Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Philosopher's Nonsense

I've talked before about an experiential approach to philosophy, especially one that leaves the isolation of academe or the isolated mountaintop of Zarathustra and interacts with everyday people in real situations.

There's quite a few people who, given the choice, would prefer not to get involved in such discussions. They feel such things are over their heads, or too abstract, or have no connection to the really real world. Others used to do that kind of thing in college, but they're all grown up now.

Such people are hard to draw into conversation, but sometimes nonsense works, especially the right kind of nonsense. Nonsense, despite its sometimes provocative nature, is safe. No one can laugh at you if you venture an opinion on nonsense, and no one can prove you wrong.

One question that sometimes comes up is, “If you were to make a clone of yourself, and then have intimate relations with that clone, would it be incest and masturbation?” Nonsense, right?


It turns out that this conversation can head into interesting avenues. One that is often unspoken but pertinent is the idea that the labels we use affect the way we think about things. Masturbation has become more or less acceptable, as long as it's done in private and not talked about much; incest is considered squicky in most cultures and a thing not to be done. So if clone sex is masturbation, it's not to be discussed, but probably okay when done in private. If it's incest, then it's a Bad Thing. Two labels, same act, different responses.

As a discussion gets further into it, other interesting aspects and question pop up. Issues of agency, free will, and responsibility. Dominant-submissive relationships and sexual power dynamics. The boundary conditions of personhood and individuality. All of these have real world implications (try having the right-to-choose/right-to-life debate or one on euthanasia without at least touching on issues of personhood, or without considering agency and the lack thereof), and probably ought to be discussed by everyday people.

So my philosophizing friends, fear not nonsense!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Buna seara si la revedere

“Welcome to the world behind [her] eyes.” - Rotersand

This past Saturday, I took part in an experiential art piece. I met someone, fell in love, and lost her. All in the space of five hours. And I never knew her name.

“Typical one night stand?

No, not quite. It wasn't just about physical attraction. Or mindless, no-consequences rutting. Nor was it about 'another notch in my belt.'

Nor was I deluded somehow as to what was going on. I knew from the very beginning that she was leaving, just as she knew. Neither of us was under the misapprehension that we were beginning something that would last longer than the moonlight.

Indeed, it was a celebration of the transitory nature of reality. A penetration of the illusion of permanence. We met, knew one another, and parted ways in a way with no preconceptions of 'forever'.

All too often, we become preoccupied with the future. We assume the choices we make will create some sort of permanent change, and we feel as though we have to accept those consequences. We assume that we will be irrevocably changing state (and, in a way, we are, of course). “I can't have you in my life right now.” “What does this mean?” “Where are we going?” “Will I get hurt?”

“Will I get hurt?” Yes, it was bittersweet to see her leave. Yes, in a way, I will always love her. But pain is not to be afraid of. Losing is not the end of everything. We will both go on. Cats learn to always fall on their feet; as a consequence, they are fearless about walking a precarious path in high places. Sometimes, as Shinto teaches, losing and the passing away of the present is beautiful.

“Welcome to a land that knows goodbye.” - Rotersand