MAKE AFFIRMING (the consequent) GREAT AGAIN!

OF THE MANY subjects that I like to talk about but rarely write about, at the top of my list is a little subject called “current events”.

In particular, politics.

Although I enjoy thumbing through a treatise of classical political philosophy or even engaging in the occasional mostly political debate, the act of actually writing about something political kinda makes me cringe.

Mostly because a trip through any comment section about politics is cringe inducing.

toon-comment-section-31515176The internet has made political debate an often cringeworthy endeavor, but the cringe + politics combo isn’t new.

Cringy political talk (often in the form of shit talking and/or trolling) is as old as people with differing opinions saying their opinions out loud.

Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were masters at 18th century shit talking. Jefferson wrote about Hamilton:

I was duped … by the Secretary of the treasury, and made a fool for forwarding his schemes, not then sufficiently understood by me; and of all the errors of my political life, this has occasioned the deepest regret.

That’s pretty much the equivalent of Jefferson calling Hamilton a fucktard.*

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ALEXANDER HAMILTON: FOUNDING FATHER, THE GUY ON THE TEN DOLLAR BILL, AND NOTORIOUS FUCKTARD

We’ve all seem that word on Facebook.

…some of us have been called that word on Facebook.

Lucky us, eh?

The entire dialogue between Socrates and Thrasymachus in Book I of Plato’s Republic is one of the cringiest political debates in philosophy.

Especially the part when Thrasymachus asks Socrates if he had a wet nurse.

That’s what we call owning the libs.

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THRASYMACHUS OWNING SOCRATES, 380 BCE (colorized)

Sometimes — more than sometimes — the internet kinda makes me wish politics never existed.

But, that’s the funny thing about politics. Politics can’t not exist.

I had a political science professor who used to tell his classes, “you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.” What he meant is, even if we personally don’t vote, participate in or keep informed about political affairs, politicians still make laws that effect us.

Try as we might to not get involved, politics is unavoidable.

And no, unfollowing our tinfoil hat-wearing, conspiracy nutjob uncle on Facebook won’t help.

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Even if politics is unavoidable, exactly why should we get involved?

Well… the answer to that question, my friends, has something to do with a certain 4th century Greek philosopher.

A fellow named Aristotle.

…And they didn’t call him “The Philosopher” for nothing.

Aristotle says, people, it seems, are designed for politics.

In Book I of Politics Aristotle wrote:

That man is much more a political animal than any kind of bee or any herd animal is clear. For, as we assert, nature does nothing in vain, and man alone among the animals has speech….speech serves to reveal the advantageous and the harmful and hence also the just and unjust. For it is peculiar to man as compared to the other animals that he alone has a perception of good and bad and just and unjust and other things of this sort; and partnership in these things is what makes a household and a city.

Wait a minute. I forgot to do something.

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As an old English professor of mine repeatedly said, if you introduce a bit of jargon, a writer should define what the but of jargon is. And since I’m writing, and I introduced a bit of jargon, I should explain what that bit of jargon is.

I’ve been using the word “politics” as if we all agree on a universal definition of the word. I’ve spent enough time on the internet and listened to enough talk radio to know that the word “politics” carries different connotations for different people.

So, with that in mind, when I say “politics”, I mean:

 The activities, actions, and policies that are used to gain and hold power in a government or to influence a government. (Merriam-Webster)

There. Alright. Back to what I was talking about.

If I was actually talking about anything.

According to Aristotle, the role of politics in the city (or, polis — the Greek word from which the word “politics” is derived) is for the proper training of citizens. Proper training, Aristotle says, is to raise virtuous people.

p.s. you might want to check out the prequel to Politics, Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle explains virtue and what it means to be (philosophically) virtuous…and some other stuff.

You see, according to Aristotle, man, like other animals, gather in groups (or herds). However, unlike other animals, man (and he does mean MAN) possesses the capacity for rational thought. Man, by way of his intellect, is able to discern good from bad, just from unjust. This ability enables man to form social units (families) and the social bonds (of families) required to establish cities.

Because the goal of politics, Aristotle says, is the HIGHEST GOOD (i.e. virtue) of the state, citizens must take an active part in city affairs.

That is to say, according to Aristotle, political participation is mandatory — if we want to be Good (virtuous) people. 

And you should want to be a virtuous person.

Whoa. Wait. I’ve done it again.

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I’ve used a word without defining it. Virtue, as defined by Aristotle, is:

a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are vices. We learn moral virtue primarily through habit and practice rather than through reasoning and instruction.

Aristotle argues a virtuous citizenry is essential to a successful state.

And only through political participation can we become virtuous.

(Because virtue isn’t merely a state of being, it’s a way of life)

You may not like politics, but you can’t achieve eudaimonia without it.

You can’t.

Can’t.

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So…… I guess what I’m saying is, even though the internet has amplified the shitstorm that is politics, we have a philosophical obligation to engage in the political, no matter how soul-destroying we feel it may be.

The strange not-quite irony about politics is that politics isn’t destructive to our souls at all. In fact, we become better people — the city becomes a better city — a VIRTUOUS city when we get involved.

And who can resist that eudaimonia, right?

Right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, you may have noticed that nowhere in this blog post have I mentioned anything about affirming the antecedent. I wasn’t going to….I just thought it would make a clever title.

