MY PHILOSOPHICAL THANKFUL FOR LIST

Thanksgiving is this Thursday here in the States, and while I partake in the annual fest of overeating to the point of gluttony-induced sleepiness/self-loathing and pretending to like my relatives, I’ll remind myself that it’s also the time of the year when we look at our lives and think of the things we are grateful for.

Sometimes it’s difficult to make a grateful for list, particularly when there are so many things out there to complain about

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NOT GONNA SAY BERNIE WOULD HAVE WON…

…and especially when your fourth favorite philosopher is Schopenhauer.

 

The German philosophers are such a dour bunch, aren’t they?

As just an average Joe, I’m thankful for my health and my friends and family. I’m thankful that my brain is functioning properly (knock on wood) and that, at the present moment, I have little reason to believe that I am under the influence of an evil demon or a brain in a vat.

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I’m thankful that I added on a second major to study philosophy.
I give thanks that I was never assigned to read Heidegger.

Or Ayn Rand.

I’m thankful for Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and the Categorical Imperative.

Who knew that would come in handy?

I’m thankful that I don’t have to read another analytic philosopher…unless I want to.

I’m thankful that nearly every dumb decision Rick Grimes has ever made just goes to show how stupid utilitarianism really is.

 

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WATCH CLOSELY: RICK IS THINKING ABOUT DOING SOMETHING TOTALLY UTILITARIAN AND INCREDIBLY STUPID

I’m thankful for that stupid “you have to have a high IQ to understand Rick and Morty” meme.

 

 

IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MEME, NOW YOU HAVE. YOU’RE WELCOME.

 

I’m thankful for Rick and Morty. Monty Python, Star Trek, reality t.v., and The Walking Dead.
I’m thankful for Daryl Dixon.

Oh god, there I go. I admit it. I AM GRATEFUL FOR DARYL DIXON.
I’m thankful my professors made me read Leo Strauss and Plato.
I’m thankful for The Philosopher’s Toolkit.
I’m thankful for Wikipedia.

 

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EVERYONE MUST PURCHASE A COPY OF THE PHILOSOPHER’S TOOLKIT IMMEDIATELY

I give thanks for Rolling Rock Beer.
I’m thankful that Logical Positivism shows that even smart people can come up with bad ideas.
I’m thankful for self-publishing.
And blogs.

 

And Slavoj Žižek memes.

 

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PRETTY MUCH SPEAKS FOR ITSELF

 

As I shovel one last bite of turkey and stuffing into my Mr. Creosote-sized belly, I will give thanks for all the people who get Nietzsche so dreadfully wrong that their misadventures in nihilism will give me many years’ worth of material to write about.

I am grateful for all my cool philosophy classmates who became cool philosophical friends.

I’m grateful that people know we need philosophers, too.

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Lastly, I’m grateful for you. Yep. YOU. All of you folks out there reading this little, dumb blog of mine. I’m grateful for all of you who take time out of your day to read the musings of this self-proclaimed philosopher and pop culture enthusiast.

Thank you all from the bottom of my mindlessly philosophical heart.

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CHEERS!
TMP

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ON BUNNIES, BAMBI, AND THE ETHICS OF NOT SAYING ANYTHING AT ALL

EVERYBODY’S GOT A story about the movie that traumatized you as a kid.
The movies The Neverending Story and The Dark Crystal are sure-fire picks for everybody’s short list.

The Secret of NIMH.

Coraline.

If you want to watch real cinema-induced trauma, watch the movie “The Adventures of Mark Twain”. The movie is rated G, but you’ll soon ask how a movie that disturbing was rated for general audiences.

Traumatic cinema isn’t a new thing. Filmmakers have been making nightmare fuel for tots for decades. By my estimate they’ve been at it since at least 1942.

That was the year Walt Disney Studios released Bambi.

Walt Disney’s Bambi, based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten, was Disney’s fifth animated film. The studio’s four previous films, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Dumbo, all have their fair share of scary moments.

Kids turning into jackasses, anyone?

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But Bambi tops all that. Bambi has the one thing that scares the living daylights out of children who are aware of human mortality:

The death of parent.

Somebody shoots Bambi’s mom.

 

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SERIOUSLY, WHAT KIND OF SICK S.O.B. PUTS SOMETHING LIKE THIS IN A KIDS MOVIE???

 

Luckily, that’s not what I’m going to talk about.

