Friday, June 06, 2003
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
The More I Know, The Less I Know I Know

I didn't plan it his way, but the two summer classes I'm taking seem to be having a strange synergistic drug-like effect.

Philosophy of Human Nature - a crash course in metaphysics and epistemology with the likes of Descartes, Kant and Nietszche - is giving my everyday world a surreal mushroomy psychedelic feel. I hope it's temporary.

What do I really know? Am I really seeing what I'm seeing? Am I really drinking a cup of coffee, or do I only think I am? With only about 13 people in the room seated round-table style, the conversation can get very unreal very quickly.

Last night, in discussing Kant's Foundations of Moral Philosophy, we pondered his test of universal maxims - his Categorical Imperative - which states that an action is morally right if and only if it could be applied universally. In essence, an action can be considered morally correct only if we could imagine everyone doing it all the time. Mind you, we're not certain if he means "all the time" as in "constantly", or in the sense of "at each instance of an action".

My silly question: "What would Kant say about cutting down a tree? If we use his Categorical Imperative test on tree-cutting, and everyone cuts down trees (and, do we cut down every tree?), do we infer that tree-cutting is immoral?"

Let's just say the class got really interesting from there on. We also bandied about was how Philip K. Dick used philosophy in his novels that spawned films like Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Minority Report. Our teacher is really knowledgeable; the sort of mensch that won't say "next question!!!", but rather discuss any point presented, no matter how ill-advised, to its logical conclusion. I recommend him highly. I may even want to take another philosophy course before I'm done; I'll certainly vouch that taking philosophy is a big help in refining one's use of language and sharpening the thought processes.

Victims in the Criminal Justice System, on the other hand, makes me feel like I've taken a paranoia-induding stimulant. Hearing first-hand accounts of rapes, assaults and robberies makes me watch my back constantly on dark streets; and even on some not-so-dark ones. While some of the statistics we're presented with are somewhat comforting - our chances of being victimized by the worst of violent crimes is rather lower than the media makes them out to be - it's still filtering through.

This would probably explain the series of crime-themed nightmares I've been having lately, since I'm not watching the news or any violent TV shows. That would be just too hyperstimulating.

But let's not forget, this weekend is the Printer's Row Book Fair in Chicago....I'm there to regain some sanity!