I’ve Been Thinking A Lot About John Lennon Lately… and Too Much About Death

I’M PRETTY QUICK to admit that John Lennon is not my favorite member of The Beatles. He’s not even my second favorite (Ringo) or even the The Beatle I say when I’m feeling particularly assholish.

That’s Pete Best, by the way.

If you’re wondering, it’s George. George Harrison is my favorite Beatle.

LOOK AT THIS BRO. HOW CAN HE NOT BE YOUR FAVORITE BEATLE?

Honestly, John Lennon isn’t even in my top 5.

And there were four The Beatles.

But, given that I, at one time, existed at the same time as John Lennon, and I am a The Beatles fan, I do think, from time to time, the perennial Beatles fan what if — what if John Lennon hadn’t been murdered on December 8, 1980?

That kind of question is called a hypothetical. You know who LOVES hypothetical questions — philosophers.

Philosophers call their hypothetical questions thought experiments.

A WELL-KNOWN PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENT, THE TROLLEY PROBLEM

Like a lot of people, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to think about hypothetical situations. Since I (and everybody else) wasn’t going anywhere, I had to imagine situations and places i would go — if I could go out. You kinda have to when you can’t leave your house.

If I’d say there’s a silver lining to any of this, life during lockdown has been a godsend for my imagination.

Wait a minute. Who am I kidding? Covid-19 hasn’t changed a damn thing about my social life. I never go outside. And I’ve always avoided people.

Although Covid hasn’t altered my Schopenhauerian tendencies, it has affected me in one significant way.. Namely, life during quarantine has me thinking a lot more about death.

The past year has put me in a thinking about death kind of mood.

Covid has also got me digging through my old record collection. I’ve been listening to The Beatles quite a bit; John Lennon in particular.

My not-favorite Beatle.

Listening to “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, and thinking how “Run For Your Life” is possibly the most red flaggy song of all time (Jesus, how did they not see that song was problematic?), my mind, unoccupied with actual thoughts generated by actual socializing, naturally drifted to the question,

what if John Lennon wasn’t murdered?

Never said I wasn’t a morbid bastard.

As I’m a philosopher. I tell myself A) I can’t just toss out some simple, over-asked hypothetical question, and B) That’s a genuine THOUGHT EXPERIMENT.

So naturally I had to dig a little deeper.

And then the question hit me: WHY was I asking what if John Lennon hadn’t died in 1980? My (first) answer was this: the reason why I (and every other The Beatles fan) asks “what if?” is because we believe John Lennon shouldn’t have died in 1980.

John Lennon’s death was, for lack of a better word, bad.

And if you’re gonna say death is bad and not also say the name Thomas Nagel, I’d suspect you weren’t a real philosopher.

Yep. I’m going Nagelian on this one.

John Lennon’s death (he was only 40) deprived him of what could have (and arguably what should have) been.

There would be albums of songs that would never be recorded. Lennon would never again have the opportunity to perform live. Fans would never see a full The Beatles reunion. With his death, Lennon’s sons were deprived of their father; Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, deprived of her husband. More importantly, John Lennon himself was deprived of the ability to engage in a long, active, (hopefully fufilling) life.

Any person’s death, not just John Lennon, is bad because death, as Nagel writes,”is an evil because it brings to an end all the goods that life contains”.

MAYBE IF JOHN LENNON WASN’T MURDERED HE WOULD HAVE STOPPED PAUL McCARTNEY FROM RECORDING “SAY SAY SAY”. NOT HATIN’, BUT THAT SONG IS WORSE THAN “EBONY AND IVORY

Now, if I actually left my apartment and had any kind of a social life, I’d end things right there, satisfied with my slightly Nagelian thoughts on a decades-dead rock legend.

But I’m a lover of wisdom. We’re never satisfied.

Not when it comes to a damned thought experiment, anyway.

So I kept thinking.

So…

The German not-actually-nihilist-but-existentialist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, famously thought up a little mind blower of his own: Eternal Recurrence.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883), Nietzsche introduces the thought experiment. He writes:

“What if a demon crept after thee into thy loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to thee: “This life, as thou livest it at present, and hast lived it, thou must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to thee again, and all in the same series and sequence—and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself.”

The underlying question the demon is asking is a question of the quality of life. If you say yes to the demon’s proposal to repeat your life forever, you’ve probably lived a good life. However, if your answer is no, you better go do something with your life. It sucks.

Ok, we got some Nagel. We got a little Nietzsche — but what does this have to do with John Lennon?

I’m getting to that.

Alright. Let’s imagine some scientist (or demon. Wait — is there a difference?) invents a machine that can transport us back in time to Liverpool in 1962, right before The Beatles made it big in England. After some sight-seeing, the science-demon stakes out a spot to meet a pre-fame John Lennon.

