(Don’t) Mark it FAB

IF YOU DIDN’T KNOW already, Paul McCartney wrote a children’s book.

It’s called Hey Grandude.

91QxCRaeALL

THIS IS THE BOOK. 

The title is a play on “Hey, Jude”.

You know that song, right? It’s a pretty famous song… By the Beatles…that band from the sixties….

I’m not going to read McCartney’s book (because I’m not six years old, but especially because I don’t want to), but seeing Sir Paul on late-night TV plugging his new venture into literature has got me thinking about and listening to The Beatles.

You know the Beatles, right? That band…from the sixties…..

I’ve been listening to their album Abbey Road in particular.

Beatles-Abby-Road

The 50th anniversary edition of Abbey Road is out this year.

It’s remixed by Giles Martin.

Giles Martin is the son of the late George Martin.

You know who George Martin is, right? George Martin was the record producer for the Beatles…that band from the sixties…

The remix is pretty good.

You should all listen to it.

Anyway, I was listening to Abbey Road, enjoying the fantastic remixes of the first couple of tracks, when  the song “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” came on.

It’s not a song a lot of people like.

The story goes even John Lennon hated it. Really hated it.

He called it Paul’s “granny music”.

Maybe the song sucked because Faul actually wrote it.

Paul is dead, folks.

stream_img

EYES CLOSED, BAREFOOT, OUT OF STEP… YEP. PAUL IS DEAD, FOLKS.

28 IF….

Anyway…

John Lennon called “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (along with a few more songs) Paul’s “granny music”.

Not trying to be a dick or anything, but John Lennon was kind of a hater.

It’s also kind of an odd thing for Lennon to say, considering that the song is about a serial killer.

I don’t know what kind of grandma John Lennon had, but I can absolutely declare with utmost certainty that my own memaw would not be entertained by a song about a guy going Jeff Dahmer on people.

Within a span of three and a half  minutes, Maxwell Edison (majoring in medicine) bludgeons three people to death — including murdering a judge during his trial in the judge’s own courtroom.

….just like Jeffrey Grant did.

I freaking hate Jeffrey Grant.

God, there I go again.

So…..

Despite the fact that many people (especially John Lennon) despise “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”, Paul McCartney insisted that “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is a good song.

I think he still does.

You gotta smoke a lot of weed to think that.

Or you think it is because you’re actually FAUL.

Now, the Beatlemaniac in me wants to believe Paul’s claim that Maxwell’s etc. etc. is a good song.

But, as a person who knows a shit song when I hear one, I’m inclined to say John Lennon was right about “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”.

The song is shite.

41d

But the philosopher that dwells within me can’t stop thinking philosophically when I hear the word “good”. You see, whenever I hear the word “good” I start thinking about philosophy stuff like, ethics and ideal forms and utilitarian calculuses and all that jazz.

When I hear the word “good”, the philosopher in me wants to know if “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” isn’t just a good song, but a GOOD song.

Because we already know it isn’t a good song.

… sometimes, good songs aren’t GOOD songs and some GOOD songs aren’t good songs.

You see, whenever a philosopher says a word like “good” they usually don’t just mean a simple statement of one’s taste like, it’s got a good beat amd you can dance to it. It’s the natural inclination of the philosophers to complicate things by getting all Platonic about what’s good.

You read that right. I said Platonic.

Yes. I’m gonna be talking about Plato.

Well, actually Socrates.

But it’s really Plato.

He just wants us to think he’s writing about Socrates.

Because he writes as Socrates.

Well, actually as other people writing about Socrates.

Because Plato is Socrates.

Anyway

And if you’re gonna do some talking about Socrates, you know you’re gonna do some talking about Plato’s Republic.

30290

In particular, Book III…and also in  Book V.

Just in case you felt like reading along.

Socrates tells us that — wait. I gotta clearify a term, here.

When we use the term “music”, we’re generally referring to songs — lyrics set to instrumentation. This is the kind of music I’m referring to when I talk about a song like “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”. However, Socrates uses “music” to describe the arts, including poetry. The purpose of music, according to Socrates, isn’t merely recreational. Music isn’t meant to just entertain or to provide the s soundtrack for a work-out or a romantic encounter.

downloadfile

IF YOU’RE GONNA BE HAVING SEXUAL RELATIONS, YOU BETTER PLAY SOME MILITARY MARCHES… seriously, that’s the right kind of music Socrates says we should listen to    

Socrates says music is important because it is an essential element in the (philosophically correct) development of the citizen. Socrates describes music as “a moral law” and that music is “the essence of order and lends to all that is good, just, and beautiful.” Socrates also says this about music:

Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him who is ill-educated ungraceful.

So…what Socrates means, is music is important because it is a tool of civilization. We must be mindful, Socrates says, of what kind of music we listen to. We must listen to the right kind of music. Listening to the right kind of music produces the right effects.

The right effect is we’re closer to TRUTH.

In case you didn’t know, TRUTH is a GOOD thing.

…or at the very least, listening to the right kind of music will re-enforce the natural hierarchy and guarantee that the people will obey the ruling class without question.

Because noble lies.

Anyway, like Socrates, Aristotle says the type of music we listen to is important. Aristotle says music has the power to stir “ignoble passions”. Repeated exposure to passion-inflaming music (according to Aristotle) influences our disposition.

That is to say, listening to music that stirs the “ignoble passions” makes us ignobelly  passionate people.

According to Aristotle, people governed by their passions can’t be GOOD people.

And a city full if people who aren’t GOOD can’t successfully maintain a city conducive to philosophical living.

So what does this have to do with The Beatles and “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”?

Well, let’s first look at the song’s subject matter: serial murder.

“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” is a song about a man who gleefully and unrepentantly murders three people, culminating in Maxwell murdering a judge while he’s presiding over Maxwell Edison’s murder trial.

You see, for dudes like Socrates and Aristotle, the guys in charge — the people that run things — are put there by NATURE.

They’re born that way

giphy

Flip side, the folks who aren’t naturally predisposed to rule (i.e. you and me), are supposed to follow the leaders.

Because we’re too dumb to rule ourselves.

Kings and presidents are kings and presidents because they possess the innate qualities required to be presidents and kings — namely, kings and presidents possess a higher degree of wisdom (and philosophical insight) than you and me.

Socrates would call the wise, philosopher leader-type the Philosopher-King.

Socrates says that obedience to our rulers is not only vital to the survival of society, but to defy their rule is UNATURAL.

SO! Long story short (too late) a society’s leaders primary function is to make and protect the law. If we assume that the administrative state is a product of the natural order, we might also assume that average-guy Maxwell Edison’s murder of a law-giving magistrate’s is a flagrant act of anti-philosopher-king violence.

That ain’t natural.

Mother Nature’s Son my ass.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that Maxwell’s murderous rampage is driven by his “ignoble passions”.

Actually, McCartney never tells us the reason why Maxwell Edison commits triple homicide.

Shits and giggles, I guess.

6ebc03081b57699f2c8c77f85fa3c534

No matter the reason, Maxwell Edison (majoring in medicine) isn’t just a bad guy, he’s dangerous to society.

The song already tells us of Maxwell Edison’s corrupting influence on society, demonstrated by Maxwell’s acolytes, Rose and Valerie, who scream from the courtroom gallery that “Maxwell must go free”.

LISTEN: We don’t have to read Plato to know that the murder-prone are a threat to society.

I mean, they kill people.

It also goes without saying that it’s not wise to venerate homicidal people.

Songs that are not only popular but also celebrate the unsanctioned killing of people may be the kind of music that stirs the “ignoble passions” in others and lead people to —

Oh god, I sound like the PMRC.

“Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” isn’t just a bad song, it’s not a GOOD song, either.

Songs about guys like this are precisely the kind if songs Socrates says we shouldn’t teach or sing.

giphy (1)

“MAXWELL’S SILVER HAMMER”: MADE WORSE BY THE FACT THAT STEVE MARTIN PERFORMED THE SONG IN THE MOVIE SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

Socrates would not mark this song “fab”.

*Socrates says there is a right kind of music. If you want to know what kind of music Socrates says is the correct kind of music, read Book III of Plato’s Republic*

But for Socrates, protecting society from bad music isn’t merely slapping a parental advisory sticker on an album cover. Not-GOOD music corrupts the soul (people with corrupt souls cannot maintain a functioning society). We must be vigilant in protecting society (especially the youth) from soul-destroying music, like Paul McCartney’s so-called “granny music”.

If Socrates had his way, the Beatles would have never recorded “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” in the first place.

That might be a good thing.

Especially if you are — you were — John Lennon.

 

 

SOURCES:

Plato. Republic. 

MAKE AFFIRMING (the consequent) GREAT AGAIN!

OF THE MANY subjects that I like to talk about but rarely write about, at the top of my list is a little subject called “current events”.

In particular, politics.

Although I enjoy thumbing through a treatise of classical political philosophy or even engaging in the occasional mostly political debate, the act of actually writing about something political kinda makes me cringe.

