Hotel California as History of Metaphysics. A Joke for the Summer

Not too serious. Most references can be found from Wikipedia…

“On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air”

A reference to Pre-Socratic philosopher Anaximenes of Miletus (c. 586 – c. 526 BC) who said “Just as our soul… being air holds us together, so pneuma and air encompass the whole world.”

“Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night”

This is a reference to Heraclitus (c. 535 – c. 475 BC) who thought that fire is the fundamental element. Heraclitus also thought everything is always in constant flux. In the song, the person thinks they are stopping but as we will see, everything still changes for them with no return to the old.

“There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell”
And I was thinking to myself,
“This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way”

This is a reference to Plato’s Cave where people only see shadows of the real world. Socrates and Plato “lit up the candle” by creating systematic metaphysical inquiry that goes beyond the observable world. The Heaven vs. Hell is a reference to the ambivalence about the possibility and utility of metaphysics.

“There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say…

Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here”

This a reference to Aristotle. “Such a lovely place” refers to his optimism about metaphysics as the First Philosophy. “Plenty of room” part is a reference to the fact that there are many different positions one can take in metaphysics, as illustrated by the opposition between Plato and Aristotle. “You can find it here” refers to Ancient philosophy as a source of all major debates.

“Her mind is Tiffany-twisted, she got the Mercedes bends
She got a lot of pretty, pretty boys she calls friends”

This materialism is a reference to more practically oriented Romans and especially to Epicureanism with its emphasis on pleasure as a chief good in life.

“How they dance in the courtyard, sweet summer sweat.
Some dance to remember, some dance to forget”

This is a reference to the Middle Age. “Courtyard” is a reference to monasteries. “Remember or forget” refers to the ambivalence that was produced by the contingencies of access to ancient texts in the western world.

Strangely, the song does not address the long early modern period. It goes straight to Idealism:

“So I called up the Captain,
“Please bring me my wine”
He said, “We haven’t had that spirit here since nineteen sixty nine””

This is a reference to Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit. Hegel’s philosophy was a kind of culmination point of metaphysics that paved the way to attacks on metaphysics later. Note that “Heidegger observed in his 1969 work Identity and Difference [–] that Hegel’s system is an important respect “consummates western philosophy”” (Wikipedia). We no longer have that spirit I guess.

“And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say…”

This is a reference to the constant feeling of a need to return to classics of metaphysics by each generation even though the previous generation thought they have completed or destroyed metaphysics.

“Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
They livin’ it up at the Hotel California
What a nice surprise (what a nice surprise)
Bring your alibis”

See above. The difference to previous chorus is the phrase “bring your alibis” which means that one can no longer admit doing metaphysics without some good reason outside metaphysics.

“Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said “We are all just prisoners here, of our own device”
And in the master’s chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can’t kill the beast”

This is a reference to Wittgenstein’s idea that our language (“our own devise”) is the cause of all sorts of metaphysical pseudo-problems. At the same period, Logical Empiricism had its gatherings and many ingenuine attempts to get rid of metaphysics but none of the attempts brought the success they wanted. They stabbed metaphysics with logic and philosophy of language (“steely knives”) but could not kill it. “Mirrors on the ceiling” is an obvious reference to Wittgenstein’s idea that language mirrors the world.

“Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before”

This is a reference to Heidegger’s asking about the nature of Being in the same way as the Pre-Socratic era did; an attempt to escape “Hotel California” (i.e. metaphysical tradition) that was created by Plato and Aristotle.

“Relax”, said the night man,
“We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave!””

This is a reference to new interested in metaphysics in analytic philosophy and philosophy of science. Metaphysics and metaphysical assumptions are always present. We can act as if they are not (“you can check out”) but this really is not the case (“you can never leave”)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *