Socrates started the conversation about philosophical conversation. This shabby eccentric who wandered the marketplace in fifth-century Athens accosting passersby and cross-questioning them in his celebrated style set the pattern for philosophical discussion and teaching. His pupil Plato crafted eloquent Socratic dialogues that, we assume, capture something of what it was like to be harangued and goaded by his mentor, though perhaps they’re more of a ventriloquist act. Socrates himself, if we believe Plato’s dialogue Phaedrus, had no great respect for the written word. He argued that it was inferior to the spoken. A page of writing might seem intelligent, but whatever question you ask of it, it responds in precisely the same way each time you read it — as this sentence will, no matter how many times you return to it.
Understandable. After all, everything is always in flux. Shouldn’t our conversation be fluid as well?
On the other hand, it’s why I love writing: rather than floating words and confusion, writing is set down. Mistakes are fewer. There’s time to craft a sentence into what you really mean, instead of going back and forth uselessly repeating things and stumbling over impolite interjections by an impatient listener. You didn’t catch something? Read it again — it’s all there.
And more so, isn’t writing “digitally” the best of both worlds? Quick and fluid like conversation, direct and anchored like print, but without the concrete irreparability of the latter.
Whenever philosophical education lapses into learning facts about history and texts, regurgitating an instructor’s views, or learning from a textbook, it moves away from its Socratic roots in conversation. Then it becomes so much the worse for philosophy and for the students on the receiving end of what the radical educationalist Paolo Freire referred to pejoratively in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) as the ‘banking’ of knowledge. The point of philosophy is not to have a range of facts at your disposal, though that might be useful, nor to become a walking Wikipedia or ambulant data bank: rather, it is to develop the skills and sensitivity to be able to argue about some of the most significant questions we can ask ourselves, questions about reality and appearance, life and death, god and society. As Plato’s Socrates tells us, ‘These are not trivial questions we are discussing here, we are discussing how to live.’
When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.
Friedrich Nietzsche (via hienny)
Same goes for hungry, sick, dehydrated and drunk, and if you’re any of these things regularly enough, you’ll start to be defined by these ideas all over again, because everything feels insurmountable when you’re too physically drained to process anything properly.
I’ve been reading Proust Was a Neuroscientist. Jonah writes about Walt Whitman, who (ahead of his time) thought of mind and body as inseparable (as we now know, via neurology) and how ironic it was that when he died, his body was found to be entirely sickly — ravaged by neglect. Typical artist.
Despite some claims by anthropologists in the 1970s, human beings are not the only species that engages in war or kills its own kind. It now appears that chimpanzees guard their territory, raid the territory of rivals, and, if they can pull it off, kill the males of the neighboring group and take their territory and their females. And it now appears that warfare has been a constant feature of human life since long before agriculture and private property. For millions of years, therefore, our ancestors faced the adaptive challenge of forming and maintaining coalitions that could fend off challenges and attacks from rival groups. We are the descendants of successful tribalists, not their
more individualistic cousins.
Thank you. That’s not something I do. A hi-res copy is essentially a printable, reproducible copy that’s usually purchased with a license and usage agreement.
… the two processes, that of science and that of art, are not very different. Both science and art form in the course of the centuries a human language by which we can speak about the more remote parts of reality …
Physics and Philosophy