SURE, YOU CAN…. BUT SHOULD YOU?

EVERY-SO-OFTEN the internet gets inexplicably fixated on a celebrity.

Betty White. George Takei. Chuck Norris. Rick Astley…

Lately, for reasons only the internet understands, the internet’s celebrity fixation is on Jeff Goldblum.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I think I understand why Jeff Goldblum is the current internet thing. He’s the same perfect mix of weird and oddly attractive that made cats the internet’s spirit animal.

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WEIRD AND ODDLY ATTRACTIVE

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WEIRD AND ODDLY ATTRACTIVE

Watch enough cable TV and you’re bound to spend a weekend binge watching your favorite (or in the case of Twilight, my least favorite) film franchise.

They’re all there in heavy rotation: Star Wars. The Harry Potter flicks. The Twilight saga. Fifty Shades of Whatever. The Jurassic Park films.

Cable TV operates on repeat, not shuffle.

I’m never not going to be a Star Wars fan, but if I had to watch a film series that is not Star Wars, I’d choose Jurassic Park.

Why? Because Freaking dinosaurs, that’s why.

Did I mention that Jeff Goldblum is in the Jurassic Park movies?

It’s all connected, folks.

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YOUR DAY IS NOW 1000% BETTER THAN IT WAS BEFORE YOU SAW THIS PICTURE. YOU’RE WELCOME

The Jurassic Park film series, based on the 1990 book Jurassic Park (written by Michael Crichton), is a modern version of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus, the 1818 novel written by Mary Shelley (1797–1851). Shelley’s novel is a retelling of the story of Prometheus, the Greek hero whose relentless quest for pursuit for (scientific) knowledge ends in tragedy.

In a nutshell, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young doctor whose quest to harness the power of creation ultimately leads to his own destruction.

In a nutshell, Jurassic Park is pretty much the same cautionary tale.

Except with dinosaurs.

Freaking dinosaurs.

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FREAKING DINOSAURS, MAN

These days, all one needs to do is mention the name “Frankenstein” to conjure images of the mad scientist who defies the laws of God and nature and is ultimately destroyed by his own creation.

Or, if you’re in a Jurassic Park flick, the mad scientist’s creation ultimately destroys the city of San Diego… and an amusement park.

…but I digress.

The motion picture adaptation of Jurassic Park was released in 1993 and was followed by its sequels The Lost World: Jurassic Park II, Jurassic Park III, and Jurassic World.

…because destroying San Diego wasn’t enough; they HAD to build an amusement park.

In the original (and arguably most philosophical) film, Jurassic Park, billionaire entrepreneur John Hammond creates JURASSIC PARK, the ultimate amusement park experience, where guests literally can walk with the dinosaurs. In addition to providing totally immersive entertainment, courtesy of the resurrected pre-historic beasts, Hammond boasts that park provides the best amenities for guests, including gourmet ice cream.

“We spared no expense”, Hammond declares.

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THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR JELLO

While Hammond marvels at his creation, one of the park’s guests, mathematician (and chaos theorist) Dr. Ian Malcolm (played by current internet darling Jeff Goldblum), asks the question that is central to the theme of the film.

It happens during this exchange between Dr. Malcolm and John Hammond:

Dr. Ian Malcolm: If I may… Um, I’ll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you’re using here, it didn’t require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now
Dr. Ian Malcolm: you’re selling it, you wanna sell it. Well…
John Hammond: I don’t think you’re giving us our due credit. Our scientists have done things which nobody’s ever done before…
Dr. Ian Malcolm: Yeah, yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.

Did you spot it?

If you didn’t, it might be because it was more of a statement than a question.

Here it is: Dr. Malcolm tells John Hammond “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Dr. Malcolm said the words “could” and “should”.

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…and when you say words like “could” and “should”, philosopher’s ears perk up.

because words like “could” and “should” are words philosophers use when they’re doing ethics.

What’s ethics?

Ethics is:

…a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct… Ethics seeks to resolve questions of human morality by defining concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime. As a field of intellectual enquiry, moral philosophy also is related to the fields of moral psychology, descriptive ethics, and value theory. (definition courtesy of Wikipedia)

At the heart of the story of Jurassic Park is a morality tale.

Dr. Malcolm’s challenge to John Hammond is moral – should we do something because we can do it?

Or, if you’re the German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724 – 1804), you’d say Ought Implies Can.*

Ought Implies Can (OIC), the ethical principle attributed to Immanuel Kant, states that people have a moral obligation to perform an act only if it is possible for him carry out the act.

For instance, if I borrow money from my uncle (with the intention of paying him back), and I have the means to pay him back, I am morally obligated to pay my uncle the money I borrowed from him.

  • I ought to pay my uncle because I promised to pay him back (We are morally obligated to keep our promises).
  • I ought to pay my uncle because we are morally obligated to pay off our debts.
  • I ought to pay my uncle because I have the means to (can) pay him back.
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DON’T LET IT COME TO THIS

In the film (and book) Jurassic Park, human scientists discover the means of creating living dinosaurs from long-extinct dinosaur DNA − CAN

Hammond and his scientists conclude if man possesses the ability – if people can recreate extinct animals using modern technology, then we OUGHT to bring them back. Jurassic Park flips Kant’s moral principle − Can Implies Ought.

That is, the film Jurassic Park asks Kant’s question backwards: We can, ought we?

John Hammond believes that the technological ability to create long-extinct dinosaurs implies (perhaps even demands) that the dinosaurs be recreated at Jurassic Park.

If we can do it, shouldn’t we do it?

Not just for the entertainment, but also for the scientific knowledge we would gain through the observation of dinosaurs?

After all, can recreating dead dinosaurs be any worse than blasting a Tesla into outer space?

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YEP. THERE’S A TESLA IN SPACE

Of course, Dr. Malcolm’s challenge to John Hammond isn’t deontological – it’s utilitarian.

For those who might have forgotten, utilitarianism is:

the doctrine that an action is right insofar as it promotes happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct. (definition courtesy of Bing)

What Malcolm is asking is what is the value of bringing back the dinosaurs?

Malcolm tells Hammond that the dinosaurs had their chance and they failed – the dinosaurs went extinct.

Recreating an extinct species in an environment in which they do not belong, Malcolm believes, can only bring about bad results.

Is the enjoyment from walking with dinosaurs worth the risk to human life?

Given what happens in the film the answer seems no.

You see, no matter how careful you may think you are, carnivorous prehistoric beasts will eat things, including people.

Let’s not forget that a T-Rex ate San Diego.

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ADMIT IT. YOU LIKED THE T-REX UNTIL IT ATE THAT DOG, RIGHT?

Rampaging dinosaurs are responsible for several dozen human deaths throughout the film series.

The millions of dollars in possible property damage (not to mention the cost of insurance) would make recreating potentially man-eating dinosaurs a cost-prohibitive venture.

But, if a utilitarian can argue why we shouldn’t do something, rest assured that a utilitarian will also argue exactly why we should do something as dumb as lab engineering a ferocious dinosaur like the Tyrannosaurus Rex.

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SCIENTISTS RECREATE LONG-EXTINCT, CARNIVOROUS SPECIES USING THE DNA OF ANOTHER SPECIES THAT CAN CHANGE GENDER… WHAT COULD POSSIBLY GO WRONG????



