Captain Kirk Makes Scrambled Eggs! (On Star Trek, Nozick’s Experience Machine, and the Worst Star Trek Subplot EVER)

I was watching Star Trek: Generations awhile ago. It’s not a great movie. It pretty much follows the every-other-movie Star Trek rule. That is to say, it’s an odd-numbered Star Trek movie.

The odd-numbered are the ones that suck.

The every-odd-numbered Star Trek movie rule goes like this: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan  (number 2 in the film series) = great movie. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier  (number 5 in the film series) = steaming pile.

The problem with Star Trek: Generations has mainly to do with the plot. It just doesn’t make sense. I haven’t made a formal count, but I’d guess there’s about 89 equally baffling subplots going on in the movie. There are plots involving Data and his emotion chip, the ample-bosomed, Klingon Duras sisters and their plan to destroy the Enterprise, the usually-entertaining Malcolm Mc Dowell and his quest to get back to something called the Nexus, and a not-so-successful meeting of Enterprise captains James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard.

There’s also some mumbo-jumbo about Guinan (played by Whoopi Goldberg) and her relationship with Malcolm Mc Dowell (his character, that is), an opening flashback scene that introduces us to Sulu’s daughter and Kirk’s replacement, the inept Captain Harriman, the crash and explosion of the Enterprise in which the entire Enterprise crew is killed, and some GAWD-AWFUL attempted humor in the holodeck that takes place on the deck of a pirate galleon.

Whoever thought it would be funny to see a Klingon walk the plank was wrong. It’s not.

Now, any honest Star Trek fan will tell you that they’ve not been entirely impressed with every TV show or movie plot line. As much as I was forced to hold back bile while watching the Enterprise crew’s pirate ship shenanigans, if I wanted to be honest, my vote for the worst of the subplots – the worst subplot in any Star Trek movie – has to be the Nexus.

The Nexus is the biggest WTF plot line in Star Trek history.

Although strangely enough, it’s one of the most philosophical.

If you’re not acquainted with the Nexus, the Nexus is a kind of alternate world where you can manifest your ideal reality. Once you’ve entered the Nexus, you can spend an eternity in your ideal world. For Captain Jean-Luc Picard, ideal reality looks like a Charles Dickens novel; equipped with English-accented children (never mind that Picard is supposed to be French) in proper period attire. According to Captain Kirk, ideal reality is riding horses, chopping wood, and making eggs for his unseen girlfriend.

 

captain kirk makes eggs

 

I mean, the audience doesn’t get to see Kirk’s girlfriend. But we’re told that she’s in the bedroom upstairs.

We’re told her name is Antonia.

Who TF is Antonia?

As a Star Trek fan, I gotta say that this Antonia thing is upsetting. Not as upsetting as the new Carol Marcus’ British accent, but upsetting. I mean, every Star Trek fan knows that in an ideal world, Kirk would chose to be with his old love Carol Marcus*.

Maybe even chose to be with Edith Keeler.

 

 

THIS IS WHAT CAPTAIN KIRK'S IDEAL REALITY SHOULD LOOK LIKE

THIS IS WHAT CAPTAIN KIRK’S IDEAL REALITY SHOULD LOOK LIKE

 

Or maybe, since Star Trek is supposed to be philosophical, Kirk or Picard might have chosen a world that included having a little chat with Robert Nozick. I don’t know if it was intentional, but I get the feeling that the film’s writers were trying to squeeze in some experience machine talk to the audience. The Nexus is Robert Nozick’s experience machine.

Robert Nozick’s thought experiment was an argument against hedonism.

Hedonism, according to the English philosopher, Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832), is the moral theory grounded on the principle that pleasure is the greatest good. Bentham wrote:

“Nature has placed mankind the governance of two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure… They govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think… By utility is meant that property in any object, good or happiness… to prevent the happening of mischief, pain , evil, or unhappiness…”

Nozick argued that Bentham’s emphasis on pleasure as the greatest good presents us with a problem. Namely, that if we value pleasure for pleasure’s sake, any pleasurable experience will do; we won’t bother to ask if pleasure is what’s really good for us. That is to say, some pleasurable experiences do us more harm than good.

