I AM THE MINDLESS PHILOSOPHER

YEARS AGO, I WROTE a book.

It’s a philosophy book. Or rather, it’s a book about philosophy.

…kinda sorta about philosophy.

I mean, I use the word “philosophy”. And I quote Nietzsche.

That’s all you need for a philosophy book, right?

Now, when I was a philosophy student, I used to lament (sometimes – ok, a lot of times − out loud) the fact that most of the philosophy texts I was reading – the books every philosophy student is required to read – THE GREAT PHILOSOPHICAL TEXTS BY THE GREATEST PHILOSOPHICAL MINDS – were… well…boring.

Positively dull.

If earning a philosophy degree taught me anything, I learned that reading Immanuel Kant is the perfect cure for insomnia.

Reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason = snoozefest.

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KANT’S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON CAN ALSO BE USED AS A PILLOW OR AS A MAKESHIFT  BLUDGEONING DEVICE TO BE USED AGAINST WOULD-BE AXE MURDERERS

It’s not just mind-numbing boringness that philosophy has to overcome; people just don’t like philosophy or philosophers.

Americans are notoriously anti-intellectual. The average stereotypical American doesn’t trust a guy who’s a smarty pants. And really, who can blame them?

Smarty pants people invented the atomic bomb.

They also created reality tv.

If it wasn’t for that smart guy Dr. Phil, none of us would have any idea what “cash me ousside” means.

and if you don’t know, god bless you.

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THANKS, DR. PHIL

To be fair, Dr. Phil isn’t a philosopher. He’s a psychologist.

William James was a psychologist. And a philosopher.

William James was one of the fathers of Pragmatism.

Dr. Phil is pragmatic.

Therefore, I think, Dr. Phil IS a philosopher.

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CAN’T BE ANY WORSE THAN NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

Anyway… generally speaking, there’s always been a certain amount of negativity directed towards philosophers and philosophy.

Popular culture depicts philosophers as mopey navel gazers.

If society is correct, philosophers are only good at contemplating things that, in the long run, aren’t useful.

Schopenhauer was mopey.

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THE MAN EXUDES MISERY, DOESN’T HE?

Wittgenstein realized logical positivism was a dumb idea – even though he was the person who invented it.

Here’s the thing: even though people think philosophers are good only for thinking about things that no normal person cares about, there’s always been a place for the philosopher in society.

No one wants to admit it; the lovers of wisdom are an essential part of the way things are.

Just think about our popular culture for a minute.

You personally might not give two poops about philosophy, but if you exist right now, your “life” is the product of a long list of philosophers including (but definitely not limited to) Hegel, Nietzsche, Leo Strauss, John Stuart Mill, Plato, and Ayn Rand.

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LEO STRAUSS: THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PHILOSOPHER YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF, AND LIKELY WON’T GOOGLE, EVEN AFTER READING THIS BLOG POST

You won’t find a critically praised tv show or movie, a failed economic theory, a celebrity-slash-deep thinker, or a dumb politician who hasn’t quoted, misquoted, paraphrased, borrowed or stolen an idea from a philosopher.

Don’t believe me?

You’d think with all the philosophy everywhere, that we would, as a society, be a little more positive about philosophers and philosophy.

Nope.

and I’ll tell you why…

Are you listening? Here’s the reason why:

PHILOSOPHERS ARE NOT FUN.

Seriously, philosophy types are not a very fun lot to be around.

At the risk of being ad hominem-y, take a good look at the nearest philosopher. LOOK.

Look at him. Or her.

Now, ask yourself – am I looking at a person who looks like they’d be fun to be around for more than five minutes?

Sure, a professional philosopher will insist that they’re fun and funny and all-around interesting people, but do not be fooled. A fun philosopher is fun – for a philosopher.

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I’E USED MY POWERS OF PHILOSOPHICAL SPECULATION TO DETERMINE THAT MOST PHILOSOPHERS ARE UNFUN — EXCEPT FOR DIOGENES. DIOGENES SEEMS LIKE A FUN GUY

The reason why philosophers are un-fun has to do with the natural disposition of philosophers. Philosophers operate under the delusion that every conversation must adhere to a set of absolute bullshit rules on how conversations are supposed to go.

NO AD HOMINEMS ALLOWED.

Philosophers use fancy “philosophical” words like invalid, fallacy, and this is complete bullshit, why are you even in my class!?!?! to describe conversations that don’t adhere to The Rules.

Pffft!

As much as I love the love of wisdom, I got tired of not having fun.

