The Life and Death of Hubert Dreyfus
Finn: [00:00:00] This is an episode I've wanted to do for a long time. It's really the episode I had in mind when I started the podcast in the first place and I think maybe like the general. Theory of how you're supposed to do. These sort of big episodes is you work up for a while you get lots of episodes out build up an audience and then, you know, boom you drop something big and huge and you know, it doesn't really fit the pattern of how things have gone.
[00:00:29] Right? There's been essentially two episodes. One of them was kind of even a special case limited audience different theme so you're not, , you're not supposed to publish. Your big idea as your third work, at least this is the way things go today is you and maybe always since you know, I think of any person who wants to work up to something you drop it when you have an audience and I think you know, this progress is done surprisingly.
[00:01:00] Well, we've got 250 people. you know downloads across the two who knows how much of that is organic and how much of it is family friends. But whatever, you know, if you had 250 people in a room, you'd probably be pretty excited to say something. And so I kind of thought you know, what screw it let's let's go for the big one because , you can only hold on to an idea and an energy and a direction for so long before things change and.
[00:01:29] You know, I didn't want to lose this this episode is kind of a tribute to someone who who I never really met but had a profound impact on my life, but I think really is a kind of cultural Monument of our age one who in certain circles is. You don't like to use the word beloved, but you could even say beloved and who is to the general public not well-known at all and.
[00:02:06]You know, sometimes there's this feeling I have it often when we sort of look at what modern times you know, what are they lacking and you sort of look back and this really depends on the person what they look back to to me, you know, you sort of Look At You Know music is always one to point at and you know certain people will say, oh, you know rap today got to think about Bob Dylan back then or you know, you could go.
[00:02:30] Oh, well, maybe you really should think about jazz as the back then. Or you know the true the hardcore crew will say no, you know, I think about Beethoven or some people have said. Oh no Beethoven is done. He's already sending music on the bad path and really it's you know Bach and all the Baroque stuff and you know music before it left the church.
[00:02:50] However, you want to however you want to think about it. The criticism goes that there's, you know, a hundred two hundred years from now when people look back here. The impression is what was our Beethoven? What was Arbok? What was our Bob Dylan is this time?
[00:03:08] This Asia last 10-15 years the young people here. Are they doing anything of note are people gonna value contributions for all time or is this sort of a dead period is this, you know, whatever was going on between Let's say 1,100 and 1,200. Probably something was going on. It's not especially well-known to me and maybe that's the worry.
[00:03:34] That were sort of stagnating whatever it may be that's even right. I will say one objection that I always think is silly is like well, you know the there but we just can't see them. Totally. You wouldn't really recognize it and it's stuff gets better with with time that is sort of true but on another level, you know, somebody is they're doing.
[00:03:58] Big Monumental work if they're composing big Symphonies writing big novels building big companies that should be obvious to the people at the time that they're at least doing something that seems important and you know, maybe whether it's for all time Shakespeare level for all time Beethoven level or just you know, something that was popular in its own age that you know is a question for history to answer not for the people live right now.
[00:04:27] The argument that the thesis of this episode is that there is at least one person one sort of way of looking at the world, which I think will be for all time to admire and which unlike most other works of this kind. Is actually preserved. It's actually there for all time to listen to to digest and to sort of set yourself up in front of an admirer and I'm talking about the lectures and thought of all people a philosophy professor.
[00:05:15] By the name of Hubert Dreyfus.
[00:05:18] and Dreyfus has a sort of cult following now as you know people. Look online for valuable stuff. I would say one of the great things about the internet is that most of what is on there? Such junk. It kind of gives you the overwhelming impression that maybe the thing you should be doing is looking for stuff.
[00:05:39] That's not junk and Dreyfus. I think it is recognized least by some as being part of the not junk category. But again, my claim is much higher than that. It's that he's actually done something. which is worthy of. Civilization level recognition and he died in 2017. And now that there's been sort of a minimal level of distance from what he did. You could just say, I think it's clear that this is someone who you could put. Not only on you know sort of the academic Elite one of the you know, great philosophy professors of our age that would just be kind of reductionist way to say it.
[00:06:28] No, he may be one of the Great Men of the age one of you know, the people who have ascended to the level of doing something new and profound and something that generates meaning That's a rare thing but it's I think wrong to say that it's completely gone in our time. And so the goal today is to recognize it to convince you that this is the case and to show that what people are up to in life can be more interesting than.
[00:07:07] Maybe the first pass or something like that would suggest. And so with that I want to announce the title of the episode, which is the life and death of Hubert Dreyfus.
[00:07:22] Now that you've made it through the intro. I will just preface this with the sort of usual disclaimer for long episodes, which is you know, if you're listening to this and you're just sort of like, well, you know, what's going on on Finn's podcast. How is. How's the whole podcasting doing in general?
[00:08:34] You may want to listen to you know, some percentage of this. it's going to be long and hopefully it draws some of you in because it's going to be splitting clips of Dreyfus with clips of me trying to you know, put it a little bit in context. so. It's probably not going to be I don't know the exact length now, but I'm expecting it to be over an hour the consensus from people.
[00:09:00] I've talked to his well, that's you know a little long maybe you should tone it down get, you know, get more in a row before you sort of go for these big long giant episodes and you know, the advice is in some ways appreciated, but won't be heated. This deserves a long episode , I mean go boom do the whole thing do it through if you're drawn in your drawn in if this makes you go look up, you know Dreyfus on YouTube or some other podcast thing and , you realize well shoot, you know, Here's Moby-Dick a big long book novel maybe sort of dry in some people's minds and here's eight hours of this guy talking about it.
[00:09:43] Wow, that's sort of a lot of talking. It is a lot of talking and so maybe what you should think is not wow, you know an hour plus episode of Finn's podcast is pretty long realize you know long is Dreyfus on Moby-Dick long, as you know, a full course on existentialism or Heidegger, whatever else and this is kind of a taster a teaser hopefully to get you interested and to show you that Thinking about the great works in the great ideas of the past is not just sort of like, you know listening to music that makes your brain tingle and say wow, that's a nice intellectual exercise.
[00:10:27] I'm you know, I'm warming up the brain and no know that the idea here is for it to be intrinsically meaningful for the contribution to. How do you think about what you're supposed to be doing and the demands that the world puts on you that's kind of the realm in which Dreyfus operates and so anything about him.
[00:10:50] I think necessarily adopts the same burden who knows, you know could be up to the task could not be but here we go. So. The first thing to say about Dreyfus as sort of the general framing is just sort of what he did in like on a Wikipedia level. He was a professor of philosophy at Berkeley and he gave courses on philosophers that were popular with the post.
[00:11:25] Post-war crowd I guess you could say so he was known as sort of an early guy who was interested in the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. And so Heidegger now, I would say is considered one of the two important people. In philosophy in the 20th century and I guess like, you know a lot of maybe you could say like novels to you know, there was a sense that while philosophy really went gangbusters during the Enlightenment and then it had a lot of interesting work going on in you know after that but it has certainly tapered off if you wanted to say like who the greatest living philosopher is, you could answer that question, but usually when you answer that question, it's not for.
[00:12:14] Ality, it's the fact that they're a very smart person who's very good at, you know, Latin or Greek or German or French and they're a great interpreter that sort of after they write a book about somebody else like contoured a card or some, you know, big named Shakespeare level philosopher. They then add their own sort of to sense and that's what a great philosophers today and that is in some ways what Dreyfus is doing.
[00:12:36] But we're drivers does which I think is much much better is when he gives lectures he gave lectures at Berkeley, you know for however many years and he was a professor there for about 30, but he gave lectures which were you know, undergraduate philosophy lectures that didn't adhere to the general Arc of what you do when you go to college and you take a philosophy class and the general Arc of what you do when you go to college and take a philosophy class is.
[00:13:04] You go through the history of civilization reading philosophy as civilization goes on. So that means you start with Play-Doh or even you know, before that the pre-socratics and you move through go to Aristotle and you know, boom boom. Boom all the way through I think the reason that makes sense is.
[00:13:26] Almost all the other philosophers. did the same thing. And so they have some idea that is responding to something that was going on before them. And if you don't understand, you know sort of the ideas that were in the air then you won't understand sort of their. But I think Dreyfus almost does the opposite he sort of says in a in a way that social critics do the world is in a particular spot today people feel.
[00:13:56]don't know like you could say nihilism that that's the word that he will use that will feel like they have no meaningful way to go through the world. And that this is Adam and that philosophy has this is a problem philosophy supposed to answer and I think he gives. Brilliant answers, but he did this not one answer.
