We turn to philosophers for philosophical advice on how to live. Here's perspective from the three philosophers who appear both in Jorge Luis Borges's 1962-published-in-English runaway bestseller "Labyrinths" and Monty Python's scurrilous philosophy drinking song from their 1973 album "Matching Tie and Handkerchief": Kant, Heidegger, and Hume. In researching these philosophers, I've substituted years of diligent study with a quick Internet search.
"Heidegger was a boozy beggar who could drink you under the table." In his 1927 existentialist classic Being in Time Heidegger concludes that readers presently reading the book are in fact alive. He famously said, "The most thought-provoking thing in our thought-provoking time is that we are still not thinking," but it is difficult to know what he himself was thinking when he joined the Nazi Party in 1933, or when he gave a speech that November in which he declared, "The Führer alone is the present and future German reality and its law," or during the entire 12-year period he remained a member of the Nazi Party until its dismantlement in 1945. (At that time, many Germans were said to be working towards the Führer.)
"David Hume could out-consume Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel." Inspired by Newton, Hume urges us to understand that reason can only spring from morality as he refreshingly urges us away from the superstitious comforts of religion and onward towards a new philosophy founded on a selfless appreciation of nature and governed by a liberated and innate moral passion. Instead of hanging our hopes on implausible miracles, an unprovable god, or sterile reason, Hume suggests you follow your heart, losing your ego in the joy of letting your moral compass be your guide. It's good to be good.
"Immanuel Kant was a real piss-ant who was very rarely stable." Kant disagrees with Hume, and says morality can only spring from reason, but he also politely escorts God out of the drawing room, if only in such an obscure way that has given rise to a Germanically industrial-strength sized paradox summed up in the statement, "Zeit und Raum existeren nur in unseren Köpfen." ("Time and space exist only in our minds.") Visitors to the Gasthaus pondering the truths of hotel existence will add the very Kantian rejoinder, "Wo zum Teufel bleibt der Zimmerservice?" ("So where the hell is the room service?")
So, what I get from all of this is, we who are able to read this are alive. Alive, but undervaluing our capacity to choose how we live, to stop following, and to stop using others. If we can appreciate how we are connected to everything that is, we can surmount civilization's empty conformity, alienation, and egoism. Bright the hawk's flight on the empty sky. That's the epigraph from Ursula K. LeGuin's Taoist-influenced A Wizard of Earthsea, but the rest of this last paragraph is what I gleaned from The Philosopher's Mail superlative Heidegger article here. (The rumor that Heidegger wrote the "Keep it Gay" number in the flop musical Springtime for Hitler is apparently not true.)
posted September 16, 2015 9:47 pm
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