the same, the only difference that Technology provides is the ease of doing so.
It’s one of the reasons why things like scripture resonate because the same sins of the past are the one that plague mankind thousands of years later
Yet Gene Roddenberry a man who was driven by his chemical and sexual drives hated the very idea that in the 24th century those same drives that consumed him might exist in his utopian world.
Now cooler heads prevailed and this episode became an excellent one but the point is this, our liberal friends believe that the world is just one invention, one law, one moment away from suddenly becoming heaven on earth.
An SAS officer remarked during the campaign on the problem that affects many Third world armies of concentrating on acquiring expensive technology rather than applying basic training and skills. On his own travels abroad, he said, he found again and again that his hosts disbelieved all that he told them about the achievements of the SAS being based on intensive, ceaseless meticulous training and preparation. “They all secretly believe that there is some pill you can take if you will tell them what it is.”
This should sound familiar all we have to do is restrict guns, make laws against “hate” or allow a 3 women to marry 2 men and suddenly the world will be everything you dream it to be.
And while that might be great if you want to create an entertaining fictional universe it just doesn’t work when the camera yells cut and the real world comes calling. I’ll give the last word to CS Lewis on the difference between the liberal and the conservative
It occurs when the boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing.
Look at any liberal endeavor vs any conservative one and you will see this is true.
“I have offended everybody at HBO, in New York,” she told Bill Maher during a segment on this week’s “Real Time.” “All of the people I work with, they said ‘you can’t put that on TV.’ Somehow it was ok to do it to the toothless rednecks,”
To her credit, and to Bill Maher’s, they showed the video and openly discussed how liberals would hate it. Pelosi said “I didn’t have to go far to find ‘freeloading welfare queens.'” They were, in fact, right across the street from her New York City home.
Now I’ll concede that Pelosi and Maher risked some blowback from this video but when I watched the whole segment I didn’t see the courageous journalists, I saw the Lord and Lady of the manor.
Sir Walter FitzUrse: You are not a freeman anymore you are landless and your father is an outlaw, by my charity you are living in my house and are my serf now, do you understand?
Watch the video again. You’ll notice after his “we’re not racists” quote he spends the rest of the segment making excuses for the people in NY out to get “Obama Bucks”:
“For the Black guy his legacy is real, and the white guy from the south, he has a chip on his shoulder.”
There are no excuses offered for the poor southerns in the first film, there is no extending circumstance just shock that “they really believe this.” If only that toothless guy would accept our help we would take care of him.
Blacksmith: That’s when Sir Walter said I’d better take charge of those two homeless children, maybe he meant it kindly too, but they’ll be serfs Robin, and that’s not right.
As for Pelosi, note she isn’t concerned so much about the entitlements themselves, she is concerned that they are causing democrats to lose voters like the doorman and her driver. It’s somehow saving those votes that is the motivation here. Maher reacts by attacking the doorman who isn’t grateful for his advantages.
Robin Hood: I don’t call it particularly honorable to mistreat these children, or make them serfs.
They stroke themselves with this belief that because they support the Democratic Party, they are certified non-racists. Where’s the self-criticism? Isn’t it at least possible that their party’s policies represent a low opinion of black people, that they are paternalistic, that they take advantage of a seemingly locked in voting bloc?
Of course it’s not possible Ann. As Stanley Fish articulated there is no equivalence to be made. There are only those who vote with us, and those who vote against:
I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.
If the toothless southerner was willing to vote Obama Bill Maher and Stanley Fish would see that vote as the widow’s mite compared to his Maher’s million dollars absolved him from any critique. As Protein Wisdom says:
To the progressive, your social and political worth — in fact, your very claim to morality — comes from your various identity politics alliances. That is, your morality is a function not so much of what you do, but rather of where you claim to stand, and with whom.
That’s the real crime of those poor southerners, that’s the crime of the “privileged” doorman and driver. They are working hard for what they have an expect others to do the same.
Can’t the doorman and driver understand that, like the Lords of old, the Pelosis in Washington like and the Mahers in Hollywood seek power and status simply for the good of all? Don’t they realize if they support the great Lords in DC and Hollywood, as trusted retainers, they might expect advancement from the state, a better job in a growing federal government? Don’t they understand that by keeping an underclass on assistance they provide protection to the retainer like themselves to keep them from revolt (remember Occupy)?
And if such assistance goes to the 2nd or third generation it is a good thing because like those who came before them, they are repaying their bounty with votes that keep the enlightened lords in power.