[00:14:19] I mean he get there's a classy teachers on sort of the great books of the western Canon and sort of how they can answer the question. There's a class he gives on existentialism and how they can answer the question several classes gives on Heidegger and how Heidegger sort of has a sense one on how to answer that question into why poetry and literature and things that aren't sort of.
[00:14:44] Philosophical treatises are actually better at answering this question on a human level and maybe why philosophy itself it's sort of become decayed and no longer able to rise to the challenges of the modern or postmodern times.
[00:14:59] But Dreyfus gave these lectures at Berkeley two classes of undergraduates, and he recorded them. This is a sort of an innovation but whatever Thomas Edison invented recording not the newest thing but he put them up online. In fact. Podcasting and its origin was basically invented by Apple popularized by Apple whatever when they put podcasts in iTunes in 2004, and I don't know the Inside Story.
[00:15:31] if I had to speculate I would say somebody at Apple or someone had something to do with podcasts knew that this is a guy. That whose lectures you might want to record and put online because they're not teaching you calculus per se there are strict prerequisites in a material sense.
[00:15:47] It's really sort of a feeling you're supposed to have about your own life, which introduces you to the need for a lecture. Like Dreyfus gives almost sermon like you could say. so who are classes recorded and apple actually did some of the audio engineering and paid for it and whatnot and put it on the platform to try and get people to do podcasts and it became kind of a cult hit remember the these are basically literature and philosophy classes at a at an elite University.
[00:16:21] It's not pop philosophy necessarily in the sort of the way. You see people write books where you know has a big title. It's like how to live a happy life. Maybe there's some guy smiling. He's got like five rules, right? You could say 12 rules. Even this is basically a class that was unchanged from how it was meant for Berkeley students put online and.
[00:16:49] I think it reached number 50. There was a an article in the Los Angeles Times about how drives to become so popular reaching somewhere along number 50 in the most popular podcasts again, I think 2004-5 time frame it even mentions. Basically the structure of how journalists work they go.
[00:17:05] Okay. Here's something interesting rather than try and explain. What's interesting. Let's just ask somebody who is from like a different Walk of Life somebody you would necessarily expect to be listening to philosophy podcast. So like a trucker and so the article mentions like, oh, here's like a trucker who's listening to them as he's going across the country, but he's all the sudden into Heidegger and Moby Dick and thinking about existential philosophers and what not.
[00:17:32] Now there is something a little inspiring that but I think the more interesting question is not you know, can you believe that a trucker is an interested in this philosophy class? But is what's different about this philosophy class or what? This guy who's teaching false class is saying that would make it apply to somebody who's not in college and not trying to get a Philosophy degree.
[00:17:55] And so maybe that's what I'll try and answer and if you want to hear about strucker, you can find the article. I'll link it.
[00:18:01]Very quickly. We're going to dive. Straight into Dreyfus as a kind of lecturer and some of his ideas and do it almost like a class and that will be of interest to some of you and to some of you it won't be but before we do that, hopefully this will sort of have the maximum possible audience. I just want to play a brief bit of a brief interview.
[00:18:24] He did where he talks about how he got into teaching and the way that things happened to him in his life and. Hopefully this just gives the impression that got basically from consuming his content in the same way, which is you just listen to him. I've never met the man but was deeply drawn in by the way.
[00:18:46] He talked and the way he thought about the world and we'll go ahead and play the interview now.
[00:18:57] Dreyfus: [00:18:57] I'm Hubert Dreyfus. I teach philosophy at UC Berkeley and that's a full-time job. Always wanted to be a teacher but I thought I was going to teach physics because that's what I was doing as an undergrad and then I wandered into a philosophy course on Kant in fact and thought wow that is really interesting and important and if any physics may not even be grounded unless Kant's right.
[00:19:30] And then I got into an I wrote my thesis on sort of Einstein versus can't on Quantum stuff as an undergrad and but then I didn't really know enough science to make that my profession and then I don't know how I somehow got into Heidegger and. So forth things just draw you in and don't you don't know why I was just reading in Moby Dick Melville explaining how he didn't know why he went on this whaling Voyage certainly that's how it happened to me.
[00:20:03] I have no reason why I chose. So I think I have there's a reason sort of uninteresting psychological reason why I always wanted to be a teacher. I think I think it's because I had my younger brother to teach and got all kinds of. Good good vibes from Mother and Dad when I took him by the hand and explain things to him and I've been doing doing that with people ever since I didn't do it on purpose.
[00:20:30] Of course, you can't do it on purpose. That's the point, but it can in fact weird things happen. To me all the time. I was explaining to somebody how whereas most people decide what books they're going to publish and then have to go out and write a prospectus and then shop it around and so forth. I just got called literally by somehow somebody the fates in the background Melville would say I was just reading that but anyway the somehow I was.
[00:21:01] I know why my brother got me called to the Rand Corporation to think about artificial intelligence and 50 in 62 or something. But what was funny is and then I wrote a short report. And the next thing I knew me and the report was in Talk of the Town in the New Yorker how I have no idea and then the next thing was Harper Harper and row called up and said they wanted me to write a book for them right away and that that's how it happened.
[00:21:27] And then this book I didn't the book about the classics and and all things shining and so forth. That was just philosophy. And I was giving it because I wanted to teach the great Classics and lo and behold some editor from Free Press calls up and says do you want to write a book and it's always been like that.
[00:21:50] I just get battered around by nice things. Yes. I feel that. It's sort of opportunities come and call me to do them and there are risky in some way or another. And that's my only contribution is not stop just because I don't really know about computers and writing a book about them out. I'll find out somehow somebody will tell me.
[00:22:16] In fact, that's what happened. I shopped the manuscript around for about two years for of what computers can do learning what computers do and why they can't and so forth and. That it was a mild risk. I mean there was just a could have been a waste of time. I could have made a fool of myself. My favorite philosopher is Kierkegaard and he talks about letting yourself be drawn into some passionate commitment, which is sure to be risky and but if you can do it rewarding and so.
[00:22:52] Whenever I got to Kierkegaard that sort of connected up with what I was doing anyway, and and it isn't me I didn't ever think of myself as doing what was the rational thing to do or the autonomous thing to do or whatever. It was just that the thing that was calling me to do it.
[00:23:17] Finn: [00:23:17] And so that's strive as we'll hear more from him. We'll hear him in a sort of less conversational way, but I do think. the point I want to make before we dive into his philosophy is just that today there is a struggle on many levels to get at what I think. Dreyfus is trying to get at which is this sort of disaffected feeling people have you know you now we know what we mean when we say something like disaffected or Melancholy or depressed or decayed and it's just a sort of general feeling that goes.
[00:23:59] Along with being alive today. And so I don't think I have to explain it in particularly depth terms as a feeling because if you're alive today, maybe you you have it at least a lot of people seem to
[00:24:13]it's not exactly the newest problem in the world and it's exactly the least thought about problems. So there's all sorts of solutions and prognoses and prescriptions and whatnot that you can say about this issue. But I do just want to point out one important thing before Dreyfus sort of gets going and I get drawn up in what he's saying, which I'm sure will happen.
[00:24:36]Today, I think if you had to split the answers to this feeling of meaninglessness or purposelessness, you essentially have two camps.
[00:24:49]One Camp sees it as a problem of human psychology and that I think you could say the caricature of this view is that it's something like a chemical imbalance humans certain humans in particular never feel quite as good as others. And so maybe they think. When they feel this way that there's some big broader social issue or social problem.
[00:25:15] But really what's going on is their own mind to sort of trick them into feeling this way and the thing to do is to untick their mind. And maybe this is the caricature of behavioral therapy or therapy in general. It's probably if you had to say politically more on the left, and then I think there's sort of a right.
[00:25:40] Leaning version of this which is that things really have gotten just way worse and that there's no mental trick needed. It's just the case that when people are feeling like Civilization isn't pointing toward anything worth. Pointing at what point in toward anything at all, and that they life sort of is following this trajectory that they've actually got the right view of the world.
[00:26:05] That's basically right. And the thing to do is to try and get back to point in time when it was so this could mean going back before industrialization or before World War One or before the Reformation. Basically, you can pick your poison. You'll find some sort of Chromatin who. Things started going downhill at pretty much every date in history and that I think a lot of political disagreements and prescriptions about where the world should go in.
