Episode 035: Intellectual Hedonism

Why are we here? What’s this all about? What is my purpose? What is yours? Is there even one at all? These are easy questions to ask, but answering them is a whole different story. Wolfram Alpha has one idea. We’ve got some others. Composing my party in an epic aural quest for the meaning of life, the universe, and everything this week were BF newcomer, veteran philosophy major, and budding teleologist Joshua Clemmons, Numero Uno Fanboy Jed Cummins, and electricity-less Kevin Saunders via Skype. This one’s deep folks. We’re talking Edward Norton in Fight Club deep. Have a listen…

This week’s post-show song pimpage: “Purpose” from Avenue Q. Puppets with life lessons? Yes, please!

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4 Comments on "Episode 035: Intellectual Hedonism"

  1. Taz
    18/06/2009 at 9:40 am Permalink

    Great show guys, and an awesome topic.

    I’ve gotta tell you that you had me worried for a while that you weren’t going to entertain the notion of life as meaningless. I’m a firm believer (for lack of a better word) that there is no meaning inherrent to our lives apart from that which we ourselves place upon them. I am my own meaning, and that’s enough for me. That’s not to say I’m a nihilist. Far from it. Just because the universe doesn’t present us with intrinsics (quintessence, platonic forms, abstracts, call ’em what you will) that doesn’t mean that we haven’t given it any. One of the basic processes that makes us human is the observation, recognition and labeling of phenomena. We created it all through the very act of perception. Before us there were no plants or animals, no earth or moon, no sun nor stars, there was just Stuff. Stuff that just was, that just did what it did. Then we came along and we saw the patterns, the ways of Stuff. We began to percieve how Stuff worked and what Stuff did and we assigned values upon stuff based on how important that stuff was to us. Then we started creating other stuff to fill in the gaps that made our lives harder and we gave this new stuff names and values and before you knew it where there had been stuff just being and doing stuff there was now suddenly a Universe full of the mundane and the fantastic.

    An example I like to use is that of the Quintessential Spoon.
    Before I was born, and before my father and his before him. Before all the fathers and before the events which would lead to the first father. Before the moon, the earth and even before the sun, which is a not inconsiderable expanse of time before the coming of the first son. Before the stars and before the galaxy. Before It all, but perhaps just slightly after the universe, there was The Spoon. Not just any spoon, but The Spoon. The spoon of all spoons. The be all and the very end all of all that it is to be Spoon. The Spoon that is, was and always will be, just so that I would be able to sit down and enjoy a nice wholesome bowl of chicken noodle soup (both of which also existed long before fathers, suns and galaxies but maybe just after the universe, naturally.)

    I leave the conclusion open ended because I find the ludicracy of the concept starts to become self evident around the “Spoon of all spoons” mark. The point is that: Yes, alright, I’ll concede a certain possibility (as I will in all possibillities) of all things always existing in some sort of super-noumenal potentia but, when you come right down to it, somebody probably just grabbed a piece of curved bark because they were tired of having to wash their hands and face after they ate.

    And this is the thing. We did it all. We give meaning to our environment because if we didn’t we would walk around in constant confusion and without any means of communication. We would have ceased a long time ago.

    The arguments I often come across are thus: Where did the idea for the spoon come from? If there’s no meaning to life then what’s the point in living? If there’s nothing to give meaning then how can we have morals? etc. ad nauseum.
    I find these sorts of arguments to be both small minded and highly offensive as these people obviously credit themselves and our species with no initiative or intelligence whatsoever. Is problem solving not one of the central traits of mankind? Is there not a whole world of stuff do and people to interact with, of mundanity and wonders, of paths to take? Is it not obvious that you don’t want pain inflicted upon yourself and so to inflict it upon others, on any level, is probably not the best thing to do?

    I can feel myself slow veering from my original path, which is fine to listen to but can get tiresome to read. My point is that we create meaning, it’s what we as humans do. So what if it’s not predetermined, is that really such a bad thing? If you need a reason to exist then go out and find one, there’s plenty out there. Otherwise, just chill, bro. You have a life so you might as well enjoy it. It’s never done me any harm.

    Thumbs up for slurpees.

  2. Taz
    18/06/2009 at 10:27 am Permalink

    Apologies. I just re-read my post and became worried that it could be interpretated with no small amount of vehement hubris and a certain lean towards the condescending in places.
    I’m almost ashamed to admit that it’s become a bit of a button subject. There’s just something about the idea of independent abstracts existing willy nilly in the ether that are somehow exclusive of the very things that depend upon them for their own existence that really riles me up.

    If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the angry dome.

  3. StephenTorrence
    18/06/2009 at 9:22 pm Permalink

    No, not the angry dome!

    Once again Taz, very thoughtful response. I like your little rabbit trail into the whole Platonic Ideals realm with the spoon example. We’ve referenced the Ideal Chair on the show before I think, though I don’t think we’ve ever really entertained the idea in too much detail.

    What do you think of Skyping into a show one of these days? I don’t think we’ve ever had anyone on from the UK before and it sounds like you could definitely contribute a unique viewpoint.

  4. Taz
    19/06/2009 at 8:51 am Permalink

    Thank you for the invitation. It’ll certainly give me a good reason to at least start thinking about the possibillity of setting myself up with skype. As everyone I know tends to be happy with using mobile (cell) phones I’ve never really found the impetus to look into the matter. Secondly, I’m very much a writey sort of guy: I find it easier to properly articulate thoughts and censor my flamboyant, and somewhat English, use of foul language when I’m at a keyboard. However, should I skype up, and should I feel confident enough to keep my tongue in check, then expect a call. Stickam participation is definitely a possibility.


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