Mostly because a trip through any comment section about politics is cringe inducing.

toon-comment-section-31515176The internet has made political debate an often cringeworthy endeavor, but the cringe + politics combo isn’t new.

Cringy political talk (often in the form of shit talking and/or trolling) is as old as people with differing opinions saying their opinions out loud.

Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were masters at 18th century shit talking. Jefferson wrote about Hamilton:

I was duped … by the Secretary of the treasury, and made a fool for forwarding his schemes, not then sufficiently understood by me; and of all the errors of my political life, this has occasioned the deepest regret.

That’s pretty much the equivalent of Jefferson calling Hamilton a fucktard.*

20071025_alexanderhamiltonstanding-380x500

ALEXANDER HAMILTON: FOUNDING FATHER, THE GUY ON THE TEN DOLLAR BILL, AND NOTORIOUS FUCKTARD

We’ve all seem that word on Facebook.

…some of us have been called that word on Facebook.

Lucky us, eh?

The entire dialogue between Socrates and Thrasymachus in Book I of Plato’s Republic is one of the cringiest political debates in philosophy.

Especially the part when Thrasymachus asks Socrates if he had a wet nurse.

That’s what we call owning the libs.

9iL2.gif

THRASYMACHUS OWNING SOCRATES, 380 BCE (colorized)

Sometimes — more than sometimes — the internet kinda makes me wish politics never existed.

But, that’s the funny thing about politics. Politics can’t not exist.

I had a political science professor who used to tell his classes, “you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.” What he meant is, even if we personally don’t vote, participate in or keep informed about political affairs, politicians still make laws that effect us.

Try as we might to not get involved, politics is unavoidable.

And no, unfollowing our tinfoil hat-wearing, conspiracy nutjob uncle on Facebook won’t help.

tumblr_loq5o7rd4n1qzl8s1o1_400

Even if politics is unavoidable, exactly why should we get involved?

Well… the answer to that question, my friends, has something to do with a certain 4th century Greek philosopher.

A fellow named Aristotle.

…And they didn’t call him “The Philosopher” for nothing.

Aristotle says, people, it seems, are designed for politics.

In Book I of Politics Aristotle wrote:

That man is much more a political animal than any kind of bee or any herd animal is clear. For, as we assert, nature does nothing in vain, and man alone among the animals has speech….speech serves to reveal the advantageous and the harmful and hence also the just and unjust. For it is peculiar to man as compared to the other animals that he alone has a perception of good and bad and just and unjust and other things of this sort; and partnership in these things is what makes a household and a city.

Wait a minute. I forgot to do something.

13579566

As an old English professor of mine repeatedly said, if you introduce a bit of jargon, a writer should define what the but of jargon is. And since I’m writing, and I introduced a bit of jargon, I should explain what that bit of jargon is.

I’ve been using the word “politics” as if we all agree on a universal definition of the word. I’ve spent enough time on the internet and listened to enough talk radio to know that the word “politics” carries different connotations for different people.

So, with that in mind, when I say “politics”, I mean:

 The activities, actions, and policies that are used to gain and hold power in a government or to influence a government. (Merriam-Webster)

There. Alright. Back to what I was talking about.

If I was actually talking about anything.

According to Aristotle, the role of politics in the city (or, polis — the Greek word from which the word “politics” is derived) is for the proper training of citizens. Proper training, Aristotle says, is to raise virtuous people.

p.s. you might want to check out the prequel to Politics, Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle explains virtue and what it means to be (philosophically) virtuous…and some other stuff.

You see, according to Aristotle, man, like other animals, gather in groups (or herds). However, unlike other animals, man (and he does mean MAN) possesses the capacity for rational thought. Man, by way of his intellect, is able to discern good from bad, just from unjust. This ability enables man to form social units (families) and the social bonds (of families) required to establish cities.

Because the goal of politics, Aristotle says, is the HIGHEST GOOD (i.e. virtue) of the state, citizens must take an active part in city affairs.

That is to say, according to Aristotle, political participation is mandatory — if we want to be Good (virtuous) people. 

And you should want to be a virtuous person.

Whoa. Wait. I’ve done it again.

go-back-trump1

I’ve used a word without defining it. Virtue, as defined by Aristotle, is:

a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are vices. We learn moral virtue primarily through habit and practice rather than through reasoning and instruction.

Aristotle argues a virtuous citizenry is essential to a successful state.

And only through political participation can we become virtuous.

(Because virtue isn’t merely a state of being, it’s a way of life)

You may not like politics, but you can’t achieve eudaimonia without it.

You can’t.

Can’t.

tenor-1

So…… I guess what I’m saying is, even though the internet has amplified the shitstorm that is politics, we have a philosophical obligation to engage in the political, no matter how soul-destroying we feel it may be.

The strange not-quite irony about politics is that politics isn’t destructive to our souls at all. In fact, we become better people — the city becomes a better city — a VIRTUOUS city when we get involved.

And who can resist that eudaimonia, right?

Right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, you may have noticed that nowhere in this blog post have I mentioned anything about affirming the antecedent. I wasn’t going to….I just thought it would make a clever title.

 

 

 

* I’m pretty sure Jefferson wasn’t the only Founder who felt that way about Hamilton. I’d bet cash that the first time someone said the word “fucktard” was referring to Alexander Hamilton.

I’d also bet cash that person was Thomas Jefferson….or Aaron Burr.

1149524_1

SOURCES:

https://en.m.wikiquote.org/wiki/Alexander_Hamilton

Aristotle. Politics.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politics

https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/aristotle/section8/

 

 

 

 

I THINK THEREFORE I AM (Gonna be your valentine)

IT’S VALENTINE’S DAY – the day to celebrate all things romantic. The day for chocolates and roses, poetry and romance.

Valentine’s Day is a day for LOVE.

…and philosophy.

Not this kind of philosophy

philosophy-rue-la-la

This kind of philosophy.

download

A popular perception of philosophers is of an ineffectual, navel gazing infertility, more inclined to spend the night with Plato’s Republic than out on an actual date with an actual person.

That’s not always, tho.

Another popular perception of philosophers, specifically philosophy professors, is, in movies, that philosophy professors are always pervy. If all I knew about philosophy professors came from movies, I’d swear that philosophers are prone to sleeping with their students.

…and by “sleeping” I mean have sex.

Leaves of Grass, Irrational Man, Lover For A Day…

All movies about philosophy professors.

All maximum pervage.

Movie philosophers live their lives like the lyrics of a Steely Dan album.

release-date-november-13-2009-movie-title-leaves-of-grass-studio-class-F6MEMP.jpg

SHE THINKS I’M CRAZY, BUT I’M JUST GROWIN’ OOOOOOOLD

Whether we think of philosophers as hapless neuters or as dirty old (and not so old) men who use their university campus as a eating agency, we often don’t think of real philosopher’s real love lives.

What they do when the lights are turned down.

So, with Valentine’s Day in mind, I think it’s time to take a little time to think about philosophers and love.

B91O7Z1IUAEG2Zn

SAID NO ONE EVER

You might think that philosophers wouldn’t be interested in thinking or writing about a subject like love. Love is emotional. Philosophy is rational – logical. Everything love is not.

If you’re thinking philosophers don’t think about love (philosophically), you’d be quite wrong. Philosophers think and write about everything.

EVERYTHING.

If we’re thinking about love philosophically, the first thing we might ask is What is Love?

If you’re Rick Sanchez, the answer to the question “what is love?” is easy

oxu8itpyu0f01

Of course, if you’re a philosopher, the answer is more complicated than that.

Why is it complicated?

Because philosophical reasons.

Well, if we’re being philosophers about things, to figure out what love is, we can look at love epistemologically. 

We might ask an epistemological question like, how do you know you’re in love?

We can have all kinds of philosophical fun sorting out all the necessary and sufficient conditions to determine what love is and if we are in it.

There are people who actually do this.

If we’re thinking about the ethics of love, we might ask if we are obligated to love others? To love ourselves? What is the value of love? Who should we love?

download

Before we look at love epistemologically, ethically, or whateverly, might want to ask what kind of love we’re talking about.

In philosophy, love isn’t just one thing: the ancient Greek philosophers distinguished love between philia (friendship), agape (love for mankind or brotherly love), and eros (erotic or sexual desire).

Plato writes about love in Phaedrus and Symposium. According (but not limited) to Plato, we are torn between the desires of the flesh and the soul. The body, driven by lowly carnal desires, corrupts the soul and gets in the way of finding higher truth.

The objective of love – true love – according to Plato, is to transcend the body. True love gets us to truth.

And truth leads to wisdom.

Philosophers love wisdom.

Aristotle places a heavy emphasis on philia – friendship.

Book VIII of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is devoted to friendship. Aristotle writes,

Moreover, friendship is not only an indispensable, but also a beautiful and noble thing: for we commend those who love their friends, and to have many friends is thought to be a noble thing; and some even think that a good man is the same as a friend.

