WILL THE REAL PHILOSOPHER PLEASE STAND UP?

WORLD PHILOSOPHY DAY was on November 16th.

UNESCO designated the third Thursday of every November to be a day the world celebrates the… well, I’ll just let UNESCO explain it −

By celebrating World Philosophy Day each year, on the third Thursday of November, UNESCO underlines the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought, for each culture and for each individual.

Did you know that?
Nah, me neither.
Who really pays attention to philosophy these days, anyway?
Really. Who?
Nobody does.
At least that’s what you’d think if you watch t.v

I can tell you, I watched television all day on November 16th, and there was not one mention of UNESCO World Philosophy Day 2017.

I can tell you what they did talk about on the t.v., though – Louis CK.
For those of you out there who have no clue who Louis CK is, he’s a comedian.

Louis CK has – had a t.v. show.

He had a couple, as a matter of fact.

The reason, if you don’t know, why Louis CK has been in the news has to do with this:

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That’s why Louis CK doesn’t have his t.v. show anymore.

I was − still am − a fan of Louis CK’s work. Show me any of Louis CK’s HBO stand-up specials, and I’ll laugh like I wasn’t aware that the jokes aren’t eerily too similar to the behavior Louis CK is accused of doing to women in real life.
Yeah, Louis CK is… problematic.

I watch a lot of comedy. Not just the highbrow stuff, either. I’ll laugh at the Three Stooges or an Adam Sandler flick like I don’t got no more than two functioning brain cells in my head.

 

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EXCEPT FOR “THAT’S MY BOY!” THAT MOVIE WAS BEYOND AWFUL

 

I initially became a fan of Louis CK, not just because his comedy is funny or because his comedy is smart and witty, but because despite the now-creepy comedy routine Louis CK’s jokes are philosophical.

That is, Louis CK’s jokes make you think – make you think.

The overwhelming presence of dick jokes in modern comedy might lead one to think that comedy can’t be philosophical, but comedy is no stranger to philosophy.

The ancient Greek philosophers Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics all wrote about comedy.

In Poetics Aristotle categorizes comedy as either farce, romantic comedy or satire. Aristotle says comedy, along with tragedy, epic poetry, and lyric poetry, make up the original four genres of literature.
In Plato’s Republic, Socrates criticizes laughter-inducing comedy, stating that laughter causes men to become irrational and to lose self-control. Laughter, according to Socrates, is to be avoided, because, says Socrates,

“for ordinarily when one abandons himself to violent laughter, his condition provokes a violent reaction.”

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote “Let not your laughter be loud, frequent, or unrestrained.”

The story goes that no one ever saw Epictetus laugh.

Nobody.

 

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MAYBE EPICETUS WATCHD “THAT’S MY BOY!”?

 

The Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote The Clouds, a satirical comedy about Athenian intellectuals and (specifically) the philosopher Socrates.

A scene from Aristophanes’ The Clouds:

DISCIPLE:
I wonder what then would you say, if you knew another of Socrates’ contrivances?
STREPSIADES:
What is it? Pray tell me.
DISCIPLE:
Chaerephon of the deme of Sphettia asked him whether he thought a gnat buzzed through its proboscis or through its anus.
STREPSIADES:
And what did he say about the gnat?
DISCIPLE:
He said that the gut of the gnat was narrow, and that, in passing through this tiny passage, the air is driven with force towards the breech; then after this slender channel, it encountered the rump, which was distended like a trumpet, and there it resounded sonorously.
STREPSIADES:
So the arse of a gnat is a trumpet. Oh! what a splendid arsevation! Thrice happy Socrates! It would not be difficult to succeed in a law-suit, knowing so much about a gnat’s guts!

That’s a joke about Socrates.

It’s supposed to be funny.

Hobbes, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Kant also wrote about comedy.

I’ll tell you nothing is less funny than reading Kant analyzing a joke.

“For if we admit that with all our thoughts is harmonically combined a movement in the organs of the body, we will easily comprehend how to this sudden transposition of the mind, now to one now to another standpoint in order to contemplate its object, may correspond an alternating tension and relaxation of the elastic portions of our intestines which communicates itself to the diaphragm (like that which ticklish people feel). In connection with this the lungs expel the air at rapidly succeeding intervals, and thus bring about a movement beneficial to health; which alone, and not what precedes it in the mind, is the proper cause of the gratification in a thought that at bottom represents nothing.”

Did that make you think of something funny?

And, as anyone will tell you, Ayn Rand is nothing short of pure comedy.

COMEDIC GOLD.

 

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THAT LOOK ON YOUR FACE WHEN YOU’RE HALFWAY THROUGH ATLAS SHRUGGED AND YOU REALIZE YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER HUNDRED PAGES OF THIS SHIT TO GO

 

Just as philosophers have tried their hands at comedy, comedians also dabble in philosophy.

