Do you choose to drink your morning coffee out of a Styrofoam cup?
I’d almost rather not have my morning coffee than to suck it out of a styrofoam cup. Almost. I can’t imagine anyone sitting in a diner asking the waitress to replace the ceramic cup with a styrofoam one. Coffee tastes better in ceramic.
Is this in our heads or is it really a thing?
In the modern secular West, we have this idea that meaning is in the mind–the individual mind. The logic being: It has to be because it can’t be anywhere else.
We start with this premise and are forced to the conclusion. But what if the premise is all wrong.
Meanings are External
The Greeks used to think meaning was external–in creation–in the logos. Judeo-Christianity also teaches that meaning was external–it’s source is in the transcendent God.
In the recent past, we made a couple of turns in our thinking and end up assuming that meaning lies within us as individuals–meaning, indeed reality, is subjective–this is subjectivism.
It is as hard to disprove this foundational assumption of subjectivism as it is to prove it, but we can look at where this view takes us in the end, and perhaps draw some conclusions.
The Mug Matters
So, back to drinking coffee from the Styrofoam cup. The coffee itself doesn’t taste any different; it’s the experience that’s degraded. It just sucks to drink coffee out of Styrofoam. My grandfather, it is said, refused to drink coffee out of a clear-class cup–I’m with him, but glass is better than the paper cups we get from Starbucks and nothing is as good as a ceramic one. I think this experience is universal.
I think tea drinkers are even more aware of this principle–the mug matters.
There is meaning in the mug.
Now a subjectivist will look at my argument that “it sucks” to drink out of Styrofoam and the experience is “degraded” and say that it is a subjective argument. But I don’t think we have all independently decided that one vessel is superior to the other for the consumption of hot beverages,
Take 10 babies and raise them in isolation until they are 20, then give them a hot beverage in two vessels, one ceramic and one Styrofoam. As them which they prefer. 100% of them will chose the ceramic. It’s an objective truth and it lies in the mug itself.
The objective qualities that make one mug superior to another is not simply a matter of practical considerations, although these are important. For instance, if the vessel is too large, or the walls too thin, the beverage will cool too quickly. But there’s something in the intersection of subject and object that makes drinking coffee our of a ceramic mug better.
There is inherent value in the mug itself that enhance the consumption of its contents. This has to do with the blending of a host of qualities, not the least of which is tactile, that point at which its physicality encounters my own.
Is the mug magic?
If the mug is just a mug, then the drinker is just a drinker. When we devalue the world of objects, we also devalue ourselves.
When the world is flattened, we become flattened.
If you sense that you are more than an object and that a thing that has value beyond its utility, then perhaps you are in no immediate danger of the modern malaise. If you want immunity, start by seeing the inherent value in your coffee cup.
So part of the cure for the modern malaise is the recovery of objective reality.
Read a related post here. It’s about onions.