I’LL BE THE FIRST to admit that I rarely ever read comments.
It’s not because I don’t want to read comments. I do. I would never discourage anyone from writing them, even on my blog
where I almost certainly will never read them. I just never get around to reading them. My mind is always occupied by other things.
Like composing the perfectly philosophically adroit tweet inside my head and then never actually tweeting it.
I’m kidding I never think about that. Never.
When I do get around to reading comments — and I do appreciate anyone who takes the time to write one — there’s a particular kind of comment that I never fail to enjoy:
It’s the comment that starts off like, I think you misunderstand what so-and-so said…
it’s the not-negatively phrased negative comment that philosophers love to make.
Listen: I kinda know that.
It’s kinda the point.
Sometimes I’m wrong. But sometimes… I’m wrong on purpose.
The key to being wrong on purpose is that you actually gotta know what you’re talking about.
It’s kind of like how people say that Marilyn Monroe made a career playing the dumb blonde, but was in on the joke the whole time. She was smart enough to know there was money to be had in playing dumb.
Although you’d be hard pressed to find even one professional philosopher who would admit that they were ever wrong (aka, dumb), even if they’re in on the joke.
…unlike Marilyn Monroe.
When I was a kid, I used to go to Bible study.
I know, we all do strange things in our childhood.
Anyway, while I was supposed to be reading the Bible to learn the correct way to interpret the infallible word of God, I was more interested in learning all the ways people get Bible verses wrong.
There are a lot of bad ideas about what the Bible says out there, and by golly, I was going to figure it all out.
I was ten years old.
You see… the way I see it, the one thing that makes the examined life worth living is grabbing a philosophical idea or two and then pushing and pulling the (ever-loving) shit out of it, just to see where it goes.
even if, in the end, all our pushing and pulling goes nowhere.
even if, in the end, we got it all wrong.
We all know that philosophers have a thing for an exact fit. That is to say, we (assuming I can call myself a philosopher) like the theories that not only look good on paper, but also explain the how and why of everything and defeat all counterarguments in any and every philosophical situation — real or thought experiment.
But if you’ve lived for more than two minutes outside of a philosophy class, you’d know that the real world doesn’t work that way. There is no exact fit. Contrary to whatever Immanuel Kant may have thought about his transcendental idealism, there is no theory that does — or can — explain everything.
or in that case of Kant, explain anything.
…and that’s where all that pop culture stuff comes in.
You see folks, we can use movies, books, notable people and events, and tv shows (collectively known as “pop culture”) to push and pull on philosophical ideas. We can use pop culture as ready-made thought experiment templates, filled with characters and situations we can use to expand, clarify or even disregard philosophical ideas (in the real world) when we apply, and at times, misapply philosophy.
Is the movie Groundhog Day and exact fit of Nietzsche’s eternal return? No. It isn’t.
Is The Matrix the most philosophically correct depiction of whatever it was that Descartes said about not knowing if the world is real and all that evil demon stuff?
Is Ferris Bueller an true Randian objectivist? Probably not.
He’s actually more of a utilitarian.
Would Descartes say that cinematic zombies don’t think, so therefore they aren’t am, so therefore they aren’t rational beings, so therefore we can regard them in the same way that we would regard a clock….or a cat?
…wait a minute, he probably would say that.
The point is, is that when you apply philosophical ideas (or theories) to something pop culture-ish, like a movie or a fictional character, there will always be multiple ways to interpret how a character is and what that character does.
…unless your name is Ingmar Bergman and you totally made your movie philosophical intentionally.
Multiple ways to interpret things correctly also means there are multiple ways to misinterpret things. Misinterpreting (even the intentional misinterpretation) a philosophical idea or how the idea can be applied in the real world does some good, too. How else would you know if it works?
And really, not getting it right doesn’t mean you’re wrong.
Especially if you’re having fun.
And anyway, who cares? It’s not like you’re up for tenure.
So… pack a bag and come with me down to misinterpretation station!
You might just enjoy yourself doing some philosophical pushin’ and pullin’.