Monday, December 12, 2011

Infinite Jest.

Being away from the internet for three days is the equivalent to not seeing a good friend for a year: you don't know where you stand in relation to this person, they are really different and into new things, they have a new sense of humour, and you spend the better half of an hour trying to play catch up in a vain attempt to still be in their good books.

So you can understand my surprise when Chaz took some time off from his usual excellent coverage of anything and everything to mention some stuff about philosophy and, most bizarrely of all, me as well.

One great thing about being stupid enough to complete a degree in philosophy is that the way people consider you is divided into two groups. There is the open hostility and anger at your blatantly taking up precious tax dollars, when it could be funding wars and stuff. Then there is the perception that you are somehow very, very smart with a mystic's knowledge of the UNIVERSE and EVERYTHING.

This is of course wrong. I don't know anything other than how to handle some puzzles that some dudes who lived thousands of years ago started grappling with. They didn't really have any immediate results, and so people with nothing better to do started engaging with the fuckwittery. This continued for two and half thousand years, with no real discernible progress.

Now, generally if you start a job, and you haven't achieved anything by the afternoon, you approach the task differently. Philosophy has done this many times, with so called 'revolutions' designed to approach the same old problems differently.

There were the Ancient Greeks (who really just formalised problems being grappled with by the great poets like Homer and Hesiod - look into it, fascinating stuff) then the Ne0-Platonists, the vice like grip of Aristotelian world views for the better part of a millennium and a half, the Cartesians, the Idealists, and the most recent linguistic turn (by recent i mean in the past 100 years).

Using these different methods we 'solved' a lot of problems. Except the method that came afterwards just debunked the past method. So we find ourselves in the late afternoon of the proverbial philosophical day, and all we have achieved is the equivalent of sharpening our pencil, doodled on three or four bits of paper, made a coffee, and finally walked the dog, only to come back and find a newly sharpened pencil next to a blank page.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it does make you wonder what the fuck is going on. Philosophy is very good at cocooning itself into a world where the questions being answered are ones that no one really gives a fuck about anyway, other than other philosophers. We have world views and methods that, while neat and beautiful, don't reflect the interests of the average human being.

So when Chaz paints me as somehow knowledgeable about 'stuff', i get uncomfortable because, really, all i have achieved in my degree is highlight how much i don't know. This is old ground that i have covered before, but it really is true. I'm not particularly skilled at anything. I'm ok academically, but not brilliant. I'm ok on a bike, but nothing to write home about. I can kinda write, but i get bored easily and don't proof read. Finally, i love music, but can't play any instruments, and have no musical skill to speak off, other than my sweet death metal growl.

So, I kinda know my way around, but can't really settle down with anything. Philosophy is good like that, because it allows you to ruminate about specific problems that can then be expanded to take on Everything.

Most distressing of all is Chaz directed all his devoted followers to this blog as being about Heavy Metal and Cycling. It used to be like that. It has somehow turned into an egotistical clusterfuck, where i just rant about anything that happens to be on my mind. This is problematic and unfortunate. I apologise.

So, Chaz, sorry, I don't have any answers about anything. I wish i did. I'll keep trying though.

Also, if, for want of something to say in a philosophical context, you ever do take my advice and yell 'Socrates!' and punch someone in the face, please don't credit me with the inspiration.

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