Frag-ments: 'Reality' is truthfully uninteresting

By Andy Pragacz

Thank you Professor Reedy for your re-sponse to my piece. Not only do I enjoy our back and forth, but let’s face it, the “Frag-ments” from last week was lame at best. ‘Choice is confusing’ is a very uninteresting claim. But it was either that or writing about smoking again which was giving me emphysema. I also appreciated you complimenting me as ‘Gallic savant.’ Professor Reedy and I, if it is not already apparent, occupy almost diametrically opposed philosophical positions. He believes meaning exists outside of man, I believe man is The World; he believes in ‘essences’, I believe in ‘convenient truths’; he thinks the moon is made of rock, I could care less. These differences, however, cover up some fundamental similarities between us that are vastly more important than our differences. For example, I agree that the ‘unexamined life is not fit for a human being’ – that is a premise of this column. I also believe that philosophy (the ‘right kind’ of philosophy) should be incorporated into our everyday calculations and ‘we should give equal time and attention to our common humanity.’

With that our similarities end. The rest of this piece will be dedicated to demonstrating how Professor Reedy undermines these ideals within his philosophical position.

Humanity is not reducible to its animal existence. In “Nietzsche is dead” (a fairly mundane title, Nietzsche is in fact not currently breathing air), Reedy claims that because animals use a realist definition of truth in their lives (animals cannot be fooled!) then realism is “the philosophy everyone lives by whether they know it or not or will not admit it.” Undue paternalism aside, to say that animals are conscious of or ‘know’ anything is anthropomorphic through and through. Nagel concludes, for example, that we have no access to the experience of animals and I agree (giving the claim that much more weight?). Nature is only an ‘x’ and even that mark gives too much meaning to it. Furthermore, humans are not animals (Do animals feel compassion as humans do?-unknowable) and by reducing humans to animality Professor Reedy discursively paints humanity as simple ‘strugglers for existence.’ I would argue that 99.9% of my day has nothing to do with trying to ‘preserve my (animal) life.’ And insofar as we have the luxury of not only struggling, we are able to do philosophy and reflect on our lives; we are able to make life interesting. Only by positing that humans are not animals can we make any claim to a ‘human essence,’ if that was ever our intention.

If we already have a good philosophy that explains the world (realism) why engage in philosophy in the first place? If everything that is philosophically relevant has already been laid out for us, then why is philosophy necessary? If we claim that Searle’s realism really got it, then shouldn’t we just stop searching and revel in our good predisposition for Truth? Truth, any Truth, makes us static and complacent and certainly does not motivate us to ‘examine our lives.’ If we already know that ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ are good (a priori) why look for other ideals? If all we have to do is ‘figure out’ the Truth (as in science), why create?

The ‘realist’ world is very uninteresting. In a world were we ‘know’ everything already, ‘Life,’ the possibility to re-interpret and investigate-all the fun parts of life – would be lost. Haven’t we all experienced the let down of ‘truth’? Personally, when I get excited about something it is something that makes me think and make connections to other ideas; it makes me explore and pontificate. As soon as my inspiration takes the form of ‘Truth’, when it moves beyond a ‘working theory’ still requiring ‘working out’, it loses its appeal; ‘Truth’ kills the enjoyment of the thought. ‘The moon is made of rock.’ So what? By positing hard ‘truths’ the possibility to investigate a given situation is lost. Because the moon is made of rock, I cannot claim that it is made of cheese or search for its cheese-i-ness (I know there is a ‘correct’ spelling, but this is better). The ‘truth’ that we create and re-create is way cooler.

Why do we need truth? Why do I need to know the essence of the thing? Why can’t I make it up and then have the joy trying to get everyone to believe it (only to be followed by then creating a new ‘Truth’ in its stead)? ‘Truth’ is only useful toward a certain end, a pre-destined future not open for interpretation. The moon being made of cheese, for example, only serves those for who it is useful, presumably those who want to land on it. While for me, it is much more useful (because it makes me happy) to think the moon is made of cheese and then tomorrow to make the moon in the image of a woman or a man, it would depend on my fancy that day.

Andy Pragacz ’10 can be reached at [email protected].