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Episode #178 ... Susan Sontag - How Much Is Your View Of Everything Affected By Metaphors?

2023-04-05 | 🔗

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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm stephen west. This is philosophize. This thank you for contributing to the back catalogue of a show on the website of philosophize, this dot org. Thank you for keeping the podcast going by subbing on patriot patriot, shout outs this week. By the way we got tim coochie alive, shout out to kazakhstan asked dinner. We got richard Puccio jackson, price steven, kirsch and salah costa. Thank you to everybody out there that makes this podcast possible by supporting. I could never do this without your help. I wake up every day. Grateful to this episode is part three on susan sontag. I hope you love the show today so again here we are just like last time. Looking at the mythology that surrounds something, that's so normal to us in our everyday lives that we may not even notice it last time it was about pictures and videos. This time Susan sontag is going to critique the popular use. Of the metaphor,
culture, how the way we use metaphors can sometimes go on to hurt people in ways that we never intended, and someone out there at the start of the pot cast today might be thinking. Well, I'm safe on this one. Look. You got me last time, but the pictures and videos, but am preacher. The last time I used a metaphor was in the night: it's grade in poetry, assignment I mean who really goes around their everyday life, describing things using metaphors. What are you walt whitman but in reality to contact when we're talking about metaphors were also talking about. Similes were also talking about analogies, let's not get caught upon the semantics here, we're talking about any time, you're trying to explain something in a way that compares one thing to another and then the entire cultural mythology that surrounds a particular thing because of those comparisons, in fact, maybe the best place to start this discussion today is how we started last time
trying to look at the metaphor, like you're, an alien that comes from a different planet where they don't use metaphors to explain stuff to each other. What is a metaphor and what function does it serve? And culture and alien might say? Well, a metaphor is a linguistic tool that these human beings used when they want to compare one thing to something else that is similar to, but not exactly like, and these humans most commonly used. The metaphor to help simplify explanations of things that are complex, usually one side of a metaphor, something people do understand and the other side of it something that's more difficult to understand. People say things like: the stock market is a or coaster. Finding love is a journey. Life is like a boxer chocolates. These are all examples of one strong, place people like to use the metaphor, which is when you want to compare something that people do understand, was something they want
prove their understanding of a metaphor, then, just like last episode with pictures and videos and alien from another planet might say that a metaphor, something that fundamentally simplifies complexity and new ones, and some people are geniuses at coming up with metaphors. Some people make their entire career out of it, and it probably should be set at this point that Susan's contact views. The metaphor from the same place of ambiguity that she does pictures and videos she fully acknowledges that the metaphor capable of good and evil. Given the context- and I think I gotta tell anybody how much ground you can cover quickly with explaining things using metaphors, you are, after all, this into the show right now. But that said something we also have to consider about metaphor. She thinks is that whenever somebody gets an understanding of something complex from a comparison to something else, their view of the complex thing is at least in some capacity shaped. By that comparison, we got to ask what are the potential impacts of that process? We're going to talk about, so
rural real world examples of this over the course of the episode, and I guess by the end of it, will understand why suntan things we have such a strong desire to turn certain things in the metaphors and how just like, with your relationship to pictures and videos our understanding of the world is at the mercy of the comparisons and metaphors you get from other people and how critical you choose to think about them. So I guess the first thing that has to be said to get started on that is that decisions, susan tag. There is no reason why we absolutely have to be describing things by com. Hearing them to something else again, don't get a wrong metaphors, a pretty awesome way of describing something, but for the sake of being comprehensive here we have to just state for the record that there are ways to describe things without using metaphors, when a physicist, for example, describes things to colleagues at a seminar. It is possible for that physicist to talk about it.
