Josh Dunigan |||

Misology, Eve, and Zima Blue

Misology

In Kant’s Conjectures on the Beginning of Human History”, Kant gives an historically Christian interpretation of how reason arose in humans. It was Eve who made the first free rational choice. Eve acted on a maxim, in that, she said To satisfy my hunger, I will eat one of those apples”. Kant goes on to say

No matter how trivial the harm it did may have been, it was nevertheless enough to open her eyes. She discovered in herself an ability to choose her own way of life without being tied to any single one like the other animals. But the momentary gratification which this realization … afford … was inevitably followed by anxiety and fear as to how she would employ her newly discovered ability, given that she did not yet know the hidden properties or remote effects of anything. She stood, as it were, on the edge of an abyss. For whereas instinct had hitherto directed her towards individual objects of her desire, an infinite range of objects now opened up, and she did not yet know how to choose between them. Yet now that she had a taste of this state of freedom, it was impossible for her to return to a state of servitute.

This discovery of reason, the fact that we are autonomous beings is what caused the expulsion of us from the Garden. This is not Kant’s only discussion of misology. Early on in the Groundwork Kant discusses misology.

And, in fact, we find that the more a cultivated reason applies itself with deliberate purpose to the enjoyment of life and happiness, so much the more does the man fail of true satisfaction. And from this circumstance there arises in many, if they are candid enough to confess it, a certain degree of misology, that is, hatred of reason, especially in the case of those who are most experienced in the use of it, because after calculating all the advantages they derive, I do not say from the invention of all the arts of common luxury, but even from the sciences (which seem to them to be after all only a luxury of the understanding), they find that they have, in fact, only brought more trouble on their shoulders, rather than gained in happiness; and they end by envying, rather than despising, the more common stamp of men who keep closer to the guidance of mere instinct and do not allow their reason much influence on their conduct.

A painting of Socrates’ arguing with his friends before execution.A painting of Socrates’ arguing with his friends before execution.

The first usage of the word misology was in Plato’s Phaedo, which is a dialogue of people discussing Socrate’s and his upcoming execution. Since Socrate’s was killed in part for the fact that he engaged in reason and discourse with people which came to rulers that he was seen questioning the gods. Some of Socrate’s friends were upset about this obviously and were expressing anger at all sorts of things. Socrates then warns about anger at reason, saying that

…but first there is a certain experience we must be careful to avoid…That we must not become misologues, as people become misanthropes. There is no greater evil one can suffer than to hate reasonable discourse. Misology and misanthropy arise in the same way. Misanthropy comes when a man without knowledge or skill has placed great trust in someone and believes him to be altogether truthful, sound and trustworthy; then, a short time afterwards he finds him to be wicked and unreliable, and then this happens in another case; when one has frequently had that experience, especially with those whom one believed to be one’s closest friends, then, in the end, after many blows, one comes to hate all men and to believe that no one is sound in any way at all…This is a shameful state of affairs…and obviously due to an attempt to have human relations without any skill in human affairs.

There is a sense in which everyone looks at dogs or other animals and thinks that they are the ones living it well. The room for autonomy and freedom allows for horrible things to happen. Even less dramatic, we see such an epistemic anxiety in the human race. We have arguments and debates about the most mundane and tedious of things. This anxiety and all the evils caused by this reason and freedom might make some question that we would be better off without it.

Zima Blue

The story of Zima Blue is one of misology. An artist who starts out painting portraits moves on to larger than life exhibits of his work. After the portraits, Zima started adding to the middle of his pieces this blue shape. The shape became larger and larger until Zima’s blue phase happened. The blue phase was where he unveiled massive, planetary and galaxy size all blue pieces. Everyone is enamored with the feats of art he realizes and the boldness of each piece and Zima ends up disappearing.

Zima is rumored to have explored the galaxy, swapping out his human parts for robotic upgrades to make him immortal. A reporter ends up getting an interview with Zima about his final work of art, where Zima explains just the opposite happened. Zima came from a long line of robots. A scientist in San Francisco built a small pool cleaning robot and eventually added more and more functionality, which is how Zima came to be. What Zima was searching for in his work was shown in his work without him realizing it. The blue was color of the pool tiles from when he was the original cleaning robot. The robot would just scrub each of the tiles blue and be done with its job until next time.

For Zima’s last work of art, he recreated the pool that he was created for. He dove into the pool, swam to one side and turned around, and all of his higher order mental functioning was shut down and he became the little pool cleaning robot that he was.

… un-making myself … leaving just enough to appreciate my surroundings … to excract some simple pleasure from the execution of a task well done. My search for truth is finished at last. I’m going home.

Synthesis

Zima Blue has direct meaning to humans as well. Zima went through his own type of misology, where all the higher order functioning was just a distraction from the truth. The blue that he kept seeing ended up being an itch he could not help but scratch. The itch that humans get could be seen as our animal inclinations. Our animal inclinations are things such as pleasure from sex, food, sleep, the sun, and whatever else types of pleasures we can share with animals such as dogs or pigs. It is tempting to live a life that revolves around our animal inclinations and to try to abandon any use of reason.

Kant and Socrates on one hand tell us that we must not give into misology. There is still some longing in humans to abandon the struggles of figuring out the complexities of science and especially ethics. No one gets anxiety about the world anymore with the advances of science. The reason The Writer in the Stalker was struggling with his life was for ethics, he was lacking purpose and direction in what he should do with his life. He figured that science all had laws that could not be broken, that there was nothing magical about life, and that if God exists that God is probably a triangle too. Science is not the source of misology, it is the life that reason presents us. If you feel any sort of misology or sympathy with Zima, take a stab at reading Plato’s dialogues or Kant or Kosgaard who discuss possible answers to this feeling.

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