PW 5-9 (A bonus chapter this week, to capture J-J Rousseau in both our texts)
1. What do long days of slow walking do for you, according to Gros?
2. What did Rimbaud need, to walk and make progress?
3. How do walkers "possess" the world?
4. What is "chatter," and what does it do?
5. In his later years what was Rousseau walking to find?
- Do you agree that slowing down actually stretches and expands your perception of time? If you could, would you throw away all your clocks? Is the constant monitoring of ticking time one of civilization's great boons or greater disasters? Or both?
- Comment: "Anger is needed to leave, to walk." 48 (My comment: that's insane!)
- Does "walking as flight" (52) necessarily imply a pedestrian version of running away?
- "When you walk you soon become two." (56) Is this just the old Cartesian dualism rearing its head again, for a French intellectual? Isn't walking just as apt to create a perception of unity rather than duality?
- Is there anything wrong, philosophically, with walking not in silence but with earbuds?
- "The mere sight of a desk and chair was enough to make Rousseau feel sick..." 65 Do you ever feel that way? How do you respond? How do you feel about standing and treadmill desks?
- "He liked nothing so much as going for long walks, to kill the days." 66 Isn't this inimical to the true spirit of peripateticism? (Thoreau said you can't kill time without injuring eternity...)
- "...at sixteen or even twenty you carry no burden but your cheerful hopes... It is the walk of happy daybreaks, the resplendent mornings of life." 70 Beautiful sentiment, but did YOU feel that way at age 16 or 20? Do you suppose human nature has changed since JJR's time, in this respect?
- "...homo viator, walking man - the natural man, one not disfigured by culture, education, art... before books or salons, before society or paid labour." 73 Are these cultural developments univocally disfiguring? Or would you lay more of the blame at the feet of, say, auto manufacturers and bad urban planning?
- "Those long hours of walking drained away envies and grudges... old hatreds suddenly appeared vain, petty, futile." (75-6) How long would you have to walk, to experience such a drain? (Or are you one of those rare humans without envies and grudges?)
- Don: In “Slowness,” Gros says, “It is one of the secrets of walking: a slow approach to landscapes that gradually renders them familiar, and that “the lesson was that in walking the authentic sign of assurance is a good slowness.” Why in “Solitudes” does he say, “When I am walking I always observe myself, egg myself on?” This sounds like a more competitive striving to achieve the goal rather than enjoying the moment. Do you agree or disagree and why?
Dean: Do you feel like we should slow down, as a society, or does the hustle and bustle equal productiveness?
- The Enlightenment was the Age of Locke, says Herman, but it was the empiricist/rationalist synthesizer Kant who gave us the slogan "Sapere Aude" - Dare to know, be wise, use your reason, think. Was Locke daring enough? Does his primary/secondary quality distinction hold up? 366
- Was the 18th century unfair to Plato?
- How can we "be sure we're not just living an endless dream (or a nightmare, as in the movie The Matrix"? 366 Why does it matter?
- Why did "enlightened" people tolerate the African slave trade for so long? 369
- Do commerce and capitalism make people better? 370
- Comment: "Love may fail but courtesy will prevail." Kurt Vonnegut
- If the 18th century was all about politeness and polish, refined personalities and smooth manners, what is the 21st century about? If we've regressed on this front, why? 371-2
- What would Voltaire say about Brexit? What would de Tocqueville say about Drumpf?
- What's your view of progress? Has civil society evolved, is it evolving? What might usher in the next Dark Ages?
- Do you thirst for "opulence" and a more "splendid" life? Does your cooperativeness depend on that, and on your perceived self-interest? 381
- Do you look as favorably as Herman on free markets as inseparable from freedom in general? 382
- Has Herman omitted anything important in his accounts of David Hume and Adam Smith?
- Don: Locke argued that we are not born with any innate ideas or knowledge about anything. Everything we know, we have to learn from outside ourselves. The mind is (in Locke’s most famous metaphor) a tabula rasa, a blank slate. Do you agree or disagree? How does this affect the nature/nurture discussions?
22-Starting Over: Plato, Rousseau, and Revolution
- How would you respond to Rousseau's essay contest question about the link between the arts and sciences and human goodness? 387 Do you see any truth at all in the myth of the noble savage?
- Does the institution of private property limit or expand our freedom? 390
- Is the daily 9 to 5 routine a "bleak cave of capitalism"? 391 Is education as we pursue it now a way out, a way to enlightenment, progress, and happiness? Or is it merely another enabling and reinforcing "chain"?
- "Every patriot hates foreigners"-Why doesn't this statement alone suffice to discredit patriotism, and JJR's approval of it to discredit him? 393
- "We can be either individuals or citizens, but not both." 395 In the light of modern history is there any inoffensive way to unpack that statement?
- Do you see any important differences between Rousseau's General Will and Kant's Categorical Imperative? 396
- "JJR loved humanity more than he liked human beings" 397 - hasn't this always been true of most ideologues and reformers?