work in a way that uses technical, scientific terms that everybody there is familiar with the need to get up in front of the podium and tell the other physicist, will the carbon Adam is kind of like spaghetti and in the hydrogen, is like marineris sauce all over the spaghetti didn't mean to talk like that, because everybody on the same page, at a scientific conference But when they talk to a non physicist to explain something like molecular structure without use, The metaphorical example of picturing balls and springs or to explain atomic structure without using metaphor of a solar system, there's a sense in which why would you do that I mean, even though in Adam, is nothing like a solar system in actuality. Why not use this powerful linguistic all of the metaphor to your advantage, it's very useful. So the point is that there's ways to describe everything in the world with or without using metaphors and susan sontag gonna say that as peace
that it is trying to have everyday conversations about things. One thing we do is we tend to use metaphors a lot we tend to lean in the direction of comparisons because of how easy and effectively are at bridging understanding and then these men force end up, shaping the assumptions we make about the things around us, for example, people a say stuff sometimes like, the mind? Is a machine. That's a metaphor and, though, use this metaphor with totally good intentions, just try to bring a little structure to how they think about something like the mind. That's enormously com, ex, but then what this can inadvertently lead to its people really thinking of their money? this being similar to a machine and other ways, they may think Machine is usually designed to perform a specific function. My mind must have been as well machines are made up a predetermined processes and fixed capabilities. My mind must be based on similar limitations. more than that, if the mind is a machine, dinosaurs something going wrong with your mind. What what are you doing?
then goes wrong with a machine. You take it to a technician. Little fix it for you, like a psychologist and then at the expert can't fix it but there must be something fundamentally wrong with the machine. The machine must be broken. You can extend this matter. For as far as you want, but in Actuality there was nothing out your mind or the complexity of your experience moment to moment. That is anything like a machine. It's just a set of Sometimes you might make. If that metaphor, where was the one you were using when thinking about the complexity of your mind? Now we do this with almost everything picture. This applied too complicated mysteries in the sciences picture. This applied to complex political react picture this apply to the metaphors asian of ai, got some episodes coming up on that soon. Let me know if that sounds cool to you, but the point of susan sontag, nineteen. Seventy eight book called illness as metaphor- was to get us to picture this. Use of the metaphor applied to the way we see illness and disease and then how we end up treating people differently who gets sick as a result of it. She starts the book by making a
he's for what's at stake when we uncritically use metaphors by examining all the different ways over the years of people have talked about the disease of tuberculosis? Now, no doubt hearing the word, tuberculosis. You have a certain understanding of what that disease is.
And that understanding is based on your relationship to the mythology that surrounds it. In our time, you may think it's a disease that just older women get. You may think that most of why you get it is because of an iron deficiency. These are some common over simplifications in today's world. That may affect your understanding of it, but something sontag would say, is really important for us to recognize. Is that and other points in history, people at a totally different view of tuberculosis, and it was simply because their understanding of the disease was centered around a different set of cultural metaphors, for example, back in the nineteenth century, people at one point thought of tuberculosis as more of a spiritual disease than a medical disease. People thought it was a mystical disease like it was outside the purview of what science could ever figure out, and this was further evidence to them by the type of person that always seemed to be getting tuberculosis see. In the nineteenth century, tuberculosis was considered a disease that you got. If you are a creative person or a sensitive person, delicate people got tuberculosis. Artists were thought to be particularly vulnerable to the disease. This
Oh really happened by the way. Some people legitimately thought back then that the reason when someone contracts, tuberculosis, that they have to be bedridden for so long, is because the mystical part of the disease ensures that these creative artistic types have a long time for reflection and creativity when they're getting over the disease. If you're a painter that gets tuberculosis that means. We should be using this recovery time to paint and get some inspiration. That was not an uncommon thing for people to assume back then now. This is not scientific fact. Obviously, this is cultural mythology, and this mythological explanation would further go onto affect the way the people and doctors viewed treatment options. When you got tuberculosis back then the path, the better health, for you was more spiritual than medical people thought they had to go out into nature, to fix it that they had to reconnect with something about themselves. Doctors trying to treat them sent people to sanatorium, sometimes in these beautiful location, surrounded by other crew aid of artist types to try to talk their way out of the illness? Almost like real