Proving that comedy is more than just the standard fart and poop jokes, comedians have mined philosophical topics like existentialism, nihilism, and the absurd for comedic effect since mankind discovered that philosophy can be funny.

There really is nothing funnier than a good metaphysics joke.

 

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OK. IT’S PROBABLY NOT AS FUNNY WHEN YOU READ IT

 

Comedians use humor to observe and examine the human condition, something that philosophy is sorely lacking.

Wittgenstein was brilliant, but he wasn’t funny.

Philosophy is at the center of the plot of the modern comedy classic, Groundhog Day, and in the films of Wes Anderson and Woody Allen*. Many fans of philosophy enjoy the philosophy- drenched comedic genius of Monty Python (FYI: some of the troupe’s most popular sketches are based in philosophy). Television shows like Seinfeld and Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm often feature philosophical themes. In stand-up comedy, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Lewis Black, Louis CK, Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Mitch Hedberg, and Ricky Gervais (who actually studied philosophy) entertain audiences with jokes that not only make people laugh, but also make people think.

Prospect Magazine named Russell Brand the world’s fourth most influential thinker in 2015.
Yes. That Russell Brand.
Don’t laugh.
Well, unless he’s telling a joke.
Then you can laugh.

Bill Maher’s stand-up often includes philosophical observations on religion and politics.
Comedians like John Oliver and Jon Stewart fill the role of public intellectuals.

Folks like the Sartre used to do that.

 

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I MEAN, EXISTENTILISM IS KINDA FUNNY

 

This is the reason why Chris Rock says that comedians are the last philosophers.

If that’s true, then Louis CK is the Diogenes of comedy.

That would also make Ayn Rand the Carlos Mencia of philosophy.

 

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I’M NOT GOING TO MENTION THIS GUY’S NAME… I WON’T

 

The Greek philosopher Socrates caused a stir in ancient Athens. He challenged the social order and angered the people. Socrates was the gadfly. Comedians are the modern gadflies.
When Politically Incorrect host, Bill Maher, less than a week after the September 11, 2001 attack on the U.S., stated:

“We have been cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly…Staying I the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.”

Maher did not merely challenge the perception of the terrorists responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, Maher questioned the notion of courage.

Courage, if you didn’t know, is an Aristotelian virtue.

Bill Maher also lost his late night t.v. show for what he said.

The late comedian Lenny Bruce rattled the chains of 1960’s conventional American society. Bruce’s comedy involved frank and open jokes about politics, religion, and sex − and like Socrates, Lenny Bruce was no stranger to accusations of vulgarity. Bruce was eventually charged with, tried, and convicted of obscenity.

…which is kind of like Socrates being tried for corrupting the youth of Athens.

In the end, both Socrates and Lenny Bruce paid with their lives.

But this is the thing: If philosophy was restricted to observations of people and the human condition, what Chris Rock said would be true. Comedians observe, often keenly so, but there’s no ontology; no ethics. Carlin’s Brain Droppings has bits of wisdom but it’s no Nichomachean Ethics.

And really, comedians shouldn’t be the new philosophers. Philosophers should be the new philosophers.

Why look to comedians for wisdom when there are plenty of folks out there who are doing philosophy who actually studied philosophy?

Unless that comedian is Chris Hardwick. He has a philosophy degree.

From UCLA, no less.

 

Chris Hardwick - Talking Dead _ Season 5 - Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC

PHILOSOPHY DEGREE + STAND-UP COMEDY = SWEET “THE WALKING DEAD” AFTERSHOW GIG…RIGHT?…….RIGHT?

 

Slavoj Žižek, Noam Chomsky, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Daniel Dennett, Martha Nussbaum, Cornel West, Judith Butler, David Chalmers, Michael Sandel, Peter Singer, Christine Korsgaard, Alvin Plantinga, and Saul Kripke are just a few of the philosophers – living − right now − doing philosophy.

And it ain’t all navel gazing gobbeldygook, neither.

Sure, they may not be a funny as Louis CK…
…although it’s pretty hard not to laugh every time Žižek rubs his nose

And if you think philosophers are above sex scandals, forget it.

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But if you’re contemplating the meaning of life, you might want to check out what Schopenhauer had to say about it.

At least check it out before you watch the Monty Python flick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*There are many philosophical comedies – The films of the Coen brothers are good for philosophical movie watching. Heck, check out any Peter Sellers comedy.