- Isn't compulsory taxation to fund public education and other social goods a form of "forcing people to be free"?
- Don: Plato glorified Sparta, he saw only what he viewed as its ideal society, but what do we really know about Spartan society. Might it have been viewed more realistically and less romantically by individuals who had to live within it? Would North Korea today be an example of a Platonian Ideal society?
WATCH: The Is/Ought Problem; LISTEN:Peter Millican on Hume's Significance, Melissa Lane on Rousseau on Civilization (PB); Hume & the philosophy of good taste (HI); Hume (IOT); Hume the greatest philosopher? (IOT)
An old post-Rousseau and Kant (10.4.12)
Kant could get very upset if well-meaning acquaintances disturbed his routines. Accepting on one occasion an invitation to an outing into the country, Kant got very nervous when he realised that he would be home later than his usual bedtime, and when he was finally delivered to his doorstep just a few minutes after ten, he was shaken with worry and disgruntlement, making it at once one of his principles never to go on such a tour again.
The character of Emile begins learning important moral lessons from his infancy, thorough childhood, and into early adulthood. His education relies on the tutor’s constant supervision. The tutor must even manipulate the environment in order to teach sometimes difficult moral lessons about humility, chastity, and honesty. IEP
The Vicar claims that the correct view of the universe is to see oneself not at the center of things, but rather on the circumference, with all people realizing that we have a common center. This same notion is expressed in the Rousseau’s political theory, particularly in the concept of the general will.
The work is divided into ten “walks” in which Rousseau reflects on his life, what he sees as his contribution to the public good, and how he and his work have been misunderstood. It is interesting that Rousseau returns to nature, which he had always praised throughout his career… The Reveries, like many of Rousseau’s other works, is part story and part philosophical treatise. The reader sees in it, not only philosophy, but also the reflections of the philosopher himself.
An old post, 9.5.14
Walking to work
I usually begin my school day, the moment I step out of the car after my daily driving commute down I-24, with a stroll around campus. Like D.B. Johnson's Henry, I prefer walking to work.
Unlike Henry, I'm not usually hyper-observant of detail during my morning ramble. I tend to be focused on whatever subject awaits classroom discussion, or unfocused and wool-gathering.
But yesterday, for whatever reason (or none), I found myself attending closely to the words at my feet in front of the Student Union. Decade by decade, they record chiseled highlights of the history of our university. I didn't slow long enough to take them all in, but I've decided from now on I'll register a bit more of them each day. Eventually I'll ingest it all, and I'll be just a bit smarter about the institution that butters my bread.
You never step in the same river twice, and there's no reason why you have to cross the same campus twice either. Attention is its own reward: behold, our esteemed president's John Hancock etched in stone. "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!" And smile, Ozymandias.
There's a lot more to David Hume's philosophy than we get from Arthur Herman. Hume on miracles (bbc video)...
How Bacon & Rousseau expired (Simon Critchley video)... Rousseau's account of his perilous encounter with a Great Dane, in Reveries of the Solitary Walker: “Entirely taken up by the present, I could remember nothing; I had no distinct notion of myself as a person, nor had I the least idea of what had just happened to me. I did not know who I was, nor where I was; I felt neither pain, fear, nor anxiety. I watched my blood flowing as I might have watched a stream, without even thinking that the blood had anything to do with me. I felt throughout my whole being such a wonderful calm, that whenever I recall this feeling I can find nothing to compare with it in all the pleasures that stir our lives.”
Rousseau's Dog-In 1766 philosopher, novelist, composer, and political provocateur Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a fugitive, decried by his enemies as a dangerous madman. Meanwhile David Hume—now recognized as the foremost philosopher in the English language—was being universally lauded as a paragon of decency. And so Rousseau came to England with his beloved dog, Sultan, and willingly took r ...more
Russell on Rousseau (audio) - "This conception of being 'forced to be free' is very metaphysical... was Galileo 'forced to be free' when the Inquisition compelled him to recant? ...Hegel, who owed much to Rousseau, adopted his misuse of the word 'freedom,' and defined it as the right to obey the police, or something..."
Hume & Rousseau, 3.23.16
Closest Thing to a Wonder Drug? Try
...The recommendations for exercise are 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity physical activity for adults, or about 30 minutes each weekday.
Moderate intensity is probably much less than you think. Walking briskly, at 3 to 4 miles per hour or so, qualifies. So does bicycling slower than 10 miles an hour. Anything that gets your heart rate somewhere between 110 and 140 beats per minute is enough. Even vacuuming, mowing the lawn or walking your dog might qualify.
Today, my goals are much more modest. Trekking from my office to the clinic and back again gives me 30 minutes of exercise. Or, I walk to the supermarket from my office to grab lunch, at a mile each way. In colder weather, I spend half an hour on the elliptical machine. Doing this five days a week gets me the activity I need... (continues)
Arthur Herman speaks (on CSPAN)...