Agnes Callard On ‘The Paradise Paradox’

The spectre of evil, badness and suffering.
  • Genesis: Eden, they eat the fruit, they get kicked out (current philosophy students think things get interesting when we got kicked out, they’re glad).
  • Plato’s republic is the ideal society.
  • People are not attracted to written/imagined utopias (we don’t want to live somewhere based on lies or repression).
  • But it’s not just single qualities, theres a paradox about paradise: we don’t like it.
  • What Makes a Life Significant? by William James.
  • “What human society might be” without suffering and no “dark corners”?
  • BUT: “this order is too tame”, “this atrocious harmlessness”.
  • James’ answer to why we are not satisfied with utopia is the absence of struggle and strife.
  • We can’t merely insert struggle and strife (like arbitrary competitions), we want it to be real. And not just any struggle and strife: effort for a purpose, towards a better world.
  • James feels that leisure is unsatisfying.
  • Aristotle contra James: leisure is the point of life. BUT he distinguishes leisure from simple rest and relaxation.
  • Aristotle downs simple R&R along the lines of “restaholics are addicted to rest”. Set apart from struggle and relaxation is Aristotle’s leisure, the proper use of leisure. It’s the point of life, the purpose of cities.
  • But what is leisure as leisure? Contemplation (ie. not a process like research or problem solving). When we contemplate we imitate god thinking of god.
  • Aristotle’s god outputs nothing. So why didn’t Aristotle imitate that? “Not even Aristotle understood leisure”.
  • “Struggles to improve the lot of man” are non-arbitrary, but we can’t make use of such struggles in utopia.
  • However, there are non-arbitrary struggles that aren’t oriented to construction of utopia.
  • The struggle of explaining/teaching could be an example of struggle that is not arbitrary.

My Notes:

(visual presentation: orange turtle neck over blue dress, goofy light green watch, oversized round thin framed purple glasses, girly mannerisms, eccentric graphic art decorated room, imitation-fire space heater on a pedestal / review: fun and engaging speaker)