 

 

 

SOURCES:
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristophanes/clouds.html
https://en.unesco.org/events/world-philosophy-day
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/humor/

 

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The Utilitarian Calculus Will Shut That Shit Down, NO EXCEPTIONS

WELL… IT’S FALL and if autumn means one thing, it means the return of my favorite hate to love/love to hate TV show, The Walking Dead.
I’ve been watching this show, basic cable television’s highest rated zombie-infused soap opera, since the first episode aired in October 2009.

It’s only now that I’m really beginning to question if I should have devoted so much time to this t.v. show.

Now, before you start going on about how if I don’t like the show, I should just stop watching, for starters, I’ve been telling myself that for the past three seasons. Second, I would stop watching The Walking Dead if they would stop putting so much philosophy in it.

It’s the worst best philosophical show on t.v.
Best because the show combines my two favorite things: philosophy and zombies.

Worst because of this guy

 

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UGH.

 

That’s right. I’m no fan of Negan.

The more I watch Negan, the more I kinda miss the Governor.

 

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GOTTA ADMIRE A GUY WHO CAN USE THE SIGHT OF HIS GUN WITH AN EYE THAT ISN’T THERE

 

Rick Grimes’ current nemesis , the mononymously named Negan, first appeared in the season six finale episode “Last Day On Earth”. Armed with his barbed wire-wrapped Louisville Slugger Lucile, Negan declares himself the ultimate badass, bludgeons not one, but two of Rick Grimes’ group (Abraham and Glenn), humiliates Rick in front of his people, and nearly forces Rick to cut off the arm of his son Carl.

Negan does all of this and he still becomes a fan favorite.

Seriously, just Google Negan cosplay.

Up until season eight Negan was just a deranged, leather coat wearing, inexplicably leaning back, monologuing, constant dick joke telling, bat wielding psychopath. But, in the season eight episode 5 episode “The Big Scary U”, The Walking Dead shows us is that Negan isn’t just a guy with a ridiculously wide, bright-toothed grin in a leather jacket who’ll bash your brains in, he’s actually got a philosophy.

Dare I say the man’s got ethics.

Being that this is The Walking Dead, one guess what system of ethics Negan uses.

You guessed it: Negan is a utilitarian.
The big scary U is utilitarianism.

 

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THAT U IS BIG… AND KINDA SCARY

 

Well, actually in the show it’s the unknown.

However, ethically speaking, the big scary u guiding damn-near every dumb decision ever made by any character on The Walking Dead seems grounded in the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number.

I say seems grounded.

Because most of the time they get it wrong.

 

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LOOK CLOSELY: RICK IS JUST CAME UP WITH ANOTHER DUMB IDEA

 

Well, before I get into how they get utilitarianism wrong on The Walking Dead, it’s probably a good idea to explain what utilitarianism is.

Utilitarianism, the consequentialist ethical theory which stats that an act is judged morally right or wrong depending on the consequences (of that action). Although consequentialist ethics have been around since humans have had ethics, the origin of utilitarianism s credited to the British philosopher Jeremy Bentham (1748 –1832).
Bentham’s consequentialist ethical theory (hedonism) is grounded on the principle of utility.
Bentham states:

By the principle of utility is meant that principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever according to the tendency it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question: or, what is the same thing in other words to promote or to oppose that happiness.

For Bentham, maximizing pleasure is the goal of any action. The maximization of pleasure is the highest good.

 

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HEDONISTIC PLEASURE: MAXIMIZED

Although Bentham is credited with inventing modern utilitarianism, the British economist and philosopher, John Stuart Mill (1806-1873) is the philosopher most associated with utilitarianism.

 

I guess if you don’t include Peter Singer.
Or Henry Sidgwick.

…or G.E. Moore.

Mill rejects Bentham’s hedonistic calculus (Mill states that pleasure alone cannot be the standard by which we judge the morality of an act). According to Mill, an act is morally right if the act maximizes the happiness of the community.

Mill defines happiness as well being.

The primary principle of Mill’s utilitarianism is the Greatest Happiness Principle.
And that, according to Mill, is:

The creed which accepts as the foundations of morals “utility” or the “greatest happiness principle” holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness; wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.

We’ve seen plenty of (sometimes opposing) ethical systems on The Walking Dead.

The deontological ethics of Dale Horvath.

Hershel Greene’s biblically based morality.

The egoist tendencies of the Governor.

The Hobbesian nightmare of Terminus.

Daryl Dixon’s ethics of loyalty.

The moral grab bag that is Rick Grimes…

 

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SERIOUSLY, WHERE ARE THIS GUY’S ETHICS?????

 

So, when you see a man beat a man to death with a baseball bat, one may be inclined to ask, “exactly how does he justify doing this?”

Luckily the fifth episode of season eight tells us exactly that.

Negan’s justification is Utilitarian.

 

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THERE’S SOMETHING NOT RIGHT ABOUT HAVING TEETH THAT BRIGHT THREE YEARS INTO A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

 

Negan explains to Father Gabriel that he hasn’t “killed anyone who didn’t need it”.
In an exchange with the recently deposed leader of the Hilltop (and all-around weaselly guy) Gregory

Apparently, no one has a last name in a zombie apocalypse.

Negan explains to Gregory that he is not guilty of committing brutal murder. On the contrary, Negan says, his seemingly evil actions are not only justified but necessary.
Their conversation goes like this:

Gregory: Listen, I mean it when I say it – Negan, I don’t like killing people any more than you do.
Negan: I like killing people… I say it’s about killing the right people. So you kill the right people at the right time, everything falls into place. Everybody’s happy. Well, some people more than others. But you kill one, then you can be saving hundreds more – and THAT is what we are all about. We save people.

The right people.
The right time.
Everybody’s happy.
We save people.
Saving hundreds.

Furthermore, when Father Gabriel suggests that Negan’s workers are being forced to work against their will, Negan tells Gabriel (or “Gabey”, as Negan calls him) that his worker class is “an economy”. Negan says no one is a slave no one goes hungry.
No one goes hungry.

 

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AN INEXHAUSTIBLE SUPPLY OF PICKLES: THE PERKS OF TURNING COAT AND SELLING OUT YOUR FRIENDS TO NEGAN

 

If we evaluate Negan’s explanations to Gregory and Father Gabriel, according to Mill’s Greatest Happiness Principle, a Sanctuary full of happy, safe people with full bellies make a damn good argument in favor of Negan’s justification for killing a few people.

Even if those people are Abraham and Glenn.
And Denise
And Olivia
And Spencer
And Benjamin
And Sasha…

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

The Walking Dead. “The Big Scary U”. Story by Scott M. Gimple, David Leslie Johnson & Angela Kang. Teleplay by David Leslie Johnson & Angela Kang. Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis. Original airdate: November 19, 2017.

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/utilitarianism-history/

MY PHILOSOPHICAL THANKFUL FOR LIST

Thanksgiving is this Thursday here in the States, and while I partake in the annual fest of overeating to the point of gluttony-induced sleepiness/self-loathing and pretending to like my relatives, I’ll remind myself that it’s also the time of the year when we look at our lives and think of the things we are grateful for.

Sometimes it’s difficult to make a grateful for list, particularly when there are so many things out there to complain about

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NOT GONNA SAY BERNIE WOULD HAVE WON…

…and especially when your fourth favorite philosopher is Schopenhauer.

 

The German philosophers are such a dour bunch, aren’t they?

As just an average Joe, I’m thankful for my health and my friends and family. I’m thankful that my brain is functioning properly (knock on wood) and that, at the present moment, I have little reason to believe that I am under the influence of an evil demon or a brain in a vat.

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I’m thankful that I added on a second major to study philosophy.
I give thanks that I was never assigned to read Heidegger.

Or Ayn Rand.

I’m thankful for Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and the Categorical Imperative.

Who knew that would come in handy?

I’m thankful that I don’t have to read another analytic philosopher…unless I want to.

I’m thankful that nearly every dumb decision Rick Grimes has ever made just goes to show how stupid utilitarianism really is.

 

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WATCH CLOSELY: RICK IS THINKING ABOUT DOING SOMETHING TOTALLY UTILITARIAN AND INCREDIBLY STUPID

I’m thankful for that stupid “you have to have a high IQ to understand Rick and Morty” meme.

 

 

IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MEME, NOW YOU HAVE. YOU’RE WELCOME.

 

I’m thankful for Rick and Morty. Monty Python, Star Trek, reality t.v., and The Walking Dead.
I’m thankful for Daryl Dixon.

Oh god, there I go. I admit it. I AM GRATEFUL FOR DARYL DIXON.
I’m thankful my professors made me read Leo Strauss and Plato.
I’m thankful for The Philosopher’s Toolkit.
I’m thankful for Wikipedia.

 

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EVERYONE MUST PURCHASE A COPY OF THE PHILOSOPHER’S TOOLKIT IMMEDIATELY

I give thanks for Rolling Rock Beer.
I’m thankful that Logical Positivism shows that even smart people can come up with bad ideas.
I’m thankful for self-publishing.
And blogs.

 

And Slavoj Žižek memes.

 

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PRETTY MUCH SPEAKS FOR ITSELF

 

As I shovel one last bite of turkey and stuffing into my Mr. Creosote-sized belly, I will give thanks for all the people who get Nietzsche so dreadfully wrong that their misadventures in nihilism will give me many years’ worth of material to write about.

I am grateful for all my cool philosophy classmates who became cool philosophical friends.

I’m grateful that people know we need philosophers, too.

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Lastly, I’m grateful for you. Yep. YOU. All of you folks out there reading this little, dumb blog of mine. I’m grateful for all of you who take time out of your day to read the musings of this self-proclaimed philosopher and pop culture enthusiast.

Thank you all from the bottom of my mindlessly philosophical heart.

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CHEERS!
TMP

ON BUNNIES, BAMBI, AND THE ETHICS OF NOT SAYING ANYTHING AT ALL

EVERYBODY’S GOT A story about the movie that traumatized you as a kid.
The movies The Neverending Story and The Dark Crystal are sure-fire picks for everybody’s short list.

The Secret of NIMH.

Coraline.

If you want to watch real cinema-induced trauma, watch the movie “The Adventures of Mark Twain”. The movie is rated G, but you’ll soon ask how a movie that disturbing was rated for general audiences.

Traumatic cinema isn’t a new thing. Filmmakers have been making nightmare fuel for tots for decades. By my estimate they’ve been at it since at least 1942.

That was the year Walt Disney Studios released Bambi.

Walt Disney’s Bambi, based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten, was Disney’s fifth animated film. The studio’s four previous films, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo, all have their fair share of scary moments.

Kids turning into jackasses, anyone?

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But Bambi tops all that. Bambi has the one thing that scares the living daylights out of children who are aware of human mortality:

The death of parent.

Somebody shoots Bambi’s mom.

 

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SERIOUSLY, WHAT KIND OF SICK S.O.B. PUTS SOMETHING LIKE THIS IN A KIDS MOVIE???

 

Luckily, that’s not what I’m going to talk about.

I’m going to write about a lighter topic: lies.

Or rather, about a particular kind of lie.

In the movie, Thumper, Bambi’s annoyingly adorable bunny friend, when his mother admonishes him for describing the Prince of the Forest’s walk as not “very good”, repeats his father’s bit of moral advice: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.

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Bad grammar aside, Thumper’s father’s ethic (also called the Thumperian principle, Thumper’s rule or Thumper’s law) sounds like the nice thing to do. But a philosopher’s gotta think: is not saying anything at all the morally right thing to do?

First off, Thumper is right. Bambi’s walk was wobbly.

Bambi, a newborn deer, had the typical gait of a newborn deer – not very good.

Thumper merely offered his honest opinion.

Honest.

Spilled the T, as the kids say these days.
…actually, now that I’m thinking about it, Thumper threw some serious shade.

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Honesty usually isn’t considered a bad thing.

We often say honesty is the best policy, and if we consider being honest the same as telling the truth, we should also value honesty as a stone on the path to wisdom.
Remember, philosophers are all about loving wisdom.

If we say honesty is the best policy, we say it knowing that the truth is often difficult to hear.

 

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YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY TALK ABOUT PEOPLE NOT LIKING THE TRUTH WITHOUT INCLUDING THIS… IT’S THE LAW

 

Although we say that the truth hurts; that we’re offering tough love or “constructive criticism”, we praise straight shooters, people who “tell it like it is” and “call it like they see it”.

Of course, we wouldn’t want people to tell the truth all the time. Even Plato recognized the usefulness and necessity of lies.

To the rulers of the state then, if to any, it belongs of right to use falsehood, to deceive either enemies or their own citizens, for the good of the state: and no one else may meddle with this privilege. − Plato

If I’ve learned anything from watching Jim Carrey movies, I’ve learned that not being able to lie can be just as bad as lying. Should we say that those jeans really do make our wife’s ass look fat? Should we tell our three-year-old that Sparky didn’t go to doggie heaven? Should we tell the truth even if the truth isn’t nice?
Is it better to think it and not say it?

Should we just omit the truth?

There is a line between being tactful and lying. We lie when we withhold the truth. But not telling the truth isn’t an outright lie − it’s not saying anything.

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But isn’t omission a lie?

What is lying by omission?

Lying by omission, otherwise known as exclusionary detailing, is lying by either omitting certain facts or by failing to correct a misconception

Let’s get back to the original Thumperian principle: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”. Thumper isn’t omitting facts or failing to correct a misconception. The matter at hand concerns Thumper’s opinion.

If Thumper followed his father’s admonition, he wouldn’t have lied by omission.

He wouldn’t have been rude, either.

That kinda was Thumper’s mom’s point, wasn’t it?

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Ok. Thumper isn’t a liar. But something’s still bugging me about what Thumper said. Or rather, something’ bugging me about abiding by the Thumperian principle. Sometimes we need to tell some of those not nice truths.