[00:26:39] The next decades can be basically split into these two camps and I think Dreyfus is a neither. I think he recognizes sort of a truth that is on both sides. I think from the from the more right-leaning inside the more historical Decay oriented side. Dreyfus I think acknowledges fairly openly that the world today and what today means is up for discussion, but definitely today and maybe you know 50 years prior or a hundred fifty years prior or whenever you want to Mark the start of it is and its own sort of unique predicament in a predicament that the Greeks weren't in and the predicament that Dante and other people All Through the Ages? We're in a new predicament and so on the historical level. this seems to align with the right leaning side, but I think where he is, so compelling to the university crowd is how he merges that with the fact that. It's not just the sort of external Decay problem that we're dealing with.
[00:27:44] It's also the fact that those civilizations in themselves were unable to hold up to. Progress in a certain way or the march of time passed them by and if they were really the last word on how you're supposed to live if Catholicism in its full High middle-aged Unity was really the world that we're supposed to go back to then it's worth asking the question how we ever left it right if we were headed toward.
[00:28:18] Much much much better world than we're currently in and that much much better world than we're currently in lettuce to this one. Maybe, you know, we've overestimated in some ways. Parts of that much much better world. I think this is where he will say only at times explicitly this but implicitly it will be clear that in past ages.
[00:28:39] There's always this internal contradiction that pushes you further along the the railroad tracks to today. And so from the right lane inside, he sort of takes a large part but also has a sort of critique of the we have to go back crowd. He merges that I think with what is undeniably the fundamental conviction of the more left-leaning solution, which is a desire to help people and a desire to show how the human mind can be used.
[00:29:15] You know for good but can also play tricks on you and can have sort of distorted views about the world and that understanding the world in different ways without even fundamentally changing what it is can be almost as meaningful or just as meaningful as changing what it is. So I apologize for being in the abstract this whole time because you know, if I was going to try and do it in a sort of specific way that would just take ages and would probably be even less.
[00:29:45] Parent but that's the divide that Dreyfus is splitting and people like that people who Bridge divides our were thinking but fairly hard about.
[00:29:56]And with that, let's hear Dreyfus introduce philosophy 6.
[00:30:00] Dreyfus: [00:30:00] So we're now set we're beginning philosophy 6 from God's to God and back which is also called man. God and God man and Society in Western literature as the sort of General name of philosophy sick. Which was around before I started giving it and doing what I want to do, which is talk about polytheism and what it is and how great it was and how it would be nice if it came back that is the moral of the course.
[00:30:31] Finn: [00:30:31] So that Strife is talking he is giving the introductory lecture to philosophy 6.
[00:30:37]That's one of the three main classes that he gives that are now cult classics and this is his sort of introductory remarks what he's saying is philosophy six is kind of a great books class. It does Philosophy by reading the great books and literature and
[00:30:55] it starts off with the Odyssey and then it does Virgil and Dante It goes right through and sort of caps the whole thing off with Moby Dick which certainly will get into but the thing to worry about the thing that's interesting and what he's just said is you know, this isn't really. How you're supposed to how if you find other philosophy classes online?
[00:31:23] This isn't what your you set it up by saying we're going to try and understand what x person who is extremely intelligent wrote and you know as he said test their arguments and this is kind of a different burden. I mean, you don't hear it in exactly what he said but in how he said it you can see here.
[00:31:39] There's a kind of life-changing burden that he's actually laying. Almost, you know explicitly and saying we're going to try and get you to understand what it is to be in a in a different way and this I think implicitly responds to this whole president age problem, which is you know, sort of passionless always thinking
[00:32:03] always doing things as resources as advantages and disadvantages and you know, maybe existence is even on hold never really being who you most are. He says it's class about polytheism, which I think is great. You know, maybe that's the kind of philosophy you should subscribe to maybe not but at least let's understand it fully in its merits and you can see why now, it takes the structure of almost a sermon.
[00:32:32] Something that you set yourself up to listen to Holy as a person and not as necessarily a student who's Trying to minimize or maximize a grade or you know particular argument of a particular philosopher, which they'll then use to write a dissertation or thesis or something like that on
[00:32:52] and that's how Dreyfus introduces the course. That's kind of how he talks. He it's a bit rambly, but certainly, you know, everything he's saying is in his head and if I think it's felt in a genuine way next let's hear what he does at the end of the lecture the same lecture this introduction to this kind of great books class, which is he says a class about polytheism.
[00:33:16] I think really what it is is a class about how. People understood what God was through time and how those different ideas of what that is and this that's basically what he'll talk about in the next sort of closing quote. let's hear that.
[00:33:37] Dreyfus: [00:33:37] the work and I'm going to just say 3 minutes of things the works of art. We read it as semester except for Pascal and Moby. Because they're already past the point where you can do it maybe or at least Moby Dick is they do the job of the temple in the cathedral they unify and hold up to the people their understanding of being that is I said, that's what Homer and aeschylus and Virgil and Dante do each in their own way, which we'll talk about and.
[00:34:07] Perhaps there's nothing doing that job for us now and maybe there never will be again, and maybe therefore we have. Think differently about what gods are and what work how works of art could work when but we're going to do the Homer classical Greek Roman medieval and modern world and see how each of them is.
[00:34:30] Focused in a work see the Moby Dick doesn't have any funny all nobody. It doesn't unify the culture. Not everybody says Moby Dick. That's what tells us. What we really are is what we're all about and it's so I think novels trying and he does more than most. Okay. Now, let's see what else? Okay one last remark that obviously there are lots of different meanings of God that I've been using in died since it's in the title.
[00:34:54] I owe you something to say something about that. There is and we're used to the judeo Christian monotheistic Creator God or at least a lot of us are a lot of us aren't to this is no longer simple homogeneous Western culture, but it would certainly the dominant understanding of God right around here.
[00:35:16] Is this monotheistic Creator God view but. and then there are works of art like Greek. Or like Marilyn Monroe in the most sort of scaled-down version which articulate some either the whole unified culture or at least shine and hold up something that gives people some sense of who they are and what they're up to that's another kind of God.
[00:35:46] That's a Heidegger kind of God and then there's the multiplicity of gods in the. And that's a whole big story of its own. It's certainly not monotheism.
[00:35:58] Finn: [00:35:58] all right, so he's set up the class. Maybe you're now interested. Say Wow Let's Hear What Homer saying and all these people are going to say and the full lectures are going to be made available. I'll put them. Up on the podcast website along with a sort of machine generated transcription, which you should be able to sort of dig through if you're looking for a particular point beyond that. I also plan to and this should be on the website shortly after release or maybe even at release is set up a separate RSS, you know podcast feed should be searchable in your podcast app, and you just want to search. Hubert Dreyfus collection or something like that and I'll put up all of the Audio.
[00:36:42]his lectures are sort of still available on iTunes. Although iTunes is. Taking out the iTunes U podcasting stuff where this was all sort of aggregated. And so I'll repost it in its full thing. And if you know, you're hooked from any of these quotes obviously go listen to it, but the thing to talk about in that quote, which is just a fascinating kind of idea. Is that what we call God or whatever, you know, God is could be the sort of Creator God of. Catholicism or Christianity or Judaism sort of or Islam but that we as modern people in the west have actually sort of adopted in a way what he calls the Heidegger kind of God or at least heidegger sort of thought that there was a way to say what God was even beyond the sort of particular religious interpretation of how you supposed to interact with them. And that's the kind of God that unifies a people in a culture and a way of life in elevating way.
[00:37:50]I think the way he says it which is it's a. God for for Heidegger, maybe for us is a kind of thing that tells you who you are and his claim which is again sort of a life-changing altering clay. Maybe is that we're living in a world that doesn't do that that can no longer do that because of something maybe some combination of the way we've set up the world and Society in the way that we view ourselves and all kinds of structural things the way we think about.
[00:38:23] Taking actions and risks and being committed to something. And so if it's the case that this is true submit that there is a kind of extreme burden to investigate whether it we are still a society that can create the kind of. Thing the kind of God that can tell us who we are the we'll have to talk about it some point in this podcast Moby Dick and his interpretation of Moby Dick and his claim, you know is not that it's just some sort of Epic wailing novel or even that it's one of the great books of the western Canon, but that what Melville is basically doing marking the similar date to what Kierkegaard said in the present age right around 1850 he saw.
[00:39:12] Marking the end of when this old version of telling you who you are worked and that now it's either no longer possible for us or you just have to sort of slide between multiple different interpretations. I think, you know one could even accuse us of a kind of atheist nihilism. I think you have to label it in whatever way is going to make sense to you, but that's.
[00:39:38] That's the quest of dreyfuses course not only fill six but the others too, but he sort of says it boom right out there that you know, we have a question and it's whether or not we can still figure out who we are. So let's do Moby-Dick now, his interpretation of Moby Dick is as. end of what all of these other books are trying to do. There's no stable ground to be on the world of the Odyssey and of the Aeneid and aeschylus and Dante all of this sort of centering telling you who you are stuff doesn't work in Moby Dick and one of the key ways that he points us out as in Moby Dick you have always this dichotomy between.
