Everybody’s out there philosophizing and I’m just sitting here…

I THINK I’M NEGLECTING my philosophical duty to be a gadfly.

I mean, I think I should be saying something about some stuff. Denying the local gods… corrupting the youth — that sort of stuff — philosopher things. I mean, what’s not to talk about?

There’s a lot of political stuff going on out there.

It’s not that I want to avoid saying anything, it’s just that I…don’t.

I know that’s not very a Socratic thing of me to do. Socrates was a speak your mind kind of guy. At least I think he was. Of course, all I know about Socrates is from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

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DUST. WIND. DUDE. YEP. THAT’S ALL I KNOW

Socrates spoke his mind. He challenged the MAN out there in ancient Athens. So much so the city of Athens put Socrates to death. They made him drink hemlock. Socrates’ followers begged him to not drink it, but he did it anyway. That’s because Socrates believed in what he believed in and accepted his death sentence like a real philosopher should.

He wasn’t a punk about it.

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SOCRATES AND THE ORIGINAL TOXIC FANDOM

These days, drinking hemlock is easy. You could get your own reality tv show about that.

The fear these days is being doxxed.

Well, until that Equifax data breach. You can bet your personal info is out there now.

The thing is, it’s not that I don’t want to say anything. I do. I’ve got plenty to say about EVERYTHING.

I am philosopher, after all.

I have a political science degree (the second most useless degree). That almost guarantees that I’ve got more than a few things to say about politics. Jf you think about it, how can anyone look at the state of international events and the Trump Administration and not have something to say?

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YOU SAY YOU HAVE THE BEST WORDS, MR. PRESIDENT? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

All this shit going on around the world is enough to bring out the inner Socrates in anybody.

And yet, I am silent.

…bout politics anyway.

I could have a TEDx talk. I could be the cool kids’ philosopher. I could reach the same level of the pop culture popularity as Slavoj Žižek..if I said something.

But I don’t.

But I’m not out there delivering my life-affirming, yet philosophically enlightening talk on the TEDx stage. I’m not Ben Shapiro, the cool kids’ philosopher. I finally have to admit that, at this point, I’m never gonna be as zeitgeisty as Žižek.

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PICTURED: A ZEITGEISTY ZIZEK MEME

The philosopher’s place in society is to ask questions and to challenge the fundamental assumptions upon which we derive our “knowledge” of things, but I’m having none of that.

It seems like everybody’s out there philosophizing and I’m just sitting here masturbating.

Wait — whoops.

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Alright. I might have overshared a bit, but my POINT is that I feel like I should be saying something about what’s going on.

Something philosophical.

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WHY? Well, the why I feel like I feel I’m neglecting my philosophical duty to say something about current events is because everybody else is saying something, but philosophers have been (strangely and inexplicably) silent.

I don’t want to hate, but when we get to the point when reality tv show people are asked for their opinions on the Trump tax cut — on the news — I think it’s time to have at least one philosopher spend a few minutes chatting it up with Chuck Todd. About anything.

What does Saul Kripke think about this season of The Bachelorette?

I dunno. But, it makes as much sense asking Kripke about The Bachelorette as it does asking any other rando about politics

Especially about politics.

You see, philosophers were the first political scientists. Not many people know this, but philosophers INVENTED politics. Have you read The Republic? Second Treatise of Government? A Theory of Justice? Alright, nobody has. But they were all written by philosophers!

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PHOTO OF SOCRATES EXPLAINING TO INTERLOCUTOR WHO INVENTED POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY (circa 380 BCE, colorized)

 

Philosophers were the first people to write about the law. Do you like Law and Order? Do you watch Judge Judy?

Thank a philosopher for that.

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You like The Matrix? Are you a Trekkie? Ever wondered where John Locke got his name from on the tv show Lost? Enjoying The Good Place? Have you ever considered the moral implications of not killing Marty at the end of The Cabin In the Woods?

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ACTUALLY, WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MARTY DIDN’T DIE

THAT’S ALL BECAUSE OF PHILOSOPHERS.

Wait…

I know what you’re saying… How can I claim that there are no philosophers out there saying anything about anything? “The cool kids’ philosopher” (aka, Ben Shapiro) is out there destroying folks with FACTS and LOGIC. So is Jordan Peterson. Heck, Slavoj Žižek is all over the place enough to generate a dank meme stash.

 

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PICTURED: A DANK ZIZEK MEME

I can’t say I’ve never seen Cornel West on MSNBC.

Cornel West is on The Matrix DVD commentary, for goodness sake!

Isn’t that enough philosophy?

After all, didn’t Hawking say that philosophy is dead?

It’s not like philosophy is as popular as Lizzo and NOBODY is demanding philosophers  join the MCU.

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DEFEATING THANOS WITH THE POWER OF INDIFFERENCE

 

OK. Reality check time. I know that even the most popular contemporary philosopher (yes, even best-selling author Jordan Peterson)  isn’t as popular as the least well-known Jonas Brother. I know that philosophers, especially philosophers in academia, ain’t EVER going to be popular ’round here.

Not as long as philosophers don’t look like this:

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Or like this….

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Let’s be honest, Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson are philosophers but they’re not PHILOSOPHERS. And PHILOSOPHERS are the kind of philosophers I’m talking about. Sure, Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life is fine, and kudos to Russell Brand for diving head-long into the role of public intellectual, but where are the folks who actually studied philosophy????

Jordan Peterson is a psychologist.

Not knocking psychology, but a psychologist ain’t a philosopher.

Ok, except for William James.

Where are the ethicists to tell us about the morality of the Trump tariffs? Where are the epistemologists to chat with Rachel Maddow about the known unknowns?

Why doesn’t Judith Butler have her own reality tv show?

Why isn’t Žižek on Ellen?

Come on, this guy was made for tv.

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Where’s the philosopher “grab her by the pussy” tape?*

But, alas…. there are no philosophers on tv. Or anywhere else in the public square.

I think I know why.

Philosophers aren’t on tv (or anywhere else in public) in part, because of the perception that philosophy is tedious and boring and irrelevant. Unfortunately, philosophers haven’t done much to change this perception. Philosophers, unlike other dork professions like astronomy, quantum physics, and whatever field of science Bill Nye the Science Guy actually does, ain’t leaving the academy to chat with normal folks. Philosophers don’t talk about philosophy with people who aren’t philosophers.

it’s kind of like philosophers just talk to themselves.

kind of  like….masturbating.

…at least intellectually.

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Philosophy has got a terminal case of academicitis.

And that’s what it is, I think. Even though I’m not a professional philosopher, I’m still a product of the academia. And, as a product of the academia, I carry the academic attitude — namely, the attitude that the only people who are worthy of having philosophical conversations with are other philosophers.

What’s stopping me from speaking out is I’m a snob.

This attitude isn’t uncommon in philosophy. Philosophers tend to be a snobby bunch of assholes.

Trust me, most philosophers are assholes.

(seriously, Google “philosophers are assholes” and see what comes up in your search results)

The fact that philosophers are (on whole) intellectual masturbating assholes is kinda odd, considering that Bertrand Russell suggested that philosophy should be for everyone. 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.

Now, I know that being an asshole (especially an intellectual masturbating one) is the wrong way to go, and I know Bertrand Russell said that philosophy shouldn’t be exclusively for philosophers, but gash darn if I’m still not throwing my philosophical two cents in when it comes to politics and other current events.

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I should be shouting nuggets of philosophical wisdom from the rooftops! I should be telling the not-philosopher people how and what a philosopher should think about all things political. I should be enlightening the people on the foundations of democracy. I should be telling everyone on how studying Lock and Montesquieu will change their lives. Regular folks tweet gossip about Taylor Swift and Kardashians. I should tweet about Hegel and Peter van Inwagen.  I shouldn’t be able to say more than three sentences in a conversation without paraphrasing Kant  — but I’m not. I’m not saying anything. Not even in this blog.

