Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Doughnut For Your Thoughts

Lately I have wondered if philosophers ever indulge in cheap thrills, and if doing so would be hypocritical. Of course that would depend on the philosophy of the philosopher in question. But I am thinking, generally, of the hardcore Socratic disciple: a true lover of wisdom with the temperance of a monk. Would Socrates ride a rollercoaster?

I know that even Socrates indulged, in moderation, in some pleasures of the world. Those who don't are inhuman in a way. Some philosophers went quite mad, perhaps from trying to refrain from doing anything fun and pointless. But did they avoid dancing? Circuses? Do the modern ones avoid bungee jumping? Streaking?

Harmless cheap thrills aside, I am sure they poo-pooed the harmful ones. My philosophy professor this spring insisted that his fellows are a dreadfully sober bunch. Despite the occasional spirits (in which even those temperate monks have been known to dabble), no hallucinogens or significantly mind-altering substances led to doubting the existence of matter or even the existence of existence. Those are completely sober conjectures. While poetry and art can be chemically enhanced, logical arguments cannot. So it goes.

I've been thinking about this only because of something my friend suggested. Something concerning doughnuts.

I am hoping to help get a philosophy club started at my school, but the prospects are bleak. I was running ideas by my young and wise friend Henry, and he suggested food. He is not someone who "mistakes the ends of life." He was merely suggesting the thing that was most likely to work, as an enticer to a first meeting or "open house." College kids eat lots of pizza and doughnuts, so whatever you're peddling, you can probably reel them in with a spot of grease.

I think it would be contradictory to the ends of the philosophy club to pretend to be something it's not (a buffet), and to reward the first attendees with worldy wafers of premature death.

But what incentive could we offer that wouldn't be contradictory? Advertising is all lies. We need to speak the truth if we profess to love it so much.

I think humor is the only way to lure in good prospects without leading them on. If they get it they get it. And they'll be the ones who are more likely to stick around when the doughnuts run out. Plus, with humor we can tell lies and truth at the same time. Hyperbole, sarcasm, irony, satire -- litotes. Funny pictures help too.

So doughnuts aren't really thrilling I suppose. But the question still remains. I wonder to what lengths philosophers go to avoid worldly pleasures, or how much the most famous ones have indulged in while still laying claim to some kind of enlightened, balanced existence.

In Woody Allen's short story "Mr. Big" the philosophers are all over the place. Jazz musicians, adulterers and what not. Somehow that seems to fit. But that was the 70s.

As the late great singer/songwriter/(philosopher?) Burl Ives once sang, "Watch the doughnut, not the hole." Ahh, that's advice for livin'.

I am not an academic today.

1 comment:

  1. "Would Socrates ride a rollercoaster?"

    Good question! ;-)

    Very good blog, congrats!


I publish all the comments, the good, the bad and the ugly. Unless I have no idea what you're saying. If you want to email me (with only good I hope), I'm at rbyrd [at] niu [dot] edu.