[00:40:32] Ocean and land and stuff on the ocean is free. It's groundless. It's infinite. It's mysterious and dark and we'll hear some quotes Dreyfuss and from the book that try and deliver it. I will just say one brief thing. If you haven't read Moby Dick again, this is just a really dense long. It's not a difficult book in the sense that you can't read it but it's a book that probably isn't going to be on your nightstand for.
[00:41:00] On I think on the one hand you might think this is again, that's good. Right if this is going to be a life-changing thing. It's not going to be easy. You're going to have to suffer through it. So if you have read it or are going to read it good. If not, though, the brief thing that you might need to hear what drives is going to say about it is that the main character's name is Ishmael and Ishmael.
[00:41:25] Well, actually Dreyfus says this so well, actually let him go ahead and explain the whole Ishmael situation, but I'll just say that the brief thing you need to know about Moby Dick is it's about this guy Ishmael going on a whaling voyage and it's just full of very unique iconic characters and. The Moby Dick is a whale a white whale and the book is the story of Ishmael getting on this whaling ship called the pequod leaving Nantucket and going all around the world for several years chasing after this big white whale but so now let's hear Dreyfus introduce Ishmael and.
[00:42:13]And Melville and Moby Dick.
[00:42:17] Dreyfus: [00:42:17] So since the first sentence of Moby Dick is call me Ishmael. The first thing is to talk about Ishmael who is also that's Melville. So to speak name in the book, but it's really.
[00:42:31] Melville himself is Ishmael and Ishmael is a Wanderer. He was the Abraham's illegitimate son. Passed out by Sarah when they had their own legitimate son Isaac and he then became an outcast in a Wanderer. I take it from Elvis point of view. He's the perfect example of somebody that has no world of his own no identity of his own and notice that the writer of the book isn't even named Ishmael.
[00:43:00] He says call me Ishmael who have we don't know the the name of the writer of the book and as for Melville in the copy of the book that you all have. The Signet classic I was struck. I never saw him before a brief summary of Melville's life, which is sounds pretty Ishmael ish.
[00:43:20] Finn: [00:43:20]
[00:43:21] So that's how Dreyfus introduces Moby Dick and the protagonist Ishmael. There's a lot to say about this interpretation of. God has been kinds of moods. He says this is the Greek version and I think what he's playing off of and talks about in other lectures is. How in The Odyssey the Greek gods like Athena and others are they appear in put you in certain kinds of moods and they even our representative certain kinds of moods and that's one of the reasons you have so many of them and they appear at different times and are always fighting each other off because that's kind of how moods are.
[00:44:00]Again, that's a very fascinating idea. But sort of as a philosophical argument doesn't hold much weight right beasts would say Greek gods basically aren't real moods are things that take humans out of the realm of rational thought and take them away from knowing what the truth is and I think so Dreyfus is saying Homer and Melville are going against that and their argument is not a line-by-line refutation. It's a sort of explanation of people's lives and how they live and characters are fictional, but the claim is that you're supposed to feel a kind of Truth. When you hear it. This next passage that I'll have Dreyfus readout from Moby Dick is my favorite from the whole book by like a long way. It's one of my favorite passages in anything. It's from the chapter the spouter inn and he'll sort of introduce it again.
[00:44:58] We won't go way into the clot of Moby Dick because it's kind of a big giant book and the lectures are out there if you want to hear them. And this podcast is going to be a Dreyfus not Moby Dick or the brothers karamazov for Heidegger any thing in particular but this passage kind of stands on its own because it's right at the start and what happens in it is.
[00:45:22] Ishmael just walks into this in on Nantucket Island the night before he's going to see on a long whaling voyage and there's a painting on the wall and it's lit in this interesting way and it's painted in such a way that you can actually make out what it is and he's got this absolutely just enthralling way of describing it and we'll have Dreyfus read that now.
[00:45:53] Dreyfus: [00:45:53] So now comes the next thing we want to I have been saying that I haven't really given you any examples of this important way that everything is indeterminate and and in there is no way anything is there only interpretations.
[00:46:09] He does it in this funny way on. Challenge Chapter 3 The spouter Inn on page 10. Where he sees a picture and he goes and what he does every once in a while when he's about to say something important he switches from I to you can sort of brings you in. So here we go were brought in and during the Gable ended spouses your spouter-inn you found yourself in a wide low straggling entry with old-fashioned Wayne Scott's and so.
[00:46:36] Sponsor and then on one side and a very large old painting oil painting So thoroughly be smoked in every way Too Faced in the unequal cross Lights by which you viewed it was only by diligent study in a series of systematic visits to it and careful inquiry of the neighbors that you could in any way arrive at an understanding of its.
[00:46:55] Is such unaccountable masses of Shades and shadows that at first you almost thought some ambitious young artists in the time of the New England hags had endeavored to delineate chaos Bewitched and he loved and it is chaos. And that's another word. He's got for it and he says a boggy soggy squishy picture truly enough to drive a nervous man.
[00:47:17] Did well that's just a pointing ahead. There is a nervous man in the book who was completely distracted by things. He can't get a grip on and understand and of course, that's Ahab. He even says that he wants a solid grip in this slippery World. Well, this is not a solid grip that there is there was but he loves it there yet.
[00:47:38] There was a sort of indefinite half attained unimaginable Sublimity about. It froze you to it. So you took an oath with yourself to find out what the marvelous painting meant and then he goes through this game of interpretation every every every one and on a bright but alas deceptive idea. Would Dart through you.
[00:48:01] It's the Black Sea and a midnight Gail. It's the unnatural combat of the for primal elements. It's a blasted Heath. It's a horrible horrible Orion winter scene. It's the break up. This is my favorite. It's the breakup of the icebound stream of time so far and further out that it lasts all these fantasies yield to one portends to Something in the picture that once Found Out All the Rest were playing but stop does it not bear a faint resemblance to a gigantic fish ever.
[00:48:30] Even the great Leviathan himself. In fact, the artist designed seemed this. A final theory of my own and so forth. So one. He says it's in it a whale but he also says it's just the way it seems to him. It's his theory that it's a whale he's got all the pieces in there and moreover it turns out the whale has no face so you couldn't really paint the whale you can't thank the whale he says later as it is under the water and you can't paint the way I was it is when it's out of the water because then it's just a kind of floppy mess and it ceases to look like a whale so.
[00:49:04] So that's okay. That's the the first version of the game of interpretation which the book is all structured by
[00:49:15] Finn: [00:49:15] so there's so much going on there to talk about one is the point Dreyfus is making which is how you have this. Object which everyone sort of interprets in their own way you can't quite make out what it is. And so this plays a very strong contrast to the kind of unifying role that these objects play in the world of Dante and even in Homer and other cultures of the past where you wouldn't say the pain is.
[00:49:48] The Christian God with pain serves as a work of art is a kind of kind of God a kind of unifying thing where everyone the painting I'll just use the phrase. I've been using tells you. Who you are and again part of who you are is being a human being what you're supposed to do and the burdens that you have and how you act and it's not in a sort of procedural psychological way necessarily how you greet somebody but it's your whole being your whole existence is gathered up in unified by this object.
[00:50:24] But so the painting the contrast of the painting is that it's. It's unifying only insofar as its indeterminate. It doesn't actually give any two people the same interpretation at all. So ishmael's interpretation of the painting is that it's the whale and but other people have other interpretations and so.
[00:50:45] Again, he sort of unifying the culture telling people who they are around this work of art, which doesn't tell you anything. It unifies only insofar as its indeterminate and definite and this is a theme that is carried out through the whole book and maybe you know one takeaway is that sure this is.
[00:51:08] What it is to be an American what it is to be a Greek is to be unified around a story like the Odyssey and what it is to be an American is to have a bunch of different interpretations of everything and that's what makes us so Dynamic and everything else and that's the nice way to read it for Melville though.
[00:51:28] Maybe it's a little bit more despairing. He seems to think that this change is. Something that isn't really recognizing that maybe you can do tremendous damage. If you go about living in a world that is the world of the indeterminate painting but that you don't know is that world where if you are sort of a Hardline anything that you go on in kind of crazy ways doing crazy things but you don't really realize that it's all interpretations.
[00:52:00] You could even think to that this idea is really just a very, you know, literary way of doing the sort of postmodern game of saying everything's interpretations. There's no such thing as objective. And I think that's almost where Dreyfus wants to lead you and I think he will have problems with sort of the postmodern Cannon Foucault and Derrida and sort of all these a lot of them are French or you know, Continental philosophers of the twentieth century who play this same sort of game as Melville's I will say though.
