Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Olive Garden

I’ve talked to many other philosophers about, what literary critics might call, “the other”. That is, of course, talking to non-philosophers. I mean it’s easy if you’re on some safe topic like politics or The Sopranos, but there’s only so much mileage that can be gotten from them…

Yesterday I went out with a friend (let’s call her Sylvia) to our local trattoria, the Olive Garden. (I tried to explain to Sylvia that it was partly an ironic tribute to middle america and partly because I have a deep affection for their calamari.)

After the appetizers and a couple glasses of white Sylvia asked the Question: “What exactly do you philosophers do?” Indeed. I told her of course that we try, to the best of our meager abilities, to analyze the basic nature of such things as knowledge, thought, substance, truth etc. She perked up a bit at that, having suffered from the commmon Historical Confusion--i.e. the idea that contemporary philosophers only discuss dead philosophers--and asked me to give an example.

I have to say I’d been quite looking forward to this dinner, and now I realized that the Moment of Truth had come. Could I, like Socrates or Alain de Botton, coherently relate the world of THOUGHT to LIFE and thereby win myself the affection of my own (slightly more effeminate) Alcibiades?

I decided to start out simple. I said, “Well, for example, how many things do you think are on your plate.”

She looked at me somewhat blankly and said, “Do you want me to count the fusilli?”
Simeon: Let’s just stipulate that there are 34 pieces of Fusilli on the plate.
Sylvia: Why don’t we make it easier and just stipulate that there is ONE thing on the plate, a pasta dish. (Her eyes veritably sparkled here.)
Simeon: Well, if we did that there wouldn’t be much to discuss… So let’s say, to put in a non-question begging terminology if you counted the fusilli you would count 34 pieces, whether there really are 34 pieces we’ll leave undecided.
Sylvia: Alright then there’s 35 THINGS on the plate.
Simeon: What things?
Sylvia: Well, there’s 34 pieces of pasta and then there’s the sauce.
Simeon: But didn’t you already say there was the whole pasta dish also? Shouldn’t that make it 36: 34 pieces of pasta, the sauce, and the whole dish.

She looked slightly confused but nonetheless interested. Anyway, the dinner went quite well, and I’m hoping that there will be some more philosophical conversations with Sylvia to report.


Blogger Kent Washburne said...

Yes, the Calmari! I've got to say $6.95 is a great deal for such a large load of Calarami.

4:31 PM  
Anonymous saddt said...

nice story

10:02 PM  

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