 

 

 

* I’m pretty sure Jefferson wasn’t the only Founder who felt that way about Hamilton. I’d bet cash that the first time someone said the word “fucktard” was referring to Alexander Hamilton.

I’d also bet cash that person was Thomas Jefferson….or Aaron Burr.

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SOURCES:

https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Alexander_Hamilton

Aristotle. Politics.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics

https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/aristotle/section8/

 

 

 

 

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If Daryl Dies…. eh… I’m not even watching anymore

WELL, FOLKS… IT’S APRIL and April means the season finale of my favorite tv show.

I couldn’t tell you what happened, tho.

I didn’t watch it.

I haven’t watched the entire season, actually.

That’s because it used to be my favorite tv show.

Unfortunately, the fate that has befallen so many others has finally happened to me: I am no longer a fan of The Walking Dead.*

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MEMORIES OF BETTER DAYS… AND BETTER EPISODES

I gotta admit, it’s been a fun ride. I was genuinely impressed for a few seasons.

Most tv shows these days have only a handful of good episodes.

Don’t get me wrong, The Walking Dead has never been as impressive as Westworld or Game of Thrones (or its fellow AMC drama series, Mad Men), but for a tv show that is — honestly speaking — a soap opera about zombies, The Walking Dead has supplied a more than expected bounty of philosophical stuff (and thangs) to think about.

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RICK GRIMES IS THINKING… PROBABLY BAD DECISIONS THAT WILL GET PEOPLE KILLED, BUT HE’S THINKING

Listen: if kinda sorta doing philosophy for awhile has taught me anything, it’s taught me that philosophical stuff is everywhere. Literally everywhere.

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Buzz gets it.

A great thing about studying philosophical stuff, believe it or not, is discovering philosophy in stuff that isn’t explicitly philosophical. Sure, you can spend your summer boning up on Kant’s categorical imperative or slogging through Hegel (that nobody wants to read or actually reads), but wouldn’t you rather not do that if you don’t have to do it?

Wouldn’t you rather just watch tv instead?

FUN WITH PHILOSOPHY: if, by watching a tv show, we can not only learn philosophical ideas easier, but also expose a greater number of people to philosophy, we are OBLIGATED to watch the tv show!

How do we know it’s an obligation? 

Utilitarianism.

And, utilitarianism is PHILOSOPHY.

In the whatever-many years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve written posts entirely about or have mentioned The Walking Dead in no fewer than 39 posts. I’ve used The Walking Dead to write about philosophical topics including (but not limited to):

  • Determinism vs. Free Will
  • Moral Culpability
  • The Ethics of Pacifism
  • Hobbes’ State of Nature
  • Socrates’ Philosopher-King
  • Gettier Problems
  • The Meaning of Life
  • The Metaphysics of the Undead
  • The Ethics of Loyalty
  • Justifying killing
  • The Ethics of Veganism
  • The Utilitarian/Hedonistic Calculus
  • The Trolley Problem
  • Moral consistency (or, if I’m writing about Rick Grimes, moral inconsistency)
  • …And some other philosophical stuff

And– although I got my problems with Negan, I can’t think of another tv series that has inspired me philosophically.

Wait a minute there is one.

Star Trek.

Another tv show is Star Trek. 

The thing is, unlike The Walking Dead, Gene Roddenberty created Star Trek with philosophical subtext in mind. Classic Star Trek episodes “The City On the Edge Of Forever”, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, “The Measure of a Man”, “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, and “Thine Own Self” are extra philosophical.

And who can forget this philosophical as hell episode?

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The episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” isn’t merely philosophical — it also features one of tv’s first interracial kiss.

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And THAT’S the reason why I used to like The Walking Dead. The philosophy wasn’t served up on a platter like an episode of Star Trek or a philosophy-themed series like The Good Place.

If you wanted to get down and philosophical while watching The Walking Dead, you had to dig for it. You had to put on a yellow miner helmet with a little flashlight and mine every that-didn’t-happen-in-the-comic-book moment (like that whole fiasco of Glenn’s under-the-dumpster plot twist, aka the moment everybody yelled “you’ve got to be kidding me!!!”) to find the philosophical subtext. Episodes like season 4’s “The Grove” and season 2’s “Judge, Jury, Executioner” demonstrate the ethical dilemma — do we kill one to save many –– as well as any other Trolley Problem scenerio. The characters Rick, Shane, The Governor, and Negan depict examples of leadership guided by ethical principles and the justifications each uses for their individual leadership styles — the benevolent autocracy of Rick Grimes, the seeming utopia of The Governor, the violent dictatorship of Negan…

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YEAH. , AIN’T JUST LUCILLE

I could (believe me, I did) go on for hours explaining why The Walking Dead wasn’t the best tv show on the air — it was the most GOOD show on tv.

By GOOD, I meant The Walking Dead  wasn’t just “good” because it was entertaining, but GOOD because it was philosophically beneficial.

Like, watching The Walking Dead gets you all up in the eudaimonia –philosophically beneficial.

I no longer do that.

I’m no longer a fan of the show.

So I don’t watch the show anymore.

For all I know, season 9 might have been philosophical AF. 

I hope it was.