I SHOULD HAVE A PODCAST DEVOTED EXCLUSIVELY TO TALKING ABOUT POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY! I SHOULD BE THE FOX NEWS (equivalent) OF PHILOSOPHY, DAMMIT!!!!

But I don’t.

And because of this, I can’t help from thinking that I’m neglecting my philosophical duty to be a gadfly.

I mean, there’s a lot going on out there to talk about.

And why should Jordan Petersen be the only guy in the spotlight?

But I guess if I’m gonna be on camera, I gotta work on my abs.

And I really should stop being a snob.

And I should stop masturbating.

…intellectually speaking, that is.

 

 

 

 

*This comment originally had the name John Searle in it: “Where is John Searle’s ‘grab her by the pussy’ tape”?  I originally wrote this line based on the recent sexual harassment scandal involving well-noted philosopher John Searle. I thought it would be better to change the comment from Searle’s name to “philosopher” to avoid further dragging Searle’s name in the mud.,,,,although I just mentioned Searle’s name and the scandal here. 

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MY RESTING BITCH FACE (aka, I look like Schopenhauer)

I REMEMBER I ONE DAY while I was walking down the street……

I usually spend my time while walking thinking about current events or my daily philosophical musings, but that day I wasn’t really thinking of anything in particular. I was kinda minding my own business.  As I was not thinking about anything in particular, I walked by a guy from the telephone company working on some telephone lines.

As I passed by. minding my own business, the telephone worker guy exclaimed, “Damn! You look like you just killed somebody!”

I look like I killed somebody?!?!? But this is how I always look.

I mean, It’s my face.

Apparently, despite my inner mood, I always look angry.

Actually, homicidal.

That was the day I discovered I have something called RESTING BITCH FACE.

On the inside, I think I’m thinking happy thoughts, but on the outside I look like this:

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I guess if I want to be philosophically correct, I’d say I look less like this

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And more like this:

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If I had to put a philosopher’s name to it, I guess you can say I have resting Schopenhauer face.

Although I just posted a couple of pictures of Slavoj Žižek.

Schopenhauer looked like this:

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CLEARLY A HAPPY LAD

 

H.L. Mencken said, “There is no record in history of a happy philosopher.” I guess that’s true. philosophy isn’t known for its appeal to one’s funny bone.  In Plato’s Republic, Socrates says that laughter should be discouraged, in particular, laughter among the  members of the Guardians class.  Plato (as Socrates) writes,

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

So… if the father of Western philosophy says we shouldn’t be laughing all the time, it’s not hard to imagine that, for philosophers, resting Schopenhauer face isn’t just a facial expression, but a way of life. THE LIFE OF A PHILOSOPHER IS AN UNHAPPY LIFE. If you want to be a philosopher, you gotta perfect the look of a man who looks like, as a random telephone wire repair man would say, he just killed somebody.

Just look at this batch of philosopher sour pusses!

IMMANUEL KANT:

i-kant

GEORG HEGEL:

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THE SIDE EYE IS ON POINT

LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN:

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FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE:

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HE’S NOT SMILING UNDER HIS MUSTACHE

Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule. 

You can find plenty of pics of Foucault smiling.

 

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That half smile on Rousseau’s face is hard to miss…

 

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THE HALF SMILE OF A MAN WHO JUST DITCHED HIS FIVE KIDS

I guess the lesson here is, to be a happy philosopher you have to either abandon your kids or be into BDSM.

Hey, I’m halfway there already!

Anyhoo…. I think I’ve figured out that a life of loving wisdom is, by nature, a fairly unhappy thing.  Finding WISDOM and TRUTH in a world that runs on lies, alternative facts, and truthiness is an often hapless task. It’s not surprising that so many philosophers sport a frown turned upside down. Unfortunately for me, the more years I do this philosopher thing, the more less happy I get.

I think I kinda figured out why:

When I started a Facebook page for my blog (which was an blog for my book — or was it the other way around?) I wanted folks to know that  written philosophy isn’t just for professional philosophers. I wanted people to enjoy reading philosophy. Not exactly all academic level philosophy, but philosophy that would come from anyone who is a fan of all things philosophical. I wanted my blog and my other social media pages to serve as a platform for me and other people who write about philosophical stuff to share their works.

I really need to tweet more.

…and I gotta post more than one picture a month on Instagram.

But, despite my best laid plans, this is the internet and the internet is all about the memes. So, I started posting philosophy memes. It wasn’t long after I started posting memes that I realized that memes generated more likes than written philosophical content.

I had this revelation: MEMES ARE THE ONLY THING THAT GETS LIKES.

Even if it’s philosophy.

So now, I post memes with an occasional (actual philosophy) post. I throw in an original post only occasionally.

BECAUSE ORIGINAL MATERIAL DOES NOT GET LIKES — unless it’s a meme.

13bvgo

 

Here’s what I think: memes killed words on the internet. WORDS. SENTENCES. ACCURACY. COHERENT THOUGHTS….

That’s kinda the stuff that philosophy is all about.

……..And since I’m griping, may I add that people treat comment threads like it’s open mic night at Uncle Fuckety’s Chuckle Hut* and they’re testing their new material for their next Netflix stand-up special.

This situations doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.

This has got me feelin’ all

resting-bitch-face

 

I don’t know what made Schopenhauer sport the perpetual stinkeye (as there was no internet or philosophy memes back then)

Wait — we do know. It was Hegel.

…but I know what’s got me giving the Wittgenstein death stare when I walk down the street.

I could be thinking about the current state of philosophy.

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You know, It’s probably nothing. It’s just my face.

Pretty sure it was just Schopenhauer’s face, too.

 

 

 

Nah. It was because of Hegel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*I totally stole this phrase from Stewie Griffin (The Family Guy).

What Happens On the Holodeck Probably Won’t Stay On the Holodeck

SOMEBODY WROTE “STAR TREK IS philosophy for stupid people”.

I wouldn’t say it’s for stupid people.

I wouldn’t say that sentiment is entirely wrong, either.

I’d say it’s just easy to dismiss the philosophy of Star Trek (and of any pop culture-based philosophy, for that matter) as something that would appeal to stupid people. And, with “aliens” that look like this, it’s easy to dismiss Star Trek fans as… well… as stupid as this obviously-a-dog-wearing-a-dumb costume.

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YES. THIS DOG REALLY HAPPENED ON AN EPISODE OF STAR TREK. SEASON ONE, EPISODE 5, “THE ENEMY WITHIN”. CHECK IT OUT

 

Well… some folks may think there’s a the correlation between Star Trek and the collective stupidity of its audience (that particular folk was Chuck Klosterman, I think), and that’s fine. Like anything in pop culture, Star Trek got its fair share of smart fans and a more than generous helping of stupid fans.

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JUST SAY THE NAME MICHAEL BURNHAM IN A STAR TREK FAN GROUP… AND WAIT

 

But, if Star Trek is philosophy for stupid people, the show is putting out some pretty heavy philosophical stuff — for stupid people.

I’m no smart guy, but I’m pretty sure that the writers wouldn’t waste their time writing episodes for a fanbase with the mental acuity of a Pakled.

luctk

 

Just ask a Trek fan to describe the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of A Man”, and you’ll hear a bunch about how philosophically deep the episode is.

That’s because it is a philosophically deep episode.

Normally when I’m making the case that Star Trek is philosophically deep, I’d rattle off a list of philosophical episodes and themes — but I’m not going to do that right now.

All I’m gonna say is if you want to watch a tv show that, if you say you watch it you can claim it’s because it’s “philosophical”, give Star Trek a look.

…or you can watch Rick and Morty.

Because you need to have a high IQ to understand that.