I’m going to write about a lighter topic: lies.

Or rather, about a particular kind of lie.

In the movie, Thumper, Bambi’s annoyingly adorable bunny friend, when his mother admonishes him for describing the Prince of the Forest’s walk as not “very good”, repeats his father’s bit of moral advice: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”.

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Bad grammar aside, Thumper’s father’s ethic (also called the Thumperian principle, Thumper’s rule or Thumper’s law) sounds like the nice thing to do. But a philosopher’s gotta think: is not saying anything at all the morally right thing to do?

First off, Thumper is right. Bambi’s walk was wobbly.

Bambi, a newborn deer, had the typical gait of a newborn deer – not very good.

Thumper merely offered his honest opinion.

Honest.

Spilled the T, as the kids say these days.
…actually, now that I’m thinking about it, Thumper threw some serious shade.

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Honesty usually isn’t considered a bad thing.

We often say honesty is the best policy, and if we consider being honest the same as telling the truth, we should also value honesty as a stone on the path to wisdom.
Remember, philosophers are all about loving wisdom.

If we say honesty is the best policy, we say it knowing that the truth is often difficult to hear.

 

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YOU CAN’T POSSIBLY TALK ABOUT PEOPLE NOT LIKING THE TRUTH WITHOUT INCLUDING THIS… IT’S THE LAW

 

Although we say that the truth hurts; that we’re offering tough love or “constructive criticism”, we praise straight shooters, people who “tell it like it is” and “call it like they see it”.

Of course, we wouldn’t want people to tell the truth all the time. Even Plato recognized the usefulness and necessity of lies.

To the rulers of the state then, if to any, it belongs of right to use falsehood, to deceive either enemies or their own citizens, for the good of the state: and no one else may meddle with this privilege. − Plato

If I’ve learned anything from watching Jim Carrey movies, I’ve learned that not being able to lie can be just as bad as lying. Should we say that those jeans really do make our wife’s ass look fat? Should we tell our three-year-old that Sparky didn’t go to doggie heaven? Should we tell the truth even if the truth isn’t nice?
Is it better to think it and not say it?

Should we just omit the truth?

There is a line between being tactful and lying. We lie when we withhold the truth. But not telling the truth isn’t an outright lie − it’s not saying anything.

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But isn’t omission a lie?

What is lying by omission?

Lying by omission, otherwise known as exclusionary detailing, is lying by either omitting certain facts or by failing to correct a misconception

Let’s get back to the original Thumperian principle: “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all”. Thumper isn’t omitting facts or failing to correct a misconception. The matter at hand concerns Thumper’s opinion.

If Thumper followed his father’s admonition, he wouldn’t have lied by omission.

He wouldn’t have been rude, either.

That kinda was Thumper’s mom’s point, wasn’t it?

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Ok. Thumper isn’t a liar. But something’s still bugging me about what Thumper said. Or rather, something’ bugging me about abiding by the Thumperian principle. Sometimes we need to tell some of those not nice truths.

After all, we’re not just talking about not hurting someone’s feelings. In the long run, it doesn’t matter whether someone wears a pair of ill-fitting jeans. It’s not just a matter of bad manners.

We’re talking about philosophical integrity.

When we declare a principle like, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all” we’re declaring a philosophical position. We’re saying we believe being nice − being nice; being aware of the feelings of others and respecting others as we want to be respected − is a good thing.

And by good, we mean it’s the morally correct thing to do.

The Bible tells us it’s good to be nice to people. Mathew 7:12 says,

“do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

Being nice isn’t just a very Christian thing to do, it’s the Kantian thing to do.
The German philosopher. Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), created the Categorical Imperative as a means of establishing a basis of ethics (not based in religion or consequentialism) that would apply to all people, universally.

Kant’s Categorical Imperative states, “act only in accordance with that maxim through which you can at the same time will that it become a universal law”

Yeah, it sounds a lot like the Golden Rule, but Kantians INSIST that it’s not the same thing.

Another Formula Kant’s Categorical Imperative, the Formulation of Ends, states: “Act in such a way that you always treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, never simply as a means, but always at the same time as an end.”

In short, according to Kant and the Bible, we’re morally obligated to treat others with respect – an element of which is not lying to people.

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It’s important that we be nice to people, but it is also important that we tell people the truth.

That’s because the truth is illuminating.