Not likely, but I hope it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

* for the one of you that was wondering exactly why I’ve stopped watching The Walking Dead, I can only explain my dis-fandom by saying the show caught a bad case of The Dumb.

Y’all that also don’t watch any more know what I mean.

Misinterpretation Station

I’LL BE THE FIRST to admit that I rarely ever read comments.

It’s not because I don’t want to read comments. I do. I would never discourage anyone from writing them, even on my blog where I almost certainly will never read them. I just never get around to reading them. My mind is always occupied by other things.

Like composing the perfectly philosophically adroit tweet inside my head and then never actually tweeting it.

I’m kidding I never think about that. Never.

When I do get around to reading comments — and I do appreciate anyone who takes the time to write one — there’s a particular kind of comment that I never fail to enjoy:

It’s the comment that starts off like, I think you misunderstand what so-and-so said…

it’s the not-negatively phrased negative comment that philosophers love to make.

Listen: I kinda know that.

It’s kinda the point.

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Sometimes I’m wrong. But sometimes… I’m wrong on purpose. 

The key to being wrong on purpose is that you actually gotta know what you’re talking about.

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It’s kind of like how people say that Marilyn Monroe made a career playing the dumb blonde, but was in on the joke the whole time. She was smart enough to know there was money to be had in playing dumb.

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OK. MAYBE NOT THE BEST EXAMPLE. I SHOULD HAVE SAID JAYNE MANSFIELD. YOU KNOW… BECAUSE SHE HAD A HIGH I.Q.

Although you’d be hard pressed to find even one professional philosopher who would admit that they were ever wrong (aka, dumb), even if they’re in on the joke.

…unlike Marilyn Monroe.

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THIS WOULDN’T BE A MUG IF PHILOSOPHERS EVER THOUGHT THEY WERE EVER WRONG

When I was a kid, I used to go to Bible study.

I know, we all do strange things in our childhood.

Anyway, while I was supposed to be reading the Bible to learn the correct way to interpret the infallible word of God, I was more interested in learning all the ways people get Bible verses wrong.

There are a lot of bad ideas about what the Bible says out there, and by golly, I was going to figure it all out.

I was ten years old.

You see… the way I see it, the one thing that makes the examined life worth living is grabbing a philosophical idea or two and then pushing and pulling the (ever-loving) shit out of it, just to see where it goes.

even if, in the end, all our pushing and pulling goes nowhere.

even if, in the end, we got it all wrong.

We all know that philosophers have a thing for an exact fit. That is to say, we (assuming I can call myself a philosopher) like the theories that not only look good on paper, but also  explain the how and why of everything and defeat all counterarguments in any and every philosophical situation — real or thought experiment.

But if you’ve lived for more than two minutes outside of a philosophy class, you’d know that the real world doesn’t work that way. There is no exact fit. Contrary to whatever Immanuel Kant may have thought about his transcendental idealism, there is no theory that does — or can — explain everything.

or in that case of Kant, explain anything.

…and that’s where all that pop culture stuff comes in.

You see folks, we can use movies, books, notable people and events, and tv shows (collectively known as “pop culture”) to push and pull on philosophical ideas. We can use pop culture as ready-made thought experiment templates, filled with characters and situations we can use to expand, clarify or even disregard philosophical ideas (in the real world) when we apply, and at times, misapply philosophy.

Is the movie Groundhog Day and exact fit of Nietzsche’s eternal return? No. It isn’t.

Is The Matrix the most philosophically correct depiction of whatever it was that Descartes said about not knowing if the world is real and all that evil demon stuff?

Nope.

Is Ferris Bueller an true Randian objectivist? Probably not.

He’s actually more of a utilitarian.

Would Descartes say that cinematic zombies don’t think, so therefore they aren’t am, so therefore they aren’t rational beings, so therefore we can regard them in the same way that we would regard a clock….or a cat?

…wait a minute, he probably would say that.

The point is, is that when you apply philosophical ideas (or theories) to something pop culture-ish, like a movie or a fictional character, there will always be multiple ways to interpret how a character is and what that character does.

…unless your name is Ingmar Bergman and you totally made your movie philosophical intentionally.

Multiple ways to interpret things correctly also means there are multiple ways to misinterpret things.  Misinterpreting (even the intentional misinterpretation) a philosophical idea or how the idea can be applied in the real world does some good, too. How else would you know if it works?

And really, not getting it right doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

Especially if you’re having fun.

And anyway, who cares? It’s not like you’re up for tenure.

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ALTHOUGH I’M NOT HAVING MUCH FUN WITH THE WALKING DEAD ANYMORE (sucks what they did to Carl)

So… pack a bag and come with me down to misinterpretation station!

You might just enjoy yourself doing some philosophical pushin’ and pullin’.

 

THE PHILOSOPHY OF A POSTING PIC (OF A DEAD MAN’S NAKED WIENER)

I GOT BANNED ON FACEBOOK. 

I suspect that everyone who is still on Facebook has been at least once.

But, with all the crap floating around on Facebook, it’s still pretty shocking to see one of these pop up in my notifications.

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Community standards?!?!? Facebook has community standards???

To be honest, it was only a 24-hour ban, but having a whole twenty-four hour period not being able to like, post, or comment made me think about a few things:

Namely, that interacting with actual people is overrated.