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But really. Go ahead and watch the Star Trek episode “City On the Edge Of Forever”.

and “Arena”.

and “Plato’s Stepchildren”.

and “Encounter At Farpoint”.

and “The Inner Light”

and while you’re at it, you might as well watch “Darmok”.

tenor-2

 

Now, any incarnation of the Star Trek franchise is chocked-full of philosophy, but my personal favorite philosophical Star Trek is Star Trek: the Next Generation. I prefer ST:TNG (as the fans call it) to other Star Treks because there’s less this:

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and A LOT of this:

 

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TAKE ALL THIS IN, LADIES. THE RIKER FREAKING MANEUVER

 

No, really tho… I prefer Star Trek: the Next Generation to other incarnations of Star Trek because Star Trek: the Next Generation, 1) it was the first Star Trek series I watched on a regular basis, and 2) the series wields philosophy with the subtlety of being struck on the head with a cudgel.

Wait a minute…

 

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So I guess Star Trek is philosophy for stupid people.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway, my likely stupidity aside, the one thing I appreciate about Star Trek IS that the show’s philosophical themes are easy to comprehend. You don’t have to study philosophy to see the philosophy in an episode of Star Trek.

There’s a bunch of philosophical topics and themes to explore all over Star Trek universe (there are six separate incarnations of the tv show and 13 films), so you can take your pick of which one strikes your philosophical fancy.

…but the Star Trek thing that makes me think most philosophically is the Holodeck.

 

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I know not everyone reading this is a Star Trek fan, so I’ll have Wikipedia explain what the Holodeck is to you:

The Holodeck is a fictional device from the television series Star Trek. It is presented as a staging environment in which participants may engage with different virtual reality environments. From a storytelling point of view, it permits the introduction of a greater variety of locations and characters that might not otherwise be possible, such as events and persons in the Earth‘s past, and is often used as a way to pose philosophical questions.

Thank god for that Wikipedia.

Now, according to Wikipedia, the Holodeck can be used in various ways, including…

Re-enacting Klingon rites of passage:

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Re-creating accidents to get Riker off when he’s charged with murder

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and for creating hot Holodeck babes to get Riker off in general…

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HOPEFULLY WHATEVER RIKER CATCHES ON THE HOLODECK STAYS ON THE HOLODECK

Wikipedia* says that the Holodeck can also be used “as a way to pose philosophical questions”.

But here’s the fun part (and when I say “fun” I mean PHILOSOPHICAL) about the Holodeck: we can also ask philosophical questions about the Holodeck.

Namely, why the Holodeck? Why would we want to use the Holodeck in the first place?

If you weren’t thinking philosophically already, I bet you’tr doing some philosophical thinking now!

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Ok… If somebody told you, “hey buddy. I’ve got this fantabulous machine that you can step into and live any life you choose”, would you do it? WAIT — before you say “sure, why not?” let me drop a name on you — Robert Nozick.

Although the American philosopher Robert Nozick (1938-2002), is known (around philosophical nerds fans) for his book on political philosophy Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), he is probably best known for his thought experiment, THE EXPERIENCE MACHINE.

If you’ve watched The Matrix, you know this one.

Red pill, people. Choose the red pill.

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THE EXPERIENCE MACHINE (not to scale)

 

Whether you’ve watched The Matrix or Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Hollow Pursuits” (or seen neither), you probably already have an idea of what The Experience Machine is. But if you don’t know the concept, Nozick says (about the Experience Machine):

Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any
experience that you desired. Superduper neuropsychologists could stimulate
your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or
making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be
floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into
this machine for life, preprogramming your life’s experiences?

Sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t want to spend a day or twenty years inside a machine  designed to give us nothing but pleasurable experiences?

All I’m gonna say is

ME.

WILL GARDNER.

…and a plate of nachos.

Now, the way it’s described, Nozick’s Experience Machine initially sounds like a great thing. The crewmembers of the star ship Enterprise D (that’s Picard’s Enterprise, but y’all already knew that) enjoy the Holodeck as something that evolved 23rd century people are into.

You know there’s something wrong with that 23rd century kind of thinking, right?

Philosophers notoriously have a knack for making everything that’s fun un-fun, and like a true philosopher, Nozick managed to make the idea of climbing into a pleasure machine created by superduper neuropsychologists un-fun.

Before we jump into the Experience Machine for some good-time hedonistic fun, Nozick asks us a question.

Of course, there’s a question…

The question at the core of the Experience Machine is, Is pleasure all that matters?

The answer is supposed to be no.

Listen: The thing (aka, the catch) about the Experience Machine is, despite the lure of a life of good times inside the device, the purpose of Nozick’s thought experiment is to persuade us that life is more than just pleasurable experiences. The point of the machine, Nozick says, isn’t to demonstrate the awesomeness of life in the Matrix, but to show that we should prefer an authentic life in the real world to an (in)authentic one inside the machine.

Nozick gives us at least three reasons why we shouldn’t want to plug in:

First, we want to do certain things, and not just have the experience of doing them. In the case of certain experiences, it is only because first we want to do the actions that we want the experiences of doing them or thinking we’ve done them. (But why do we want to do the activities rather than merely to experience them?) A second reason for not plugging in is that we want to be a certain way, to be a certain sort of person. Someone floating in a tank is an indeterminate blob. There is no answer to the question of what a person is like who has been long in the tank. Is he courageous, kind, intelligent, witty, loving? It’s not merely that it’s difficult to tell; there’s no way he is. Plugging into the machine is a kind of suicide. It will seem to some, trapped by a picture, that nothing about what we are like can matter except as it gets reflected in our experiences. But should it be surprising that what we are is important to us? Why should we be concerned only with how our time is filled, but not with what we are?

Nozick adds:

Thirdly, plugging into an experience machine limits us to a man-made reality,
to a world no deeper or more important than that which people can construct.
There is no actual contact with any deeper reality, though the experience of it
can be simulated.

So… according to Robert Nozick, I shouldn’t want to spend any of my time living Experience Machine-induced “experiences” with Will Gardner

the-first-time-they-met-again-the-last-time-they-saw-each-other-will-and-alicia-36967088-245-245

DAMN YOU, JEFFREY GRANT

Just as Star Trek’s Lt. Barclay shouldn’t want the Holodeck pleasures of a romantic relationship with ship’s counselor (and Commander Will Riker’s imzadi) Deanna Troi

tenor

NO, REG. JUST NO. 

 

Reggie Barclay and I ( and we collectively) shouldn’t want to go into the Experience Machine because, by going in, we deprive ourselves of the real (authentic) experiences that make a meaningful life. Philosophers, and ordinary folks, should prefer truth to a pleasurable fiction.

But why, right?

You know, lovers of wisdom say we (should) want authentic experiences because we need truth if we want to find wisdom, and through wisdom and truth, we find deeper meaning…blah, blah, blah.

Life shouldn’t be about just pleasure. As John Stuart Mill tells us, we should want to be a dissatisfied Socrates rather than a satisfied pig.

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LIKE THERE’S ANY COMPETITION….

 

AAAANNNNDDD —  if we learn anything about the Holodeck from watching Star Trek, we’ll see that Holodeck “experiences” have the potential to cause problems in the real world. In the episode “Hollow Pursuits”, Lt. Reggie Barclay becomes so involved in his life inside the Holodeck that he neglects his responsibilities in the real world. Barclay’s work performance (he’s a member of Lt. Geordi LaForge’s engineering crew) is below standard and his constant tardiness (because he’s in the Holodeck) nearly endangers the safety of the Enterprise. Barclay’s Holodeck depictions of his superior officers, especially his Holodeck of Cmdr. Riker, cause “problems” when Barclay’s superior officers discover his Holodeck fantasies.

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I GUESS RIKER’S NOT A DUMAS FAN

 

Worst of all, Barclay’s Holodeck addiction is preventing him from overcoming his real world social anxiety.

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HE’S TALKING ABOUT HIMSELF, YOU KNOW

   

 

Eventually, Barclay realizes what we, the viewers, already know: life inside the Holodeck is nothing more than a hollow pursuit. Barclay’s Holodeck relationships aren’t authentic– and more importantly — he is depriving himself of the opportunity to form real friendships (and romantic relationships) with his real fellow crewmembers. 

