Thursday, November 12

Speech Enjoyed By All

Adam Liptak, "From Justice Kennedy, a Lesson in Journalism". November 11

PAPERWORK. Groucho Engels, in comments:
How exactly is metaphysics to blame for anything? Metaphysics is simply the realm of inquiry related to the non(or not currently)-emperically verifiable aspects fo the universe like free will, physicalism versus dualism, etc. It's very similar and related to epistemology and ontology.

Unless you are taking some hard-line materialist or positivist stance that contends to reject the very existence of these issues then your use of the word metaphysics makes no sense.

Metaphysics is not a synonym for religion or spirituality or the supernaturalism. Metaphysics is not heir to murderousness any more than the scientific method is heir to it for it's role in being used by those who invented the atomic bomb.

Please either show me what accepted definition of metaphysics you are basing your use of the word on or tell me what you meant by using the term and we can look for a more accurate word.

Okay, first, I'm a guy. A dude. A schlub. And I happen to have a blog, the way some people have bulimia. It's not much of a gig, but it's at least as lucrative as the one it replaced: smoking a joint, going to the Mall, and telling passing women what I thought of their tits. I am not responsible for anything I say. I realize this flies in the face of that accepted, Voltaire-like dedication to public discourse an' all, but there you are. I don't defend the things I say, let alone your right to object to 'em.

However, I do promise not to trip you just because no one's looking. Which, I think you'll agree, at least distinguishes me from 98% of the people who want you to believe they're speaking to you seriously.

The serious answer to your inquiry is one I'd rather not give, but here it is: I was using "metaphysics" in the sense in which David Brooks used it first:
But unlike the other animals, people do have a drive to seek coherence and meaning. We have a need to tell ourselves stories that explain it all. We use these stories to supply the metaphysics, without which life seems pointless and empty.

which, I think, carries all the (mis)connotations you object to. Brooks' intent was to make religious belief a biological imperative. He wasn't including the search for Beauty, or Self, or Parking. He meant religion, and specifically organized religion. My intent was to be funny. I was mocking Brooks. I thought that was clear.

Also not funny, but also true: I took exactly two weeks of Philosophy in college. It was my first semester and, unless I'm conflating it with some other class I couldn't wait to drop, it was held that hot August in Ernie Pyle Hall, which was originally built as a storage shed. I'm not making that up. Tiny row of windows at the very top of the back wall, and the Professor was a droner. Worse yet, to my eighteen-year-old mind, he started the thing off with four sessions on Alfred Jules Ayer. I mention this because, like a lot of idiots, I would realize fifteen years or so later that I was sneering when I should have been listening. I was in fact some species of intuitive logical positivist, and as jumbled up as that phrase implies. So, yes, I do reject the idea that there's any meaning in that parenthetical "not currently", though I would not go so far as to deny the non-existence of non-things.

As though banging a drum in search of a fugitive!


There's a lot of other stuff wrong with me, too. For instance, I read Gregg Easterbrook's football column, or football * column, as last year he absolved himself of the responsibility of watching all the games, and this year he's absolved himself from writing about football. But he does go on about minor civil servants and their majorly-expensive tax-supported bodyguards, which is one of the things that crossed my mind when I read this:
WASHINGTON — The school newspaper at Dalton, a private school in Manhattan, contained a cryptic note from its editors last Friday.

“We are not able to cover the recent visit by a Supreme Court justice due to numerous publication constraints,” the note said. It promised “an explanation of the regrettable delay” in the next issue.

It turns out that Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, widely regarded as one of the court’s most vigilant defenders of First Amendment values, had provided the newspaper, The Daltonian, with a lesson about journalistic independence. Justice Kennedy’s office had insisted on approving any article about a talk he gave to an assembly of Dalton high school students on Oct. 28.

Okay, so the bodyguard thing, or more accurately a tangent of the bodyguard thing, actually came in around third or fourth, since my first thought was, "I wonder if the FBI Light Opera Society** seamstress has already stitched up a closetful of Kennedy's self-designed Rehnquistian Mikado Impeachment Get-ups, or if he's still in the sketching phase?" Followed by the idea that if we could just combine America's Next Top Designer Whose Flakiness or Poor Impulse Control Titillates the Nation's Terminally Teevee Captive with next year's Docket we'd have ratings dynamite with little or no discernible effect on the Court's actions.