The science-demon meets John, and because it’s a science-demon, it’s able to talk to John for a few minutes, long enough to, in a most serious philosophical tone, offer a proposal: what if I told you you will be in the most influential rock & roll band in music history, be more famous than you can possibly imagine, become fabulously wealthy, and more popular than Jesus, BUT 18 years from now you’ll be murdered by someone who wants to kill you precisely because you’re rich, famous, and more popular than Jesus?

It tells young John Lennon if he agrees to be a famous star of the screen, he absolutely will be murdered in 1980 — there’s nothing he can do to prevent it. Of course, if John, not wanting to die young, gives up a career in music, he’ll (likely) live a longer, but perfectly ordinary, life.

The question that John Lennon has to ponder is which life is the better life — that is, which life is worth repeating for an eternity?

Would John Lennon choose the presumably good life — the life of a rich and famous (and rich) rock star, doomed to die at 40

THEY DON’T CALL IT THE GOOD LIFE FOR NOTHING

Or, would he have chosen an ordinary, not-rich and famous (presumably longer) life?

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A WHAT IF JOHN LENNON WASN’T FAMOUS FLICK, CHECK OUT SNODGRASS (2013)

That’s the question Nietzsche says we (all) must ask about our own lives.

Would you go back, Jack and do it again?

Of course we’ll never know what Lennon’s answer would be, but I have the feeling whatever he chose I’d still end up hearing “Say Say Say”.

Seriously, I like Paul McCartney. I like Michael Jackson. But that song sucks.

SOURCES:

Thomas Nagel. Mortal Questions. New York: Cambridge U. Press. 1979.

THE ETHICS OF DEAD PIGEONS

THERE ARE FEW things, I imagine, as positively dumb as a 24-hour Facebook ban.

I mean, you can pretty much get slapped with a can’t post, can’t comment for just about any stupid thing, and it’s not like I posted bare ass or unclothed man peen.

I actually did that. I posted a link with a barely visible thumbnail pic of John Lennon’s naked weenie.

Wait. I mean the thumbnail pic itself was barely visible, not…his… uh…

By the way, I wrote about that 24-hour ban, too.

I thought (mistakenly) that I was being careful about what I was posting and commenting, but as one’s best laid plans don’t always get you laid like you planned, I found myself once again violating Facebook’s confusion-inducing COMMUNITY STANDARDS.

Seriously, does anyone really know what TF Facebook’s “community standards” are?

IT’S NEVER FUN WHEN YOU SEE ONE OF THESE IN YOUR NOTIFICATIONS

And, like I said in a previous post, Facebook’s community standards are a well-intentioned, but misguided attempt at moral policing.

I KNOW THIS COMMENT LOOKS BAD, BUT THERE’S A LITTLE MORE TO THE STORY

I mean, certainly Facebook’s intentions are good. Suggesting that we kill people and leave the corpses for others to see is a problematic statement. It’s reasonable to think that a social media site that ignores a comment like that would be failing in its moral duty to its users.

…assuming we think a social networking site has any moral obligations to its users.

But here’s the thing. J wasn’t talking about harming people. I was talking about birds.

I wanted to kill

dirty.

disgusting.

nasty.

birds.

Pigeons, specifically.

Parrots and parakeets are fine, but pigeons can straight-up go F themselves.

This is the meme I violated community standards commenting on:

You see — dear God, I can’t believe I’m saying this — sometimes morality isn’t so cut and dry. Sometimes morality needs a little bit of context.

Now, for the record, I’m a fan of deontology. This guy’s deontological ethics, to be exact.

IMMANUEL KANT (1724-1804)

And, because I’m an ethical kantian, I’m not concerned with the consequences of our actions. What matters to me when evaluating an act is the motivation behind an act.

For Kant, the proper ethical motivation is not consequences — we act from duty.

BY THE WAY, HAVE YOU SEEN THE MAN IN THIS PORTRAIT IDENTIFIED AS IMMANUEL KANT? WELL, IT’S NOT. IT’S ACTUALLY FRIEDRICH HEINRICH JACOBI. IT’S EASY TO SEE WHY JACOBI’S PORTRAIT IS PREFERABLE TO KANT.

This is why, according to Kant, we must tell the ax murderer the location of his hiding intended victim. Our ethical duty (or obligation) is to not lie…

Ok, I’m gonna interrupt my post right here to say that Kant explains why we are more morally obligated to not lie to the ax murderer than to not facilitate a murder (and other imperatives)in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. If you haven’t already read it I suggest thumbing through it at least once.

And here’s where I think the problem is.

Facebook seems to be guided by a utilitarian ethical principle. That is, they feel that it is their moral obligation to provide a safe space for social interaction for the greatest number of people. Providing that safe space can, from time to time, result in a bit of over-policing and the occasional (and unnecessary) 24-hour bans. However, as long as the company’s intention is to produce the greatest good for the greatest number, they can provide at least some justification for an hyper-reactive algorithm. My comment simply pinged the algorithm.

My comment, regardless of the intended target, was a threat, and threats pose a danger to he greater Facebook community.