Secondly, I thought about why I was banned. Why Facebook would ban me for violating Facebook’s COMMUNITY STANDARDS?

What is a COMMUNITY STANDARD anyway????

I’ll get back to that question later.

The reason for my ban, it seems, was this: I violated Facebook’s COMMUNITY STANDARDS because I posted a picture.

A. picture. Of a naked person. Actually, of naked people.

Two people. Two famous naked people.

This picture:

two virgins

Didn’t have the black bars, tho…

For those who don’t know what that photo is (and I suspect there’s more than a few of you who don’t), the community standard-violating photo is from the album cover of Two Virgins,  recorded by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, released in 1968.

The sixties may have been the decade of free love, but in 1968 the album cover caused quite a stir.

It still would. And does.

Posting the cover on Facebook earns you one of these:

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And a 24-hour ban.

In 1968, critics called the album cover vulgar. Copies of Two Virgins were confiscated on the grounds that an image of full-frontal male and female nudity is obscene.

Lennon’s record label, EMI, didn’t like the cover, either. The album was released, wrapped in a plain paper bag.

If you buy the album Two Virgins, it looks like this:

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Definitely no naked wiener in sight.

When Two Virgins was released fifty years ago, Lennon and Ono defended the nude album cover, explaining that the image of the nude pair is art (whoops. It’s ART). They argued there is nothing salacious or vulgar about the cover. According to John and Yoko,

Art = not obscenity.

The intent of the album art was to depict Lennon and Ono as two innocents — virgins — “lost in a world gone mad”. Lennon explained:

[the album cover] “just seemed natural for us. We’re all naked really.”

Now, naked dong may be innocent art according to John Lennon, but according to Facebook, you can’t post peen on Facebook for this reason: dick pics are bad.

Art or no art, unclothed genitals are obscene.

Pictures, album cover or otherwise, of naked naughty bits are obscene because pee pee and hoo hoo are harmful to the COMMUNITY.

I realize I’m being rather childish, here. I’ve referred to the genitalia as “dong”, “peen”, pee pee”, “wiener”, and “hoo hoo”, instead of using the actual medical terminology. I also realize using childish words in place of the biologically correct nomenclature is ridiculous — nearly as ridiculous as censoring any part of human body.

So, what about those COMMUNITY STANDARDS?

First, when we talk about the “COMMUNITY” we’re talking about the general public.

So…community standards are:

Community standards are local norms bounding acceptable conduct, possibly going beyond legal minimum requirements in relation to either limits on acceptable conduct itself or the manner in which the community will enforce acceptable conduct. (Wikipedia)

The purpose for setting standards of conduct for the community is ultimately in the interest of the common good.

Or so they say…

You see, it is in the community’s interest to censor images like the cover of Two Virgins because images of exposed private areas are pornographic.

If you don’t know, the definition of pornography is:

1: the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement

2: material (such as books or a photograph) that depicts erotic behavior and is intended to cause sexual excitement

3: the depiction of acts in a sensational manner so as to arouse a quick intense emotional reaction. (Merriam-Webster)

The purpose of pornography is to arouse one’s prurient interest.**

Prurient interest is:

a term that is used for a morbid interest in sex, nudity and obscene or pornographic matters.

In June 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court decision on Miller v California created the Miller Test.

The Miller Test established the criteria for obscenity (and pornography). If a work is pornographic, we must determine:

  1. whether the average person, applying contemporary “community standards“, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest;

  2. whether the work depicts or describes, in an offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions, as specifically defined by applicable state law.

  3. whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literaryartisticpolitical, or scientific value.[14]

So… If (particular or on some cases, peculiar) images of the sexual organs have no purpose other than to excite us sexually, we can classify the image as obscene or pornographic.

And, as the Miller Test tells us, if a work is pornographic, it has no redeeming social value.

Things without redeeming social value are bad.

Pornography is bad because it puts bad (prurient) thoughts on our heads.

Bad thoughts make for bad people.

Bad people are bad leaders.

And bad leaders are detrimental to the common good.

In Republic, Socrates argues that a good society depends on the morality of its citizens. If the people are exposed to things that are bad, they will become bad people. Therefore, says Socrates, we must be certain that the people, especially children, are exposed only to things that will make them good people.

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THIS IS TRUE. ESPECIALLY MODERN ART

This is especially true, Socrates says, of the arts. Socrates has no problem with censoring art that he (or society) considers to be bad.

Especially if your names are Hesiod or Homer………

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We know that artists can have a powerful influence on society. As a member of The Beatles and the author of songs (like) “All You Need Is Love”, “Imagine”, and “Give Peace A Chance”, John Lennon was called the “voice of his generation”. In 1966, Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” comment sparked public outrage.

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OBVIOUSLY FANS OF SOCRATES

The Beatles — Lennon in particular — challenged the conventional social norms and morality of the older generation. John Lennon, like Socrates centuries before him, was the gadfly who rattled authority enough to make his way onto President Richard Nixon’s shit list.

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Nixon felt, because of Lennon’s influence on popular culture, that the former Beatle’s politics threatened the social order.

Or at least Lennon threatened Nixon’s 1972 presidential campaign…

Nixon wanted Lennon deported.