And you know what Aristotle says about the importance of real friendships…

…and on a personal note: I think, for a society that has advanced past the use of money, like they have in the 23rd century of Star Trek, it’s odd (to me) that an experience machine on a starship would be seen as an advancement in human progress.

I mean, you’d think a culture advanced enough to provide a ship’s counselor on staff would know about the dangers of VR addiction.

Also, who is monitoring what goes down in the Holodeck, anyway? I mean, I can’t keep a post of naked boobs up on Facebook for more than three minutes before I get one of those “your post was removed because it violated community standards”things. Who’s keeping watch over community standards violations on the Enterprise’s Holodeck?

You gotta assume there’s some sick shit going on in there.

Anyway…

If you think Star Trek is dumb philosophy for stupider people, you’re kinda wrong on that. Despite all that living in their mom’s basement stuff, Terk fans tend to be pretty smart people — that’s why Star Trek has been cranking out pop culture-ready philosophy for over a half century.

One great thing about Star Trek is that the writers assume that the fans are not only capable of understanding the thump-to-the-back-of-the-head philosophical stuff, but also the deep philosophical subtext that gets us talking about dudes like Robert Nozick and asking ourselves if taking a dive in the Holodeck or Experience Machine is really worth it.

Just in case you forgot, the answer is it’s not. BECAUSE THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN MERE PLEASURE.

WELL…..

I don’t know how you feel about the Experience Machine, but

all I’m saying is that 

I prefer my nachos with guacamole.

source

 

 

 

 

 

*You may have noticed my excessive use of Wikipedia. It’s true. I refer to Wikipedia a lot. I know, Wikipedia has the reputation for being a less-than-accurate source of information. Rest assured, before I use Wikipedia as a source I check with additional sources for information. So far, so good…. I think. 

SOURCES:

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

https://rintintin.colorado.edu/~vancecd/phil3160/Nozick1.pdf

Night of the Living STANS

IF I’VE LEARNED anything from my years spent interacting with folks online, it’s this: all fandoms are awful.

I’m not joking. Most are pretty bad.

dotd

JUST SAY THE WORDS “RUNNING ZOMBIES” IN A ROOM FULL OF GEORGE A. ROMERO FANS AND WAIT…

Take a look around the interwebs and you’ll see there’s a good reason why they invented the phrase TOXIC FANDOM.

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NOT CALLING OUT RICK AND MORTY FANS EXCLUSIVELY (or this young man in the photo in particular), BUT THAT WHOLE MC DONALD’S MULAN DIPPING SAUCE THING WAS NOT THE FANDOM’S FINEST MOMENT…. Wubba Lubba Dub Dub

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that all fandoms are bad (although I just did).
Communing with others who share mutual interests is a good thing. More than half of
my Facebook friends are people I’ve “met” in Star Trek fan groups.
Yes. I’m still on Facebook.
Actually, Star Trek fans are pretty toxic, too.
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JUST SAY THE NAME MICHAEL BURNHAM IN A STAR TREK FAN GROUP AND WAIT…

Trekkies, Little Monsters, Swifties, the KISS Army, the Beyhive, Beliebers — just a few
monikers of popular fandoms. 

 

Question: Are Game of Thrones fans called anything? What about The Walking Dead

fans? What are they called?

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THERE’S GOTTA BE A NAME FOR SOMEONE WHO DOES THIS TO THEIR CAT

Some fandoms’ fans are so devoted they’ve shot past being mere fans;

they’re STANS.

A“stan”, according to Urban Dictionary, is:

crazed and or obsessed fan. The term comes from the song Stan by eminem. The term Stan is used to describe a fan who goes to great lengths to obsess over a celebrity.
These people are fans:
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THIS guy is a stan.
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I’m going to assume that most fans (and even most stans) are harmless, but there are
devoted fans out there.
Almost anything or anyone that’s popular has a fandom. Almost anything or anyone with
one notable exception: PHILOSOPHERS.
In all my years of mindless philosophizing  I have never once heard of or seen a
philosophy fandom.
I mean, Rule 34 of the internet says for every conceivable idea, there’s a porn of it.  I’m
pretty sure that there’s a fandom corollary — for every thing in pop culture, there’s a
fandom of it. Sounds like a reasonable to assume, right?
…and it’s not like philosophy has never been popular. I mean, Socrates had his fans
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ANY GROUP OF FOLLOWERS WHO’D SHOW UP TO WATCH A GUY KILL HIMSELF ARE A PRETTY DEVOTED BUNCH

Glaucon probably was a stan, tho.

 

I mean, think about it for a minute. Philosophy (well… Western philosophy, anyway) has

been around since at least the 6th century BCE, and is the mother of ALL disciplines, but

has there ever once been a PhilosophyCon? Do philosophy fans have clever fandom-

based nicknames? Socrateers, Aristotoholics, Hegelites…?

Is there philosophy cosplay?

Wait — there is philosophy cosplay. But it usually looks like this:

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NOT KNOCKING THESE GUYS. THIS IS PRETTY GOOD PHILOSOPHY COSPLAY

What happens when you put a couple of devoted Kant fans in a room? Do they disagree?

Do Kantian disagreements ever turn violent? Probably not.

Oh wait, they have*

I guess at least Immanuel Kant has stans.

So… at least Immanuel Kant has a toxic fandom.

In Russia, anyway.

 

Ok…. Russian Kantian gun fighting stans aside, maybe the reason why philosophy

fandoms aren’t like Rick and Morty or Selena Gomez fans is because philosophy fans

aren’t like Rick and  Morty or Selena Gomez fans. Philosophy fans, kantian Russians

aside, aren’t very enthusiastic people. They may feel passionate about philosophy, but

they aren’t very passionate about philosophers. And even when they’re passionate about

philosophy,  philosophy fans are pretty subdued about it.

 

Russian Kant stans aside.

 

That Slavoj Žižek-Jordan Peterson debate was hyped to hell and back and it pretty much

just looked like this: 

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TWO BROS JUST CHATTIN’

Ok… I’m pretty convinced Mark Hamill has been doing Žižek cosplay for a few years…
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Well… there is ONE thing Rick and Morty and philosophy fans have in common: but to
understand you gotta have a high I.Q.

Sorry kid.

You see, Tay Sway can shake if off
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Most of the “popular” philosophers are…we… dead. Aristotle has been dead since 322
BCE!!!
He’s not shaking much of anything.
…and shaking is what gets you fans.
Not every philosopher has the natural charisma of cigarette smoking Albert Camus.
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ALBERT CAMUS, THE ZAC EFRON OF PHILOSOPHY

So what should philosophers do  if we want fandoms?
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THIS MIGHT HELP

For starters, philosophy seems to be doing a pretty good job sneaking philosophy into
pop culture with movies like The Matrix and tv shows like The Good Place.  Lots of people
out there play Bioshock.
That’s a video game.
… and with the new Bill and Ted flick in production, maybe we’ll see the return of
Socrates, to introduce a whole new generation of youths to the teachings of the ancient
gadfly of Athens.
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ALL WE ARE IS DUST IN THE WIND, DUDE

After all, we got all those Rick and Morty fans out there with their high I.Q.s  (and all
those Star Trek fans who fancy themselves philosophical),  isn’t it time philosophers
cultivate their own potentially toxic fanbase?
Kantian Russian firearm enthusiasts aside.
I say, it’s time for philosophers to claim their place in the pantheon of (potentially toxic)
fandoms. It’s time to stop wasting time yelling “Pickle Rick!” in public places and put our
high I.Q.s to some good use! Why let those nerdy Trekkers claim all the philosophy??? It’s
time philosophers get shakin’! It’s time for Diogenes cosplayin’ and PhilosophyCon. It’s
time for a tv show about a band of gun-totin’, philosophy-quotin’, kickass lovers of
wisdom and a Chris Hardwick aftershow.
Did you know Chris Hardwick majored in philosophy in college?
He did, you know.
BENTHAMHEADS UNITE!!!!
It’s time to start dressing up our pets like our favorite French existentialist philosopher.
Why should The Walking Dead fans be the only fans who get to do this?
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SERIOUSLY, WHO DOES THIS TO THEIR PET????

