Volume 26, Issue 1, Fall 2021
“Wal-Mart and the Heavens”
A Dialogue with Charles Scott on the Importance of Seeing Stars
In his chapter “Wal-Mart and the Heavens” from Living with Indifference, Charles Scott compares the experience of gazing at the starry heavens to the glow of Walmart at night. In this remarkable analogy, Scott suggests that one encounters an experience of sublime indifference that interrupts our usual judgments about the life-world and invites an appreciation for the sheer appearing of things. Scott concludes his study, however, by reminding us that we must be careful to observe the limits between such appearances, raising a longstanding question about our ability to discern such boundaries. Following a close re-reading of Scott’s reverie then, I attempt to explicate the hermeneutic limit underlying this agonistic relationship between Walmart and the starry heavens, τέχνη and Θαυμάζειν, in order to demonstrate just what its violation might look like for human understanding today. In doing so, however, I also attempt to show just what is so significant about our ability to see the stars.