Now, I know that being a utilitarian isn’t only about meaning well; you’ve got to produce results. Utilitarianism is all about consequences. Facebook wants to create a safe space for social interaction (for the greatest number of people), but are they?

I honesty have no idea if they are or not.

According to utilitarianism, we are obligated to consider the effect of (consequences) of our actions on, well, pretty much everybody. “Everybody” may or may not include non-human animals, like pigeons. If “everybody” extends to non-human animals, my kill ’em and let God sort ’em out-inspred comment may have violated Facebook’s community standards and the 24-hour ban was justified. However, as an ethical kantian, I’m not required to extend my moral obligations to animals lacking the capacity for autonomous decision making and rational thought.

Therefore, a mere threat against pigeons is neither a moral outrage nor is it worthy of a 24-hour ban.

After all, I didn’t threaten a person.

DAMN, I HATE THESE THINGS

Although… I’m not sure leaving the corpses to warn other pigeons is morally kantian, either.

Well… in the end did I deserve a 24-hour Facebook ban? I dunno. Probably. I did make a threat, and even though it was directed at a bunch of lousy pigeons in a meme, I — ugh — violated community standards.

If there’s any lesson to be learned from all of this, it’s that, as a member of a community, I have moral obligations to others, including (and perhaps most importantly) to help nurture an environment where participants feel (yes, feel) safe. And really, I shouldn’t be calling for the mass slaughter of pigeons, anyway.

What I should be worried about is Facebook finally catching all that German poop porn that I posted nine years ago.

That stuff is gonna get me permanently banned.

I Don’t Care What You Do, Just Wash Your Hands When You’re Done

THE INTERNET REALLY likes Diogenes.

I mean, it really likes Diogenes.

If you’re a fan of philosophy memes, you know the internet of online philosophy is all about Diogenes.

and Hegel.

Unfortunately Hegel,

Diogenes is one of the holy triumvirate of memed philosophers, which also includes (the aforementioned) Georg Hegel, and inexplicably, Max Stirner. I guess, if I think about it, it kinda makes sense. Diogenes is an ancient philosopher made for these modern times.

IF YOU.VE BEEN ON THE INTERNET, YOU’SEEN THIS DUDE, MAX STIRNER. HE’S EVERYWHERE… JUST LIKE THAT STUSSY THING

The funny thing about Diogenes is, although Diogenes has internet popularity, I can’t find anyone who actually is familiar with his philosophy.

Kind of like Ayn Rand.

I absolutely believe that nobody has ever read Ayn Rand.

BY THE WAY, THAT STUSSY THING IS THIS. JUST IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING…

Seriously tho, does anyone know Diogenes was a cynic? Doubtful. Can anyone actually quote Diogenes? Probably not. But I’d bet soup to nuts I know why Diogenes is so popular.

Diogenes masturbated… in public.

DIOGENES BASICALLY WAS THIS GUY

I think he also peed on things. And pooped when people were looking, too.

Worse than that, Diogenes was a shabby dresser.

AN ANCIENT GREEK CITIZEN REACTING TO DIOGENES’ SHABBY ENSEMBLE (COLORIZED)

So, ok. Sure, the internet loves Diogenes and his public masturbatory habits, but besides that, what does anybody really know about Diogenes?

I mean, does anyone know Diogenes’ last name was Johnson?

I’m kidding about that. It was Gillooly, It really was.

LISTEN: I know that dressed like shit, and jerked off in public, and said, “In a rich man’s house, there’s nowhere to spit but his face”, but i’ll admit in all the years that I’ve read and written about philosophy, I’ve never actually read any of Diogenes’ philosophy.

What did he write? Did he write anything? I dunno.

Well, since I’m confessing, I haven’t read any Stirner either.

The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.

But, as a lover of wisdom, I seek knowledge. And because I’m only an occasional douchebag, I’ll share what wikipedia told me about Diogenes of Sinope:

HERE’S DIOGENES IN HIS BARREL. YOU CAN’T SEE HIS OTHER HAND BECAUSE HE’S PROBABLY MASTURBATING WITH IT

Alright. After Wikipediaing {don’t care if that’s a word or not} Diogenes, this is what I now know:

*Diogenes was born in modern-day Turkey

*He was a founder of Cynicism

*Diogenes’ slovenly lifestyle was a form of criticism of a corrupt society

*His behavior was described as “dog-like”

STATUE OF DIOGENES (AND DOG) IN SINOP, TURKEY

*He was sold into slavery

*Diogenes may or may not have died from holding his breath or an infected dog bite

I wish that last one was made up.

It’s not tho.

Of course, this is nowhere near a comprehensive study into Diogenes and his philosophy, and I could throw in a Diogenes quote or two — but Im not going to. I don’t think It would help my mission much. After a slightly more than cursory glance at Diogenes of Sinope, I still can’t say exactly why he’s so popular, other than the fact that, with his criticism of society, unconventional public behavior, and full podcaster beard, Diogenes definitely has Gen Z appeal.