O Captain, My — OH MY GOD!!!

THERE’S A PROBLEM with nostalgia.

It’s not a big problem. It’s not a problem like global warming or lost socks in the clothes dryer. But a problem.

The problem with nostalgia is this: Looking back, things often look better than it actually was.

It’s the nostalgia trap.

Sometimes, we reminisce about simpler times that never really happened.

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THE ONLY SIMPLER TIMES I KNOW

Other times, we find out we’ve fallen into the nostalgia trap while re-watching a favorite movie.

Looking back, sometimes movies look better than they actually were.

…especially movies you first watched when you’re fifteen years old.

In particular, if that movie is called Dead Poet’s Society.

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Carpe Diem. That’s 20th century speak for YOLO

Now, I know I’m treading into potentially hostile waters. I’ve seen the DPS fandom — they’re CRAZY devoted.

You know what else is crazy? DPS slashfic. I mean, I get the Anderperry stuff, but I never once ever shipped Charlie Dalton and Knox Overstreet.

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EVERYBODY’S BI IF YOU WATCH A MOVIE ENOUGH TIMES

Did I mention that I’m totally on board with this ship?

Knarlie?…. Chox?

ANYWAY….

When I was a fifteen year old kid (o, so many years ago), I didn’t really make it a habit of thinking too deeply about anything, much less thinking about things philosophically.

Back when I was fifteen, all I thought about was…

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But, now that I’m a wee bit older (older than fifteen, anyway) and taken a few philosophy classes, I realize I HAVE ALL SORTS OF PROBLEMS WITH THIS MOVIE!!!

Dead Poet’s Society is a moral mess.

Particularly on the subject of assigning moral culpability. There’s a lot of finger pointing going on in this movie.

The things you realize when a movie is 30 years old… OH MY GOD, DEAD POET’S SOCIETY IS 30 YEARS OLD. It’s old enough to run for Congress!

But, before we point fingers at anybody, we gotta define our terminology.

So…what’s culpability?

Once again, we turn to Wikipedia to explain things:

Culpability, or being culpable, is a measure of the degree to which an agent, such as a person, can be held morally or legally responsible for action and inaction. It has been noted that the word, culpability, “ordinarily has normative force, for in nonlegal English, a person is culpable only if he is justly to blame for his conduct”.Culpability therefore marks the dividing line between moral evil, like murder, for which someone may be held legally responsible and a randomly occurring event, like earthquakes, for which no human can be held responsible.

Ok… For starters, I want to say I’m talking only about moral culpability, not legal culpability. I’m not talking about sending anyone to prison.

Well, except for maybe this creepy mouthbreather right here.

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But I’ll get to that later.

ANYWAY….

Before we get a call from God demanding we let girls into Welton, let’s all stand on our desks and ready our barbaric yawps to dive into the moral mess that is Dead Poet’s Society.

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CASE ONE: WHO (really) IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATH OF NEIL PERRY?

Every fan of Dead Poet’s Society knows that the death of Neil Perry is the most tragic near-the-end-of a-movie in film history (but only if you’re fifteen years old and haven’t watched Requiem For A Dream yet). Neil’s death by suicide is blamed on the unorthodox teachings of his English teacher, John Keating. Neil’s father claims that Keating’s carpe diem-based philosophy influenced his son to act recklessly. The recklessness? ACTING.

Neil Perry wants to be an actor.

Neil’s father wants him to be a doctor.

OBVIOUS DISAGREEMENT.

John Keating is dismissed from his post as English teacher at Welton Academy —

Wait — did I mention that this takes place at an all-boys prep school in 1959?

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GENTLEMEN, WHAT ARE THE FOUR PILLARS?

So… John Keating is fired from his position as an English teacher at Welton Academy after the school’s administration and Neil Perry’s parents hold Keating (and his teachings) responsible for the boy’s death.

According to Welton’s head administrator, Mr. Nolan, and Mr. and Mrs. Perry, John Keating’s encouraged Neil (and his other students) to be non-conformists and to defy authority by way of their membership in the Dead Poet’s Society. In Neil Perry’s case, Keating is accused of encouraging Neil to pursue a career in acting rather than attending medical school as his parents want him to.

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DING DING! BAD DECISION ALERT

The whole situation goes to seed when Neil’s father discovers his son has secretly taken the part of Puck in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Neil’s father threatens to withdraw Neil from Welton and enroll him in military school (so Neil will go to Harvatd to be a doctor).

Papa Perry tells his son that he is through with that “acting business”.

Feeling trapped by his father and unable to pursue his life dream, Neil commits suicide.*

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…leading to the most tragic moment in cinema history (at least to me when I was fifteen and hadn’t yet seen Requiem For A Dream), when Charlie tells Todd…

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So… Keating loses his job (and presumably his career in academia) because Welton and Neil Perry’s parents and the folks at Welton hold him morally culpable for Neli’s death. If not for Keating’s teachings (and the Dead Poet’s Society), Neil would not have killed himself.

But let’s think about it… is Keating really morally responsible for Neil’s death?

Well, that depends on who you ask.

STEP ONE: ASK A KANTIAN

If we ask a Kantian (god knows we wouldn’t want to ask Kant himself), the Kantian would tell us that Keating is not responsible, morally or otherwise, for the death of Neil Perry. The reason why Keating is not has to do with rationality.

Immanuel Kant, like his contemporary Enlightenment philosophers, believed that human progress, intellectual and philosophical, is the result of man’s rationality.

According to Kant, rationality is a prerequisite for morality.

For Kant, we must be rational to be moral.

That’s what the Categorical Imperative is all about.

Kant tells us that we are bound by moral duties, not only to others, but to ourselves. We cannot violate the categorical imperative, even if the only person we violate the categorical imperative for is ourselves.

Yes, Kant not only says we are capable of using ourselves as mere means to our own ends, he also tells us that’s something we can’t do. Suicide, according to Kant, does exactly that. Kant says we can’t commit suicide because committing killing ourselves treats us as mere means to our ends.

…and it’s not a rational thing to do.

Kant on suicide:

Firstly, under the head of necessary duty to oneself: He who contemplates suicide should ask himself whether his action can be consistent with the idea of humanity as an end in itself. If he destroys himself in order to escape from painful circumstances, he uses a person merely as a mean to maintain a tolerable condition up to the end of life. But a man is not a thing, that is to say, something which can be used merely as means, but must in all his actions be always considered as an end in himself. I cannot, therefore, dispose in any way of a man in my own person so as to mutilate him, to damage or kill him. (It belongs to ethics proper to define this principle more precisely, so as to avoid all misunderstanding, e.g., as to the amputation of the limbs in order to preserve myself, as to exposing my life to danger with a view to preserve it, etc. This question is therefore omitted here.)

Neil bears the moral blame for Neil’s suicide because he violated the Categorical Imperative — on himself.

SO, if we’re assigning moral blame (from the Kantian view), we’d say that the moral responsibility for Neil Perry’s death is all on Neil, not John Keating. If we assume that Neil Perry is a rational (moral) actor (there’s no reason why we shouldn’t), we can also assume that Neil alone is responsible for what he does, including the act of suicide.

Of course, I’m assuming that Neil Perry never heard of Arthur Schopenhauer. For all I know, Neil was a fan.

If Neil was a Schopenhaurerian (is that even a word?) then it’s all on Neil. 100%

Schopenhauer on suicide:

They tell us that suicide is the greatest piece of cowardice… that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.

Wow. That got dark for a moment.

But that’s Schopenhauer for you.

ANYWAY…

So, according to the Kantian, John Keating is in the clear.

Right?

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Ok… if John Keating is cleared of moral culpability by the Kantian, what if we ask a utilitarian?