[00:52:39] I mean if that's the game you're playing if that's the game Melville is. You want Melville's your spokesperson and not Foucault or a lot of these kind of French Joker's however, it might be the case in this painting example that it's not I mean you I think Dreyfus will just say Dreyfus is saying that this shows that everything is interpretations one way to take it slightly differently is that.
[00:53:09]His interpretation sort of of it being a whale but the whale itself being the thing that you can't paint in the first place. So pain of the whale pain of a thing that's on paintable he is. it's not really rejection of Truth at all. It might just be that this is the kind of truth that exists.
[00:53:28] It's a kind of contradictory thing that is very difficult to express but is still there. So again, I do want to make a sort of a philosophical aside to dry phasis interpretation one version as I've said is. There is no truth. It's all interpretations and Dreyfus gives his sort of brilliant ate our long-run of Moby Dick with this as his goal.
[00:53:58] Another reading though is that it's in these contradictory sort of places paintings of things that can't be painted. You know some German people Hegel or whoever else would jump on that internal contradiction and say aha exactly you have stumbled on. What is the objective truth? It's this the struggle between internally contradictory things to resolve themselves and that while you might say If everyone's just interpreted pain of oh, it's a it's a tree.
[00:54:31] It's the ocean. It's the sun. It's the you know, breaking up of the ice bound stream of time as Melville says that would be kind of wrong thing. But the the true interpretation the truth to get at in the thing that even could still be unifying is recognizing that what it is is an internally contradicting thing.
[00:54:52] It's a pain of a thing that can't be painted. It's a picture of a whale.
[00:54:57] Switching gears slightly from interpreting Moby Dick with Dreyfuss. Let's think a little bit about what Dreyfus is doing in these lectures in the first place. It kind of has the feel of an English class, right? You have a book you read quotes from the book and there's a sort of structure going through interpreting various passages.
[00:55:22] Nothing really wrong with seeing it like that. But again, I'm claiming in this episode that Dreyfus is trying. You know change people's lives for the better and that he actually is doing it. And so there is a question in the passages that I've played from Dreyfus lectures. Is he changing people's lives? Just by reading quotes out of Moby Dick and saying right, you know, here's how to interpret this book or here's how you do interpret the Odyssey. I mean after all this does occur all across the world people read the great works of their own tradition and other traditions and they analyze them write papers about them.
[00:56:03] They admire certain characters and critique others, but to let Steven take this sort of spouter-inn thing to the next level entirely and say, What Dreyfus is kind of implicitly doing here you suggesting that this is the kind of thing, I guess. What do you what I'm trying to say is this is what it is to be a human being is to look at the world in the way that Melville is looking at the world or not.
[00:56:36] Just Melville, but in this case Melville and. You would say well of course, right? He's telling a story about what people are doing. Well, I think not entirely right embedded in this indeterminate. Anise is a critique of a kind of scientific view of the world. I'm not trying to you know, start any big scientific debate, but I will say one of Dreyfus is most Firm Stance has one of the things that sort of made him famous in his early days.
[00:57:04] Was his criticism of people trying to create Artificial Intelligence on computers and he didn't make the any of the critiques were familiar with today, which are like, well, you know you you shouldn't do it because it might. Take away people's jobs or that you shouldn't do it because it could become an evil sort of Terminator style thing and realize humans are flawed and get rid of them.
[00:57:27] He's saying you can't do it. It's actually an impossible thing to make a machine that imitates a human because humans aren't machines in the things. They do that make them human aren't anything machine like if what a human is is the tasks that humans complete, you know building things or solving math problems or whatever else.
[00:57:46] That's machinable. That's a I able but his criticism always and it's actually very in-depth sort of criticism about how we deal with perception and moving and understanding the world and everything is at its core the same criticism that Melville is leveling implicitly when he talks about the painting being interpretations, which is.
[00:58:11] Find me a programmer or scientist who can do tests about this painting and weather will those tests lead you to the conclusion that it's a pain of a thing that can't be painted because if they do that would be bad science. That would be bad programming you have. You have a and not a at the same time and the claim is this is this is the human way we have a and not a in the same picture and the way you described it is by writing a passage like the spatter in again.
[00:58:49] This is a theme in Moby Dick, but it's. More importantly a theme and Dreyfus is life. He hasn't the AI thing he has it in this fill six class. He has it. I think maybe most directly in his Heidegger classes, the takeaway here is maybe you know part of the reasons that humans are having.
[00:59:13] Particular issues today in the modern time. Mishu is of meaning issues of dealing with the world is that they have the wrong idea a flawed idea a. Corrupted idea of what it is to be a human in the first place and if that is truly something that Dreyfus is arguing for and if it's even true that is again Beethoven worthy Shakespeare worthy that elevates him to the level of Melville in these other people.
[00:59:47] Hopefully, this is something that will become obvious as we here. More from him talking about different authors and books and themes again, like Melville sort of Dreyfuss is saying one of the great things with Melville is. He writes characters in the book where your you don't know if what's going on what's being described as Melville's own view or particular characters View and he's sort of telling the story and changing your view of the world the same time.
[01:00:15] This is what Dreyfus is saying Melville's doing again. When people are at their best, they don't totally know that they're doing it and I think Dreyfus is actually doing the same thing at the same time. That is Dreyfuss as he goes through these books as you go through these texts as he gives you his interpretation of them.
[01:00:33] There is in the background his view of the world his view of how human beings act and What needs change to make them? Better humans. This also leaks through and so again, it's on so many different levels at this is going on right? It's interpreting a book about interpretation by philosopher who himself has his own interpretation of the world.
[01:00:57] And again, don't try and disentangle it right? Just just listen and absorb yourself and in what he's saying and. I think that's how you're supposed to deal with this as if it's a sermon right you don't try and disentangle. Well, you know what gave me a particularly. Nice feeling coming out of church, right?
[01:01:19] Is it the music was it this particular line from the sermon was it transubstantiation? It's the whole sold Human Experience. It's not something that you're supposed to reduce to, you know. Kinds of inputs I was getting and what kind of chemical output I got. He I think his argument would be dreyfuses argument.
[01:01:42] I mean is that a human being is fundamentally a painting of something that can't be painted and if that's true then the way we're doing philosophy the way we're doing science the way we're interpreting ourselves is gonna run into. Problems if the truth about us is that we can't get a clear picture of exactly what we are because of what we are and yet we have dedicated our lives in a certain sense to getting his clear pictures possible.
[01:02:12] There's. Tension their internal tension the same tension is in the painting and it is again, I think a testament to dreyfuses his genius and his skill as a lecturer at this leaks through as a sort of Demand on modern humans.
[01:02:32] So I mentioned before I think that the fundamental contrast that. Melville draws in Moby Dick is between the land and the Sea and the sea is indefinite. The land is definite and as much as I would like to say that this is something that I, you know came up completely originally from reading the book.
[01:02:52] I can't say that this is right out of a Dreyfus lecture and we're going to hear the clip of him. Explain it
[01:02:59] and this passage is going to deal with all of the themes that I just talked about basically in definiteness. The fact that this is kind of what a human is and it is indefinite thing and that that's also kind of the contradictory goal of humans is to get definite about certain things. Thanks, and he has this line.
[01:03:20] I'll even spoil it. I'll talk about it again after we hear Dreyfus read it but in Moby Dick there is this line about how there's this ungraspable Phantom of life. And that is the key to it all and the ungraspable `Phantom of life is reflection of you a definite picture of you which is.
[01:03:41]Fake and a sort of I wouldn't even say a trick is a kind of grand farce, whatever. I mean something something like a trick something that's false, but kind of an elevated version. And again, he says this is the ungraspable Phantom of life and it is the key to it all. So what's now here Dreyfus talk about indefiniteness land anise and unlined anise the Sea and the land and will hear that.
[01:04:14] Dreyfus: [01:04:14] but now the basic dichotomy of the book which.
[01:04:17] Someone of you mentioned already the sea in the land is the his the way he expresses on the one hand the indeterminate chaos, and on the other hand the need for something solid something that you can take a stand on and count on and so forth and he does it by just contrasting the land and the Sea for pages and pages and all through the book.
[01:04:45] But I will just read you a few and give you a list if I were writing it all on the board, which I won't because there's no it nobody here are very few. Anyway, you've all got it to copy down on you. I can give you a copy. So but I would have a big list of land versus C and here's a bunch of them for you out there and podcast land.
