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Your Last Word on ATTRACTION

Jeff G
Ulrich
Oakland, CA
Post #: 121
Here are some questions prompted by our discussion that might inspire you to do some careful thinking. Feel free to use your own, however. A paragraph is a good length, like an elevator pitch.

The last four questions are from the announcement; the rest sketch the direction of the discussion.

• What is the nature of our attraction to material things, that causes us to want to collect them? Craftsmanship, tradable value, and possessiveness were mentioned, but these seem to beg the question, don't they?
• Is there an inverse relationship between attractiveness and utility? Consider also the quantities of different kinds of objects we have in our collections.
• What is something you find oddly attractive, that you would collect if it were possible? What would you do with the collection?
• What makes an idea attractive to one person but not another? What overlap might there be in these attributes with what makes a person or object attractive to them?
• Which is a better metaphor for understanding the force of attraction: pushing or pulling?
• What is the attraction of a man in uniform? Can it be explained in any way by what a tailor does? What is a fetish, really?
• Perhaps a uniform fetish expresses an adaptive preference for mates who can provide for and protect their families. What makes the uniform a good marker for identifying them, as opposed to, say, good physical fitness?
• There, of course, can coexist contrasting adaptive preferences in a population. What might be (or have been) the genetic advantage of preferring musicians, for example? Be sure to consider to whom (or whose genes) that advantage would accrue.
• The pop song "Killing Me Softly With His Song" depicts an archetypal situation: a troubadour sings lyrics that seem torn from a page of the listener's diary. Why should anyone be drawn to someone who seems to read their thoughts? If it seems obvious to you, explain it to someone to whom it is not. After all, it's not that different than voyeurism, is it? As always, take care not to beg the question.
• One of my favorite TV comedy lines is when Hawkeye (M*A*S*H), on having been advised to try "sincerity"for a change (to attract a mate), says "I can fake that." A heartfelt (I suppose) rejoinder to this is that people can judge sincerity accurately. Is this an empirical question or a philosophical or even metaphysical issue? Should we pursue these debates in our meetings?
• How can we feel "vulnerable yet comfortable" in the presence of attraction? Are we fooling ourselves? Seems like we are having our cake (we're brave to open up) and eating it, too (we're sure we're safe).
• What is root of the appeal of a character like Rambo, who is a vigilante out of uniform? Try to find a charitable (to his fans) interpretation, rather than facilely concluding that people like violent characters with an excuse to lash out.
• What is the relationship between attraction and logic or rationality? Are they different but overlapping? Mutually exclusive? Is "irrational attraction" an oxymoron?
• Comment on the various metaphors used to characterize the feeling of attraction: fireworks, vibrations, puzzle pieces, what have you. Are there other similarities among them?
• The image of a heart broken in two, each half searching for the other, is a very old one. It is a frequent motif in myths about the origin of the sexes. What makes this a particularly apt metaphor for attraction? Uniqueness? Consider its appropriateness in all aspects of attraction: the good, the bad, and the beautiful (per the Consider Aesthetics Principle).
• Both the metaphor of the fractured heart and that of the mirror support the popular notion of seeing our own selves in the other(s) to whom we are attracted. Can attraction be understood as a kind of narcissism?
• Spending time with someone, even if not by choice, reportedly can lead to attraction (Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew). If true, is the underlying cause of this tendency the increased quantity of shared experience–something akin to "familiarity breeds attraction"? Or, is it like buying more lottery tickets gives more opportunities for an attraction to be discovered? Does the Beast really have a chance with the Beauty?
• Another hallowed species of "cute meet" in drama is the indefinite, prolonged, ambiguous courtship, especially at home in TV series, a famous example of which was Cheers' Sam and Diane. Is this a subspecies of familiarity-based attraction or attraction-by-siege, or does non-consummation per se actually intensify and/or prolong attraction?
• How do we know what it is we're attracted to in others? Is it internal knowledge, or purely self-observation (in which case our friends may play an important role)? Can we even know which is shaping our preferences more? Is such knowledge actually useful to us?
• Of the reality-TV show, The Bachelor, it was observed that the bachelorette's decision always comes down to the "heart choice" versus the "mind choice." Why might this be? And why does she go with the heart, when any viewer knows that it never works out? Assuming "attraction" is more closely tied to the heart, does this condemn attraction as a decision-making tool?
• What does the arc of relationships–from infatuation to love, culminating in respect–tell us about attraction?
• Thomas Mann's Death in Venice involves consequences of attraction that don't depend on consummation or reciprocation of any kind. How might we construe attraction such that its significance lay in simply being attracted–that is, in the direct personal experience of attraction? Note that the novella was published in 1912, just two years after the death of William James. (And yes, the proximity of our Study on him and this Salon was not quite a coincidence; but no, I wasn't the one to bring up Thomas Mann!)
• Make the case that attraction should be considered a central philosophical concept, akin to gravity being one of the fundamental forces in the universe (the only other one at human scale being electromagnetism).
• We say the unknown is to be feared, but it can also be deeply attractive. Is the unknown just another type of attraction, or could be fundamental, like the so-called Law of Attraction?
• Can we "resist" attraction or only counterbalance it with other attractions?
• When we think we have knowledge of what in ourselves others are attracted to, what responsibility does that entail, if any?
• Consider that, traditionally, philosophy is a bit obsessed with shame and lies, which are ways that others can hold power over us. Should philosophy be as concerned with attraction, when we spend at least as much time worrying about our beauty (inner or otherwise) as about our innocence and honesty?
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