Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Consolation of Philosophy, V.E. Watts Introduction, Part 2

     Well, I've been looking more at Watts' introduction. It looks like he's doing a very good job summarizing Boethius' work. The problem is that Boethius combines two traditions I almost entirely reject: Neoplatonism and Christianity. They've made for some nice poetry and art, but they ultimately do not yield credible consolation for me. I'm going to continue and read the book anyway, pointing out what I think is interesting, but I don't anticipate being consoled by it in any way. Watts basically admits that the modern reader would find a lot of Boethius' arguments unsatisfactory. It's too bad, but there it is.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Consolation of Philosophy, Introduction by V.E. Watts part 1

     It appears this introduction was written in the year of my birth, 1967. Watts mentions the obvious importance of the goddess 'Fortuna' in the Consolation and the rest of the middle ages. I know in The Inferno, Virgil talks about 'fortune' as some kind of sub-diety that has control over the fortunes of mortals. We change places with one another in 'rapid permutation'(The Pinsky Translation).  Too often, Virgil says, Fortune is blamed when she should be thanked. Throughout the middle ages and Renaissance Fortune recurs, specifically the since debased 'Wheel of Fortune'. There's a famous line in Hamlet when he's talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern where they claim to be in the 'mid' section of fortune, you know, a typical renaissance bawdy reference.
     Boethius had an ambitious plan to translate all of Aristotle and Plato into Latin, but you know, he was executed before he could finish the Plato part -- easy come easy go. Joking aside, it was through Boethius that Aristotle survived in the West. Also, the big debates between the nominalists and realists in the middle ages come from Boethius' commentary on Porphyry
He also set the agenda for what became the forms of medieval education, giving us the term 'quadrivium'.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Consolation of Philosophy, by Boethius

     Well, here's a huge, glaring gap in my education.  That's right, I've never read this book. So, I will attempt to read the copy that's been sitting on the shelf for a really long time. I'll start out by reading the introduction. I've read a lot of philosophy in my time, much of it worthless. By popular acclaim this is one of the most worthwhile books in all of Western letters and I've never read it. We'll see if I can make it through it. I'll try to get the introduction by V.E. Watts next time.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Rebel, Last Entry, Because I'm a Loser

     I often say to people that I'm fortunate that I've failed in a lot of places because I would be stuck there if I'd succeeded. You know, I failed miserably in middle school and fitting in with the kids in my old neighborhood, so that worked out well for me. If I'd succeeded there I'd be dipping 'baccr and listening to that idiot Ted Nugent(and perhaps pretending my face is a Maserati) as I write. My middle school teachers were just about as stupid as the neighborhood thugs they were prepping for today's "mills and processing facilities"(line taken from Superintendent Chalmers). At the time I saw myself as a rebel, a wimpy rebel, but a rebel nonetheless.
      Other people rebel in the sense of rising up. And it makes sense for many people to do so. As for me, I'm a poser. When I acted like a rebel it was because I knew I was not going to succeed according to the rules, so... If you real rebels are out there trying to bring about the end of history, I'm pretty sure I'm part of the problem. Sorry.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Rebel, Entry 9, Hegel, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

     This is the kind of combination you'll only find on my blog, congratulations. Camus launches into a summary of Hegel's Phenomenology and the history of consciousness through the development of mutual recognition of humanity. First there is the Master/Slave relation, then there's penitent/God, then there's citizen/citizen, etc... History ends with the full recognition of humanity.  Our recognition of ourselves as human is dependent on the recognition we get from others. History, up through Hegel's time(corresponding to the era of Napoleon), is an evolution of self-consciousness as the transcendental Idea unfolds.
     Left-wing Hegelians, such as Marx, materialize this, leading to the workers' revolution. For the Hegelians, rebellion is part of the divine development; I should think that for orthodox Hegelians no rebel, anarchist or otherwise, does anything other than forward this development. For Marxists, there can be counter-revolutionaries who have to be eliminated. The confidence of the Marxist is that ultimately these counter-revolutionaries will be destroyed by the necessary logic of history.
     Philosophy of History, in these postmodern days, perhaps has no meaning. Perhaps 'History' is over. There is no belief we are progressing to any ultimate goal. I think the Hegelians, left and right, are all wet. I also think the postmoderns are all wet. In the Derridean sense I am preferring the 'dry' over the 'wet' in the wet/dry dualism; so take that you deconstructionists. I'm just a logocentric anti-wettist monster to you all; well, you can cram it, smarty-pants(all right, pants made me think of Claude Levi-Strauss and 'The Raw and the Cooked':
Happy now?!)
     Well, where does that leave me? Us? Well, you know, in Star Trek they don't even use money. We imagine a galaxy where all our social ills are solved. Starfleet Academy -- how does this rate against Plato's Academy?  In the Star Trek universe, it's all dry. Somehow we've even managed to break the speed of light travel in time, etc...
     I've already, many moons ago, posted on cyberpunk and postcyberpunk. The real question is, is the future like Bladerunner or like Star Trek? How are these pictures related to the Philosophy of History? Some Science Fiction worries about us becoming less than human, more than human, other than human, transhuman. What kind of recognition is there when we become cyborgs? What would Hegel think of that? Is Hegel even relevant?
     There is, before Star Trek, assumed a history that leads up to a kind of utopic world centered on San Francisco. Somehow the dialectic succeeds beyond anyone's wildest imagination, at least in Star Trek IV. The movie goes back to 1986, when I was 19, 'a primitive, paranoid culture'. They come back and save the whales. Science Fiction has the luxury of not explaining how we end up in a classless society where they don't use money(though I assume there's prestige in getting into Starfleet Academy; I don't know what kind of proletariate there is in the United Federation, though obviously racism has been replaced by a speciesist hatred of Klingons, until the Next Generation.)
     True, the other Star Trek movies are less utopic than IV; there are plenty of things wrong in the Star Trek universe. But the point of IV is that there is hope that our current problems can be solved and that our descendants can inhabit a realm where it has all been solved, somehow. But it's the somehow that's still the problem in 2013. Roddenberry was evidently quite the atheist, humanist type; it is unclear to me that the humanist utopia is the future. I've ordered some biographies of him so I'll have some more to say about him in later posts.