After all, we’re not just talking about not hurting someone’s feelings. In the long run, it doesn’t matter whether someone wears a pair of ill-fitting jeans. It’s not just a matter of bad manners.

We’re talking about philosophical integrity.

When we declare a principle like, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all” we’re declaring a philosophical position. We’re saying we believe being nice − being nice; being aware of the feelings of others and respecting others as we want to be respected − is a good thing.

And by good, we mean it’s the morally correct thing to do.

The Bible tells us it’s good to be nice to people. Mathew 7:12 says,

“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

Being nice isn’t just a very Christian thing to do, it’s the Kantian thing to do.
The German philosopher. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), created the Categorical Imperative as a means of establishing a basis of ethics (not based in religion or consequentialism) that would apply to all people, universally.

Kant’s Categorical Imperative states, “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law”

Yeah, it sounds a lot like the Golden Rule, but Kantians INSIST that it’s not the same thing.

Another Formula Kant’s Categorical Imperative, the Formulation of Ends, states: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”

In short, according to Kant and the Bible, we’re morally obligated to treat others with respect – an element of which is not lying to people.

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It’s important that we be nice to people, but it is also important that we tell people the truth.

That’s because the truth is illuminating.

Plato demonstrates the illuminating effect of the truth in the Allegory of the Cave.

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, from Book VII in The Republic, Socrates describes the story of a group of prisoners trapped inside a cave.

The prisoners are unable to leave the cave because they are chained to a wall and unable to face in any direction other than to face straight ahead. The only images the prisoners see are the shadows projected on the wall in front of them, illuminated by the light from a fire behind them.

The shadowy images on the wall are the only reality the prisoners know.

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The prisoners eventually escape the confines of the cave and are brought into the light of day.

Light of Day… good song, awful movie.

At first, the brilliant light of the sun pains their eyes and they are confused by what they see. The prisoners realized that the world inside the cave isn’t reality at all.

There’s a bit more to Plato’s allegory, however, misinterpreted to its most basic components, Plato’s tale of the chained prisoners demonstrates the effect of truth, and how the truth, even if initially hurts us, is essential for a good (i.e. philosophical) life.

So, what does all this have to say about Thumper?

Well, for starters, Thumper was rude. Additionally, he wasn’t really stating anything that wasn’t obvious to even the most unobservant forest dweller. Thumper’s unsolicited opinion based on his observation of the newborn fawn’s walk doesn’t seem controversial – primarily because it was an opinion.

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But − should we be concerned about the feelings of others? Should we hold opinions to a different standard than we hold the truth? Should we, as Maurice Switzer suggested, “remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it”?

Honestly, I really can’t say exactly what a philosopher should think about what Thumper said. Maybe, just for the sake of preventing meaningless (and all too often pedantic) philosophical arguments, we should follow Thumper’s dad’s advice.

Seriously, where was Thumper’s dad???

 

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I THINK I HAVE AN IDEA…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thumper_(Disney)

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Lying_by_omission

Oh, No. Not Again.

*TW: this post includes discussion of sexual assault

 

THERE’S A SCENE in the movie Spaceballs – it’s supposed to be a parody of the chestburster scene in the movie Alien – where the late John Hurt re-enacts the scene where his character, Kane shows us what happens when you get too close to something that looks like this

alien-egg-opened

This happens

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And then this happens

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Seriously no Bueno.

In Alien, Kane dies. In Spaceballs, Kane’s misfortune ends with a punchline.

Because Spaceballs is a comedy.

If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. That Dark Helmet is pretty funny.

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Gazing down at the newly born xenomorph emerging from his opened chest, John Hurt, as Kane, laments, “Oh no, not again.”

Cue rimshot.

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I’m kinda understanding how Kane felt right now.

Not because I have an alien neonate bursting from my chest.

It’s because I, too have recently said the phrase “oh no, not again”.

It wasn’t the punchline of a joke, though.

I said it because I, like Kane, was lamenting the repeat of something I’d been through before – discovering that yet another one of my faves is “problematic”.

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“Problematic” is an understatement.

One of my faves is accused of committing multiple acts of sexual assault. On minors.

Now, I’ve written about problematic favorites before. Thrice, in fact.

If you’re a fan of enough famous people, you’ll find that there’s a certain percentage of them that are, for lack of a better phrase, bad people. As a Beatles fan, I am aware of accusations of John Lennon’s violent behavior, including spousal abuse.
That’s…. problematic.

 

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YEAH… KINDA WHERE I AM RIGHT NOW

 

As a fan of philosophy, I know that philosophy is filled with sexists, anti-Semites, racists, even renowned University of California, Berkley philosophy professors accused of sexual assault.

…and I’m not even talking about old white guys who lived hundreds of years ago.

