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1/1/15

Scottish Terriers and the concept of monetary reality

A disjointed rant to get some strange stuff off my chest on the night of New Year's Day. Feel free to ignore.

Here in the 21st century, the absolute arrogance we have on the subject of what is or is not real is something I've worried about without being able to get a satisfactory handle on the issue for a long time. The centre of my issue is money and why we think money is something that's real. I honestly don't understand it. There's been this whole thing in my head recently, ever since I happened to be flicking through the TV channels a few weeks ago, hit Discovery Channel while a documentary on The Greek Gods was on and heard some talking head or other tell us that back in the day, Greeks considered the Gods just as real as anything else because "their concept of real was different from ours today"*.

The obvious question was to ask just when our concept of "real" changed. And the answer is to that one is Aristotle. Go check for yourself at your own leisure, but I'd at least ask you to read Pirsig's ZAMM** as that covers the main points in a very digestible and fun way. But then there's all that empiricism thing that you have to buy with Aristotle too, unless you want to discount his philosophy entirely. Which means tabula rasa is part of the show (the name comes from Locke, but he's an ideas copycat). Which again came to mind a few days ago while watching my dog attack his stuffed rabbit toy. As with any terrier (he's of the Scottish variety) he'll play at attack by grabbing the toy by the neck and shaking hard, thus preparing himself for the moment when he catches the small mammal and kills it by breaking its neck. No other dog taught him how to do that and he never had the chance to watch other dogs before he, as a puppy, started the technique. It's instinct (I'd dare to say it's in his DNA but somebody's sure to jump on me for such biological presumption), it's not learned, it's some sort of hardwire. And therefore it gives lie to the whole concept of tabula rasa.

If tabula rasa is false, then so is empiricism and therefore the foundations of Aristotle are worthless. As Aristotle and his whole empirical hierarchy thing started this modern man ball rolling, our concept of what is real and what is not real is based on false assumptions. In the case of money, it's something that started as an idea in people's heads, it didn't exist before that. The tokens did (e.g. spondylus shells) but the concept of assigning a value (damn that's a hard word) to the thing is a mental structure, nothing "real" about it at all, just like assigning reality to a God and giving her or him a whole life history, anecdotes and all. It's a modern day ghost, but for some reason it fits into our concept of real and is therefore allowed to exist as a real thing. I'd very much like to know what that reason is and even more interesting, why we're not allowed to believe in the things that the ancient Greeks thought normal and natural. My stars it would be awesome, in the true sense of the word awesome, to assume equality in reality and give equal respect to a whole bunch of things we modern arrogant empirical human beings now discard as mere ghosts or figments of the imagination. 

Another thing is how religious dogma of many shades, Eastern and Western, is built on the same hierarchical structure, but that's for another day. 



*paraphrasing, but I stuck it in quotes anyway
**Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance