A Socratic dialogue on eye contact

“In Aristotelian physics, every object has an inherent telos. Telos means goal, where something is headed. The telos of a rock is down, so it will try to move in that direction at every chance it gets. The telos is what causes the rock to go down. This is important. The telos causes the motion”

“Telos causes the motion. Got it”

“The rock may lie still for a very long time, even centuries, but the telos is unchanging and eternal. If, after a very long time, a rock is given a chance to move downwards, it will do so with all the speed it can muster. It will do so until it yet again finds itself in a situation where it cannot proceed downwards, and thus begins the wait anew”


“During the Renaissance, Aristotelian physics stumbled into a crisis. For most things, it explained worldly phenomena adequately to get you where you needed to go. Moreover, showing that you understood the principles of this physical model of the universe meant that you could reap social benefits. It was the cool stuff in the protoacademic world. Monks, clerics and easily impressed aristocrats loved it. It was the done deal. However”


“However, someone built a crude device that allowed for opening and closing of doors. An automaton, we might call it. It opened a door, then closed it again. Open, close. Open, close. Those were the modes. Today, we don’t consider that a big deal. But back then”

“This can’t be good”

“They couldn’t reconcile this opening and closing with the inherent telos of things. Rocks go down. Birds go up. Cats go either way. But the thought of something having as its eternal inherent telos to move back and forth does not fit into this model. It is too mundane and undignified to be an eternal constant”


“So the model broke down. It could not explain this thing. This simple, easily understood thing. It opened and closed doors, simplicity itself. And yet, as the realization of this model failure spread, people started to point out other things that were not adequately explained by the Aristotelian model. The cracks began to show, and slowly – ever so slowly – new models were adopted that could explain the physical world more adequately”

“I see. So what does this have to do with eye contact?”

“See, here’s the thing. The process I just outlined can be easily understood if explained properly. It’s not difficult to grasp. It is, however, kinda hard to keep it firmly in mind at all times and apply it to all situations you happen to find yourself in. It is very easy to return to a default mode which is not thinking about the slow but inevitable decline of the Aristotelian physical model of the universe”


“Yes. It’s not that I don’t listen or pay attention. It’s that I literally forget that eye contact is a thing that’s relevant to the situation. Unless I specifically focus on doing it, I’m defaulting to a mode of not doing it. Just like you default to not thinking about Aristotelian physics for 99% of your waking life”

“Well hot daym. This is useful information. I shall endeavor to remember this in our future interactions”

“Thank you”

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