Saturday, March 04, 2006

New Paradigm
I have to say I'm sympathetic to those sorts who "go off the grid". There's just something appealing about that - the decision to live a radically different kind of life. Take the recent Winter Olympics for instance. The news couldn't help but focus in on Bode Miller's unique childhood circumstances - growing up in a shack deep in the New Hampshire forest. His family cultivated their own food and pulled water from a nearby stream. Hey, that's Live Free or Die as far as I'm concerned. I suppose the Off-Grid living and home schooling shaped to his personality and maverick behavior (humorously revealed at these Torino games). I have no problem with that. And take Tim Treadwell, the subject of the documentary Grizzly Man. Here's a guy who lives out in the Alaskan wild for months on end, living out of a tent and hanging out with grizzly bears and befriended foxes. The guy certainly had his issues (which are clearly revealed when watching the footage), but one can't help but notice the pure joy of living that the guy embraces at times. How many people can claim that kind of happiness? I can't help but be sympathetic to a guy who has decided to cash out from some elements of today's way of living.

I've just finished Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind. Bloom's argument is that we as moderns have become completely unmoored from our traditions - and as a side argument he notes the result that we cannot even really contemplate the philosophical ideas that led to our nation's founding because our way of thinking now is alien to the ways of thinking that led to the creation of American democracy. It's not an excuse to say our way of thinking is better simply because we have come afterwards (and that anything that comes afterwards is an improvement on that which came before).

Indeed, as one commenter in the link writes: "We Americans mouth the words of Jefferson, but really believe Nietzsche. We do not believe in the primacy of reason. Equality and liberty are nothing more than prejudices for most of us. They are merely "values," and if pressed, most of us would not be able to explain why we like those values better than other ones.".

Bloom's book got me thinking about what life would be like today if modern philosophy hadn't made the complete break from the traditions and understandings of ancient philosophy (as Bloom suggests has happened). What would our "values" be like today? Would a guy like Dr. Phil even exist? Would questions in White House press briefings be grounded in altogether different premises than those that are used today? Would we have concerns such as why Johnny has bloodshot eyes when he comes home from school; or why Suzie needs access to Plan B? I don't know the answer to that. I don't know if these things are dependent on the underlying philosophy that guides us. But the notion that it indeed does have an influence is interesting. And it makes you wonder how different things would be if our philosophical tradition took a different direction. It's like living off the grid through thoughts. And one can only imagine.


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