What Gorgias Would Say to Sisyphus

On Sunday the pastor at Christ Church preached on kairos and God’s time; specifically, the notion of the kingdom of God as “already and not yet” simultaneously. While I don’t disagree, I want to offer another take on kairos and the personal importance of that word to my own philosophy.

For this I draw on Gorgias of Leontini, one of the most underrated ancient philosophers (unfairly maligned for over 2 millenia because of Dumb & Dumber, ie Aristotle & Plato). From Gorgias and the Sophists we get the concept of the “kairotic moment,” loosely meaning “seizing the opportune opening.” Originally a sports term (archery), the Sophists applied it to rhetoric to mean the key moment in a debate when you trip up your opponent or drive him into a logical corner.

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George Tiller, etc.

In light of Tiller’s assassination it’s worth reading this 2004 essay by Gretchen Voss about her heartwrenching decision to have a late-term abortion. Voss’ story is sad, “pro-life” terrorism is sad, and “pro-life” hatred is sad. It’s terribly glib for anyone to assume that repealing Roe v. Wade will make this difficult issue any less thornier for all involved.

Speaking of old articles, here’s a bizarre fifteen-year-old one from the New York Times Magazine: “The Great Ivy League Nude Posture Photo Scandal”. It’s a really interesting piece on the wild pseudo-science of somatotypes that gets weirder with every paragraph. 

Lastly, here’s why kids should talk back to their parents; or, why teaching classical rhetoric to your children may improve relations (and make your kid a smarmy snot). Except, as usual, mythos gets short shrift (also: where’s Gorgias?). So other than logos, ethos, and pathos, you can also persuade by telling a story. Even fat ol’ Plato injected his philosophy with stories to better make a point.

A Young Person’s Guide to OMGWTF

Alpha Sigma hosted a used book sale this week to raise money for the org — and we earned enough extra to buy a llama, a goat, and two chickens through WorldVision. We named them Kierkegaard (llama), Nietzsche (goat), Plato and Aristotle (chickens), which is sure to thrill the 3rd world family that receives them.

I got a couple books out of the sale as well. One is titled 50 Days to Welcome Jesus to My Church: A Young Person’s Guide. On page 11, however, is a young person’s guide to something very, very different.

The verse accompanying this illustration was Matthew 6:4 “…and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” I assume they meant my Roman Catholic father.

Books are neat. You should read one. These nerds agree:

The curse of Plato

Let me attempt to explain my shift in thinking during the last four years by illustrating via context-less quote-mongering. In high school when I was first “getting into” philosophy I would often come these interesting, derogatory quips about philosophy itself. For example:

“Philosophy, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.” – Ambrose Bierce”Finding bad reasons for what one believes for other bad reasons – that’s philosophy.” – Aldous Huxley

“The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.” – Bertrand Russell

“There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it.” – Cicero

“If a man’s good for nothing else, he can at least teach philosophy.” – William James

“Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.” – H.L. Mencken

These will suffice, there are obviously more. The pecularity, of course, is that these quotes are by philosophers (many of whom never did shake this vice). Note that I read these and still went to university for philosophy. So for a long time my approach was one of a/bemusement; they were funny (ironic detachment, yadayada).

You might think that it is only now that I feel their bite, that I protest, that I stutter and defend my mistress. On the contrary, it is only now that I laugh harder. I’ve come to realize that the history of Western philosophy is the history of an error, and that error is Plato’s (and/or Socrates, smarmy bastard that he was). It is a “bold flight of invention” (to turn Plato against Plato) and I readily join with so-called “postmoderns” in exorcising the demon of Platonism in all it’s latent/overt forms (pun intended). Sure, I joined the Tribunal of Reason and pontificated for a while, but I’ve now resigned my post — upon discovery, of course, that the king has no clothes. After the death of philosophy, what now? It’s not all dirty nihilism and trampled orchids: whether genealogy/archaelogy (Nietzsche/Foucault), phenomenology (Heidegger), hermeneutics (Gadamer, Vattimo, et al), deconstruction (Derrida), etc it seems clear there is something post-… post-metaphysical, post-representational, post-realist, pick your poison/medicine, pick your (un)hero. Me? I gots me Rorty and I gots me Van Morrison. Your mileage may vary.