Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Guys At The Cafe

   - Look, just let me finish writing this paragraph and I'll answer.
- You're disrespectful. I invited you to sit down at my table, and this is how you behave.
- I sat here because there is no where else to sit.
- You're not even ordering anything. If it were not for me they'd tell you to leave.
- Do you think so?
- I want you to leave.
- But you see, I am not leaving. I'm continuing to move my fingers over the keyboard. You have two choices, yourself physically throw me out, or ask the cafe to tell me to leave.
- What is so important about what you are writing? You think you're a philosopher but you can't be if you are brutal and mistreat people.
- I don't think I'm a philosopher. What I'm doing now is writing to a philosopher.
- Who?
- Noam Chomsky.
- The famous hater of Israel.
- Hater of the Israeli government.
- What's the difference?
- He doesn't hate people. He's a philosopher. He thinks the Isreali government is bad for the same kind of reasons he thinks the American government is bad.
- What?
- Policies of seeking power used mainly in the interests of wealthy.
- Oh, that's boring.
- Fine, let me finish.
- Why are you writing to him?
- After I wrote a story about consciousness and computers I saw a video of a lecture he gave on the subject of mind and body, and thought I'd send him the story. He answered my email almost immediately.
- What did he say?
- He was polite. But he couldn't understand what I meant.
- What did you say?
- I'm trying to get him to understand. Can I finish?
- You'll never succeed.
- How can you say that? Do you know anything about the subject?
- I know everyone has their own view.
- Relativism! The most boring idea in the world.
- You're calling me boring now. I'm entitled to my view like everyone else.
- Sure. But you are not entitled to tell it to me.
- You're close-minded. A fanatic, like the religious fundamentalists. I understand why the philosopher doesn't like you.
- He and I are strangers. He doesn't understand because he isn't trying.
- Why isn't he trying?
- He's decided paying more attention to me isn't likely to pay off. It's not unreasonable.
- You think what you write isn't worth paying attention to?
- I said it might seem that way to him.
- Why?
- Because I'm following a tradition he's not familiar with.
- What tradition?
- Will you let me finish writing this paragraph?
- What are you saying?
- I'm proposing an old idea, that whether the world seems to you to be a place made up of physical things like tables and cups or a place filled with mental things like being inhospitable depends on how you are living your life.
- If it's an old idea why are you repeating it?
- I tried to formalize it.
- What do you mean?
- Model different relations of self and world, allowing experiments to test whether it is true.
- How can a model be true? I don't understand. What kind of experiments?
- Philosophical experiments. Ask people questions which require ethical judgement to answer, and see if people looking at the world in different ways answer differently.
- Even if they do, it just means people are different.
- Different ethically.
- Which is only a matter of upbringing and genetics.
- The philosopher I am trying to write to is famous for defending a theory that it impossible for us to learn languages without having an inborn model, a tool for learning language.
- That's what I said. I was born one way, you another.
- Except we both and the rest of the world too use the same tool, which makes us see the world in some ways the same.
- I don't believe it.
- Fine! Let me finish.
- You think you are so important. No one cares about you or what you think. You've told me yourself.
- Then you shouldn't care either.
- I want to be respected. I'm a human being.
- You just told me human beings have nothing in common. What does anyone owe anyone else who has no connection to him? You see? People who don't look for truth aren't consistent with themselves, and can't communicate with anyone else. Communication is not "sharing" ideas but coming to agreement about them, and people who don't believe in agreement can't do that.
- That's what you say. What all fanatics say. You have to agree with them.
- You don't have to agree with me. You don't have to talk with me. But if you do, and you think I am wrong, and want me to listen to what you think, you have to show me I am wrong.
- But you say the philosopher you are writing to won't do that either. He doesn't think you are worth understanding. You said that yourself.
- I'm trying anyway.
- But you should try to understand me, not a stranger you are emailing in a different country.
- I do understand you. You are a human being, and also a relativist. I respect the human being, but I know from long experience talking with relativists is a waste of time.
- The philosopher thinks the same thing about you.
- Yes. He thinks I don't know anything of interest to him, just like I think you don't know anything of interest to me.
- Then why are you writing to him?
- Because he is answering. Let me finish, and we'll talk.
- I'm answering. You're writing to him because he's famous and won't talk to me because I'm not.
- I'm writing to the philosopher, even though he doesn't understand me, and doesn't think I am worth trying to understand, because he believes in understanding, and you don't.
- What difference does it make if he doesn't understand you?
- Because it isn't necessary that he understands me.
- You're a hypocrite. You said you won't talk to me because I can't understand you.
- I said you don't try.
- But the philosopher isn't trying either.
- But he is trying to get me to understand him, and that helps me express my own ideas.
- Express your ideas to someone who isn't interested.
- That's right. But it doesn't matter.
- Why doesn't it matter?
- Because there is always someone else who might understand, and I want to be ready.
- That's why you are writing? To make yourself into someone interesting?
- Yes.
- Not to the person you are communicating with?
- Not necessarily.
- So why don't you talk with me?
- What do you think I'm doing?