[01:05:09] I'll give you always land and then see the land is closed. Closed off the sea is open. The land is marked off. There are landmarks. The see leaves no records to tip take just when he goes to see for instance just to put your not just keep reading but interrupt this every once in a while. He says gaining the Open Water the wind blew.
[01:05:36] He's going off toward in the in the tugboat toward the pequod how I snuff that tartar are how I spurned the turnpike Earth. that common Highway all over dented with the marks of slavish heels and Hooves and how I turn me to admire the magnanimity of the sea, which will permit no records see no landmarks.
[01:05:59] So then you've heard it's slavish the land see his freedom. The land is certainty. The sea is Mystery. There's Comfort versus rigor. Safety versus Danger Solid Ground versus bottomless. That's a nice one. I mean there is there are there are landmarks but there are no see marks in it and there's a bottom and you stand on the land but the you don't stand on the bottom of the ocean.
[01:06:26] And then there's the definite that's very important and the indefinite I'll read you a sentence for that because that one of his favorite things is the indefinite if there were ever a God that would be indefinite for him. He says but in landlessness alone resides the highest truth shoreless indefinite is God, so.
[01:06:47] So it's the definite versus indefinite bounded versus boundless. I like that because I want the whale to be the symbol of the sea is the unrepresentable the whale is kind of the Incarnation or mammal ization or something of the. C4 is focused in the whale the sperm whale particularly and then the white whale was the most extreme of all these things but so there's this little at the end of all these funny extracts which I have read you only the craziest the last one is the most important.
[01:07:24] Oh the rare old way omit storm and Gale in his ocean home will be. A giant in my where might is right and King of the boundless sea, so that's to say he's the Exemplar of the Paradigm of the boundless and he's another exact thing is his decision. He the sea the land is finite the sea is infinite.
[01:07:46] It's not quite clear what that means. But it you got the general idea. He talks about we'll see you again how and at see you could perish in the howling and. And how that would be better than to be in gloriously dashed upon the LIE, even if it were safe and he contrasts philosophy and which it goes with land and thinking or meditation which goes with see.
[01:08:13] and those are the those are those two extreme attitudes
[01:08:17]well, everybody has got a certain cautious attraction to the Sea because the land is so constricting according to the way he sets it up. So everybody wants to get as close to the water as possible and yet not fall in and he talks about that .
[01:08:40]Any talks about this tendency to try to get everything clear and determine it dead and then I'm going to talk about that. Now there's this tendency to try to grasp the meaning once and for all and that's what philosophy and religion tried to do and we saw that. At its best and in Dante, but he is his way of talking.
[01:09:02] He said he thinks it's very dangerous to try to grasp it once and for all and he thinks that the myth of narcissus is about that. He says on paste 3 about the deeper, meaning of that story of narcissus who because he could not grasp the tormenting mild image. She saw in the fountain plunged into it was.
[01:09:24] But that same image we ourselves see and all rivers and oceans and it's the image of the ungraspable Phantom of life. And this is the key to it all
[01:09:36] Finn: [01:09:36] A passage like that Dreyfus just read you just have to admire on a base level how extremely moving the writing is and the fact that it's a rare Talent very few people can muster that kind of sentence and idea and put it all together in a way that. You know takes this idea out of your mind and puts it into somebody else's in a way that's profound.
[01:10:03] I mean, it's hard enough just to be understood , but just try and communicate any idea which rises above a basic concept is very difficult. And something is going on in that passage which isn't worth dissecting just kind of worth admiring. One reaction to this world that Dreyfus later in the lecture talks about is this kind of nihilism heroic nihilism in the face of a world.
[01:10:32] That is all interpretations. Right? If the land is in Moby Dick or if we step back from this book and just look at life in general when we say indeterminate things and definite things. That's the reality and then and interpretations of what something really is. True things. Those are bad. Those are wrong.
[01:10:58] The natural reaction maybe one of the reactions is just to be at home in this kind of indefinite world and to try and just make your own meaning from sheer force of will and Dreyfus points out that this is an idea that is in Melville, but it's most famously associated with the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.
[01:11:19] Who is you know, the most popular philosopher among teenagers probably. For all time. I don't expect this to change even in a thousand years because there is something so interesting about what need you're saying about life when you're young and full of energy. And you say look I'll screw it. I'll build a world how hard can that be?
[01:11:39] But? I think Melville who's writing before nature hasn't read Nietzsche is against this view. He's he's responding to Nature before Nietzsche's even done his thing and Dreyfuss explicitly mentions this and he says there's even a character in Moby Dick one that no one ever pays any attention to because he's just sort of in and out in a few sentences.
[01:12:03] By the name of bulkington and Dreyfus says and will hear this that bulkington is the representation of the nietzschean hero. The Ubermensch are over man as Nature Calls him and Furniture. He's Nietzsche's point of view is look this is an extremely difficult thing to do to recognize that everything is interpretations and indefinite and there's no true.
[01:12:27] Meaning whatever else and most people can't deal with it. Most people fail and are sort of weak, but there's the exceptional human being the over man who is capable of this kind of thing and Nietzsche's claim. Is that this. Brings a kind of endless joy and it there's something profound about it so Melville's criticizing this Dreyfus is implicitly criticizing this and I'll even hop on the train there and say that probably this over man is not joyful person has to build up their own world and maybe this kind of action isn't even good or even possible by humans and you know, you could.
[01:13:05] Even make this a kind of cultural thing and say yeah, you know, of course freaking Germans are going to say this world building will thing is a joyful process, but everyone else knows that this is a miserable existence something we don't want and probably you know, it's one thing not to want. It's another thing if it's not even possible or true and so you have to clean both if you're saying it's wrong and that's what Dreyfuss and Melville are saying here in this passage, though.
[01:13:31] Dreyfus is about to do two things. We'll talk about bulkington. I'll talk about why Melville thinks this is an untenable. Joyless existence that humans being, you know, the beans we are can't muster them. Dreyfus then let's leak through the cracks even his own desire to redeem in a certain way.
[01:13:56] And so let's go ahead and hear dreyfus interpretation of you know, does the over man worked as being the kind of. Nihilist hero work one brief aside just so you understand all the terms. Dreyfus uses this term on to theology to mean like essentially the Christian worldview of a Creator God or essentially any God that's going to give you a definite answer about how to live.
[01:14:23] He would even group in the sort of High daguerreian stuff where you look at the pain and unifies all of you or you know, your gathered around the temple in that that unifies the culture all of the stuff. I was talking about previously. This is grouped into Auto theology. This is grouped into stuff that nature doesn't like and that's that's what graph is about to talk about.
[01:14:44] So, let's see.
[01:14:45] Dreyfus: [01:14:45] So here we go for that for the what I call heroic nihilism attitude you the other attitude. from trying to turn the sea into the. Is to accept the groundlessness and enjoy the constant Challenge and constantly avoid the temptation to try to grasp it make sense of it and there is a hero, who does that Yoo-hoo and it looks like somebody who did that would be.
[01:15:16] Able to rejoice in their freedom because they will certainly have total freedom and they will have they already enjoy the play of perspectives and they should certainly stand firm against the temptation to settle for any fixed answers and in and he now he's going to give you a hero who is half like that you'll see in a minute.
[01:15:36] I mean that he has that he's able to stand against the temptation to fixed answers is. Sure that he enjoys it and rejoices in it is not the case for Melville. I mean those who any of you know, known each Army always in the back of my mind. I have nature you you recognize some of this nietzschean thing.
[01:15:59] I mean, this is the over man in nietzschean terms and well, so let's find out about him there. Is this fascinating handsome man who appears on page 14. And he is he has a sober face. He's very good-looking full six feet in height with Noble shoulders a chest like a cofferdam size seldom seen such a Braun in such brought in man a face deeply Brown and burnt marked with dazzling white teeth by contrast while in the Deep Shadows of his eyes floated some reminiscences the did not seem to give him much joy.
[01:16:38] That's the interesting thing that the way he differs from nature is he doesn't think he wrote me ilysm can be joyful, but the man disappears unobserved when everybody else is having a good time and they all run after him saying bulkington bulkington and that we don't see him anymore for a long long time until page 101 and a hundred and one.
[01:17:03] They go they set out. From Nantucket to the and there's a great line. We gave three heavy-hearted shears and blindly plunged like fate into the loan Atlantic and now they're off and what does he see at the Helm of the boat bulkington went on that shivering Winter's Night the pequod thrust her vindictive boughs into the cold malicious waves.
