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what’s the point if we can’t have fun?

February 14, 2014

From The Baffler, an interesting piece by anthropologist David Graeber:

What’s the Point If We Can’t Have Fun?

While I think the end falls a bit flat, what I really like about this is how Graeber points towards the narrowing ideological view of material reality that reduces animals to calculating economic actors trying to maximize some sort of self-interest, and which minimizes the role of cooperation, play, and sociability in evolution.

For one, it leads towards the conclusion that we’re little more than just robots, and leaves many of life’s mysteries as, well, mysteries. It also illustrates how the way we frame things can ideologically exclude different possibilities, and has the effect of acting as theoretical blinders that themselves can make us see what we want to see, or else what we’re conditioned by the ruling ideology to see.

So when it comes to science, for example, we have boxed ourselves “into a world where to be scientific means to offer an explanation of behaviour in rational terms” (following the model of vulgar economists and materialists), and where things like play (“the existence of action carried out for the sheer pleasure of acting, the exertion of powers for the sheer pleasure of exerting them”) and freedom (non-determined, non-rational action) strike us as mysterious aberrations that need to be explained away rather than qualities that may vary well be present in some form in nature all the way down to the subatomic level (e.g., Epicurus’ atomic ‘swerve,’ electron probability, etc. = play/freedom).

It may not just be animals, then, that have the ability to ‘think’ and have ‘fun.’


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