Now, if we’re thinking like Socrates, artists like John Lennon, the kind of artists who publicly display their boy parts, defy the city’s gods, and undermine the authority of the city’s leaders (aka, corrupt the young), are the type of people who should be censored.

After all, we must think of the children.

But wait a minute, you say. This is supposed to be all about the Two Virgins album cover, not about President Nixon’s personal vendetta against the politics of John Lennon.

If you said that, you’d be right.

So let’s get back to that, shall we?

Lennon and Ono maintained that their album cover was art, not pornographic. Unlike pornography, which has no redeeming value, the intent of the image was to convey the idea of innocence, not to arouse prurient interest.

The image on the album cover doesn’t meet our traditional notions of pornographic portraiture — there are no erections, no penetration, no sexuality graphic poses… The couple is merely standing still, posed no different than any clothed couple would pose while having their photograph taken.

We can say that the album cover was wrapped in plain brown paper to protect the children, but really, what kid in 1968 stormed their local record store to buy a copy of Two Virgins?

The message that the couple wanted us to hear is that the image of the two nude figures ought to be seen, and that we are all (metaphorically naked) innocents thrown into an often hostile that we cannot understand.

To censor the image would be to deprive people of the TRUTH.

And, as any philosopher will tell you, truth is a stepping stone on the path to wisdom.

In fact, it’s quite philosophical to argue that censorship actually damages society.

When works are censored according to what others deem obscene or offensive, the act of legislating (on the behalf of others) infringes on autonomy.

Depriving people of the ability to use their own rational judgement to decide what they do and do not want to see, deprives them of the capacity of the self-legislation required to make moral decisions.

Rational, autonomous decision making is essential for moral accountability, says Immanuel Kant.

BTW: IMMANUEL KANT IS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING.

EVERYTHING.

SO…

In the end, I decided not to challenge my 24-hour Facebook ban. I know I could have laid down a smooth Kantian argument about rationality and the deleterious effect of moral paternalism, but I didn’t. I figured that the time it would take to challenge a Facebook ban would cost me seconds of my life I would not get back.

I mean, come on. It’s Facebook.

Still, when I think about the reason for the ban — that I had violated “community standards” — I’m still left wondering, what is really so bad about a man’s naked penis or a woman’s nipples? Does pubic hair have the power to destroy society?

Is there an inherent soul-corrupting quality located inside human genitals?

If so, does science know about this???

 

 

 

 

 

** This isn’t the purpose of pornography according to me. It is, however, the purpose of pornography according to the U.S. Supreme Court and moralizers everywhere.

 

 

 

SOURCES:

https: //en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community_standards

https://thelawdictionary.org/prurient-interest/

https://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-supreme-court/413/15.html

Thinking ’bout Being Thankful (a philosopher’s Thanksgiving list)

IT’S THANKSGIVING DAY here in the States. It’s the day to gather with friends and family to give thanks for what we have — to remind ourselves that we are healthy, wealthy, and wise — despite our (my) repeated and humiliating failed attempts to keep up with the Kardashians.

That was my New Year’s resolution for this year — to keep up with the Kardashians.

I didn’t.

And for that, I am thankful.

That whole Kanye/Trump thing….

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YIKES.

Anyhoo.

As I said, Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks. I’m thankful for my friends and family. I’m thankful that I’m in relatively good health (as good as anyone eating the average American diet can be). I’m thankful, despite what seems to be a severe case of global stupidity, that I still got enough scruples to think.

And to think about thinking…

And to think about thinking about thinking…

And even though the world is seemingly infected with the dumb, there’s plenty of philosophical stuff I’m thankful for.

In fact, I’ve made a list.

  • I’m thankful that I decided to double major in college. I know it ain’t nothing but navelgazing, but I’m thankful I chose philosophy. My old professor was right. I don’t regret it.
  • Speaking of a philosophy major, I’m thankful I went to a college with a philosophy department.

If those Purge flicks were about getting rid of unwanted college majors, philosophy definitely would be the homeless guy left on the street after 7 p.m.

  • I’m thankful that my professors (and most of my classmates) were the kind of philosophy people that proved that most movies about philosophy and philosophy people are full of crap.
  • I’m thankful for Harry Stottlemeyer.
  • I’m thankful for blogging and self publishing.

Did I mention that I wrote a book?

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*The Mindless Philosopher — available at Amazon

  • I’m thankful that the internet gives any and every armchair, amateur, and occasional philosopher the chance to become the next Wittgenstein (or at least to pretend we’re that smart).
  • I’m thankful that philosophy is finally breaking away from the professional academic philosopher’s club.
  • I’m thankful that there’s such a thing as pop culture and philosophy.
  • I’m thankful that tv shows like The Good Place prove that philosophy not only isn’t just a bunch of old white dead guys, but can also be entertaining and relevant.
  • I’m thankful for Star Trek.
  • I’m thankful for The Walking Dead and Rick Grimes — and the opportunity to write year after year about the most philosophical inconsistent character on network television.

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Don’t let the Socrates beard fool you. Rick Grimes IS NOT the wisest man in Alexandria. Not even close.

  • I’m thankful I live in a world that needs welders and philosophers.
  • I’m thankful that a philosopher can challenge the gods and corrupt the young, and that “drinking the hemlock” is just a figure of speech.
  • I’m thankful there are still folks out there determined to bring philosophy to the masses.
  • I’m thankful for Zizek videos on YouTube.
  • I’m thankful for dank Hegel memes.
  • I’m thankful for my philosophical muse and bestest furkid (aka, the cat).