in today's world with about the same success rate? In other words, doctors are people too, and the everyday popular discourse between people starts to have an impact on met I called discourse and these metaphors were reinforced in the art and literature of the time period. So many examples in books, paintings, poetry from charles dickens, to John keats, pre, trained tuberculosis as a disease that you got if you had a certain kind of personality, and when people talked about the symptoms of the disease, it was described with very specific metaphors as well. It was said that tuberculosis consumed the patient from the inside that the sensitive, delicate people with their weak constitutions were being eaten alive from the inside by the disease. All of this, on top of other metaphors about being sick that disease and
currently an evil thing that isn't a natural thing that it's wrong somehow to be sick, but sontag might want to interject here and slow down the momentum of all this and just point out a couple of things before we get too far down this rabbit hole of the mythology of the time she probably want to plant a flag on the ground here and say that there's a way to think about disease and illness that isn't at the mercy of nineteenth century metaphors. First of all, she might say the idea that getting sick is evil, or that its unnatural, listen living in a world. That's filled with uncertainty and risk and bodies that deteriorate over time about as natural part of the human condition is, you can possibly find people get sick. That's a part of this whole process. We got going on and sing does unnatural is just either wilfully misunderstanding your place in nature or wilfully being ignorant of the complex thing that you are your body included in that, obviously, but how about this other way of seeing disease? She would say, that there's this thing inside of you, this creature called tuberculosis
that's eating you alive from the inside, what that's yet another very human tendency to personify or to create a metaphor to explain the disease, that really has no this in reality, there's no. Reason you have to be thinking of disease like it's, this autonomous thing, that's eating people you can just as easily see disease and other ways you can describe disease as a natural reaction in response to certain environmental factors or to decide, it purely in terms of its symptoms are the things we know about. It not speculate about all the things we don't know, in other words, this away to talk about tuberculosis at a medical level or at a more scientific or eddie article level and scientific says: there's no reason we had to view tuberculosis as this mystical into mention from the outside, that's unnatural. consuming the body of these frail and delicate artistic types, but we did in the nineteenth century and when we did it affected the way the person with tuberculosis saw them
self. It affected the way they were viewed by other people. It affected the medical and cultural discourse surrounding the disease, which then went on to impact what treatment was recommended. For example, lots of people diagnose the disease didn't seek further help because they thought it was their fault that they were the type of person who gets tuberculosis. Lots of doctors and scientists didn't pushed too hard about doing studies for other treatment options, because a more or less just accepted the cultural mythology that the cure was a psychological care and people suffered and died as a result of this similar dishonor eggs, view of pictures and videos from last episode,
the metaphors about disease objectified, the patient's oversimplified, their condition. Give the people using the metaphor is a false sense of familiarity with their situation and then with access to bad information. The medical discourse led to us not doing as much as we could have done to help them to susan sonntag than something very important that we have to notice that we often dont consider about the process of getting sick is that these social constructions about an illness or a disease become an inescapable part of having that disease. Now this can all seem like a very distant world. That's completely different from our own today, like, of course, people. In the eighteen hundreds thought about stuff. This way they were stupider than us back, then they used to play marbles these to wear those little propeller, hats and say ooh. This is fun. They didn't have the kind of science that we do now, after all, look at what happened in the future in the eighteen fifties. When the I propose become more widely available to look at the cells affected by tuberculosis. The mythology that surrounds the disease starts to change a bit
yeah starts a change even more and nineteen. Forty four, when antibiotics are prescribed people, somebody could say that maybe these metaphors that we were using were kind of like religious sects, nations that we needed them at one point here. We need to believe that thunder was just the gods throwing rocks at each other up in the clouds. But now the people have access to information Something like the internet now that we have science, we don't you to sit around and create mythology anymore, we more or less grown out of that method of explaining things right. Sonntag would say that advances in the sciences have definitely changed. The mythology that surrounds tuberculosis, but this tendency to use metaphors to describe things that we don't really understand still goes on all the time. We've just switched the sickness that we do it with how about cancer. She would ask in nineteen seventy five susan sontag was diagnosed. With breast cancer and again in nineteen, seventy eight she writes when the books were referencing today called illness. As metaphor
