An Attempt at a Rethink FAQ, 8/16/12

As always, I welcome additional questions.

1. You don’t have a life, do you?

1. Nope!

2. Who cares about poetry? All that stuff is made up anyway.

2. If you’re not doing the hard sciences, everything is open to the accusation of being “made up.” And even then, lots of people I know who do the hard sciences are prone to conspiracy theory and superstition.

I don’t know what rationality is. I suspect it involves some sort of grip on the fact that we do make things up (convention), that we lie to ourselves, that we believe just as much as we think. All three of those phenomena are distinct and can’t be illuminated by simple appeals to certainty and utility.

Poets write so they can challenge good readers and maybe even make a line or two stay with someone, always. Some poets even know what they’re talking about. I don’t want to miss out on some of the best voices the human race has to offer. Do you?

3. Who cares what you think about Heidegger or Plato? Most of what you write doesn’t make sense anyway.

3. It took me a little while to realize that making notes in class was counterproductive unless I was going to follow-up. That follow-up couldn’t just be rereading, or even additionally reading a few pages of text. You had to get a grip on the work and then get a grip and notes on related works.

In other words, your notes aren’t just notes for a project at hand. They’re always indications of what a larger project might entail, what else might be at stake. I don’t scribble something down about the Crito or Apology and then think “This is done.” The idea about the Minos, that law might always be a composite of different notions of justice, comes from seeing law declare itself universal and comprehensive (last part of the Crito) while seeing lawmakers (at times, jurors) governed by myth. Note that the idea about Minos required me working with Tim Haglund, who read both the commentaries on the Crito and Apology, co-wrote a paper with me, and taught me a lot about what Periclean Athens might have been like.

4. So you have some deep sounding ideas. Big deal. Scholars and journalists report the results of careful, in-depth research. You’ve got a scrapbook. How is this of use to anyone but you?

4. It’s of the utmost importance that I show carefully working through another’s opinion or work is worthwhile. Our age broadcasts. – It surely doesn’t listen. – It wants knowledge to be practical. – It isn’t clear truth is meant for our benefit. –

Rethink is genuinely countercultural. I don’t think that’s the ultimate legacy of this blog, but it is a legacy. Its significance will be known in time. I have no doubt about that. The better entries are being read and reread as we speak.

My own legacy will be something different. I’m just getting started.

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