 

She thinks so I don’t have to.

Lastly, and most of all, I’m thankful for every one of you reading my blog. Whether you liked what you read or not, you clicked on and checked it out.

And for that, I truly am thankful.

 

 

 

 

 

A Philosophical Problem of Memes

THERE’S A PROBLEM in philosophy.

Not that problem. No, not that problem, either.

There’s a problem greater than any problem philosophy has ever faced before.

It’s not the Trolley Problem.

It’s not the Problem of Induction.

It’s not the Problem of Evil.

The problem, my friends, is stolen memes.

Specifically, uncredited stolen memes.

This problem may destroy philosophy.

Like Fight Club, the internet has rules.

and the first rule of internet memes is give credit to the creator. Giving thanks to the creative geniuses who find new and interesting ways to caption Salt Bae memes isn’t just being courteous — it’s the law.

Unfortunately, like Fight Club, the cardinal rule of internet memes is consistently broken.

I admit I don’t always give credit.

Anyone with a social media account and an interest in philosophy would observe that philosophy, like everything else ruined by the internet, is dominated by memes (after all, who actually wants to read Hegel?).

This unfortunate reality means the problem of meme attribution is now a philosophy thing — welcome to the ethics of philosophy memes.

Back in the early days of the internet, the notion of the internet as a digital commons wasn’t a far fetched idea. The internet, some were stupid enough to believed, could and should serve the common good. Ideas would be freely and openly exchanged across the fiber optic superhighway — everyone would have access to everything — the internet would be the ultimate egalitarian paradise.

And in a lot of ways it is.

Memes are freely and openly disseminated through social networks, and meme generating sites give any user the opportunity to use uploaded images, adding their own (presumably funny, but not always funny) caption.

Wait a minute. Do I have to explain what a meme is?

Just in case there are still folks out there who have no clue what a meme is, memes are:

a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users. (Google)

If we wanted to think of memes somewhat philosophically, we could argue that memes serve a utilitarian purpose. Memes inform, persuade, entertain, and (sometimes) convey complex ideas, in easily understood images.

We all know Schopenhauer detested Hegel.

What’s easier to understand, this — an actual quote from Schopenhauer about Hegel:

May Hegel’s philosophy of absolute nonsense – three-fourths cash and one-fourth crazy fancies – continue to pass for unfathomable wisdom without anyone suggesting as an appropriate motto for his writings Shakespeare’s words: “Such stuff as madmen tongue and brain not,” or, as an emblematical vignette, the cuttle-fish with its ink-bag, creating a cloud of darkness around it to prevent people from seeing what it is, with the device: mea caligine tutus. – May each day bring us, as hitherto, new systems adapted for University purposes, entirely made up of words and phrases and in a learned jargon besides, which allows people to talk whole days without saying anything; and may these delights never be disturbed by the Arabian proverb: “I hear the clappering of the mill, but I see no flour.” – For all this is in accordance with the age and must have its course.

Or this meme?

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It’s the meme, right?

*You may have noticed I did not give credit to the creator of that meme.

And that’s the problem.

The problem.

We’ve come to think of the internet as the place where everything belongs to everyone, however, online content  — every meme, blog post, or vlog — is the product of someone’s imagination.

That funny Hegel meme you just posted might seem like it has been floating around Facebook forever, but rest assured, someone created it. And if someone created it —

that somebody thinks it’s theirs.

Now, there used to be a time when (if) you used something that belongs to someone else, you’d say the words “thank” and “you”.

Giving credit to the creator of a meme is just that.

It’s saying “thank you”.

Giving thanks isn’t just a courtesy, it’s a way of acknowledging that someone else created something that, because of their creativity, we are afforded the opportunity to not have to create something.

Which is great for me, because I have no knack for creating clever memes whatsoever.

WHAT. SO. EVER.

If we was using law words, someone might call their meme their intellectual property.

Intellectual property is:

Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect, and primarily encompasses copyrights, patents, and trademarks Artistic works like music and literature, as well as some discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, and designs, can all be protected as intellectual property. (Wikipedia)

According to the law, intellectual property belongs to its creator. We violate copyright laws when we use (another’s) intellectual property without permission.

Because taking possession of someone else’s stuff without permission is theft.

There’s a reason why people call it stealing memes.

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YES. I STOLE THIS MEME

The problem with stealing memes isn’t just using someone else’s creation without permission or acknowledgement, stealing memes also steals views and likes from the original creator.

If you peddle in stolen memes, you’re benefiting at someone else’s expense — using someone as a mere means to your ends.

And you know there’s no way in hell we’re going to make that a universal law.

Ok… so memes (at least none I’ve seen) are not copyrighted, but memes definitely are the creations of human intellect (specifically, someone else’s intellect). And– if we have on our philosopher hats, we’d know that the ethically correct individual shouldn’t depend on copyright law to tell him what is the morally right thing to do.

The ethically correct individual would give proper credit to the original meme makers because it is the right thing to do.

You could say it’s our moral duty to do so.

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You didn’t think I’d go a whole post without mentioning Kant, did you?