STEP TWO: ASK THE UTILITARIAN

If the Kantian tells us the John Keating isn’t morally culpable for the death of Neil Perry, we might assume that a utilitarian would also tell us that Keating is not responsible (morally) for Neil’s death.

However, if we assumed that we might be wrong.

So, who would the utilitarian tell us is morally responsible for Neil Perry’s death?

You guessed it.

DEAD POET'S SOCIETY Robin Williams in the 1989 Warner film

THE CAPTAIN HIMSELF

The Kantian’s moral principle is grounded in the Categorical Imperative…

I just want to say, for the record, there’s no reason to capitalize the “C” and “I” in the words “Categorical Imperative”. It’s not like we’re talking about God or anything. It’s a stylistic choice. I capitalize it because it’s a nice thing to do for Kant.

As I stated, the Kantian’s moral principle is grounded in the Categorical Imperative. The utilitarian, on the other hand, is guided by the Greatest Happiness Principle. 

So what’s that?

Greatest Happiness Principle, as articulated by John Stuart Mill in Utilitarianism (1863), is:

The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.

Or, as we often say, an act is morally permissible if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number. 

Doing the right thing is all about what act produces the best consequences for the largest group of people

Sounds simple, right?

I mean, all we have to do is aim to make everybody happy.

John Keating teaches his students to think for themselves and make their lives extraordinary. He urges his students to carpe diem — seize the day — all with the aim to produce the best consequences for his boys.

But there’s a problem with utilitarianism.

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You see, an act is good, according to utilitarianism,  only if the act produces good consequences. Here’s the thing: sometimes, despite our best intentions, bad consequences happen. Even if we don’t intend bad results from our actions, the utilitarian says we’re still morally accountable for them.

If we look at what happens in Dead Poet’s Society, it’s pretty plain to see that Keating’s teachings don’t produce good consequences for everybody.

Let’s see all the bad things that happen when you teach kids to carpe some diems:

  • Neil Perry, motivated by the spirit of  carpe diem, auditions for and lands the part of Puck in a community production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Neil knows his father does not want him to be an actor. Neil’s father finds out and threatens to enroll Neil in military school, dashing his dreams of becoming an actor. As a consequence, Neil commits suicide.
  • Also motivated by the carpe diem spirit, Charlie Dalton publishes an anonymous letter on behalf of the Dead Poet’s Society demanding that girls be admitted to Welton Academy. This act not only reveals the existence of the Dead Poet’s Society to the school’s administration, resulting in Dalton’s major ass whipping, courtesy of head administrator, Mr. Nolan.

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  • It’s almost guaranteed that the reputation of Welton Academy was damaged in the aftermath of Neil Perry’s suicide.
  • Neil Perry’s parents are now childless.
  • John Keating is now jobless.
  • Welton has to purchase another set of English books to replace the texts that are now missing the J. Evans Pritchard introduction to understanding poetry (this seems trivial but textbooks costs money, people).
  • Charlie (whoops, Nuwanda) Dalton is expelled from school for punching Richard Cameron IN THE FACE in defense of John Keating.

And then there’s this final act of group defiance:

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ALL THESE DUDES GOT KICKED TF OUT OF SCHOOL

Now, that wasn’t good for anybody, was it?

Alright. We’ve talked about John Keating and moral culpability. Depending on what moral view you have, Keating may or may not be morally responsible for Neil Perry’s suicide. When it comes to Kantian/utilitarian ethical debates, we can go all day.

Never mind that. We might have a bigger problem…

Remember that nouthbreather I mentioned earlier?

STEP THREE: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KNOX

If you’ve watched Dead Poet’s Society and you’re a fifteen year old girl (shit, even if you’re a guy and you’re not fifteen), you might have swooned over the story of love-struck Knox Overstreet and his quest to win the heart of the object of his affection, Chris Noel.

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LOOKS HARMLESS… LOOKS HARMLESS

The question of moral culpability and John Keating dealt with the question of if or how a person is responsible for the actions of another person.

The question of moral culpability and Knox Overstreet is at what point are we morally culpable for our own actions?

I mean, after all, they’re just kids.

Problem is, even though they’re just kids, Knox Overstreet is RAPEY AS FUCK.

Remember this scene?

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THIS KID HAS GOT #ME TOO WRITTEN ALL OVER HIM

Yeah… only one person in this scene was conscious when this happened.

Now, I’m no lawyer, but I do know that consent is legally required before initiating sexual activity — AND YES, KISSING IS SEXUAL ACTIVITY.

Besides, you can’t consent to anything, even a “harmless” kiss, if you’re not conscious.

Alright, I know. Knox didn’t actually “do” anything. It was just a harmless kiss.  The things is, even if Knox kissed Chris in an “innocent” non-sexual way, he did not have her consent to kiss her. Chris was well with her rights to report Knox to the authorities.

…and press charges.

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IT REALLY ISN’T THO.

Ok, I’m gonna call a time out here. It’s time to define some terms.

Wikipedia (yes, Wikipedia) defines sexual assault as:

…an act in which a person intentionally sexually touches another person without that person’s consent, or coerces or physically forces a person to engage in a sexual act against their will.

Alright. Let’s assume, for the sake of the example, that Knox Overstreet’s “innocent” kiss qualifies as non-consensual sexual contact.

When Knox kissed Chris she was unconscious and unable to give consent — AND she had previously expressed her disinterest in a romantic relationship with Knox.

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So, as far as he knew at the time, Knox was kissing someone who, if she were awake, would have likely rejected him.

That sounds kinda wrong to me.

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ANYBODY ELSE GET THE FEELING THIS KID WOULD SHOOT HIS LAWYER IN THE COURTROOM DURING HIS TRIAL?

BUT — even though it’s wrong (possibly illegal) to kiss, however innocently, an unconscious person, as I asked before, is Knox morally culpable for what he did?

Is a child**, like Knox Overstreet, rational enough to be held morally accountable for his actions?

Immanuel Kant tells us that society’s laws are intrinsically tied to the moral law. Illegal acts are just illegal, they’re morally wrong. Kant also tells us that rationality is requited for moral agency. But how do we determine if a person is rational? More importantly, how much rationality is required for moral culpability? Is it required at all?

Well, if we look at the U.S. legal system (I’m looking at the U.S. legal system because, a) that’s where I live, and b) the U.S. is where Dead Poet’s Society takes place), children as young as 13 are subject to adult prison sentences. That’s because the U.S. legal system assumes a child as young as 13 is rational enough to know the difference between right and wrong.

If a child possesses a basic moral understanding (they can understand the difference between right and wrong), then they ought to be legally accountable for their actions, including possibly being charged as an adult.

Can kinda implies ought.

So… if a 13 year old is subject to legal culpability for committing a crime, then a child the same age as Knox Overstreet (Knox is 17… I think) definitely can be held legally accountable for what he does.

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SORRY, KNOX. YOU’RE GOING TO THE CLINK

Ok. I know. sending a child to prison at 13 years old may seem a bit extreme to pantywaist liberals some. But, remember we’re talking about legal culpability here.

What about moral culpability?

That’s what we were talking about, right?

Well… we might have go back to rationality…

You see, according to science, the teensters don’t think straight. They don’t because they can’t.  

Teenage brains literally prevent teenagers from thinking rationally.

Although adolescents can be charged and incarcerated as adults, neuroscience holds that adolescent brains are different from adult brains. Because a teenager’s brain is not fully developed, they do not possess the capacity to reflect on their actions in the same way adults do; they do not think before they act. Because an adolescent lacks fully developed reasoning skills, an adolescent’s actions are spontaneous (impulsive). Teenagers, like Knox Overstreet, live in a perpetual state of carpe diem.

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OR COSBY DIEM IF YOU’RE KNOX OVERSTREET

 

It’s not unreasonable to argue that a being that is less rational cannot be held morally culpable for what they do.

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IF I WERE CHET DANBURY, YOU KNOW WHAT I’D DO IF KNOX OVERSTREET KISSED ALL OVER MY GIRLFRIEND? I’D GET MY BUDDIES AND TAKE HIM OUT BACK AND PUNCH HIM TILL HE POOPS HIMSELF. THEN I’D CALL IT EVEN…did i fail to mention i actually like the character Knox Overstreet?

