Omigod you guys, I’ve got the hugest crush on this amazing woman! Her name is Tamar Gendler, and she has got me completely under her spell. Sigh. And she doesn’t even know I’m alive.
I first caught a glimpse of her while I was working out on the treadmill. I know, such a cliché, right? I overheard her contrasting Plato’s concepts of reason, spirit and appetite with Freud’s ideas of id, ego and superego and I caught myself wishing I had longer hair so I had something to spin my finger around while she talked.
OK, I’m not proud of this but pretty soon I started creeping on her online. I know, another cliché! With a mixture of excitement and trepidation, I found her videos and now I’m completely obsessed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
It turns out she teaches this course at Yale called “Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature.” It’s this dreamy mashup of philosophy, psychology, political science, economics and literature. I get tingly just thinking about it! To quote the renowned philosopher Bernie Taupin, “Oh, teacher, I need you like a little child. You’ve got somethin’ in you to drive a schoolboy wild.”
So now I’m in a long-distance romance. But I’m sure we can make it work, thanks to all the amazing technology available to us today. As anyone can see at her free Open Yale Course (oyc.yale.edu), she is extremely adept at expressing herself online and she’s a prolific writer, so I don’t expect communication to be a problem in our relationship. (Although I must admit I’m tempted to blow off her assignment to read John Stuart Mill’s “Utilitarianism” in advance of an upcoming lecture. Oh, I’m a bad, bad boy!)
So, tell me if this is weird: A couple of lessons in, I noticed on the Yale site that Professor Gendler’s Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature lectures were recorded in 2011. So I’m not only crushing on a woman in another place but also in another time! For a lecture or two, the whole thing gave me an eerie “Pictures of Lily” vibe but once she explained Aristotle’s argument that reflection and reasoning are the function of humanity (and thus the highest good) I felt better. I guess she would say my appetitive soul got the better of my rational soul. And then we would cuddle. (You know, metaphorically.)
Oh, I know this relationship is careening out of control down a one-way street. And I know we can only survive for so long (probably for 26 45-minute lectures or, as I like to think of them, dates) in a relationship where one of us doesn’t know about the intrinsic existence of the other one (although I swear she looked right at me once during her discussion of Daniel Kahneman’s “Maps of Bounded Rationality”).
But you try watching her explain her notion of “alief” vs belief without falling just a little bit in love. To demonstrate the heuristics of our biases, she prepared a cake in the shape of a cat litter box, complete with Tootsie Rolls and coconut and dared us to overcome our animal “alief” systems and eat it but we can’t, man. We can’t. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. Maybe she’s not your type. I guess I’m just a brain man.
Now, before you judge me, ask yourself this question, posed by Glaucon in the Ring of Gyges story in Plato’s Republic: Is being moral valuable in itself or merely as a means to some other end, such as the reputation you get from appearing to be moral? In other words, is it important to be moral or just to seem moral? Would you act differently if Glaucon were peering at you via his webcam? Would you be more likely to make a donation to public radio if Laura Shine were watching you dance to the Five O’Clock Shadow through your iPhone’s camera? If you had a crush on your teacher and she could look back through YouTube and see you, would you be more or less likely to read her John Stuart Mill assignment?
You’ll have to get back to me on that. I’ve got to run. I’ve got a lecture called “Weakness of the Will and Procrastination” to watch and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be smokin’ smart! I just hope this relationship gets picked up for a second season.