Chess, Death, Kid N’ Play and the Essence of the Ultimate Pajama Jam

I was listening to the radio awhile ago.

That admission immediately tells how old I am.

I know that these days when someone says that they were “listening to the radio” that they were probably listening to music on the internet. It’s kind of like how some people say that they listen to “albums”.

I still say album.

I still listen to cassettes.

And I was listening to an actual radio.

The old hi-fi.

 

family-listening-radio-home-vintage-photo-01

 

I know that the current technology is supposed to be all that, but there’s at least one good thing about being an old fuddy duddy still hooked on listening to 20th century technology. Namely, listening to a radio allows one to channel surf.

And while channel surfing, one occasionally tunes into something interesting.

And by “interesting” I mean something that allows a person to write about philosophical stuff.

I was listening to a radio show called “The Pocho Hour of Power”. It airs locally in Los Angeles. On Fridays at 4 P.M. On KPFK. An affiliate of the Pacifica Network.    pocho hour of power

 

That’s a Liberal radio station.

 

 

Wait. I think I’m supposed to say it’s Progressive.

Anyway, I don’t remember what exactly led to what, but I remember one of the hosts of the show said something about existentialist cinema. He made a joke about the movies The Seventh Seal and House Party. His joke was that one of the films is deep and packed with existential significance. The other (obviously) is not.

 

I’ll let you guess which one is which.

 

 

th (13)

 

house-party

 

 

 

Figure it out yet?

 

For the host of the show, even slightly suggesting that a movie like House Party can in any way be as existential as a Bergman film is as laughable as the punch line of a joke. At first glance, the host is right. House Party is a thematically shallow movie.* Based on the film’s ostensible meaning, it would be absurd to suggest that the movie is anything more than an urban teenage comedy about a couple of buddies who throw the ultimate house party. But here’s a secret: movies, like books, TV shows, and songs, often have more than one meaning. There’s what a movie is supposed to be about – but then there’s what a movie is really about.

Want to take a guess at what House Party is really about?

That’s right. You guessed it.

Existentialism.

 

claire on existentialism

 

At first glance (or as the philosophers say, prime facie), Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal is just an old, overly-long movie about a knight who does some stuff, plays chess with death (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Observer from Mystery Science Theater 3000), rides across the Swedish (are they in Sweden?) countryside, and chats it up with some weird lady who is condemned to be burned at the stake.

 

 

If you watch the film on a purely surface level you wouldn’t get much out of it.

Other than annoyance with another foreign black and white movie with subtitles.

And the Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey reference.

And that that’s the old dude from The Exorcist.

Now THAT’S a good movie.

 

max von sydow

THIS DUDE SHOULD LOOK FAMILIAR

 

If you watch The Seventh Seal without really paying attention to the movie, you would miss the film’s philosophical significance.

Philosophical themes/significance in The Seventh Seal include (but not limited to):

  • Reason for man’s suffering.
  • God’s existence.
  • Struggle with religious faith.
  • Identity (as relates to our place in the world).
  • The nature of being (including our place in the world).

There’s another movie that covers some of those philosophical themes, too.

1… 2… 3… Say it all together…

Right!

That movie is House Party.

 

 

 

On the surface, House Party (written and directed by the Hudlin Brothers) isn’t what anyone would call a “deep” movie. The movie’s seemingly simplistic plot goes a little like this: we follow a night in the (mis)adventures of a pair of inner-city high school chums (played by early ‘90s rap duo Kid N’ Play) and their chronic halitosis-besieged buddy (played by Martin Lawrence) as they evade cops, bullies, and Kid’s belt-wielding father (played by the late Robin Harris) to attend the ultimate house party.

 

Not to get off track, but is it just me or did the guys in Full Force look like they were about 40 years old?

 

Don’t get me wrong. I could plausibly suspend my disbelief watching Full Force as high school students in House Party. At least they weren’t as unconvincing as Vic Morrow as a delinquent “teen” in The Blackboard Jungle. Or the obviously-past-thirty-year old Stockard Channing as high school student Betty Rizzo in Grease.

NOT FOOLING ANYBODY

NOT FOOLING ANYBODY

 

And while we’re on the Grease tip, throw in Lorna Luft, Christopher MacDonald, and Adrian Zmed in Grease 2.

 

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

 

When House Party was released in 1990, moviegoers and critics immediately spotted the movie’s themes of race, class, gender relations (in particular, in the African-American community), and how the film bucked against the typical depiction of hypersexuality among teenaged characters in most teen-oriented comedies.

That already kind of proves that there’s more going on in this movie than meets the eye.

 

Now, we can spend our time, like the movie critics did back in ’90, discussing the social and cultural relevance/significance of House Party. And certainly there is plenty there to discuss, even after more than 20 years since the movie’s release.

Or, we can look even deeper and discuss the movie philosophically.

Perhaps existentially.

 

Let’s do it then, shall we?

 

 

In the movie House Party, Kid, played by Christopher “Kid” Reid, is a somewhat nerdy high school student, plagued by bullying classmates and stifled by an over-protective father. Kid is a character at a crossroads. He’s a character on the verge of manhood struggling to find his own identity.

Kid is being pressured by many influences: he wants to be a dutiful son to his widowed father, yet he feels the pressure as a young male at the edge of adulthood, to conform to the expectations of his peers – in particular, the pressure exerted by his best friend, Play (played by Christopher Martin) who urges Kid to attend a house party in hopes of “hooking up” with the object of Kid’s affection, a fellow student named Sydney, portrayed by Tisha Campbell.

 

 

GINAAAAAAAA!

GINAAAAAAAA!

 

Kid’s attempt to stand up like a man ends in a brutal lunchtime beating. His attempt at independence lands him in trouble with the police. His attempt at being a teenage Lothario ends in humiliation.

 

THIS ATTEMPT AT A STYLISH HAIRDOO IS MORE LIKE A HAIR DON’T.

THIS ATTEMPT AT A STYLISH HAIRDOO IS MORE LIKE A HAIR DON’T.

 

But despite the competing influences and occasional humiliation, Kid wants to determine his own life path.

Determining the path that one’s own life takes is the principle at the heart of existentialism.

Existentialism is the:

school of philosophical thought associated with Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Nietzsche. Existentialism emphasizes the importance of free will, personal responsibility, and how our experiences and choices forms what we become – what we make of ourselves.

Of course, bearing all the responsibility of who we become presents us (or any movie character) with a dilemma. To wit: how do we decide what we become? How do we determine what makes our lives meaningful? The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) stated that the main message of existentialism is

… to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him.

 

 

THIS IS JEAN-PAUL SARTRE

THIS IS JEAN-PAUL SARTRE

 

For those of you who are well-versed in Sartre quotes, you’ll know that Jean-Paul Sartre famously said “existence precedes essence”.