TYPICAL PODCASTER WITH DIOGENES-ESQUE BEARD AND GEN Z APPEAL

So, is that it? People like Diogenes because he’s like us (like us, if you’re a dog-loving, public-peeing, spittin’-in-Jeff-Bezos’-face cynic Greek philosopher}. We can relate to a guy who, even though he’s kinda gross, we can imagine is the that dude that we all know — the guy who took a shit behind the 7-11 and wore a TRE45ON t-shirt for four years straight — because he simply does not give a fuck.

But it’s probably because of the masturbation thing.

THE ONE WHERE I WRITE ABOUT DEATH

I DON’T THINK I’m that old. I mean, I know I’m not young, but I’m not old either.

I’m young enough to know who BTS is, but old enough to write a blog post about Paul McCartney.

I did, by the way. Write a blog post. About Paul McCartney. Check it out.

I think it’s pretty good.

Anyway…

I’ve got enough years on me that I’ve lived through the deaths of a few of my idols. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when I heard Kurt Cobain died.

Ok. Wow. That dates me.

I heard the news while listening to the Rush Limbaugh Show. Yeah, I know. I was young. I did a lot of dumb shit when I was a kid.

Anyway…

Although I’ve lived through the deaths of some favorite celebrities and a few people I actually know, I’ve been kinda Stoic on the subject of death: I know it happens. I know it’s eventually going to happen to me. And I know there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

So why get upset about it, right?

I’ve been mostly chill about our collective shrugging off of this mortal coil and joining thd choir invisible, but every once in awhile one just kinda gets to me.

Ok, at this point, I’m gonna need to do a bit of exposition. And please excuse any inappropriate levity. Making light of serious stuff is a coping mechanism.

Ok…

So, politically speaking, I tend to lean to the Left (I do philosophy and I’m a Leftie — BIG SHOCK). As a Left-leaning, philosophically-inclined person, I’m (somewhat unsurprizingly) a fan of Majority Report. And, like many fans of the show, I was listening to Sam Seder and company during that show —

You know, I usually can wave off death with a shrug, but Michael Brooks’ death got to me. It’s been almost a year since and it’s still kinda weird watching the show and reminding myself that the reason why there’s no Right-wing Mandela or Nation of Islam Obama is because Michael is… dead.

As a philosopher, I’m bothered that it still bothers me.

Socrates said (in Phaedo) that philosophy is a “training for death”. You see, according to Socrates, the soul is immortal. We must train ourselves to separate the immortal soul from the corporeal body.

Wait. Corporeal body may be redundant. Sorry.

See, our bodies, according to Socrates, are driven by carnal (i.e. lower)desires. The soul’s purpose, on the other hand, is higher. That is, our souls’ purpose is to release the corrupted physical body and join the realm of Truth (Forms and all that jazz). Philosophy, Socrates says, trains us how to free our soul from our bodies. Socrates says:

Ordinary people seem not to realize that those who really apply themselves in the right way to philosophy are directly and of their own accord preparing themselves for dying and death. If this is true, and they have actually been looking forward to death all their lives, it would of course be absurd to be troubled when the thing comes for which they have so long been preparing and looking forward. (Phaedo, 63e)

So… if we’re living our lives Socratically, we should not fear or be bothered by the inevitability of our own demise. The philosophically-oriented should want to get rid of our imperfect material meat suits.

Hey, not endorsing suicide here. Just paraphrasing Socrates… who committed suicide.

Although Socrates is the father of Western Philosophy, he’s not the only (or even definitive) philosophical opinion on death.

LISTEN: Not every philosopher thinks death is a good thing.

Thomas Nagel (b. 1937) states that death, no matter the circumstances, is always an evil. Death, according to Nagel, is an evil because dying permanently deprives us of our ability to participate in activities of life.

You can’t enjoy a yummy plate of nachos supreme if you’re dead.

IF THERE’S A HEAVEN, THERE BETTER BE NACHOS

And that’s a bad thing.

Even if your life sucks, Nagel argues, it’s better to live than to die.

Ok. Nagel goes much deeper into asking what harm is death in his book Mortal Questions. You can read the section “Death” here: http://dbanach.com/death.htm

Death is bad because death is deprivation.

As Socratically as I’ve attempted to live my life, I hate the fact that my cat is going to die. I dread the inevitable deprivation of her companionship.

Epicurus believed that death doesn’t harm the person who dies because death is merely a return to a state on non-existence. You can’t experience anything, harmful or good, if you’d don’t exist.

Just throwing that out there…

Now, as a lover of wisdom, I had accepted the inevitability of death. I’m not gonna say I’m eager to be rid of my flesh prison, but I’m not not comfortable with death — both mine and the people I know. However, I’m still bothered that certain people have died (and will die).

It’s still weird listening to Majority Report. Something is missing. Something I know will never come back.

I realize my thoughts on death may be more Nagelian than Socratic.

