Cats and Theories
a blog by coticheque
a blog by coticheque

Fun, chatter and Heidegger

So I’ve been thinking of falsification of speech recently. The chatter. Gerede, to express it in Heideggerian terms. There’s no way out of Heideggerian interpretation of life once you step in, as it’s just way too relatable (applied Heideggerianism as a way of living!).

Does it merely come with age that at one point you no longer get amused by fun, but superfluous conversations dominated by random entertaining facts and supposedly fun stories? When the path of a conversation is nothing else but a random walk driven by unrelated facts: not thought-through, not linked to any abstract concepts, not fitted into one’s mental model. Under the facade of entertainment, such conversations are hollow, draining. They ‘take away one’s solitude without giving one company’. Because there’s no way how someone else can relate to a random entertaining fact, if it’s not generalized to the level of something a bit more generic, the level of abstract ideas, relevant to everyone regardless of circumstances of one’s particular life. And what’s the value of something that doesn’t even have an innate capacity to resonate. Does the intolerance for fun merely come with age?

The moral goal is to ditch this inauthentic chatter in favor of a more authentic social interaction. And to quote Heidegger again, it’s all about the discoverability of truth. Truth is only then genuine, when it’s discovered on one’s own. Otherwise, it’s an unexamined common fact that means nothing within the frame of your own existence. Exchanging platitudes is a sign of chatter. And what’s the point of it, if we all know from Socrates that an unexamined life is not worth living. On the opposite, an authentic communication is a result of that very examination done on each party’s side, an intellectual exchange, share of ideas and theories discovered in a genuine way – as only those things can be rendered meaningful with no pretence. In case the other party has been preoccupied with the same ideas, the conversation can be genuinely enriching: one can find out valuable things that would complete and enlarge one’s own mental model. And that’s how your world gets bigger. The clash of mental models is the area most interesting to explore. The rough edges, the mapping overlaps.

On the other hand, Gerede lacks any of these valuable features. The factors contributing to the propagation of it are big companies, loud environments, and time constraints. When a social group is big enough, the conversation naturally gravitates towards a topic serving as a common denominator – something more or less relevant to anyone in a group due to its generality. Alas, abstract theories (such as speculations about the meaning of life) is not something that people normally find interesting or relevant, therefore the conversation is more likely to be centered around mortgage rates and preferences in alcohol. Time constraint is another issue: common conversations are usually so fast-paced, that they leave no room for outlining arguments, drawing reasoning, exploring assumptions. Slow pace is simply not fun or entertaining. And only few people would be open enough to expose their genuine thoughts and theories to public in the settings of everyday life. Of course, unless they’re autistic and have no conception of what’s socially appropriate… Anyway.

And if the context of everyday life leaves no platform for public deliberation, is there any public sphere even left? Juergen Habermas would say it’s in the state of decline. Hannah Arendt would argue that political regimes of the past centuries have erased it completely. Whether it’s capitalism or communism, all private thoughts are supposed to be shared within private realm of one’s household. There’s no place like a forum of an Ancient Greek polis where citizens have a platform to discuss matters openly, because the modern regimes subjugated everything to the realm of economy. The rest: intellectual theories, creative pursuits, abstract deliberations have got a pathetic status of a private matter, that can be discussed over dinner with your family.

Going back to Heidegger and his idea of authenticity: if there’s still room for any authentic interaction, it’s not something done merely for the sake of fun, sharing of entertaining facts and stories, repetition of platitudes. And there’s nothing easier than to slip into this inauthentic state. When the conversation goes in a place where you have nothing to contribute, but platitudes, this is you who starts performing the role of Das Man yourself. That’s how Heidegger called this undistinguished state of complacent passivity, bitter irony, contempt for genuine thoughts and a propensity to mock all things honest as merely self-evident. Which is fine, as people spend most part of their lives in a state of Das Man anyway. It’s easy to fall into it, as the inclination for fallingness is a basic condition of Dasein (human being), the innate feature of human condition. But our moral obligation is to make an effort and step out of it.

Anyway, people still like chatter. I think it might be linked to the fact that apart from intellectual exchange and discovery of ideas, people value social interactions for sharing of emotions. But I’m not into fun or emotions, I prefer socializing electronically. And I’m bad, dreadful at parties. A killjoy. Take this post with a grain of salt – in some sense, it’s nothing more than a rant of a pathetic person who’s bad at fun.

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