Monday, January 02, 2006

philoso-fi-zation

was at a dinner party w/ some interesting friends of friends. i've always known i know very little about philosophy, but now i'm convinced i know absolutely nothing.

back when i was in college, i loved the idea of hanging out in a cafe and being immersed in a nietzche book. i even went out and bought some despite being utterly clueless and drool dazed during my 15 minutes of browsing. i assumed some nugget of enlightenment would leap out and into my brain after a half day of staring at the pages. my highschool english teacher always warned us, "read that crap while sittin' on your kitchen counter. that way, when your face smacks onto the floor, you'll be nice and awake to start that paragraph over again."

after repeated attempts at "thus spoke zarathustra", no nuggets were jumping, and the kitchen counter trick didn't help much either. while i gave up trying to read this stuff, i never gave up having the books around. i liked them on my book shelf, and on the cafe table. after all, the image of the philospher was still so exciting to me. well after the fall of communism, 6 years of happy marriage (me-thinks some of this nonsense was typical teen impress-the-girl angst) and a conversation with my friend haitham (who's 7+ years into a PhD program at the university of chicago), i can safely say, the image isn't quite what it once was.

what bugs me about this field, and similar fields, is the intentional obfuscation of delivery. this group of friends is able to explain simply just about anything i ask about. so... why the heck can't the authors? i shouldn't just pick on philosophers, i find this phenomenon all over the place. the engineering equivalent of this is writing a technical paper while unnecessarily using inanely complex mathematics to describe a relatively trivial idea with moderately interesting results.

perhaps what i should be railing on, is the intellectual inferiority complex that drives one to obfuscate ideas. i mean, if you have a good idea, wouldn't you just want to clearly explain it so people know what it is? this whole diatribe reminds me -- i read this great geek analysis of post modernism. its called how to desconstruct almost anything - my postmodern adventure by chip morningstar and you can read it HERE.

1 comment:

metalhead said...

Wow, great article. I was/am always suspicious when I read lit crit articles that sound too complicated; they lead me to think the author doesn't have much to say but by spewing forth the voluminous amounts of intellectual verbiage is just trying to cover up his own shallow position-"peaks my bogosimeter" if you will.

It's interesting to note though, that having said all this, Chip does not say this field of endeavor is without merit and that there are some pieces of actual content out there.

The same holds for philosophy, I think. "I think"-- if you think about what is important in life, if you question standards of ethics, morals, the purpose of life, God, then you are a philosopher and do know something- even if you can't translate your thoughts into an oral equivalent of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle that's missing a couple pieces. :)

What were the philosophical topics of the evening anyways?

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