JR'S Free Thought Pages
following is chapter 4 of Getting Even, by Woody Allen,
development of my philosophy came about as follows: My wife, inviting me to
sample her very first soufflé, accidentally dropped a spoonful of it on my
foot, fracturing several small bones. Doctors were called in, X-Rays taken and
examined, and I was ordered to bed for a month. During this convalescence, I
turned to the works of some of Western society's most formidable thinkers—a
stack of books I had laid aside for such an eventuality. Scorning chronological
order, I began with Kierkegaard and Sartre, then moved quickly to Spinoza,
Hume, Kafka, and Camus. I was not bored, as I had feared I might be; rather, I
found myself fascinated by the alacrity with which these great minds
unflinchingly attacked morality, art, ethics, life and death. I remember my
reaction to a typically luminous observation of Kierkegaard's: "Such a
relation which relates itself to its own self (that is to say, a self) must
either have constituted itself or have been constituted by another." The
concept brought tears to my eyes. My word, I thought, how clever! (I'm a man who
has trouble writing two meaningful sentences on "My Day at the Zoo.")
True, the passage was totally incomprehensible to me, but what of it as long as
Kierkegaard was having fun? Suddenly confident that metaphysics was the work I
had always been meant to do, I took up my pen and began at once to jot down the
first of my own musings. The work proceeded apace, and in a mere two afternoons
—with time out for dozing and trying to get the two little BBs in to the eyes
of the bear—I had completed the philosophical work that I am hoping will not
be uncovered until after my death, or until the year 3000 (whichever comes
first), and which I modestly believe will assure me a place of reverence among
history's weightiest thinkers. Here is but a small sample of the main body of
intellectual treasure that I leave for posterity, or until the cleaning woman
of Pure Dread
formulating any philosophy, the first consideration must always be: What can we
know? That is, what can we be sure we know, or sure that we know we knew it, if
indeed it is at all knowable. Or have we simply forgotten it and are too
embarrassed to say anything? Descartes hinted at the problem when he wrote ,
"My mind can never know my body, although it has become quite friendly with
my legs." By "knowable," incidentally, I do not mean that which
can be known by perception of the senses, or that which can be grasped by the
mind, but more that which can be said to be Known or to possess Knownness or
Knowability, or at least something you can mention to a friend.
we actually "know" the universe? My God, it's hard enough to find your
way around in Chinatown. The point, however, is: Is there anything out there?
And why? And must they be so noisy? Finally, there can be no doubt
that the one characteristic of "reality" is that it lacks essence.
That is not to say it has no essence, but merely lacks it. (The reality I speak
of here is the same Hobbes described, but a little smaller.) Therefore the
Cartesian dictum "I think, therefore I am" might be better expressed
"Hey, there goes Edna with a saxaphone!" So, then, to know a substance
or an idea we must doubt it, and thus, doubting it, come to perceive the
qualities it possesses in its finite state, which are truly "in the thing
itself," or "of the thing itself," or of something or nothing. If
this is clear, we can leave epistemology for the moment.
Dialectics As a Means of Coping with Shingles
can say that the universe consists of a substance, and this substance we will
call "atoms," or else we will call it "monads." Democritus
called it atoms. Leibniz called it monads. Fortunately, the two men never met,
or there would have been a very dull argument. These "particles" were
set in motion by some cause or underlying principle, or perhaps something fell
someplace. The point is that it's too late to do anything about it now, except
possibly to eat plenty of raw fish. This, or course, does not explain why the
soul is immortal. Nor does it say anything about the afterlife, or about the
feeling my Uncle Sender has that he is being followed by Albanians. The causal
relationship between the first principle "i.e., God, or a strong wind) and
any teleological concept of being (Being) is, according to Pascal, "so
ludicrous that it's not even funny (Funny)." Schopenhauer called this
"will," but his physician diagnosed it has hay fever. In his later
years, he became embittered by it, or more likely because of his increasing
suspicion that he was not Mozart.
Cosmos on Five Dollars a Day
then, is "beautiful"? The merging of harmony with the just, or the
merging of harmony with something that just sounds like "the just"?
Possibly harmony should have been merged with "the crust" and this is
what's been giving us our trouble. Truth, to be sure, is beauty—or "the
necessary." That is, what is good or possessing the qualities of "the
good" results in "truth." If it doesn't, you can bet the thing is
not beautiful, although it may still be waterproof. I am beginning to think I
was right in the first place that everything should be merged with the crust. Oh
A man approaches a palace.
Its only entrance is guarded by some fierce
Huns who will only let men named
Julius enter. The man tries to bribe the guards by offering them a year's supply
of choice chicken parts. They neither scorn his offer nor accept it, but merely
take his nose and twist it until looks like Molly screw. The man says it is
imperative that he enter the palace because he is bringing the emperor a change
of underwear. When the guards still refuse, the man begins to Charleston. They
seem to enjoy his dancing but soon become morose over the treatment of the
Navajos by the federal government. Out of breath, the man collapses. He dies,
never having see the emperor and owing the Steinway people sixty dollars on a
piano he had rented from them in August.
I am given a message to
deliver to a general. I ride and ride, but the general's headquarters seem to
get farther and farther away. Finally, a giant black panther leaps upon me and
devours my mind and heart. This puts a terrific crimp in my evening. No matter
how hard I try, I cannot catch the general, whom I see running in the distance
in his shorts and whispering the word "nutmeg" to his enemies.
It is impossible to experience one's own death objectively and still carry a tune.
universe is merely a fleeting idea in God's mind—a pretty uncomfortable
thought, particularly if you've just made a down payment on a house.
Eternal nothingness is O.K. if you're dressed for it.
If only Dionysus were alive! Where would he eat?
Not only is there no God, but trying getting a plumber on weekends.