Thursday, April 30, 2009

Soundbites or Aphorisms?

Are television and radio only ever a string of sound-bites?

Must brevity equal distraction and deception?

I've done a little television, and a little more radio.  My consolation is this hope: it encourages the aphoristic adventure.

One of the most intense, exhilarating forces in philosophy is that of distillation: taking lengthy, complicated theses, and transforming them into a single, arresting phrase or passage.

Nietzsche was the master of this, but there are others who've offered pithy or profound words.  Off the top of my head:

"Man's condition.  Inconstancy, boredom, anxiety." (Blaise Pascal, Pensées)

"A State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments... will find that with small men no great thing can be accomplished." (John Stuart Mill, On Liberty)

"People make the mistake of talking about 'natural laws'.  There are no natural laws.  There are only temporary habits of nature..." (A.N. Whitehead, quoted in Dialogues of Alfred North Whitehead)

There are many others, of course.  The point is this: each of these is shorter than the average political spin bite - yet each is a clear, sincere, suggestive phrase.  What looks like dumbing down can be a paring down; a refinement, rather than a rejection, of ideas.

Certainly television and radio can be vapid, muddled and physiologically disastrous.  But at their finest, perhaps they can be allies, and not enemies, of thought?

Stay tuned.  

1 comment:

Emma Kirsopp said...

I do love the Whitehead quote "There are only temporary habits of nature" I find that very inspiring...