so she has a pretty unique level of insight about what it was like to be one of these patients. It was affected by the way people talk about cancer. She talks about how the way patients were I thought about? In the nineteen seventies, it's just a different version of what we used to do with patients of tuberculosis. He says in the seventies it was not uncommon for people to think of cancer as something that's explained by your personality as well. People would commonly say things like. Oh, oh well, of course, you're the kind of person who gets sick all the time and cancer. I mean you're such a worrier, a bottle up all these emotions or stressed out all the time you're, the kind of person it's more vulnerable to getting cancer people would hear about somebody getting cancer and they say well. You know why that is right, that's because it some deep level. I think that person
It has lost their will to live. This is their body turning on them and manifesting something that they're feeling deep down inside now. Is there the slightest bit of accuracy when it comes to this metaphor, being an explanation for why people get cancer across the board? Well, no, not across the board, but this is what makes metaphors attractive. There are factors that probably put people at a higher risk of getting cancer, and stress may be one of those factors in select cases. There may be a glimmer of truth just like when you see a picture claiming to represent the truth about re poverty, and if you are sufficiently motivated, you could turn that glimmer of truth or the single picture and to your entire view of reality. And then, if you're a doctor- and you had these metaphors dictating how you see things, you could use them to justify treatment options that were mutually exclusive from each other, just because the metaphors themselves were so shaky. For example, if you believe, as some did at the time that the cause of cancer was mostly psychological and italian deal with europe
since then. On one hand, some people in the seventies are told by doctors that they need to learn to regulate these bad emotions internally, you know the reason you got. The cancer there told is because you're just not skilled enough keeping your emotions in like a healthy person, does learn to keep them inside visualize yourself walking on a cloud and let them drift away. But then, on the other hand, people are also told in the seventies that primal screaming therapy is the way to stave off cancer. I don't know if you've seen it, but crises to tell people to just scream at the top of their lungs to let out pent up energy, the thinking being that civilization. And got everyone all cooped up and now I need to let this energy out, or else your body's going to turn on you and you're going to get cancer. I mean: can you imagine just coming home from school in the seventies and see your dad screaming at the wall in your living room, vain, PA, and out of his forehead? Oh hi son daddy's
screaming at the wall right now, because he doesn't want to get the cancer does what doctors told people to do when there are other examples of this people in the seventies are told that they're getting cancer because their eating too much your bodies overfed, it doesn't know what to do with all this energy that you're putting into its growing cancerous tumors. Others are told us because they're not eating enough. It's malnutrition. It's a micro. Nutrient deficiency point is just like with pictures and They also provide a false sense of familiarity and enough security? To allow you to see almost opposite takes, the exact same situation met where's allow us to do the same and susan sonntag. It's gonna say that they certainly didn't end with these metaphor. But she experienced in the nineteen seventies, because it's not just the doctors using metaphor. There are having an impact on the experience of someone getting cancer. Think of how cancer patients are viewed by some
anxiety more generally, today think of the metaphors and think of how their affected by these metaphors. First us on tax. As someone gets sick in our modern world and their instantly cordoned off into this group, were there the other now now there of the kingdom of the sick as she calls it. We're all over here. We're all part of the kingdom of the well, and now you over there you're part of the sick group and sometimes, as just like people, often do with people who come from different kingdoms, culturally and other parts of the world where people think of them ass. The other people don't often put in a lot of effort to try to understand their experiences. In fact, their very existence scares people. Sometimes it they'd ever have to consider something more complicated about what the human condition is. People treat the experiences of the sick and a similar sort of way. Sick people are in a weird spot in today's world. Suntan would say how it feels to get diagnosed with cancer. What does it feel like? Like a common metaphor, the people use
think about people with cancer. Is that everybody with cancer is fighting a battle against cancer? Let's talk about how it feels to have everybody. Looking at your life, like her constantly battling something evil all the time, on one hand, sound tax as a person diagnosed with cancer has all the privacy in the world. People hear about it through the great fine we're not supposed to talk about that. Don't bring it up at lunchtime. Roger dont. Do it nobody asks about it unless the information is offered up and its because we have a taboo and a mythology in our society. That says: that's what we should do we're trying to be considerate. We think hey, I'm just gonna leave to deal with their disease, I'm gonna. Let them know that I'm available if they need me, but this something I want to give him some space on. It just seems like the right thing to do to just leave them alone with it for a while but then, on the other hand, on tax as a cancer patient has almost zero privacy. Remember cancer is seen by people as a battle, which means metaphorically you are for.