This is precisely what Nozick’s experience machine shows us.

Nozick describes the experience machine as follows:

“Suppose there was an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired… 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.”

If you’re feeling that this is the idea behind The Matrix and/or Total Recall, give yourself five bonus points.

You have seen this one before.

 

I NEVER THOUGHT I'D LIVE TO SEE THE DAY WHEN I'D SAY THE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER VERSION IS BETTER.

I NEVER THOUGHT I’D LIVE TO SEE THE DAY WHEN I’D SAY THE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER VERSION IS BETTER.

 

Although Nozick knows that some people would not hesitate to climb into the experience machine, he tells us that the wrong choice would be to climb inside. You see, Nozick says that there is more to life than mere pleasure. We should value the quality of our life experiences, not just the quantity of the pleasurable ones. Nozick argues that only is life worth more than pleasure, Nozick also says that the artificial experiences we live in the experience machine lacks authenticity. Nozick says:

“We want to do certain things, and not just have the experience of doing them… we learn that something matters to us in addition to experience.”

In the movie, Picard realizes that he can’t stay in the Nexus. He feels the urge to leave his ideal world, even though the Nexus’ “reality” is exactly the life that Picard wants. Picard knows that the Nexus isn’t real – that life inside the Nexus is, in reality, a denial of life. Picard eventually convinces Kirk to leave the Nexus (Kirk is also aware that life inside the Nexus isn’t “real”), and the two men rush to save the Enterprise from – well, you see, this is where the plot of the movie gets really convoluted.

 

WHO THOUGHT TWO OLD DUDES FIGHTING WOULD BE ENTERTAINING?

WHO THOUGHT TWO OLD DUDES FIGHTING WOULD BE ENTERTAINING?

 

 

Anyway, long story short. Kirk dies.

But here’s the thing: even though Kirk dies, it was better that he left the Nexus. According to Nozick, Kirk’s life in the Nexus was kind of living death. Since Kirk wasn’t actually chopping wood, riding his horse or making eggs for his girlfriend, he wasn’t really experiencing anything. We’re tempted to say that Kirk’s authentic death outside of the Nexus was qualitatively better than any thing he had experienced inside his artificial reality.

I guess unless you’re Thomas Nagel. You’d probably think Kirk’s death was pretty messed up.

But then, Nagel said any death is pretty messed up.

Ok, we get it. Nozick wants us to value authenticity over pleasure and we shouldn’t want to hook up to the experience machine. Nozick’s argument works fine if all we want to do inside the experience machine is to avoid the real world or to fulfill our desire to get tag-teamed by Megan Fox and Mila Kunis.

Or if you’re Kirk, shagging a couple of Orion slave girls.

But, if the quality of our experiences matters in the real world, why wouldn’t the quality of our artificial experiences matter as well?

If we choose to take private philosophy lessons from Socrates or to sit on a meeting of the Vienna Circle or choose to spend our time in the experience machine in deep philosophical contemplation, would we say that we wasted our lives away doing nothing of real value? If the circumstances of our lives prevent us from doing what we want to do, why should we reject an offer to spend time in the experience machine?

Would Nozick say that a person who is physically incapacitated shouldn’t want to experience climbing a mountain or taking a long walk along a beach? Would it be wrong if a woman living in a nation that oppresses women uses an experience machine to have a kind of life she is not permitted to have at home?

Is there ever a circumstance when good, albeit simulated, experiences are preferable to one’s shitty, all-too real existence?

I don’t know what Nozick would say about that, but I wouldn’t fault anyone for jumping into the experience machine if it meant you didn’t have to watch Star Trek V.