According to Sartre, we are born without an innate nature. No one is a “natural born” sinner or saint. Or even naturally masculine or feminine. What we are and who we become (our “essence”) is a construct; it is not determined by a priori factors (God, society, biology, destiny, family, etc.) but by our own choices. We must make our own essence. In the absence of external influences, Sartre says, we are nothing more than the products of our own creation.

 

That means we are free to be whatever or whoever we want to be.

This can be a problem.

 

problems

 

 

This is the problem:

Sartre’s “existence precedes essence” says we are free to create our own identity. We are not, as Freud declares, bound by our biology. Sounds good so far. After all, who doesn’t like freedom? But, the freedom to create one’s own essence means that we and we alone, bear all of the responsibility of figuring out who we are and making our lives meaningful.

 

DESPITE HIS MOTHER’S AND SOCIETY’S INFLUENCE, THE CHILD WILLL NOT GROW TO BECOME A JUGGALO BUT CHOOSE TO BE A NICKLEBACK FAN.

DESPITE HIS MOTHER’S AND SOCIETY’S INFLUENCE, THE CHILD WILLL NOT GROW TO BECOME A JUGGALO BUT CHOOSE TO BE A NICKLEBACK FAN.

 

According to Sartre, freedom is a double-edged sword: we are free be whoever we want to become, but we are also free to be whoever we want to become. When we have absolute responsibility for determining who we are, the freedom to choose is as liberating as it is problematic and confusing. Which path of life should we take? How do we figure out which path will make our lives most meaningful? And we can’t blame our bad choices on God or our biology. We almost we have too much freedom to choose. We have no other choice but to be free. This is why Sartre says “man is condemned to be free”. Sartre writes:

 

… man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet, in other respects is free; because, once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.

Sartre also says:

 

He was free, free in every way, free to behave like a fool or a machine, free to accept, free to refuse, free to equivocate; to marry, to give up the game, to drag this death weight about him for years to come. He could do what he liked, no on had the right to advise him, there would be for him no Good or Evil unless he brought them into being.

 

To make matters worse, Sartre says man cannot fully exist if he fails to create his own essence.

 

TIM GUNN JUST REALIZED ONLY HE CAN CREATE HIS OWN ESSENCE

TIM GUNN JUST REALIZED ONLY HE CAN CREATE HIS OWN ESSENCE

 

I figure at this point, you’re probably thinking that I’ve completely forgotten that this blog post is supposed to have something to do with the movie House Party. You’re probably wondering what the H-E-double hockey sticks does existentialist French philosophy have to do with early ‘90s urban comedy.

To the point: how exactly is House Party a modern existentialist masterpiece?

This is how:

At the outset of the film, Kid is subject to the kind of external forces that Sartre describes: his father, his friends, the pressure to act like a typical urban male. Kid seems to want to give into the pressure – it would be easier to simply follow along and be exactly what his family, friends, and society expects him to be. But he can’t. Kid must determine his own life path.

 

Kid chooses to live on his own terms in defiance of others’ expectations. Although his father warns against attending the house party, Kid chooses to go to the party despite his father’s threats. During a moment of intimacy with Sydney, Kid chooses not to have sex with Sydney, favoring instead to first develop a friendship with her. Kid is not the culturally stereotypical thug the police believe that he is. The path isn’t his father’s or his friends, but his own. And as a consequence, Kid finds his authentic self – who he truly is – not the person his friends, his father, or school lunchroom bullies want him to be. Kid does what he wants to do what he wants to do, and when he does he realizes the potential consequences.

 

 

HE WAS EITHER GOING TO FIND GOD... OR EXISTENTIALISM

HE WAS EITHER GOING TO FIND GOD… OR EXISTENTIALISM

 

Thus, House Party is really about how to lead an existentially authentic life.

So, when Kid’s father beats his ass with a belt for defying his orders, the punishment is all Kid’s fault.

We assume that he assumes full responsibility.

 

 

 

Ok. I know. You’re not entirely convinced of what I’m telling you. I understand. House Party is not the greatest movie. It’s not even a great movie. But just think about what I’ve told you. Watch the movie again. You might want to have some Sartre handy. It might not have the pedigree of a Bergman film, but trust me, House Party is a film about something.

However, I can’t say the same about Class Act.

 

I have no idea why or what that flick is about.

 

 

 
*NOTE: you many have noticed, when referring to The Seventh Seal and House Party, that I refer to The Seventh Seal as a “film” and to House Party as a “movie”. This choice of words is completely intentional. There are those who use the word “film” when making reference to “quality” cinema – i.e., cinema with social, cultural, and/or philosophical significance. “Movies”, on the other hand, may or may not include significant philosophical themes. In addition, movies, unlike films, are often intended primarily for entertainment purposes.
I might add that referring to a motion picture as a “flick” denotes that the movie has very little to no (obvious) philosophical value and is made strictly for entertainment purposes (e.g. exploitation flicks, drive-in flicks, and pornography).

 

 

SOURCES:

1) Jean-Paul Sartre. “Existentialism”. 1980. The Norton Reader. 5th Edition (shorter). Eds. Arthur M. Eastman, Caesar R. Blake, Hubert M. English, Jr., Joan E. Hartman, Alan B. Howes, Robert T. Lenaghan, Leo F. McNamara, James Rossier. NY: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 659, 662

2) https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/existentialism

Yes, I’m A Philosopher (stop laughing, i’m serious)

Do you remember those “I’m a Mormon” videos?

You know, those videos of seemingly normal, average, people proclaiming their faith in the Church of Latter-Day Saints?

People like Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the rock band The Killers.

 

 

The point of the videos is to prove that there’s nothing wrong with being a Mormon.

 

I don’t know if the videos have improved the image of the Mormon Church, but if the ads have, there’s another institution that can benefit from a “we’re just like you” ad campaign.

Those institutions are institutions of higher learning.

 

There’s a lot of university education-bashing going on out there. Especially bashing those college majors that are usually described using the word “useless”.

English majors know what I’m talking about.

 

english-major

 

Ask around. It won’t take you too long to come up with a short list of “useless” majors. I mean we‘ve all heard the list. There’s English, ethnic studies, women’s studies, liberal arts, art history, communications, creative writing, fine arts…

Any major that has to do with studying or writing about the Renaissance.

 

Given America’s “if it feels good, do it” attitude, the proliferation of so-called “useless” majors on America‘s fine college campuses is not very surprising. I’m certain studying the major works of Conrad Faber von Kreuznach feels good to someone.

However, one major has the dubious reputation of being the most useless college degree of them all: philosophy.

What other profession would generate a meme like this?

 

finds work in ancient greece

 

 

Alright. English, Art … anything in the Humanities would.

 

Well, if you ask me (I know you did, I heard you), I think philosophy’s reputation is undeserved. And not just because I have a degree in philosophy.

