Schrodinger's Dachshund

Plato’s Cave? Big Whoop!

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The Annals of Petronius Jablonski: An Odyssey of Historic Proportions and Priceless Treasure of Philosophy unveils the paradigm-shattering contributions of Petronius’ Shovel, Petronius’ Blender, Schadenfreude Before-the-Fact, and Petronius’ Garage. They take their rightful place in the philosophical pantheon beside Occam’s Razor, Plato’s Cave, Aristotle’s Golden Mean, Heraclitus’ Stream, and Russel’s Teapot.

“[R]eads like a surreal existentialist crisis, a stream-of-consciousness narrative that employs secrets and intrigue as a driving, page-turning force.”  Publishers Weekly 

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Just as William of Occam gave philosophy his Razor (undeniably useful but somewhat overrated), I hereby contribute my Shovel. This tool will prove to be as easy to use as its namesake. An example of it in action will serve as a good first approach to understanding it.

Now, by what criterion are things considered strange or normal? According to the regularity by which they occur, one might respond. Unfortunately, by this standard a halo above a car is quite peculiar and the strangeness vs. normalcy of a great many things becomes a relativistic mishmash. But this is the mere surface of this issue. A true philosopher feels instinctively that the line separating them is, to an enormous extent (if not altogether), arbitrary or illusory. But how can he dig straight to the root of this quandary, to penetrate the imaginary surface and demonstrate the chimerical nature of the distinction for the common man to see?

“Is the halo stranger than the existence of life itself?” the philosopher asks.

“Certainly not. What can be stranger than that?” comes the reply from any man with the barest semblance of cognition. “Explanations of life, its origin and purpose, always seem inadequate, as though nothing could feasibly constitute an answer, as though the question is a gasp of dismay, not a serious inquiry. I’d rather not think about it. Isn’t there a ballgame on?”

“Is the halo stranger than the fact that Something exists instead of Nothing?” the philosopher asks.

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“Absolutely not,” comes the reply from even a business student. “That’s the most peculiar and disturbing fact there is.” Rubbing his temples he cries, “My mind is awhirl. Bring me a video game. I beg you.”

“And so,” the philosopher concludes, washing off my faithful Shovel, his labor at an end, “the halo is not really strange. Compared to the existence of life, which we see every day, it is perfectly banal. Compared to the existence of everything, it is more akin to a sleeping pill than a mystery. Rather than giving it a pejorative label and running about in a tizzy, it is simply a matter of getting used to it.”

“Agreed,” chime the man with the barest semblance of cognition and his comrade, the business student. “Let’s all compare cell phones.”

Now, far from being a mere principle or abstract utility (like Occam’s much-ballyhooed Razor), my Shovel has the unlimited potential for practical, everyday applications. In fact, as the Reader is about to behold, it saved my life, holding my wits together in the face of what a non-philosophic mind would have deemed unbearably strange.

Quietude Now!

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Petronius Who?

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2 thoughts on “Plato’s Cave? Big Whoop!

  1. I’m finishing chapter II. My primary complaint is that it had to end. Petronius’ Shovel is the most revolutionary philosophic concept since Heraclitus’ Stream. However, regarding the first breathtaking appearance of your mighty tool and your subsequent handling of it: there exists a discrepancy, possibly a logical contradiction. When you introduced your Shovel, you demonstrated how it penetrates the illusory surface and digs straight to the root of Reality to reveal the primordial strangeness of all things. This was not given as an example of a particular act, but as a general antecedent of all penetrations performed by your invincible tool. Yet posterior to your demonstration, you cite several examples of particular penetrations, one which occurred anterior to your demonstration. Have you not blurred the critical line between a general anterior and a particular posterior?

    • petroniusj says:

      The student was not sent to forage through Part II like a ravening bear, but to perfect his comprehension of its essential concepts and occurrences. Nonetheless, a fair point is raised. Aristotle first warned of the hazards inherent in confounding these concepts, and if I have done so I am guilty of nothing less than a logical felony. My defense will consist of two parts. First, a brief comment on the possibility that a misperception of ambiguity occurred — understandable given the enthralling nature of the text.

      It is conceivable that the Reader, shattered from his initial brush with Part II, became overwhelmed with dread by the grave warning at the beginning and slipped into a delirium. I implored him to attempt Part II again when his mind was at its zenith. In the course of a day, this period usually corresponds to a time subsequent to the consumption of a caffeinated beverage. Apparently some men do not differentiate between one such drink and twelve. Consequently, no distinction is drawn between a state of enhanced cognitive agility and a pathologic condition where the mind paces a cage like a tiger. Students, far from being an exception to this tendency, are more likely to succumb to it. I insist the Reader again attempt the glorious summit tomorrow with a clear head, having consumed only one. He should perform his next reading standing. During the more intense passages, pacing is advised: book in one hand, chin in the other.

      ***

      At this point the Reader might accuse me of avoiding the singular thrust of his objection. Patience is advised. I have been limbering up before entering the ring with Aristotle. My philosophic muscles supple, I am prepared to grapple with him. Now, as both he and Thomas Aquinas conceived of the concept, a particular posterior is distinct from —

      A bitter and melancholy dagger pierces my heart. The Reader used his prima facie intelligent question to stage a crude burlesque, hoping that I, entangled in nets of logic, would remain oblivious to the coming pratfall. And where had he hoped to go with this? To Sandy, no doubt. Fast approaching was some utterly craven punch line about how “he’d love to penetrate that particular posterior.” The poor girl has been free of her terminal disfigurement for all of a few pages and the Reader cannot abstain? If such was his intention he has succeeded magnificently — in making a particular posterior of himself. Metaphysical jokes work on many levels, dear Reader, many levels.

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