Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Dead Philosopher’s Café


I’m reading The Dead Philosopher’s Café by Vittorio Hosle. (http://www.nd.edu/~ndmag/sp2007/hosle.html) It’s a compilation of the correspondence between Nora and Vittorio. Vittorio is a philosophy teacher while Nora is an eleven year old girl whose interest in philosophy was aroused when she read Joseph Gaarder’s Sophie’s World.

Nora met Vittorio when her mother participated in a philosophical conference and they got into conversation about Sophie’s World and there their correspondence started.

In the book great philosophers came alive to discuss Nora’s letters that encompasses diverse subjects from idealism, nihilism, realism, ontology, psychology, theology, theodicy, and all those migraine inducing -isms. One of my favorite philosophers Nietzsche is portrayed as a kindly old man. There’s also Plato, Aristotle, Rosseau, Kant, Freud, Chuang Tzu, Berkeley, Augustine, Aquinas, Einstein, al-Farabi, Confucius, Wittgenstein, and many more. They are portrayed in the book as kindly sages that pop up whenever they felt like it, forever discussing and debating, helping guiding Vittorio and the inquisitive Nora in their search for (the) truth.

I’m posting a portion of one of Nora’s letter to Vittorio:

Dear Vittorio,

“When I was sitting in Tintagel on a cliff above “Merlin’s Cave,” I had to think about the Knights of the Round Table and the quest for the Holy Grail. According to English legend, only Sir Galahad was allowed to see the Grail and hold it in his hands, and maybe drink out of it, I’m not so sure about that. But afterward he died. I think that mean that no living person can completely possess the Grail that is, the chalice from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper, the symbol of love, and communion with Jesus. Only when we are dead are we allowed to experience “the truth,” only then are we capable of extinguishing the evil within us. Then we are at the end of the quest for…well, for the “Holy Grail.” But I believe that a philosopher is not completely satisfied with pure belief alone….

…All these explanations only make us sad; and God is never conceived as a mother or a father. You don’t have to ask many questions about Him! He is simply there, with you.
Sometimes I quarrel with God. Sometimes I’m no longer sure He exists at all.

But fortunately I usually find my way back.

See you soon,
Nora

Here is a portion of Vittorio’s reply to Nora. A letter in which Vittorio is telling Nora of his conversation with Blaise Pascal, Socrates, al-Ghazali, Thomas Hobbes about her letter (above).

Dear Nora,

…I asked Socrates what he thought.

“Well, on the whole it’s not so serious. A little doubt does no harm. On the contrary: by passing through doubt Nora will come to a deeper conception of God. Her father and mother won’t always be there; someday they will die. To that extent the notion of God as Father or Mother is misleading. God is much more like the truth, which cannot be disputed, because it is presupposed by any dispute. His greatness is shown precisely by the fact that we are brought back to him like a boomerang whenever we move away from Him. And it is mere thoughtlessness if we don’t find our way back to Him.”

“I hope you’re right, Socrates,” al-Ghazali and Blaise cried…lets shake hands…

I was satisfied with this answer, and I hope you are too.

See you soon,
Vittorio



I love the book and I plan to have a copy of it…literally a copy of it. I really love the book. I want to eat it! Literally eat it.

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