To Wash Your Soul
April 11, 2017 6:06 PM   Subscribe

In 1963, long after being President of the United States, Herbert Hoover published a short collection of meditations on the act of fishing. Justin Smith traces the growth of Hoover's philosophical leanings.
He is also, perhaps, the last American president to embody, if mostly unconsciously, a connection to the two strands of philosophy we have identified, the one that accumulates knowledge as a means to power, and the other that cultivates virtue as equivalent to happiness. In him, they come together, while today, in the absence of any connection whatsoever between philosophy and the practice of politics, they appear opposed. Power tolerates happiness, until it gets in the way; and happiness ignores power, as long as it can. And American presidents come and go, each generally more violent than the last, and each generally more forgetful than the last of what “virtue” had once meant.
posted by Rumple (4 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
The removal of supernatural beings and other products of ignorance from our imagination enabled the removal of precious metals from underground veins. Agricola cleared the mineshafts of gnomes and helped along the appropriation of all that lay hidden under the earth.

Love that.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 6:29 PM on April 11, 2017

I had no idea that Hoover lived until the mid-1960s. (And apparently Truman was alive until 1972.)
posted by Ian A.T. at 12:52 AM on April 12, 2017

That was a great read, such a fascinating set of sources to combine as the base for consideration by the essay. I've often wondered about the apparently lessened consideration of philosophy as a way of living, as virtue, in modern perspective, and while this essay can't answer that question of course, it provides a new format for pursuit of the thought for me.

The use of mining and fishing as representations of the poles of thought is a lovely conceit, with both revolving around the pursuit of resources hidden from the eye that need to be brought up from the depths to enjoy. Yet one threatens man his pursuit of it while the other is threatened by man's pursuit of the former. Unmentioned as well, is that mining is a laborious collective activity, while fishing, in the sense of the essay is a pleasurable individual pursuit.

Reflecting on Hoover's philosophy on these matters at this moment in history too carries further potential implication for how we view our collective individual pursuits as the signal event defining his legacy comes from the moment failure to reflect on the these tensions resulted in epic collapse.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:13 AM on April 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I am old. I originally read 'fishing' as 'fisting'.

That's a whole different FPP.
posted by Splunge at 9:02 AM on April 12, 2017

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