Religion traditionally emphasizes agape, as agape love is tied to our love of God.

The Aristotelian idea of love: the meeting of one soul inhabiting two bodies, is still a part of our modern idea of love.

Aristotle says,

Lovers delight above all things in the sight of each other, and prefer the gratification of this sense to that of all others, as this sense is more concerned than any other in the being and origin of love. 

So, what about actual philosophers and love?

You can probably guess.

Cue Lady Gaga.

tumblr_nwue4sTFFc1u3jv5eo2_500.gif

There’s a perception that philosophers make for lousy romantic partners. That perception isn’t too far from reality. After all, philosophy takes time and energy.

It’s difficult to remember anniversaries and flowers and candy for Valentine’s Day when you’ve dedicated yourself to the full-time pursuit of wisdom.

Here’s a short list of the romantic misadventures of a few (western) philosophers:

Socrates married, but if you’ve read anything about Socrates, you know how he felt about his wife, Xanthippe.*

Xanthippe wasn’t exactly the love of Socrates’ life. Socrates’ true love was a young soldier named Alcibiades.

images (1)

And there’s no cruising the Internet without seeing this quote from Socrates:

By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you will be happy. If you get a bad one, you will be a philosopher.

The unmarried philosopher’s club boasts some rather famous members:

Locke, Hume, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant never married.

Kant’s life was described as “monastic”.

images (2)

Nietzsche and Schopenhauer never married, either.

Kierkegaard’s devotion to philosophy ended his engagement to his muse and great love, Regine Olsen.

5733500

Kierkegaard also never married.

If you ask me, Kierkegaard lost out.

Amazingly, Hegel found a wife.

Speaking of children out of wedlock…

Rousseau, perhaps the poster child for pervy philosophers (He flashed women. Seriously, he did. Look it up), famously abandoned his five children. Although Rousseau married his mistress (who was also the mother of his fifth child), he married her only after he ditched his kids.

download

Rousseau’s Maury Povich Father-of-the-Year award might not say much about Rousseau’s romantic inclinations, but it does say he didn’t love his kids.

Not even philia love.

Not even agape.

Heidegger had an affair with Hannah Arendt while she was his student.

Ayn Rand said she loved her husband, Frank O’Connor, for selfish reasons. Rand explained in a 1959 interview with journalist Mike Wallace that her love for O’Connor was in her own interest.

“I take selfish pleasure in it,” Rand said.

We probably know too much about Foucault’s sex life.

374539b8d252262bb261463022ae90e4--discipline-philosophy.jpg

On the bright side of philosophical romance, Sartre had a life-long relationship with de Beauvoir.

simone-de-beauvoir-jean-paul-sartre-fairground-at-porte-d_orlc3a9ans-1929

 

Bertrand Russell not only married (four times!), he also believed that love is important because love leads people to seek knowledge. We seek knowledge to benefit those we love.

Russell wrote,

Although both love and knowledge are necessary, love is in a sense more fundamental, since it will lead intelligent people to seek knowledge, in order to find out how to benefit those whom they love.

Russell wasn’t too keen on our traditionally modest views on sexuality, either.

…which could explain why Russell was described as suffering from “galloping satyriasis”.

Bertrand Russell

PICTURED:  SEX GOD

Well…

Whether you got mad Bertrand Russell romance skills or you’re kicking it Immanuel Kant style this Valentine’s Day, don’t forget that philosophy ain’t just about contemplating your big toe or counting angels on the head of a pin. Philosophers think about love, write about love, and fall in and out of love just like everybody else.

Unless your name is Immanuel Kant.

So, while you’re celebrating tonight with champagne and roses, while your home tonight with the one you  love, getting down with some Hegel and chill, remember to whisper into the ear of your love the romantically philosophical words of Immanuel Kant, “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds them to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”

That’s romantic speak for Kant, you see.

Because Immanuel Kant never dated anyone. Ever.

 

 

 

 

*It seems that the common depiction of Socrates’ wife Xanthippe is incorrect. History portrays Xanthippe as a unpleasant shrew, however, Socrates described Xanthippe as a good, caring wife.

 

 

SOURCES:

https://classicalwisdom.com/five-reasons-socrates-terrible-husband/

https://www.brainpickings.org/2015/05/18/bertrand-russell-what-i-believe-love/

https://www.google.com/amp/www.telegraph.co.uk/books/authors/brilliant-men-always-betray-their-wives/amp/

https://youtu.be/mQVrzWtqgU

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. F.H. Peters [1893]. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. 173, 218.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Way Things Are

SOMETIMES IT’S EASY to dismiss a kids’ movie. After all, films featuring cute animated talking animals voiced by not-exactly-kid-friendly actors are easy to not take too seriously.

Existential dread isn’t exactly the kind of subject matter suited for a film geared towards the pre-school set.

But every once in awhile a kids movie goes and gets all philosophical on everybody.

Something you wouldn’t expect in a movie about a talking pig.

Aristotle wrote that all beings act according to their nature.

Aristotle calls it our characteristic function.

Aristotle says human characteristic function is the use of reason in accordance with virtue

What is the function of man? For as the goodness and the excellence of a piper or a sculptor, or the practiser of any art, and generally of those who have any function assigned to him by nature? Nay, surely as his several members, eye and hand and foot, plainly have each his own function, so we must suppose that man has some function over and above all these

(Man’s function then being, as we say, a kind of life — that is to say, exercise of his faculties and action of various kinds with reason — the good man’s function is to do this well and beautifully [or nobly]. But the function of anything is done well when it is done in accordance with the proper excellence of that thing.) Nicomachean Ethics, I 7.

Dogs, cats, bumblebees, frogs – According to Aristotle, nature not only designs a purpose for all beings, but also it is unnatural to deviate from that being’s designated purpose.

a_friend_in_need

NOT ONLY IS THIS AN INCREDIBLY TACKY PAINTING, IT IS ALSO UNNATURAL.

A fish’s characteristic function is to swim in water.

A bee’s characteristic function is to pollinate flowers.

A cat’s characteristic function is to be an asshole.

maxresdefault

THE LABEL ON THE BOX SAYS IT ALL

Aristotle states that thing’s characteristic activity (whoops, function), can be performed well or performed poorly.

Not only does a species have an characteristic function, but individuals do as well.

In humans, we can determine one’s characteristic function by observing one’s natural inclination, that is, your characteristic function is what you’re good at:

Mariah Carey’s characteristic function is to sing.

Rembrandt’s was to paint.

Mine is philosophy because frankly, I’m not good at doing anything else.

philosopher-21845648

PRETTY MUCH HOW I ROLL THESE DAYS

Aristotle attempts to define the Good in terms of characteristic function.

And by the capital “G” Good, Aristotle means Eudaimonia.

Loosely translated, eudemonia means “flourishing”.

61892239
Wait – I think I’m straying off topic. I was talking about characteristic function.

If you want to read all about eudemonia read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. You don’t even have to pay for it. It’s all over the internet in print and audiobook. FOR FREE.

Now, I’d like to think that I’m too old for kids’ movies, but truth be told, I’m not. I’d rather watch Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island over The Seventh Seal any day of the week.

For the record, I think Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island is a very philosophical movie.

The reason why, I think, I’d rather watch a kids’ movie is because unlike movies made for adults, where philosophical subtext is often handled with the subtlety of a pillaging berserker wielding a cudgel, kid-oriented entertainment can’t really overwhelm its target audience with deeper meaning.

Because they’re kids.

And most kids don’t know Hegel.

At least l hope most kids don’t know Hegel.

tumblr_oiapd4YHQ51ufqf11o1_500

THIS KID’S LIFE IS RUINED

But kids do know about talking pigs.

This talking pig in particular.

The movie Babe, directed by Chris Noonan, based on the book The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith, and adapted for the screen by George Miller (yes, the guy who wrote Mad Max!) is the story of a pig… named Babe.

babe_poster_intro

BABE

Orphaned as a piglet, adopted by Farmer Hoggett, and raised by Hoggett’s sheep herding dogs, Babe is condemned to the short (and inevitably tragic) life of a pig: to one day become the farmer’s next meal.

Babe, however, wants more for his life than to become Christmas dinner.

Babe wants to herd sheep.

Naturally, Babe’s efforts to redefine his role on the farm meets with opposition from the other farm animals (including his adopted canine family), and Farmer Hoggett, who does not believe that a pig is capable of herding sheep.

The farmer’s cat explains to the would-be sheep pig nature’s rules of life on the farm – that each farm animal has a purpose – and that pigs have no purpose.

download (1)
The cat says this because cats are assholes.

cat-sticking-butt-in-the-air-istock-000046350348

A CAT WILL ALWAYS SHOW YOU EXACTLY WHAT HE IS

It’s their characteristic function.
The small pig is not deterred by the cat or anyone else on the farm. He ignores the naysayers and strives to prove that a pig can indeed herd sheep. Babe follows his heart even though everyone around him, including Farmer Hoggett, doubts that he can defy the laws of nature.

