Saturday, May 27, 2006

On the Cafe Philosopher

I'll tell you about some specifics, but in general language- in this case the specific maps well with the general types, and vice versa, so no need to differentiate perhaps.

The academician: Rarely a philosopher himself, meaning that he does not write on philosophy, but trained and tried in argument and dialectic. The academic in such cases is rarely prominent, and often either very young or very old. In either case, this seems to show itself in a particularly strong adherence to a core set of opinions or beliefs, I would think in the former case due to exhuberance and in the latter to the stolidity (perhaps senility) of age. In any case these academicians seem rare enough within the usual crowd of cafe pugilists.

The scientist/technologist: The scientists' contribution is not always prominent but becomes punctuated as one begins to explicitly discuss the sciences. Oftentimes these types seem to cling to (a naive) empiricism, and are consequently very opposed to arguments which do not confine rather narrowly to this. Their justifications tend towards the neuroscientific, the cognivist, and a great deal of early childhood behavioral studies. Genetics (either specific findings or the potentialities of the field) is crucial, and becomes conflated as and with notions of human nature, although they often exhibit a quick resistance to all things analogous with theism.

The theosophist: a not uncommon fixture in the coffee house, the believers are unfortunately rarely helpful in discussions, if only because many of them join into discussions out of a need to defend their world-views at all costs without consideration for method or discussion. I don't want to sound harsh here, so I will note that most cafe dialecticians of this variety are themselves well versed in apologetics, philosophy, and doctrine, and thus provide at their best some of the most interesting perspectives, especially when considered in contrast to the almost ubiquitous atheism of other conversants.

The amateur/enthusiast: Those with little to no experience in formal philosophy, and usually little history of discussion of the subjects and the like. We could point to their seeming inexperience, propensity to contradict themselves, and asymmetry with the rest of the conversants and conclude that they are in fact the least valuable type of member to have in any group discussion. On the contrary, however, they have the fortune of being restricted to informal (non-technical) language, and the position to force those with a tendency for jargon or terms of art to more fully articulate the points they bring up.

The specialist: Deserving mention (even though this is but a more general form of the character of the scientist/technologist) it must be noted that the specialist will almost always bring discussion into their field of expertise; at best this provides good analogistic arguments and fine insider perspectives, at worst it is a constant process of hijacking, anecdotal support, and poor metaphors. The specialist will often make claims of the form: "Philosophy is (useless/meaningless/absurd/inconsequential), it should be replaced with 'x'[speaker's area of specialty]..." They will often not recognize the latter 'x' as itself grounded in any philosophical system.

The mystic: Insufficient data exists at this point to fully articulate this character type, but the mystic is often skeptical of politics and ethics, emphasizing a mix of individualism, pacifism, and herbal teas. The well-versed mystic conforms more to the type of the well-versed theosophist.

The hobo: This is not simply the IT guy who is in between positions, the hobo is often the full-fledged derelict, who may wander into a conversation from his relative anonymity. I find this to be promising and positive, but at the same time they will not always be lucid or comprehensible (However, upon reflection this is only a degree of difference from any other cafe dweller)

The denier/sophist: Present in all classes, these people will take lines of discussion that inevitably produce prison-house type scenarios or circular logics. Upon noting that these people who most absolutely despise philosophy may in fact spend the most time practicing or employing it, we must perhaps re-evaluate our pronouncements on the sanity of the hobo

The libertarian: There's one in every group, as mandated by the government.

It would seem there are more types, but as a preliminary sketch I would hope that this provides the intrepid and inquisitive reader with the understanding requisite to engaging with, understanding, and navigating through the madness of a cafe discussion imbroglio


Blogger Austin 5-000 said...

While the Coffehouse is certainly a fertile environment for annoying species of family philosophia, we must not ignore the other environments in which these all-too-unendangered species arise. For instance, there is the drunk philosopher. Usually in his later thirties, this guy has (unfortunately) not yet dissolved all of his memories from college in ethanol.
Robot and I had the pleasure of examining a sample during our Spring Break adventures. As usual, the subject used the "Have you read Schopenhauer?" pick-up line, and then attempted to make some strange philosophical argument against the current administration. I hadn't read Schophenhauer, and didn't much care to discuss politics with this inferior specimen, but feigned both interest and experience. Because I had correctly identified the species, the Drunk mumbled a few sentences, dropped out of the conversation for a few minutes, and, finally, realized it was time for him to go. One of the positive attributes of this race is its friendliness, so we were able to part with a handshake and good wishes.
Just thought I would add one more species to your taxonomy. Under Post-Modernity we shold remember that Cafe/Bar are not stable categories anyway. Consider, for instance, Coffee Cartel, or even the European Cafe, which has never supported a distinction. Ciao.

3:12 PM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

I admit there may be lingering methodological or epistemological problems within the work, but I remain resolutely committed to the project. Your input is duly noted; problems do indeed arise as we begin to speak of the sites of such discussions, yet I believe that I can use the term cafe as a conceptual topology...

6:02 PM  
Blogger Robot said...

austin 5-000 is absolutely right, and I was forced to recall this famous drunk philosopher he speaks of when two days ago I sat at that very same famed alcove table upon which the aforementioned drunkard descended (a la Zarathustra). As Nietzsche himself once said, "When we drink we become philosophers, and when we philosophize we become drunk."

6:09 PM  

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