Art moment: Harry Dodge, Time Eaters and the nature of knowledge

February 15, 2018 – 3:20 pm

Theories of knowledge in cognitive science tend to draw upon two particular notions: that we learn from experience (the empiricist position, as when John Locke famously treats the new human as a tabula rasa), and that knowledge, or a lot of knowledge, can be encoded in propositional form (a rationalist theme, as exemplified, e.g. in the Language of Thought hypothesis of Jerry Fodor). Gilbert Ryle, the most pragmatic of philosophers, introduced the terribly useful distinction between knowing that (something that might be expressed in a proposition) and knowing how (e.g. the practical skill of tying one’s shoelaces, that cannot be adequately expressed in words).

In Time Eaters, a 39 minute film by Harry Dodge, we encounter a newly minted human, and we are confronted with the inadequacy of any of these approaches. The human is introduced to the world by a guide. The guide lists many things that any grown adult might know. The relative merits of plastic versus fabric place mats is casually discussed, as is the threat of under-capacity in the Australian water supply infrastructure. The practical business of keeping one’s testicles cool is a useful thing to know, as is the chemistry of soap. The whole of practical sphere of love making is treated with a brief exposure to a (caution, strong!) gay porn clip and a pantomime of kissing executed on a massive bronze statue. The guide and the novice spend a single day in each other’s company and in that time, human knowledge is treated as if it were itemizable. Much as you might run through a list of things that you need to take on a holiday, so these two run through a wonderfully arbitrary list of things anybody might need to know anywhere.

Harry Dodge’s website.


The Time Eaters—Harry Dodge from Futurepoem on Vimeo.

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