Monday, June 14, 2010

Worlds collide!

The game between Korea and Greece Saturday night was a collision of worlds for me. As I watched the long-haired Greeks take to the field led by swift-footed Achilles, son of Peleus against the cherubic Korean team, I considered that a few years ago, I probably would've rooted for Greece. After all, I spent four long years preoccupied with ancient Greece, to the point that it never occurred to me that the Greece of today is not preoccupied with the city states of Athens and Sparta, nor does it care much for philosophy.

I was somewhat torn about who to support, though I didn't have a choice. Koreans of all sorts wore red yesterday, some wearing devil horns to honour the team nicknamed the Red Devils, a kind of peculiar nickname considering that this country has faced an existential threat from a communist country for 60 years as of next Friday (the Korean War began June 25, 1950). City streets, squares and parks all over Seoul and the surrounding area became public cheering areas, a sort of sporting madness that resembles a month of Super Bowl Sunday.

In a lot of ways, Korea is the anti-Greece in my mind. Greece is philosophy, everything that is pure, abstract and free of even the hint of having to live a life. Korea is the present, the place where I came to live a life far from the concerns of philosophy. Every now and then someone, assuming my major to give me some expertise on the topic, asks me whether I "like" this philosopher or that, or if I could explain philosophy to them. By and large, though, philosophy is the answer to a trivial fact about myself that people (mostly Koreans) ask every now and then: what is your major?

It wasn't always like that, of course. I studied Aristotelian ethics conscientiously if not consciously, giving more consideration to the considerations than considering the material in front of me. I turned everything into questions of good and bad, right or wrong, and I was keen on demonstrating how our post-Reformation propensity for dispensing with morality in the public realm to avoid conflict was a mistake. In my head, I suppose I still demonstrate it to myself, but in retrospect I'm not sure why anyone else could possibly even begin to think any of it as remotely interesting.

Instead of morality, I spend a lot of time at work considering the epistemic puzzles conceived by Plato, the differences between opinions and knowledge, between seeming to know something and knowing something. John Searle's Chinese Room puzzle is also at the forefront of my my mind every time I try to read something on my Taiwanese laptop. A lot of teaching involves judging whether someone does or does not know something, not to mention ensuring that someone knows something.

Much of the tension in this game metaphor also comes from the tension between what we thought we'd be and what we end up being. Our generation and the generation before it (though not literally my parents) swear to be true to ourselves and not just do what we're told to do by authority figures. This forms the backbone of so much great and so much terrible music. Greece, then, is what I thought I would be and Korea is what I actually am, though really they're both on the wrong side of conventional employment in Canada. This tension, I suppose, might be represented by the Korea-Argentina game coming up this week, between David-like non-conformity and the Argentine powerhouse of convention.


Seadog said...

Collide: from the Latin "col" meaning together, and "lædre" meaning to injure or damage.

As in, "the philosophy major's life collided with mine, irreparably damaging my work ethic by monopolizing my time with hours of metaphysical discussion."

Adeel said...

I don't think that was the philosophy major in me, that was the person in me that had contempt for self-important rich people and their typical ways.

Seadog said...

Contempt: from the Latin "contempt-us" meaning scorn.

Anonymous said...

You should base which team to root for based on how annoying their fans or national persona is.

Greeks invariably bring up Alexander the Great (despite actually being Macedonian) and that they were doing various things while western Europeans were living in caves.

I find this annoying when it's injected into day to day conversation on a regular basis.

Fuck Greece.