 

 

 

 
* It would also seem correct that Kirk’s ideal world would have included, along with Carol Marcus, Kirk and Marcus’ son David. Kirk did not meet his son until David was an adult (in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan). Unfortunately, David Marcus was murdered by Klingons in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. It seems quite reasonable that a man would want to spend an ideal eternity with his long-lost son.

 

 

 
Sources:

Robert Nozick. Anarchy, State, and Utopia. 1974. NY: Basic Books.

Jeremy Bentham. “The Utilitarian Calculus”. Ethical Theory: Classical and Contemporary Readings. 2007. 5th edition. Ed. Louis J. Poijman. Belmont CA: Wadsworth. p. 143.

Living the Good Life: On the Pursuit of Happiness, Fame, Fortune, and the Philosophical Necessity of Twerking

Miley Cyrus.

There. I said it.

Nowadays, if someone even whispers the word “twerking”, she’s the first (and often only) name that comes to mind.

miley

I guess it’s up to you whether you want to tack a “fortunately” or “unfortunately” on that fact. For the record, when I think about twerking I think about this:

I’m not going to say anything about whether it is a good career move to officially shed one’s child star image by shaking one’s rear end in public places, but what I will say is that I can’t watch more than five minutes of TMZ Live without hearing the words “Miley”, and “Cyrus”, and “twerking”.

I’ve heard the word Syria on TV fewer times than I’ve heard the word “twerking” all month.

I gotta say that as much as I enjoy watching people twerk, I’m not a Miley Cyrus fan.

Luckily, for everything one can grow to dislike as much as one hates paper cuts or tequila-induced hangovers, there’s a philosophical something hidden in it somewhere.

They say that all of Miley Cyrus’ twerking antics isn’t about being inappropriate, but is about her want to reclaim the childhood that she lost while she was the star of the Disney series Hannah Montana®. It seems that Miley Cyrus has decided, now that she has the opportunity, to act the manner she wasn’t permitted to act when she was at the age when young people typically behave in a manner that we would call “acting out”.

In Miley Cyrus’ case, her “acting out” includes smoking weed and hanging out with “Molly”.

 

GOTTA THANK EBAUM'S WORLD FOR THIS.

GOTTA THANK EBAUM’S WORLD FOR THIS.

 

It seems that what’s really at the heart of Miley Cyrus’ behavior is that Miley, like so many of us, is trying to live the good life – the kind of life that makes one happy.

And when you talk about stuff like the good life and happiness, you’re talking philosophy.

Philosophers, from Socrates to Mill, have written about what kind of life constitutes the good life. Socrates wrote (actually, Plato wrote) that the good life is a life of philosophical contemplation. For Aristotle, the good life meant that one lives virtuously. John Stuart Mill says that once we’ve acquired a preference for higher pleasures (instead of lower pleasures) we are well on our way to living not only a good life, but a happy life. Mill writes that lower pleasures (e.g. sexual promiscuity, intemperance, gluttonous consumption of food and twerking) are merely physically satisfying and can’t make us happy. Indulging in mere physical pleasures, Mill writes:

“a beast’s pleasures do not satisfy a human being’s conceptions of happiness. Human beings have faculties more elevated than the animal appetites, and when once made conscious of them, do no regard anything as happiness which does not include their contemplation.”

Mill says that we should want to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied pig.
Unfortunately, though Socrates tells us that the best life is a life spent in philosophical contemplation, that’s not what society tells us is the good life. Two thousand years ago you could hire a philosopher (or a sophist, if you went that way) to teach you how to think. These days, the media not only tells us what the cultural zeitgeist is, the media tells us what to think about it.

The media tells us not only what’s important, what we should care about, but more importantly, what makes a good life. If you pay attention to the media long enough, you’ll soon be convinced that nothing matters more than being young, rich, famous, and beautiful.