Fighting against this evil that has invaded your body from the outside, so your body sontag says, becomes the battlefield for this impending fight. First thing that happens is you are objectified. You were turned from a person into a patient. Then they start talking about you in the third person that the tumor has spread into the southern. hemisphere of the lung. The the biopsy revealed elevated levels of warwick bowen that that's not the biopsy or the lung you're. Talking about that. That's me and the idea of having any semblance of privacy. Doctors are constantly running tests to medically quantify. What's going on with your body, then that information is passed around casually every doktor within your shot that might went away and on the matter, then everyone Your family wants to know what the latest results are. The idea, of telling them no, the idea that you'd want privacy about that. now that you are a member of this kingdom of the sick, well, that's just outrageous. Privacy isn't a luxury. You can really afford anymore. My friend, what you need to do is just sit back and allow the
actors to use your body to wage war against this cancerous alien, that's trying to take over with their radiation weapons. Also, if cancer is seen by society as a battle that someone's going through then in a good fight, what we respect as a culture is someone who faces this battle and acts like a warrior, in other words, someone who, bravely with stoicism, faces their disease and it stands up. fights really really hard to beat the disease. Oh, I got so much respect for you. Fighting and beating that disease. Nice work, but, of course, cancer isn't a battle and you're not a warrior fighting against. It does just a metaphor that we tack on to something mysterious to help us explain it, but think about how that metaphor might affect someone with cancer. What, if somebody can't
the disease and what? If it has nothing to do with how much willpower they're putting into it? What if it's genetics, what if they don't have access to the best medical care? What if it's just bad luck? Think of the added burden of guilt he potentially put on someone who has cancer, where they might think it is happening to me, because I'm not strong enough and my dying, because I'm not good enough warrior in this battle that I'm fighting not only that, but knowing that this isn't Actually, a battle is fighting a battle. The only proper response to have when it comes to facing something about your own mortality is a stoic resolve the the only way to face your mortality, or there many other, potentially valuable experiences to have. When navigating this piece of the human condition. The metaphor of the battle shapes our understanding of a cancer patient. Just as metaphors about tuberculosis affected the way we saw patients, then this happened with aids in the nineteen eighties. This happened with covert and two thousand and twenty,
Think of all the mythology that surrounded covert near the beginning, when we knew almost nothing about it, all the speculation, the types of people that are more prone to get covert the types of people that are more prone to die from it. He completely baseless, takes on how you got covert or even worse, all the different ways. You can keep covert away or cure code again, mutually exclusive things, were justified depending on the metaphors. You are being given by your new sources. If you were uncritically accepting those metaphors each and every person. Listening to this knows what it feels like to see the, the cultural mythology that surrounds an illness change in real time, and everybody knows what it feels like to view the people that have an illness differently based on the status of that cultural discourse. Point is This is not something that just went on in the nineteenth century or the nineteenth seventys. We keep doing this. We keep creating metaphors that help us feel. We understand something that we don't when people's lives are hanging in the balance and song, I would say
One reason people keep doing this with illness in particular, is because at some level people are terrified that the illness, whatever it is, it's gonna happen to them. She says at one point: it probably all stems from a good place. We probably all comes from us wanting to maintain social order it. Level, but make no mistake. A lot of what we're doing here is out of fear. There's a scary new illness that comes about. Nobody knows exactly what causes it or how to get rid of it, and then good people trying to figure things out Look at the limited data that's available to them and create a cultural mythology around the illness that makes them feel less vulnerable that it's only a certain type of person that gets this. Only the creative types get this for tuberculosis or the people who are stressed out all the time for cancer or the moral degenerates it was said about aids. This is the same tendency by people manifested indifferent time periods This thing we do is people more generally. I think, where we We believe that, if something bad happened to someone that there
