Monday, February 18, 2013

Inkblots: Argument or Conversation? Which is Better?

'Blots gets philosophy
Inkblots--February 18, 2013

Five of us tonight, lazy, hissing fire, and another French wine (thanks John--a good one). Dave's Winepress book in hand--congratulations. 

Patrick, who is writing an interesting-sounding philosophy book on Kant and Rorty, said he liked Dougie Mac's spare straight forward description is good but could be more evocative if he used more metaphor and simile. Imaginative comparisons awaken the reader's imagination, or ought to. Dougie Mac read us a sample and we talked about how to make it more round, show more by comparison that puts flesh and sinew on the character. We're in Korea, mortar attack. What stinks? Can you give us some imaginative comparison to evoke our sense of smell. This is a good example of what Patrick is talking about, I think. Kimchi, what does it actually smell like, and what does it make his glands do. Show him craving it, and which kind specifically (there are a number of different kinds). Reader will not necessarily know what it is. I think we need to feel the fear of the attack, the thrill of killing, mixed with an overwhelming sense of the reality of taking more human life, at least it wasn't their lives. John felt like we needed to feel more of his fear at the attack. Then after, "Cease fire!" he's flooded with waring inner tension (as Dave termed it well) at killing people, real human beings, more smells, eery stillness, but some were not killed, but wounded and what would the sounds be on a battle field after the shooting stops. The deafening sound during the shooting. Then the shooting stops and the haunting sounds of the dying, what does agony mixed with terror at the inevitably of dying sound like.

285,000 words from Patrick's philosophy book (we've got to help him come up with something else to call this book). A philosopher's dual. Three men talking, Kant, Rorty, and Patrick. I suggested he read from the second portion, the actual dual between the two, and how to have argument (Rorty says no argument confrontation, just conversation). Rorty knew that there needed to be common ground to argue and as a postmodern he didn't think there was common ground, universals necessary for argument. For Rorty conversation is safe because there is no ... He only saw the slide into cruelty not the drive toward truth. Conversation leads to another kind of cruelty, friends with no closeness, no free market exchange of ideas. But is it safe, better than pitched battle? Conversation is less honest. This is rich, good, material, and demonstrates that Patrick not only knows philosophy but he loves philosophy. This is abundantly clear. Maybe you do this further into the book, but I would like to hear the material you gave us in narrative, the difference between conversation and argument, into actual dialog between these two dudes. Wouldn't it be fun to hear Rorty argue for conversation only. Rorty, who is absolutely certain about this, thinks that going from argument to conversation is a significant part of what defines civilization (is he arguing for the superiority of conversation?). We talked about ways Patrick could make this remarkably perceptive material into more accessible material, I suggested the two sit down (okay they only lived nearly 200 years apart), but could be two university students going at it from their chosen philosophical heroes. We asked him to read us some more. So often we don't actually argue; we just talk past each other. Therapeutic deism prevails in the church, so we try to avoid argument, reverting to story telling about my personal experience of what benefit I get from being a Christian. This, Patrick says, is not arguing. Here, he critiques the way the church teaches propositions that lead to faith, salvation connected to a set of propositions. But not the metaphor Christians prefer because we want to avoid the hard and firm in favor of the experiential motivations changing. But what if the conversion does not produce the altruism in the preferred model: heart knowledge versus head knowledge. Christians explaining away cognitive dissonance, depending on my own strength but not experiencing the personal transformation. If people are going to read this, it needs to be in a human setting, with distinctly human characters, mannerisms, settings, sensory material. Sophie's World is an imaginative method of communicating philosophy imbedded in story. And the Huxley, Kennedy, and Lewis post-humus conversation (or is it argument?).

Dave's up. Reading chapter two and three where he says he really needs help. Dave is struggling with recent onset Bell's palsy so it's a challenge to read. Sequel to the Winepress book. He wonders if these chapters need to be longer. Secretary of Defense, cease fire, but separated. This picks up on some back story from the first volume. John thought the shooting was a bit abrupt. How would the cook have a gun, asked Patrick. Need to read the first book. Need to develop the doctor with more nuance. He's too flat. Maybe develop his dislike of having to work for Robert, wanting to be his own boss, god delusion, but needs more subtlety.

Patrick tells about the comic book Sandman, appreciated by both comic book fans and literary types alike. Madness. Either everything is madness or Christianity is true.

John reads his Russian novel (in English, which was considerate of him, I thought). It was a chapter we had heard part of before, account of the death of a child struck by car, and then hand grenade death. "Do you believe there's a God. He no help me with my parents." Felt the pain with the sister hit by the car, but didn't feel anything for the friend killed by the grenade. Too convenient for him to have someone near them die in tragic ways, though it happens, it seems a bit coincidental. "Difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense." Hence, we feel like fiction can't be too coincidental, though real life can be. Fiction is contrivance, but good fiction doesn't feel like it is contrived. Dougie Mac feels like John preconditions us to not like it, because of his disclaimers before he reads. Too much, too fast. But not to stretch out word count. We need to get away from thinking we are trying to get more word count. "Be brief," was Horace's writing axiom, yet the story does have to be complete in action, but more so in character.

I read from chapter 27 on confessional unity. Here's a sound byte from the chapter: "This is nothing short of a reinvention of justification in the bland image of works righteousness, Rome without all the bells and smells. If the banks of the confessional stream were this wide, we’d be looking at another world-wide flood, a confession with no boundaries at all." 

We concluded praying for Dave and his Bell's palsy, deliver him, Lord.

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