[01:17:28] Who should I see standing at her Helm, but bulking. I looked with sympathetic oil and fearfulness upon the man who had midwinter just landed from a four years dangerous Voyage could sow unrest Ting lie push off again for still another tempestuous term. The land seemed scorching to his feet. That is the he can't stand these certainties in these happy parties and and so forth.
[01:17:56] Now now get this comes this Praise of bulkington, but in landless alone resides the highest truth shoreless indefinite is God so better it is to perish in the howling infinite and be in gloriously dashed upon the leave and if it were safe, Take Heart Take heart o bulkington bear thee grimly demigod up from the spray of the ocean perishing.
[01:18:21] Leaps straight up by apotheosis 102 what a amazing thing and you just discover the bulkington drops dead that night. We don't know why he's never mentioned again in the book. He's become a God so that up from his ocean perishing. He his his his apotheosis is he's Godlike, but I think the interesting thing is Melville pictures what it would be like to live this heroic nihilist life that Nietzsche admires to very much and Melville thinks that it would be grim.
[01:19:02] And joyless and he doesn't buy it. He doesn't doesn't see why we should have what he thinks we are. I don't know whether we can capable of it or I guess least this we don't have to settle for this this and though he admires bulkington obviously amazing Lee. He's the if God is dead. We have to become God's ourselves and he just says and bulkington does it?
[01:19:27] He thinks that there must be some other way to heal us besides and he just dumps bulkington and we never hear from him again after that paragraph. You want to say something? Okay, so.
[01:19:42]And if there is he you have to resist all the answers and so God for Melville. And remember indefinite is God. What does that mean? God is not the Supreme Being. That's ground of all intelligibility and explains. Everything God is the groundlessness. It is the indefiniteness which makes everything endlessly interpretable.
[01:20:08] That's this is another way of saying the same thing I was saying and.
[01:20:12]but just living in the groundlessness like bulkington. Isn't some how satisfying it doesn't give you the healing you need it's not enough to be the lieutenant of nothingness, which is a Heidegger phrase for this thing if it's a grim job and that's about all he has to say about
[01:20:34] it's a truth. That's what this heroic nihilism. It's a truth that it's all bottomless and ungrounded and non representable and cannot be grasped and that and that is a truth that just like that no normal mortal human being can tolerate it. That's what bulkington is supposed to be.
[01:20:56] It's like it's like saying to Nature because nature says all these things like about. The over Man the free spirit that sound just like bulkington. He said Nietzsche keeps telling you he's joyful. And I think Melville wants to say he's pictured him and he's not. Joyful. He's grim and we don't want to be like that and I think that's a great move one on Melville's Park, so.
[01:21:22] the over man is grim. And parishes in the howling incident that that that that is there is this extreme possibility of the absence of all meaning get don't even trust any Divine glimmers take no comfort from any interpretation confront the indefinite head-on. You'd have no hierarchies. No Center.
[01:21:48] No, even God's no meaning no land and they and that's. Not going to work and so bulkington is never mentioned again, but then this is the last thing to say for this lecture if we've but if we've rejected on sociology on the one hand, which is the land and the so to speak in other religions that have an answer and we rejected heroic Neil is mm.
[01:22:16] So what can heal us and a lot of the rest of the book. Is about what can heal us what can save us in
[01:22:30] Finn: [01:22:30] So here I feel like my Dreyfus thesis is coming around a little bit. I think this is the supporting evidence that I needed that this is man is not just a teacher his burden. Is what he's saying Melville's burden is which is trying to figure out what can heal us and whether anything in the end can save us.
[01:22:53]And so, you know a line like that it sort of empty set on its own but it's maybe also the most meaningful question to ask if you give it the right sort of context. You will have to always ask, you know, save from what what what do humans even need saving in the Christian view. Yes, and there's a sort of very particular way that you go about saving them Dreyfus.
[01:23:19] It's fair to say though. He's in that tradition. I don't think is giving you any kind of particularly Christian message dreyfuss is really taking on liftable burden here in the sense that he's telling you that this book is going to try and explain how human beings can be saved and more than that.
[01:23:43] He's even going to give you his view of. How that's possible and I Dreyfus even you know, it's his own view in a certain sense. Maybe Melville would concede if you asked him write. My book is about how I can save Humanity how you know Redemption is is possible and but but Dreyfus isn't going there.
[01:24:05] He's not trying to prove to you exactly what Melville thought he's even adding on his own View and this to me again is an elevating. Thing for Dreyfus it's a reason why it's worth making a podcast called the life and death of Hubert Dreyfus in the first place. It's not just a that here was a guy who dedicated his life to something.
[01:24:25] It was here's a guy who dedicated his life to saving to saving mankind. here you have to say there is an answer you can go through and listen to the rest of the lectures and you kind of get dreyfuses picture of what this answer is in the context of Moby Dick, but it's wherever you look in this guy's lectures if you go and listen to any of them, you'll get a similar view on how you can save us and you know, Here, I'll even try a bit of German out.
[01:25:06] There's this line. I've really liked from Hegel who Dreyfuss and a lot of these more interpretive literary philosophers generally don't like they see him. He was an idealist. Hegel was a German philosopher who was in the tradition of philosophy as a practice, right? You would can draw you would put him slowly.
[01:25:32] In the philosophy world not in the literary world. He wrote philosophical treatises that are very very dense, but he has this line and the preface to the phenomenology of spirit, which I remember, you know, Hearing it for the first time and it just sort of pushes you over and you just had to sit there and and think about it walk around a bit turn it over in your head.
[01:25:54] And as you know saying goes this hopefully podcast will show you some lines say more than most and this line is I'll try my German here on these. Mm. Random guy. Sticky note is the grossest Zionist values test your medicine. English translates to buy the little witch now satisfies Spirit, we can measure the extent of its loss and maybe this is the feeling that leads Dreyfus and Melville and all of these other modern people.
[01:26:28] Who feels like something is missing. We're supposed to rise to some level that we're not at. say how do you know you're not just supposed to be a nihilist? Maybe that's the sad truth of it all and I think this is the gut feeling the the human being feeling that tells you that that's probably not right. There are glimmers left of what was once a full picture and that what now as Harold would say what now makes us content what now? Satisfies us makes visible the loss that now exists. I don't know how any. Dreyfus Irani of his sort of true followers would feel about me comparing this, you know, his life to haggle and saying well, you know you turns out you're actually a true hug alien to most people that wouldn't sound like anything to get upset about but for him it would be because their whole thing is dedicated to say no no no Hagel and the hopeful philosophical tradition has missed something fundamental about what it is to be a human being.
[01:27:38] Which okay, but maybe some of them are in there messing the whole thing up messing up philosophy and life in the whole modern world. Maybe some of them are in there with the same base feeling and they've just you know executed on the prescription wrong. This is though does again Elevate the project of which wife is doing this lecture is no longer a class about a book.
[01:28:08] It's attempt to satisfy more than what was lost.
[01:28:18]and so I think you know as much as when I was talking about the painting and saying, you know Dreyfus and Melville have this interpretation that it's all indefinite it's all. Relative and you know, you sort of have to be a polytheist.
[01:28:32] That's dreyfuses and Melville's view basically, maybe you know, I'm claiming maybe Melville isn't so much there. Maybe he's secretly, you know, seeing something in these internal contradictions but so if it's not the case that I can sort of cop out of this relativism and if we do follow Melville through to the end with Dreyfus, you don't have a very happy picture.
[01:28:56] You actually have sort of. Shattering picture and in his conclusion Dreyfus makes only the slightest turn to a happier place but to get there we've got to do one more thing. So it's going to be one more thing on Moby-Dick then the conclusion there is in Moby Dick this white whale which happens to be named Moby Dick and the whiteness of the whale is according to Melville in a letter or something.
[01:29:29] He said if you understand what that whiteness is, you know, whales really they're not white per se but this is like a particular whale Moby Dick and if you understand what that whiteness is what it represents what it represents to all of the characters Ahab. Captain in particular who sort of after this.
[01:29:47] He's not a death quest to go kill this whale if you understand what the whiteness is, you understand the book. That's the claim that Melville makes and understanding the whiteness doesn't seem like a difficult thing because it's actually a chapter called the whiteness of the whale so you'd think look you read that you understand it.
[01:30:07] Boom. You understand the book. Well, you should read the chapter first it actually is. It's Moby Dick is dense. And this is even denser, but I'll try and set it up. Then we'll hear Dreyfus read the key passage. And hopefully this is going to be the kind of shattering thing that will lead you to the conclusion and then lead you to maybe want to hear something about how we can get out of this mess.