Plato demonstrates the illuminating effect of the truth in the Allegory of the Cave.

In Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, from Book VII in The Republic, Socrates describes the story of a group of prisoners trapped inside a cave.

The prisoners are unable to leave the cave because they are chained to a wall and unable to face in any direction other than to face straight ahead. The only images the prisoners see are the shadows projected on the wall in front of them, illuminated by the light from a fire behind them.

The shadowy images on the wall are the only reality the prisoners know.

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The prisoners eventually escape the confines of the cave and are brought into the light of day.

Light of Day… good song, awful movie.

At first, the brilliant light of the sun pains their eyes and they are confused by what they see. The prisoners realized that the world inside the cave isn’t reality at all.

There’s a bit more to Plato’s allegory, however, misinterpreted to its most basic components, Plato’s tale of the chained prisoners demonstrates the effect of truth, and how the truth, even if initially hurts us, is essential for a good (i.e. philosophical) life.

So, what does all this have to say about Thumper?

Well, for starters, Thumper was rude. Additionally, he wasn’t really stating anything that wasn’t obvious to even the most unobservant forest dweller. Thumper’s unsolicited opinion based on his observation of the newborn fawn’s walk doesn’t seem controversial – primarily because it was an opinion.

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But − should we be concerned about the feelings of others? Should we hold opinions to a different standard than we hold the truth? Should we, as Maurice Switzer suggested, “remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it”?

Honestly, I really can’t say exactly what a philosopher should think about what Thumper said. Maybe, just for the sake of preventing meaningless (and all too often pedantic) philosophical arguments, we should follow Thumper’s dad’s advice.

Seriously, where was Thumper’s dad???

 

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I THINK I HAVE AN IDEA…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thumper_(Disney)

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Lying_by_omission

Oh, No. Not Again.

*TW: this post includes discussion of sexual assault

 

THERE’S A SCENE in the movie Spaceballs – it’s supposed to be a parody of the chestburster scene in the movie Alien – where the late John Hurt re-enacts the scene where his character, Kane shows us what happens when you get too close to something that looks like this

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This happens

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And then this happens

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Seriously no Bueno.

In Alien, Kane dies. In Spaceballs, Kane’s misfortune ends with a punchline.

Because Spaceballs is a comedy.

If you haven’t seen it, you should check it out. That Dark Helmet is pretty funny.

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Gazing down at the newly born xenomorph emerging from his opened chest, John Hurt, as Kane, laments, “Oh no, not again.”

Cue rimshot.

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I’m kinda understanding how Kane felt right now.

Not because I have an alien neonate bursting from my chest.

It’s because I, too have recently said the phrase “oh no, not again”.

It wasn’t the punchline of a joke, though.

I said it because I, like Kane, was lamenting the repeat of something I’d been through before – discovering that yet another one of my faves is “problematic”.

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“Problematic” is an understatement.

One of my faves is accused of committing multiple acts of sexual assault. On minors.

Now, I’ve written about problematic favorites before. Thrice, in fact.

If you’re a fan of enough famous people, you’ll find that there’s a certain percentage of them that are, for lack of a better phrase, bad people. As a Beatles fan, I am aware of accusations of John Lennon’s violent behavior, including spousal abuse.
That’s…. problematic.

 

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YEAH… KINDA WHERE I AM RIGHT NOW

 

As a fan of philosophy, I know that philosophy is filled with sexists, anti-Semites, racists, even renowned University of California, Berkley philosophy professors accused of sexual assault.

…and I’m not even talking about old white guys who lived hundreds of years ago.

 

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I’M TALKING ABOUT YOU, JOHN SEARLE

 

Alright, I know that no human is perfect, even myself. Many of us has done something that, if we ran what we did through an ethical evaluation machine, our acts would label us “problematic”.

I’m not expecting moral perfection.

For me, being a philosopher isn’t about being perfect (No philosopher is. Not even Hegel).

Luckily studying and enjoying philosophy doesn’t require that.

I know that no person is perfect. And I know that brilliant people; people who do wonderful things, create amazing art, or develop the perfect ontology, can do the most heinous moral wrongs.

Schopenhauer pushed a woman down a flight of stairs.

