Thursday, September 25, 2008

Just Thinking

I tend to find connections between the classes I am taking (and have taken previously), but this semester, I have two that dovetail very clearly and directly. One is The Problem of God, my second theology course in the core curriculum, and the other is The Philosophy of Nature, which fulfills both my core curriculum and my "I heart Prof. Flynn" curriculum. Both deal with nature and how it works, though obviously the courses approach the topic in keeping with their repsective disciplines (theology and philosophy).

I have kind of a hard time with the Problem of God, because I feel somewhat pressured to conclude that God just made certain things work that way and that's all there is to it. The professor stresses the importance of consideration in this regard, but for whatever reason, I am not sure I am comfortable with saying "yep, God did it" and leaving it at that. I think the reasons I am uncomfortable with the concept is twofold - first, the technological advances of this past century alone have made it possible for us to see, know and do things that would never have been thought possible in the dawn of human civilization, and these technologies progress every day, and second, I personally consider God as more of a moral specialist, a kind of force that ensures that there are consequences for poor behavior and a guiding light that shows us how to live a good life. This is not to say that I am 100% against the idea of creation, but I do have some trouble with the idea of an intangible, superterrestrial being just magically creating the Earth and all the detail therein. I suppose that the best way to explain it is to say that because I don't know what the extent of human technology is or will be, I am not ready to accept the creative God wholeheartedly. It's kind of my version of know how they say that the human mind can't comprehend the magnitude of space? I kind of can't wrap my mind around the idea of an omniscient being making the Earth out of nothing. As we know, however, I like having answers to things...this is why I had such issues with the ConLaw book I had last semester; Posner kept going back and forth and back and forth without ever taking a solid stand (on issues, at least), and I just wanted to call him up and be like "dude, you are equivocating and I find that unacceptable." The idea of there being a limit to knowledge is something that makes me very sad and nervous, so maybe my whole issue with this is just an advanced form of denial.

So okay blah blah, whatever Josie, one of the terms that has come up in both classes is the Greek concept of techne, or craft. You sometimes also hear it described as art. Basically, we're talking about making things with your hands. In the Philosophy of Nature, we're still picking apart Aristotle's Physics and discussing the levels of knowledge, but in Problem of God, we have talked about how our current society has sort of abandoned the techne variety of knowledge. This is pretty much inarguable...we live in an extremely disposable society (warning: link must be taken with a grain of salt, but overall, it's good), and when you do take the time out to do some kind of handcraft, it's a big special deal, an interesting hobby to talk about at cocktail parties. The professor asked if anyone knit in the class, so I raised my hand, and he had some questions about how long it took to knit a sweater, etc.

One of the things that I thought about from that point was the fact that you have to think a whole hell of a lot less when you just buy a sweater from the store. I mean, yeah, you need to think about what a given sweater could go with in your wardrobe, whether you like what it's made of, etc. But when you make a sweater, you need to decide what yarn you want to use, how much you need, what you want it to look like, what weight of yarn you need to conceptualize exactly what you need, without guideline. It's not picking between the green one and the purple's considering what you really want. For the most part, we don't do that any more. We don't consider what we want to achieve, from nothing to completion.

I wonder what the political effect of this is (oh come on now, you knew it was going there). I believe that a lot of our political troubles of late stem from sheer laziness and misinformation. As accurate information becomes more and more obfuscated in the media, to say nothing of being consumed by non-news like celebrity sightings and even superficial analysis OF politics like the obsession over John Edwards' hair, etc., it begins to require more work to figure out what exactly is going on. Besides that situation in so-called "traditional" media, the internet has exploded, awash in opinion that may or may not be backed up by fact. It now takes significantly more work to participate in the political system that we are theoretically in charge of, and at the same time, technology has evolved to a point that there's very little you have to do if you don't want to.

If you want to be smart, you need to think. This doesn't mean you need to be thinking about advanced philosophical concepts all the time, but rather to just live a life fully considered. Think about your actions, your words, your interaction with all aspects of the world and about who you are. At some point in history, this mental workout of considering everything around you could have begun with a sweater...thinking about what you wanted, designing it from scratch. If we don't contemplate our sweaters, do we then start to not worry about other things? It could be kind of a long shot, but I don't think it's necessarily without some weight. We don't have to think, and frankly, sometimes thinking is terrifying. I would rather not read books like Future Jihad. I would rather not watch news reports about shootings in Pakistan and think about what they could mean for the US. But if I don't, am I being a responsible citizen of the world? If I don't think about the revolting state of the welfare system or US military policy, am I being a good American citizen? Actions have to start as thoughts. If we aren't thinking, how can we act? How can we take part in the world around us? And how do we communicate and interact with people who do?

1 comment:

  1. And not thinking is the biggest problem I have with this current administration, which resurrected anti-intellectualism in this country. We don't value intelligent people - we value strippers, actors/actresses and fucking reality television "stars." What about scientists and researchers, the people who work their asses off to LEARN? What happened to the pursuit of knowledge? This whole thing pisses me right off.