Delight Springs

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Big Bangs, First Causes, Bullshit, Pythagoras

Yesterday's CoPhi discussionsof Anselm's Ontology and Aquinas's First Cause were bracketed by a report on Bullshit (and Philosophy) in section 12, and on Pythagoras in 11. So, when a student in 11 (not having encountered the bullshit in 12) said his theory opposed "that Big Bang bullshit," he wasn't trying to be funny. What created our universe, then, if not a singular primordial blow-up? "The creator created it!" Duh!!

And that was his theory, an unvarnished version of Aquinas's... not quite so involved as Ann Elk's theory of the brontosaurus. But what's to insure the godliness, the omni-qualities of power, knowledge, and goodness, of the seminal creation? He didn't have a theory on that yet, he'll get back to us. Also, on how an unexplained and incomprehensible divinity is an explanatory improvement on the as-yet unexplained and incomprehensible universe as such.

The bullshit session in 12 was good. Someone asked if I'd ever bullshitted. My bullshit answer: I got through grad school, didn't I? And prelims? Everybody does it to an extent, but Harry Frankfurt's opening line - "One of the most salient features of our culture is that there is so much bullshit" - has never wrung truer than at this very moment in what can only ironically be called our cultural and political evolution. The presidential campaign has only just begun, it's gonna get thick.

Then Pythagoras, who was such a strange combination of superstitious mystic and ordered rationalist. Beyond the numbers astrology and the music of the spheres, though, he's credited with saying as many sensible things as Socrates and the rest of his successors.
  • “As long as Man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” [A pre-Singer animal liberationist]
  • “In anger we should refrain both from speech and action.” [A conciliator]
  • “Educate the children and it won't be necessary to punish the men.” [A prison reformer]
  • “A man is never as big as when he is on his knees to help a child.” [A nurturer]
  • “All is Number.” [An over-quantifier] 
  • “Do not say a little in many words, but a great deal in few!” [A born tweeter]
  • “Silence is better than unmeaning words.” [A Wittgensteinian]
  • “Declining from the public ways, walk in unfrequented paths.” [A road-less-traveled nonconformist]
Just before class I was pleased to note that my little motivational message, aimed at certain squabblers who know who they are, was picked up and amplified ("favorited") by one of my favorite Plato scholars, @mmmccabe1.
Enjoy: To all who've been stressing about exams or reports: please stop. Enjoy your education.
It's another exam day today. Should be fun. 
5:30/6:44, 63/65

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