Category Archives: general philosophy

Not Rabbits

Watching David Lynch’s ‘Rabbits’ got me thinking.

David Lynch’s ‘Rabbits’

What is so… whatever this is, about whatever this is,

is that I am left with a sense of an enclosed system in which conscious beings exist.

This is a system structured and governed by possibly incoherent rules (why would rabbits be so humanlike in their evolution to intelligence?), yet also rules that these rabbits – these beings – cannot escape. They may wish to escape, but they cannot. They may not wish to escape; anyway, they cannot.

And yet, as well as a possibly incoherent world, this world is not a necessary world. It is obviously not necessary: there is no world like it. It is even obvious that a picture or representation of this world is not necessary. Until Lynch created this show, there had been no representation of it. And now it is created, it does seem like he might have made something else. He didn’t need to make this. He doesn’t need to even keep it, now it’s met. It’s very likely, before I posted about it, you didn’t know about it. And if he deleted all digital copies of it, destroyed the raw material of its construction, and scrubbed all reference to it, it would both cease to exist and be forgotten. Arguably, at that moment, the rest of the world is barely changed.

But for the rabbits, this world is necessary. The rabbits cannot exist in another world. Not these rabbits.

There is something to it that I cannot fully articulate about this. I do, however, understand enough or have enough of a sense of it that I can articulate something. I grasp something about it. I feel something, something clear and disquieting.

This necessity-for-its-denizens of a brute-contingent world: in it,

We see rabbits living like people.

We are not rabbits.

In the pits of our stomach,

We see a mirror


But we do not want to admit: It is distorted

only in ways that do not matter


Philosophy as Afterthought

Note: All illustrations unique to this post are by me. This is why they are not very good. (Obviously, others are by Gary Larson.)

Maybe philosophy is an afterthought. The original meaning of the major sub-discipline of philosophy metaphysics is ‘after physics’. So (maybe) a modern metaphysician does metaphysics after the physics has been done. Before you start with the metaphysics, the physical laws have already been formulated and the physical evidence has already been understood. The laws of thermodynamics and quantum chromodynamics have already been formulated, for example, and the evidence of entropy and wave-particle splitting are already understood.

And just the same with other areas of philosophy: philosophy is after thinking about the subject by experts in it, those who focus on it. When a philosopher of mind talks about consciousness or love, they do what we might call meta-psychology: the psychological laws have already been formulated and the psychological evidence has already been understood.

And we can go on: when a philosopher works on ethics or politics, they do meta-ethics and meta-politics. When a philosopher talks about human nature, they do meta-anthropology. Philosophy of aesthetics is meta-aesthetics, and so on…

In this thinking, philosophy is what you do after you have done everything else. No matter your research area, no matter how complex, abstract, or important your work, you do philosophy only after you have:

  • Thought through the theory
  • Analysed the text
  • Designed the experiment
  • Gathered the data
  • Interpreted the results
  • Applied the theory
  • Developed the technology
  • Published the papers
  • Done the tenure-track admin work
  • Marketed the insights
  • Given the circuit of public lectures
  • … and whatever else you need to do in the discipline for that subject

But if that’s the case, what does a philosopher do? And even if we can say what they do, is there anyone who can possibly do it?

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