Saturday, May 21, 2016

Linked by someone[?] on twitter. Bertram had made a comment. I replied before I saw the date.
The author is using the pain of others to extemporize on her own life. That’s what we all do when we talk about pain and suffering of others. Others’ pain is an idea. The difference between philosophers and historians or novelists is that the latter aren’t obliged by title to try to solve the problems they claim to see events exemplifying. Philosophers see themselves as the physicists of politics and culture. If you solve the math you solve the problem.

Bertram: “First, I’m sympathetic, I really am, to the idea that people should work and consume less and that we should attend more to real life quality. But this doesn’t seem very realistic in my own life for two reasons: first, even if my employer were sympathetic (unlikely) I feel very hard pressed now to produce the level of research output necessary for me to stay competitive with other academics (not just in the UK, but elsewhere). I suspect this generalizes to many people in professional jobs: we couldn’t achieve the kinds of things we want to in our careers on those kinds of hours.”

What are the contradictions of politics and career? When should we pick one over the other? I don’t have an answer. We all make choices and moralism doesn’t work. And I don’t pretend to be a physicist of moral responsibility.

Philosophers talk about ideas to avoid facing the full impact of their own choices. Propositional speech is always in the first person; other people and events are reduced to cardboard. The characters in fiction take on lives of their own, rebelling against the intentions of their makers, and a good author will work with them against him or herself. “Literary” fiction without subtext is pointless. Philosophy is “speculative” fiction, more concerned with concepts than with people, because philosophy and technocracy see generalizations as more important that specifics.

The author’s beggars are nameless. Meet your beggars, learn their names and then try to describe what you’ve learned. If you describe it well enough it’ll be art, even if it’s not fiction, because you will have communicated more than you intended, about your curiosity, and your fear. That’s the beginning of politics

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