Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Eye-Opener

From Roger Sandall, Plato vs. Grand Theft Auto:
It had been just an ordinary day at the office, metaphysically speaking, but it looked like ending with a bang. In a sunlit grove at the foot of the Acropolis, close by the Academy, Plato was showing Aristotle something he'd found on the web...


Aristotle looked concerned but not alarmed. He was an early adopter himself, he told Plato, adding that his well-known remarks about theatre were not meant to legitimate coke dealing or running folks over or robbing vulnerable women. Nothing nasty like that. Theatre had a noble heritage, and would doubtless survive the deliriously fun straight-up thugs of Grand Theft Auto IV.
As insanely jealous as an article like this makes me, I still wish there were more writers doing stuff like this. If only because I get it, even though I've never actually played Grand Theft Auto myself. I know what GTA is, I know what video games are, I know what theatre is, and I sure as fuck know who Plato and Aristotle were and probably have a better idea than most about what they said and thought about things. That last is not bragging, it's just what I spent 6 years studying at university (yeah, yeah--and then I entered 2nd year, ha ha ha etc.).

Sandall has, in a very short article, quickly and accurately identified the basic positions of Plato and Aristotle. Plato is a moralist and Aristotle is an observer. I suspect that many (most?) university grads identify more closely with Plato because--and there's no question about this--he was much easier to read. Plato's dialogues are like stories, and are relatively easy to follow. (There's a real irony in this. If you've read Sandall's article, maybe you get it.) Aristotle, on the other hand, reads like the instructions of the made-in-China tent that you're trying to set up out of the box and in the dark. He's damn near impenetrable in many places. Unlike the tent... [whoa! better rein in those extended metaphors, Rick!]

Aristotle is much harder to read. As a fellow grad student once put it, "there aren't as many laughs." But then there wouldn't be if one were merely describing what he observed as opposed to describing the way he thought things should be. Aristotle is pretty ruthless in his deconstruction of every philosopher that came before him (including his teacher, Plato). Plato is a great primer for philosophy, but Aristotle is the shit...

I remember spending an entire day (24 hours!) reading, over and over again, one page of Aristotle's Metaphysics until I finally understood what the fuck he was talking about. It was an epiphany of sorts, and I wouldn't recommend it for everyone. I had a paper deadline. (I got an "A" by the way.) Anyone reading this who thinks maybe I wasted my time on a useless exercise for a useless grade in a useless subject has, I would argue, no concept of what an education is. They probably suck at Grand Theft Auto, as well...


  1. Sorry to bring the elevated nature of this post right back down into the gutter, but did you see the picture at this post?

    On another note, how do we know, just from the URL, that the author of the post you quoted is not really "Rogers and all?"

  2. it is good story by

  3. Brendan,
    That pic is hilarious!