SOOOOOO… IF we use the rationality argument to assign moral culpability, we might conclude that Knox Overstreet is not entirely morally culpable for his actions.

BUT WAIT A MINUTE — if Knox can use the rationality (or lack thereof) argument to avoid moral culpability for his actions, doesn’t that mean that Neil Perry is equally not morally culpable for taking his own life?

Maybe. Maybe not. That’s the problem philosophers gotta deal with when we ask questions about moral culpability.

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We ask questions about moral culpability even if the question ultimately is unanswerable.

But since we’re already playing the blame game, isn’t this all really Charlie Dalton’s fault?

STEP FOUR: BLAME NUWANDA

As a fifteen year old Dead Poet’s Society enthusiast, I was smitten by Charlie Dalton.

I think everyone was.

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Charlie Dalton was a natural-born iconoclast. He was the defiant, saxophone-playing poet who took to Mr. Keating’s carpe diem philosophy with the same enthusiasm that legions of DPS fangirls and boys swooned over the golden haired Dead Poet.

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YES YOU ARE, NUWANDA. YES YOU ARE.

Unfortunately, the reason why we love Nuwanda is the exact reason why everything bad that happens in Dead Poet’s Society is all his fault. But why is it all Charlie’s fault, you say?

Remember this scene?

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Yeaaaahhhhh…..

You see, Charlie Dalton was the Dead Poet who placed the anonymous editorial in the school paper petitioning for girls to be admitted to Welton Academy.

That led to some bad consequences…

  • If not for Charlie’s article, Mr. Nolan and the school’s administration would not have known of the Dead Poet’s Society.
  • If the administration didn’t knew about the existence The Dead Poet’s Society, they might not have tied the club to John Keating
  • And if they hadn’t tied the existence of the club to John Keating, Keating might not have lost his job at Welton and his students might not have risked expulsion by standing on their desks with that “O Captain, My Captain” thing.

Pretty sure Neil would still be dead, though.

Hey, wait a minute! Wasn’t it Neil who found Keating’s old yearbook and reconvened the Dead Poet’s Society?

So it’s actually all Neil’s fault.

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YEP. IT’S ALL NEIL’S FAULT

But, Neil’s just a seventeen year-old kid. And teenagers aren’t always morally culpable for what they do.

Here we go again. That damn moral culpability.

ANYWAY….

I’ll just say Meeks is responsible for it all.

 

 

 

 

*For the record, Neil’s suicide was not the right thing to do.

** A child is legally defined as individuals under the age of eighteen.

 

 

 

SOURCES:

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

Immanuel Kant. [1785]. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/arthur_schopenhauer_104802?fbclid=IwAR2cHlLHLxsGJJr-QEWxS7Krddafmek_BQXAPE363jHgLkIZDmm5IP5W1ag#targetText=Arthur%20Schopenhauer%20Quotes&targetText=They%20tell%20us%20that%20suicide,his%20own%20life%20and%20person

John Stuart Mill. [1863]. Utilitarianism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_assault#Groping

https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_interest/child_law/resources/child_law_practiceonline/child_law_practice/vol-34/august-2015/understanding-the-adolescent-brain-and-legal-culpability/

THE (UN)ETHICS OF TV LAW

IN ALL HONESTY cutting the cord kinda sucks.

When you got cable tv, you inevitably end up with a bunch of channels you don’t watch. And it costs too much money.

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The only good thing about cable tv is good reception.

I don’t have cable tv anymore.

Now I have an antenna.

Watching television with an antenna is almost as bad as cable tv.

That is to say, you still get stuck with a bunch of channels you don’t want to watch.

Only the reception is worse.

….which leads me to why I’ve been watching a lot of Start TV.

For those of you who have no idea what StartTV is (and I suspect there’s more than a few of you who don’t) StartTV is an over-the-air television network specializing in women-centered programming.

I swear I am not making a pitch, here.

Anyway, if you enjoy wasting spending your potentially productive waking hours binge watching old episodes of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Ghost Whisperer, and Touched By An Angel, then Start TV is the network for you!

Seriously, I should be getting paid to plug this network.

I might want to say that spending most of my otherwise productive hours of the day binge watching Start TV is a waste of time, but I can’t say my time is entirely wasted.

After all, Start TV airs reruns of The Good Wife.  Two episodes a night. Seven days a week.

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All I can say, is thank God for procedural dramas.

I’m not going to get into the weeds describing the show (you can check it out for yourselves), but i will say that I like The Good Wife more that I like Law and Order (and Law and Order is EVERYTHING) and after all these years I still hate Jeffrey Grant.

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YOU CAN SERIOUSLY GO FUCK ALL OF YOURSELF FOR WHAT YOU DID, JEFFREY GRANT

 

If offered a jaunt inside Nozick’s experience machine, all I’d say is,

Me.

Will Gardner.

and a plate of nachos.

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SERIOUSLY, BOTH ISN’T AN OPTION???

Although I’m unashamedly a devotee of the Will Gardner Worship Society,

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I KNOW i’M NOT THE ONLY PERSON WHO SHIPPED HARD FOR WILL AND DIANE

watching The Good Wife, I can’t help but be reminded of my first tv lawyer crush — my not-as-obsessed-with-as-I-am-with-Will-Gardner-but-kinda-a-lot-for-a-fictional-character crush on New York District Attorney John James “Jack” McCoy of NBC’s long-running legal drama Law and Order.

You just heard the dun-dun didn’t you?

Now, you may ask, why was Jack McCoy my first tv lawyer crush? Go ahead and ask.

I won’t mind.

After all, Jack McCoy doesn’t cut an imposing figure like Perry Mason or have the swagger of a Will Gardner or look as good in a custom-made ensemble like the guys on Suits.

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LOOK AT THOSE DASHING ENSEMBLES

But, what Jack McCoy has — something that Perry Mason, Will Gardner, and the dudes from Suits don’t have… is KANTIAN PHILOSOPHY.

I think Matlock does, tho.

But that’s another story…….

You see, if there’s any trait that ties tv lawyers together, it’s their collective lack of morality. Or rather, their collective lack of good morality.

It’s not unfair to declare that tv lawyers are a ethically deficient bunch.

In a sea full of moral reprobates, Jack McCoy stands out, not just because he’s a (fairly) morally upstanding guy (comparatively), but because McCoy’s morality is (probably) grounded in the Ethics of the most moral of moral philosophers, 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant.

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LOOKS KANTIAN, DOESN’T HE?

Listen: Anybody who knows me knows I claim to be an ethical Kantian. And anybody who knows me knows that i have a soft spot for Kantian characters.

Yeah, i know. Ayn Rand would hate me.

That’s kinda a good thing, tho.

So, lets chat a bit about why Immanuel Kant is so fantastic and how Jack McCoy is the most Kantian(esque) lawyer on tv, shall we?

If you don’t already know (and I don’t blame you if you don’t), Immanuel Kant tells us all ethics is based in duty. Our actions (motivated by duty) are grounded in our obligations to respect the autonomy of other persons and our respect for the (moral) law. According to Kant, our moral duties are universal and absolute (categorical imperatives, if you will), that we are bound to follow, no matter the consequences. Kant says about our moral duty:

an action done from duty has its moral worth, not in the purpose that is to be attained by it, but in the maxim according to which the action is determined.

According to Kant, our actions are morally good if we are acting according to our moral duties — aka following the Categorical Imperative, aka adhering to universal and absolute moral law.

Jack McCoy does this…most of the time.

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If you read your Immanuel Kant (again, I don’t blame you if you haven’t) You’d probably get the feeling that the second formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative sounds a tad like biblical principle of The Golden Rule.