 

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IF I HAD TO TAKE A GUESS AND NAME A PHILOSOPHER WHO LOOKS MOST LIKELY TO THROW A WOMAN DOWN A FLIGHT OF STAIRS, I’D CHOOSE SCHOPENHAUER

 

Intellectually I realize (rationalize?) that it’s possible to separate a creator from their creation; that, despite what I know about John Lennon, Roman Polanski, or Colin McGinn, it’s possible to enjoy and appreciate what they have contributed to our culture and public discourse.

Heidegger was a Nazi, but I can’t deny his influence on the way we think.

As much as I am sometimes reluctant to admit that I can push aside what I know about the private acts of my favorite famous people, I ask if I should push the acts aside. I can’t but feel that there’s something wrong with saying John Lennon was a horrible person, but his horribleness doesn’t matter (or at least matters less) because he made some really good music.

That just doesn’t sound right.

 

I still feel that people should be held morally accountable for what they do. Even if they’re brilliant filmmakers, actors, musicians or philosophers.

As a philosopher, I fear a slide into a moral relativism based on the principle of “whatever you do is ok so long as I like what you do”.

That’s not good at all.

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So, I ask again, what do I do?

What is the appropriate way to deal with problematic faves? Is it morally wrong to continue to enjoy the music of John Lennon or the films of Roman Polanski or Kevin Spacey, even if they’ve committed morally objectionable acts?

Are people inseparable from what they do? Are we obligated to turn our back on them? Should we throw away their albums? Burn their books? Boycott their films?

As I write about this subject for the third time, my answer is I still don’t know.

But I have the feeling that before I figure it out, I’ll be saying “Oh, no. Not again”.

THE REQUEST LINES ARE OPEN

WHEN YOU WRITE ABOUT something long enough you realize that there’s always something to write about, and that you will never have enough time to write about all the things that are rattling around inside your mind.

After a while you inevitably accumulate an “I was gonna write about that” list.

And that list turns in to things started and stopped, deleted and rewritten.

The next book you’re “working on”

That blog post you’ve been plugging away at for days…weeks… months….

years.

Another thing you realize when your write about stuff is that there’s a lot of stuff that other people want you to write about, too.

That becomes your “Things I might write about” list.

Might usually means never.

Unless, of course, you take requests.

Which is something I haven’t done.

I might.

You see, unlike other people who identify their vocation as “writer”; those people who deal in original thoughts, my writing necessarily depends on the work of others. I write about pop culture. Movies, t.v. shows, books, music, politics, current events – it’s all there for the writing.
All of it.

…and that’s part of the problem.

I don’t keep up with the Kardashians

I’ve never seen an episode of Game of Thrones

Or Stranger Things

 

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I HAVE NO IDEA WHO THIS KID IS, SO DON’T EVEN ASK ME TO WRITE ABOUT IT

 

I hear The Good Place is good, but I still haven’t seen it

I haven’t seen the last Thor flick

Or listened to Taylor Swift’s latest album

I don’t regret that last one, though.

Hey, haters gonna hate.

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Although I think I’ve watched enough The Walking Dead to write a treatise on Rick Grimes thick enough to make Kant envious*.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, there are only so many hours that a person, even a pop culture junkie like myself, can devote to watching movies and t.v. shows, listening to music, and reading books.

Especially when you’re devoted to watching, reading, listening to, and thinking about things philosophically.

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I’m so busy over-analyzing episodes of Star Trek, Breaking Bad, Rick and Morty, watching Fight Club for the one-hundred seventh time, purposefully avoiding Star Trek: Discovery, and digging into the hidden meaning in Beatles songs to deep enough give Charles Manson a run for his money, that everything else gets placed on the perpetual backburner of things I might write about.

Might.

Then there’s that real-world stuff I’m supposed to be doing – school, work, having anything resembling an actual social life…

In the end, figuring out the philosophical subtext of things takes bit out of you.

Even if you’re two seasons behind on American Horror Story.

I’m two seasons behind…

 

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THIS MAY HAVE THE APPERANCE OF NOT HAVING AN ACTIVE SOCIAL LIFE, BUT REST ASSURED, THERE IS SERIOUS, DEEP PHILOSOPHICAL RESEARCH GOING ON

 

Now, I guess if I was (or is it were? I dunno. I’m a philosopher, not a grammar person) inclined to be a butthole about things I’d say to every person who said, “you should write about this” should write about that themselves.

But that would be, as Birdperson said, “a dick move”.