We can imagine the (well meaning) utilitarian saying that the dinosaurs posed no significant danger to humans at all. Many of the dinosaurs are not inherently dangerous to people and dogs. Any fatalities associated with the dinosaurs were due mostly to human error, sabotage or just people doing dumb shit. We can remedy that. So long as people obey the rules and don’t do anything sinister or stupid (and with better genetic manipulation of dinosaur DNA), the utilitarian reasons we can create visitor-friendly dinosaurs without major loss of life.

Scientists benefit from the ability to study real-life dinosaurs and park guests can enjoy unparalleled world- class entertainment.
…including some bomb-ass ice cream.

That’s because Jurassic Park SPARES NO EXPENSE.

So… so long as Jurassic Park implements better safety measures (and perhaps including a better background check for employees), we should be good to go, right?

 

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NOPE. NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT, SAN DIEGO

 

According to utilitarianism so long as everybody’s happy an act is morally permissible.

More than that, it’s morally obligatory.

Therefore, we ought to create dinosaurs.

You know that’s not the right answer, don’t you?

Dr. Malcolm says to John Hammond, “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Malcolm isn’t just concerned with the utilitarian consequences of Hammond’s scientists’ actions, he’s also bothered by Hammond’s defiance of nature.

We see Dr. Malcolm’s (nature-based) uneasiness with resurrecting dinosaurs in this conversation with one of Hammond’s scientists:

Dr. Ian Malcolm: John, the kind of control you’re attempting simply is… it’s not possible. If there is one thing the history of evolution has taught us it’s that life will not be contained. Life breaks free, it expands to new territories and crashes through barriers, painfully, maybe even dangerously, but, uh… well, there it is.
Dr. Wu: You’re implying that a group composed entirely of female animals will… breed?
Dr. Ian Malcolm: No. I’m, I’m simply saying that life, uh… finds a way.

Malcolm frames his concern as a question of defying nature, but the question: just because we can do something, should we do it? is also a biblical question.

Got something to do with who defying the will of God.

if we’re being specific, the question, Who gets to play God?

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In the Old testament, Adam and Eve are cast from the Garden of Eden for taking from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.

Coz there are things that man ain’t supposed to know.

… and things people ain’t supposed to do.

In the Bible, the story of Adam and Eve (and humanity in general) ends tragically.

The punishment for eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is death.

You die if you try to do what God do.

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And that is exactly what leads to the tragic end of Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Shelley’s cautionary tale of the modern Prometheus – Frankenstein tries to play God.

In Shelley’s novel, man (Victor Frankenstein) attempts to harness the power of creation – a power that belongs solely to God. Frankenstein’s monster is his Tower of Babel, a monument of man’s conceit. And like the Tower of Babel, Victor Frankenstein and his monster are destroyed.

Likewise, Dr. Malcolm sees John Hammond’s Jurassic Park as a monument of Hammond’s conceit. According to Malcolm, the (technological) attempt to control nature plants the seeds of our own destruction. Nature finds a way, Malcolm warns, meaning once man attempts to control the power of nature, nature, or God (or Nature’s God, if you’re Thomas Jefferson) inevitably will conquer man.

Jurassic Park, like the Tower of Babel and Victor Frankenstein, are doomed to fail.

What Dr. Malcolm knew (that John Hammond and Victor Frankenstein didn’t know) is just because you can do something, it doesn’t always mean that you ought to do it.

 

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ME TOO, DR. MALCOLM. ME TOO.

 

 

Especially if the thing that you ought not do eats San Diego.

 

 

 

 

 

 

* Kant’s Ought Implies Can should not be confused with Hume’s Is-Ought problem. The Is-Ought Fallacy postulates what ought to be based on what is. For example, if nature does not make it, we shouldn’t have it. Well, nature doesn’t make clothes or houses, but very few people would say that we shouldn’t have clothes or houses simply because clothes and houses do not occur naturally.

 

SOURCES:
Jurassic Park. Screenplay by Michael Crichton and David Koepp. Directed by Steven Spielberg. 1993. Amblin Entertainment/Universal Pictures.

https://www.bing.com/search?q=utilitarianism&form=EDNTHT&mkt=en-us&httpsmsn=1&refig=08459d68e48f48cf880067e52649d77a&sp=2&qs=HS&pq=utili&sk=HS1&sc=8-5&cvid=08459d68e48f48cf880067e52649d77a&cc=US&setlang=en-US

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethics

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It’s the THINKING, stupid!

I’VE BEEN THINKING about a lot of stuff lately.

A lot of stuff.
A. Lot.

Dare I say I’ve taken to overthinking.

Before last week, I would have been reluctant to admit that I’ve been thinking about things. But I’m not afraid to say it anymore. I’ve been thinking – rather, overthinking.

I admit this now because of what Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted

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Now that philosophy is legit, and I’ve been doing a whole lot of thinking, what I’ve been thinking about is…well… how much I’m tired of thinking.

Thinking causes too much trouble. Thinking makes you see things; makes you realize things. Thinking makes you realize that in all places, at all times, we are constantly surrounded by idiots.

Make no mistake, there are idiots.

We’ve all seen them. We know what they do.

We can all name a few. Or more than a few.

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I AM NOT GOING TO SAY THAT NAME!!!!

I say “we” are surrounded by idiots because I assume you’ve experienced the same thing.

And yes, I realize that I am someone else’s idiot.

Whoops. There. I done done it.

I did that philosopher thing. I did that I’m-a-philosopher-therefore-I-am-smarter-than-you philosopher thing.

Well, I am a philosopher.
and I think I’m kinda smart.

Trust me, I’m like a smart person.

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I know that smart people aren’t supposed to say that they’re smart. Being smart should be something that’s obvious. Being smart is like having a fine sense of style. You don’t have to show people – they can see it in what you do.

Telling people that you’re smart usually means that you’re dumb.

 

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YOU KNEW THIS GIF WAS GOING TO HAPPEN, DIDN’T YOU?

Well, I say beans to that.

There’s a reason why I studied philosophy.

And it wasn’t for the vast pool of philosophy groupies.

Although I hear Bertrand Russell never had a problem with hook ups.

You see, I’m just a little tired of the attitude that philosophy is useless. It’s not just politicians like Marco Rubio who have declared that philosophy is useless. Even smart people have jumped in on the philosophy bashing game. The t.v. friendly (and more popular than a philosopher will ever be, especially in this political climate) Bill Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson declared philosophy is useless. The renowned physicist, the late Stephen Hawking, said,

Most of us don’t worry about these questions most of the time. But almost all of us must sometimes wonder: Why are we here? Where do we come from? Traditionally, these are questions for philosophy, but philosophy is dead…

The biologist and author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins, tweeted,

Philosophers’ historic failure to anticipate Darwin is a severe indictment of philosophy.

You know, sometimes smart people say dumb things.

Here’s the thing: I earned my philosophy degree. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t study philosophy to waste time or to, as the meme says, pursue the quickest path to poverty. I studied philosophy because I wanted to know things. I wanted to understand why (and possibly how) we believe what we do; how to think critically; to analyze, to know the proper use of skepticism.

How to carry on an argument for goodness sakes!

 

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STILL THE BEST WAY TO END A DISPUTE

Because there’s absolutely no better way to win an argument than to point out that your opponent has done nothing but strawman, ad hominem, and whataboutism their entire “argument”.

…be sure to add the air quotes when saying the word “argument”.

That way they’ll know who the idiot is (hint: it won’t be you).

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Seriously though, I could have studied any subject, but I chose philosophy. I studied philosophy because it isn’t useless.

Don’t get me wrong, I (unlike other people) am not knocking science. We need science. We need theoretical physicists and mechanical engineers just like we need doctors and lawyers and high school gym teachers and Uber drivers and bricklayers.