 

TOTALLY WORTH TENS OF THOUSANDS WORTH OF DEBT THAT I WILL NEVER PAY OFF IN MY LIFETIME

TOTALLY WORTH TENS OF THOUSANDS WORTH OF DEBT THAT I WILL NEVER PAY OFF IN MY LIFETIME

 

 

rick's stuff n' thangs

RICK GRIMES: PHILOSOPHER

 

 

Listen: I know that philosophy has gotten a pretty bad rap. Why wouldn’t it? Philosophers spend their time thinking. About things. And stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

Who isn’t capable of doing that? Is a degree really necessary to think about stuff? Or things?

Or whatnot.

 

Probably not.

But here’s the thing about philosophy. A career in professional philosophy probably won’t get your own reality TV show, but philosophy is not useless. What makes philosophy not useless has nothing to do with the fact that philosophers think about stuff and things. Philosophy is not useless because of what philosophers think about. Philosophers think about stuff and things like existence, reality, morality, and knowledge. Philosophers devote their time to asking life’s big questions.

You know, those big questions most people don’t think about until they’re either drunk, flat broke, or just had a near-death experience.

 

Or if you’re lucky, all three.

 

AS SOON AS THIS GUY IS FINISHED EMPTYING THE CONTENTS OF HIS UPPER DIGESTIVE TRACT, HE WILL BECOME AS ENLIGHTENED AS THE BUDDHA.

AS SOON AS THIS GUY IS FINISHED EMPTYING THE CONTENTS OF HIS UPPER DIGESTIVE TRACT, HE WILL BECOME AS ENLIGHTENED AS THE BUDDHA.

 

And at least some of the time philosophers come up with an answer or two.

Sometimes those philosophers write what they‘re thinking about.

I did.

 

Mindless_Philosopher_Cover_for_Kindle

 

Philosophers are generous like that.

 

I mean, take a look at this guy, you can tell he’s a giver!

 

I THINK IN GERMAN SCHOPENHAUER MEANS “ONE GENEROUS S.O.B.”. OR MAYBE IT DOESN’T

I THINK IN GERMAN SCHOPENHAUER MEANS “ONE GENEROUS S.O.B.”. OR MAYBE IT DOESN’T

 

Listen: don’t pay attention to what they naysayers say. They’re all STEM field people who wouldn’t know a deep thought if one appeared in front of ’em right alongside the Higgs particle.
We know deep down, despite anything he says, Lawrence Krauss knows philosophy is more than useful – it’s necessary.

 

 
In fact, philosophy is pretty awesome.

To make things easy for everyone, I’ve drawn up a little list of what makes philosophy awesome.
10 Awesome things about philosophy:

 

1. Since philosophy is the parent of several major disciplines (medicine, astronomy, psychology, sociology, political science, physics, theology, to name a few) you’ll know a little bit about everything.

 

smart

 

 

2. Philosophy departments always have the coolest professors.

 

 

garden of earthly delights

YEAH LASCIVIOUSNESS!

3. One word: hedonism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. You’ll know how to win an argument every time.

 

5. You can spend hours talking about the movie Road House and Keeping Up With the Kardashians, but you can do it all philosophical-like.

 

FUN FACT: BADASS, THROAT-RIPPIN’ COOLER JAMES DALTON (ROAD HOUSE) STUDIED PHILOSOPHY AT NYU

FUN FACT: BADASS, THROAT-RIPPIN’ COOLER JAMES DALTON (ROAD HOUSE) STUDIED PHILOSOPHY AT NYU

 

 

6. You’ll be unemployed but you’ll be really smart doing it.

Philosophy indeed is the most interesting path to poverty. it's a philosopher's life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7. If you studied philosophy, you’re in the same company as Harrison Ford, Steve Martin, Chris Hardwick, Susan Sarandon, Martin Luther King, Jr., Jay Leno, Wes Anderson, David Foster Wallace, Thomas Jefferson, Phil Jackson, John Elway, Neil Peart, Ethan Coen, Alex Trebek, David Duchovny, Bruce Lee, and Wallace Shawn. They all studied philosophy.

 

YES, THE TALKING DEAD GUY WAS A PHILOSOPHY MAJOR. SEE? PHILOSOPHY DOES HAVE SOME USEFULNESS

YES, THE TALKING DEAD GUY WAS A PHILOSOPHY MAJOR. SEE? PHILOSOPHY DOES HAVE SOME USEFULNESS

 

8. You can do more than paraphrase Nietzsche. You actually quote the text and understand what he means.  Same goes for Ayn Rand.

 

9. You can totally school your family and friends on any movie’s philosophical undertones. You know The Matrix is really about  Descartes’ evil genie and Nozick’s experience machine. You revel in the knowledge that you can find deeper philosophical meaning in just about any movie and/or episode of Star Trek.

 

matrix pic

 

 

10. Last and most importantly, when you study philosophy, you’ll learn how to think. Critical thinking becomes a way of life. You’ll know to never stop asking questions even if you know you’ll never find the answers.

 

And you gotta admit, the toga looks good when you’re pontificating about the meaning of your big toe.

 

john belushi

 

 

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY PHILOSOPHICAL

 

On God and the Philosopher (how philosophical thinking can lead to a life of godlessness)

This one is for all of my God-fearing friends who believe that God is all powerful, yet can’t make a rock so heavy he can’t lift it.

 

 

 
I’m out of the closet.

 

SPONGEBOB OUT

 

 

No, not that closet.

I’m out of the other closet. You know the one I’m talking about. I’m talking about that big, dark, sin-filled closet. The one no politician, professional moralizer, or conservative talk show host wants to be seen stepping out of. The closet that once you step inside you’re destined for fire and brimstone and eternal damnation.

The closet with the label written in great big shiny letters “non-believer”.

That closet.

I’m out of the atheist closet.

 

143-Atheists-are-coming-650x365

 

 

I will no longer tell people that I’m an agnostic or “spiritual”.
I will no longer say I am a “skeptic”.
I am an atheist.
I do not believe that God exists.
So far, I have not been struck by lightning.

 

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LAST GUY I KNEW WHO SAID HE WAS AN ATHEIST

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LAST GUY I KNEW WHO SAID HE WAS AN ATHEIST

 

I haven’t always been an atheist. I used to believe in God. I went to church (some) Sundays. I believed that Jesus is the reason for the season, voted Republican, and listened to nothing but contemporary Christian music. When people sneezed, I said “God bless you” –
And I meant it.

For a couple of years, this was my favorite song:

 

 
I believed that Jesus Christ was my personal Lord and Savior. I believed that His Father so loved the world that he sent his only Son to die for my sins.

I don’t believe any of that now.

 

 

KEEP CALM AND BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

 

Every atheist has a reason for why he or she doesn’t believe in God. I guess if I had to name exactly what got me out of believing in God, I’d say the reason why I no longer believe in God has something to do with studying philosophy.

I’d tell you that studying philosophy caused me to develop the philosopher’s habit of overthinking.

I’d tell you that I literally thought myself out of believing in God.

My explanation would go something like this: as a philosopher, I was dedicated to a life according to the Socratic Method. That, therefore, invariably led to questioning everything. And in turn, asking questioning everything lead to doubt. And in doubting what you you’re thinking – I stopped believing in God.