And if you watch TMZ you’ll spend your day wondering what Lindsay Lohan is doing right now.

lindsay lohan tmz

What the media tells us is no matter how good we think our lives are, there are people out there (i.e. famous people) whose lives are marvelously better than ours. Not only are their lives better than ours, we should want to live the lives they lead. Their lives are the good life. After all, what could be more essential to living the good life than smoking salvia or twerking?

What can be more essential to living the good life than being famous?

So, when we watch the real-life downward-spiraling life of a Hollywood starlet or watch a fictional character whose life is nothing but a meaningless, black void, as long as they are either rich, famous, of good-looking, we can believe that their lives, despite all appearances, is good. Sure, a guy like Don Draper is a morally bankrupt, miserable, S.O.B., who lies not only to himself but to everyone else, but the fact that Don is moderately well-off and looks swell in a Brooks Brothers suit tells us that we need not worry about his philosophical well-being.

A guy like Don Draper is certain to live a good life and be happy.

I guess it has to do with pulling off a debonair look while smoking a cigarette.

don draper smoking

PRETTY SEXY, EH?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily condemning Miley Cyrus, TMZ  or any other celebrity.

Well, maybe I am condemning TMZ.

Any philosopher, well, most, will tell you that the right amount of physical pleasure is a good thing. A proper philosophical soul knows how to satisfy our higher and lower pleasures. And really, when’s the last time you heard of a philosopher drowning in his own vomit?

Our problem is that when we look at the media, they tell us that a good – THE good life is a life devoted to lower pleasures. According to our culture, the life of celebrity is the quickest way to living a lower pleasure-filled life. He might not have known it when he said it, but Andy Warhol hit the nail when he said that everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes.

As long as there’s reality television, everybody’s got a chance of getting famous on TV.

No doubt that being rich and famous is a good gig, but there are far too many examples of how fame and fortune has good reversing effect on people’s lives.

I mean, have you ever heard of the 27 club?

It’s not entirely wrong to appreciate the fact that the contemplative lifestyle requires longevity. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Gram Parsons, and Amy Winehouse all lived the culturally-approved good life, but they all died before their 28th birthday.
Aristotle lived to be 62.
Leibniz lived to 70.
Sartre died at 76.
Ayn Rand unfortunately lived to the ripe old age of 77.
Immanuel Kant lived to 80.
Heidegger died at 87.
Bertrand Russell nearly made it to the century mark. He died at age 97.

Noam Chomsky is 85 years old and counting…

Listen: A philosopher may be a dissatisfied Socrates, but living past the age of twenty seven might give us enough time to realize that satisfied piggery isn’t the best life to lead. Having fun is alright. We have an inalienable right to be happy (The Declaration of Independence says so), but we also should want to do more than have a good time or feel that knowing intimate details about the Kimye baby is more important than knowing details about the Chelsea Manning case. We should know that twerking or even reclaiming one’s lost childhood isn’t a bad thing, so long as we realize that some of the things we believe will make us happy or make our lives “good” are merely distractions; things that keep us from pursuing the kind of life that will make us truly happy – the philosophical life.

… But then again, it’s hard to argue that partying with Molly won’t make your life good, too.

Sources:

John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism. 2005 [1861]. NY: Barnes and Noble Books. pp. 12.

99 Problems and Gettier Ain’t One

Have you ever been right about something and had no idea that you were?

You didn’t know that you knew?

You might have said you made a lucky guess or blessed by divine intervention or divine insight or you had a “gut feeling”.

You might have even said you had an intuition.

Unless that philosopher is Immanuel Kant. He would tell you an intuition is something completely different.*

and now for something completely different

 

If you asked another philosopher (besides Kant), he might suggest that what you had experienced a Gettier example.

Sometimes they’re called Gettier problems.

that’s when you’re right about something but you’re only accidentally right about it — that’s a Gettier problem.

