A Philosophical Wedding Toast

A few months ago, my friend Diana married her British companion Sean, whom I had not met before then. They had a private ceremony at the courthouse and then celebrated with a few of us at my friend Nancy’s house. Both of them have degrees in philosophy and dig Marx. Below is the toast I gave.

Karl_Marx_001

First, I want to say I am very pleased to meet Sean and thereby finally have confirmation of his existence. Some of us were beginning to wonder whether he was a hallucination elaborately sustained. However, he is here now: we can see him, hear him, touch him—I suppose we could also smell him and taste him, but I don’t think we’re having that kind of party.

Of course, some philosophers would suggest our sense perceptions of Sean are not actually enough to confirm his reality,  After all, can we really trust our senses? That question has been debated for centuries. However, I’ve never been particularly intrigued by that question.

As a pragmatist, I’m inclined to assert that the usefulness of my belief in Sean’s reality is far more important than his ontological status otherwise established by some metaphysical argument. In other words, believing Sean is real will make this party a lot more fun than pondering the alternatives.

Before I offer a Marxist analysis of Diana and Sean’s marriage, I want to quote the late social scientist and phenomenoligist Alfred Schutz. He said, “It is the meaning of our experiences and not the ontological structure of the objects which constitutes reality.” That is, our realities are determined by the meanings we attach to them. I find this comforting because it means, I think, that reality is malleable because meaning is malleable. The meanings we attach to our realities evolve, and, thus, our realities evolve, too.

Such is the case with marriage. What your marriage means to you a year, five years, twenty years, and fifty years from now will be different than what it means to you today.That does not mean you lack a conceptual framework delimiting the principles or values guiding the evolution of your marriage. On the contrary, if I know Diana—and I think I do—the grounding principles of your marriage are obviously Marxist-feminist, which leads to my conclusion.

First, I have no doubt your marriage does not consist of one party representing the bourgeoisie and the other representing the proletariat, as too many other marriages do. Rather, as outlined by the Communist Manifesto, power and resources will be equitably distributed and work equitably shared. By maintaining a distributive, rather than a centralized, system of power and resources in your marriage, you will avoid the feeling of alienation so many other married persons feel in regard to the work of married life. From Diana’s comments about your relationship the past few months, I know neither of you enter this marriage with a false consciousness about what your marriage means and will mean. Your relationship is transparent and your support for each other is mutual and unshakable. The meanings of your lives, as individuals and as a couple will evolve, no doubt, but you have a relationship in which growth is not impeded by the superstructure of a dominating ideology.

Although as a society, we may never achieve Marx’s utopian vision, I believe your marriage will provide us a glimpse of what that utopia could look like. Therefore, here’s to Diana and Sean and their ever-evolving, but always-happy marriage. Cheers!

A Posthumous Interview with John Dewey

Last week John Dewey returned from his postmortem travels to grant me a special interview for the educational philosophy class I am currently taking. We met over coffee on Tuesday afternoon at Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, and the weather was nice enough for us to sit outside in the common space. The meeting was arranged by William James, with whom I spoke two weeks prior, during a séance. Having previously only spoken to the dead, but never actually seen the dead, I was nervous Professor Dewey would show up as a zombie-like corpse and thereby attract attention. To my relief, however, he arrived as an apparition, and in the outdoor lighting that day, one had to look very closely to notice he was not a living being. The stares, therefore, were minimal, and we were able to conduct our interview uninterrupted. Our conversation, which follows, was mostly about his classic work Democracy and Education. Continue reading “A Posthumous Interview with John Dewey”

Ernest and Ruth Discussing Writing at a Bar

Dialogue, I believe, is more fun than exposition. In my creative writing class, I was assigned to explain the differences between the styles of Ernest Hemingway and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala and to briefly discuss William Carlos Williams. I chose to do so through an imagined dialogue among the three while they have drinks at a bar. 

Hemingway“Manny has good taste in drink,” Ernest said, smirking at Ruth and holding a glass of whiskey in his hand. “And he’s appropriately named.”

“That’s not what I asked,” said Ruth, sipping her own glass of whiskey, keeping pace with Ernest.

“You want to know whether I think there is too much narration, not enough dialogue, in your story ‘Passion’?”

“Yes.”

“No.”

“No . . . what?”

“No, I don’t.”

“You’re rather reticent for a man who relies so heavily on dialogue.”  Continue reading “Ernest and Ruth Discussing Writing at a Bar”

Marital Linguistics

For Tracy.

Today Tracy and I celebrate our two-year wedding anniversary. On August 8th, 2009 we publicly declared our lifelong commitment to each other, before a relatively small group of family and friends, at an art gallery in downtown Toledo.

We are married, yet Tracy is not my wife, nor am I her husband. We are each other’s spouses, or life partners.  Continue reading “Marital Linguistics”