Now, if we were following Aristotle, we might have been on the side of the cat; pigs serve no purpose other than to get fat and feed the farmer and his family.

600px-babe_01

FARMER HOGGETT, ON HIS WAY TO MAKING BABE CHRISTMAS DINNER

Luckily for the piglet (and the audience), Babe isn’t Aristotilean; he refuses to allow nature or the expectations of others to define his place in the world.

That’s downright existential.

Existential.

The late 19th – 20th century philosophy of Existentialism, most notably associated with French philosophers Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus, and the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger (and also associated with Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, who is credited with being the first Existentialist philosopher).

According to the dictionary,

“Existentialism is the name given to the branch of philosophy which is concerned with the meaning of human existence – its aims, its significance and overall purpose – and the freedom and creative response to life made by individuals.”

If you’re in the mood to think philosophically, Babe can be a philosophical gateway to thinking about more than a couple of philosophical topics (brush up on your Peter Singer ‘cause you gonna be discussing animal rights). It’s pretty much undeniable that the philosophical undertone of the film’s major theme is essentially existentialist. Babe rejects the idea of purpose assigned by biology and society. He defines his own purpose.

His purpose is to herd sheep.

And more importantly, he’s good at it.

babe-t

BABE, SHOWING THE DUMB SHEEP WHO’S BOSS

The existentialist French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote

Life has no meaning a priori… it is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that we choose.

Babe finds meaning in herding sheep. It’s almost like sheep herding is his characteristic function.

Take that Aristotle!

1kzw44

 

If Babe was a practicing existentialist, he would say that existence preceded his essence.

Sartre says,

What is meant here by saying that existence precedes essence? It means first of all, man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself. If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be.

Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.

Babe did have a purpose. One that he determined for himself. Babe proves that he is capable of doing something other than his biological destiny.

All’s well that ends well, right?

Well, not quite.

School Crossing Guard

PHILOSOPHERS ARE LIKE STEPHEN KING NOVELS OR A RELATIONSHIP WITH RICK GRIMES. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A HAPPY ENDING

Of course, with all things philosophical, there’s a glitch.

Possible glitch.

Existentialists hold that our true essence isn’t assigned to us by society or by our biology and we assign meaning to ourselves – we create our own meaning, purpose, and values in life. This means we are completely responsible for who we become.

Completely responsible.

Sartre writes,

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.

See how Sartre says we’re “condemned to be free”? We’re condemned, Sartre says, because without God or biology to determine the meaning of our lives, we are solely responsible for creating meaning. This can be rather disorienting.

 

Or nauseating….

31116601

OR NAUSEATING… GET IT?

Lucky for us, we’re watching a kid’s movie. Babe is spared the agony of experiencing the existential dread of complete freedom. Babe‘s mind is as unencumbered as a pig satisfied.

He is completely happy and at ease once he becomes what he wants to be.

A pig-dog.

thatll-do-pig

 

SO… we’re full of tears of happiness, cheers, and assumptions of lives lived happily ever after by the time the barn mice tell us we’re reached “The End”.

And we’ve just been given our first big lesson in existentialism.

There was, however, the inevitable follow up, Babe: Pig in the City.

 

 

I’m just going to leave it at that**.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

** Babe: Pig in the City was criticized at the time of it’s initial release for being a darker, less family-friendly film. the film currently holds a 62% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is darker than its predecessor, however, it’s arguable that the film, directed by George Miller, is also a more philosophically developed film. The late film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel both praised the film, with Siskel naming the movie one of the best films of 1998.

 
SOURCES:

http://people.wku.edu/jan.garrett/arisne1.htm

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. F.H. Peters. 2004 [1893].New York: Barnes and Noble Books.

Mel Thompson. Teach Yourself: Philosophy. 2003. Chicago, IL. Contemporary Books. 184.

Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism is a Humanism.

Sartre. Being and Nothingness. (1943).

Keep Your Lips Off the Blarney Stone (if you don’t want to piss of kant)

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately.

They say that a philosopher is by definition a lover of wisdom.

Because the philosopher loves wisdom, he realizes that to genuinely know something, that something must be true.

That is, the acquisition of wisdom requires some degree of factual accuracy.

Now, when I was in high school, a friend of a friend of a friend claimed that she believed that honesty is the best policy. That is, she claimed in any situation, no matter the consequences, that the best thing to do is to always tell the truth.

 

keep calm and honesty is the best policy

 

Most people who say they believe in always telling the truth think they’re like this:

superman fights for truth

 

But more often than not they’re like this:

so many types of bitches GIF

 

 

I suppose, though, a philosopher would agree that that honesty is the best policy a good idea to live by.

thumbs up GIF

 

 

 

Unfortunately, in the non-philosophical world, those whose personal creed is honesty is the best policy tend to use their insatiable need to be honest in all situations as an excuse to say rude things.

Personally, I haven’t seen anyone guided by a philosophical need to be truthful as much as I’ve seen someone who completely lacks a sense of tact.

 

I AM JACK’S COMPLETE LACK OF TACT

I AM JACK’S COMPLETE LACK OF TACT

 

Case in point: In a March, 2010 interview with Playboy magazine, well-known douche nozzle musician John Mayer unloaded intimate info about relationships, his preferences in pornography , and masturbation. Mayer confessed that he had tongued Perez Hilton “almost as if I hated fags”, and that, so far as his preference in sexual partners goes, Mayer described his penis as comparable to former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, David Duke.

That is to say, John Mayer’s penis prefers to have sexual intercourse with white women.

 HI. I’M JOHN MAYER’S PENIS. I WAS WONDERING IF YOU HAVE ANY SPARE WOODEN CROSSES?

HI. I’M JOHN MAYER’S PENIS. I WAS WONDERING IF YOU HAVE ANY SPARE WOODEN CROSSES?

 

I’m guessing that John Mayer was probably thinking that honesty is the best policy.

It‘s absolutely no surprise that the reaction to Mayer’s comments was less than admiring of his public display of honesty.

mayer 1

mayer 2

mayer 3

 

 

And videos like this:

 

 

Unfortunately for John Mayer, being honest not only tarnished his reputation (ok, he had a rep for being kind of douchy before that) but Mayer’s comments also offended some of his fan base.

This can be a bad consequence if one’s livelihood necessarily depends on the spending habits of the music-listening public.

NO PERFORMER WANTS THIS TO HAPPEN

NO PERFORMER WANTS THIS TO HAPPEN

 

Now, as philosophers we can appreciate the pursuit of truth – in the interest of achieving
the greater good. We want to know the situation as it truly is. Because, as whistle-blower Chelsea Manning said when asked why she disclosed classified government information:

 

without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.

THIS IS CHELSEA MANNING, WHO MADE THE MISTAKE OF BELIEVING AS THOMAS JEFFERSON STATED, “TO GIVE TO EVERY CITIZEN THE INFORMATION HE NEEDS FOR THE TRANSACTION OF HIS OWN BUSINESS…”

THIS IS CHELSEA MANNING, WHO MADE THE MISTAKE OF BELIEVING AS THOMAS JEFFERSON STATED, “TO GIVE TO EVERY CITIZEN THE INFORMATION HE NEEDS FOR THE TRANSACTION OF HIS OWN BUSINESS…”

However, if severe career damage is just as likely an outcome of oversharing truth-telling as achieving the greater good, is honesty really – practically and philosophically speaking -always the best policy?

How honest do we have to be?

 

 

honesty is the best policy

 

 

Wait, I realize that I’m doing something here. I’ve used the words “honesty”, “honest”, “true”, and “truth” interchangeably. This may be a problem for some people. Philosophy is all about using precise language. Unfortunately, our colloquialisms tend to do to the language the opposite of precision.

WE MUST NOT FORGET THAT THESE PEOPLE EXIST

WE MUST NOT FORGET THAT THESE PEOPLE EXIST

 

 

However, I assume that we can all agree that being honest is the same as being truthful.
Ok – let’s say that I make a claim that something is true; or rather, I insist that I am being truthful. I claim that I am currently living in the USA and I am approximately 64 inches tall.

i didn't know they stacked shit that high

 

 

These claims are true, by the way.

I am, in fact, currently in the United States. And I am indeed approximately 64 inches tall.

Both of these claims are demonstrably true.

 

milli-vanilli-dance-o

 

But if I go further and claim that I am an honest person it’s obvious that I am making some ethical claim about myself.

Of course if we’re making ethical claims, answering the question “how honest do we have to be?” is all about moral obligation. Are we morally obligated to be honest and to whom do we owe our moral obligation? The answer depends on who you ask.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) says that our moral obligation is a matter of duty – that is, it is our duty to do good (acts) no matter the consequences to others or ourselves. That means if your wife asks you if the dress she’s wearing makes her look fat, it is your moral duty, according to Kant, to inform your wife not only does she look fat in the dress, but also that no matter what she wears she looks fat.*

Because it’s not the dress.

your fat makes you look fat

Following Kant’s ethics may ruin your relationship with your wife

… but at least you were honest.

