Monday, May 23, 2011

Plato didn't have a coke habit

Why a modern world if such poisons are invented! -Rimbaud

I blame Descartes. The case against him goes back to Bob Anderson's modern philosophy class at Washington College. Dr. Anderson laid into Descartes' mechanistic worldview, wherein you can do things like land on the moon or blow up nuclear bombs. Anderson didn't subscribe to this way of looking at the world.

Yeah, but those things have been done, landing on the moon and blowing up bombs. They are real, subscribe or not. Anderson was/is a Plato guy. As in spend 30+ years writing a book about Plato, all philosophy as footnotes to Plato, kind of guy.

Me: So Plato wouldn't have believed in the moon or bomb -isms?

Anderson: No, he wouldn't.

M: But those things happened, how could he not subscribe?

A: Plato could have had a cocaine habit, too, but he didn't, that we know of.

And that's when the light went on. Worldview is about choice, like making the choice to do cocaine. Which isn't a bad analogy for the modern/mechanistic worldview. For Descartes, worldview was separated from an overarching purpose. We just plod around in a mechanistic universe, so if something works, build it, so be it. If it doesn't, fu$% it, try again. Science and results are their own justification.

Never mind whether something is a good idea or what path it may ultimately take us down. And where does thinking like that lead you? Take a look around.

Philosophy classes and discussions have, for me, always opened doors to the world. Even back in my N.C. State days, I can remember walking to philosophy class (when I went to classes) and kicking existential tires in my head, then those same tires would end up on the professor's desk, being examined and wrestled with. It was uncanny.

At Washington College, Drs. Anderson and Brien shined the searchlight in all kinds of dark corners, which motivated me to get my own flashlight of inquiry, something like an earned (vs. "cash-bought," per Palahniuk) merit badge for refusing to just be a surface skimmer.

What brings me here this morning has been the idea of "progress," the thought that modern technology and science and society are driving us/the world to a better or more advanced place than where we were. That we're so wrapped up in what we can do that we don't think for a moment, whether or not we should do something in the first place. Then, when the consequences hand us the check at the end of the meal, we're saying ddddaaammmnnn! and stuck doing dishes.

Bob Anderson compared looking at the world through mechanistic glasses to having a cocaine habit. Yeah, I remember Len Bias. I think I'll pass on that, thanks. I think I'll keep looking.

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