The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 8 July 2018 - Page 7

Jude Sutton turned up 5 minutes late to the lesson on a windy March afternoon. The lecture room was diagonally opposite his offices and he was obviously not having an easy time making headway against the winds sweeping off the moors. His long coat flailed in the wind and whipped his legs. His hair was completely disheveled upon arrival in the lecture-room. Even his cigarette had gone out and he seemed to have come without matches. He took a long time to decide what to do with the residue of his home -made cigarette. At last the moment for decision came and he crumpled up the cigarette and put it in his coat pocket. Jude Sutton was suffering. He had almost decided not to come to the lecture. Without a cigarette to distract his nervous system it would not be long before his hands would begin shaking with anxiety. It would not be long before his headache made it impossible to talk without it seeming as if his voice was coming from somewhere far away in the distance. He steeled himself for the opening of the lecture: “What is our relation to the world as a whole? Surely it cannot be what the scientist claims it to be, a relation to physically measurable events related by causal mechanisms obeying laws we cannot formulate accurately. Surely it cannot be, as the idealist would like us to believe ,a matter of mental states and processes obeying laws of thought we cannot formulate, all relating back to the Cartesian Cogito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am”? How have we been led to this impasse? Is it because of what we will take up in our next week’s lecture, namely the influence of epistemology? Or is the problem instead the influence of the so- called theory of knowledge, upon the three central metaphysical issues in Philosophy: 1. of the existence of the world, 2.The nature of our souls, and 3. The being or processes we call God. Surely our relation to the world is not merely a knowing relation, which always puts us at a kind of psychical distance to reality. Yet we surely know something about the world. What about our relation to our own souls or even more interestingly given our topic today of Ethics, our relation to other souls. Is the mere concept of knowing sufficient to characterize this relation?. This relation to other souls, which is the concern of all ethical theory? The major enemy of Philosophy or the major disease it suffers from is skepticism that has the mission not just of questioning everything we claim to know, but, in the course of that questioning mission, skepticism dismantles our world, reduces it to primeval dust. And when we are standing there with dust in our hands the skeptic says nihilstically “ See! it was all clouds of thought, castles in the air”. True, philosophers know you can never reduce a cloud to dust, and the forms of the castle and the house are just as real as the primeval dust the skeptic wants everything reduced to. Philosophy has learned from many skeptical attacks in its history that the existence of the world is not a problem of knowledge. The claim to know places us too far away from the core of the problem. The other major disease that Philosophy has suffered from historically is dogmatism. Sometimes one disease is a cure for another but not very often. Dogmatism is the tool of the tyrant and skepticism the tool of his tyrannical subject and the discourse in such a kingdom can only reduce the truth to dust. At funerals we hear “Man, dust thou are, and to dust shalt thou return.” The intention was to humble us but instead the dust blinded us, filled up our ears and mouth, caused deafness and struck us dumb.