This entire philosophy & mindset is contrary to the entire march of Western Civilization from Magna Carta to the Declaration of Independence. It is the idea that some laws can be enforced while others are not, why some standards apply to some and not to others. It’s the idea that the rights are granted by other men, the elites like themselves and not from God
Perhaps Bill Maher and Ms. Pelosi should watch this episode in full:
And then perhaps they might understand the importance of this final quote.
Walter FitzUrse: “So the free man doesn’t mind cutting wood after all?”
Oswald A’Bland: “I don’t mind, it’s not keeping you warm.”
That is the essence of being free.
Update: I don’t know why I keep wanting to spell M-a-h-e-r M-a-h-a-r? fixed.
Update 2: Stacy on a fair fight
Update 5: I was looking at an Althouse link on Wisconsin at the same time as this one that link (and interesting story) is now here while the right link is where it belongs. thanks to TD for the heads up.
I was speaking to a police officer a bit ago and he said something that frankly never occurred to me. When dealing with accused criminals and the like police officers remember that their convictions only reflect what they have been “caught” doing.
This is in fact what has happened with the media. It’s not that the media hasn’t played us for their own purposes in the past, it’s that now we know about it.
A mantra of the left is that in the 60’s our naivete concerning government was lifted from us, the truth is that naivete about the media is what the internet and the web and blogs has been destroyed forever.
How we use this knowledge is up to us. Hopefully we will use this perception better than the left perception did.
At this point, the class perks up again as I lay out versions of the famous arguments for the existence of God, and my students begin to think that they’re about to get what their parents have paid for at a great Catholic university: some rigorous intellectual support for their faith.
Soon enough, however, things again fall apart, since our best efforts to construct arguments along the traditional lines face successive difficulties. The students realize that I’m not going to be able to give them a convincing proof, and I let them in on the dirty secret: philosophers have never been able to find arguments that settle the question of God’s existence or any of the other “big questions” we’ve been discussing for 2500 years.
One of the things that Dawkinsites tend to forget is that great thinkers and scientists and people of reason have been debating, writing on and discussing the existence of God in general and the truth of Christianity and Catholicism in particular for centuries before Guttenburg’s first bible rolled off the presses. Their image of the believer is a straw man.
His second part went up three days ago to respond to the Dawkinsites who were dismayed at his critique of the man they follow (we Christians are used to it, part of the job description you know) another peek:
My August 1 essay, “Philosophy and Faith,” was primarily addressed to religious believers. It argued that faith should go hand-in-hand with rational reflection, even though such reflection might well require serious questioning of their faith. I very much appreciated the many and diverse comments and the honesty and passion with which so many expressed their views. Interestingly, many of the most passionate responses came from non-believers who objected to my claim that popular atheistic arguments (like popular theistic arguments) do not establish their conclusions. There was particular dismay over my passing comment that the atheistic arguments of Richard Dawkins are “demonstrably faulty.” This follow-up provides support for my negative assessment. I will focus on Dawkins’ arguments in his 2006 book, “The God Delusion.”
For “unbelievers” they sure get their knickers in an uproar when someone questions what they think.
As I’ve written my own Catholicism is primarily based on experience, reason and history leading to my conclusion that it is true as a fact. The faith part of my equation is pretty weak by comparison and I need to work on it.
It’s worth noting that Gutting doesn’t argue for God but looks at the various arguments being made. Argument and rational debate are very important in this field, because if your arguments are worthwhile, they will stand up under fire. If you are unwilling to brave that fire then you might want to take another look at those beliefs.
I’m sure there will be later chapters that I have more issue with but that is the beauty of debate and through. Can’t wait for them. And to those who think it’s the wrong way to go I say anyone who thinks Christianity can’t be reached through reason or that Christians should not embrace reason needs a stronger faith and/or a more open mind.
Catholicism has stood this fire for 20 centuries and will likely be doing so for 20 more.
…for those who are so keen to do so for the elderly, a quick question:
There is a story about how a sixteen year old sailor who is trying to sail around the world. There was a scare that she might be lost at sea:
A 16-year-old US sailor who went missing while sailing solo around the world has been found safe and well.
Abby Sunderland’s yacht was spotted by an aerial search team in the southern Indian Ocean, midway between Australia and Africa.
Three ships are on their way to pick her up – the first is expected to be with her in 24 hours.
Now I’m delighted that she is ok and will get home safely but I have a question.
Here is a person who on her own volition decided to put herself in mortal danger for the sake of doing something adventurous. Nobody forced her to take the risks she decided to take.
Yet when her parents lost contact ships and resources are being dispatched to get her out of a mess that she put herself into. Would those same people who are so willing to pull the plug on elderly people decide that it is a waste of considerable resources to save her too?
Of course I believe in erring on the side of life but I’d be very interested if they have the same utilitarian arguments in this case?