Yeah, there are thousands of people out there who tolerate everything except intolerance, who want their kids to be anything but republicans--and they are all now licking our wounds and asking each other, how, since we're obviously right about everything, could we have lost an election? NPR is such dark comedy these days--Neil Conan and others inviting in these upper-echelon evangelicals, asking them their opinions, challenging others to respond to the challenge--it's hilarious. Funny times. It's enough to get one interested in politics.Blosser:
Well, the blind spot in many of these people who, as you say, "tolerate everything except intolerance," is that they are themselves extremely intolerant of those they disagree with, sometimes to a point bordering on fanaticism. Intolerance of some things may be a function of anyone's thinking he's right about anything; but what heightens the irony with the people you describe is that they're often found among the ranks of those touting the celebration of every kind of "diversity," as long as it doesn't have anything to do with the cold, wet blanket of Christianity.Colleague:
You always forget that I'm not a philosopher--I just play one on TV. I don't use terms with a huge degree of accuracy sometimes, though I always try to, and so I don't know what I meant by "faith" in my last. But Augustine says in On Christian Doctrine that "the life of the speaker has greater force to make him persuasive than the grandeur of his eloquence, however great that may be" (IV.59). What I find that that I am moved and persuaded when people are willing to be open and truthful, not about their truths, which we all have and behind which we all hide, but about their emotions. I don't think most of us even have direct access to our emotions--I know I don't most of the time. And when I meet someone who does, I am often persuaded--not on the basis of shared assumptions, which I thought was meant by cogency.Blosser:
Oh, I don't think for a moment that you merely a TV philosopher. You can't pull that one over on me. I know you're actually a philosopher traveling in the disguise of an English professor. But anyway, you do make a nice point from St. Augustine's On Christian Doctrine. And I do agree with the old saw that one ought to "practice what he preaches." As. St. Francis of Assisi once declared: "Preach at all times. Use words if necessary!" All children are sensitive from their tenderest years, of course, to any discrepancies between what their parents say and do. Which doesn't make me think for a moment that what one says is unimportant: it had just better be backed up by a consistent integrity of life.Colleague:
The issue of emotions, in my opinion, is a mixed bag. Therapists and women often point out that men aren't good at talking about their emotions, and I think this is especially true of "nordic"-type men from Scandanavian or Teutonic backgrounds, like the groom in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" [Amazon.com DVD link]. I think it's probably less true of the Mediterranian and Latino types of men who wear their emotions on their shirt-sleeves. I think we nordic types of men often don't even know what emotions we're feeling. We have to sensitize ourselves to feel what we're feeling, oddly enough. On the other hand, I don't think of emotions as an alternative to truth. I don't think you were saying that they are, but only that an emotional connection between people is indispensable. Who wants to be "talked AT"? That shows no respect. Where I think some people may be led astray, though, is in thinking that emotions are somehow a substitute for truth. For example, if I find myself emotionally infatuated with a woman other than my wife, I might tell myself: "I've got to be honest with myself and with my feelings. I'm in love! I can't help myself!" But here I would be ignoring the fact that I had made (however tacitly) a decision to allow myself to indulge in feelings for someone in direct infidelity to my wife. Unless a human being is an animal unable to make and keep promises, this would be dishonest behavior. Furthermore, I would likely also have feelings of affection for my wife. So which feelings are the "true me"? That's something I have to decide on the basis of what kind of person I want to be: do I want to be a person who keeps his promises and makes love work, or a person at the mercy of whatever emotions and inclinations may come his way?
