The Crow and The Pitcher

The_Crow_and_the_Pitcher_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994 What is the relationship between narrative and philosophy? Can story-telling prompt us towards new ways of understanding? Or, do myths only serve to muddle an already difficult path?

French philosopher Paul Ricoeur offers one possible entryway into the above problem. The late phenomenologist suggested that separating ‘the story’ from the human experience is nearly impossible. The ideals of our myths inevitably seep into social mores and laws. Narratives help to mark the limits of human action, drawing the line between ‘heroes’ and ‘everymen.’ And, story-telling fundamentally shapes how one’s ‘history’ is remembered and re-told. In this way, Ricoeur presents the relationship between narrative and philosophy as the task of recognizing the impact of a phenomenon already-present.

Recent headlines reveal another candidate similarly influenced by the already-present role of story-telling: modern science. Inspired by one of Aesop’s fables (The Crow and the Pitcher), university scholars Christopher Bird and Nathan Emery experimented to see if the story might be empirically ‘true.’ Continue reading “The Crow and The Pitcher”

MyFriends.com

538px-Man-and-woman-icon.svgIn the Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that friendship is a necessary requisite for human ‘happiness.’  His broad description of these relationships includes friendships of utility (as between student and teacher) and of pleasure (as between lovers).  However, the ancient Greek thinker remains critically uncertain of the summit, the highest culmination, of friendship.  In fact, Aristotle claims that ‘perfect’ or ‘complete’ friendship is rare, if not impossible.  Most friendships are, therefore, as much about auxiliary benefits as about the individuals themselves.

While most would agree that friendship is a difficult matter to pin down, modern cyber-technology is pushing some to question such ‘liberal’ standards.  Archbishop Vincent Nichols recently criticized the kind of friendship promoted through ‘social networking sites’ (i.e., MySpace and Facebook).  The Catholic leader maintained that these ‘un-rounded’ communities foster ‘transient relationships’ and are a likely source of the increasing alienation and depression felt amongst today’s youth. Continue reading “MyFriends.com”

Getting Naked

Coppertone_sign_miami In ‘The Animal that Therefore I am,’ Jacques Derrida invites readers to reconsider the classical distinction between ‘animal’ and ‘human.’ His critique includes a playful account of nudity – a meditation on the experience of being naked in the presence of one’s pet. The investigation suggests that Mr. Fluffy’s ability to make me ‘feel naked’ (i.e., to ‘shame’ me) calls into question the ‘difference’ between us.

Recent headlines offer a unique twist to this dynamic. As the summer months warm, families across the States are struggling to decide how old is too old for their children to play in the nude. Justifications and concerns vary, but many mark the cut-off at the moment when childhood innocence dissolves into adult (or adult-like) awareness – when the child begins to ‘feel naked.’

And therein lies the difficulty. Some contend Continue reading “Getting Naked”

All’s Well That Ends Well

746px-Slippery_when_wet_iconBertrand Russell once suggested that Western philosophy began with Thales. His insight gains a humorous edge when juxtaposed with a popular biographical tidbit about the ancient Greek. For one day, as the story goes, Thales was so entirely absorbed with contemplating the heavens above that he fell head-long into a well directly in front of him. Continue reading “All’s Well That Ends Well”

Crabs In Love

Horseshoe_crab_pair Interpreters of Plato’s Symposium continue to disagree over the ‘theory of desire’ presented by the dialogue. Does the figure of Socrates suggest that our embodied love relationships serve as the mere tools by which we are propelled ‘upward’ to the love of higher, intelligible things (i.e., the Beautiful, a ‘God’)? Or, might the interruption within the text by the beautiful Alcibiades mark a clear re-valuation of our desirous experiences in the sensible realm? Continue reading “Crabs In Love”