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Plato's Wii cave - click opera
February 2010
 
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Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 12:07 pm
Plato's Wii cave

There is a madman in my living room, and the madman is me.



He stands in the middle of the room, and from his actions it seems clear that he believes he is playing tennis. He lunges and lobs, waving a stubby white racket handle in actions vaguely suggestive of "forehand smashes" and "backhand chips". He curses when he "loses a point". His whole attention is focused on the wall in front of him. He tells me his Mii -- a sort of alter ego resembling a younger, more fresh-featured version of himself -- has attained over 1800 points.

I have mixed feelings about this madman and his Mii tulpa. I am glad that he seems more animated than before. Before the delusion that he is playing tennis seized him, he was inclined to sit slumped in his chair, paying attention to something called "the web", which moves much more slowly than the Wii window, and hardly involves the body at all. On the other hand, his switch from the web window to the Wii window is clearly the transition from one illusion to another.

For all his modern technology, I believe my friend the madman is living in the cave Plato described more than two thousand years ago in his philosophical dialogue The Republic. Here, let Orson Welles guide you through Plato's parable:



Now, I've always had problems with Plato, and especially his metaphor of the cave. I mistrust the metaphysical impulse which leads philosophers and religious people to tell us there is a realm which is utterly real but absent and hidden. This formula -- "the real is elsewhere" -- is, in fact, exactly what worries me about the madman in my living room. Whether he's on the web or the Wii, I worry that he's elsewhere and not here. At least, though, the Wii involves his body.

It's not that "elsewhere" is a lie. There are real games of tennis, and the Israeli state is systematically killing poor people in Gaza. These events flood into the madman's living room via the web and the Wii. They have a reality, a force, an immediacy he does not doubt for a moment. He is not mad or deluded, merely given to metaphor and metonymy. For him, the part can stand for the whole. One or two (or two hundred) news stories can stand for "everything that is happening in the world at the moment". One sport can stand for them all, and a few gestures with a motion-sensitive controller can become participation in a sport. No doubt if he were able to lash around, Wii controller in hand, and watch his Mii smash the Israeli security barrier to the ground with a digital sledgehammer, he would do it, and feel somewhat better. And he would be happy to read, on the web, that eight and a half million networked Miis felled a representation of the illegal wall around Israel, and that the symbolic protest had led the real Israeli government to reconsider their actions.

I think my problem with Plato is that his metaphor is so dismissive of one of the two worlds he shows us. The world inside the cave is illusion, the world outside it is reality. It's too insulting, too reductive, too lopsided -- as unjust as the power imbalance between Israelis and Palestinians. If Plato had said that both were real, and that one world was represented in the other, and that this representation was an important business conducted via metaphor and metonymy, I'd be much happier with his image of the cave. Then we'd be closer to the situation Kafka described: "We're each looking out at the world through a tiny peephole. Since this is the case, we should at least try to keep the peephole clean."

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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 11:33 am (UTC)

Why am I not surprised that you support Hamas? You're exactly the type of simpering bleeding-heart nincompoop who falls for their theatrics. They are a gang, pillaging from their own people, murdering their political opponents in broad daylight and ruining their country's infrastructure. Even the arab word has woken up to their sham government (http://www.thenational.ae/article/20090104/OPINION/361845413/1080/NONE), but still idiot leftists like you support them. I hope your neighbors lob rockets at your house for a year and see if you manage the same restraint as Israel.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 11:38 am (UTC)

Well, I hope nothing of the sort. I hope that you have a great 2009!


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 12:29 pm (UTC)
!!!

I have a projector too!! Got it for Christmas/Hannukah/New Year's/Anticipated Birthday. That was the justification, at least. And guess what I was doing last night? Playing Mario Tennis on my N64 with it and two 17-year-old girls (twins -- don't ask), as well as a gay couple, one of which much vexed the other by nearly constantly touching me in increasingly erogenous zones.

Kafka is just Kafka. Useless to compare him to another -- as well try to compare shoes to Light. I like Kafka.

And, in true Nietzschean form, the problem with me is not that Plato views that one world is better than another -- it's actually what you first mentioned. It's the fact that he views them as two seperate worlds at all. As if the after-life or the World of Ideas had any existence outside of the world of our experience. This is, I've come to believe, a harmful credence *in and of itself*. Forget deciding which one's better, you shouldn't even be escaping to another world in the first place... or so the story goes. I apologise beforehand to all Christians reading this for any annoyance caused.

Yours agnostically,
David Leon


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 12:51 pm (UTC)
Settler's Wii

Bash the Muslim in the cage (100 points)! Aid workers (50 points)! And anyone with a camera (20 points)!


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robinsonner
robinsonner
the maven
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 12:54 pm (UTC)

Oh no ...Wii
Its truly the end of the world.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 01:00 pm (UTC)

Ehm, isn't that exactly what Plato said? After all, the ideals are ideal, but their manifestations are reality. Though one is a reflection of the other, the only way to know the ideals is to look at their manifestations in reality, which is what one was supposed to do through developing in the way outlined in the Symposium. Not exactly through metaphor, rather through a scientific approach where a series of incidents stands for the underlying law, as well as a higher spiritual awareness, which does kind of seem like metaphor, especially as acted out on the sexual body.

I guess you could argue translations, though, if that's what you want to do. My Greek is rusty, and it's ages since I translated Plato.


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33mhz
33mhz
The Queen of Overdub Kisses
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 01:26 pm (UTC)

You may not be playing tennis, but you're using a real device to communicate real information between two real points in the real world in order to modify the state of another real world device.