STEM is fine. That’s how we got the internet.

No internet, no Socrates memes.

Truth be told, I don’t do math because I got a cell phone with a calculator.

It even calculates the tip.

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I’m not planning on sending a man to the moon any time soon, so I haven’t had to brush up on my engineering skills. But I’ll tell you what I do use – philosophy.

I was reading Ayn Rand before the economy tanked in ’08.

I was well-acquainted with the name Leo Strauss before George W. Bush started the Iraq War.
I knew about noble lies and Allan Bloom. I learned to spot an objectivist from a mile away.
How many people can say they’ve read Natural Right and History?

My political talk is laced with references to Plato, Locke, and Aristotle.

Jefferson wrote all men have the natural right to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness”, but did you know that John Locke wrote men have the right to “Life, Liberty, and Property”?

You’d know that if you read philosophy.

 

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GUESS WHO JUST DISCOVERED LOCKE WROTE “LIFE, LIBERTY, AND PROPERTY”!!!!!!!

 

I know when someone is (mis)paraphrasing Nietzsche.

I can explain the Naturalistic Fallacy and the Problem of Evil.

Do you know what the Law of the Excluded Middle is? I do. You know how I know?

Philosophy.

How would you know if our social and political structure is based on the Hegelian dialectic? ANSWER: You read Hegel.

I’ve read Hegel. I had no freaking idea what I read, but I HAVE READ HEGEL.

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I know it seems otherwise, but philosophy is necessary. It’s not pie in the sky. It’s not a bunch of meaningless answers to equally meaningless questions. It’s not just opinions.

Philosophy is the foundation of all the sciences – including physics and biology.

They might not know it, but proclaiming philosophy is dead is a philosophical statement.

They may think they don’t need or do philosophy, but they do.

Any time you say you know something, you’re doing philosophy. If you say you know fo’sho, you’re absolutely pulling a Descartes.

Every time you figure something out by putting things together
Any time you make a moral judgement
Every time you say something is beautiful or ugly
Every time you vote
Every time you ask, “What does it really mean?”

Any time you ask WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE???

You are doing philosophy.

Because you’re doing philosophy you have answers for some of your questions.

Because you’re doing philosophy you know to ask the questions in the first place.

And, because you’re doing philosophy, you’re not an idiot.

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/google/8520033/Stephen-Hawking-tells-Google-philosophy-is-dead.html

On the Existential Pleasures of Listening to Nickelback (or, how to justify your bad musical tastes using Jean Paul Sartre)

YOU KNOW WHEN you meet somebody new and you think they’re a really cool person you’d like to spend more time with, and you’ve said “me too!” so many times that you begin to suspect that you’ve met your interdimensional doppelganger? You know when you’re talking to that person and your chit chat is going swimmingly, and you know you’ve made a lifelong friend − but then it happens… your conversation with your potential new-found friend turns to the question,

“What kind of music you like?”

You knew that question was coming, didn’t you?

We’ve all had this conversation:

Potential New Friend (PNF): “So… what kind of music do you like?”
You: “Oh, I don’t know. I listen to a bunch of different stuff. I’ve been listening to a lot of Leonard Cohen lately.”
PNF: (perks up and raises eyebrow) “Oh, really?” (casual chat about musical interests now becomes an inquisition) “I’m really into Cohen. You hear a lot of people say they listen to his music these days. Most people say their favorite song is “Hallelujah” because they heard it in a Shrek movie.”
You: (thinks to self, “but my favorite song is Hallelujah.” Does frantic mental inventory of Leonard Cohen songs other than “Hallelujah”) “Yeah. I see that a lot, too.” (desperately attempts to change subject) “I just heard they’re making a remake of the movie Clue with Ryan Reynolds.” (nervous chuckle)

We’ve all experienced the inevitable moment when naming your favorite band turns into a pop quiz.

 

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THAT AWKWARD MOMENT WHEN YOU SAY “THE PINA COLADA SONG” IS THE GREATEST SONG OF ALL TIME

Sure, you can call yourself a fan of a band, but true fans not only can easily name all the members of the Wu Tang Clan, but also know that Johnny Cash definitely DID NOT write “Hurt”, the name of the hidden track on Beck’s Odelay, and why Radiohead doesn’t play “Creep” live.

As a Steely Dan fan, I can tell you I know a quiz is coming any time I talk to another fan who calls the band “The Dan”.

Anyone who has ever had the conversation knows when someone asks, “what’s your favorite music?”, they’re giving you an authenticity test. The point is to see how much you know.

The more obscure the band or the song, the more we can weed out the purists from the poseurs.

In short, the question is, ARE YOU THE REAL DEAL?

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It’s kinda the same with philosophy.

The quiz is all about authenticity. So is philosophy.

Well, some philosophy is.

Actually, that’s what a bunch of existentialism is all about.

Wait. Let me stop to define a term right here.

Existentialism is:

In simpler terms, existentialism is a philosophy concerned with finding self and the meaning of life through free will, choice, and personal responsibility. The belief is that people are searching to find out who and what they are throughout life as they make choices based on their experiences, beliefs, and outlook. And personal choices become unique without the necessity of an objective form of truth. An existentialist believes that a person should be forced to choose and be responsible without the help of laws, ethnic rules, or traditions. (definition courtesy of allaboutphilosophy.org)

If you know anything about existentialism, you’ve probably heard the names: Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus…

Yes. Nietzsche was an existentialist. Look it up.

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Here’s something fun to do: start a conversation with somebody about Nietzsche. If they refer to Nietzsche, roll your eyes, call them a poseur, and demand that they take off that Slayer T-shirt.

While I’m at it, let me explain what philosophers mean when they talk about authenticity.

In philosophy, authenticity is:

Authenticity is a philosophical concept that denotes the genuine, original, true state of human existence.

If you took a wild guess at the popularity of existentialist philosophers according to the number of humorous memes, you’d likely conclude (probably correctly, unless you’re asking someone who is easily impressed by the trench coat wearing, cigarette smoking types) that the French existentialist philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre (1905 –1980), is the most popular of the existentialist philosophers.

Wait − is saying French existentialist redundant?

Sartre’s popularity might also have to do with the fact that he looked like this:

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I don’t mean to knock the guy, but that’s a face made for memes.

According to existentialism, the universe has no inherent purpose; it is cold and impersonal. There’s no rationality There is no meaning.

And because the universe is meaningless, we, our lives, are also meaningless.

That is, until we give our lives meaning.

When we realize the meaninglessness of life, life’s lack of meaning leaves us with the sense that life is absurd. We experience anguish. Sartre calls the anguish “nausea”: We can rid ourselves from “nausea” by creating meaning for our own lives. Living life according to own choices is; to define who we are and what meaning our lives have, is living authentically. Living authentically is path to the right kind of life. The good life.

A purposeless universe means there is no grand plan for us – we are completely free to choose to give our lives meaning.

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However, complete freedom comes with a catch: the price of being free means we, alone determine what kind of life we live. We, alone determine who we are. That’s the burden we carry.

We are responsible for who we are*.

Sartre wrote, “Man is only what he does. Man becomes what he chooses to be.”

You see, society wants us to conform. We are pressured to adhere to cultural conventions and societal expectations placed upon us by our families, friends, teachers, religious leaders, and cultural institutions.

The existentialists say that we must reject idea that we become what we are expected to be. We must throw off peer pressure and the urge to conform. We must live for ourselves. Only through our own choices can we give our lives meaning.

meaning

Living according to our own choices is living authentically.

