Delight Springs

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Philosophy travels

It's the very moment of dawn, 5:32, and I'm at my appointed station without the assistance of any servitor more mechanical than a chirping avian. I know why the uncaged bird sings.

Hung a new feeder yesterday. It's still full, under the radar. I've spotted just one patron so far. Summer's young.

My elective reading's been unsystematic of late, as it should be this time of year. Following fancy and whim. Rebecca Goldstein's fun as always, in Plato at the Googleplex, with a fresh slant on my least favorite footnoted ancient philosopher. 
Picture Plato all of a heart- pounding sudden on an airless Athenian summer night, these words thundering in his head: Philosophy doesn't travel.
Oh yes it does. Philosophy walks

This "thundering" locution traces to the relativist anti-philosopher Stanley Fish, who'd insisted "the conclusions reached in philosophical disquisitions do not travel... into contexts that are not explicitly philosophical" (or putatively and restrictively so, like seminars, journals, and conferences).  

Now picture Goldstein's improbable book-length refutation. Her time-shifted Plato goes everywhere, talks to everyone, has no apparent use for mere seminars, journals, or conferences. She really rehabs the old boy, brings him back to life for me in a way nothing I've read in a long time has done. I'll have to consider using it in class.

Likewise for Arthur Herman's lengthy unfolding of Whitehead's famous reduction of the history of western philosophy to "a series of footnotes to Plato." And Aristotle. 

The Cave and the Light: Plato Versus Aristotle, and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization is just out in paper. It's cut from the same long Form as Goldstein's tome, and indulges the same playful spirit of "what if?" and "why not?" Of the Epicureans, Stoics, Skeptics, and Cynics Herman opines:
They were also hungry for the age's equivalent of media attention. Publicity brought them fame and students from every corner of the Greek-speaking world. They would have been as at home on Facebook or Twitter as any contemporary blogger.
And like Herman and Goldstein, they'd have been uncontained by a character limit and unconstrained by mere reality. Good for them and good for us, especially those of us who've been upbraiding ourselves for spending too much time flitting from one short perch to another and not committing to "long reads."

David Brooks says the cure for our inattention disorder is to "dive down to your obsessions six fathoms deep," like a child.

That's a little vague, but I think I know what he means. I'll think about it during my walk. If I don't get distracted.

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