The Second Formulation of Kant’s Categorical Imperative:

act in such a way that you simply treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end

The Golden Rule states Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

It’s nor surprising that McCoy is (almost) Kantian. Not only was Jack McCoy raised Catholic, he was also educated by the Jesuits!

you see, that’s where the biblical principles come in…..whatever.

Ok…I know what you Law and Order fans are saying. There were plenty of times when Jack McCoy would bend the law, threaten even innocent people. and outright lie to get convictions. McCoy has been found in contempt of court on not one, but several occasions.

To that, I say touche and you are correct, my fellow Law and Order fan.

We can blame that on Jack’s lapsed Catholicism…..

Hey, even Kant says you gotta turn over he innocent guy to the ax murderer.

However, Jack Mc Coy’s actions are motivated by his respect for doing what is right (whoops, I mean what is RIGHT because I’m talking about what is ethically right, here) and his respect for the law.  McCoy’s unrelenting pursuit to convict the guilty — including his own colleagues — earned him the nickname “hang ’em high” McCoy.

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When defense attorney Danielle Melnick passes along information that leads to the deaths of witnesses against her client, McCoy does not hesitate to prosecute Melnick for violating special administrative measures — despite Melnick’s attempt to appeal to her (otherwise) good legal record and her friendship with McCoy. McCoy is not persuaded McCoy to overlook her participation in several murders.

It’s also worth noting that Jack McCoy prosecuted more police officers than any other district attorney while in office.

No one else but a Kantian like Jack McCoy would do that.

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Ok, I know that’s ADA Barba and not a cop.

 

Well, probably Matlock would.

but that’s another story……

 

 

 

 

SOURCES: Immanuel Kant. [1785]. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals.

 

(fake) paul

ACCORDING TO URBAN LEGEND Paul McCartney died in an automobile accident on November 9, 1966.*

He didn’t notice that the lights had changed, I guess.

28 IF…

The story goes, The Beatles, not wanting to lose millions of dollars break up the band, secretly replaced the departed McCartney with a (assuming equally musically- inclined) doppelganger named William Campbell Shears.

…and nobody knew the difference.

Almost nobody.

William — or Billy — Shears became Paul and the Beatles continued to make records, all the while dropping hints to their legions of devoted fans that Paul was not, in fact, Paul.

 

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WE KNOW, RINGO…WE KNOW

 

 

The naysayers will tell you that the story of Billy Shears ain’t true, but we — the TRUE FANS — know the truth:

PAUL IS DEAD

That guy on the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club BandNOT PAUL.

The guy who sang “Hey Jude” — NOT PAUL

The guy who sang with Wings — NOT PAUL.

That dude who sang “Ebony and Ivory” — DEFINITELY NOT PAUL.

To this day, Faul McCartney continues to fake Paul.

…or as some of us call him, FAUL McCartney.

FAKE + PAUL = FAUL

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Faul McCartney might look, act, and sound like the real Paul McCartney —  and even though Faul has been Paul McCartney longer than the real Paul was Paul McCartney — he still isn’t Paul. He won’t be. NOT EVER.

They may look the same, but they are not the same.

And folks, if you think I’m going philosophical on this one, yell “bingo!”

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You see, ladies and gentlemen, whenever we say something like, the Paul you see isn’t the real Paul McCartney we’re talking about who Paul McCartney truly is; his identity.

and if you’re into philosophy, you’d say PERSONAL IDENTITY.

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PROBABLY PAUL

So…what is personal identity? According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP), personal identity

deals with philosophical questions that arise about ourselves by virtue of our being people (or, as lawyers and philosophers like to say, persons). 

One question we ask when we talk about personal identity is WHO AM I (and how do we know)?

Well… if  I were the English philosopher John Locke  (1632 –1704) I would say that who we are — our personal identity — has something to do with a little thing called  psychological continuity

In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1689), Locke describes psychological continuity as the continuous chain of collected memories or continuity of character. That means, Paul knows he’s Paul because he remembers his youth in LIverpool and his day-to-day experiences as “Paul McCartney”. Paul’s character traits, including his infamous unrelenting control freakery and studio perfectionism (hey, everybody else’s words, not mine) persists over time.

Paul knows Paul is Paul because Paul feels like Paul.

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ALTHOUGH FAUL FELT ENOUGH LIKE PAUL TO WRITE PENNY LANE

But here’s the hitch with that…

Locke’s definition of personal identity works until we consider the fact that mere memory of past experiences doesn’t necessarily answer the question who am I (and how do I know)?  After all, it’s not difficult to imagine fantastic brain scientists (or surviving band mates) implanting memories of a person’s life in someone else’s brain.

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PICTURED: MEMORY IMPLANTATION

It’s easy to imagine…if you try. 
Sooo… if we can’t rely on memory to tell us who we are, how do we know?
An alternate view of personal identity says who we are THE BRAIN.
THIS IS THE MATERIALIST RESPONSE.
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YOU ARE HERE

First, a quick definition of materialism (according to Wikipedia):
Materialism is a form of philosophical monism which holds that matter is the fundamental substance in nature, and that all things, including mental states and consciousness, are results of material interactions. According to philosophical materialism, mind and consciousness are by-products or epiphenomena of material processes (e.g. the biochemistry of the human brain and nervous system) without which they cannot exist. This concept directly contrasts with idealism, where mind and consciousness are first-order realities to which matter is subject and material interactions are secondary.
Everybody get that?
Simply put, the “who” we are is the product of the chemical processes that take place within our cerebral cortex. According to this view, the answer to the question, “who am I?” is “I” is nothing more than the physical interactions between neurons and neurotransmitters (aka, complex brain stuff). You know you’re you because your brain, by way of complex brain stuff, thinks you’re you.   

Paul is Paul because Paul’s brain thinks it’s Paul.  

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YOU ARE YOUR BRAIN WORKS FINE UNTIL YOU REMEMBER THIS IS WHERE PAUL’S BRAIN WAS ON NOVEMBER 9, 1966

Ok… You are your brain sounds convincing. And if we think about the case of Phineas Gage* you-are-brain makes perfect sense.

BUUUUUTT…

Although fantastic brain scientists can show us all sorts of fancy brain scans of neurons and other complex brain stuff, science can’t tell us exactly where “I” is located in the brain.  A brain injury (like Phineas Gage) or a brain disease (like Alzheimer’s or Mad Cow Disease) can disturb continuity of one’s character.

…So can falling flower pot-induced amnesia.

If my brain is injured by a hit on the head by a falling flower pot and forget who I am, am I still me?  Is Paul Paul?

If, following a deadly car crash that actually killed Paul McCartney, fantastic scientists and unscrupulous band mates created an exact replica of Paul McCartney — a genetically indistinguishable duplicate that thinks and feels like the “real” Paul — is that Paul Paul and not Faul?

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SERIOUSLY!!! WHO IS THIS GUY?!?!???

 

Alright…if we can’t answer the question who am I (and how do I know)? with psychological continuity or by pointing to our brain (aka, the materialist response), how do we answer the question?

How do we answer who am I (and how do we know)? 

More importantly, how can we tell if Paul is Faul?

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NO, NO WAY. NAH. WE AIN’T GOING THERE. 

Honestly folks — and don’t let anybody tell you different —  philosophers and neuroscience are still trying to solve the question of  personal identity,  Some folks insist the answer to the question who am I (and how do we know)? is psychological; others say it’s physical. And others say the answer is literally up in the clouds.

source

Philosophy Now: a magazine of ideas 

Maybe we’ll never know the answer.  All I know is that my brain tells me that I’m me.
Oh! My brain also tells me that Sir Paul McCartney is alive and well and didn’t die in a
car accident in November, 1966. Even though he’s barefoot with his eyes closed and
totally out of step with the other Beatles on the cover of Abbey Road (WHY ELSE WOULD
HE DO THAT IF HE WEREN’T DEAD? TELL ME!!!).
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28 IF, folks… 28 if…

 

 

 

 

 

MORE ABOUT THE CASE OF PHINEAS GAGE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phineas_Gage

SOURCES: 

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/identity-personal/

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