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE A DAPPER-LOOKING FELLOW LIKE THIS NEVER GOT MARRIED, ISN’T IT?

IT’S HARD TO BELIEVE A DAPPER-LOOKING FELLOW LIKE THIS NEVER GOT MARRIED, ISN’T IT?

 

 

It wouldn’t take much time before you realize that being a Kantian will seriously impair your ability to throw shade

 

shade is

 

 

that's not a read it's just a fact

 

 

 

Ok, let’s put Kant aside for a moment.

According to Aristotle’s virtue ethics practicing virtues such as being honest (telling the truth) makes us a good person.

 

 

golden mean

 

Aristotle writes:

And so the truthful man as observing the mean, is praiseworthy, while the untruthful characters are both blamable, but the boastful more than the ironical

 

Since society can function only if its citizens are virtuous, Aristotle says, it is necessary for everyone to tell the truth.

 

 

ARISTOTLE WOULD CERTAINLY NOT ENDORSE AN ACTIVITY SUCH AS KISSING THE BLARNEY STONE

ARISTOTLE WOULD CERTAINLY NOT ENDORSE AN ACTIVITY SUCH AS KISSING THE BLARNEY STONE

 

Still, if you’re a utilitarian or an egoist it’s perfectly alright to lie to people. An occasional flirtation with dishonesty may do you or everyone else some good. Telling your wife that her dress doesn’t make her ass look fat might not win you points with Kant, but it might keep your marriage happy.
 

do i look fat

 

 

So… is honesty the best policy?

I guess the answer is still “it depends on who you ask”. But then, if the answer is “it depends” that gets us right back to where we started; no closer to figuring out if it is our moral obligation to always tell the truth to everybody at all times.

 

I suppose, though, we can all agree that if your honesty has anything to do with declaring that your penis would join David Duke at a cross burning, your honesty may not be the best policy.

In fact, it may be time to shut the hell up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

* One particular reason why Kant argues that we shouldn’t lie has to do with something Kant calls the Contradiction of the Will. According to Kant, before we perform any act we should first ask if we would want that act the be universalized – would we want others to do as we do? So if one is about to tell a lie, one should ask, “would it be morally correct if everyone told lies?”. Kant says that our answer should be no, we don’t want everyone to lie. If we hold that honesty is the morally right thing to do and everyone lies, lying undermines the point of not lying.

SOURCES:

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

Michael Scherer. “The Geeks Who Leak”. Time. Vol. 181. No. 24. June 24, 2013. p. 24

No Bad Deed Goes Punished

There are many amateur, semi-pro, and professional sports to be watched and played throughout the year, but if I had to lay down some cash to pay to watch one in an actual stadium, I’d spend my really-should-not-be-used-for-recreational-purposes cash to catch a game of professional football.

Wait – let me define my sport here. I meant to say American football.

 

The other kind of football is nice and all, but if I had to plunk down some money I’d pick this:

 

 

 

Over this:

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s face it, American-style football is just danged entertaining.

That’s what keeps people watching.

Well, maybe this has a little bit to do with what keeps people watching…

 

cheerleaders

 

No. Not that.

 

This:

 

 

 

 

 

Superbowl ads.

Whoops. I mean THE BIG GAME ads.

People, in America and abroad, watch football. Well, unless it’s Sunday Night Football and The Walking Dead is on.

That show gets better ratings with the 18-49 year old demographic.

Yes, folks. That’s right.

The ratings for this:

 

 

the walking dead cast

 

 

Beats the ratings for this:

 

football game

 

 

But I digress….

 

If you think about it, there’s a legit reason why American football (hereafter referred to as “football”) is so popular. After all, there just aren’t that many sports with a jingle as catchy as Hank Williams, jr’s “Are You Ready For Some Football?” or where one can base his or her fan loyalty based on the attractiveness/offensiveness of the team mascot and/or the color of the team jersey.

This explains why I hate the Cleveland Browns.

That uniform is fugly.

 

LOOK AT THIS MONSTROCITY OF A UNIFORM. THE MORE I LOOK AT IT THE MORE I HATE THE BROWNS

LOOK AT THIS MONSTROCITY OF A UNIFORM. THE MORE I LOOK AT IT THE MORE I HATE THE BROWNS

 

Now, you may be aware of recent criticism (rightfully so) of League apathy towards serious brain injury suffered by current and former players.

 

NFL-Concussions

 

 

 

brain scans

 

 

 

missed game chart

 
But what you may be even more aware of is the recent spate of legal troubles involving a few high-profile NFL players. In particular, legal troubles involving the illegal use of one’s hands against another human being.

 

To put it another way, a few have been busted for physically abusing someone.

 

Many of us are aware of Minnesota Vikings running back, Adrian Peterson’s no contest plea on a misdemeanor child abuse charge for whipping his 4 year-old son with a switch.

 

 IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT A SWITCH LOOKS LIKE, THIS IS A SWITCH. A SWITCH IS A THIN LIMB OF A TREE USED TO BEAT THE HELL OUT OF (USUALLY) ONE’S CHILDREN.

IF YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT A SWITCH LOOKS LIKE, THIS IS A SWITCH. A SWITCH IS A THIN LIMB OF A TREE USED TO BEAT THE HELL OUT OF (USUALLY) ONE’S CHILDREN.

 

 

I’m more than certain that anyone with a TV or an internet connection has either heard of or seen this video:

 

 

http://www.tmz.com/videos/0_ekaflcqq

 

 

New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez is currently awaiting trial for multiple murders.

 

 

YOU CAN BET THAT NANCY GRACE IS READY TO JUMP ALL OVER THIS TRIAL

YOU CAN BET THAT NANCY GRACE IS READY TO JUMP ALL OVER THIS TRIAL

 

Of course we all remember this guy:

 

THEY DIDN'T FIT

THEY DIDN’T FIT

 

 

Tales of abuse (and even worse) by rich and famous are, by no means, new. Before Chris Brown, fans of John Lennon, Miles Davis, and Ike Turner heard stories of (alleged and actual) domestic abuse. And on the professional sports side, well-known athletes like MMA fighters War Machine and Tito Ortiz, Mike Tyson, Hope Solo, and Rae Carruth have all been accused, charged, and/or convicted of committing acts of violence towards their mates.

 

Rumors (unsubstantiated) that Joe DiMaggio beat Marilyn Monroe have been around for decades.

 

 

BEHIND THE FAÇADE OF THE PERFECT CELEBRITY SUPERCOUPLE, SOME SAY, WAS A PHYSICALLY ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP

BEHIND THE FAÇADE OF THE PERFECT CELEBRITY SUPERCOUPLE, SOME SAY, WAS A PHYSICALLY ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP

 

 
Most of the fervor over celebrity abusers is based, in part, on the seemingly light sentences given to (celebrities and) professional athletes for their crimes.

Some think game suspensions aren’t enough punishment.

Let’s not forget that Ray Rice was initially suspended for just two games.

 

WE DON’T WANT TO REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED WITH THIS GUY

WE DON’T WANT TO REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED WITH THIS GUY

 

 

What we want isn’t merely punishment – we want a just punishment. We want a punishment fitting of the crime.

… And when we say fitting of the crime, we want murderers and abusers no matter who they are to be punished. We want a person to receive the punishment the deserve regardless of their occupation, social status or the amount of money in their bank account.

Or what team they play for.

 

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) says that moral rights and wrongs are not subject to opinion. The standard of a right and wrong act is not determined by popular opinion. Kant states that rightness and wrongness are eternal; universal and applicable to all people at all times.

Although Kant argues in favor of stern punishments, Kant states that punishments should also be proportional to the crime.

 

Kant writes:

Punishment… must always be inflicted on him only because he has committed a crime…but what kind and what amount of punishment is it that public justice makes its principle and measure? None other than the principle of equality… accordingly, whatever undeserved evil you inflict on another… you inflict on yourself….But only the law of retribution jus falionis – it being understood… can specify definitively the quality and quantity of punishment (Metaphysics of Morals, 6:331-332)

So, according to Kant, we should not only be willing to punish abusers, but also be willing to treat Ray Rice with the same level of punishment (and presumably the same level of moral disdain) that we treat someone who isn’t famous or a female athlete . We can’t allow favoritism or double standards.

 

Especially if we want moral consistency.

 

…. And we should want moral consistency.

 

double standards

 

 

Ok, for the record, I think Kant is right. People who abuse people, no matter what they do for a living, should be punished. And we should be morally offended when people commit violent acts against other people and animals. But I can’t deny (despite my moral outrage) that I still enjoy this:

 

 

 

 

And this:

 

 

 

 

I still watch The Naked Gun movies and enjoy OJ Simpson’s performance as “Nordberg”.

 

Try as I might to hate every scene OJ Simpson is in, I still find this scene funny.