I don’t know what I’m going to do about that.

The Post Where I Say I’m Grateful About Stuff.

IT’S BEEN AWHILE, I haven’t written anything since March. Anything. ANYTHING,

It’s not that I didn’t want to write. At least for awhile I wanted to. I did. I had all sorts of keen philosophical ideas in my head to write about. But things,,, happened.

I’m not going to say because you all know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I wanted to write and I didn’t. And then I waited and forgot that brilliant dissertation on Hegel I was going to write.

Sorry folks.

But, as my mama never told me, there’s a silver lining to everything, and forgetting about everything I was going to write about — even my brilliant dissertation on Hegel — can be a good thing.

That Hegel dissertation was gonna be brilliant. Brilliant.

But, since wonderful things can come from complete chaos, a lack of productivity has allowed me to think of the things I’m grateful for.

Which works out pretty swell considering today is Thanksgiving Day.

And they say there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

So… because today is a day to be grateful. And because philosophers like listing things

ok, i don’t know if that’s true, but it seems like something that should be true

Here’s my philosophical things I’m grateful for list:

  • I’m grateful 2020 is almost over.
  • I’m grateful there are folks out there who, despite an overwhelming collective case of The Dumb, are still lovers of wisdom.
  • I’m grateful philosophy is still a thing.
  • I’m grateful I decided (ok, I was persuaded) to add a philosophy major.
  • I’m grateful for Facebook. Yes, There, I said it. I’m grateful for Facebook. And I’m grateful for every one of my likes and followers. I;m a so-so philosopher, and I may never answer that message you sent me, but I appreciate that, of all the philosophy pages on Facebook, you’ve come to mine…. and I promise that I will attempt to try to avoid going cringe.
  • I’m grateful for JSTOR. And the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • I’m grateful for Hegel memes.
  • I’m grateful for The Good Place and the new Star Trek and for all those Netflix shows that got people asking, “what does all of this really mean?”
  • Lastly, if you’re reading this, my silly “philosophy” blog post, however you are reading it, thank you. I’m grateful to you most of all.

A Very Merry Un-birthday To Me

TODAY IS my birthday.

Not gonna say how old I am.

I’m just gonna say I’m another year older.

Another year wiser, presumably.

Presumably.

Another year I understand a little more why Schopenhauer was so damn grumpy.

Well…as another year has passed, I, as I do every year, take a philosophical assessment of my life

I actually do this every year. I’m not lying. 

You know… I may have gained or lost weight between birthdays  (it’s almost always gained). I may be richer or poorer (it’s almost always poorer), but every birthday reminds me to think about the things that are more important than my waistline or bank account.

What am I doing to live the best life philosophically?

I have to say that the answer this year is “not much”.

It’s been kinda a rough year.

Hasn’t it been for everybody?

And yet, here I am. Another birthday. Another year closer to the inevitable.

Sorry I’m being so melancholy. Birthdays get me like that.

You know what’s kinda funny? Every birthday I reflect on my life (philosophically) yet I can’t think of one philosopher who ever said anything about birthdays. I mean, a birthday might be significant philosophically, but are birthdays philosophically significant?

What a philosopher say is the philosophical way to celebrate your birthday?

Would Plato throw a surprise birthday for Aristotle? 

Would Descartes throw back a few birthday shots?

Would Hegel tell a stripper it’s his birthday for a free birthday lap dance? 

Would chowing down on that second piece of birthday cake involve choosing between being a dissatisfied Socrates or a satisfied pig? 

Do philosophers have anything to say about any of this?

I pretty sure Kant had something to say about birthdays.

That guy had something to say about everything.

Anyway… Does it really matter what philosophers have to say about birthdays? I can’t imagine any would have any tips for making a birthday more fun.

They’d all have ways to make your birthday philosophically fun.

And philosophically fun isn’t much fun at all.

I suspect Diogenes would really know how to celebrate a birthday, tho.

I imagine a birthday night out with Diogenes would require stashing away bail money…. because of that public masturbation thing.

Well, folks…

If today’s your birthday, Happy Birthday! You made it through another year. And may the year to come bring you health, wealth, and wisdom.

And if it’s not the date of your birth, have a merry un-birthday and be sure to always have bail money — One of your philosopher pals might invite you out to celebrate a birthday night out on the town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINDLESS PHILOSOPHY EPISODE I: The Phantom Christmas Post

WELL, FOLKS. IT’S THAT time of year again. It’s time for another mediocre Star Wars flick.

Nah. I’m joking. Rogue One was pretty awesome.

Well…the last two minutes anyway.

Well… Except for that bringing back a young Princess Leia thing. That was a one-way ticket to the uncanny valley. Mind you, it wasn’t Polar Express-level uncanny valley, but Rogue One Princess Leia definitely lives on an Alderaan adjacent to that creepy-kids-with-dead-eyes neighborhood that is Polar Express.

princess-leia-rogue-one-800x587

Yikes.

