Your Fitbit has stolen your soul

Justin E. H. Smith in UnHerd:

Philosophers have seldom lived up to the ideal of radical doubt that they often claim as the prime directive of their tradition. They insist on questioning everything, while nonetheless holding onto many pieties. Foremost among these, perhaps, is the commandment handed down from the Oracle at Delphi and characterised by Plato as a life-motto of his master Socrates: “Know thyself.”

While this may seem an unassailable injunction, it is at least somewhat at odds with an equally ancient demand of Western philosophy, which may in fact be offered up in direct response to what the oracle says: “Don’t tell me what to do.” This response gets close to the spirit of the Cynics, who, like Plato, also believed they were following the teachings of Socrates, yet took his philosophy not to require some arduous process of self-examination, but only a simple and immediate decision to conduct one’s life according only to the law dictated by nature.

There are good reasons to defy the oracle beyond simply a distaste for taking orders. For one thing, it is not a settled matter that the commandment to “know thyself” can be followed at all, since it is not clear that there is anything to know. In the end the self may be the greatest “nothingburger” of all; there may simply be nothing there.

More here.