July 06, 2006

Other: The Pause That Refreshes

Want a tall, cool draft of a rather heady brew?

Welcome to this week's edition of the Skeptics' Circle!

"A little learning is a dangerous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring."

Alexander Pope


posted by Thursday at 10:48 am


Blogger Brian Donohue said...

What follows is not opposition to Pope, but balance. It's from Lao Tzu, in my own translation:

Pursuing knowledge: daily accumulation.
Following Tao: daily unburdening.

Decrease, diminish, deprogram:
Continue in this till power is dead.

For when action lacks force,
Nothing is left unaccomplished.

Rely upon your true eternal nature,
And you will never have to strive again.

But let your life become
A game of inner commerce,
And you will never cease with making deals;
You will never feel fulfilled⎯
In this or any other world.

Can you see the point the old Chinese philosopher is making to Pope? Drink deep of knowledge, but avoid getting drunk on it. You are more than cranium, more than reason, more than intellect. Indeed, do you imagine that Reason enjoys being pushed out alone and naked onto the stage of Life? Of course it doesn't; it works far better in the company of all the other faculties of the psyche that are disdained by intellectualists, and which have unfortunately been besmirched through association with the neocon wingnut club.

I had this feeling while laughing along with Colbert's Correspondent's dinner parboiling of the Bushies. It was sad that intuition was being roasted along with evil. But then I asked myself, "what do you think told Colbert, as he was writing this stuff, that it would be funny?" Call it what you will, I'm betting it wasn't logic.

In short, fundamentalism has a lot of faces, and we have had our share of epistemological fundamentalism in this culture, just as we've had it of religious and governmental fundamentalism. For more on that, check here.

12:11 pm  
Blogger Thursday said...

Weeell, I do doubt that the Old Man was saying much to Pope (what with never actually existing and all), but do bear in mind that the greatest risk of Taoism is inertia. Floating on an inner tube isn't the same as learning to swim, to totally murder the aquatic metaphor.

I'm not fond of anthropomorphising concepts (War on Terror, anyone?), and for good reason: to pretend that there actually exists something seperate and alone called "Reason" is a little foolish, don't you think? Reason, like love or hate or instinct or humour, is always attached to a person, with all that person's life and experience behind it. It is NEVER alone.

As for Mr. Colbert's work, I hope you're not thinking that there's nothing there but intellectualism! Like most humourists (and all the best ones) there are a lot of aspects that he appeals to, including the intellect. The best humour engages the viewer.

What he was skewering, on the other hand, was an administration that is being led by someone who takes pride in being anti-intellectual. Perhaps you will recall that Bush bragged about being ill-informed: that he did not read; that he rarely consulted anyone who was outside his immediate circle; that he ran on "his gut", doing what "felt right" rather than actually thinking about his decisions.

More closely, what the links coming from the Skeptics' Circle are about is exposing fallacies in thought, con man schemes, and incorrect (or misunderstood) applications of science. Personally, I can think of little that is more useful than that.

1:53 pm  

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