I guess the silver lining, if there’s any, is that Polar Express isn’t a mediocre movie.

Unlike some Christmas movies, Polar Express is a fairly decent Christmas flick. Some Christmas flicks are downright pieces of shit.

Mediocre.

I’m talking December-release Star Wars flick level mediocre.

A funny thing about Christmas is that it’s a holiday swimming in mediocrity.

Just take, for instance, the Christmas torture device jingle”Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”. That yuletide ditty about a dysfunctional family’s struggle to cope with an alcoholic member of the family’s sudden and tragic (and perhaps not entirely accidental) alcohol-related death is all kinds of suck ass, even for a Christmas song.

hqdefault

She had hoof prints on her forehead and incriminating Claus marks on her back — that’s not a Christmas song, it’s an episode of Forensic Files.

By the way, Grandpa totally murdered his wife and made it look like she’d been the unfortunate victim of a drive-by sledding. I saw a woman murder her husband the same way on an episode of Snapped.

And let’s not forget that Christmas also spawned the Faul McCartney song “Wonderful Christmastime”. *

I actually like that song.

It’s catchy. Catchy in the same way an incantation from the Necronomicon is… catchy.

3k8qwr

As far as I’m concerned, it ain’t Christmas until I’ve annoyed myself singing that repetitive chant that releases the souls of the ancient ones chorus —

Come on. Sing it with me, folks

SIMPLY HAVING A WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME!!!

giphy-1.gif

I seriously think that singing the chorus of “Wonderful Christmastime”opens a portal to an alternate dimension.

Probably because every time I sing it, my apartment walls bleed.

But then, red is a Christmas color, so it’s all good.

I have gone dreadfully off topic.

You know, it’s not a regular philosopher thing to associate mediocrity with philosophy. We, that is, those who do philosophy — especially those who do philosophy professionally — wouldn’t use a word like mediocre to describe anything associated with the love of wisdom.

Some might use words like stupid or irrelevant or useless

But not mediocre.

However, the fact that philosophy itself isn’t mediocre, does not mean it’s immune from an occasional bout of mediocrity.

I PROMISE I’M NOT GOING TO USE THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO PICK ON IMMANUEL KANT.

I mean, just say the words “mediocre philosophy” and then count the minutes before somebody says the name Ayn Rand or has something to say about the trolley problem or rolls their eyes at the complete lack of any real-world practicality of the categorical imperative…

Philosophers may consider themselves the Philosopher-Kings of rational thought, but like Star Wars, Christmas music, and odd-numbered Star Trek movies, philosophy has its fair share of not very good ideas.

More than its fair share of mediocre ideas, actually.

Logical positivism fails its own verification principle.

downloadfile

According to some people, Atlas Shrugged is considered legit philosophy.

Kantianism.

All bad ideas.

All mediocre ideas.

Anyway…

Enough with the philosophy stuff.

It’s Christmas. It’s time to simply do wonderful stuff. It’s time to listen to the choir children sing their song.

They’ve been practicing all year, you know.

It’s time to over drink, over think, over eat, and pretend that philosophy books make good Christmas presents.

Speaking of mediocre…

So, from me, The Mindless Philosopher, to you and your kin, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas or whatever preferred sentiment you use to wage the War On Christmas.

And as I tweeted this afternoon…

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MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!!!

 

 

 

 

* I consider the existence of “Wonderful Christmastime” to be definitive proof that the real Paul McCartney died in 1966. The real Paul would have never recorded this song.

 

 

 

MY FIRST ANNUAL (well…maybe annual) PHILOSOPHICAL HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR

HI.

It’s Halloween time again, and that means it’s that time of year when we forget there’s a November and go straight to playing Christmas music 24/7.

Personally, I’m not much into Christmas (yuletide only reminds me of how poor I am — but hey, I chose a career in philosophy — what did I expect?), but Halloween has always been my kind of thing. For some folks, Halloween is the unnecessary evil between the return of pumpkin spice lattes and blasting “All I Want For Christmas Is You” , but for me, Halloween means:

The spookiness.

Black cats and witches.

AMC’s Monsterfest©

…and all the candy I can eat.

Except for candy corn.

The fact that candy corn is an actual thing is definitive proof that the devil exists.

Now, I’m way past the age that is acceptable to go out trick-or-treating, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like dressing up for Halloween.

My usual costume is “person who never goes out anymore and just sits at home and overthinks about everything” (the scariest costume of all), but from time to time I try to find a costume that’s not only spooky, but also philosophically appropriate. Unfortunately, I have to say that I haven’t found a spooky, yet philosophically correct Halloween costume.

This disappoints me.

I was really hoping to dress up as sexy Diogenes this year.

SERIOUSLY. What do philosophers do at Halloweentime? What’s a philosophical ghost story? What do poo philosophers do — tell each other spooky stories about logical positivism?