 

 

 

 

That Nordberg is a pretty funny guy.
And while we’re on that subject, someone riddle me this: how did Nordberg go from looking like this guy:

 

 

peter lupus

 

To looking like this guy:

 

 

the naked gun nordberg

 

 

Someone should call Robert Stack to get on this….

 
Now, when we think about famous actors, musicians or athletes, there’s the tendency to say that their private life is separate from their public life. What a person does behind closed doors should be distinct from what they do publicly – that what a man or woman does in their private lives shouldn’t affect how we think about what they do professionally. They say –
It shouldn’t matter what kind of guy John Lennon was, he was a great musician.

Ray Rice and his fiancée are married now.

Mike Tyson is now the star of a cartoon series

 

SERIOUSLY, THIS IS A REAL TV SHOW

SERIOUSLY, THIS IS A REAL TV SHOW

 

 

Everyone has their demons, we say.

 

Although punishment or proper punishment is a big issue in discussing domestic abuse, it’s not the only issue that should be discussed when dealing with domestic violence and famous people. Anyone who has thought about the role that actors, musicians and professional athletes play in our culture has probably wondered not only if we can separate a person’s private acts from their public persona, but also should we separate a person’s private and public lives?

 

The question we should ask is why do we look up to these people in the first place?

 

You see, some people think we should be consistent in how we act in public and in private.

 

We shouldn’t just admire a person just because they’re attractive or popular or a world-class athlete.

 

It’s about what kind of people we look up to.

 

We should want to look up to people because they’re the right kind of people to look up to.

 

DON’T LET THE GOLD MEDALS FOOL YOU. THIS GUY PROBABLY SMOKES WEED

DON’T LET THE GOLD MEDALS FOOL YOU. THIS GUY PROBABLY SMOKES WEED

 

 

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle writes that the only people worth looking up to are virtuous.

 

ARISTOTLE’S MORAL THEORY IS CALLED VIRTUE ETHICS. IT EMPHASIZES - SURPRISE, SURPSISE - MORAL VIRTUE

ARISTOTLE’S MORAL THEORY IS CALLED VIRTUE ETHICS. IT EMPHASIZES – SURPRISE, SURPSISE – MORAL VIRTUE

 

 

Wait – let me back up for a minute. I have to explain something.

 

According to Aristotle, virtues like courage, temperance, and truthfulness are inborn traits. Virtues are acquired through habit. That is, we acquire virtue by behaving virtuously. That behavior, in turn, becomes habit. One must possess all the virtues (unity of virtues) to be (morally) virtuous.

Aristotle describes moral virtue as:

 

A settled disposition if the mind determining the choice of
actions and emotions, consisting essentially in the
observance of the mean relative us, this being determined by
principle that is, as the prudent man would determine it.

 

Therefore, once our behaviors become habit, our virtuous soul is manifested in how we act.

 

 

spit it out

 
What I’m trying to say is Aristotle said if you act a certain way for a long time eventually that’s the way you will always act.

 

 

download (2)

 

 

Aristotle wrote:

 

The virtues, then, come neither by nature nor against nature, but nature gives us the capacity for acquiring them, and this is developed by training….. But the virtues we acquire by doing the acts, as is the case with the arts too. We learn an art by doing that which we wish to do when we have learned it; we become builders by building, and harpers by harping. And so by doing just acts we become just, and by doing acts of temperance and courage we become temperate and courageous.

 

Here’s a list of Aristotle’s virtues, by the way….

 

Capture virtues

 

man, that’s small….

 

Aristotle wrote that a full realization of one’s virtuousness cannot be possible if our virtuous acts are limited to the public realm. To be truly virtuous, Aristotle argues, we are (also) required to act virtuously in our private life. Private behavior influences public behavior and vice versa. And – since Aristotle states that we realize the full meaning of our existence by functioning within the public sphere, and since virtue is acquired by the repetition of virtuous deeds, and to develop a habit requires consistent behavior in public and in private, the two spheres are necessarily connected; one must be virtuous in public but also in private.

 

 

And since the community is essential for human flourishing, our acts are ultimately connected the public (common) good.

 

A man who cheats on his wife or beats a woman in private cannot be trusted in his public acts. Someone who commits acts of domestic violence isn’t a good person. He (or she) isn’t virtuous. The kind of person who physically assaults another person lacks the kind of moral character of someone we should look up to. Therefore he is unworthy of our praise and should not be held as an example to follow.

 

Aristotle says:

Indeed, if he were not good, he could not be worthy of
honor; for honor is the prize of virtue, and is rendered to the
good as their due.

 

 

THE FACT THAT JOHN LENNON WAS ONE HALF OF THE GREATEST SONGWRITING DUO OF ALL TIME SHOULD NOT NEGATE THE FACT THAT HE TREATED THIS WOMAN LIKE SHIT

THE FACT THAT JOHN LENNON WAS ONE HALF OF THE GREATEST SONGWRITING DUO OF ALL TIME SHOULD NOT NEGATE THE FACT THAT HE TREATED THIS WOMAN LIKE SHIT

 

 

So what are to make of all this, then?
The moral of the story is that the problem with abuse in entertainment and professional sports isn’t just a question of how do we punish those who abuse their wives, girlfriends, strippers, occasionally a fan, or anyone else who ends up on the bad end of a famous person’s fist. We should first be careful who we venerate. What kind of people we hold as an example to follow. That’s what Aristotle tells us all about moral virtue. It isn’t enough that a person sings great songs or who holds the record for most career touchdowns.

 

 I THINK IT WAS ARISTOTLE WHO COINED THE PHRASE “CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF”

I THINK IT WAS ARISTOTLE WHO COINED THE PHRASE “CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF”

 

 

We shouldn’t be concerned with how much a person makes, how many yards run, or how many hit songs they wrote. No one doubts that John Lennon was a great songwriter or that Ray Rice is (was) an exceptional football player. But we should, especially if we are to hold those in high regard, want who we look up to to be good men (people) as well.

 

What should matter to us is kind of character a person has. Is the person we admire a good person? Not just good in the sense that they are polite or file their taxes on time, but capital G-O-O-D in the sense that they embody the kind of qualities that we think makes someone a good person – a morally virtuous person. The kind of person who, just by watching them, makes us want to follow their example.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*for more information on head injuries in the NFL read:

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/sports/concussion-watch/76-of-79-deceased-nfl-players-found-to-have-brain-disease/

and: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/13/sports/football/actuarial-reports-in-nfl-concussion-deal-are-released.html?_r=0

 

Sources:
http://thinkexist.com/quotation/it_is_the_characteristic_of_the_magnanimous_man_/147142.html.
http://deadline.com/2014/11/walking-dead-ratings-top-sunday-night-football-third-week-season-5-1201286783/

https://www.cwu.edu/~warren/Unit1/aristotles_virtues_and_vices.htm

 

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. 2004 [1893]. Trans. F.H. Peters. M.A. NY: Barnes and Noble Books. xvii, 81.

Immanuel Kant. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. 6:331-332

Everyone’s A Critic (Or, 10 Good Reasons To Hate Philosophy)

I remember when I was a kid, Mr. Blackwell would put out a list of the year’s best and worst dressed celebrities.

Although the more positive thing to do would have been to talk about the best dressed list, the media seemed to anticipate the announcement of Mr. Blackwell’s worst dressed list. They treated Mr. Blackwell’s announcement like a little kid flips his lid opening up his presents on Christmas.

You’d think that Santa Claus had delivered the list.

I don’t remember too much about Mr. Blackwell’s critiques other than his proclamations  were announced in rhyming couplets.

This is Mr. Blackwell

mr blackwell

 

Mr. Blackwell is dead now.

That was Mr. Blackwell.

I guess Joan Rivers does his job these days. I don’t think she uses rhyming couplets, though.

It’d be pretty cool if Kelly Osbourne did.

 

Whether it’s cars, movies, electronic equipment, summer reads, fashion icons, or reality television shows, everyone from the editors of Entertainment Weekly to any guy or gal with a blog has got a top ten list of something. If you spend any significant amount of time doing  or paying attention to anything, you’re bound to think up a list of things about that thing you do or don’t like. You don’t have to read very many lists to see that for some things, the lists are pretty much the same.

I’ve read more than twenty  top ten lists that name Breaking Bad as the best TV show.

Nearly every list of the best music groups say that The Beatles are the greatest band ever*.

If you’re wondering who the greatest president of the United States was, eleven out of ten political scientists will tell you that America’s greatest president was Abraham Lincoln even before he was a vampire hunter.

 

But, just as everyone has a list of music groups, books, or movies, that you love, everyone also has a list of everything and anyone we just cannot stand. Everybody has a list. A THAT list. Although I have yet to hear anyone say it, I know that every philosopher, philosophy fan, and philosophy student has that list of philosophers that they feel less than a positive affinity towards. A philosophy shit list.

