A world of ideas

5 am, 64 F. on the way to 86. I’m up, spontaneously and without the assistance of any but the avian alarm clock. Sun’s not due ’til 5:32.

Happy birthday Bill Moyers. There haven’t been many political operatives (or Southern Baptists) who transitioned effectively into the “world of ideas” and made  themselves at home there. He’s TV’s “lonely humanist,” said Carlin Romano.

Yesterday morning’s question here was about “relevance.” I thought about that during my walk, and reported later in my day blog that philosophy walks (and thus, Philosophy Walks-the hypothetical book for which I’ve enlisted SC’s actual research assistance) can be about pretty much anything. Spontaneity and freedom are among the elite intellectual virtues, on my view.

But that approach makes for a too-cumbersome project, so we’ll be working to trim our sails and pull PW closer to shore. “What do we think about, when we think about walking?” is a good question. A more manageable one is, “What walking thoughts are worth recording and preserving as relevant to an identifiable philosophical concern, conversation, or tradition?”

Mr. Moyers sets a good example for this project, professing humility for his own modest spot on the sidelines of the great and sprawling world of ideas.

 PW can only begin to pierce its surface. But like Moyers, PW can embrace curiosity and the intrinsic value of the activity of questioning. Moving through landscapes is (or can be) a gentle interrogation, of the sort Moyers mastered. He argued unsuccessfully with his publisher that he ought to be listed not as his books’ author but as their accompanist (“with,” not “by”). He was, as he saw it, just along for the walk and for the sheer pleasure of asking questions and turning over possible replies.

So, this morning’s question to take out for a stroll: might the Q-&-A format (similar to Sarah Bakewell’s in How to Live) be well suited to PW? Something like twenty walks, twenty questions, twenty attempts at an answer? A larger question is whether the question alone, independent of any particular answer, suffices. Is curiosity its own reward?

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