Still…despite the lack of philosophically-themed Halloween costumes, there’s still plenty of scary things that keep this lover of wisdom up at night:

  • Re-reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.
  • Discovering there’s a whole section of Pornhub devoted to “Jeremy Bentham” and “head”.
  • A weekend film festival on the philosophical analysis of the films on Michael Bay.
  • Sketches of Schopenhauer based in the style of Tom of Finland.
  • Hegel.
  • A world where everyone is a utilitarian (or, the possibility that utilitarianism is the only correct moral theory).
  • A series of films based on popular philosophical thought experiments, including a feature-length film based on Kant’s ax murderer scenario, directed by Zach Snyder.

…actually, that last one might not be so horrifying. Maybe swap out Zach Snyder for Eli Roth…it’ll be the PCU — the Philosophical Cinematic Universe..

Picture it: a saga of Nietzsche-based flicks starring Dwayne Johnson as the Ubermensch.

Hey! Nobody steal my idea!!!

Who am I kidding. There ain’t gonna be a PCU.

Although I am kind of surprised that hasn’t been a major motion picture based on the life and tragic death of Camus.

Sure, it’s not Halloween, but how can anyone look at a picture of Camus in the trench with a cigarette and not immediately think that image alone demands a movie starring James Franco as the novelist/philosopher.

Any of this frighten you yet?

No? Maybe you should listen to “All i Want For Christmas Is You”.

I swear, that song scares the hell out of me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Don’t) Mark it FAB

IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW already, Paul McCartney wrote a children’s book.

It’s called Hey Grandude.

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THIS IS THE BOOK. 

The title is a play on “Hey, Jude”.

You know that song, right? It’s a pretty famous song… By the Beatles…that band from the sixties….

I’m not going to read McCartney’s book (because I’m not six years old, but especially because I don’t want to), but seeing Sir Paul on late-night TV plugging his new venture into literature has got me thinking about and listening to The Beatles.

You know the Beatles, right? That band…from the sixties…..

I’ve been listening to their album Abbey Road in particular.

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The 50th anniversary edition of Abbey Road is out this year.

It’s remixed by Giles Martin.

Giles Martin is the son of the late George Martin.

You know who George Martin is, right? George Martin was the record producer for the Beatles…that band from the sixties…

The remix is pretty good.

You should all listen to it.

Anyway, I was listening to Abbey Road, enjoying the fantastic remixes of the first couple of tracks, when  the song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” came on.

It’s not a song a lot of people like.

The story goes even John Lennon hated it. Really hated it.

He called it Paul’s “granny music”.

Maybe the song sucked because Faul actually wrote it.

Paul is dead, folks.

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EYES CLOSED, BAREFOOT, OUT OF STEP… YEP. PAUL IS DEAD, FOLKS.

28 IF….

Anyway…

John Lennon called “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (along with a few more songs) Paul’s “granny music”.

Not trying to be a dick or anything, but John Lennon was kind of a hater.

It’s also kind of an odd thing for Lennon to say, considering that the song is about a serial killer.

I don’t know what kind of grandma John Lennon had, but I can absolutely declare with utmost certainty that my own memaw would not be entertained by a song about a guy going Jeff Dahmer on people.

Within a span of three and a half  minutes, Maxwell Edison (majoring in medicine) bludgeons three people to death — including murdering a judge during his trial in the judge’s own courtroom.

….just like Jeffrey Grant did.

I freaking hate Jeffrey Grant.

God, there I go again.

So…..

Despite the fact that many people (especially John Lennon) despise “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, Paul McCartney insisted that “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is a good song.

I think he still does.

You gotta smoke a lot of weed to think that.

Or you think it is because you’re actually FAUL.

Now, the Beatlemaniac in me wants to believe Paul’s claim that Maxwell’s etc. etc. is a good song.

But, as a person who knows a shit song when I hear one, I’m inclined to say John Lennon was right about “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”.

The song is shite.

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But the philosopher that dwells within me can’t stop thinking philosophically when I hear the word “good”. You see, whenever I hear the word “good” I start thinking about philosophy stuff like, ethics and ideal forms and utilitarian calculuses and all that jazz.

When I hear the word “good”, the philosopher in me wants to know if “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” isn’t just a good song, but a GOOD song.

Because we already know it isn’t a good song.

… sometimes, good songs aren’t GOOD songs and some GOOD songs aren’t good songs.

You see, whenever a philosopher says a word like “good” they usually don’t just mean a simple statement of one’s taste like, it’s got a good beat amd you can dance to it. It’s the natural inclination of the philosophers to complicate things by getting all Platonic about what’s good.

You read that right. I said Platonic.

Yes. I’m gonna be talking about Plato.

Well, actually Socrates.

But it’s really Plato.

He just wants us to think he’s writing about Socrates.

Because he writes as Socrates.

Well, actually as other people writing about Socrates.

Because Plato is Socrates.

Anyway

And if you’re gonna do some talking about Socrates, you know you’re gonna do some talking about Plato’s Republic.

