Sunday, January 13, 2008

Kids Today (They Can Make Me So Proud)

PEOPLE WHO THINK THEY'RE PHILOSOPHICAL

One of the most unfortunate consequences of the New Age / Spirituality movement is the dilution of the meaning of philosophy. (The most grievous consequence, of course, is the direct physical danger of using homeopathy and crystal healing for all your medical needs, but that is a subject for another post.) Philosophy has been replaced with insipid, pseudo-intellectual, profound-sounding inanities: “Happiness=Hope+Faith+Love.” (I just made that up, by the way; please, please do not use it as your life mantra.) What’s amazing is, first, that people actually believe this crap and, second, that they start producing it themselves with no sense of shame. For me this means that every class discussion about poetry, literature, art, music, or history turns into a trichotillomanic temptation. That I am not yet bald is a testament to my patience.

See, my dear classmate, when Hegel said “Spirit,” he actually meant something. Yes, Hegel was insane, but at least he knew what he meant. When you say “spirit” in the sentence, “The author, like, talks about the spirit, like the soul, only like deeper, kind of, and it’s all connected and—it’s hard to explain,” you have no idea what you’re talking about, and you don’t mean anything. You’re just hoping the teacher will mistake your inarticulacy for profundity. Thank the New Age movement, my dear classmate; in a rational era, you would never get away with passing off “like the soul, only like deeper” as insightful or even intelligible.

But even eloquence does not turn emptiness into wisdom. Take a random politician’s speech, say, this one, and look at all the “inspirational,” “philosophical” content:

'Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.

Because we are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America. And in this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.'


And what, pray tell, is that supposed to mean? “Hope means that you’re not cynical, and it goes against all the available evidence.” Thanks for the definition, and yes, that’s exactly what I think about hope too. “We are ready to believe again.”

Riiiiiight.

Were we always so credulous?

Julia (whoever "Julia" is) scribbling away as Intelligent Dissent