Really, it went just like that.

 

atheist logic

 

I can only describe my atheist conversion as nothing short of mystical. I was sitting right there in the church pew when I was suddenly hit by a revelation: God does not exist.

Since that day I’ve had no doubt that I don’t think that God exists.

I know that this all might sound like I’m anti-God. I’m not. I’m not even anti-other people believing in God. But then, I also don’t have problem with anyone not believing in God. And, as I said before, I don’t. I just never saw any reason for believing that God exists. Believing in the existence of an Omnicompetent Creator may be a satisfying answer to all of life’s mysteries for some, but as far as my immortal soul goes, I’m more than quite content with the fact that I’ve chosen to live without daily prayers, knowing that Jesus is the reason for the season, and living without that feeling of paranoia and guilt whenever I’d pass along the offering tray without putting anything into it.

Even though I knew I had exactly 28 dollars in cash in my wallet.

Being an atheist means not being afraid to look a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ face and I tell her that I not only refuse to accept her copies of the Watchtower and/or Awake! (Lord knows I wasn’t going to read them anyway), but that I also find the whole believing-in-God-and-accepting-Jesus-as-my-personal-savior-thing quite unbelievable.

 

thank god it's an aligator

I’ll tell you the truth, though. It’s not easy to tell other people that I don’t believe in God. To come out as a non-believer in a self-proclaimed Christian nation can be a bit of scary thing. I’m not just talking about feeling the fear of falling into that old philosophical trap of confirming the existence of God by denying that God exists.*

It’s scary because once you’ve confessed that you don’t believe in God, your mom, your former alcoholic, born-again, on fire with the LORD uncle – even complete strangers are compelled to inform you that rejecting God means your immortal soul is lost and doomed to burn in hell – forever.

It’s hard sometimes to hear that Jehovah’s Witness say as I’m politely slamming the door in her middle-aged face, “God loves you even though you don’t believe in HIM.”
The funny thing about being an atheist is, is despite my own comfort with my current state of godlessness, sometimes it seems that everyone else out there has a problem with uncloseted nonbelievers like me.

I’m not imagining this.

 

OK, I DABBLED INTO SOCIALISM BUT IT HAD NOTHING TO TO WITH BEING AN ATHEIST

OK, I DABBLED INTO SOCIALISM BUT IT HAD NOTHING TO TO WITH BEING AN ATHEIST

 

Americans on whole don’t think very highly of the godless. In a survey conducted by the University of Minnesota, 47.6% of respondents said that they would not approve of their child marrying an atheist, and less than half of Americans (45%) say they would vote for a qualified presidential candidate who does not believe in God. In that same University of Minnesota study 39.5 % said that atheists are the group least likely to believe in the ideals of American society.

This means that according to a significant portion of the American public, more Americans believe that card-carrying communists, anarchists, and Al-Qaeda jihadists are more committed to American principles than people who don’t believe in God.

 

anti god and anti american

 

Although atheists, secularists, and nonbelievers are an estimated 1.1 billion of the world’s seven billion human inhabitants, most Americans surveyed say that they are less likely to vote for an atheist political candidate than to vote for a woman, a minority, a Jewish, Mormon, or even an openly gay political candidate. In a study conducted by the University of British Columbia, researchers found that there is only group the public despises more than atheists.

Care to guess who?

You guessed it: Rapists.

The public trusts people who sexually violate others more than they trust an atheist.

 

ATHEISTS AND SEX OFFENDERS

 

 

I guess if you don’t like God, people don’t like you.

For the record, I find it comforting to see that a majority of Americans are willing to vote for a woman, a minority, or an openly gay candidate.

 

Honestly, one doesn’t need to know the stats on American attitudes towards atheists to know that things are bad out there for the average John Q. Atheist. We know that in the minds of (some) God-fearing folks, not believing in an Omnicompetent deity is un-Americanly bad enough, but there is a worse kind of unbeliever – the COLLEGE EDUCATED ATHEIST.

 

college atheist

 

It seems that as much as people dislike run-of-the-mill atheists, they especially dislike non-believers with a post-secondary education.

 

freshman atheist

 

In my book, Mindless Philosopher: How Philosophy Taught Me Everything I Needed to Know About Popular Culture, I purposefully evaded the topic of religion and philosophy of religion. In that book wrote that if time travel were possible, I would go back in time and tell myself under no circumstances should I take a philosophy of religion class. I wanted to avoid religion not because I’m anti-religious. I think if you have a personal belief in something, that’s fine.

 

We all gotta serve somebody, as Dylan sang.

My reluctance was due, in part, to my belief that: 1) any serious discussion on the topic of religion and/or philosophy of religion would fill a book in itself, b) religion is a topic best discussed by priests, ministers, and theologians – not by academics and philosophers, and, more importantly, 3) I don‘t believe God exists.

 

atheist jesus

 

 

I once said that if I ever experience a spiritual crisis I would more likely turn to my local clergy rather than a philosopher.

Well, unless that philosopher was Cornell West. He’s got a degree in theology.

 

The reason why, I think, is because unlike the average non-believer, who may or may not carry his atheism with a sense of shame, pain, or personal failure, the college-educated atheist has one special ingredient that makes him immune from any sense of humility: a college-educated attitude.

I actually said this to a professor in a philosophy of religion class. He told me I was in no “epistemic position” to make that kind of judgment.

Riiiight.

After years of post-secondary training, the college-educated atheist not only believes is there no God, but he’s delusional enough to believe that he’s right (and has the right) to say there isn’t.

 

philosoraptor atheist

 

I remember when I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher told the class that the college campus is a place where a believing man is doomed to lose his religion. He proclaimed, “If you start college as a Christian, you’ll come out godless.” I think he was trying to be helpful. He told us that college will turn you into a skeptic and that losing ones belief in God, at least so far as college is concerned, is inevitable.

America’s universities were no more than full-blown God-hating atheist factories.

After having gone to college and doing the philosophy thing it’s no surprise then, how I’ve turned out. According to what some folks, including my old freshman English teacher, believe about college-educated people, my atheism is typical of both college grads and philosophers. Most philosophers (including most philosophy professors) don’t believe in God.

It’s estimated that 73% of philosophy professors are atheists or lean towards atheism.

 

PROBABLY AN ATHEIST

PROBABLY AN ATHEIST

 

Looking at my high school English teacher’s prophesy, I’m beginning to think he wasn’t being overly pessimistic about our ability to maintain a belief in God in the face of academia-based anti-religiosity as much as he just plain got it right – many people do stop believing in God on college campuses.

 

Really, it’s true.