An authentic life is a life of:
Integrity.
Autonomy.
Sincerity.

The problem is, being who we choose to be isn’t easy. In the face of societal pressure, it’s easier to go with the flow. Just going with the flow and doing what everyone else wants us to do (with our lives) is living inauthentically.

It’s easier to live inauthentically.

The existentialist says, DO NOT GO WITH THE FLOW!!!

Sartre calls going with the flow − the lack of authenticity − “Bad Faith”.

Bad faith, according to Sartre, is the (incorrect) belief that we are not free to legislate our own destinies.

Bad faith is the result of our fear of the consequences of our choices.
…. which brings me back to music and the quiz.

As I said before, the question, WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DO YOU LIKE? is a test of authenticity.

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It’s a test to determine if we are being true to ourselves. Are we really telling our potential BFF our musical tastes, or are we blowing pretentiousness-flavored smoke up someone’s b-hole? We shouldn’t say our favorite kind of music, song, or band is such-and-such and so-and-so because it’s popular or because we think it’s what we’re supposed to like or because saying it’s our favorite music makes us sound cool.
Our musical preferences should be what we want to listen to; what sounds pleasing to our ears, not because it’s number one on the Billboard charts or what’s trending on YouTube.

If you like Nickelback, like Nickelback.

 

If you only listen to jazz recorded between 1955 to 1965, hey, do you. That’s your thing.

 

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BEN GRIMM…. KIND OF A JAZZ SNOB

 

If you think that bro country is the greatest genre of music man ever created, believe it – so long as you believe it is because that’s what you want to do.

You’d be wrong about bro country, but what matters is that your love of the shittiest music ever created by human beings, aka bro country is YOUR choice.

 

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PRECISELY WHY BRO COUNTRY HAS GOT TO G.O.

 

What matters is that all of your choices are your choices.

So, go ahead. Be a fan of John Mayer but be a fan of John Mayer authentically.

Ok. Alright, I’ll say it. “Gravity” is a pretty good song.

I like it authentically.

 

 

 

 

 

* Sartre famously wrote “Existence precedes essence” (French: l’existence precede l’essence). That is, we are all born with no inherent purpose or predetermined spirit− but what kind of person we become is the consequence of our own actions and choices.

 

SOURCES:
http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Authenticity_(philosophy)
https://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/existentialism.htm

WHAT KIND OF PHILOSOPHER ARE YOU, ANYWAY???

I HEAR A LOT OF FOLKS say that there’s nothing good on t.v. They say the new era of good television is over.

Maybe that’s because Two and a Half Men is off the air.

Who knows?

As a philosopher, I’m willing to admit that I don’t know plenty of things, but, one thing I do know is that anyone who says today’s t.v. sucks are wrong. There’s a lot of good stuff to watch out there.
And not just Fuller House.

 

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ALRIGHT, FULLER HOUSE IS NOT GOOD TELEVISION. NOT GONNA DIS IT, THO. UNCLE JESSE IS BAE

 

You see, until recently, I, too believed that there was nothing good worth watching on television – especially network television. I had given up on network t.v. My weekly television viewing was limited to basic cable. I had found and fell in intellectual love with Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Mr. Robot, Better Call Saul, The Americans, and American Gods.

Folks also seem to like The Good Place.

I haven’t seen The Good Place.

There’s my favorite love to hate, hate to love, The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead isn’t exactly good television,  at least not since they canned Frank Darabont but it is philosophical television.

 

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AFTER WATCHING THE WALKING DEAD FOR EIGHT SEASONS, I AM NOW ABSOLUTELY CONVINCED RCK GRIMES IS THE DAFTEST CHARACTER ON TELEVISION

 

That’s what really matters in the end, isn’t it?

One new network t.v. show has got my attention – my philosophical attention.

I think it’s pretty funny, too.

That t.v. show is A.P. Bio.

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For those of you who aren’t watching that show (I suspect that’s most of you), A.P. Bio follows the story of Jack Griffin, a self-described “award winning philosophy scholar” (played by Glenn Howerton of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia), who, after a fall from grace, ends up living in his dead mother’s apartment, teaching a high school Advanced Placement biology (A.P. Bio) class in Toledo, Ohio.

Of course, true to cinematic form, Jack Griffin is a bad philosopher.

source

 

Jack is arrogant. He waves his (former) Harvard philosophy gig around like a movie rent-a-cop waves around his not-real-law-enforcement badge.

…anything to reinforce Jack’s undeserved sense of intellectual superiority.

And because Jack is a philosopher, he’s also kinda pervy.

Jack isn’t interested in teaching a lowly high school class, particularly one in Toledo, Ohio.

Jack thinks his co-workers are idiots.
Jack thinks his students are idiots.

Jack is more interested in an attempted hook up with the mother of a student, belittling his co-workers and students, (another) attempted hook up with a former girlfriend, expressing his contempt for the city and people of Toledo, Ohio, bragging about his award-winning status, and plotting the ruin of his rival, Jack’s former Harvard colleague (and successful best-selling philosopher), Miles Leonard.

I hope that Jack Griffin wasn’t an ethics scholar.
…. which brings me to the point of this blog post.

 

whats-the-point

REALLY…

 

With the exception of biopics about philosophers, no one in movies or t.v. shows about philosophers ever says what kind of philosopher they are.

As much as I am enjoying A.P. Bio, I can’t get past the one thing about the show that bothers me: Jack describes himself as a “philosopher” − ok, but what kind of philosopher is he? What’s his field of study? Philosophy of language? Ethics? Metaphysics? Logic?

Good lord, is it epistemology???!

Jack wrote a book called The End: A Philosophy of Death. Does that mean his thing is metaphysics?
Is he an existentialist?

 

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THAT SWEATER HAS GOT ME THINKING JACK GRIFFIN (MIS)QUOTES SARTRE… A LOT

 

I mean, what kind of philosopher is this guy, anyway???!!!

Movie and t.v. philosophers are just “philosophers”. In film, “philosopher” is a generic term.

Movie and t.v. philosophers never have a specific field they study or teach.

I can say, for the record, that I’ve never had just a “philosophy” professor or taken a generic “philosophy” class. In real life, like many professions, philosophy is a diverse field of study with many (sometimes opposing) schools of thought. Philosophers in the real world specialize. There are philosophers of science and philosophers of mathematics.

There are philosophers of law and philosophers of humor. There are political philosophers and medical ethicists.
Philosophers who do linguistics..
Philosophers who are into aesthetics.

Some even specialize in the study and teaching about the works of a particular philosopher.

You get the idea.

 

z

I TOOK A CLASS EXCLUSIVELY DEVOTED TO THIS GUY. I’M NEVER TAKING A CLASS EXCLUSIVELY DEVOTED TO A GERMAN PHILOSOPHER EVER AGAIN

 

Movie and t.v. philosophers pontificate in ways and about things that says, “whoever wrote this script has never stepped foot in an actual philosophy class”. Or worse yet, fictional philosophers immediately launch into the THERE IS NO GOD routine.

That’s philosophy of religion, folks. And nobody does that, not even actual philosophers.

In movies and tv., calling a character a “philosopher” isn’t about the character being anything like an actual philosopher as much as calling a character a philosopher is a shortcut to describe what kind of person the character is. In entertainment, philosophers are pompous, irresponsible, seemingly profound, but ultimately shallow, moral degenerates.

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They’re characters like Jack Griffin.

All you need to know about Jack is that he’s a philosopher.

You can correctly assume the rest.

