Sunday, May 24, 2009

Quote of the Day 5

Once again, instead of New Me or Old Me, let's have some Repeated Me:

"The ultimate parody of the struggle between the Sophists and Platonists, between not knowing what to teach and teaching something, comes to us in the form of an Upright Citizens Brigade sketch. The younger brother asks his older, successful brother for advice for an upcoming interview, whether he has a secret weapon. The older, wiser brother makes him promise not to tell anybody and, noting that it is kind of a long-term strategy, asks him how much time he has. The younger brother says he has only a week, and the older brother says that it still might work. His secret wisdom, the secret to all of his success, the strategy he has employed? 'Every time a penny passes through your hands, stick it up your ass. And then spend it.' ... 'That's a lot of ass-pennies I've got out there, my friend. And here's where the magic comes in: when I meet someone who intimidates me, who puts me on edge, a real 'hard ass,' I just think to myself, 'they've probably handled one of my ass-pennies.' In fact, they probably got one in their pocket right then. That just seems to sort of give me the upper-hand. I mean, hey, I haven't touched anything that's been in their ass.'

"And that is what has happened to political philosophy. Plato made wisdom ineffable, which means the secret of life could be, according to the philosophers, sticking pennies in your ass. Nothing is closer to the heart of the human experiment than our negotiations with each other over how we are to function together--but is that the essence of humanity? 'Go ahead, defend that thesis. I will destroy it,' says the ghost of Socrates. Plato thought the wisdom of Socrates was the idea of an ineffable object of supremacy that was pure and holy and so extraordinarily not human, totally free of humanity's taint. What we should come to acknowledge as the wisdom of Socrates, however, is not the inhumanness of abstraction, but the total inanity of looking for abstract essences that somehow control particular, specific human activities. No general definition of arete is going to tell us how to teach it as a general techne. Though the Sophists thought of themselves as teaching a general skill called "success," careers spent in service to wisdom, what they were actually doing was something more specific, teaching Athenians how to survive in the Greek city-state environment."

--What Happened to Political Philosophy?

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