... As to Lacan, I'm certainly hoping the students will do more than cite him. I've never done this course this way before, so I don't know what they'll do. But one can distinguish metonymic from metaphoric thinking anywhere, whether it be in the thought process of a character, the relation between images in a work, the process of reading, or just in life. It's all very practical. Where it becomes complex and interesting is when Lacan associates metonymy with desire and metaphor with symptom. Since Silas had chosen to go to a gay bar and write about it, we talked last night about the limp wrist thing. Is that a symptom of homosexuality, in which case it would have a metaphoric relation, or something arbitrarily associated with it--in which case it is something one can play with? All the authors we have been studying seem to think that the metonymical way of thinking is simply better than the metaphorical--even Jakobson, who says that something is poetical because of the material relations between the signifiers in contiguity and sequence, not because the words mean things, refer to great truths, etc. Which I think is a little simplistic. But there are metonymies and metaphors everywhere, and they're fun to read.Blosser:
So when our college administration issues a policy statement we might say "Linberger has spoken" and that would be a 'metonymy', and if their policy was particularly ill-though-through we might say "The administration's policy was lame" and that would be a 'metaphor', something like that? Why do the authors you've been studying seem to think the metonymical way of thinking and speaking is somehow better?Colleague:
I share your skepticism about applications of relativity theory at the macro level, where things are obviously not relative at all. And also the Bloom quote--I think it's true that most students at least say that truth is relative. They say it because they have been taught it in high school, I imagine, and they were taught it to combat various forms of prejudice. But I don't think most of them really believe truth is relative--they are just surprised to find teachers, in college, who don't believe it.Blosser:
I like your description of the phenomenon. I wonder, though, whether there isn't an inadvertent duplicity at work, not only among the students entering college but even among many professors, who often profess a relativistic outlook disdainful of any absolutes ("Whatever floats your boat," "Different strokes for different folks," etc.) while selectively adhering to absolute principles and values when it's convenient. For example, I can easily imagine a classroom of students professing their disbelief in any objective absolutes, yet inconsistently appealing to the absolute value of justice were I, their professor, to arbirarily flunk all of them. "That's not fair!" they would protest. But what is "fairness" if all values are subjective and personal and relative?Colleague:
I've not read [Simone de] Beauvoir (pictured right), but I've heard of her argument that someone women are politically obliged to not be stay-at-home moms. Do you think my students' notion that that's what all feminists think comes from their having read Beauvoir or having spoken with people who have? I doubt it. Maybe very indirectly. I bet you that people who say this have never spoken with a feminist who holds that opinion. And I bet that very few people who identify as feminists do hold that opinion. The thing most feminists want, I think, is that there be laws prohibiting men from hitting or raping women and that these laws be enforceable. But I was talking with a young woman who volunteers at the rape crisis center and is somewhat of an activist--I called her a feminist, and she balked, as if that were some sort of insult. Very odd. We like our ghosts better--they walk around in our brains, doing the sort of things we expect them to, doo-doo-doo-toot doo, and everything's fine, and then you have a real experience in the world and the ghosts get mad.Blosser:
Feminists come in different varieties. In one sense of the word I would call Pope John Paul II or myself a feminist, though you would smile at that. If the good of women is what is wanted, we would certainly want to champion that.
I've heard of such distinctions as these: 'equity feminists', who want equal wages for equal work; and 'gender feminists', like Mary Daly (pictured left), who want to eliminate males from the gene pool or eliminate gender difference altogether. The majority of women in the States, I agree with you, would certainly not want to take away the right of any woman to be a mother and wife and homemaker, if that was her choice. But that's not the view that animates the more radical feminists. Most radical feminists loathe and despise this choice and wouldn't hear of permitting it if they could have their way. They would derisively dismiss the feminism of a Christina Hoff Sommers or even the lesbian Camille Paglia (pictured right), who probably scares the hell out of them. But let them speak in their own fevered words:
- "[A]s long as the family and the myth of the family and the myth of maternity and the maternal instinct are not destroyed, women will still be oppressed.... No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction." ~ Simone de Beauvoir, "Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma," Saturday Review, June 14, 1975.
- "A parasite sucking out the living strength of another organism...the [housewife's] labor does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable.... [W]oman's work within the home [is] not directly useful to society, produces nothing. [The housewife] is subordinate, secondary, parasitic. It is for their common welfare that the situation must be altered by prohibiting marriage as a 'career' for woman." ~ Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949.
- "[Housewives] are mindless and thing-hungry...not people. [Housework] is peculiarly suited to the capacities of feeble-minded girls. [It] arrests their development at an infantile level, short of personal identity with an inevitably weak core of self.... [Housewives] are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps. [The] conditions which destroyed the human identity of so many prisoners were not the torture and brutality, but conditions similar to those which destroy the identity of the American housewife." ~ Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, 1963.
- "[Housewives] are dependent creatures who are still children...parasites." ~ Gloria Steinem, "What It Would Be Like If Women Win," Time, August 31, 1970.
- "Feminism was profoundly opposed to traditional conceptions of how families should be organized, [since] the very existence of full-time homemakers was incompatible with the women's movement.... [I]f even 10 percent of American women remain full-time homemakers, this will reinforce traditional views of what women ought to do and encourage other women to become full-time homemakers at least while their children are very young.... If women disproportionately take time off from their careers to have children, or if they work less hard than men at their careers while their children are young, this will put them at a competitive disadvantage vis-a-vis men, particularly men whose wives do all the homemaking and child care.... This means that no matter how any individual feminist might feel about child care and housework, the movement as a whole had reasons to discourage full-time homemaking." ~ Jane J. Mansbridge, Why We Lost the ERA, 1986.