I once made a T-shirt. It said this:

DSCN1351

 

 

I thought it was funny at the time.
If you’re wondering why I’ve bothered to ask if anyone has ever been accidentally right about something it’s because yes, philosophers think about this stuff.

And if you’re curious to know the name of the philosopher that started philsophers thinking about this stuff, his name is Edmund Gettier.

Remember: his name is Edmund Gettier

 

edmund gettier

 

Gettier’s motivation was that he wanted to know if our truth claims are justified – oh wait, I just used some jargon.

And as my expository writing professor once said, never introduce jargon without explaining your terms.

Or did the MLA Handbook say that?

Ok, first. A “truth claim” is a statement we make about the world (or some state of affairs in the world). For instance, if I say that it is raining outside, or I claim that chewing gum does lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight, or that I know why the caged bird sings, or I know the way to San Jose, I am making a claim about something (or some state of affairs) in the world. Gettier’s point, or mission, if you will, was to determine how we are justified in saying we know something or that we know that our claim is true.

You see, Gettier knew, as we all do, that we live in a world where people make lucky guesses or are just accidentally right. Gettier wanted to figure out how we deal with (epistemologically speaking) lucky guesses, coincidences, or when our truth claims just happen to be true.

It’s possible that our truth claims (or as every other person who’s not a philosophcer calls them, “beliefs”) are both true and justified, but we can’t really say that we know that to be the case.

Ok, let me put it this way: Some of our beliefs are justified and true, but they do not count as “knowledge”. That is to say, we can’t say that we know (or absolutely certain that) this or that statement is true. In his essay, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” (1963), Gettier asks how can our beliefs be true and justified but not knowledge?

Philosophers say for a truth claim to qualify as knowledge it must meet three criteria:

1. X (the truth claim) must be true
2. I believe X is true
3. I am entitled (or justified) in believing that X is true

Is this making sense so far?

If it doesn’t I’m explaining it correctly.

Ok, let’s use an example:
You’re driving in your car. You turn on the radio.

Ten bonus points if you know what song I just quoted.

You glance out of your window and you see a field full of white, billowy creatures you assume are sheep. You think you see sheep because they’re white, they’re fluffy, and they appear to be grazing in a field – which is exactly what you’d expect sheep to be doing in a field.

THIS IS ANOTHER T-SHIRT I MADE. I THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY, TOO.

THIS IS ANOTHER T-SHIRT I MADE. I THOUGHT IT WAS FUNNY, TOO.

 

But, if you were in the field, you’d see that you weren’t looking at sheep at all. You were actually looking at a pack of unusually large and very hairy bichon frise dogs.

So you’re wrong. You didn’t see sheep. You can’t say you know there are sheep in the field.

But, behind a barn in the field there was an actual flock of sheep. You didn’t see the real sheep, but your were accidentally correct in saying there are sheep in the field.

Just by dumb luck or coincidence you made a true statement.

Do you kinda get it, now?

So if I say that I believe that it is raining outside and I want to say I am justified in believing that it is, using the three criteria, this is how I determine justification:

I look outside my window.
I see that the ground outdoors is wet.
I see that there is precipitation falling from the sky.
I smell rain and I hear rain falling against the window and on my roof and I notice that the water stain on my is ceiling bigger than it was before it started raining.
And I recall that the local Accuweather  forecast predicted rain.

Based on science (the weather forecast) and my own observation, I conclude that:

1. It is true that it is raining
2. I believe that it is raining
3. I am justified in believing that it is raining

Simple enough, right?

Well, no. because sometimes, as anyone who has ever panicked because I thought that I they saw a hooded man lurking in the closet when it was just a pile of clothes and a hat can tell you, sometimes we aren’t accidentally right. We should want to rely on more than lucky guesses or accidental truths for knowledge. If we rely on dumb luck we can’t say that we actually know — we lack real knowledge.

It might not seem all that important but justification matters.

