Post-podcast thoughts

It occurs to me that one of the problems with the podcast is that we both forgot about the question that gave us our topic in the first place: whether stories, art, etc. can tell us something about ourselves which we can’t get through philosophy, science, etc.

This actually brings us around to the question of religion, since the question is just a more specific form of asking whether what we can know by reason alone exhausts the true. In particular, the Abrahamic faiths are really key here. Because although it’s the case that Siddhartha Gautama hit upon his Four Noble Truths through “non-discursive means” (to use my own terminology), the story surrounding that is like the story of how Newton discovered gravity: it’s extraneous to the theory, and it doesn’t matter very much that this particular person hit upon this idea in this particular way. The important point is that we now have and understand the idea. Whereas in the case of, say, Christianity, everything hinges on the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

Anyhow, I was surprised to hear Rob doubt the existence of Socrates – it’s the first time I’ve heard of anyone doubting him. But there does seem to be that peculiarly modern trend of taking a somewhat conspiratorial view of ancient history. And this leads to another point: the view that reality must somehow be less interesting than stories, myths, etc. That if a somewhat remarkable event or person is described somewhere, the fallback position is that what happened was really quite mundane and only later various embellishments make the thing interesting. Now, in the case of, say, Plato’s dialogues, it’s clear that Plato is doing a lot of projecting onto the character of Socrates, and that a lot of what is portrayed as happening is highly fictionalized. But still, the real Socrates had to be already interesting enough to be worth mythologizing in this fashion. There’s no real impetus to make an unremarkable person or event into a legend, because, well, they’re unremarkable (I believe Chesterton has an essay somewhere discussing this point).

The reason why we are capable of telling interesting stories is because we are interesting and live in a world which is interesting.

The peculiar case of the Gospel story is that it is presented as almost the reverse happening: whereas in the case of mythologizing, what literally happened becomes subservient to the meaning of what has happened. Whereas with the Gospels, the “Logos”, or meaning, invades history.

Hey, shouldn’t I be working on that NaNoWriMo novel or something?

About Josh W

Scribbler and doodler
This entry was posted in fragments of culture, this seemed important to say at the time, Uncategorized, What Is This Beast Called Man. Bookmark the permalink.

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