More good report presentations yesterday in CoPhi, including one from Michael and another from Jon that independently observed something important about how we live now: many of us are so busy crafting and  projecting Platonically-ideal social media versions of ourselves that we’re actually lost in cyberspace. Danger, Will Robinson: those “friends” are not reliable, those experiences are not real.

Michael said we’re like Plato’s cave-dwellers, mistaking our own projected “forms” for reality. Jon said real Forms are all around us. Both were really saying, I think, that reality is immediate, embodied, personal, and subjectively experienced. I concur. So would William James, who said “the only form of thing we directly encounter, the only experience we concretely have, is our own personal life.”

“Impersonal experience” is an oxymoron. Virtual experience is better, but still not as direct or immediate or concrete as a walk in the woods or a face-to-face in exterior space. Or a hurricane, lest we forget that reality is not always more pleasant. But it is always more honest. More real. As a very old philosophy primer puts it:

If we ask the plain man, What is the real external world? the first answer that seems to present itself to his mind is this: Whatever we can see, hear, touch, taste , or smell…

So, I vote for the “plain” empiricists, as opposed to the flighty and speculative rationalists… for Aristotle over Plato, Locke and Hume (but not Berkeley) over Descartes and Leibniz. (But I like Spinoza, determinism aside.) I will continue to tweet and blog, but will also continue to resist full immersion in the second-hand, mediated world of clicks and strokes. Step away from the keyboard.

And now I really must turn to an immediate and concrete encounter with that pile of student essays. I’m sure it’ll be real.


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