 

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I’M TALKING ABOUT YOU, JOHN SEARLE

 

Alright, I know that no human is perfect, even myself. Many of us has done something that, if we ran what we did through an ethical evaluation machine, our acts would label us “problematic”.

I’m not expecting moral perfection.

For me, being a philosopher isn’t about being perfect (No philosopher is. Not even Hegel).

Luckily studying and enjoying philosophy doesn’t require that.

I know that no person is perfect. And I know that brilliant people; people who do wonderful things, create amazing art, or develop the perfect ontology, can do the most heinous moral wrongs.

Schopenhauer pushed a woman down a flight of stairs.

 

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IF I HAD TO TAKE A GUESS AND NAME A PHILOSOPHER WHO LOOKS MOST LIKELY TO THROW A WOMAN DOWN A FLIGHT OF STAIRS, I’D CHOOSE SCHOPENHAUER

 

Intellectually I realize (rationalize?) that it’s possible to separate a creator from their creation; that, despite what I know about John Lennon, Roman Polanski, or Colin McGinn, it’s possible to enjoy and appreciate what they have contributed to our culture and public discourse.

Heidegger was a Nazi, but I can’t deny his influence on the way we think.

As much as I am sometimes reluctant to admit that I can push aside what I know about the private acts of my favorite famous people, I ask if I should push the acts aside. I can’t but feel that there’s something wrong with saying John Lennon was a horrible person, but his horribleness doesn’t matter (or at least matters less) because he made some really good music.

That just doesn’t sound right.

 

I still feel that people should be held morally accountable for what they do. Even if they’re brilliant filmmakers, actors, musicians or philosophers.

As a philosopher, I fear a slide into a moral relativism based on the principle of “whatever you do is ok so long as I like what you do”.

That’s not good at all.

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So, I ask again, what do I do?

What is the appropriate way to deal with problematic faves? Is it morally wrong to continue to enjoy the music of John Lennon or the films of Roman Polanski or Kevin Spacey, even if they’ve committed morally objectionable acts?

Are people inseparable from what they do? Are we obligated to turn our back on them? Should we throw away their albums? Burn their books? Boycott their films?

As I write about this subject for the third time, my answer is I still don’t know.

But I have the feeling that before I figure it out, I’ll be saying “Oh, no. Not again”.

THE REQUEST LINES ARE OPEN

WHEN YOU WRITE ABOUT something long enough you realize that there’s always something to write about, and that you will never have enough time to write about all the things that are rattling around inside your mind.

After a while you inevitably accumulate an “I was gonna write about that” list.

And that list turns in to things started and stopped, deleted and rewritten.

The next book you’re “working on”

That blog post you’ve been plugging away at for days…weeks… months….

years.

Another thing you realize when your write about stuff is that there’s a lot of stuff that other people want you to write about, too.

That becomes your “Things I might write about” list.

Might usually means never.

Unless, of course, you take requests.

Which is something I haven’t done.

I might.

You see, unlike other people who identify their vocation as “writer”; those people who deal in original thoughts, my writing necessarily depends on the work of others. I write about pop culture. Movies, t.v. shows, books, music, politics, current events – it’s all there for the writing.
All of it.

…and that’s part of the problem.

I don’t keep up with the Kardashians

I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones

Or Stranger Things

 

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I HAVE NO IDEA WHO THIS KID IS, SO DON’T EVEN ASK ME TO WRITE ABOUT IT

 

I hear The Good Place is good, but I still haven’t seen it

I haven’t seen the last Thor flick

Or listened to Taylor Swift’s latest album

I don’t regret that last one, though.

Hey, haters gonna hate.

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Although I think I’ve watched enough The Walking Dead to write a treatise on Rick Grimes thick enough to make Kant envious*.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, there are only so many hours that a person, even a pop culture junkie like myself, can devote to watching movies and t.v. shows, listening to music, and reading books.

Especially when you’re devoted to watching, reading, listening to, and thinking about things philosophically.

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I’m so busy over-analyzing episodes of Star Trek, Breaking Bad, Rick and Morty, watching Fight Club for the one-hundred seventh time, purposefully avoiding Star Trek: Discovery, and digging into the hidden meaning in Beatles songs to deep enough give Charles Manson a run for his money, that everything else gets placed on the perpetual backburner of things I might write about.

Might.

Then there’s that real-world stuff I’m supposed to be doing – school, work, having anything resembling an actual social life…

In the end, figuring out the philosophical subtext of things takes bit out of you.

Even if you’re two seasons behind on American Horror Story.