If you’ve never stepped foot on a college campus, here are a few stats you should know:

Individuals with a post-graduate education are more likely to identify themselves as atheists (This group also included self-professed liberals, Democrats, Independents, and people who live on the East coast).
A Pew Center study estimated that 20% of adults 18-25 (aka college age kids) classify themselves as either atheist, agnostic, or nonreligious, and more than one-half of non-religious Millennials (those born after 1981) state that they no longer practice their childhood faith at all.
According to recent data, church membership has steadily declined among younger Americans, with a growing number of young Americans professing no faith or belief in God at all. One fourth of Millennials identify as religiously unaffiliated. However, the number of older Americans who believe in God has remained relatively unchanged.  And college campuses have seen noticeable increase in the number of atheist groups and secular organizations.

 

stats on belief in god

THIS IS A NICE CHART WITH STATISTICS. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT STATISTICS

 

Given the rise in the number of Americans getting college degrees and the popularly-held belief that atheists dwell in a godless moral vacuum, it’s no surprise that, in the minds of some believers, the prevalence of atheism among college-educated folks is a source of some concern. After all, how can America be “one nation under God” if we’re a nation of unbelievers? The college-atheism connection even led 2012 Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum, to say:

It’s no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go to college. The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America … As you know, 62 percent of children who enter college with a faith conviction leave without it.

 

The accuracy of Rick Santorum’s comments and the public’s sentiments towards atheism aside, the belief that colleges are nothing more than atheist indoctrination factories is a real problem – and not just for believers.

 

atheism isn't a religion

 

 

It’s also a problem for philosophers.

Philosophers on whole are a bunch of non-believing people. God could point his finger directly into a philosopher’s face, announce his very existence, and he’d still be an ass about the existence of God. Anyone who has read the anti-theistic philosophy of Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche or Arthur Schopenhauer knows that it doesn‘t matter if God looks like this guy.

 

GOD

 

 

Or this guy:

 

smiling god

 

Or this guy:

 

sha ka ree

 

 

No matter what it looks like, most philosophers will never admit that HE exists.

73% of them as a matter of fact.

 

Unless you’re Alvin Plantinga.

 

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES IN GOD

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES IN GOD

 

 

Or this guy:

 

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES THAT GOD EXISTS, TOO

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES THAT GOD EXISTS, TOO

 

Of course this leads to the inevitable question: if the majority of philosophers and philosophy professors don’t believe in the existence of an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful being, and colleges are nothing more than atheist indoctrination camps, why would university-trained folks want to think about, much less conjure up philosophical theories about religion?

That, my friends, is the question, isn’t it? Why would someone – especially a philosopher who doesn’t believe in God – want to know about God?

 

FOR THIS GUY, THE THOUGHT OF ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT GOD IS THE SAME AS ASKING “X7863HSFI#OF!HOIFC?HIOF**H777 OIC&NK” WITTGENSTEIN SAYS GOD TALK IS ALL GIBBERISH

FOR THIS GUY, THE THOUGHT OF ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT GOD IS THE SAME AS ASKING “X7863HSFI#OF!HOIFC?HIOF**H777 OIC&NK” — WITTGENSTEIN SAYS GOD TALK IS ALL GIBBERISH

 

Philosophy is defined as the love of wisdom. Philosophers believe that we gain wisdom through rational thought, reason and logical arguments. Religion, on the other hand, relies on faith. For the believer, religious belief and indeed, the beauty of religious experience, is the mysterious, spirituality and the supernatural; the unexplained. Something that can’t be explained or justified through the use of reason. Faith, unlike reason, cannot be mediated by anyone other than by God. One does not need logical proof; one simply believes.

The Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard argues we cannot rest our belief in God solely on reason. Kierkegaard states, if we choose faith we must suspend our reason in order to believe in something higher than reason. Kierkegaard doesn’t say reason is worthless, just that we can’t get to the truth of God’s existence through using reason alone. We require a leap of faith.

 

leap of faith 2

 

 

The problem with philosophy is that wisdom and reason are inextricably linked; one cannot claim to be wise if one’s wisdom is not based on reliable, rational evidence. As a consequence, faith and reason don’t necessarily go together. Religion and philosophy are like oil and water.

It’s often impossible to make them mix.

 

 

 ALTHOUGH SOMETIMES WHEN YOU MIX OIL AND WATER YOU MAKE A YUMMY VINAIGRETTE

ALTHOUGH SOMETIMES WHEN YOU MIX OIL AND WATER YOU MAKE A YUMMY VINAIGRETTE

 

 

Philosophical inquiry is understanding why people believe as they do. If we look at what people believe, what they think, how they act, we see that one of the sources of ethics and metaphysics is God. God influences us and our behavior; our metaphysics, what we believe is true. God’s word gives informs us the meaning of life. So does philosophy.
That means we can’t discuss philosophy without at least considering the role of religion.

No matter how any atheist, college educated or not, feels about religion or God, the majority of the Earth’s population, whether they bow to Jehovah or Allah; whether their God is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Jain, Hindu, Invisible Pink Unicorn or Pastafarian, believe in the existence of an all-powerful being.

 

IS IT A GOD OR ONE OF THE AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE?

IS IT A GOD OR ONE OF THE AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE?

 

 

So it’s probably not a good idea that philosophers should totally ignore the influence of religious belief on philosophical thought.

 

Wait a minute. I’m an atheist. I don’t want to say that.

I need to rethink this.

 

 

 

* The “old trap” , for those who haven’t stepped into it, goes a little like this: by naming an object (in this case God), I am asserting that there is some object in the real world to which the name “God” corresponds. If I say that “God” does not exist, I am saying that that named object to which an object in the real world corresponds (God) does not exist, thus I am contradicting myself. So to avoid such contradiction, I will not name an object but state that I lack a belief in the existence of a being that is described as an all-knowing, all-seeing, omnipotent, perfectly good being (I shall steal a word from a former professor and use the word “Omnicompetent”). If you want to know what I just did to avoid the trap, read up on Bertrand Russell and definite descriptions… or not.

 

 

SOURCES:

1) http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=1786422&page=1
2) http://life.nationalpost.com/2011/11/30/religious-people-do-not-believe-in-atheists-study/
3) http://jezebel.com/5864303/people-think-atheists-are-just-as-bad-as-rapists-christ
4) http://cnsnews.com/news/article/gallup-liberals-democrats-grad-students-easterners-more-likely-be-atheists
5) Pew Center stat: Joanna Sharpless. “Faithlessness On the Rise?” 11/07/07. http://www.secularstudents.org/node/1848
6) The number of Americans with a four-year degree as of 2011, is 28%. http://chronicle.com/article/Census-Data-Reveal-Rise-in/126026/
7) Stats on Millennials: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/more-millennials-losing-their-religion_n_1571366.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009
8) http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/video/video-are-colleges-encouraging-atheism/13078/comment-page-1/
9) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion
10) http://dudeism.com
11) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philosophy-religion/

 

The Four of Us Are Lying

Bill Clinton. John Edwards. Richard Nixon.

Roger Clemens.

David Vitter. Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

Here’s a couple more names…

James Frey. Jayson Blair. Stephen Glass.

