Author: David Rando

Ideology and utopia

Let’s admit that just now our world could use a little sprucing up. I often think of the joke that dramatist Samuel Beckett has one of his characters tell about the world. A man hires a tailor to make a pair of pants. The tailor keeps botching parts of them, endeavors to make them perfect, and keeps putting off delivery. The client finally becomes exasperated, loses his patience and complains, “In six days, do you hear me, six days, God made the world. Yes Sir, no less Sir, the WORLD! And you are not bloody well capable of making me...

Read More

Greatness through productivity

I suspect that each of us carries some best thing around inside, some thing that we want to develop not for glory or riches but because it would mean ripening to fruit the finest thing that we feel capable of growing. If we could only bring it to the surface, we sense that this thing would fulfill us in ways that other things cannot. Last semester I diagnosed why it is difficult to accomplish the things we really burn to do when we are young, in part because, bursting with health and arrogance, we don’t admit to ourselves how...

Read More

Happy illusions guiding us home

Isn’t there is a certain enchantment that sometimes comes over us when we pass a lovely house? The sunny windows, the neat lawn, those tidy bricks and that happy bench by the front door: we drink them in with a glance. The people who live in such a place, we find ourselves (almost involuntarily) thinking, must be as happy as the smiling face of the house. Before we know it, we find ourselves (almost unconsciously) bemoaning our own incomplete happiness in contrast to the perfect happiness that must dwell right behind those walls. Those lucky residents, whose happiness seems...

Read More

The poetic world of the squash court

I started playing squash in grad school because my dissertation director told me to take up a sport. Squash is a racquet sport of precision, strategy and stamina played by two people on an enclosed court. The ball is smaller than a golf ball, rubber and stubborn. Before you learn to play properly, and on bad days, it is shockingly difficult to get the ball to do anything you want it to do. Even though I’ve played for well over a decade now, squash remains a second language for me. When you watch players who learned as children, you...

Read More

False propositions

The philosopher Ernst Bloch writes that some false propositions “are not totally finished with regard to the truth.” This strange formulation insists that factually untrue philosophical propositions are not doomed to remain untrue forever. He gives the example of Socrates’ proposition that nobody voluntarily does wrong. This, of course, is wildly untrue. Last summer someone stole my identity, and I’m sure the thief knew it was wrong to buy all those iPads on the Sam’s Club credit card fraudulently opened in my name. But Socrates tries to make this point: lack of virtue comes from ignorance, but because virtue comes from knowledge, it can be taught and acquired. If one acquires virtue, one would not voluntarily (i.e. knowingly) do wrong. How sanguine should this make us about the future? The way we respond to the idea that false propositions might have business with the truth in the future has a lot to do with how we view human nature. If human nature is static, universal virtue seems beyond us. An English professor’s social security number will always be too great a temptation for some potential malefactors to resist exploiting it. But what if, like Bloch, we were to imagine that human nature is not yet determined, that humans are still living in prehistory? What if human nature is still totally up for grabs? This view sees the future as...

Read More
  • 1
  • 2