-- Could someone explain to me why Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, a Frenchman, drinks Earl Grey tea, quotes Shakespeare, and has an English accent? Did the British finally take over France some time before the 24th century?
-- I had the following exchange with a customer in our sandwich shop the other day:
Customer: What is the difference between the ham and the smoked ham?
Me (trying to keep a straight face): Well... one is smoked, and the other isn't.
Customer: OK, so one is smokier than the other?
Me: Um... yeah.
Customer: OK, give me half of each on sourdough.-- My landlord asked me if I knew any philosophy jokes, so I told him this one: Rene Descartes walks into a bar and orders a few rounds. Near the end of the night, the bartender asks, "Would you like another?" Descartes answers, "I think not." And disappears.
(See, because Descartes' famous line was Cogito ergo sum, "I think, therefore, I am." So the joke is that when he says, "I think not," he would cease to exist because he's no longer thinking [though that's not quite what is meant by the phrase--his point is that he can be sure of his own existence because, were he to doubt his existence, the very act of his doubting means there's someone doing the doubting. Anyway....)
On to the week in class:
Ancient Philosophy: Neo-Platonism has about as much to do with the teachings of Plato as modern-day Lutheranism has to do with the teachings of Martin Luther.
Philosophy of Nature: We've been addressing questions like, "What is time? What is motion? What is space?" You know, the simple, easy stuff. To paraphrase St. Augustine, "I know what it is until somebody asks me." It's the things that are most fundamental, the things we take for granted, that are the most difficult to define or explain. But let's try: both time and motion exist as part of continua. That is, time does not precede as a series of discrete moments, like a series of dots forming a line; nor does motion proceed in such halting steps. They are potentially or theoretically divisible into infinite parts, but not actually divisible in that way. Both time and motion are fluid transitions from something not being the case to something being the case; and indeed, we only know time because of motion, or change. Motion is the measurement of change over time. Combine this with Einstein's theory of relativity, which states that time and speed can only be measured relative to the observer, and we see that there are as many times as there are motions. Yeah, chew on that one for a while. I've spent hours over the last few weeks reading this stuff, and you get it condensed into one neat, hopefully comprehensible paragraph. You're welcome.
Intro to New Testament: "Apocalyptic" is not a word that means "scary," "destructive," or "catastrophic." The Greek word apokalypsis means "the remove the veil, to uncover, to reveal." That's why the Book of Revelation in your granny's old Bible is called "The Book of Apocalypse." We associate that word with the above-mentioned adjectives because, upon a surface reading of the text, we see an awful lot of earthquakes and fires and wrath and famines and plagues and such. These things are secondary to the real core of apocalyptic literature: someday, God is going to right the wrongs in the world, and vindicate those who have been faithful to Him. Sure, that's going to entail a bit of carnage for those who haven't been faithful, but let's not focus on the Four Horsemen so much that we forget the New Jerusalem and the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.
Aristotelian Logic: The more I study logic, the more I become convinced that it ought to be a required subject in high schools. Back in the day, it was part of the basic trivium of grammar, rhetoric, and logic that any person would have to learn before moving on to other subjects; the assumption was that you wouldn't have the ability to understand anything else if you didn't have a grasp of these three. I've found the study of logic to be a great aid to my own thinking. Imagine how different society would be if everyone were well-guarded against fallacious arguments?