If I think that my (otherwise indoor) cat has escaped and is outside roaming about the neighborhood, I want to know, before I start to look for him, if I am justified in believing that my cat has escaped from my house. So, I ask myself how do I know my cat is outdoors?

I decide to make checklist:

I don’t see my cat in the house.
I saw something (I’m assuming an animal) approximately the size and color of my cat outside darting through the bushes next to my neighbor’s parked car
May cat is not responding when I call his name
(actually, my cat never responds to his name. if anyone has any tips for teaching a cat to respond to his name, please let me know).
My cat has escaped from the house several times and each time he’s escaped I found him in the bushes.

 

THIS IS MY CAT. IF HE WASN'T SUCH AN ESCAPE ARTIST HE'D BE ADORABLE.

THIS IS MY CAT. IF HE WASN’T SUCH AN ESCAPE ARTIST HE’D BE ADORABLE.

 

So far, so good. I have enough evidence to believe that my cat is outside in my neighbor’s bushes.

But there’s a problem.

Saw this coming, right?

My cat is outdoors but he’s not in the bushes like I believed. I didn’t see my cat at all. What I saw dart into the bushes wasn’t my cat but a small, cat-sized chupacabra. My cat is actually hiding from the goat sucker underneath my neighbor’s car which is parked next to the bushes. According to Edmund Gettier I didn’t really know that my cat was outside– it was a lucky guess that I was right.

If this is the case, I’m free to say I know my cat is outdoors.

But, often times my cat isn’t outdoors at all. He’s napping under my bed.

If this is the case I was not entitled to believe my cat was outdoors; I did not possess knowledge.

This might not seem all that important but it really is. When we think about our beliefs about major issues like climate change, or claims about enemy combatants or that a “rogue” state possesses weapons of mass destruction, or even our beliefs about the extent of our own knowledge, we want to make sure that we are justified in believing that global temperatures are rising or that a nation possesses a potentially threatening nuclear or chemical arsenal or even that we know that we exist. We want to truly know. We want to make sure that our beliefs aren’t mere lucky guesses, but firmly based on – OH MY GOD, THERE’S A FREAKING CHUPACABRA IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD!!!!

 

 

 
* If you’re curious about Kant’s definition of an intuition, check out sec.1 (A21/B36) of the Transcendental Aesthetic in Kant’s Critique of Pure reason. I can’t tell you which translation of Kant’s Critique is best or that you’ll enjoy reading it (you probably won‘t), but if you can explain to me (in 2 paragraphs or less) what they hell Kant is writing about let me know. Seriously, let me know. Email your answer to miskatoniccoed@gmail.com.

Remember: 2 paragraphs or less.

 

 

Sources:
Richard Feldman. Epistemology. 2003. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Edmund Gettier “Is Justfied True Belief Knowledge?” 1963.

Aristotle, Schmaristotle

I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Harry Nilsson lately.

Not just the song “Without You”.

Even though he died long before I was aware of who he was, I just can’t get enough of his music.

I think it has to do with this documentary I watched on PBS. On the documentary, they said that Harry Nilsson did this movie called  The Point. I haven’t seen the movie but they said it’s philosophical. They said that Harry Nilsson was into philosophical kinds of stuff.

Yeah. I had pretty much figured that out. I get that philosophical feeling every time I hear the song “Coconut”.

Now, I know that If I asked around very few people would say that Harry Nilsson was a (professional) philosopher. But I’d like to think that if Aristotle was a professional singer he’d sound just like Harry Nilsson.

So the next time you think of this guy:

Image

Imagine this guy singing:

Image

Now tell me true, how can you think of Aristotle and not think of Harry Nilsson?

It’s totally the perfect soundtrack for Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

Really. It is.

If you were wondering, the reason why thinking of and listening to Harry Nilsson reminds me of Aristotle is this: Like Harry Nilsson, Aristotle was a bit of a rock star. A philosophical rock star. For centuries, the philosophy of Aristotle was the philosophy.

