Sunday, January 08, 2006

Brilliant programme on Radio Four last night - did my interesting dream four years ago have any significance?

One of the positive ways darling Phil has influenced my life is by forcing Radio Four on me. I am now addicted.

Last night (Saturday night let me remind) there was a lovely production of the French Lieutenant's woman. Then even better, there was 'Great Debates'. I've never heard it before, but they apparently take a 'real' debate or disagreement from the past and discuss it again with proponents of each argument. Last night it was Jefferson versus Hamilton at the birth of the USA. I didn't know any of this, but Jefferson was an idealist who believed in the people and local democracy. Hamilton, sounded unfortunately like a bit of a prat, advocating law & order etc, a centralised government and the first national bank. Ie George Bush in a wig. But it was very interesting, I was learning something I didn't know much about and it was done in a very good way, like a court of law so the debaters could bring forward witnesses.

Of course it's the perennial arguement that I debate with myself and any old sausage passing past me in the pub. Idealism versus materialism. Marx claimed to have conquered the debate with 'dialectical materialism' but I'm not so sure. Jefferson sounded to me like he was influenced by Hegel or vice versa, because of course Hegel was an idealist too.

Four years ago I dreamt that I was a young man, a German philosophy student in Paris in the 1820s. I was at Univesity in Paris, in a wood panelled room and a woman spoke to me to rebuke me for some misdemenour. I had no respect for this woman whatsoever. I woke up from the dream, convinced that feminism was not seen as part of philosophy now. Sure enough, it was not listed in the dictionary of philosophy I had.

Being a woman, I know we are obscured from these highbrow philosophical and political debates. There haven't been many female philosophers, certainly not idealistic ones. The pursuit of love has not been studied in any depth from a philosophical angle. The pursuit of love is in the material world - evolution and David Attenborough have taught us that making love ensures our survival in the most long term sense.

Love itself is an ideal - it's immeasurable, unconquerable, unattainable and invisible to the naked eye. But the pragmatic steps we can take for ourselves - to learn to love our friends, family, neighbours and bodies, can improve our lives on a personal level and ultimately improve humanity.

Pragmatism is vital as we all have to live in the real world. But idealism - the belief in an ultimate ideal good of some kind - in my case Love - makes life worth living and is the past, present and future.


Phil said...

What is 'dialectical materialism'?
There is a difference between materialism and pragmatism. Materialism is not very pragmatic if by materialism you mean the senseless pursuit of possessions. If you are materialistic then you’d miss important things in life. But then I suppose that pragmatists miss out on important things in life so maybe they are then same? I’m no good at philosophy but I can lance a boil.

Phil said...
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