The Philosopher’s Dream

After yet another round of head meeting wall of denial in the comment room, I am reminded of a story about a philosopher who kept having the most interesting dream. In his dream, the philosopher saw himself meeting the greatest minds of history in debate. With a single remark, he sent each of them away despondent and defeated. No matter whether they were natural law theorists, Christians, atheists, agnostics, continental, analytic, Freudians, Marxists, behaviorists, nihilists, whatever, he sent them away with his awe-inspiring single remark.

The only problem was that he would wake up each morning completely unable to remember what his atomic statement was. The greatest piece of argumentation of all-time and he couldn’t remember it!

After having the dream several more times he read that some dreamers could wake themselves long enough to take notes on their dreams before collapsing back into unconsciousness. He resolved to do so himself. He placed a pencil and notepad by his bed and spoke very sternly to himself about the need to wake up. Despite the tension caused by such rigorous concentration and self-talk, he finally managed to fall asleep.

The dream faithfully recurred. Amazingly, he managed to rise and scribble the deadly argument on the pad. As he finished his note unconsciousness descended and he immediately returned to slumber.

He awoke to the sound of his alarm clock with great expectation. He remembered having woken from his dream and having made a note. He could barely get his eyes to focus on the pad he held with shaking fingers. With great discipline he mastered himself and read the inscription only to go pale with disappointment as he read what it said:

“Well, that’s what you say. . .”

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20 thoughts on “The Philosopher’s Dream

  1. Hunter, I did have the same thought.

    There was a story by an overly brilliant sci-fi author of the 50s named Alfred Bester (who is likely lost to history) where a rich man who could curse in 7 languages was dismayed that his favorite painter had gone insane, and could no longer paint.

    Mr. Aquila discerned that Jeffrey Halcyon’s infantile fantasies were to blame, the belief that some fabulous mutant strain that made him a man among men.

    So he destroys Halcyon’s fantasies (The Last Fertile Man on Earth—ugh, doesn’t Woman #406 look a lot like # 172?; the man who figured out because of his fabulous mutant strain that the world’s computers couldn’t repel the alien invasion because 6 comes after 5, not before!, undsoweiter, también, God damn!).

    Of course, when Halcyon is healed, he still can’t paint. His infantile fantasies and belief in his fabulous mutant strain were the root of his genius.

    I dunno about anybody else, but when my psyche was (putatatively) far more infantile, I secretly suspected I might be some sort of Messiah. (Turns out I wasn’t, at least I don’t think so.) I find it difficult to believe that this suspicion is uncommon, although many still observe that I seem to be possessed of some sort of fabulous mutant strain.

    On the other hand, we may be romanticizing fabulous mutant strains, and certainly the capitalism of art highly evalues the limited supply of productive madmen. The author of Listening to Prozac, Peter D. Kramer, has just published an inquiry, Against Depression, that asks, “what if van Gogh had been on anti-depressants?”

    I caught a 1957 Bishop Sheen show the other midnight, and he urged that colleges teach (non-ab-) normal psychology too.

    I thought that was pretty cool.

  2. After a day of Tlaloc and I saying “You’re not getting it and then you’re attacking strawmen; here we’ll explain it another way” YOU claim you’re running into a brick wall?

    Oh the hubris of it all.

  3. My fabulous mutant strain told me to tell the story of the philosopher’s dream and go chat with Karnick on the phone for two hours.

  4. My mutant strain instructed me to take my 10 year old daughter to see the Willy Wonka movie. The next post up will show you just how mutated the afternoon became.

    Van Gogh? A footnote. With modern biochemistry, George III’s porphyria would have been diagnosed, his psychosis would have been cured, and we’d still be in the British commonwealth.

  5. “After yet another round of head meeting wall of denial in the comment room”

    You left out that it was you being the wall of denial and evasion while JE and I offer explanation after explanation…

  6. Baker is right. You offer explanation after explanation that indicates little more than you disagree so it can’t be so.

  7. “Baker is right. You offer explanation after explanation that indicates little more than you disagree so it can’t be so.”

    BS. Feel free to give me your objection and I’ll explain it to you. But don’t go on about how things are too ridiculous to discuss, how your point of view is self evident, and then accuse me of being in denial.

    I’m more than willing to argue for what I believe, the good faith on the other side has been lacking.

    As I said many times to beckwith if you don’t understand that’s fine, ask and I’ll do my best to explain it to you but don’t use your ignorance as a pretense for claiming I’m wrong.

  8. Okay, T, I’ll take one more shot at this.

    Yesterday, you came as close as you ever have to occupying some position that could be nailed down. “There is no foundation to personal morality, but groups must observe the rules they make.”

    Now, I think you can see that your position makes no sense whatsoever without some foundation for morality that would make it right or wrong for a group to honor the rules made by the members or for the group to give the members certain freedoms.

    Give me a better reason to respect this position than that an organization is “sick” if it doesn’t follow its own rules.

  9. “Now, I think you can see that your position makes no sense whatsoever without some foundation for morality that would make it right or wrong for a group to honor the rules made by the members or for the group to give the members certain freedoms.”

