“– Gosto muito de bater na cabeça das pessoas com uma certa força.
– Sim, agrada-me. Dá-me prazer. Uma pessoa vai a passar e eu chamo-a: ó, desculpe, Vossa Excelência?!
– E ela – a Excelência – vai?
– Sim. Quem não gosta de ser chamado à distância por Vossa Excelência? Apanho sempre, primeiro, as pessoas pela vaidade... é a melhor forma.
– E quando a pessoa-Excelência chega ao pé de Vossa Excelência, o que acontece?
– Ela aproxima-se e pergunta-me: o que pretende? E eu, com toda a educação e não querendo esconder nada, digo: gostava de bater com certa força na cabeça de Vossa Excelência. É isto que eu digo, apenas. Nem mais uma palavra.”
In “O torcicologologista, Excelência” by Gonçalo M. Tavares (In English: "His Excellency, The Circumlucologist")
Let’s try to translate this quote in which the two characters go by the same name: “Excellency” (as well as the Passerby):
"I like to hit people's heads with a certain force.”
“Do you like it?”
“Yes, I like it. It gives me pleasure. A person will go by and I will call him or her: ‘Oh, sorry, Your Excellency?!’”
“And is she or he, the Excellency, going?”
“Yes. Who does not like being called from a distance by Your Excellency? I always get people first through their vanity ... it's the best way.”
“And when the person-Excellency comes near Excellency, what happens?”
She or he approaches and asks me: “what do you want?”, and I, polite, and not wanting to hide anything, say: ‘I would like to strike your head with a certain force. This is just what I say. Not another word.”
While it is not as popular in our western enlightened circles, Socrates was as well considered as a mystic - talking to his daemons in his head in order to raise argument against the relativism of sophists. I wonder how Tavares would take the methodology used by Socrates to silence his relativist opponents… Isn't it ironic that it is actually Socrates rational ethics dependent on a mystical inner voice telling him the truth? The mind boggles but it doesn't matter since it's a phony debate. The political dimension is of course very relevant, particularly considering that Socrates was not entirely original in his mystical discourse; like Tavares, a certain Zarathustra, a Persian philosopher, was obsessed with the struggle between truth and lie well before Socrates... considering that Zoroaster/Zarathustra was Persian; we could easily draw conclusions that Socrates philosophy, inspired by Zoroastrian mysticism was not going to be very popular in the political spheres. What about Gonçalo M. Tavare’s dialogues? Is it empty philosophizing as some claim?
Let’s philosophise for a bit and see where it leads us (I’m the other Tavares…).
Observation, as a process, is problematic in itself. This is my claim, and it's not a scientific one, so I don't need to test it. Even if I did test it, like Gonçalo M. Tavares does, the results would need to be observed. It's a "Gedanken", not a classical concept. I didn't ask for why Sokal did what he did, and I'm not interested. I read it anyway many years ago when it was "hot stuff". Hawking's theories, such as that of the Flexiverse, are far more interesting than anything Sokal, Bricmont et al, have been offering so far in the realm of physics anyway. The same with the pushers of the "postmodernist" and "anti-postmodernist" industries in academia. Toilet paper at best.
Reading dialogues like Gorgias its relatively easy to see that Plato is reacting to a widespread attitude, which valued honour and glory above the virtues which enabled people to 'dwell together in unity'. This outlook together with growing moral relativism which is unsettling leads to strife between the cities and within the cities. Plus of course he is aware that political strife and moral relativism reinforce each other: in “Republic,” Plato discusses the effect of persuasive definition which is used by those who want to justify political violence and according to Plato this turns the common sense morality upside down.
These are the main concerns of both Socrates and Plato which stimulate them to try to find stability for the words we use when we talk about justice etc. This is why they ask 'what is justice?', 'what is virtue?' or 'what is goodness?' and so on. Again, there is difference between what common sense morality is as a set of principles, practices and perhaps psychological mechanisms and what ordinary people say about these principles and mechanisms and so on . Ordinary thought may be corrupted in some interesting sense and involve distortions that do not do justice to what they depict. This, it seems to me, is Tavares' view. The novel which is based on something like this sort of claim about ordinary grasp of what common sense morality involves is perfectly compatible with trying to vindicate these underlying principles but the book of course can easily part company with the common sense picture of what is going on at both meta level, normative level and what is going on at the moral- psychology level; ordinary common sense grasp of these components of common sense morality can be poor or non-existent and this sets the stage for the enlightened reader to enter the Tavare’s story and sort things out.
Tavares is very much aware that there are different classes of people, each with a different understanding of what is 'common sense' in morality. And each with different principle virtues. Philosophers, Community workers, Soldiers, Capitalists, Workers, Politicians, Craftsmen, Poets, Scientists, Lawyers, Criminals. Each of these people in their day-to-day work life are making decisions and taking actions, and many (if not quite all) of these decisions/actions have a moral dimension. These people are keen on the whole to do the right thing, and they each develop different versions of 'common sense' morality - sometimes very different. So soldiers should value courage. Politicians should value fairness. Workers should value self-restraint. Philosopher should value wisdom. Readers should smell the bullshit a mile away. And each should understand their place in the whole system.
Anyway, there is much to say about 'know thyself', but the most significant one is that it is taken as a pillar of most if not all variations of mysticism...