For this post, I give you some theme music by a very talented musician named Sumner McKane. I chose this nice little tune not for the music itself (deserving though it may be), but for its title: "The Winter I Got Louder than Bombs and Standing on a Beach." I'm going to assume this title reveals that Sumner has memories (and possible nostalgia) for a time in his youth when he found himself impressed for a particular Winter season spent listening to these two albums. For the music geeks among us, we will recognize these two titles as the B-side collections released by The Smiths and The Cure respectively. The title "Standing on a Beach" is a lyric from the song "Killing an Arab" which appears on the album. Robert Smith had found himself sufficiently impressed with Albert Camus' The Stranger to write this song, which caused enough controversy that The Cure decided to name their collection with one of the lyrics from it.
Many of you reading this will know that The Partially Examined Life did a podcast early on about "The Myth of Sisyphus" by Camus. The paragraph which struck me most in what I read of that essay was the following:
A step lower and strangeness creeps in: perceiving that the world is "dense," sensing to what a degree a stone is foreign and irreducible to us, with what intensity nature or a landscape can negate us. At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise. The primitive hostility of the world rises up to face us across millennia, for a second we cease to understand it because for centuries we have understood in it solely the images and designs that we had attributed to it beforehand, because henceforth we lack the power to make use of that artifice. The world evades us because it becomes itself again. That stage scenery masked by habit becomes again what it is. It withdraws at a distance from us. Just as there are days when under the familial face of a woman, we see as a stranger her we had loved months or years ago, perhaps we shall come even to desire what suddenly leaves us so alone. But the time has not yet come. Just one thing: that denseness and that strangeness of the world is the absurd.
When I first read that paragraph, I took note and wondered whether or not his mention of "a stone" at the beginning was an allusion to a particular work by Sartre. The following paragraph made it clear however when Camus says "...this incalculable tumble before the image of what we are, this "nausea," as a writer of today calls it, is also the absurd".
This month of December, and possibly running into January, Mark will be leading a Not School group of the fictional work Nausea" target="_blank">Nausea by that "writer of today", Jean Paul Sartre in preparation for a future podcast episode. If you're interested in finding out what had so impressed Camus in reading Sartre, so as to equate his beloved Absurdity with it, then that is reason enough to become a PEL Citizen and join in on the discussion: join the group here. Just don't expect too much discussion of The Cure. Or Sumner McKane for that matter.
Speaking of absurdity and fiction, the Philosophical Fiction group will be reading James Joyce's Ulysses during December and January. This is appropriately following the modernist vein as they finish Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
Intro Readings in Philosophy will be doing Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil. By the way, if you want to avoid misspelling "Nietzsche", just remember that it has all of them. All the letters that you think are in there, are in there.
Philosophy of Mind is continuing to trudge through Thomas Metzinger's Being No One: The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity this month. We're starting out this month with a different plan from the original reading schedule. We're going to try and work backwards from the end of the book. The idea is to see if doing it that way will more easily highlight the important points necessary to get us to the conclusion. Either way, it's a very interesting book.
We also have two brand new groups starting this month: Philosophy in Theater and Philosophy of Law. The first will be starting out this month reading a play by Peter Shaffer called "Equus", and the other will be covering various readings in "Natural Law" including Thomas Aquinas and Hobbes.
As I glanced at the forums for these groups, it appears that it's still prime time for joining any of them. Even the Philosophy of Mind group is possible to join at this point since we will all be "finishing" the book together! The exception may be the Philosophy of Technology group; it looks like they've finished reading Heidegger's "Question Concerning Technology" and will be recording a discussion soon. Still, you could jump in there and prod them about what to read next, as that's been a fun group. I should also mention that the Marxism group (well, two members) recorded a discussion last month that's now available to members on the Free Stuff page; that one might be ripe for a revival as well, but you'd need to join up and get involved!
-- Evan Gould