 

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CAN’T ARGUE WITH MODUS PONENS

 

I guess what’s really grinding my gears about fictional philosophers is the lack of attention (or respect) paid to the profession. We all know that nobody likes philosophers, but if you’re going to depict a profession, even if the character you’re depicting is an absolute asshat, a realistic depiction can go a long way.

Walter White wasn’t just a teacher. He was a chemistry teacher.

The characters on Criminal Minds aren’t just FBI agents. They’re agents with the Bureau’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.

Hank Hill isn’t a mere salesman. He sells propane and propane accessories.

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In the real world, when you go to the doctor, you go to a specific kind of doctor. Sure, they all go to doctor school to learn doctoring, but would you want your psychiatrist to remove your gallstones? He could probably do it.

But would you want him to?

I mean, there isn’t a generic doctor, is there?

Wait a minute. There are general practitioners, aren’t there?

Ok. Bad analogy.

But, if I’m watching an episode of Law and Order, I’m going to see a t.v. show full of lawyers who specialize in criminal law. The episodes will involve cases and situations that pertain to criminal cases. There will be no riveting episode about a squabble in probate court. No chance of watching an episode of D.A. Jack McCoy taking on the case of a client challenging an unreasonable noise ordinance.

They’re all lawyers on Law and Order.

But they’re all a particular kind of lawyer.

On every t.v. show, they’re all a particular kind of something.

So, would it be too much to ask that Jack say at least once before the show is cancelled, seriously, look at the ratings what kind of philosophy he does?

My bet is it’s ethics.

Jack Griffin looks straight-up like a Nietzsche paraphrasing, social liberal/economic conservative, “I AM JOHN GALT” − declaring, Randian Objectivist f**k boi, who drops Hegel references like Hegel references.

 

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YOU JUST KNOW JACK HAS PLANNED A NIGHT OF “THE FOUNTAINHEAD AND CHILL” MORE THAN ONCE 

 

 

Pretty much your standard philosopher.

I (don’t) spy with my little eye

I’M NOT ONE FOR taking long road trips, but I’ve been in a few cars and I know the kind of games people play when they’re on a long-distance trip.

Along with the classic (and often painful) driving game “slug bug”

 

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THE ONLY THING WORSE THAN A TIRE BLOW-OUT IS SEEING ONE OF THESE ON THE HIGHWAY

 

back seat passengers and drivers also play the guessing game “I spy with my little eye”.

If you’ve never played the game before, “I spy with my little eye” goes like this:

The “spy” says “I spy with my little eye”, and the other passengers have to guess what the “spy” is looking at.

FOR EXAMPLE: I spy with my little eye, something that looks like… Logan?

 

logan-battle-1

PHOTOSHOPPED? YES. BUT STRANGELY FUNNY

 

I’m not in a car right now, but I’m still looking around, spying with my little eye.

And I can tell you what I’m not seeing a lot of around here: philosophers.

I don’t see them anywhere.

 

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NOPE. NO PHILOSOPHERS HIDING UNDER THERE (mental note: philosophers are not monsters under my bed)

 

Now, before you tell me that Slavoj Žižek and Peter Singer are popular and are all over the inernet, or that Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett are two of the Four Horsemen of New Atheism, I’m gonna say this: can you name all the Kardashian/Jenner sisters?

Be honest, you can name all five of them, right?

Easy peasy, right?

 

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COME ON, YOU KNOW YOU CAN NAME ALL FIVE (AND THEIR MOM, KRIS)

 

Now, name five living popular philosophers.

Next to impossible, isn’t it?

Now ask someone who knows nothing about philosophy to name one living philosopher.

Now ask them to name the Kardashian/Jenner sisters.

Easy peasy, right?

Suddenly Žižek ain’t so popular, is he?

Seriously tho, where are the public intellectuals?

Why don’t I see them on t.v.?

And why aren’t philosophers leading the charge???

The question is rhetorical. I actually know why.

Listen: having gone through the trials and tribulations of getting a philosophy degree, I’ve come to understand a few things. To wit: American culture absolutely HATES intellectuals.

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The reason why we hate intellectuals is because when we think of intellectuals, we envision a smarty pants; the know-it-all, talks a bunch but doesn’t actually do anything, who lords his university degree over his perceived intellectual inferiors like a better-than-you, my-knowledge-is-ordained-by-god (with a small “g” because god with the big “G” doesn’t exist) cudgel.

We’ve all met that guy. We can admit he’s awful.

*Alright, I noticed that I’ve been using the words “he”, and “him”, and “that guy” to describe arrogant intellectuals. I know I should be using gendered pronouns equally (or just removing gender altogether), but let’s be honest here, have you encountered an arrogant intellectual who wasn’t a him?

Here’s another thing: when we talk about philosophers in the public sphere, it’s important that we understand that there are (at least) two different definitions of what a philosopher is: the academic philosopher and the pop philosopher.

Academic philosophers and pop philosophers are not the same thing.

Academic philosophy, to its own peril, looks down of anything that stinks of popularity.

lysol

This is a problem for academia in general.

I recall a conversation I had years ago with a former professor after I wrote my book.

Did I mention that I wrote a book?

Anyway, during the conversation with my former professor, I learned the harsh truth of writing about philosophy. You see, philosophy is an a-c-a-d-e-m-i-c topic − and writing about academic topics requires an advanced degree. I ain’t got an advanced degree.
Therefore, my book isn’t legit philosophy.

That kinda sucks.

My book is well researched. I have citations. At least some of my thoughts are original.
But in the end, I wasted devoted a year and a half of my life researching and writing a book that I would have had more success at philosophy doing Friedrich Nietzsche cosplay.

 

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AND YOU THOUGHT I WAS JOKING ABOUT NIETZSCHE COSPLAY

 

Alas, without an advanced degree, I will never be a professional philosopher.

Professional (academic) philosophical writing is relegated to the realm of peer-reviewed journals, and the price of admission into that world is a PhD.

For a group of people who deal with how people think, this is a pretty stupid thing to do.

Shouldn’t the love of wisdom be for everybody?

In his essay Philosophy for Laymen, Bertrand Russell wrote:

even in the time that can easily be spared without injury to the learning of technical skills, philosophy can give certain things that will greatly increase the student’s value as a human being and as a citizen.

Russell believed that philosophy should be accessible, if only to help people to make their lives better.

Russell died in 1970.

In Russell’s absence, philosophy has taken a turn toward the (even more) technical, and unfortunately, the philosophical nomenclature isn’t easily understandable to those who aren’t academically trained.

That’s not by accident.

Some philosophers, like the late German-American political philosopher, Leo Strauss (1899-1973), intentionally wrote in obscure and difficult-to-understand language to make their philosophy indecipherable to the average reader. For some philosophers, doing philosophy is a member’s only enterprise.

 

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DON’T WORRY, HOMER. YOU AIN’T SUPPOSED TO GET IT

 

In Strauss’ case, the members of his philosopher’s only club were his fellow University of Chicago-trained neo-conservatives.

In short, laymen philosophers need not apply.

The unfortunate, but intended result is, modern philosophers dwell nearly exclusively in the halls of academia. Academic philosophers don’t (or perhaps refuse to) engage with the public. Non-academic folks can’t understand academic philosophy (because they don’t have the technical training), so professional philosophers don’t bother teaching philosophy to people outside of the university.

The ancient Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle established the first professional philosopher-making factories, the Academy and the Lyceum (respectively), to produce academic philosophers and that’s exactly where modern-day philosophers intend to keep philosophers and philosophy!

