I resolved most of life’s large ethical questions to my own satisfaction many years ago, and I tend to shy away from college-level ethical philosophising. I see most of what are usually called “the Big Questions” as kind of boring. But sometimes I worry about how complacent I’ve become on other fronts. I was reading recently about aesthetics, what Wikipedia calls the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values. And I realized that I had never given any thought to why people find certain objects pleasing to the eye or ears. It was a huge aspect of my life that I had allowed to go unexamined. When I read about subjects outside my comfort zone I realize how much there is that I take for granted, questions both little and big. And then there all the questions I didn’t even know existed.
What basis should we use to determine whether a law should be upheld? Why do most animals have four limbs? Would mermaids be mammals or fish?
It’s so easy to get channeled along typical avenues of discourse. I can spend hours discussing trivia, like the latest person who said something racist about Barack Obama, or rehashing old debates, like how terrible the Bush administration is. And I feel comfortable taking up our little positions and playing our little part in the debate, deploying the same points of argument, taking offense at just the right time, and going away feeling the same emotions. I think the same thoughts, day after day. It’s easy, and its fun.
Not that all this stuff isn’t important. It’s really important. But it’s also settled. One way or another, I made up your mind about most of this stuff a long time ago. But there’s all these other fun things to talk about out there. Things that I’ve never thought about, and much less made up my mind about. And while this blog will always be firmly devoted to trivia and rehashing old arguments, it will also have a little place for some of the other stuff.