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I mean, sometimes rules are great. Rules come in handy. Philosophy is a rigorous intellectual pursuit and strict rules are needed to produce coherent theories and arguments.

Makin’ rules is what made Immanuel Kant the greatest Kantian philosopher of all time.

But, every once in a while, even when doing philosophy, you gotta let one rip.
and not just figuratively.

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I had a philosophy professor who told a story about a conversation they had with another philosophy professor on a plane. My professor said that the conversation got so deep in arguing over theory that another passenger sitting nearby asked them to stop talking.

The professors weren’t using vulgar language. They weren’t looking at pornography. They weren’t defecating on the food cart or having an overly enthusiastic debate to settle whether Negan or The Governor was the baddest bad guy on The Walking Dead.

They were discussing philosophy.

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FOR THE RECORD, THE BADDEST BAD GUY WAS GARETH. GARETH ATE PEOPLE!!!

In the ears and minds of a pair of philosophy professors, a discussion about philosophy is something suitable to engage in around an airplane full of strangers. However, for the other passengers, being stuck in the fuselage of a jet aircraft (involuntarily) listening to a couple of philosophy enthusiasts talk about whatever it is that overthinkers talk about, had made an otherwise somewhat entertaining plane trip intolerable. UNFUN.

PHILOSOPHERS MAKE THINGS UNFUN.

Think about it: think of all the fun times you’ve ever had. Were there party hats? Yes. Mixed drinks? Probably. Strippers dressed as firemen? Undoubtedly. Was a philosopher involved? Absolutely not.

No fun time ever involves philosophers.

…except for maybe Diogenes.

In his 1748 treatise An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, the Scottish philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), wrote, “Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.” Hume understood the necessity of philosophy, but he also knew that there’s more to life than philosophy. Namely, Hume knew that life is to be enjoyed – to have fun.

In his last days, Hume told jokes, played cards, hung out with his friends.

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ANY GUY WHO WEARS A JACKET THIS FLASHY PROBABLY KNOWS HOW TO HAVE A FUN TIME

And that’s what brings me to this. This blog.

Serious philosophers take philosophy things way too seriously.

There’s nothing worse than telling a good philosophy joke to a philosophy pro and getting nothing but a blank stare because the mofo takes philosophy too seriously to see the humor.

 

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IS THIS THING ON?????

 

Some people study philosophy for the sake of understanding the theory. Some people get their jollies discussing theories.

This is not that kind of blog.

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I think a part of enjoying anything you love is to be willing to take a bit of the piss out of it.

So, what would a philosophy blog written by someone who avoids deep theoretical philosophical discussions… someone who thinks skimming is sometimes just as good as actually reading an actual book… someone who thinks the answer for any philosophical question can be found in an episode of Star Trek look like?

You’re looking at it.

This blog is my philosophical mission. I call it mindless philosophy.

I AM THE MINDLESS PHILOSOPHER.

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I am a philosopher; but, amidst all my philosophy, I am still a man.

I’ve said, from the moment I decided to start a blog, the first aim of The Mindless Philosopher is to have fun. I love philosophical discussions, but, truth be told, The Mindless Philosopher is not above name calling, writing pedantic blog posts of somewhat-deep philosophical analysis based on a misinterpretation, emotion-based arguments or the tried and true ad hominem attack.

 

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IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, “YOU’RE A FUCKING MORON!” ALWAYS WORKS

 

Yeah, I know it’s not PHILOSOPHY, but PHILOSOPHY isn’t entirely the point of my blog. I’m not a professional philosopher, I don’t have tenure and I’m not getting paid to do this. I’m just a schmo who got an undergrad degree in philosophy and decided to use it as an excuse to watch way too much tv.

And write a blog about it.

Listen:

You know what’s got a lot of philosophy in it?

TV shows got philosophy. So do movies.
And music
And books

And former reality tv show hosts who become president of the United States.

 

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CAN’T BE ANY WORSE THAN PRINCIPIA ETHICA

Sure, taking philosophy out of academia and applying it to your favorite tv show can be a daunting task. It’s messy. Theories sometimes don’t work, and sometimes you have to stretch a theory to fit.

Sometimes you discover that your brilliant philosophical analysis of the brave protagonist has been an exercise in how to misapply a philosophical theory.

In the end, I guess if I had to explain why I do this – why an amateur deep thinker (like me) would dare to venture into the world of philosophy − I truly think that anybody can be a philosopher. You don’t need to attend university or have a PhD to ponder life’s big questions. If we’re talking about the human condition, it makes sense to bring philosophy out of the academy and into the real world.