Any philosophy written or discussed outside of the academy or by unsanctioned persons is “pop philosophy”.

Pop philosophy is trivial; pablum for philistines. pandering to the lowest common denominator.

You ever have a “philosophical” conversation about an episode of Star Trek?

Yep. Pop philosophy.

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BTW: lowest common denominator = you and me.

Academia, on the other hand, is the REAL THING.

Spend any time with an academic philosopher and you’ll realize academia’s contempt for pop philosophy.

If you want to be a legit philosopher, you gotta get published in a peer-reviewed academic philosophy journal. Publishing is not just a goal, it’s the goal. One is a real philosopher if and only if a group of experts (aka, other academic philosophers) certify that you’re also an expert.

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Philosophy has become the Cult of the Credential.

Unfortunately, with the absence of academic philosophers in the public discourse, we’ve seen the emergence of bro philosophers.

Bro philosophers, mind you. Not PhilosophyBro.

Public intellectual/philosophical conversation is dominated by so-called regular Joes who champion the intellect of the average man. Bro philosophy prides itself on its rejection of the advanced degrees and academic standards “required” for critical thought*. It rails against the arrogance and political correctness of academia.

 

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PICTURED: BRO PHILOSOPHER IN TRAINING

 

I’m not saying this is a bad thing. In fact, I encourage regular Joes and Janes doing philosophy.

That’s what this blog and my book are all about.

Did I mention that I wrote a book?

But why aren’t philosophers doing this? Why are philosophers not jumping in and doing philosophy with the bros?

Why is it that there is not one academic philosopher as popular as Jordan Peterson or Sam Harris?

Perhaps money, a life goal in the non-academic world, isn’t an acceptable goal for the professional, academic philosopher?

Maybe it really is all about the wisdom?

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The wise academic philosopher, Daniel Dennett, is estimated to be worth about 700,000 bucks.

The popular philosopher, Jordan Peterson is worth $16 million.

FUN FACT: If you’re curious, Peter Singer is worth an estimated $2 million.

A decent amount of dough for an academic philosopher, but still considerably less than Peterson.

Although I think it’s safe to assume that academic philosophers, like anyone else who enjoys having a roof over their head, food in the fridge, and electricity, appreciate a nice paycheck at the end of the week, I also suspect that the lack of academic philosophers in the public sphere is really rooted in the academic philosopher’s avoidance of the perception as pop philosophers, not a rejection of fortune.

Unfortunately, because academic philosophers reject the currency of pop philosophy (namely pop culture), philosophers don’t keep track of pop trends. That makes it difficult to drop justified true belief bombs on the Dr. Phil show — especially when you have no idea who Dr. Phil is.

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I remember when I was a student. I did not have the most culturally astute philosophy professors.

Of course, I’m not saying that every philosophy professor should have a favorite member of One Direction

If your favorite member isn’t Zayn you’re not even worth talking to.

 

zayn-malik-2016-zayn-malik-39698279-2241-2500

SERIOUSLY, IF ZAYN MALIK IS NOT YOUR FAVE, DON’T EVEN BOTHER TALKING TO ME

 

but an awareness of what’s going on outside of the university may help with things.

Things like communicating with people…who don’t know or care who Wittgenstein is.

Or, if only to prove that philosophy is still relevant to popular culture.

(so that your philosophy department isn’t shut down).

The lack of academic philosophers in the public sphere has left an opening for others, sometimes less qualified, to slip through.

Philosophy bros.

 

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PHILOSOPHY BROS

 

You see, there’s nothing wrong with laymen getting involved with philosophy. A slave can be just as wise as a devotee of Socrates. However, there’s a risk we take when we the make average Joe and Jane popular philosophers – sometimes average folks have no idea what in THE FUCK they’re talking about.

 

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EXACTY, DR. PHIL. EXACTLY

 

And as any of us who has ever sat in a classroom with a fellow philosophy student who has no CLUE what they were talking about can tell you, people who don’t think right about things can end up doing more harm than good.

 

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NOT GONNA SAY AYN RAND….AHHHGGGGHHH!!!!! I SAID IT

 

Although philosophy should be for everyone, it’s also useful to get advice from the experts
…at least sometimes.

Academic philosophers know the formal rules of philosophy. Because they’re trained in the academy, academic philosophers are familiar with the theories and how to think about the theories critically, and more importantly — how to think about and apply the theories correctly.

And yes, academic philosophers know the correct philosophical nomenclature to use.

That comes in handy when using words like “valid”, “argument”, “logically follows”, or “intuition”.

If you’re talking to a academic philosopher, these words might not mean what you think they mean.

inconceivable

If I want to discuss refrigerator repair, I’ll go to a refrigerator repairman. If I want to know about the correct application of utilitarian ethics in a trolley problem scenario, I’ll look to someone who studied utilitarian ethics.

Just like churches realized that they needed to appeal to the masses to retain power popularity, academic philosophy needs to get hip with the times. Academia needs to ditch the ivory tower and jump into the pop cultural cesspool that is Dr. Phil, Star Trek, and YouTube clickbait thumbnail reaction vids.

Philosophers have a responsibility to teach the people.

And the people watch The Big Bang Theory**.

I think Žižek would be great on that show.

 

 

*it might be worth noting that Plato and Aristotle didn’t have college degrees. But then, it’s also worth noting that at that time there were no academic degrees.
** The Big Bang Theory (CBS) is the highest rated network English-speaking tv show in the U.S.

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
https://networthtimes.com/richest-actors/daniel-c-dennett-net-worth/
https://networthpost.com/net-worth/jordan-peterson-net-worth/
https://networthpost.com/net-worth/peter-singer-net-worth/
https://users.drew.edu/~jlenz/br-lay-philosophy.html

I AM VEGAN

 

THERE ARE ONLY TWO months of the year that mean anything to me: October and February.

Not because of Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

The reason why October and February hold such a dear place in my heart is because October and February are the months when The Walking Dead seasons begin.

First half of the season begins in October. Second half begins in February.

It’s March. Second half of season 8. They just killed Carl Grimes.

No old man Carl. No Lydia licking Carl’s empty eyehole. No Carl doing ANYTHING.

Dammit.

Oops. Spoiler alert.  

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Well, anyway….

 

While watching a tv show about flesh eating ambulatory revenants, my mind drifts, from time to time, to the subject of flesh – namely, the fact that zombies consume human flesh.
In the world of The Walking Dead, living humans are just meat to eat.

Even the vegetarian zombies chow down on the non-undead.

It must be quite odd for a person who has their entire life not eating animal flesh to die, knowing that their reanimated corpse will compelled to eat nothing other than the substance they’ve sworn off.    

I mean, is a vegan zombie morally offended every moment they’re devouring a person?

Can a zombie experience an ethical dilemma?

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A zombie probably can’t, but a living person certainly can experience the ethical conundrum – should I eat meat?    

Now, I’m not asking if a person can eat meat – most humans have canine teeth, meat is digestible, and we can derive nutrients from animal products.

Heads up: I’m not making my argument here.

Not doing a because-we-can-we-ought-to kind of argument kind of thing.

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But I will say this. I’m gonna say it right now:

I eat meat.

This is a fact about myself that I’m not exactly proud of.

As a person who is halfway aware of the way things are and remotely concerned about my health, I’m aware that the unnecessary suffering and abuse inflicted on animals on factory farms is not only cruel to my fellow living beings, but also the unsanitary conditions (and excessive use of antibiotics) makes for meat that is potentially harmful to human health as well.