The bodyguard thing, really, is just that I believe we need to take advantage of modern technology, not just to get to know the quote real end quote people who govern with our consent (Kidding, kidding!), but to more closely approximate the will of the Founders, who intended our choices to be made more manageable, in their case by limiting the gender, color, and net worth of the electable. I have, on this very internet, suggested that we'd be better off if once a year every opinionator using the public airwaves and making more than the $250 K per Charlie Gibson thinks puts you squarely in the middle-class had to open his or her primary home to the cameras, with all the Help lined up, in their required livery, and, for the sake of time constraints, we truncated a complete tour of the place by just looking into every bathroom. With a handy numerical counter in the lower right corner. I think political commentary would be improved overnight.

So, too: this view of Justice Kennedy's Roman gravitas and Hahvahd Law grandeur should not be limited to a few staff members at some $33,000/yr. Ivy-pipeline academy and the two- or three-hundred of our fellow citizens who still read newspapers. No. (And th' fuck does Justice Kennedy even have to ask that sort of company for the osculum infamum of Rank?)
Ellen Stein, Dalton’s head of school, defended the practice in a telephone interview. “This allows student publications to be correct,” she said. “I think fact checking is a good thing.”

And that barking dog belonged in the cornfield. He's happier there.

Anyway, I'm just spit-ballin' here, but there's this: everybody hates the droning, interminable, not to mention unfair questioning the Other Side subjects his side's Court nominees to. How 'bout we leave it to a vote of the people who've waited on them at table, or shined their shoes in the clubhouse over the past year or two? How much worse could it get?

* Graphic element, not a footnote.

** That's two. Did you spot the other one?


Kathy said...

"...Metaphysics is not heir to murderousness any more than the scientific method is heir to it for it's role in being used by those who invented the atomic bomb..."

Well, I think Science IS heir (?) to its role in inventing the atom bomb. Physicists and others involved in the production of A-Bombs should hang their heads in shame, forever-and-ever. So there.

Groucho Engels said...

Thanks for the prompt and bombastic reply.

I apparently did gloss over Brooks' use of the term metaphysics here. Your usage makes sense here (though I disagree with some of your points)and my bewilderment is misplaced and would be better directed at Mr. Brooks

I will say that my attempted description of metaphysics falls short due to time and limited mental faculty but my parenthetical use of "or not currently" was not an attempt to weasel into empiricism but rather try and present a definition that included differing views of metaphysics.

My personal view is that science is descriptive and that metaphysics is the study of that which science cannot. I however loved philosophy in college and as you can probably tell from my own self-important dronings.

Thanks again for the reply.

David said...

That was gracious, Groucho.

I love this blog.

Doghouse Riley said...

It was. Was I mean? (Bombastic can't be helped, but condescension wasn't intended.) I'm serious--I do have a blog the way other people have bulimia. I generally don't get to comments until that evening, or the next day, by email, and if something requires an answer it'll often find itself in the next day's post. I usually reiterate that when I do so. I have no social skills, and age isn't improving matters.

I didn't want to talk about metaphysics here, I don't want to talk about metaphysics here, for the same reason I didn't want to talk about the death of Claude Lévi-Strauss. My poor brain won't handle it, I can't write and be reasonable at the same time, and I don't have the time to be thoughtful. At the same time I didn't want to simply point out that I was using Brooks' words against him. I thought the comment deserved a reply. If it came across as cranky, well, consider the source, and kindly give me credit for tying.

Groucho Engels said...

Bombastic was the wrong word. Or, more accurately, I was using it in the wrong.

I didn't take your response as cranky or condescending or pompous. On the contrary, I meant to say that it was showy and flashy and I was entertained.

Perhaps I should shut my mouth before I murder the english language any further than I already have.

Augustus Mulliner said...

Re the bathroom inventory: Between you and Charlie Pierce, I can almost get through most days without screaming. Thanks, Dog.

Brendan said...

Was the graphical element following Vonnegut? 'Cause I couldn't come up with anything else, given Easterbrook.


Anonymous said...

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