Simon Critchley On Philosophy

“Take your time.”
  • The form of a philosophical question is “what is x?” What is “justice” universally? Philosophy is a matter of universal questions. “Philosophy is the education of grownups”. Philosophy must influence the wider culture and how it thinks about itself.
  • Simon Critchley ran “The Stone”, a philosophy column in the New York Times. “It’s hard to get a sense of the importance of the New York Times” as it separates “civilization from barbarism” for many.
  • At one time (an earlier era of the internet) on what was called “the website” there was a lot of freedom and we found a genuine public interest in philosophy. It didn’t matter to the readers who the writers were, it mattered the topic.
  • Philosophy is often rooted in friendship. Philosophy begins and ends with the question of “what is philosophy?” leading to accusations of navel gazing.
  • Philosophy begins in ancient Greece with Socrates who was eventually charged with impiety towards the gods and corruption of the youth. Sophists were people who thought they “knew something” but Socrates just asked them questions and exposed that they “didn’t know”.
  • Taking this view of philosophy (a Socratic one) it is deflationary.
  • Philosophers aren’t wise, philosophy is the love of wisdom not its possession.
  • Heidegger’s whole enterprise was organized around the question of being, we have lost sight of the question of being.
  • Thales was looking up so much that he fell into a well/ditch: a philosopher looks at the sky and falls in a ditch provoking laughter (a philosopher is an absent minded buffoon). Philosophy is clumsy in relation to worldly affairs.
  • The Greek water clock and the theft of time. To philosophize is to “take your time” (Wittgenstein). If we don’t take time we make ourselves small.
  • It does not occur to the philosopher to join a political club or party (Socrates).
  • The good of philosophy is to create accusations of impiety, whatever the gods are you call them into question.
  • The notion that philosophers should give policy advice is a slippery slope, philosophy is really characterized by its uselessness.
  • There is no basic agreement on any fundamental question, the point of philosophy is to prick holes.
  • Plato’s academy was private and outside the city walls.

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)