And as a philosopher, the infliction of pain and suffering on sentient beings should bother me (at least a little bit) morally.

 

It does.

 

But still… despite what I know about harvesting and eating, I continue to consume meat. I feel like there’s something that is keeping me from joining the growing chorus of voices that have abandoned their meat-eating ways and declare I AM VEGAN.

 

…and not just because bacon tastes yummy.

tenor

 

I think the reason why might have something to do with speciesism.

A lot of humans, whether they know it or not, practice speciesism.  

In his book Animal Liberation (1975), the Australian philosopher, Peter Singer (born: July 6, 1946), describes speciesism as a bias in favor of one’s own species and against a species because that particular species is that species. That is, people are biased in favor of people (and people-like animals like primates) at the expense of the interests of other non-human species.

We are less inclined to consider the interests of species that do not resemble humans or ones we cannot anthropomorphize. 

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THE ONLY REASON WHY YOUR FIRST THOUGHT ABOUT THIS MOUSE IS “AWW” INSTEAD OF “KILL IT BEFORE IT INFECTS THE SHIP”, IS BECAUSE FIVEL IS ADORABLE. HE’S ADORABLE BECAUSE OF A-N-T-H-R-O-P-O-M-O-R-P-H-I-S-M

The fact that non-human animals are not human or can’t be given human-like qualities shouldn’t exclude them from our moral considerations. Non-human animals feel, and that, Singer argues, is enough to consider the interests of non-human animals.

 

 

Preferably using utilitarian ethics.

 

According to Singer, speciesism is as morally wrong as racism or sexism.

We recognize that prejudice against humans based on religion, gender, or race, is arbitrary (therefore, unjustifiable). Most people would reject the argument that a particular race or religion is more valuable than another. The notion that men are more valuable than women is…well, we like to say that we’ve advanced beyond thinking about women like Aristotle. Or Nietzsche.

 

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YEP…HE WROTE THAT

 

Likewise, according to Singer, valuing human life over non-human life or treating a species better because it is cute and cuddly (and it does “human” things) is arbitrary and unjustifiable. To insist that a cat or a dog is more valuable than a cow or a chicken is, according to Singer, a double standard.

Historically speaking, philosophy hasn’t been kind to animals. Aristotle referred to non-human animals as “brute beasts”. Rene Descartes (1596 -1650) maintained that animals are incapable of reason and do not feel pain. Animals, Descartes stated, are mere organic machines.

Because animals cannot reason, Descartes argued, they don’t have souls. And because animals don’t have souls, we are not morally obligated to consider their interests.

Remember, folks… that howling you hear isn’t the sounds of an animal screaming in pain.

 

It’s the sounds of the clock’s springs breaking.

 

Although the German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) believed that animals are mere beasts, Kant rejected the notion that we can do with non-human animals as we please. Kant argues that, although we are not directly morally obligated to animals, we have an indirect moral duty to care for their welfare. Kant argues that our treatment of animals is tied to our treatment of those we have a direct moral obligation to  people.

Kant argues that people who are cruel to animals are often also cruel to people.

In Lectures on Ethics, Kant states:

American philosopher Christine Korsgaard (born: April 9, 1952), not only argues that it is wrong to kill animals for consumption, but also argues that the factory farming, specifically the production of meat, is more damaging to the environment and human health than a plant-based diet. Korsgaard argues, like Singer, that our moral obligation to animals is not negated by the fact that animals are not human.  

Korsgaard states:

 

…the loss of life matters to a human being in certain ways that it wouldn’t matter to another sort of animal… I don’t think it follows that a non-human animal’s life is of no value to her: after all, the loss of her life is the loss of everything that is good for her.

On factory farms, Korsgaard states:

 

…the whole human enterprise will be supported by a bloodbath of cruelty, hidden away behind the closed walls of those farms.

 

Korsgaard also observes the irony of maintaining the belief in the higher rationality and morality of humans while simultaneously justifying the killing of other, supposedly less developed, species. 

Ok… Factory farms are bad. And maybe we shouldn’t eat animals. But that doesn’t mean that we should start treating non-human animals like people, right? Humans are just different from other animals… right? But what, if anything, makes people different from non-human animals? What makes people different from cats and dogs and cows and chickens has something to do with a little concept called personhood.

i_am_a_person_by_geeko_hhh-d3hz5nh

Our friend, Wikipedia defines personhood as:

 

the status of being a person. Defining personhood is a controversial topic in philosophy and law and is closely tied with legal and political concepts of citizenship, equality, and liberty. According to law, only a natural person or legal personality has rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and legal liability.

 

If you are a person, you are worthy of moral consideration.

If you are worthy of moral consideration. your interests matter.

And exactly what makes you a person with interests that matter?

If you ask Immanuel Kant, you are a person with interests that matter if you are rational.

Kant writes:

 

…every rational being, exists as an end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will…Beings whose existence depends not on our will but on nature have, nevertheless, if they are not rational beings, only a relative value as means and are therefore called things. On the other hand, rational beings are called persons inasmuch as their nature already marks them out as ends in themselves.

 

Non-human animals can’t be “persons” because they are not rational.

Hold on a minute, you say. There are plenty of humans that aren’t rational.

 

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PICTURED: NOT RATIONAL PERSON

 

Small children are notoriously irrational. Mentally ill and developmentally disabled people may also lack the degree of rationality required for personhood. On the other hand, non-human animals such as crows, pigs, octopuses, certain breeds of dogs, and primates (like chimps and bonobos) often display a degree of cognitive ability (aka, rational thought) not seen in some humans. 

So, that means some animals are persons, right?

 

 Well….

 

In 2013, the Florida-based Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit in the state appeals court of Manhattan on behalf of a pair of chimpanzees named Kiko and Tommy, arguing that the pair should be released from captivity and placed in an outdoor habitat. The lawsuit claimed the chimpanzees’ captivity violated their rights. Wise argued that Kiko and Tommy are entitled to the same legal rights as persons.  Their lawyer, Steven Wise, argued that chimpanzees (like Kiko and Tommy) possess the mental capacity for complex thought and can perform tasks and make choices.

 

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KIKO AND TOMMY

 

Now, if philosophers (including Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant) hold that the capacity for cognitive thought and decision making are qualifications for personhood, it should follow that a non-human animal capable of complex thought and decision making – even to a minimal degree − is a person.

If not legally, then at least philosophically.

And if we hold moral objections to eating animals that are like us or are us, then we should not eat non-human animals.  

Unfortunately for Tommy and Kiko, the Appellate Court in Manhattan ruled that Kiko and Tommy are not persons under the law and therefore not entitled to human rights.  

The Court ruling stated:

 

The asserted cognitive and linguistic capabilities of chimpanzees do not translate to a chimpanzee’s capacity or ability, like humans, to bear legal duties, or to be held legally accountable for their actions

The Court added that non-human animals “lack sufficient responsibility to have any legal standing.”

 

So…. What are we to do?

 

As of now, non-human animals are not entitled to legal personhood. Legally speaking, speciesism remains the law of the land. Killing, eating, or experimenting on (most) non-human animals is legally permitted, if not, in large part, socially acceptable.

Unless the law changes (or a zombie apocalypse turns us all into meat eaters), the question of eating meat will remain a philosophical conundrum – a matter of personal taste between you and your ethical theory of choice.

Until then…. Subway® Chicken & Bacon Ranch sandwiches. Forever.

