Monday, October 4, 2010

School For Monsters

In case you are wondering what it is like to teach philosophy to those who haven't asked to be taught, but have somehow or other stumbled across a teacher and for the moment he is more interesting to listen to than to turn away from, it's like this: I assume I'm talking to people who haven't made a profession of putting truth into words, but might know it when they hear it.

Some simple philosophy:

When we like someone, or don't like someone, we can do this for good reasons, or bad reasons. The good reasons are those that make us better, the bad reasons are those that make us worse.

Who is better? Someone who knows more, loves more, is kinder, who creates and does not destroy. If you don't agree, this is not for you. Maybe some day when you have had enough of the company of people like yourself you'll change your mind, but I can't do it for you.

If you have stayed with me, your reward is a change of subject from philosophy to sex and violence. They are the first steps, or the first mis-steps, from liking or disliking someone, to doing something about it.

But already we are back to our philosophic beginning. There is a better and worse way to our stepping out to sex and violence. The better way is to train ourselves to be attracted to what we know is good, and to hate what we know is bad. The worse way comes on its own simply by our failure to train ourselves, and is learned from the people we grow up with without special attention.

Their praise and punishment trains us to find safety in a role, and define good as what makes our role more secure. If you're American, you'll imagine the best role to be that of the billionaire, because an unlimited amount of money represents the ability to take any and all possible roles, whichever seems safest at the time.

Attraction, when guided by the need to feel safe in a social role, is confined to practical but feelingless social alliance, or pornographic imagination. Dislike takes the form of outright violence, or again, pornographic imagination. Pornography serves the imagination of both liking and disliking.

The imagined alliance with the sexual object can provide a sense of safety either by seeming to raise the social status of those with pornographic imagination, or by lowering the status of the person reduced to pornography. Both activities are however kept in the background. Pornographic fantasy meets the opposition of the American doctrine of doing, making your way. Pornography is a culpable inaction, it is that worst of all things American, it is the road to failure.

On the other hand violence is admirable. It is action, doing, going places. It protects your security, what is your own, and is by definition for you always good, however laws and other people with other security to protect try to stop you. Violence is an ideal for which you as an individual, or as a representative of your family, your community, your province or state, or your country, are at war with the rest of the world.

In both liking and disliking, in both action and imagination, people become tools to your trade of making yourself safe.

Pornography and violence, instead of - dare I say it in this company? - love and friendship. Weak words, when spoken out of turn in this school for monsters our country has become.