Although one might assume that finding a list of hate-inducing philosophers would be a challenging task, picking the list is actually quite easy. After all, it’s easy to come up with a list of philosophers we’re supposed to like: Socrates, Descartes, Hume, Kant… But let’s be honest, some philosophers practically scream out to be hated. For every great philosopher, for every great philosophical idea like the problem of induction, Gettier examples, the naturalistic fallacy, or correspondence theory of truth, there’s a Pascal’s wager or transcendental idealism. Or the homunculus.

That bad idea, by the way, was peddled by Aristotle.

 

Some philosophers were not good people. Other philosophers were/are a-holes. And some philosophers invent theories that are so wacky that you have no other reasonable choice but to hate that philosopher and everything they’ve ever written.

I promise I won’t say a thing about logical positivism or Wittgenstein.

Still, sometimes you come to hate other philosophers merely by looking at them.

I mean, it’s easy to hate a guy that looks like this:

 

ischope001p1

 

Really, the more one reads philosophy, the more one finds philosophers (and theories) worthy of a “worst of” list.

So without further ado, I present my top ten worst philosophers (aka 10 good reasons to hate philosophy):

 

1. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

no you kant
Perhaps best known for his works Critique of Practical Reason (1788), Critique of Pure Reason (1781), and the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), the German Enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel Kant, is considered the greatest philosopher since Aristotle. Kant taught at the University at Konigsberg  (East Prussia) where he was a popular and well-regarded professor. Satisfied with neither the rationalist nor the empiricist theories of knowledge, Kant called for a “Copernican revolution” in philosophy an attempt to provide a satisfactory account for knowledge.

This all makes Kant sound like a swell guy but there’s plenty of reasons to hate him and his philosophy.

For starters, philosophers, until Immanuel Kant, weren’t exclusively academics.

Kant was.

Second, not only are Kant’s Transcendental Idealism and synthetic a priori knowledge incredibly (and annoyingly) confusing concepts, but Kant’s ethical opus, the CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE, is damned-near impossible to carry out in real life.

In Kant’s first formulation of the Categorical Imperative, Kant instructs that we may never violate any moral rule, no matter what good may come about as a result of violating the rule. So, if your friend comes to your house and says to you that he’s being followed by an axe murderer and he wants to hide in your closet, according to Kant, you’re supposed to tell the axe murderer that your friend is hiding in the closet if the murderer asks you where your friend is hiding.

The reason why you gotta fink out your friend, Kant says, is because it is morally wrong to lie. Kant writes:

Whoever then tells a lie, however good his intentions may be, must answer for the consequences of it… because truthfulness is a duty that must be regarded as the basis of all duties founded on contract, the laws of which would be rendered uncertain and useless if even the least exception to the were admitted.

 

The act of lying undermines our pursuit of truth, Kant says.

You see, Kant says we have an inviolable duty to the axe murderer to tell the truth because if we lie, we are endorsing the act of lying, not just to save lives, but in any situation where the circumstances may work out nicely for ourselves (or anyone else for that matter). What if the axe murderer knows you’re lying, Kant asks. And because he knows you’re lying he sneaks around to the back of your house where your fried is also sneaking out the back way. The murderer kills your friend. Kant says that you’re not only morally on the hook for the lie but for the murder as well.

If you didn’t lie the murderer wouldn’t have doubted you. And if he hadn’t doubted you, he wouldn’t have sneaked around to the back door. If you had pointed to your closet and said “He’s right in there”, sure, you’re violating your friend’s trust and handing him over to a deranged killer, but, at least according to Kant, you did so with a clear moral conscience.

It doesn’t take much contemplation to figure out that this line of thinking is kind of…. wrong.

 

2. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

old fred

The 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is undoubtedly one of the most influential (if not most popular) philosophers ever. Besides Socrates, Friedrich Nietzsche has probably contributed more ideas and catchphrases to the popular culture than any other philosopher (eternal recurrence, the ubermensch, master/slave morality, “God is dead”, “What does not kill me makes me stronger”, “there are no facts, only interpretations”…) Nietzsche is considered one of the forerunners of existentialism and credited with founding the philosophy of nihilism.

And is the patron philosopher saint of goth kids everywhere.

That’s pretty much where the problem with Nietzsche starts.

The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is the sole genesis of more philosophical misinterpretation and wrongheaded-ness than any other philosopher in history.  Nietzsche’s misogyny, anti-Semitism, and fervent German nationalism not only inspired the malevolent philosophy of National Socialism, but we can find Nietzsche’s philosophical influence in the Satanic religious teachings of  the late Anton LaVey  to  the mass murderers at Columbine High School.

 

 

3. Gottlob Frege (1848-1925)

Gottlob_Frege

Gottlob Frege is credited with revolutionizing the study of logic, which, until Frege, was dominated by Aristotelian logic. His work, Begriffsschrift (1879) set forward a system of formal logic that overthrew Aristotle’s logic. Frege, (along with Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein) is credited with creating the groundwork of modern philosophy of language. Frege argued that logic, mathematics, and language have continuity, and that we should view language more logically for clarity and to remove confusion (in language).

Anyone who hated symbolic logic or encountered the phrases Venus is Hesperus or Venus is phosphorus has Frege to blame.

And as many philosophy students has complained, Frege’s formal logic operates too much like mathematics which is precisely the subject that many mathophobic philosophy students aim to avoid.

 

4. Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

aristotle bust

Called “The Philosopher”, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote on subjects as diverse as politics, economics, psychology, biology, physics, ethics, logic, and auto repair. Scholasticism, the school of theological thought based in part on the philosophy of Aristotle, was the official doctrine of the early Catholic church, and  Aristotle’s logic was the standard logic until Frege. Aristotle’s philosophy (which includes ideas such as the golden mean, eudemonia, and virtue ethics) is still a foundation of philosophical and political thought. Aristotle’s philosophical works are so extensive and he remains one of the world’s most influential philosophers, it’s amazing to think that it’s possible to dislike the man they called “The Philosopher”.

It is possible.

Aristotle proves that the quantity of one’s writing doesn’t necessarily correlate to the fact that everything that someone writes is correct.

A few examples:

On the subject of slavery Aristotle wrote:

… from birth certain things diverge, some towards being ruled, other towards ruling… Accordingly, those who are as different [from other men] as the soul from the body or man from beast and they are in the state if their work is the use of the body, and if this is the best that can come from them are slaves by nature. For them its is better to be ruled with this sort of rule…

 

No, you didn’t read it wrong. Aristotle believed some people are natural slaves.

 

And On the subject of women Aristotle wrote:

Woman is more compassionate than man, more easily moved to tears. At the same time, she is more jealous, more querulous, more apt to scold and to strike. She is, furthermore, more prone to despondency and less hopeful than man, more devoid of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive and of more retentive memory.

 

Pretty much speaks for itself.

 

Aristotle also believed:

  • Deformed children should be put to death.
  • If people married young their children would be weak and female (Aristotle probably believed that was redundant).
  • Animals are mere tools to be used however people see fit.
  • Democracy is bad.
  • The Earth is the center of the universe.
  • Heavenly bodies float on eternal invisible spheres.
  • Some people have no souls (and therefore are fit to be used as slaves)
  • And, of course, Aristotle believed a man’s semen contains fully-developed, miniature people.

 

We expect that even the greatest philosopher may miss the mark, but when Aristotle was wrong, he wasn’t just slightly incorrect or a wee bit off track; the guy was wrong.

WRONG.

 

allistair gets slimed

 

Centuries of Aristotle’s wrong-headed philosophy dominating church doctrine not only held back the progress of science (as it was not in one’s best interest to oppose church doctrine), but Aristotle’s  truly messed up notions involving the intellectual aptitude of women and the (in)ability of average citizens to manage government are still prevalent.

If that isn’t enough, Aristotle’s political philosophy influenced neo-conservatism.

‘Nuff said.

 

5. John Rawls (1921-2002)

rawls

Veil of ignorance. Period.

6. Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

ayn rand

Best known as the author of objectivist masterpieces The Fountainhead (1943), Anthem (1938), and Atlas Shrugged (1957), Ayn Rand is only slightly less regarded by philosophers as a philosopher worth taking seriously. Rand is the founder of Objectivism, the philosophical school of thought grounded on the principle of rational self interest. Rand’s rational self interest is defined as follows:

Man every man is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.

 

At first glance Rand’s philosophy makes sense. It’s difficult to argue that we shouldn’t place the achievement of our own happiness first and foremost among our life goals.

And we should wan to be happy.

The problem with Rand is that following her philosophy will turn you into a complete dick.

Anyone who has endured a soon-to-be-former-friend’s Rand-soaked rants about “moochers”, “the virtue of selfishness” or “going Galt”, knows that the mere sight of The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged on a friend or prospective mate’s bookshelf spells certain doom for any relationship. The trouble with Ayn Rand is that fans of Rand often espouse Rand’s anti-helping-one’s-fellow-man sentiments, while also failing to realize, like Rand, that helping the less fortunate actually benefits society.  You see, Rand’s fans often fail to see that she wrote fiction.

