Three of the pastimes the French love above all else include: Philosophizing, debating and arguing — about almost anything.
(Argument being understood of course by its purest definition: “The presentation of reasons or evidence in support of an idea or theory, with the expressed intent of persuading others to share one’s view.”)
One can reasonably “argue” that each of these divertissements is, or should be, an extension of the other.
Working off of that premise and providing a platform — think extensive TV and radio programming as well as daily news presentations — for the participants in these pastimes (philosophers, journalists, authors, politicians, psychologists, etc.) it’s almost impossible to escape the onslaught of exchanges wherein they like to examine the cultural Zeitgeist.
A recent, very serious conversation revolved around the concern that the French seem to be in a serious funk these days. The reasons for their gloomy mood, according to the participants on a panel, included an ineffectual president whose popularity is the lowest in modern history, unemployment that continues to hover around 10 percent and, not surprisingly, terrorism .
Most felt that François Hollande has broken his promises and despite his constant presence in the media trying to assure the population that things are looking up, few believe him.
Then the debate took a curious turn. One of the participants suggested that the population is not depressed, but rather simply “pessimistic,” which, he pointed out is very, very French. “We are, after all, Cartesians,” he said.
That explanation is often used to explain the French.
It’s far more intellectually interesting to be pessimistic than it is to be depressed and, as we all know, optimists are fools. . .
In other words (very briefly), the philosophy of René Descartes, the French philosopher, mathematician and scientist, is perfect because it appeals to the intellect and in so doing espouses doubt. As he said, “De omnibus dubitandum.” (Doubt everything.)
Descartes studied and struggled with deductive reasoning in his effort to find truth, which lead him to question just about everything until he could, or sometimes could not, find rational explanations for problems or situations.
“If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things,” he proclaimed.
Cartesianism is considered to be a form of rationalism.
As you know, I find all the philosophizing, arguing and debating fascinating. It’s intriguing to witness the mental acrobatics that are part of intelligent conversation and furthermore there is always some historical reference to bolster arguments and therefore I learn something.
The tone and content in these programs are completely different from what the American media offer up. I think it’s something like the difference between stimulating and annoying.
Do you know what I mean?