Notice the pattern?

No?

How about this one:

Lance Armstrong.

Still don’t see it?

Pinocchio.

Ok. Think then-Secretary of State Colin Powell announcing to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

Got it yet?

Ok, last one: “Remember the Maine”.

Still no?

Well, just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll tell. Each of these men (and one wooden boy) told lies. They were lying.

Not just little white lies, mind you. BIG LIES*.

Whoppers.

The forces-you- to-resign-from-elected-office kind of lies.

The subject of a week’s worth of stories on TMZ kind of lies.

The has to talk to Oprah in a public display of contrition kind of lies.

The kind of lies that’ll have you end up doing this:

 

 

 

 

Or this:

 

 

 

 

Yeah.

Public humiliations galore.

 

Whether we tell half-truths or little white lies, spin tall tales, rip yarns, or lay down the kind of lies that would put Goebbels to shame, the funny thing about lying is even though no one likes it when somebody tells them, everyone lies.

daria on lies

 
Don’t say you don’t. You’d be lying.

 

pants on fire

 

We’ve all lied about one thing or another. We know that lies and lying are an inevitable part of human interaction. We might even say that the occasional lie is useful.

 

good lies

 
Yet we’re offended when it happens. We don’t like it when people lie.

Especially when they lie to us.

 

louie c.k. on liars

 

It’s not even that we’re merely offended by lies – we completely flip our wigs when we discover we’ve been lied to. We’re so put off by lies and liars that anyone who’s caught in a lie not only knows they’ve messed up big time, but also know that a long journey of mea culpas on the path of liar redemption is essential if one wants forgiveness.

If all works well, all will be forgiven.

However, if you’re a regular schmo like me – you get caught in a lie it might ruin you forever.

Contrition is not my forte.

 

baby liar meme

 

 

 

But why is that?

Why do we get so butthurt when someone lies?

Emperor Butthurt

 

 
I mean, after all, even the Bible admonishes us against lying. Exodus 20:16 specifically states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”.

According to the Bible there’s an especially awful kind of lie: false witness.

 

Whatever that is.

 

I don’t know. I don’t read the Bible.

That’s why I’m going to hell.

 

I‘M A PHILOSOPHER. IT’S ALMOST A GIVEN THAT I‘M DOOMED TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.

I‘M A PHILOSOPHER. IT’S ALMOST A GIVEN THAT I‘M DOOMED TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.

 
Alright. I remember in my English 101 class, my professor said if you introduce a term you have to define it. So it might help us a bit to get clear on what exactly a lie is.

A lie, at least according to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), has three “essential features”:

 

1. A lie communicates some information
2. The liar intends to deceive or mislead
AND –
3. The liar believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true

 

According to the BBC, if you’re not doing any of those 3 things, you ain’t lying.

 

bad luck brian lies

 
But if lying is sometimes useful, we must ask, is lying all that bad?
Before you say yes or no you might want to ask around.

 

Psalm 31:18 may say “Let lying lips be put to silence”.

Obviously God has never heard of Socrates or noble lies.

Noble lies, in case you didn’t know, are fictions told with the intent to preserve loyalty to the state and the social order.

pinocchio bitch

 

 

Wait a minute, you say. Lies are bad. Anyone who watched what followed Lance Armstrong’s admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs knows that lying causes nothing more than absolute misery. So why does Socrates think that lying ever serves a useful, even a good, purpose?

You see, Socrates thought that people need to be lied to because most people are too stupid to handle things.

And by people, Socrates meant people like you and me.

Socrates says in Book III of  Republic:

“Could we,” I said, “contrive one of those lies that come into being in case of need, of which we were just now speaking, some noble lie to persuade in the best case, even the rulers, but if not them, the rest of the city?”

 

According to the late Socrates fan and political philosopher, Leo Strauss, the state may lie to the public when “an extreme situation in which the very existence or independence of a society is at stake.”

 

So according to Socrates and Strauss, so long as your lie serves a greater good for society, we should heartily approve of some lies.

 

WHO DRANK HEMLOCK AND LIKES LYING? THIS GUY!!!

WHO DRANK HEMLOCK AND LIKES LYING? THIS GUY!!!

 

 

Perhaps our anger at Colin Powell was misplaced.

 

… that’s because deposing Saddam Hussein would be good for everybody.

 

Keep that point in mind.

 

Socrates tells us so long as a lie is told by the right people for the right reasons, lying to people is perfectly fine. In fact, according to Socrates, lying to people is a necessary function of the ruling class.

Alright. Hold on a minute. Before you think Socratic noble lies gives us free rein to fib at will, remember that point I told you to keep in mind. ‘Cause you should be thinking there’s something extremely rotten in the polis.

Two points:

  • We get angry when we are lied to.
  • Even if a lie is justified, we feel that some punishment or an apology is necessary.

 

That’s why Lance Armstrong ended up on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

 

There’s a reason why we feel a sense of moral indignation when we find that someone has lied to us. There’s a reason why this guy’s nose grew every time he lied.

Pinocchio-007

 
The reason is because no matter what explanation, cause or excuse we give for telling a lie, a lying is wrong.

We feel an innate desire to hear the truth.

We prefer the company of those who tell the truth over those who tell lies.

 

This is what Aristotle wrote about people who tell the truth:

Such a man would seem to be a good man. For he who loves truth, and is truthful where nothing depends upon it, will still more surely tell the truth where serious interests are involved; he will shun falsehood as a base thing here, seeing that he shunned it elsewhere, apart from any consequences: but such a man merits praise.

 

According to Aristotle, a person who tells the truth is trustworthy. An honest person is someone of good character who we can rely on when we deal with them – we can expect that what they say is true and that by trusting them we will not experience emotional, philosophical or physical harm.

Of course, we well know that’s not what happens when someone lies.

 

OK, MAYBE ZACH MORRIS IS A BAD EXAMPLE

OK, MAYBE ZACH MORRIS IS A BAD EXAMPLE

 

Let’s remember: the second and third essential features of a lie states that the liar “intends to deceive or mislead”, and that a liar “believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true”.

Intentional deception and misleading, no matter what  justification for doing so, always deprives others (those to whom the lie is directed) of the full knowledge of a situation. If we lack full knowledge, we cannot make fully rational decisions.

Kant says this is what happens, folks, not me.

 

BLAME HIM

BLAME HIM

 

 

That means that a lie is inherently pernicious. The short-term benefit of a lie is almost always obliterated upon the discovery of the lie.

Lance Armstrong lost his Tour de France medals. Roger Clemens was tried on charges of perjury. President Clinton was impeached.

 

 

th (7)

 

 

Twelve years and we’ve still got troops in Iraq.

 

 

WILL ALWAYS BE KNOWN AS TRICKY DICK

WILL ALWAYS BE KNOWN AS TRICKY DICK

 

 

And if you read Plato’s Republic, you would know that in no way did Socrates think that average Joes and Janes like you and me could – or should – be a part of the ruling class.

