Wednesday, July 8, 2015

A sense of scale

Podcast. I've had a Philosophy Timeline on my CoPhilosophy course blogsite for a long time.

It's important to keep a sense of scale, and to realize how large an imagination and expansive a spirit it takes to do that. 

What did Casey Kasem say? "Keep your feet on the ground, but keep reaching for the stars."
Carl Sagan's calendar... Neil de Grasse Tyson's... Sagan on "the beginning"... the Sagan-Tyson connection
UPDATE: Still wondering about the nature and frequency of Wittgenstein's perambulations, but there's this: Sunday afternoon Wittgenstein and I were walking to Drury's home for a discussion group on (what else?) philosophy. W was delivering an impromptu lecture on the history of astronomy when he got to Sir Isaac Newton and 'the motion of the bodies.' He had me walk in a slow arc, and then he positioned himself a few steps away and began walking around me in a circle. I recall this large willow oak near the river. He then guided me to walk around it. So. There I was, walking around the tree with Wittgenstein walking around me. When we had made one circle, he said, 'You are the earth, I am the moon, and that tree is the sun. It is the gravitational pull of the earth on the moon and the sun on the earth that keeps us from all flying off into outer space where, I should think, one day soon we shall travel. If I could deliver my lectures in philosophy this way, I might not be such a failure.
This is just a story, I think, not a history. But it's much in the spirit of the strange philosopher who said “a serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes.”
French philosopher Frederic Gros's bestselling (in France, of course) A Philosophy of Walking struck one reviewer as missing the distaff half. Gros's subjects are "various thinkers for whom walking was central to their work –Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Kant, Rousseau, Thoreau (they're all men; it's unclear if women don't walk or don't think)..." Well, women have always walked and thought. Dorothy Wordsworth and Jane Austen spring instantly to mind, among Brits. Over here, Margaret Fuller probably walked with Emerson and Thoreau. More recently, Annie Dillard, Rebecca Solnit, Cheryl Strayed... Put this on your research list, S: find us some more walking/writing/thinking women.

I've resisted reading Gros, fearing to discover that he'd scooped me and my dilatory Philosophy Walks project. But if this passage and the reviewer's response is any indication, Gros's take on the subject is not at all like mine.
Rousseau says in his Confessions, when you walk all is possible. Your future is as open as the sky in front of you. And if you walk several hours, you can escape your identity. There is a moment when you walk several hours that you are only a body walking. Only that. You are nobody. You have no history. You have no identity. You have no past. You have no future. You are only a body walking.
I've walked a lot over the decades, but I've never walked entirely away from my identity and my history. Or ours. I've never been only a body walking, or an Emersonian "transparent eyeball" either.

Poor Professor Gros "started to look depressed. So, you don't manage to walk much on a day-to-day basis?" What? The philosopher of walking is sedentary?! He definitely should get a dog.

Looks like I'm going to have to write my book. Monsieur Gros has not written it.

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