Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

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Troubles with Lifestyle

I had lunch with Lizza (and what would've been Brewer as well, if logistical errors had not occurred) at a greek place a bit west of Pitt today. One of the things I like about conversations with her is that, at least on matters relating to philosophy, she is both willing to challenge me and does so intelligently/respectfully. These things have only rarely been paired in my experience, and finding someone who will readily do both is fantastic. In a meta discussion about that, she's repetatively charged that when I talk about politics or philosophy, I don't construct my argument rigourously enough - I tend to skim over a lot or don't explain where I'm coming from. I think this is a fair criticism, although it can be difficult to judge the right level of detail and the right depth of basis to start conversations at. I hopefully can improve at this. I think talking about politics or philosophy has cost me a number of potential friends over the years - the fact that my views have strayed so far from those of social groups I hang out with (being now rather far from being libertarian (or having a similar rights-centric outlook) probably hurts me almost as much as being deeply empiricist (and thus anti-formalist)) makes it hard enough - for those who are willing to listen I need to get better at constructing arguments which have some grab on them. I don't think I have the latter problem so much when writing - given the time to think over my words and revise them, as well as linking them to more of my thoughts, I can be more careful. I think my most successful friendships tend to be based less on ideas and more on shared interests, with a few exceptions.

Kind-of-related, because the weather is edging towards nice again, I took a nice walk into and around Squirrel Hill today. I ran into a few people I know in various contexts, and exchanged pleasantries. While doing so, I wondered if good friendships could consist entirely of such things. While it was kind of pleasant making a bit of smalltalk, I don't think that could really be enough for me - conversations like that don't feel like they have any substance - they're boring. The friendships I do have that are based on shared interests generally develop from an extended acquaintance where I come to conclude that the other person has merit based on their character and mind - my ability to see someone as a "good person" is just as important as my seeing them as being intelligent and pleasant to be around. With different people, I talk about different things though, and that's not a bad thing. I think part of the reason I tend to put people off at CMU is that I like disrupting groupthought a bit too much - whenever I hear a bunch of libertarians nodding their heads in agreement that thinking differently than they do is fascist or stupid, or people getting all holy-war over Emacs versus Vi, or being formalist, I have trouble resisting the temptation to jump in, express a different idea, and disrupt groupthought by reminding them that other perspectives exist. Result: social damage, and unpopularity.

On another topic, I've read a bit more Mao, this time talking about art (see Yenan Forum on Literature and Art). I almost entirely disagree with Mao on this topic -- Mao says that human nature and art both have no meaning outside of class struggle, and that art must be used solely as a tool for such, any other usage being tolerated only as part of the comprimise needed for solidarity with non-Communist groups in his "New Democracy". I don't think that restricting the arts is ever acceptable, nor do I think his statement about human nature and the aspects of art that cover it are accurate. Much of art deals with the character and shared life experience of the individual, and not all art has a large-scale sociopolitical end. Does the Mona Lisa or the Bok Choi jade sculpture in Taipei have a deep political meaning? If a future state needs to suffer art hostile to its ends (as art glorifying slavery or fascism might be seen under such sufferage in modern times), I think it should do so -- a people who are not trusted to handle exposure to ideas and art hostile to whatever philosophy they're in are both unacceptably culturally restricted in my eyes and less likely to really understand the issues raised by such value differences. In an ideal world, I would hope that everyone would be educated on the way people thought over various times in history, from the simple past to various dark times in history. One of the ideas that has become rooted ever more firmly in my head over the years is that to teach history well and broadly teach different philosophies is the most revolutionary, world-improving thing one could do.

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