We received your submission for publication in The Glasgow Review of Modern Deontological Inquiry. Your piece, I Am that I Am or that which Practices Before Praxis, will unfortunately not be appearing in our October quarterly. Though, we are always supportive of inventive style through which to plumb the depths of contemporary normative dilemmas, your choice of a memoir seemed a bit off. You wrote (reprinted in its entirety):
I had always fancied myself — insofar as I fancied anything at all and insofar as I was actually besotted enough with those Humean rumblings that folded over the domain of local perceptions and whatnot into something that could be called “myself” — a practical philosopher. I spent most of my childhood pushing little girls with jam-covered cheeks off ropes and branches as they tried to meet me and swap Honus Wagner rookie cards in my treehouse. Was this the cruelty of an appropriately myopic child? No. This begs the question, “Why?” This question begs the answer, “Tractatus 6.54 (He must so to speak throw away the ladder after he climbed up it.)”
When I was fifteen, I slapped a woman in broad daylight. She had fallen into the trap of givenness and become skewered on one, if not both, dogmas of empiricism. Her name was Shelley Johnson and she was one of those mousy types. You know, the kind who would say one thing to your face and the same behind your back but — well I mean her hair was unremarkably brown. Whereas most women of her cut and class were sporting walnut, chestnut, peanut, pistachio, and ermine brown hair, hers was, in a word, brown. Or rather, it was mousy brown and she was a mousy woman.
Through no fault of her own — if we are to be fair it was the fault of the dreadful school system, the slavish, facile puppy mill of naive matriculation — she grew up thinking nothing about where she had gotten the idea that the world was pre-ordained to be made up of objects. She had never puzzled over private languages — I, of course, had my own:
Brcksh brr tootoot
Porgyfor porgbr qatoot
Shmchk porqa toot toot
— but (as, the immortal Jack Lemon either said or heard) “Well, nobody’s perfect.” To wit, she had never spent one silver dime of her mental currency on pink ice cubes.
They say that the unexamined life is not worth living, but Shelby GT500 (as her ribald co-workers called her) lived a thoroughly unexamined life. And Mustang Sally (as Shelby’s really close friends — mostly just those she had sex with — called her) was happy. Happy, that is, until I slapped her.
I had never seen her on this street — the one that I was on, although, given careful consideration, I’m not sure what special unity I am willing to afford those asphalt particles — or any other. She was dressed in a loose white tank top that said “Air Jordan” on it. I assumed it was a luxury designer because, although she looked plain, she did not look stupid. In the spirit of charity, she did look stupid. Stupid enough to slap, that is.
“But, look, madame — she wasn’t married but I couldn’t pronounce mademoiselle — you aren’t even considering reification.”
“Why did you slap me? Who are you?”
“I slapped you because you are not careful about your bald empiricism.” I stumbled over a few of my words causing me to drop my books as I caught my balance.
Horseface Jones, as Mustang’s exes wanted to call her, bent down, cocked her horsey head up at me and whickered, “But how do you know the you that slapped me is the you that cared about my bald empiricism. Shouldn’t apperception be subject to the same critiques of givenness?” She hadn’t thought of that herself. She was reading from a conveniently opened page in my dog-eared copy of Jokes for the Modern Man. The horse had slapped me back.
Furious, I polished my spurs and jumped on the horse’s back. I rode it into the ground. I had met a woman named Shelley, flirted with Shelby, lured Mustang in an alley, and — in the eyes of law — sexually assaulted Horseface. I got off easy on only one count of sexual assault. After flipping on the head honcho, the D.A. cut me a deal and agreed that even though she did not believe in the persistence of identity of a rock much less a man, common law supported the view that there was really only one woman I took advantage of.
I am writing to you from a six-by-eight cell. Surely you will agree that my actions fall into the grey-area of non-normative practice. I was on the edge of philosophic exploration. It is nothing but naive naturalism to assert that the category of sexual malfeasance is anything but a conditioned response. In the pre-normative space in which my actions, as a fluent private actor, took place there was no deontological weight. Right?
To be candid, we have no idea what you are talking about and we will not help you. It’s like the old nursery rhyme goes, “If you only get one call, never call a philosopher.”
Colt Upstart – Founder and CEO of The Glasgow Review of Modern Deontologocial Inquiry