Philosophy vs. Improv #46: Seize the Day How Exactly? w/ Nick Riggle

What does the shortness of our lives and the beauty of the world actually entail in terms of behavior and philosophy? Nick is a former pro skater who teaches philosophy at U. of San Diego and has written This Beauty about this question, as well as On Being Awesome.

Mark and Bill (your philosophy/comedy puppets, here eternally to dance for your entertainment) engage Nick via car wash planning, the appearance of Bill’s imaginary friend, Groundhog Day, excess copies of the Pol Pot biography, and other invitations to awesomeness.

Get more at Watch him talking a lot more about awsomeness. Follow him at @nickriggle.

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  1. Riggle leaves out an important condition of Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence thought experiment, which is that each time your life recurs, you have to live it over again in exactly the same way. Thus, “every pain and joy and thought and sigh must come again to you, all in the same sequence.” This is the key condition in light of which every choice I make in this life becomes hugely important, because I have to experience the consequences of those choices over and over again an infinite amount of times. If I omit this condition, and simply entertain the idea of having an infinite number of lives, each of which would start with the same potential but could play out differently, I’m not sure I would arrive at anywhere near this same sort of urgency about my actions. Rather, I should think it likely to arrive at almost opposite feelings. Sure, if I only lived twice, not much would change. But if I lived thirty lives, a hundred lives, a thousand lives…my intuition is that the more lives I get, or the further I am from just having one life, the less the pressure I would feel to make the most of my time in the life that I am now living. So, I think I might actually make rather different choices in this life if I had a thousand extra ones to spare (and knew this to be the case).

    This tells me that it isn’t quite right to suggest that slogans like “You only live once” betray a misguided emphasis on number. The number of times we live does seem to matter for our perspective and our choices. We can admit this, and still agree that “YOLO” embodies some deeper realization that escapes most users of the expression. It can still very well be true that, irrespective of quantity, there’s just something about being alive that merits life’s embrace.

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