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In particular, Book III…and also in  Book V.

Just in case you felt like reading along.

Socrates tells us that — wait. I gotta clearify a term, here.

When we use the term “music”, we’re generally referring to songs — lyrics set to instrumentation. This is the kind of music I’m referring to when I talk about a song like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. However, Socrates uses “music” to describe the arts, including poetry. The purpose of music, according to Socrates, isn’t merely recreational. Music isn’t meant to just entertain or to provide the s soundtrack for a work-out or a romantic encounter.

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IF YOU’RE GONNA BE HAVING SEXUAL RELATIONS, YOU BETTER PLAY SOME MILITARY MARCHES… seriously, that’s the right kind of music Socrates says we should listen to    

Socrates says music is important because it is an essential element in the (philosophically correct) development of the citizen. Socrates describes music as “a moral law” and that music is “the essence of order and lends to all that is good, just, and beautiful.” Socrates also says this about music:

Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful.

So…what Socrates means, is music is important because it is a tool of civilization. We must be mindful, Socrates says, of what kind of music we listen to. We must listen to the right kind of music. Listening to the right kind of music produces the right effects.

The right effect is we’re closer to TRUTH.

In case you didn’t know, TRUTH is a GOOD thing.

…or at the very least, listening to the right kind of music will re-enforce the natural hierarchy and guarantee that the people will obey the ruling class without question.

Because noble lies.

Anyway, like Socrates, Aristotle says the type of music we listen to is important. Aristotle says music has the power to stir “ignoble passions”. Repeated exposure to passion-inflaming music (according to Aristotle) influences our disposition.

That is to say, listening to music that stirs the “ignoble passions” makes us ignobelly  passionate people.

According to Aristotle, people governed by their passions can’t be GOOD people.

And a city full if people who aren’t GOOD can’t successfully maintain a city conducive to philosophical living.

So what does this have to do with The Beatles and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”?

Well, let’s first look at the song’s subject matter: serial murder.

“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is a song about a man who gleefully and unrepentantly murders three people, culminating in Maxwell murdering a judge while he’s presiding over Maxwell Edison’s murder trial.

You see, for dudes like Socrates and Aristotle, the guys in charge — the people that run things — are put there by NATURE.

They’re born that way

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Flip side, the folks who aren’t naturally predisposed to rule (i.e. you and me), are supposed to follow the leaders.

Because we’re too dumb to rule ourselves.

Kings and presidents are kings and presidents because they possess the innate qualities required to be presidents and kings — namely, kings and presidents possess a higher degree of wisdom (and philosophical insight) than you and me.

Socrates would call the wise, philosopher leader-type the Philosopher-King.

Socrates says that obedience to our rulers is not only vital to the survival of society, but to defy their rule is UNATURAL.

SO! Long story short (too late) a society’s leaders primary function is to make and protect the law. If we assume that the administrative state is a product of the natural order, we might also assume that average-guy Maxwell Edison’s murder of a law-giving magistrate’s is a flagrant act of anti-philosopher-king violence.

That ain’t natural.

Mother Nature’s Son my ass.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that Maxwell’s murderous rampage is driven by his “ignoble passions”.

Actually, McCartney never tells us the reason why Maxwell Edison commits triple homicide.

Shits and giggles, I guess.

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No matter the reason, Maxwell Edison (majoring in medicine) isn’t just a bad guy, he’s dangerous to society.

The song already tells us of Maxwell Edison’s corrupting influence on society, demonstrated by Maxwell’s acolytes, Rose and Valerie, who scream from the courtroom gallery that “Maxwell must go free”.

LISTEN: We don’t have to read Plato to know that the murder-prone are a threat to society.

I mean, they kill people.

It also goes without saying that it’s not wise to venerate homicidal people.

Songs that are not only popular but also celebrate the unsanctioned killing of people may be the kind of music that stirs the “ignoble passions” in others and lead people to —

Oh god, I sound like the PMRC.

“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” isn’t just a bad song, it’s not a GOOD song, either.

Songs about guys like this are precisely the kind if songs Socrates says we shouldn’t teach or sing.

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“MAXWELL’S SILVER HAMMER”: MADE WORSE BY THE FACT THAT STEVE MARTIN PERFORMED THE SONG IN THE MOVIE SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

Socrates would not mark this song “fab”.

*Socrates says there is a right kind of music. If you want to know what kind of music Socrates says is the correct kind of music, read Book III of Plato’s Republic*

But for Socrates, protecting society from bad music isn’t merely slapping a parental advisory sticker on an album cover. Not-GOOD music corrupts the soul (people with corrupt souls cannot maintain a functioning society). We must be vigilant in protecting society (especially the youth) from soul-destroying music, like Paul McCartney’s so-called “granny music”.

If Socrates had his way, the Beatles would have never recorded “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” in the first place.

That might be a good thing.

Especially if you are — you were — John Lennon.

 

 

SOURCES:

Plato. Republic.