Because that’s where the people are.

 

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LOOK AT ALL THESE NOT-PHILOSOPHER PEOPLE WAITING TO LEARN PHILOSOPHY!

 

Thinking philosophically doesn’t require that anyone read the complete works of Bertrand Russell or understand the Hegelian dialectic. You don’t need to know who Slavoj Žižek is or that he’s called the Elvis of philosophy to do philosophy.

Anybody can do philosophy. Anybody should do philosophy.

You see, we can use philosophy to understand things.

 

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AT LEAST TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THE HELL THIS IS ALL ABOUT

 

If a philosophy degree is an interesting path to poverty, I might as well have some fun with it.

…and do a little bit of mindless philosophy along the way.

 

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SURE, YOU CAN…. BUT SHOULD YOU?

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

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

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

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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

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WEIRD AND ODDLY ATTRACTIVE

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WEIRD AND ODDLY ATTRACTIVE

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

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

Cable TV operates on repeat, not shuffle.

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

Why? Because Freaking dinosaurs, that’s why.

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

It’s all connected, folks.

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

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

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

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

Except with dinosaurs.

Freaking dinosaurs.

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FREAKING DINOSAURS, MAN

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

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

…but I digress.

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

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

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

“We spared no expense”, Hammond declares.

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THERE’S ALWAYS ROOM FOR JELLO

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

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

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

Did you spot it?

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

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

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

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

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

What’s ethics?

Ethics is:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If we can do it, shouldn’t we do it?

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

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

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YEP. THERE’S A TESLA IN SPACE

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

For those who might have forgotten, utilitarianism is:

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

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

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

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

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

Given what happens in the film the answer seems no.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

That’s because Jurassic Park SPARES NO EXPENSE.

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

 

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NOPE. NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT, SAN DIEGO

 

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

More than that, it’s morally obligatory.

Therefore, we ought to create dinosaurs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

… and things people ain’t supposed to do.

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

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

You die if you try to do what God do.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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ME TOO, DR. MALCOLM. ME TOO.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

It’s the THINKING, stupid!

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

A lot of stuff.
A. Lot.

Dare I say I’ve taken to overthinking.

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

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

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

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

Make no mistake, there are idiots.

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

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

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

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

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

Whoops. There. I done done it.

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

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

Trust me, I’m like a smart person.

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

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

 

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

Well, I say beans to that.

There’s a reason why I studied philosophy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You know, sometimes smart people say dumb things.

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

How to carry on an argument for goodness sakes!

 

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STILL THE BEST WAY TO END A DISPUTE

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

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

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

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

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

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

No internet, no Socrates memes.

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

It even calculates the tip.

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

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

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

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

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

You’d know that if you read philosophy.

 

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

 

I know when someone is (mis)paraphrasing Nietzsche.

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

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

Philosophy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are doing philosophy.

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

“What kind of music you like?”

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

We’ve all had this conversation:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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It’s kinda the same with philosophy.

The quiz is all about authenticity. So is philosophy.

Well, some philosophy is.

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

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

Existentialism is:

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

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

Yes. Nietzsche was an existentialist. Look it up.

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

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

In philosophy, authenticity is:

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

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

Wait − is saying French existentialist redundant?

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

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

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

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

That is, until we give our lives meaning.

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

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

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

We are responsible for who we are*.

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

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

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

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Living according to our own choices is living authentically.

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

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

It’s easier to live inauthentically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

If you like Nickelback, like Nickelback.

 

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

 

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BEN GRIMM…. KIND OF A JAZZ SNOB

 

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

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

 

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PRECISELY WHY BRO COUNTRY HAS GOT TO G.O.

 

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

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

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

I like it authentically.

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

WHAT KIND OF PHILOSOPHER ARE YOU, ANYWAY???

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

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

Who knows?

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

 

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

 

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

Folks also seem to like The Good Place.

I haven’t seen The Good Place.

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

I think it’s pretty funny, too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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REALLY…

 

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

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

Good lord, is it epistemology???!

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

You get the idea.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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They’re characters like Jack Griffin.

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

You can correctly assume the rest.

 

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CAN’T ARGUE WITH MODUS PONENS

 

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

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

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

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

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

But would you want him to?

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

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

Ok. Bad analogy.

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

They’re all lawyers on Law and Order.

But they’re all a particular kind of lawyer.

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

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

My bet is it’s ethics.

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

 

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

 

 

Pretty much your standard philosopher.