    No Hunter it doesn’t require a “foundation of morality that” blah blah blah. All it requires is a simple bit of logic:
    Organizations are not living things.

    They have no individual sentience.

    They are relationships formed by people for certain ends.

    To try and reach those ends some members of the group establish the rules and thereby the code of laws that acts as the organizations substitute for a moral code.

    Groups can exert substantially more influence than individuals in general beause of the combined ability of multiple individuals.

    As a result they are tempting targets for people to subvert toward their own ends.

    Not one of these statements so far is a moral judgement, simply a matter of observation. Now here’s the part that’s likely to trip people up:

    A corrupt organization then is one that has been subverted away from the original aims of the organization and a violation of that organizations code of laws.

    Corrupt organizations no longer serve their intended purpose.

    See it is not that a corrupt organization violates an individual moral code or some mythical moral code but that they violate their own code of laws which is their very reason to exist. Again the analogy to a person and the sickness.

    “Give me a better reason to respect this position than that an organization is “sick” if it doesn’t follow its own rules.”

    That isn’t reason enough? Don’t you have any fear of the monstrous power of the US government devoid of all restraint? Don’t you feel any responsibility for the actions carried out in your name? Again not because these are universal traits but because they are common ones in western cultures.

  10. “Thus, when you and James act as though your mere presence warrants the dropping of everything for extended argument some of us may find it irritating.”

    No one forces you to run the site, but frankly anyone who runs a forum assuming they won’t be called on their views is beyond naive.

    “In particular, the claims that other projects are not a good reason for leaving a conversation gone stale are galling.”

    It’s your definition opf “stale” that needs work. It seems to apply to any argument you can’t refute, hunter.

  11. Again, you fell right back into morality and preferring chocolate morality to vanilla morality with no reason to prefer one or the other. You keep driving the jeep up the slick, muddy hill and slide triumphantly back into the swamp. You can’t see it and I just can’t seem to help you. You are either a nihilist who doesn’t like the consequences of nihilism or a foundationalist who is unwilling to admit that he is not actually standing in midair because he doesn’t want to acknowledge the pedestal supporting him.

    In a way, it’s admirable. I’ve know a lot of smart, ultra-liberal types in my now nearly 12 years of post-secondary education, but I have yet to find one who so bravely and resiliently occupies this ground of untenable unacknowledged foundational nihilism.

  12. Oh, James. Sorry about that. I came across as dismissive to you and that was unintended. It was a bad effort to be cute while looking to finish out the Tlaloc conversation.

  13. “Again, you fell right back into morality and preferring chocolate morality to vanilla morality with no reason to prefer one or the other. You keep driving the jeep up the slick, muddy hill and slide triumphantly back into the swamp.”

    I honestly don’t even know if you are addressing me or JE here. Could you put your objections in concrete terms instead of these colorful but confusing images?

  14. That was for you, T. And I don’t think it is confusing in the least, although it might be for you in the very unique epistemological position you’ve adopted.

  15. Tlaloc writes: “A corrupt organization then is one that has been subverted away from the original aims of the organization and a violation of that organizations code of laws.

    Corrupt organizations no longer serve their intended purpose.”

    That can’t be right. If the mafia reforms, then it is “corrupt” according to this definition since it is no longer serving its intended purpose. However, if the Nazis succeed in their ends, then they are not corrupt. The problem is that an efficient achievement of corrupt ends is wrong and cannot be accounted for by a mishandling of the means.

    Corruption is more than a procedural fax paus; it is intrinsic wrongness.

  16. “That can’t be right. If the mafia reforms, then it is “corrupt” according to this definition since it is no longer serving its intended purpose.”

    Indeed it would be.

    “However, if the Nazis succeed in their ends, then they are not corrupt.”

    Correct they are not corrupt as an organization. We may of course have our personal moral judgements of their chosen aims.

    “Corruption is more than a procedural fax paus; it is intrinsic wrongness.”

    No because then I would be guilty of the kind of universal moral judgements Hunter keeps thinking I make.

  17. Seeing as I went through my philosophical education over 20 years ago, I’ll leave the debate to others. I’m past caring what T. and J.E. think, or what their moral/philisophic foundation is. And that is assuming they even have a foundation to stand on.

    I really have to wonder if people like T. and J.E. think there is anything worth defending to the point of sacrificing ones own life?

    Will they volunteer to tackle suspected suicide bombers and frisk them, so that the police aren’t in the unfortunate position of having to shoot suspected suicide bombers in the head when the suspect is not complying with orders?

    Just for point of reference, should the Congress in it’s infinite wisdom increase the maximum age for enlistment a few more years, I’ll be signing up for the National Guard, because I believe in the mission, and it is worth my sacrifice. Until then, I support our troops whole-heartedly and with little reservation. They get supplies with what capital I can spare, they get my words of encouragement, and they can rely on me to defend their good name here in the States.

    It is my greatest regret that a deeper appreciation for this country wasn’t instilled in me when I was younger. Then I might have thought to serve this great country when I was comming out of high school, rather then when our nation came under attack on 9/11.

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