[01:30:35] This this question of whiteness absolutely nothing to do with human races or discussion of you know, anti Colonial Legacy or anything. It's entirely within the book and the fact that. white is a color that what either contains all colors or Melville will say it's actually it's it's a colorless color whiteness is a colorless color.
[01:31:00] It's actually devoid of content in a sort of blank meaningless indefinite thing. Which again, this is what Moby Dick is all about the blank the indefinite thing. And this is a terrifying feature of Moby Dick. He's a big scary boat crushing whale but the whiteness is just what throws it over the top because he stands for something that is a culture destroying World destroying life destroying that that whiteness will do you in according to Dreyfus and according to Melville and understanding what it is is a kind of bigger.
[01:31:42] Her version of understanding what that painting in the spouter Inn is that is Melville just gives you all kinds of different interpretations. You know, it could it be this could it be that and those interpretations are a lot longer and include a lot more vocabulary and adjectives and alliteration than my description will but he sort of does the same move.
[01:32:03] Is it this is it this is this is this and then he settles on at the end his preferred interpretation and. So what is the whiteness the whiteness is I'll even spoil it just because it's so dense. You kind of have to hear it just said in a sentence or two the whiteness is the meaningless World it seen the world for what it really is a kind of void empty natural thing.
[01:32:27] And this is the scientific view in a certain way one that Melville rejects sort of procedurally as you know, you can't paint the way I can understand the whale you don't learn about the whale by dissecting. So he's against a kind of scientific view in that way, but he completely Embraces according to Dreyfus.
[01:32:47]A world that is devoid of any of the the Brilliance has that we might like to think are there at least insofar as they're objectively there, right? So if you see a sort of spark of divine somewhere, that's you and that's your interpretation. But it's not there there that the world as it really is the world in itself is white.
[01:33:11] It's absent of color and that's. What is devastating about this whale so let's here quickly this I think beautiful passage that is in Moby Dick. We'll have Dreyfus read it and hopefully you can get that idea out that the devastating thing about whiteness is that it leads you to a world which is absent any meaning Melville will use the term atheist.
[01:33:40] Dreyfus: [01:33:42] And now he tells you 188 what it is. It's pretty strange two-thirds of the way down and he does it in terms of questions.
[01:33:48] He doesn't give you the answer not an elf. Is it that by its? Is it Shadows forth the heartless voids and immensities of the universe and stabs us from behind it with the thought of annihilation when be holding the white depths of the Milky Way as getting close, that's still not it but it's in definiteness is now in there, which is important.
[01:34:13] The whiteness is not in any particular color and. And the whole sort of frightfulness of the universe is in there Pascal said, he was the first to get the news that the Universe was infinite. I mean the first generation of people and he said it it terrified, but now that's not it yet or is it that as an Essence whiteness is not so much a color.
[01:34:45] As the visible absence of color and at the same time the concrete of all colors. Is it for these reasons that there is such a dumb blankness full of meaning in a wide landscape of snows a colorless all color of atheism from which we shrink that's the crucial sense his plea Clarity of skewer you can go back and look at it the sir.
[01:35:13] Finn: [01:35:13] So if the key to Moby Dick is figuring out what the hell that passage says it's a whole big chapter, but that's one of the key moves of it then. Dick the key to Moby Dick is a kind of melancholy one. It's a work of art that is telling you that though the scientific reduced view of the world is scientific and reduced.
[01:35:40] There's not some. Enchanted one line behind It ultimately there's only an enchanted one line behind it for you. And that means it's relative. That means there's no objective truth. You can't sort of stand on it. Absolutely there is you know to use the land see analogy. There's no true land there's land only for you.
[01:36:02] I don't accept this. I don't think Dreyfus even accepts this. I don't even think this is necessarily what Melville. Does with the book I think the book even portrays that there's more going on but let's not try and turn the tragedy into a comedy Moby Dick does I won't spoil the ending of the book but let's say it does not go well for the sailors in the pequod and the whiteness seems to win and that means that it's a kind of devastating World destroying thing that's really there.
[01:36:38] And so that's. That's contrast. That's not home or that's not Virgil or Dante or aeschylus or any of these other people that fill six talks about and that's not a warm cozy thing that you would expect out of a man who I have claimed is trying to save humans from a meaningless lie. And so if that's right, let's hear how Dreyfus is going to close out the course he does just as I said the briefest of turns In this passage, I'll play he sort of gate keeps a little bit and says only the height of gariands will understand.
[01:37:16] Well, I'll do my best in the next few minutes here to help everyone understand. which wife is says is Heidegger's got this idea that a poet shows up in a needy time and keeps open certain possibilities certain ways out of the devastation of whiteness the devastation of complete relativism.
[01:37:39] And the way he keeps these possibilities open is by being a poet by revealing things which cannot be revealed except by someone who has a transformative sort of power now, And I'll even spoil what Dreyfus is about to say. He says write the gods of the past are dead. He's not trying to be a nietzschean provocateur about it.
[01:38:08] He's saying the the we don't live in the Greek world. We don't live in the world of paganism or anything else really and that Melville's idea is well, you sort of pick one. You have a view for yourself and that's good enough. So. Polytheism and maybe Dreyfus is kind of a polytheist. But he's also thinking you know, how do you view Moby Dick as a work of art as a whole?
[01:38:36] What? What is it? Is it a poet in anytime? his answer is yes. He says. Melville is keeping open possibilities. Maybe he's not saving us but he's know, it's an easy time if it was a great time. He would have saved us but happens to be needy. And so we happen to just need possibilities kept open. So let's hear this is the last of the semester long fill six course that ends with Applause, which I'll keep in and this is how it wraps up.
[01:39:10] Dreyfus: [01:39:11] So my conclusion is that we definitely what is what is what is Ishmael telling us then or Melville? We have to bring if you're going to live a meaningful life and you happen to be one of the people. Aren't convinced anymore by Anto Theology and don't believe there's a Supreme Being and if you are sophisticated enough not to anymore be in the modern autonomy con business either then what you got to do is you've got the there is the possible.
[01:39:46] I listed all the things that it's not the sum up. So how should we act now? That the homeric gods are gone. The aeschylus gods are gone when these things are dead. They're dead for good. They're works of art don't work for us anymore, Virgil and Augustus don't work either and neither does this unconditional commitment story if of of father mapple, so you get this proposal to take all these moods as Divine gift.
[01:40:16] you got to I'm just going to say it one more time as I rotate your give up on to theology a life grounded in Revelation reason or unconditional commitment. Give up Will and autonomy. There's no way that we can posit things mattering for us and having meaning in our life. You've got to be willing to accept risk and sorrow they have Camille says and B and then you've got to be grateful for whatever ontological moods that is world's.
[01:40:40] That is God's grab you and have authority in your life. Then you'll be open to relative meaning and relative happiness. And I think you'll be saved or cure. it. Now. I want to say something that only Haida Gary ins will understand but it fascinates me Heidegger thought that there was a special kind of cut you if you ask me but is this a work of art this?
[01:41:06] Well, it certainly doesn't have a culture built around it and nobody's making altars to it. Like they did to The Divine Comedy or to the Aeneid or they don't perform it every year a read it every year on National Public Radio. It's not that kind of work of art that Heidegger knew that there wasn't any more that kind of work of art, but he they thought that there was a German poet which he was very impressed by her underland.
[01:41:31]end of this poet was what Heidegger called a poet in the Needy Time and he was making a kind of work of art for a needy time. And what does Hope what is her do we do he talks about the Greeks and the gods and the hope that there could be a return of the Gods and he keeps that possibility so to speak open.
[01:41:52] That's all you can do in a needy time. You can't have a work of art as you could when there was still some kind of unity in the culture and in a way all I want to say only to myself in a way is this is our hurlin. He is our poet in needy times. And this is the only kind of work of art you can have now and that's makes it a work of art of sorts.
[01:42:18] That's it. Sorry. I talked too long.
[01:42:25] Finn: [01:42:25] So kind of a bummer kind of you know, it's a tragedy this course in a certain way because it shows you passed full of brilliant shimmering worlds and tells you that our world can't muster the same kind of God same kind of unifying thing if you want something to tell you who you are. It's tough now and in a certain sense, let's not sugarcoat it the reason to make a podcast like this at all.
[01:42:59] The reason to be Hubert Dreyfus and dedicate your life to doing this sort of work is because this is a demand that the world puts on you and you know, the task is great because the the problem is great. So. I don't think there's any more, turning this over into a good thing to do here all that though to say there is again this feeling that wow, this course is doing something that is more than a course.
[01:43:36]It's not a course that changes your life. It's not even lecture that you are profoundly impacted by it's a it's a it's a kind of testament to existence.