 

th (8)

 

What that means for us is that a lie, no matter what noble intention the speaker may have, can do nothing other than to cause harm.

And a liar, no matter what he tells you, is almost always up to something bad.

However, songs about liars are nearly always entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* I realize there’s a matter of what exactly constitutes a lie, especially concerning the intent of the liar. I realize that instances of lying include a liar being unaware that his false statement is indeed false or when an individual tells the truth with an intention to deceive. For an example of this kind of lie, I suggest watching Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – in particular, the scene between Count Dooku and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

 

 
NOTE: Socrates details the purpose of noble lies in Book III, 414 d – 415 a-d, of Plato’s Republic.

 

 

SOURCES:
1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/lying/lying_1.shtml

2) Plato. Republic. 1968. Trans. Allan Bloom. NY: Basic Books. Bk. III, 414 b-c.

3) Leo Strauss. Natural Right and History. 1953 [1950]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 160.

4) Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. 2004 [1893]. Trans F.H. Peters, M.A. NY: Barnes and Noble Books. p.91.

Current Events

Five minutes into the conversation and I was already regretting saying anything in the first place.

 

I’d made the mistake of telling a lady I’d just met that I was a political science major in college. Apparently she was one of those types who liked to discuss politics.

And when I say “discuss”, I mean someone preaches at you for the next thirty-three minutes.

There really are perks to being a wallflower.

 

Listen: I don’t mind discussing politics. I like to, actually. That’s kind of the reason why I majored in political science. I wanted to know how government works. To be formally educated on the form and function of our representative republic.

Unfortunately, the only lesson I can say that I’ve had so far, is that when you meet anyone wants to discuss politics one needs to tread lightly. I now realize that there’s a difference between an exchange of political ideas and a full-scale inquisition of all of my political opinions.

That’s what I’d been experiencing for a full five minutes.

 

A full-on Spanish-style inquisition.

 

the spanish inquisition

 

 

She demanded to know my opinion on Syria. Afghanistan. Edward Snowden.

Voter ID laws, abortion, 9/11 Truth, Obamacare, and Ted Cruz.

The corporate media. Fox News. And gun control.

Fracking.

 

Illegal NSA surveillance. Same-sex marriage. Drones. The Zimmerman verdict. Wikileaks and Bradley Manning.

 

Chris Christie.

 

What I thought about the Tea Party, Rand Paul, and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

 

Hillary Clinton hasn’t even announced her candidacy yet.

 

OH YEAH. SHE’S RUNNIN’ FOR PRESIDENT, ALRIGHT

OH YEAH. SHE’S RUNNIN’ FOR PRESIDENT, ALRIGHT

 

 

Getting waterboarded had to be easier than this conversation.

 

Five minutes into a lecture about dissolving the Federal Reserve, and all I could think of was how much this didactically-oriented (and annoying) lady looked like a young Walter Becker.

 

I felt the urge to sing “Reeling In the Years”.

 

THIS IS WALTER BECKER. NOW, IMAGINE SOMEONE WHO LOOKS JUST LIKE WALTER BECKER LECTURING A FELLOW PROGRESSIVE ABOUT THE EVILS OF CAPITALISM, WHILE WEARING A DEMOCRACY NOW! T-SHIRT… WITH BOOBS.

THIS IS WALTER BECKER. NOW, IMAGINE SOMEONE WHO LOOKS JUST LIKE WALTER BECKER LECTURING A FELLOW PROGRESSIVE ABOUT THE EVILS OF CAPITALISM, WHILE WEARING A DEMOCRACY NOW! T-SHIRT… WITH BOOBS.

 

 

Sometimes I want to discuss politics, but I don’t want to discuss politics.

 

I definitely don’t want any conversation to feel like I’m being interrogated at Gitmo.

 

Sometimes I really don’t feel like discussing anything politically important.

I’d rather talk about Justin Bieber’s retirement, Miley Cyrus’ latest media-grabbing antics or if Kim K really plucked her infant daughter’s eyebrows.

 

MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN DISCUSSING THE SEQUESTER

MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN DISCUSSING THE SEQUESTER

 

Sometimes I don’t feel like thinking about anything philosophically significant.

Sometimes I really don’t feel like dealing with reality.

Sometimes I want to hold on to my Panglossian view of the world. But my view keeps getting interrupted by current events. Reality can be annoying like that.

It’s hard to face reality every morning when this kind of headline is the first thing you see on the internet:

 

 

Capture fukushima

 

Looking at the headline I can conclude one of two things: I’ve been totally irradiated by fallout from Fukushima or Armageddon is going to start soon.

I’m pretty sure that both involve Godzilla rising up from the Pacific Ocean.

 

That’s just the start of the horribleness. If you think about it, there’s plenty of things going on in the real world that makes you not want to face the real world.

 

th (4)

 

That can be difficult if you’ve assumed the life of a philosopher. Philosophy is supposed to be about thinking about reality and stuff. There’s a whole field of philosophy devoted to doing just that.

 

It’s called metaphysics.

 

 

I SWEAR THIS IS NOT WHAT I'M DOING. BUT IF IT APPEARS THAT I AM, I'M JUST DEEP IN PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHT

I SWEAR THIS IS NOT WHAT I’M DOING. BUT IF IT APPEARS THAT I AM, I’M JUST DEEP IN PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHT

 

But really, there are times that thinking about truth and what’s real and all that is just plain exhausting. I’d much rather think about the discontinuities in the Star Wars movies, comic books, and TV shows. I’d rather write The Walking Dead fanfic about romantic liaisons between Rick Grimes and his former friend and partner, Shane Walsh.

 

THEY SHARED A LOVE THAT DARED NOT SPEAK IT'S NAME... AT LEAST IN THE STORIES I WROTE.

THEY SHARED A LOVE THAT DARED NOT SPEAK IT’S NAME… AT LEAST IN THE STORIES I WROTE.

 

I so prefer an unreality reality that I’m totally obsessed with Don Draper but I have almost no interest at all in Jon Hamm.

I prefer this:

 
suit & tie

 

To this:

 

I SWEAR THIS GUY DOES NOTHING FOR ME

I SWEAR THIS GUY DOES NOTHING FOR ME

I’m way past elementary school but I still enjoy daydreaming.

 

Sometimes I would prefer to spend my day floating inside Robert Nozick’s experience machine than deal with what’s actually going on.

 

YEA! SENSORY DEPRIVATION!

YEA! SENSORY DEPRIVATION!

 

I mean, I know reality is a “big deal” and the point of Nozick’s thought experiment was to point out exactly why we shouldn’t want to spend our time in an artificial reality. But really, how much reality do we have to deal with?

Is it ever ok to just tune out? Ever?

The real world is often much too bothersome to deal with.

There aren’t enough philosophers to deal with the overwhelming dumbness.

It’s scary sometimes.

And besides, Kant says we’ll never truly know ding an sich, anyway.

