Alva Noë & Baseball

I do not watch baseball, though many of my favorite passages and anecdotes are inspired by the sport. There is DeLillo, of course, in his prologue to the monumental Underworld, whose opening line — He speaks in your voice, American, and there's a shine in his eye that's halfway hopeful. — remains one of the best ever written.¹ More

Excerpts from Alva Nöe’s Strange Tools

"Tools are useful only against the background of our needs and capacities. Let’s return to the doorknob. A simple bit of technology, yes, but one that presupposes a vast and remarkable social background. Doorknobs exist in the context of a whole form of life, a whole biology—the existence of doors, and buildings, and passages, the human body, the hand, and so on. A designer of doorknobs makes a simple artifact, but does so with an eye to its mesh with this larger cognitive and anthropological framework." (99) More

The Areopagus

There is a hill on the Western slope of the Acropolis called the Areopagus, or Areopagus Hill. One would not know from the swooping doves and stretching olive orchards which adorn the area that it was until recently the site of recurring tragedy. The rocky outcropping above its rubbled ruins, which allows sublime views of a city at dusk, is composed entirely of a reddish marble; each day, thousands of visitors from the Parthenon tackle this outcropping. Over the course of years, this marble has become polished and slippery, so that at first every few years, and then a few times per year, someone would slip and, hitting head to matter, be killed. As casualties mounted into the dozens and then hundreds annually, an amount of danger deterring even the most overtly determined Grecophiles and flocking international tour groups, the Athenian Tourism Institute flew into action. The Institute’s goals were tripartite: rehabilitating the Athenian and Areopagean images, improving the walkability of the Areopagus Hill, and keeping human mortality rates to a viable minimum. After months of accepting and judging proposals from world-class engineers (during which a dozen more teenagers, sneaking over the closed hill’s barricades, were tragically killed), the Institute decided on a plan of action involving the roughening of the hill. A sort of special reverse sandpaper was built, tested, and employed on the rust-colored marble, undoing the decades of human weathering with industrial drills, water pressure, inverse sandblasters, hammer-and-chisels, and other equally primitive techniques. 

Some speculated, after the repair work was finished, that the treacherous landscape had been a spiritual vengeance by the dead of the Areopagean cemetery, circa 1650 BCE, upon which many of the tourists trampled. Others mused at the way in which a thousand thousand strolls had accomplished a smoothing which far surpassed the technical abilities of even the most accomplished classical craftsmen.