So…

Ok, I’ll admit I was a bit hyperbolic at the beginning of this post. Uncredited memes aren’t going to destroy philosophy.

I know what’s going to destroy philosophy, but it ain’t that.

The philosophical problem of memes isn’t a “real” philosophical problem.

Not to professional philosophers, anyway.

Professional philosopher’s DO NOT meme.

But, the taking and using someone else’s original ideas without giving proper credit is a problem — and not just a problem in philosophy.

I guess… if the next time you’re cruising the world wide web and you see fantastically hilariously derisive Hegel meme that absolutely must be shared, that giving a quick nod to the original creator is a good thing to do.

I mean, if using someone else’s intellectual creation without permission is theft, the very least we can do is say thank you while we’re doing it.

I AM THE MINDLESS PHILOSOPHER

YEARS AGO, I WROTE a book.

It’s a philosophy book. Or rather, it’s a book about philosophy.

…kinda sorta about philosophy.

I mean, I use the word “philosophy”. And I quote Nietzsche.

That’s all you need for a philosophy book, right?

Now, when I was a philosophy student, I used to lament (sometimes – ok, a lot of times − out loud) the fact that most of the philosophy texts I was reading – the books every philosophy student is required to read – THE GREAT PHILOSOPHICAL TEXTS BY THE GREATEST PHILOSOPHICAL MINDS – were… well…boring.

Positively dull.

If earning a philosophy degree taught me anything, I learned that reading Immanuel Kant is the perfect cure for insomnia.

Reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason = snoozefest.

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KANT’S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON CAN ALSO BE USED AS A PILLOW OR AS A MAKESHIFT  BLUDGEONING DEVICE TO BE USED AGAINST WOULD-BE AXE MURDERERS

It’s not just mind-numbing boringness that philosophy has to overcome; people just don’t like philosophy or philosophers.

Americans are notoriously anti-intellectual. The average stereotypical American doesn’t trust a guy who’s a smarty pants. And really, who can blame them?

Smarty pants people invented the atomic bomb.

They also created reality tv.

If it wasn’t for that smart guy Dr. Phil, none of us would have any idea what “cash me ousside” means.

and if you don’t know, god bless you.

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THANKS, DR. PHIL

To be fair, Dr. Phil isn’t a philosopher. He’s a psychologist.

William James was a psychologist. And a philosopher.

William James was one of the fathers of Pragmatism.

Dr. Phil is pragmatic.

Therefore, I think, Dr. Phil IS a philosopher.

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CAN’T BE ANY WORSE THAN NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

Anyway… generally speaking, there’s always been a certain amount of negativity directed towards philosophers and philosophy.

Popular culture depicts philosophers as mopey navel gazers.

If society is correct, philosophers are only good at contemplating things that, in the long run, aren’t useful.

Schopenhauer was mopey.

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THE MAN EXUDES MISERY, DOESN’T HE?

Wittgenstein realized logical positivism was a dumb idea – even though he was the person who invented it.

Here’s the thing: even though people think philosophers are good only for thinking about things that no normal person cares about, there’s always been a place for the philosopher in society.

No one wants to admit it; the lovers of wisdom are an essential part of the way things are.

Just think about our popular culture for a minute.

You personally might not give two poops about philosophy, but if you exist right now, your “life” is the product of a long list of philosophers including (but definitely not limited to) Hegel, Nietzsche, Leo Strauss, John Stuart Mill, Plato, and Ayn Rand.

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LEO STRAUSS: THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PHILOSOPHER YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF, AND LIKELY WON’T GOOGLE, EVEN AFTER READING THIS BLOG POST

You won’t find a critically praised tv show or movie, a failed economic theory, a celebrity-slash-deep thinker, or a dumb politician who hasn’t quoted, misquoted, paraphrased, borrowed or stolen an idea from a philosopher.

Don’t believe me?

You’d think with all the philosophy everywhere, that we would, as a society, be a little more positive about philosophers and philosophy.

Nope.

and I’ll tell you why…

Are you listening? Here’s the reason why:

PHILOSOPHERS ARE NOT FUN.

Seriously, philosophy types are not a very fun lot to be around.

At the risk of being ad hominem-y, take a good look at the nearest philosopher. LOOK.

Look at him. Or her.

Now, ask yourself – am I looking at a person who looks like they’d be fun to be around for more than five minutes?

Sure, a professional philosopher will insist that they’re fun and funny and all-around interesting people, but do not be fooled. A fun philosopher is fun – for a philosopher.

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I’E USED MY POWERS OF PHILOSOPHICAL SPECULATION TO DETERMINE THAT MOST PHILOSOPHERS ARE UNFUN — EXCEPT FOR DIOGENES. DIOGENES SEEMS LIKE A FUN GUY

The reason why philosophers are un-fun has to do with the natural disposition of philosophers. Philosophers operate under the delusion that every conversation must adhere to a set of absolute bullshit rules on how conversations are supposed to go.

NO AD HOMINEMS ALLOWED.

Philosophers use fancy “philosophical” words like invalid, fallacy, and this is complete bullshit, why are you even in my class!?!?! to describe conversations that don’t adhere to The Rules.

Pffft!

As much as I love the love of wisdom, I got tired of not having fun.