Besides, as a watcher of popular media who has done enough complaining about things to have heard my fill of fandom’s variation of the No True Scotsman Fallacy, the No True Fan, I’m not that much of an asshole to off-handedly dismiss a request or suggestion by declaring that someone simply “write it yourself”.

An amazing feat, considering I’m also a fan of Schopenhauer.

All said and done, I appreciate requests. Namely, a request means that someone is reading my blog.

but also, a request means that there’s at least one someone else out there who likes thinking of things philosophically.

And that can’t be all that bad a thing.

So, I guess it’s not such an awful thing to be the Wolfman Jack of philosophy.

I guess the request lines are now open.

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So! Tell me what thing written about philosophically that you want to read about and I might write about it.

 

Might.

 

 

 

 

 

 

*I’m trying like hell to do just that: I’ve written at least ten (I don’t know, maybe more, maybe less) posts about The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, specific characters from both series, and zombies in general. I don’t exactly know what all this writing about the show is going to do for me, other than to say that I have absolutely nothing going on in my life on Sunday nights.

THE HALLOWEEN POST (Something, something, something, clever philosophical play-on-words)

I’VE FINALLY REACHED that point when I’m willing to admit that I am, indeed, too old to go trick-or-treating.

I’m also at the age when the thought of binge eating a bag full of candy brings on images of managing my blood sugar rather than the thought of a fun size Snickers™ induced sugar rush.

I’m also know enough to know that a sugar high is not a real thing.

Not just me saying this: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2014/feb/25/do-children-really-get-sugar-rush-hyperactivity

October is nearly over, and I not only wanted to write something for the month of October, but I also I wanted to write something about Halloween.

And since I’ve been doing so much thinking about things, I wanted to think about Halloween philosophically.

Obviously, that’s where I ran into a bit of a problem.

First off, without a shred of embarrassment, I’m gonna say it right now, Halloween is my favorite holiday.

More than Christmas. More than Valentine’s Day or the Fourth of July, my favorite day of the year is the lone day when assuming a different identity and panhandling is not only accepted but encouraged.

 

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ENJOY IT NOW, KIDS. THIS IS THE ONLY TIME IN YOUR LIFE YOU WILL BE REWARDED FOR BEGGING DOOR TO DOOR

 

I enjoy dressing up in costumes.

I enjoy scaring small children.

I enjoy eating candy.

Diabetic coma be damned.

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MY PANCEREAS HURTS

Now, there’s a field of philosophy that deals with fear − the philosophy of fear. But that has to do with stuff like the social contract and Hobbes – state of nature kind of stuff.
And there’s a philosophy of horror. But that has to do with how we emotionally respond to something that we know isn’t real, like a horror movie.

 

Philosophers call that “irrational” response is called the paradox of fiction.

Sooo… do philosophers have anything to say about Halloween?

I mean, come on. Philosophers write about everything!

EVERYTHING.

However, if my brief Google search of the words “philosophy” and “Halloween” is any indication of what philosophers think about All Hallows Eve, I find, not a brief Kantian treatise on the proper sexy fireman costume, but to line of skin care products.

 

You can imagine my disappointment.

 

Well…there are plenty of books, movies, and t.v. shows that are (either) Halloween themed or popular this time of year that have philosophical under or overtones.

Frankenstein.
The Saw flicks.
The zombie films of George A. Romero.

Heck, I’ve even written about zombies…

 

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NOPE. WE’RE NOT DONE WRITING ABOUT DARYL DIXON YET

Feminist philosophers talk about sexism in Halloween costumes.

 

*NOT PICTURED: SEXY SOCRATES HALLOWEEN COSTUME

And some philosophy-lovin’ folks out there have put together some pretty snazzy philosophy-themed, not sexist Halloween costumes.

 

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IT TAKES A CLEVER GAL OR FELLOW TO WORK UP A PHILOSOPHY COSTUME THAT WORKS ON TWO LEVELS

 

But when I looked for quotes from the go-to, everybody-knows-their-names philosophers (Kant, Nietzsche, Hegel, you know the names) about Halloween itself, sadly I couldn’t find anything.

Although I found this one quote.

Baudrillard said this about Halloween:

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That’s… harsh.

So, my fellow philosophy-loving friends, have you found anything written by philosophers about Halloween?

If you have, let us know in the comments.

 

Oh, we forgot to say, Happy Halloween, everybody!

 

 

For further reading on The Paradox of Fiction: http://www.iep.utm.edu/fict-par/