 

neil de grasse tyson doesn't give a shit

AND BY NOBODY I REALLY MEAN “I”

 

 

Ok, I know. The answer is no. As a philosopher and as a human being, I should want to be intellectually, emotionally, and philosophically engaged with the world. The philosopher Robert Nozick (1938-2002) said that we should prefer real world experiences because our lives are made richer by the experience of actual (as opposed to electronically simulated) living. And to examine one’s life, as Socrates suggests, requires that one face all aspects of life, both pleasant and unpleasant.

 

DAMN YOU, ROBERT NOZICK!!!

DAMN YOU, ROBERT NOZICK!!!

 

I understand that the purpose of Nozick’s experience machine is to convince us that we should not want to escape reality. That’s not what I’m suggesting. Completely escaping reality is not what I had in mind. Reality sometimes is a fun thing. There’s Disneyland, the smell of Tide detergent on freshly-washed sheets, hot chicken pot pies, getting kicked in the face in the pit at a Pantera concert. All of these things should be experienced first hand. And really, if escape is the plan, there are easier ways to do that. I could drop acid every waking moment of my life.

And those moments would look like THIS:

 

psychedelic image

 

My question is that as a philosopher, am I required to pay attention to everything. Would I (or anyone else) be neglecting my (our) philosophical duty if I (we) decided that there are some subjects that I’m (we’re) not going to think about? If I do does it make me a bad person? Am I wrong if I decide to think about these fictional people:

 

downton abbey

 

 

Instead of this guy:

 

edward snowden

 

 

Which reminds me. The new season of Downton Abbey is on.

Gotta go.

 

 

 

 

(Although my tone is somewhat light-hearted, this was and continues to be a real dilemma for me. I think others may understand when I say that thinking about too many things often leads to a philosophical fatigue or intellectual malaise, where one may be tempted to not think or care about anything beyond trivial matters. I think the origin of my dilemma resides in the fact that a lack of knowledge or interest in worldly matters is a sign of malignant narcissism or stupidity. I insist that in my case that neither is so. I had mistakenly operated under the impression that either my attention has to focus on “important” issues or on the trivial, and had neglected to consider the possibility that one can do both. I found this quote by Nietzsche useful: “To live alone one must be a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both – a philosopher.”)

 
SOURCES:

The Portable Nietzsche. 1982 [1954]. Ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann. NY: Viking Penguin Inc. p 467.

My New Year’s Resolu – Oh, Nevermind.

It’s the end of the year.

2013 is over and done. Onward to 2014!

 

i can't believe it's been a year

 

The end of the year means taking the time to assess the important things: Life. Relationships. My credit rating. Blog views.

 

You know,  the important stuff.

 

Unfortunately, being the cynic that I am, thinking about life inevitably leads to thoughts like this:

 

ending one minute at a time

 

Thanks a lot, Chuck Palahniuk.

 

And of course as the end of one year approaches, we mark the occasion by making resolutions.

Or as I call them, my annual list of unreasonable goals and broken promises.

 

stop lying resolution

 

The funny thing about New Year’s resolutions is, even though I absolutely know that I’m never going to stick to my resolution, I can’t not make them. Not making a resolution leaves me feeling like I’ve gone somewhere and left something behind. Like driving to the beach only to realize that I’ve left my towel at home.

 

You can’t go from one year to the next without making a resolution. That just ain’t American.

 

New-year-resolution-2014

 

Ok. I know that 9 out of 10 resolutions anyone makes at any time of the year are made to be broken. And to reduce my chances of failure, I’m not going to vow to lose weight or to become a better person (whatever that is),  And as a philosopher, I know that consistently making and breaking promises to myself violates Kant’s Categorical Imperative. So, I figure, in order to actually achieve my goals and to maintain any kind of philosophical integrity,  that this and all my future New Year’s resolutions shall be more realistic  – that is, accomplishable.

 

 

MAKING NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS ALWAYS MAKES ME THINK OF SISYPHUS. HE DIDN'T ACCOMPLISH HIS RESOLUTION, EITHER.

MAKING NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS ALWAYS MAKES ME THINK OF SISYPHUS. HE DIDN’T ACCOMPLISH HIS RESOLUTION, EITHER.

 

 

I’m gonna limit my list to stuff I can actually do.

 

So , without further ado, I, The Mindless Philosopher, hereby resolve to:

 

  • Stop shooting smack (I thought I’d put one at the top of my list that don’t really do, so this one should be easy).
  • Get outside more (and by “outside” I don’t mean periodically poking my head out the front door to check if the mailman has dropped off the stuff I ordered from Amazon).
  • Pick a political philosophy and stick to it.
  • Write more on epistemology and metaphysics (writing on ethics is too easy).
  • Finish writing my second book.
  • Start writing my second book.
  • Stop calling myself a sapiosexual (no one knows what that is. and it sounds pretentious, anyway).

 

sapiosexual

I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THIS WORD MEANT UNTIL THIS YEAR, EITHER.

  • Read something other than true crime books.
  • And on that note, stop watching Mob Wives.
  • Get a Twitter account (No, wait, scratch that one. I’m not going to tweet anything).
  • Learn how to walk in heels.
  • Lighten up my attitude towards Aristotle (the homunculus is no reason to discredit a philosopher’s entire philosophy).
  • Get over my obsession with Morrissey.
  • Devote my Sundays to something other than watching The Walking Dead.
  • Contribute to the Pacifica Network (On second thought, I might actually break this one).
  • Stop wearing pajama pants in public.
  • Stop quoting Nietzsche out of context.
  • Actually read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.
  • Admit that I don’t always have to be right.
keep calm i'm always right

WHO AM I KIDDING, I’M ALWAYS GOING TO BELIEVE I’M RIGHT

 

  • Acknowledge that Severus Snape is not a real person and that I cannot marry him.
DOES NOT HAVE A PROFILE ON MATCH.COM

DOES NOT HAVE A PROFILE ON MATCH.COM

 

And finally, stop being so cynical.

 

That last one might not happen this year. I am a philosopher, after all.

 

imnotcynicalLOGO

 

You know, I don’t know if I will break any (or all) of my resolutions by year’s end. If I’ve learned anything from David Hume, it’s that what happened yesterday can’t tell us what will happen tomorrow, next week, or even five minutes from now.  There are literally millions of reasons to break a New Year’s resolution.

No, really. If there are parallel universes the reasons are infinite.

I can imagine pajama pants sweeping the runways during New York Fashion Week. I could find a whole new reason to hate Aristotle.  Or VH-1 could give Big Ang another spin-off reality TV show…

 

Or I just might open my door one warm day in April to find Severus Snape delivering my Amazon order for  Farscape the complete series.

Ok. Probably none of that will happen.

 

But there is one resolution I know I will fulfill this year – and that’s to wish everyone a  Happy New Year.

Here’s to 2014 and a new year of happy thinking!

 

Philosophically yours,

TMP