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I mean, sometimes rules are great. Rules come in handy. Philosophy is a rigorous intellectual pursuit and strict rules are needed to produce coherent theories and arguments.

Makin’ rules is what made Immanuel Kant the greatest Kantian philosopher of all time.

But, every once in a while, even when doing philosophy, you gotta let one rip.
and not just figuratively.

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I had a philosophy professor who told a story about a conversation they had with another philosophy professor on a plane. My professor said that the conversation got so deep in arguing over theory that another passenger sitting nearby asked them to stop talking.

The professors weren’t using vulgar language. They weren’t looking at pornography. They weren’t defecating on the food cart or having an overly enthusiastic debate to settle whether Negan or The Governor was the baddest bad guy on The Walking Dead.

They were discussing philosophy.

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FOR THE RECORD, THE BADDEST BAD GUY WAS GARETH. GARETH ATE PEOPLE!!!

In the ears and minds of a pair of philosophy professors, a discussion about philosophy is something suitable to engage in around an airplane full of strangers. However, for the other passengers, being stuck in the fuselage of a jet aircraft (involuntarily) listening to a couple of philosophy enthusiasts talk about whatever it is that overthinkers talk about, had made an otherwise somewhat entertaining plane trip intolerable. UNFUN.

PHILOSOPHERS MAKE THINGS UNFUN.

Think about it: think of all the fun times you’ve ever had. Were there party hats? Yes. Mixed drinks? Probably. Strippers dressed as firemen? Undoubtedly. Was a philosopher involved? Absolutely not.

No fun time ever involves philosophers.

…except for maybe Diogenes.

In his 1748 treatise An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, the Scottish philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), wrote, “Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.” Hume understood the necessity of philosophy, but he also knew that there’s more to life than philosophy. Namely, Hume knew that life is to be enjoyed – to have fun.

In his last days, Hume told jokes, played cards, hung out with his friends.

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ANY GUY WHO WEARS A JACKET THIS FLASHY PROBABLY KNOWS HOW TO HAVE A FUN TIME

And that’s what brings me to this. This blog.

Serious philosophers take philosophy things way too seriously.

There’s nothing worse than telling a good philosophy joke to a philosophy pro and getting nothing but a blank stare because the mofo takes philosophy too seriously to see the humor.

 

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IS THIS THING ON?????

 

Some people study philosophy for the sake of understanding the theory. Some people get their jollies discussing theories.

This is not that kind of blog.

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I think a part of enjoying anything you love is to be willing to take a bit of the piss out of it.

So, what would a philosophy blog written by someone who avoids deep theoretical philosophical discussions… someone who thinks skimming is sometimes just as good as actually reading an actual book… someone who thinks the answer for any philosophical question can be found in an episode of Star Trek look like?

You’re looking at it.

This blog is my philosophical mission. I call it mindless philosophy.

I AM THE MINDLESS PHILOSOPHER.

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I am a philosopher; but, amidst all my philosophy, I am still a man.

I’ve said, from the moment I decided to start a blog, the first aim of The Mindless Philosopher is to have fun. I love philosophical discussions, but, truth be told, The Mindless Philosopher is not above name calling, writing pedantic blog posts of somewhat-deep philosophical analysis based on a misinterpretation, emotion-based arguments or the tried and true ad hominem attack.

 

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IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, “YOU’RE A FUCKING MORON!” ALWAYS WORKS

 

Yeah, I know it’s not PHILOSOPHY, but PHILOSOPHY isn’t entirely the point of my blog. I’m not a professional philosopher, I don’t have tenure and I’m not getting paid to do this. I’m just a schmo who got an undergrad degree in philosophy and decided to use it as an excuse to watch way too much tv.

And write a blog about it.

Listen:

You know what’s got a lot of philosophy in it?

TV shows got philosophy. So do movies.
And music
And books

And former reality tv show hosts who become president of the United States.

 

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CAN’T BE ANY WORSE THAN PRINCIPIA ETHICA

Sure, taking philosophy out of academia and applying it to your favorite tv show can be a daunting task. It’s messy. Theories sometimes don’t work, and sometimes you have to stretch a theory to fit.

Sometimes you discover that your brilliant philosophical analysis of the brave protagonist has been an exercise in how to misapply a philosophical theory.

In the end, I guess if I had to explain why I do this – why an amateur deep thinker (like me) would dare to venture into the world of philosophy − I truly think that anybody can be a philosopher. You don’t need to attend university or have a PhD to ponder life’s big questions. If we’re talking about the human condition, it makes sense to bring philosophy out of the academy and into the real world.

Because that’s where the people are.

 

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LOOK AT ALL THESE NOT-PHILOSOPHER PEOPLE WAITING TO LEARN PHILOSOPHY!

 

Thinking philosophically doesn’t require that anyone read the complete works of Bertrand Russell or understand the Hegelian dialectic. You don’t need to know who Slavoj Žižek is or that he’s called the Elvis of philosophy to do philosophy.

Anybody can do philosophy. Anybody should do philosophy.

You see, we can use philosophy to understand things.

 

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AT LEAST TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THE HELL THIS IS ALL ABOUT

 

If a philosophy degree is an interesting path to poverty, I might as well have some fun with it.

…and do a little bit of mindless philosophy along the way.