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SOURCES:

https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/peter-singer-on-speciesism-and-racism/

https://green.harvard.edu/news/ethics-eating-animals

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-animal/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personhood

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/captive-chimps-tommy-kiko-not-entitled-human-rights-court-article-1.3231598

 

I THINK THEREFORE I AM (Gonna be your valentine)

IT’S VALENTINE’S DAY – the day to celebrate all things romantic. The day for chocolates and roses, poetry and romance.

Valentine’s Day is a day for LOVE.

…and philosophy.

Not this kind of philosophy

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This kind of philosophy.

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A popular perception of philosophers is of an ineffectual, navel gazing infertility, more inclined to spend the night with Plato’s Republic than out on an actual date with an actual person.

That’s not always, tho.

Another popular perception of philosophers, specifically philosophy professors, is, in movies, that philosophy professors are always pervy. If all I knew about philosophy professors came from movies, I’d swear that philosophers are prone to sleeping with their students.

…and by “sleeping” I mean have sex.

Leaves of Grass, Irrational Man, Lover For A Day…

All movies about philosophy professors.

All maximum pervage.

Movie philosophers live their lives like the lyrics of a Steely Dan album.

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SHE THINKS I’M CRAZY, BUT I’M JUST GROWIN’ OOOOOOOLD

Whether we think of philosophers as hapless neuters or as dirty old (and not so old) men who use their university campus as a eating agency, we often don’t think of real philosopher’s real love lives.

What they do when the lights are turned down.

So, with Valentine’s Day in mind, I think it’s time to take a little time to think about philosophers and love.

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SAID NO ONE EVER

You might think that philosophers wouldn’t be interested in thinking or writing about a subject like love. Love is emotional. Philosophy is rational – logical. Everything love is not.

If you’re thinking philosophers don’t think about love (philosophically), you’d be quite wrong. Philosophers think and write about everything.

EVERYTHING.

If we’re thinking about love philosophically, the first thing we might ask is What is Love?

If you’re Rick Sanchez, the answer to the question “what is love?” is easy

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Of course, if you’re a philosopher, the answer is more complicated than that.

Why is it complicated?

Because philosophical reasons.

Well, if we’re being philosophers about things, to figure out what love is, we can look at love epistemologically. 

We might ask an epistemological question like, how do you know you’re in love?

We can have all kinds of philosophical fun sorting out all the necessary and sufficient conditions to determine what love is and if we are in it.

There are people who actually do this.

If we’re thinking about the ethics of love, we might ask if we are obligated to love others? To love ourselves? What is the value of love? Who should we love?

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Before we look at love epistemologically, ethically, or whateverly, might want to ask what kind of love we’re talking about.

In philosophy, love isn’t just one thing: the ancient Greek philosophers distinguished love between philia (friendship), agape (love for mankind or brotherly love), and eros (erotic or sexual desire).

Plato writes about love in Phaedrus and Symposium. According (but not limited) to Plato, we are torn between the desires of the flesh and the soul. The body, driven by lowly carnal desires, corrupts the soul and gets in the way of finding higher truth.

The objective of love – true love – according to Plato, is to transcend the body. True love gets us to truth.

And truth leads to wisdom.

Philosophers love wisdom.

Aristotle places a heavy emphasis on philia – friendship.

Book VIII of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is devoted to friendship. Aristotle writes,

Moreover, friendship is not only an indispensable, but also a beautiful and noble thing: for we commend those who love their friends, and to have many friends is thought to be a noble thing; and some even think that a good man is the same as a friend.

Religion traditionally emphasizes agape, as agape love is tied to our love of God.

The Aristotelian idea of love: the meeting of one soul inhabiting two bodies, is still a part of our modern idea of love.

Aristotle says,

Lovers delight above all things in the sight of each other, and prefer the gratification of this sense to that of all others, as this sense is more concerned than any other in the being and origin of love. 

So, what about actual philosophers and love?

You can probably guess.

Cue Lady Gaga.

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There’s a perception that philosophers make for lousy romantic partners. That perception isn’t too far from reality. After all, philosophy takes time and energy.

It’s difficult to remember anniversaries and flowers and candy for Valentine’s Day when you’ve dedicated yourself to the full-time pursuit of wisdom.

Here’s a short list of the romantic misadventures of a few (western) philosophers:

Socrates married, but if you’ve read anything about Socrates, you know how he felt about his wife, Xanthippe.*

Xanthippe wasn’t exactly the love of Socrates’ life. Socrates’ true love was a young soldier named Alcibiades.

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And there’s no cruising the Internet without seeing this quote from Socrates:

By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you will be happy. If you get a bad one, you will be a philosopher.

The unmarried philosopher’s club boasts some rather famous members:

Locke, Hume, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant never married.

Kant’s life was described as “monastic”.

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Nietzsche and Schopenhauer never married, either.

Kierkegaard’s devotion to philosophy ended his engagement to his muse and great love, Regine Olsen.

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Kierkegaard also never married.

If you ask me, Kierkegaard lost out.

Amazingly, Hegel found a wife.

Speaking of children out of wedlock…

Rousseau, perhaps the poster child for pervy philosophers (He flashed women. Seriously, he did. Look it up), famously abandoned his five children. Although Rousseau married his mistress (who was also the mother of his fifth child), he married her only after he ditched his kids.

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Rousseau’s Maury Povich Father-of-the-Year award might not say much about Rousseau’s romantic inclinations, but it does say he didn’t love his kids.

Not even philia love.

Not even agape.

Heidegger had an affair with Hannah Arendt while she was his student.

Ayn Rand said she loved her husband, Frank O’Connor, for selfish reasons. Rand explained in a 1959 interview with journalist Mike Wallace that her love for O’Connor was in her own interest.

“I take selfish pleasure in it,” Rand said.

We probably know too much about Foucault’s sex life.

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On the bright side of philosophical romance, Sartre had a life-long relationship with de Beauvoir.

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Bertrand Russell not only married (four times!), he also believed that love is important because love leads people to seek knowledge. We seek knowledge to benefit those we love.

Russell wrote,

Although both love and knowledge are necessary, love is in a sense more fundamental, since it will lead intelligent people to seek knowledge, in order to find out how to benefit those whom they love.

Russell wasn’t too keen on our traditionally modest views on sexuality, either.

…which could explain why Russell was described as suffering from “galloping satyriasis”.

Bertrand Russell

PICTURED:  SEX GOD

Well…

Whether you got mad Bertrand Russell romance skills or you’re kicking it Immanuel Kant style this Valentine’s Day, don’t forget that philosophy ain’t just about contemplating your big toe or counting angels on the head of a pin. Philosophers think about love, write about love, and fall in and out of love just like everybody else.

Unless your name is Immanuel Kant.

So, while you’re celebrating tonight with champagne and roses, while your home tonight with the one you  love, getting down with some Hegel and chill, remember to whisper into the ear of your love the romantically philosophical words of Immanuel Kant, “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds them to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”

That’s romantic speak for Kant, you see.

Because Immanuel Kant never dated anyone. Ever.

 

 

 

 

*It seems that the common depiction of Socrates’ wife Xanthippe is incorrect. History portrays Xanthippe as a unpleasant shrew, however, Socrates described Xanthippe as a good, caring wife.

 

 

SOURCES:

https://classicalwisdom.com/five-reasons-socrates-terrible-husband/

https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/05/18/bertrand-russell-what-i-believe-love/

https://www.google.com/amp/www.telegraph.co.uk/books/authors/brilliant-men-always-betray-their-wives/amp/

https://youtu.be/mQVrzWtqgU

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. F.H. Peters [1893]. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. 173, 218.