must have been a reason why that bad thing happened to them, that they must have done something wrong. That caused this bad thing to happen and sometimes there's a connection. Someone gets lung cancer after smoking for packs a day for thirty years and is a part of people that wants to look at them and be like see, They did the bad thing, and now the bad thing happened to them somehow We want to believe that there is always a connection between the things that happen to people in something they did to deserve it. The sad reality is that sometimes, if something bad happens to you, there was just nothing you could do about it there is nothing! You did wrong. There's no one worrying that would have saved you from it. The sense of cosmic justice that's bottle, fed to us in western. culture from the time were born is just not real sometimes, but as people who are always having to see patterns and behaviour and see which people succeed or fail. We create this mythology to explain the things that were the most terrified of Sonntag says: he's metaphors. If you analyze them, will teach you a lot more about the collective
fears of humanity than they ever will about the reality of the disease that they're talking about. We I believe that if we can identify the exact psychological flaw in the type of person that gets the illness and if we can make sure that you aren't that kind of person well, then I must be safe. Cancer won't happen to me, I'm not one of those people that get cancer. I don't do the things that the people to get cancer do and, of course, never in actuality that simple susan's on access at one day, we're gonna understand cancer in a similar way that we now understand tuberculosis and we do. She predicts that the mythology that surrounds the illness will change as well. The way the patients are treated by society and by the doctors are diagnosed them and the point that she's making here is not that we should stop using metaphors. Just as last episode, she was not saying that we should stop using pictures. The point is that, if we can understand this tendency that we have to create mythology surrounding things. We don't understand mostly out of fear them when it comes to how that intersects with subjects like disease
where people's well being and humanity often hangs in the balance. It is possible to be more critical than metaphors were using and how they might be negatively impact on people who are at the mercy of medical discourse, because this isn't just cancer and tuberculosis think about other illnesses. We know about today where the way culture, toxic, them can make people feel embarrassed about getting help. Think of substance, abuse, obesity, depression or anxiety, stds eating disorders, many more examples here, but the point is that there are certain states of being that, for whatever reason we decided as a culture that not only are we going to talk about the symptom someone's experiencing, we're, also going to talk about the character of the person. On top of that, and just like the people with tuberculosis or cancer and other times it didn't, seek out treatment. The thinking of the people afflicted with this stuff today could easily be well look. I'm the pie. I'm here, I'm the cause of why I have this. What am I gonna go bother a doctor about this, for there could be somebody
really sick that needs the doctor that day, in other words, simply to make ourselves feel better about. Our fears at this stuff is going to happen to us one day, we're just further complicating the life of someone. That's going through stuff like this sancho. What say that there is no reason why the language and the metaphors that surround illness can't be more empowering towards someone who's going through it There was no reason. Illness can't be framed in a different way: I mean. Imagine a world where someone get sick and instead of being socially isolated because of some taboo. We have that we talk about the fact someone sick in the process of getting sick being talked about as a more natural expected part of life that most people go through at some point and that, while it is certainly not the greatest thing in the world throughout this process, you are getting an opportune
