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Blog - Blogue

  • The Game called Philosophy

    Friday, May 01, 2015
    Iva Apostolova

    Philosophical arguments are like game-pieces on one of the most intricate playgrounds we humans have invented, a playground where life and thought are inextricably crisscrossed. Psychologists and neurobiologists claim that knowledge-growth registers the highest when the mind is in a play-mode. But what does it means to be in a play-mode? We tend to equate games and playing, in general, with fun. And it no doubt is, but as any chess player will tell you, game playing is the most serious activity there is. It astonishingly resembles life…

    All play activities have rules and an end goal. The rules may vary from more strict to very flexible, but they are always there. No matter how extravagant your argument is, there’s no getting around modus ponens! Playing, just like philosophizing, is not about keeping a perfect score. It’s about being fresh and unpredictable. Unpredictability is about skills and creativity. It’s about the sparkle in the eye and the fire in the belly. In philosophy, just like in poker, luck favors the prepared ones. Knowing the history of the game sets masters apart from players.    

    How to win the game then? Although most games aim at winning, the ultimate goal is, of course, to succumb to what artists, philosophers, and mystics alike call ‘pure joy’. Playing a game is about people and their stories. As Plato once said, ‘You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than a year of conversation.’ Playing is about playing with others. It’s about the roles one assumes and resumes all the time, as well as the delicate balance among them. Think about it: we are children, colleagues, friends, lovers, and partners all at once; we are both spectators and actors in our own life. Playing happens in a play community and, just like in any other community, mutual respect is its foundation. If you play with the best, even if you lose, you’ll gain a lot for the next round. 

    In the words of Tupac Shakur: ‘It's the game of life. Do I win or do I lose? One day they're gonna shut the game down. I gotta have as much fun and go around the board as many times as I can before it's my turn to leave.’ 

     

    Tupac Shakur

  • How much do we need to worry about time?

    Friday, March 27, 2015
    Iva Apostolova

     

    A lot of ink has been spilled over the centuries in an attempt to capture the nature of time and our relation to it. Even if you’ve never heard of St. Augustine, I guarantee you, you will recognize his, now iconic, response to what time is: “If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.”

    We have created endless myths and poetic images depicting time as circular, linear, infinite, finite, a voracious man-eating beast, a never ending spinning wheel of fortune... Time is a relational concept, pronounced the great Leibniz. Time is absolute, retorted Newton. Time is the form of the inner sense and as such, informs our consciousness, chimed in Kant. And so it went until Einstein set the record ‘straight’ when he announced that we live in a fluid, four-dimensional space-time reality which is rather complicated to describe and manipulate.

    And then there are the Sartres and the Heideggers of the 20th Century who rub our noses in what they call the inescapable truth: we, humans, are thrown, free will notwithstanding, into this thing called existence which is, before anything, existence-in-time. And yet we try to escape time. All the time, in fact. We live half of our lives as though we would live forever, and the other half -- frantically trying to hang on to our youth, or lamenting its loss.

    The brilliantly insightful Nietzsche notably asked his readership if, when reflecting back on their lives, had they had the chance to relive them again, they would.

    Bottom line: how much do we need to worry about time?

    As the old a-la-Godfather joke goes, here’s what transpired between a dying Italian Mafia Don and his grandson. “Grandson, I wanta you to listen to me. I wanta you to take mya 45 automatic, so you will always remember me.” “But, grandpa, I really don’t like guns. How about you leaving me your Rolex instead?” “You lisina to me, some day you goin a be runna da business, you goina have a beautiful wife, lotsa money, a biga home and maybe a couple of bambino. Some day you goina come hom and maybe finda you wife in bed with another man. Whata gonna do then? Pointa to your watch and say, ‘Time’s up?’”

    And there you have it, the bottomless wisdom of the Don!