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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An interesting discussion is worth comment. I think that you should write more on this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but generally people are not enough to speak on such topics. To the next. Cheers