When you use a remote control to turn on a TV set and watch the news, you're not merely imagining that you have entered a room in which a man with an exhaustive knowledge of the day's events is giving a lecture on such; you are receiving information that has traveled from some distant point in this world to a point much nearer to the one you occupy.

The dichotomy between the real and the virtual is a false one.


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rurritable.wordpress.com
rurritable.wordpress.com
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)

Beautifully said, Nick. It looks like no matter what we do, the right keeps insisting on its Power of the Will approach to everything, then attributing all the viciousness to anyone who would stand in the way of what is nakedly another property grab.
The right's already gone through everybody's wallets over here, and flung shit at every attempt to stop them. Dumbasses just can't seem to get enough of being fleeced.


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harveyjames
harveyjames
harveyjames
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 02:27 pm (UTC)

Next you should review Super Mario Galaxy!


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jessepep
jessepep
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 03:34 pm (UTC)
Platonic Realm

I have a mathematician friend who is often talking about the Platonic Realm, which is where fractals live, and all other unchanging things. Things like the number 2.4 live there too, they don't exist in any real sense in our physical world. It's apparently a pretty beautiful place. I do a fair bit of meditation called Vipassana, and from my understanding of it, I'm beginning to think that buddha's nirvana is the platonic realm, where nothing arises and nothing passes, and it can only be experienced, descriptions beyond that are pointless. When you think about it, most of the things we consider don't exist (a perfect right-angle, a friendship, a soul) there is no atomic (ie indissectable) thing that represents any of those. I get a sense that perhaps Plato was onto something quite profound.

... so I don't mind the guy :)


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 04:13 pm (UTC)
Re: Platonic Realm

Plato was onto something quite profound. He is Plato. All Western philosophy consists of footnotes on Plato, says a little guy named Alfred North Whitehead. All true.

He is, however, wrong. Wagner's mythologising of German national greatness is most profound. It is, however, very, very dangerous.

So is the world of Ideas. Karl Popper argued that Idealism, or the school of thought which holds that ideas are what is truly true in the world, and have a definite and absolute existence [think Hegel], is more the cause of Nazism than nationalism. The mere hubris that comes along with believing that Ideas exist in pure form somewhere, and that we can *apprehend* them (to experience is to apprehend an object) leads to self-assurance of the sort that entails thoughts such as
"You know what? My country needs me and only me to be its ruler, by divine ordinance."
or
"I don't like Jews. I shall take this prejudice and apply it into the world."

That's one problem with Platonic Idealism. I'm not so hot on it -- Godwin's Law.

Another is that it is boring. Ideas are constructed, not apprehended from a perfect preexistence. Screw that. I wanna invent shit. Erm... if you want a name-drop... guess it'll have to be Deleuze.

A third is that it is escapism. Name-drop = Nietzsche. Wanting to experience a perfect world, instead of trying to enjoy the one we have, is no good. We should be playing Wii instead. Which is fun. I want a Wii.
I think this is pretty convincing as regards Platonic Idealism. Nietzsche was kinda callous towards Nirvana for my tastes, though. The absence of thought gets a lot of points in my point-assigning book, out of pure lusting after the experience myself. If you get it, keep it.

Aristotle rocks,
David Leon


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cheapsurrealist
cheapsurrealist
Dave Nold
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 03:56 pm (UTC)

Now, I've always had problems with Plato

Me too. He owes me ten bucks and he avoids me at parties.
I feel almost guilty about being flip and sidestepping the crux of your post but...


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC)

Stealing Gaza by Brian Eno.


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dogsolitude_v2
dogsolitude_v2
dogsolitude_v2
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)

I caught a slight case of Chess a month or so back, which consumed much of my leisure time in a similar way.

I started to see all kinds of beautiful things in this 8x8 board, and took to watching Chessmaster reply games backwards and forwards at high speed. In one direction pieces would 'breed' in a fashion very similar to Conway's game of life, whilst in the other the two opposing sides would consume each other.

It was very tempting to see chess as a sort of microcosm.

I've met a lot of Platos in my time too. Most of them when I was at Uni, or when I had recently graduated. I would bump into them from time to time, perhaps in a pub or a job interview, and they would tell me in sagely and self-satisfied tones about this 'real world' that happened everywhere except in university...


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 05:41 pm (UTC)

" the Israeli state is systematically killing poor people in Gaza" is wot the man said. do you really think that if that was the goal of the operation (to systematically kill people, poor or not) the Israeli state could not do a better job?

and as for the eno-piece: anything that starts with a variation of "especially jews must know how bad oppression is" just disqualifies the author. read bradley burston's piece in haaretz about the point of warsaw ghetto-analogies.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)

do you really think that if that was the goal of the operation (to systematically kill people, poor or not)

I said that's what they are doing, but I didn't say it's the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal here is related to two dates:

January 20th -- Obama becomes US president
February 10th -- General elections in Israel

What's happening now is fear of a dove-ish regime in the US, and a jockeying within Israeli internal politics to appear more hawkish than the other guy. Killing poor people -- and making Israel's long-term prospects more difficult, and more bloody -- that's just a bi-product.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
"We killed Jesus. We're proud of it."


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
"Stupid Jesus That Bastard"


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
"Fatso where's the nigger?"


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jan. 5th, 2009 10:22 pm (UTC)
Re: "Fatso where's the nigger?"

Heeeeey, you guys know what?! This proves that all Jews and the state of Israel are racist fascist cunts! Did you know that guys? I didn't know that! Boy am I glad these videos were posted! Cus now I know! Yaaaaaaaay!

-David Leon!


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