Monday, October 8, 2012

Amazon: Amusingly Alert

So our 20-plus-year-old kitchen sink began to leak in ways that careful research informed me could not be easily fixed in the usual way. I learned this two days ago by looking at like twenty, thirty websites, gradually refining my search to the phrase “2-Handle Kitchen Faucet” in order to get the right kind of diagrams. Along the way, probably (if not consciously) I must have visited But, I emphasize, I visited lots and lots of sites, including corporate sites by Moen, Peerless, and others.

Then, in succession, Brigitte and I bought a kitchen faucet at Home Depot. We brought it home and, after some examination, decided to buy another at Loews. I took back the Home Depot product, got my credit, and went to Loews to purchase Brigitte’s first choice there. That was yesterday. This morning I called our trusty plumber (Positive Plumbing), and arranged for its installation tomorrow. All this done, I had time to think about important things.

One of those, this morning, was to look up the word manifold. I’d used the word in something I was writing, in a philosophical context, and got to wondering what it really means. There are some philosophers absolutely in love with that word, over-using it, it seems to me. So I began my search. The word has its derivation in mathematics, particularly as applied to topology. That did not satisfy me. Finally I put in the search phrase “manifold in philosophy” and let her rip.

The first page I chose from Google’s offering finally told me how this word managed to wiggle into philosophy. Kant used it to mean (in German it’s Mannigfaltigkeit) “the unorganized flux presented to the senses.” And the philosophers who tend to use it cut their teeth on Kant. Scrolling down the page to the very point where this bit of information was presented, I looked to my right and saw the inserted ad.

I had to laugh! Amazon is amazingly alert. It was serving up, in a philosophical context, a pretty good deal in a Delta 2-Handle Kitchen faucet! Amazon is getting closer and closer to omniscience. Too bad they don’t patrol my credit card—the same one I use both to buy faucets and books. If they had, they might have known that they are just a day or so late. An additional element of amusement arose because the original use of the word also derives from plumbing. It was used in 1884 to mean a “pipe or chamber with several outlets.” In the Great Unconscious of which Carl Jung was a worshipper, my interest in kitchen faucets was perhaps reflected in my sudden interest in the philosopher’s use of the manifold. Which, come to think of it, a faucet with hot, cold, spout, and sprayer really is. Somebody up there already is omniscient—and has a sense of humor too.