Out of Service

Here is a sentence by Alva Noë (2015) which hints at the distinction between philosophy and practical problem-solving.

… if there is a pornographic art, whatever else is true of it, it will not be good for masturbating.

(from Strange Tools: Art and Human Nature, p. 116)

The “function” of art, similar to the “function” of philosophy, involves being anti-functional, as it moves us against the ways we assume we ought to serve and be served. Philosophy (like art) refuses to serve our taken-for-granted purposes. To philosophize is to be out of service.

This is not a pointless rebellion against usefulness. By creating a distance between us and our goals/tasks (i.e., by being anti-functional), by suspending our mindless goal-directness, art can make us aware of how we are organized around our goals. It makes us aware of what we are are serving and how. By doing so, art (like philosophy) opens the possibility of reorganization and new forms of life.

J. D. Caputo

Postmodern hermeneutics, in which we reserve the right to ask any questions, is constitutionally anti-authoritarian and democratic. Without [presupposing] hermeneutics, you would never be able to explain what a democracy is. Without democracy, you would never be able to practice hermeneutics; you would end up in jail, or worse.

(from Hermeneutics: Facts and Interpretation in the Age of Information, p. 11)

My idea is to see not whether religion can save us but whether hermeneutics can save religion – from itself. I bring up the interpretation of religion not only because it is so much in the news but also because there is something religious about interpretation, something which taps into the deep structure of our lives, a certain proto-religion, which will, however, provide little consolation to the pious.

(p. 21)

First Day of New Semester

I arrived back in Macau last night. I started cleaning before starting to prepare my lectures. Mold everywhere due to humidity. It’s surprising how dirty a place can get in such a short span of time. And, yes, there were also three dead cockroaches. Why are they always upside down when found dead? Is it because they struggle to survive against insecticide? Is it because their top “shell” is heavier than their legs?

On an unrelated matter, thinking of Hong Kong, I also had this thought: In asymmetric relationships, the person with the higher authority has more responsibility. If a professor has an affair with a student, the professor is more responsible (and deserves blame). If a boss and an employee get into a personal argument, it’s the boss’s responsibility not to take revenge against the employee (because the boss has more power over the employee than the other way round).

This isn’t new. It’s that famous Spiderman dictum. Power –> responsibility. Similarly, when a policeman and a citizen get into a physical confrontation, The policeman bears a larger part of the responsibility to avoid harm and not become vengeful against the other person. This isn’t related to politics. It’s a principle that comes before politics. The person with more power, more authority, is ethically charged to care more for the less powerful in their shared situation. That is why we expect the stronger of two countries in a war (e.g., US vs. Iraq) to exercise their power with care and precision.