I’m two seasons behind…

 

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THIS MAY HAVE THE APPERANCE OF NOT HAVING AN ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE, BUT REST ASSURED, THERE IS SERIOUS, DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL RESEARCH GOING ON

 

Now, I guess if I was (or is it were? I dunno. I’m a philosopher, not a grammar person) inclined to be a butthole about things I’d say to every person who said, “you should write about this” should write about that themselves.

But that would be, as Birdperson said, “a dick move”.

Besides, as a watcher of popular media who has done enough complaining about things to have heard my fill of fandom’s variation of the No True Scotsman Fallacy, the No True Fan, I’m not that much of an asshole to off-handedly dismiss a request or suggestion by declaring that someone simply “write it yourself”.

An amazing feat, considering I’m also a fan of Schopenhauer.

All said and done, I appreciate requests. Namely, a request means that someone is reading my blog.

but also, a request means that there’s at least one someone else out there who likes thinking of things philosophically.

And that can’t be all that bad a thing.

So, I guess it’s not such an awful thing to be the Wolfman Jack of philosophy.

I guess the request lines are now open.

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So! Tell me what thing written about philosophically that you want to read about and I might write about it.

 

Might.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*I’m trying like hell to do just that: I’ve written at least ten (I don’t know, maybe more, maybe less) posts about The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, specific characters from both series, and zombies in general. I don’t exactly know what all this writing about the show is going to do for me, other than to say that I have absolutely nothing going on in my life on Sunday nights.

THE HALLOWEEN POST (Something, something, something, clever philosophical play-on-words)

I’VE FINALLY REACHED that point when I’m willing to admit that I am, indeed, too old to go trick-or-treating.

I’m also at the age when the thought of binge eating a bag full of candy brings on images of managing my blood sugar rather than the thought of a fun size Snickers™ induced sugar rush.

I’m also know enough to know that a sugar high is not a real thing.

Not just me saying this: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2014/feb/25/do-children-really-get-sugar-rush-hyperactivity

October is nearly over, and I not only wanted to write something for the month of October, but I also I wanted to write something about Halloween.

And since I’ve been doing so much thinking about things, I wanted to think about Halloween philosophically.

Obviously, that’s where I ran into a bit of a problem.

First off, without a shred of embarrassment, I’m gonna say it right now, Halloween is my favorite holiday.

More than Christmas. More than Valentine’s Day or the Fourth of July, my favorite day of the year is the lone day when assuming a different identity and panhandling is not only accepted but encouraged.

 

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ENJOY IT NOW, KIDS. THIS IS THE ONLY TIME IN YOUR LIFE YOU WILL BE REWARDED FOR BEGGING DOOR TO DOOR

 

I enjoy dressing up in costumes.

I enjoy scaring small children.

I enjoy eating candy.

Diabetic coma be damned.

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MY PANCEREAS HURTS

Now, there’s a field of philosophy that deals with fear − the philosophy of fear. But that has to do with stuff like the social contract and Hobbes – state of nature kind of stuff.
And there’s a philosophy of horror. But that has to do with how we emotionally respond to something that we know isn’t real, like a horror movie.

 

Philosophers call that “irrational” response is called the paradox of fiction.

Sooo… do philosophers have anything to say about Halloween?

I mean, come on. Philosophers write about everything!

EVERYTHING.

However, if my brief Google search of the words “philosophy” and “Halloween” is any indication of what philosophers think about All Hallows Eve, I find, not a brief Kantian treatise on the proper sexy fireman costume, but to line of skin care products.

 

You can imagine my disappointment.

 

Well…there are plenty of books, movies, and t.v. shows that are (either) Halloween themed or popular this time of year that have philosophical under or overtones.

Frankenstein.
The Saw flicks.
The zombie films of George A. Romero.

Heck, I’ve even written about zombies…

 

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NOPE. WE’RE NOT DONE WRITING ABOUT DARYL DIXON YET

Feminist philosophers talk about sexism in Halloween costumes.

 

*NOT PICTURED: SEXY SOCRATES HALLOWEEN COSTUME

And some philosophy-lovin’ folks out there have put together some pretty snazzy philosophy-themed, not sexist Halloween costumes.

 

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IT TAKES A CLEVER GAL OR FELLOW TO WORK UP A PHILOSOPHY COSTUME THAT WORKS ON TWO LEVELS

 

But when I looked for quotes from the go-to, everybody-knows-their-names philosophers (Kant, Nietzsche, Hegel, you know the names) about Halloween itself, sadly I couldn’t find anything.

Although I found this one quote.

Baudrillard said this about Halloween:

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That’s… harsh.

So, my fellow philosophy-loving friends, have you found anything written by philosophers about Halloween?

If you have, let us know in the comments.

 

Oh, we forgot to say, Happy Halloween, everybody!

 

 

For further reading on The Paradox of Fiction: http://www.iep.utm.edu/fict-par/