I need to come to terms with your own mortality and take something valuable from the process to learn something about yourself to have a greater perspective. That's a possible experience for someone to have as well just like when someone gives you a picture, and the default should be asking a series of questions about the picture. Whenever you hear a metaphor, that's claiming to be a representation of a super complex thing. The default mode you should be in is one where you're asking more questions as well. Who is giving me the It's a metaphor! Why are they giving me this metaphor? What is the metaphor obscuring about the complexity of this thing that I may not be considering, and if I continue to not consider that complexity, what kinds of people might be affected by that
There is no reason to susan sound hag. Why being a thinking person in this world cannot include that level of critical analysis, and once you recognize how these metaphors impact the people who are being described by them, Susan zadig thinks you have a responsibility, the same way that to be able to survive, we need to bring a critical eye to every image that's presented to us or else except your fate. As someone being constantly finessed by the people who are giving you your pictures and videos, we have a responsibility to deconstruct the metaphor: we used to understand complicated things like disease or else, except a similar fate as someone at the mercy of the people giving you your comparisons, but it's interesting to consider who are the people that are giving you your comparisons. I mean if the news is where you're getting a lot of the images you consume and you gotta be more on guard when you're taken in those pictures and videos where do people typically get their metaphors that help them simplify cultural complexity. Like I said at the beginning of the episode, some people are amazing:
me up with metaphor, some people make their entire career out of it. There's writers, there's teachers. Does lawyers lotta Please metaphors in their jobs, but maybe one profession. That's really good. At commenting on social issues in particular are comedians, in fact, in terms of where people are in their metaphors. We live in a world where the real, lady is that a lot of people get their news and understanding a things from comedians. It's been this way for decades and you can understand why with the news being what it is most of the time. the ad in someone talented. They can come up with comparisons between things at our hilarious look people gravitate towards other people that can connect dots, you didn't otherwise he can did and then do so in a way. We're at all corresponds with people's lived experiences of the world. Another one for the comedian. It's not an academic seminar, they're not going over advanced statistics. Giving representation that every angle or analyzing culture at the most detailed level, but it is often reflecting how people feel about
cultural realities in their everyday lives and in their making fun to listen to and one piece of a comedians arsenal when they do. That is the metaphor. Now, obviously, there's a billion examples. It is but one particular one from years ago, and I'm picking one this far back so that, hopefully everyone understands I'm never trying to politicize anything here. I'm just trying to give an example of a comedian that uses a metaphor to talk about a social issue, but the comedian was talking at the time about the very complicated problem of men out there conceiving a child and then not sticking around. to take care of the child somewhat say: that's an epidemic. That's hurting children in the united states and the commission was making fun of a quote from president obama. At the time obama says in her speech back then quote: we need fathers to realise that responsibility does not in the conception. We need them to realise that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child. It's the courage to raise one end quote now. This comedian thought that this was a bit of a non point by
obama that the reason men are abandoning their children has much more to do with them, not sticking to their responsibilities and anything to do with a lack of courage. So this committee, and uses a metaphor to sarcastically characterize the entire social issue. They say: ok, ok, I that I think I see with the present saying here he saying that anyone can eat at an. I hope, but it takes courage to pay the bill, No, I'm sorry, but that's funny. Ok, that is a funny way for a comedian to characterize these supposed cause of the problem is very visual, its quick. It cuts to the core of the over simplification of the feel good statement that this issue somehow comes down. Courage, levels of men out there who aren't taken care of their kids, but that said, doesn't this metaphor also drastically oversimplify the complexity of the issue by implying that is about possibility. I mean clearly there are a lot of reasons this problems going on and to say the cause of it is that people are just not being responsible. That's transit!
