Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tapping Philosophy: Summaries?

Hi Tapping,
I've decided to stop writing summaries at least temporarily. I've got a lot of obligations both in and out of school. If someone else wants to write them and submit them to me, that's fine, but time is tight for me right now. I'll still post the topics as I have mailed them out. If anyone has any questions comments concerns or complaints, please email me.

Tapping Philosophy: Pity

Hi Tapping,
Thanks to everyone who came out last week to discuss the relation between the student and the teacher. I thought it was a great topic, kudos to Charles for bringing it up. We'll be meeting this week at our usual time and place, thursdays eight o clock, at Yeats pub, and we will be running rides from Connelly at 7:30.

This weeks topic:


"When Nature gave man tears,
She proclaimed that he was tender hearted"
"Mandeville clearly sensed that for all their morality, men would never have been anything but monsters if Nature had not given them pity in support of reason: but he did not see that from this single attribute flow all the social virtues he wants to deny men. Indeed, what are generosity, Clemency, Humanity, if not pity applied to the weak, the guilty, or the species in general?"
"Christianity is called the religion of pity. Pity stands opposed to the tonic emotions which heighten our vitality: it has a depressing effect. We are deprived of strength when we feel pity. That loss of strength which suffering as such inflicts on life is still further increased and multiplied by pity. Pity makes suffering contagious."

Rousseau talks about two values being at the center of man's existence, and these are self interest (the desire to avoid suffering?) and disgust at the suffering of others. The emotional extension of this visceral reaction would then be pity. What does it feel like to pity someone? Does pity beget solidarity or superiority? When is pity helpful and when is it damaging? Rousseau takes a very critical stance against rationalist narratives of society, claiming that philosophers are able to rationalize themselves out of behaving with respect to their natural inclinations of pity, which would otherwise drive them to help those who are in dire situations. He chiefly cites the emotional connection between the mother and child as that of pity should the child be suffering. Natural instincts he argued, hold society together in a way that is more meaningful and functional than any argument.

So what do we think of this? Does pity play a central role, or any role at all, in organizing society? Does pity necessarily lead to help coming from the pitying party? Does pity conflict with rationality, or is it possible to take pity as a premise for rational behavior? An uglier way of putting this might be, could pity be based in self interest? Is pity really what drives mothers to act on behalf of their child, and is that relationship a sound model for how a society should be organized (it's certainly not the traditional western one ::ahem::)? There may be a bigger question at hand than simply pity itself, i.e. where does emotion end and rationality begin in political discourse, or how can the two be dialectically related in order to promote the betterment of society?

Within the context of a discussion there's not much of a bigger boo boo than substituting emotion for argument. However, for Rousseau, there's a bigger context than a discussion that's at stake, where power is operative, and rationality may not survive alone.

Tapping Philosophy: Student Teacher Disconnect

Hello everyone,
Welcome back. I hope you all have enjoyed your break. Christina and I will go over some logistics, and hopefully we'll see some new faces (and some old ones too). This week, and likely most weeks thereafter, tapping philosophy will meet on THURSDAYS at Yeats' pub in Ardmore at 8:00, meeting in Connelly at 7:30 for rides. Charles P Myers has written this week's topic.



It was once said that "brevity is the soul of wit." While I do not claim the latter with this topic as it is written, I do lay claim to the former.

* * *

"From the beginnings of Western philosophy in Plato and Aristotle there have been several noticeable divides between the great philosophers, and their students who have (at times) also been great philosophers. In modernity we have several examples; namely, the (debatable) disconnect between the philosophy of Strauss and his Neoconservative students; the one between Marxism as Marx iterated it, and Marxism as followed by his followers; the disconnect between Marx and Hegel; and the disagreement between Arendt and Heidegger over phenomenology. So for this week's Tapping, the question is: what causes these divides between the philosopher and their students and does one need even to study directly under a philosopher to be a student of their thought? Are these students then gifted with a special understanding of their teacher's opinion, or do their disagreements come from a failure of communication? Are disagreements sometimes a combination of both, or should they be judged entirely on a case by case basis?"