Not consequently, Aristotle was called THE Philosopher.

Why, you say?

In case you didn’t know, Aristotle invented physics.

I know, big deal. Only nerds are into physics, right?

But Aristotle’s brilliance didn’t end there!

In addition to inventing all that big-brained Einstein stuff, Aristotle is credited with inventing psychology economics, astronomy, biology, and psychology. Aristotle also founded the first philosophical school, The Lyceum (The Academy). Aristotle wrote on subjects ranging from politics to aesthetics. He’s the inventor of virtue ethics and Aristotle’s logic was the standard logic for philosophy (and all higher thinking) until Gottlob Frege.

And Frege didn’t come around until the 20th century!

Did I fail to mention that Aristotle was the only philosopher to get the thumbs up from the early Catholic Church?

He was.

Aristotle’s philosophy was so influential on early Catholic thought, that Scholasticism, a philosophy based on the teachings of the Catholic Church and the philosophy of Aristotle, dominated Western thought from the 11th to the 15th century.

Reason-based philosophy of Aristotle + divine intervention = scholasticism

And like every VH-1 Behind the Music story goes, like every rock star, the good times didn’t last for long. Unfortunately for Aristotle, Scholasticism eventually fell out of favor.

I know what you’re thinking, if Aristotle was THE philosopher, how could a school of thought based in part on his teachings fall out of favor?

The reason why is this: people finally realized that Aristotle was wrong about EVERYTHING.

Ok, maybe not everything.

But still, have you heard of Aristotle’s Four Causes?

No? I thought not. Because Aristotle was wrong!

Just to let you know, the Four Causes are: material, formal, efficient, and final.

Helps to know that, eh? That kind of info has gotta be worth at least the $600 question on Jeopardy!

You can reason that everyone should listen to Harry Nilsson because he was a brilliant songwriter and vocalist and, even though his music is decades old, it’s better than half or the auto-tuned “music” on the pop charts. But why should we study the ancient philosophers like (the often-wrong) Aristotle? What good is studying Aristotelian logic if the whole world’s logic is Russell and Frege?

But what’s downright puzzling to me is why, after so many centuries of being proved wrong, Aristotle and his philosophy are still so popular. I mean, people actually (still) take his writings seriously. There’s not a university philosophy department that doesn’t have at least one class (usually there’s several) devoted to Aristotle. Really.

It’s strange that so much professional philosopher brain space is devoted to studying, teaching, and writing about a philosopher who has a philosophy with the same degree of accuracy as a local TV news weatherman.

Lest you doubt my verisimilitude, here are some more things Aristotle was completely wrong about:

The planets do not float on invisible spheres.
Everything is not either earth, air, fire, or water.
Animals do in fact, laugh.
The average human infant laughs for the first time approximately 90 days after birth, not 40, as Aristotle states.
Women do not need semen to retain body heat.
There is NO SUCH THING as a natural slave.
Semen does not contain little, full-grown people in it.

Trust me, there’s more than that.

But since this is a blog post and not a novel, I’ve kept the list short.
If you think about how wrong Aristotle was about nearly everything he wrote about, it’s amazing that Aristotle’s philosophy, let alone Scholasticism, ever caught on at all.

Especially since Aristotle couldn’t seem to make Scholasticism work himself.

I guess Aristotle isn’t so brilliant after all.

The late Zen Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts says if we had followed the teachings of Heraclitus instead of Aristotle, we’d be better off.

I can’t say that I disagree.

But then again, Alan Watts dropped acid.

Still, despite what I (and apparently Alan Watts) feel about Aristotle, this one thing is unfortunately true: There’s not a college campus with a philosophy department that is not teaching Aristotle. And – oh, wait, I just remembered, there are Neo-scholasticists aren’t there?

Damn. Never mind.

Hey, any of y’all out there wanna hear “Coconut”?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tbgv8PkO9eo