currently someone who's not interested in solving the social issue as much as they're interested in assessing blame and then in keeping with the theme of this episode. So far, if you accepted that metaphor- and you are uncritical towards the metaphor- you use if your goal was to explain reality generally and not suffer new wants too much. You could take this thinking and extend that metaphor. As far as you want, you could use. to think that if only every one was more responsible out there, then all of society's issues, would be magically salt. If only we all focus much more on parenting, our children to value education and responsibility, in other words, if everyone was exactly like me. We wouldn't need laws. Everything would be perfect if you were sufficiently committed to your metaphors uncritically. Like this, you could try believed that the solution to everything just lies and vague platitudes like we got gotta focus on parenting and education and responsibility, but then, on the other hand, there's a sense in which we can legislate morality
A discussion about how to deal with any social issue actually can only begin once you accept that people aren't all like you, people aren't always responsible people aren't always educated this type of metaphor may work in your everyday life in smaller numbers with people, you know and people you can talk to, but on the level of the government or fixing societal issues. We can't think this simplistically about it. But again it's intoxicating to be able to say: oh everyone's just stupid, everyone just needs to be more responsible, and then everything would be fixed seems much more concerned with the ego boost of assessing blame than actually fixing anything now. This is just one example of how a metaphor about a social issue can be used to reinforce a more globally over simplified view of everything, and there's been. This tension for years between people who claim there trying to analyze culture on the highest level, who take issue with comedians, who are making social commentary by using metaphors like this, because metaphors are almost always over simplifications, then the can
Harrison's comedians are making with metaphors almost always have to be over simplifications as well, to which the comedian says back yeah, I'm a comedian. The point of comedy is to make people I'm not going up on stage claiming to be a world class sociologist and by the way, for the record, the sociologist- that's criticising me as a hypothetical comedian, here you go on exactly making it easy for people to engage in these higher level conversations either. First of all your boring as sin. Usually you instantly cut down all the people who aren't initiated enough in your eyes to have the conversation look at least at a comedy, show it's getting people into the conversations about cultural issues over simplified or not to which the sociologist says back. Well isn't that dangerous, but we have these enormously complex cultural issues going on people's lives. are hanging in the balance. What about the person that goes to one of these?
comedy, shows and then takes what the comedian is saying to be the gospel truth, and this is where I think the work of susan sound. I can offer a bit of a bridge between these two camps, see again: she's gonna hold people accountable, while also empowering people to be better to her. It is our responsibility to bring a critical eye to these comparisons. We pick up through everyday participation in the world, If you were one of these people that supposedly exist out there were your go into a comedy, show drool and all over the table in frontier and taken everything. I hear there to be a high level take on social issues- then sure I guess you need to be taking comedy shows with a bit more of a grain of salt, just like the high level cultural critics need to do a cultural analysis of what a com We shall actually is as well, but in the real world or the rest of us exist. Susan sonntag would say that, if you're an intelligent person and your self aware of the fact that you get most of your understanding of cultural issues from committee
It's fully acknowledging all the good reasons given so far as to why you'd want to do that, then you should also try to be aware of the fact that comedians and by extension, comparisons and metaphors are not in the business of giving all the details they're in the business of trying to get people to laugh and to relate to people's everyday experiences. comedians, don't have the luxury of providing every angle on a social issue, just as policymakers don't have the luxury of making. Jokes about generalizations, just like a quantum physicist has to operate in two different, realms, a complexity where they live their life. Talking about quantum mechanics fluctuating between colleagues at their office- and on physicist, where, if they ask about their work, they got to explain it using metaphors. We have the ability to operate in these two different modes as well. The problem isn't the comedian who dares to make it
harrison in an attempt to make something funny and relatable. The problem is with the person who approaches their metaphor so uncritically that they confuse someone like Joe rogan with the oracle at delphi. It's not fair to Joe rogan, it's not fair to the oracle at delphi and as susan sontag, it's certainly not fair to the people whose lives are caught up in the conversations based on this confusion, we have a responsibility to know the difference. Thank you for listening. Talk to you next time, philosophize this dot, org philosophize. This clips on youtube
Transcript generated on 2023-04-12.