That’s probably why if you ask any philosopher if he takes Ayn Rand seriously, you’ll be laughed out of the room.

Rand not only calls philosophical god Immanuel Kant “evil”, but Rand proclaimed that the Christian ethic of altruism is dangerous and harmful to society.

Which is pretty odd considering some of Rand’s biggest fans are Christian politicians.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is such a bag of mixed-up ideas that Rand’s influence can be found behind the personal philosophies of former Republican 2012 Vice-Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, who insisted all his staffers read Atlas Shrugged, and Anton LaVey, the late founder of the Church of Satan.

Rand herself decried social assistance to the poor (because it takes from the rich, who, according to Rand had all earned their money, so no poor person has a right to be helped by it) while receiving social security a social assistance program.

That’s not only mixed up. That’s being a total Dick.

 

7. Ayn Rand

Rand proves that it is possible to so despise a philosopher she’s worth mentioning twice.

 

8. Sir Bertrand Russell (1873-1970)

bertrand russell

 

Regarded by many as the greatest philosopher of the 20th century and (perhaps) the greatest philosopher ever, Sir Bertrand Russell (along with Gottlob Frege and Ludwig Wittgenstein) played a major role in the development of analytic philosophy. Russell’s works includes writings on logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, epistemology, metaphysics, moral philosophy, politics, economics, religion, and Russell, with Alfred North Whitehead, wrote Principia Mathematica (1910-13), which established the logical foundations of mathematics.

Ok. I know, I know, Bertrand Russell is the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, quite possibly the greatest philosopher ever. Blah blah blah.

It’s absolutely correct that every philosophy student should know the philosophical importance of Bertrand Russell. But here’s my problem:

First: Russell’s Paradox.

Second: Unlike Leo Strauss, whose approach to writing was to be intentionally obscure, Bertrand Russell is damn-near un-understandable. I have no clue what Russell is writing about.  Read this:

The unity of the sentence is particularly obvious in the case of asymmetrical relations: ‘x precedes y’ and ‘y precedes x’ consist of the same words, arranged by the same relation of temporal succession; there is nothing whatever in their ingredients to distinguish the one from the other. The sentences differ as wholes, but not in their parts, it is this that I mean when I speak of a sentence as a unity.

 

Now, either Bertrand Russell is that brilliant or I’m that dumb.

Because I have no idea what that meant.

That’s why I hate Bertrand Russell.

9. Leo Strauss (1899-1973)

leo strauss

Known as the father of neo-conservatism, the political philosophy of  the late German-American philosopher, Leo Strauss, has created more animus between liberals and conservatives than the epic “tastes great/less filling” debate. In fact, Leo Strauss is probably the most influential modern philosopher no one has ever heard of.

Have you ever heard the name Paul Wolfowitz?

If you haven’t, I’m guessing you’re not an American.

If you are an American and you haven‘t, God help you.

What’s important to know about Paul Wolfowitz is that he was a student of Leo Strauss.  AND he was a Deputy Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. That means Paul Wolfowitz had the ear of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

No big deal, right?

Well, that would be no big deal if Leo Strauss hadn’t spent his entire philosophical career lamenting modern political theory and what he saw as modernity’s liberal, relativistic values, and “the corroding effects of mass culture.” Strauss writes:

Many people today hold the view that the standard in question is in the best case nothing but the ideal adopted by our society or our “civilization” and embodied in its way of life or its institutions. But, according to the same view, all societies have their ideals, cannibal societies no less than civilized ones. If principles are sufficiently justified by the fact that they are accepted by a society, the principles of cannibalism are as defensible or sound as those of civilized life.

 

Strauss explains that moral relativism and “the uninhibited cultivation of individuality” is “bound to lead to disastrous consequences” and nihilism.

It would be no big deal if Strauss hadn’t taught at the University of Chicago from 1949 to 1968,  allowing Strauss to influence a generation of students (they’re called “Straussians”). And it wouldn’t be a big deal that Leo Strauss taught guys like Paul Wolfowitz and influenced a generation of Straussians if Strauss hadn’t believed and taught his students that philosophy should be esoteric, and not understood by everybody, and that knowledge is something that is hidden to most people and only understood by a few individuals (namely Strauss and his students).

It wouldn’t be a problem that Strauss taught guys like Paul Wolfowitz if Strauss hadn’t taught his students that society should be structured so that the wisest should rise to the top (mind you, Strauss believed that he and his students were the wisest) and that it’s perfectly within a government’s power to lie to and ignore the will of the people.

It wouldn’t be a big deal if Straussians hadn’t been affecting American domestic and foreign policy for the last 12 years*.

It wouldn’t be a problem if Strauss’ followers didn’t go into politics and influence and entire administration to follow Strauss’ wacked-out ideas.

 

10. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

ischope001p1
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (of course he was German!) is best known for his work The World As Will (1818). Schopenhauer, along with (fellow Germans) Georg Hegel and Nietzsche introduced the concept of the will as a force in the world that makes things happen. The world, according to Schopenhauer (and later Nietzsche) is an expression of the will.

Schopenhauer believed that the Eastern philosophical tradition was better at dealing with our philosophical crises than the established European philosophy. Schopenhauer also believed that animals should be treated humanely. He even objected to animals being used for scientific research.

That makes Schopenhauer seem like a pretty cool guy, right?

Well, if you thought that you’d be wrong.

You could say Schopenhauer was the Debbie Downer of philosophy.

Schopenhauer believed that there is no such thing as friendship or happiness and since the will wants its way, we will always be subject to suffering caused by our unfulfilled desires. According to Schopenhauer’s philosophy, even if we get what we want we can never be truly satisfied. Schopenhauer says that ultimately nothing we do matters because death will eventually claim us, thus rendering all of our efforts at anything futile. Schopenhauer writes:

we blow out a soap bubble as long and as large as possible, although we know perfectly well that it will burst.

 

You don’t have to be a philosopher to know it’s kind of hard to like people like this.

Ok, you say, pessimism is forgivable. Many philosophers display more than an inkling of the dourness. But if Schopenhauer’s sunny attitude isn’t enough to turn you off, Arthur Schopenhauer was also a pretty rotten guy.

For starters, his attitude towards women sucked.

Schopenhauer’s attitude towards relationships with women was no different from his view on friendship and happiness. Schopenhauer had many romantic relationships but no permanent.   Worse yet, not only did Schopenhauer write that women are “mental myopic” with “weaker reasoning powers”, he pushed an elderly neighbor down a flight of stairs. When the woman died, Schopenhauer rejoiced that the woman’s death relieved him of his obligation to pay compensation for the injuries she sustained in the fall.

That alone places Schopenhauer second only to Ayn Rand on the dickness scale.

 

philosophy is magic

 

Alright. I know that my list sounds like I’m just bitching about philosophers without any real, substantive criticism of any philosopher of his or her philosophy. If that’s what you’re thinking, that would be an entirely correct assumption. Just as one my dislike The Beatles because of John Lennon’s nasally vocals, our reasons for disliking (or even hating) a particular philosopher, philosophical theory, or philosophical school of thought, may come down to something as trivial as the fact that that particular philosopher invented symbolic logic.

It may be un-philosophical to say so, but it’s ok if you don’t like everything. It’s even ok to really despise a philosopher or two.

As any philosopher will tell you, everybody’s got an opinion, and

haters-gonna-hate-2

 

* Although the critics are nearly unanimous in their praise of The Beatles, I think that it’s highly unlikely that the Beatles would appear at the number on spot on every best musical artists lists. To my knowledge, The Beatles have never occupied the top spot on a list of the 10 greatest hip hop artists. But then, I haven’t seen every top ten hip hop artists list, either.

 

* It’s clear that the Bush Administration’s policies have continued into the Obama Administration. The U.S. is still involved in Iraq, and U.S. troops are still active in Afghanistan. Bush era economic policies, government surveillance, and rendition of “enemy combatants” have also continued into the Obama Administration.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

1) Aristotle. The Politics. 1984. Trans. Carnes Lord. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 40-1.

2) Aristotle. “The Inequality of Women”. Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. 1988. Eds. G. Lee Bowie, Meredith W. Michaels, Robert C. Solomon, and Robert J. Fogelin. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.  p. 525.

3) Bertrand Russell. “Sentence, Syntax, and Parts of Speech”. The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell. 1961. Eds. Robert Egner and Lester E. Denonn. NY: Touchstone. p. 122.

4) “Reader’s Guide to the Writings and Philosophy of Ayn Rand”. From The Fountainhead. 1952 [orig. published 1943]. NY: Signet.

5) Immanuel Kant. “On A Supposed Right to Lie From Benevolent Motives”. 1797. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php?title=360&chap

6) Leo Strauss. Liberalism Ancient and Modern. 1968. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.5

7) Leo Strauss. Natural Right and History. 1950, 1953. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  pp.3, 5.