UNTITLED POLITICAL POST (not sure if it’s a rant… yet)

I DON’T MEAN to brag.

Trust me, I absolutely am not bragging when I say this.

My first college degree wasn’t in philosophy.
My first bachelors degree was in political science.

Before I diddled in philosophy, I earned a degree in equally useless political science.

I had deluded myself into thinking I wanted to pursue a career in politics.

Luckily, I got wise and decided to go with philosophy.

The reason why is a long story.

Long and not all that interesting. To anybody besides me, anyway.

I started college as a political science major because I was into politics.

Not so sure about that anymore.

There’s a long and uninteresting story about that, too.

 

boring-or

EXACTLY WHERE EVERY ONE OF MY STORIES ABOUT BECOMING A PHILOSOPHY MAJOR IS HEADED

 

Anyway, unless you’ve been chained to a rock inside Plato’s cave, you may have noticed that people have been paying a lot of attention to politics these days. Fortunately or unfortunately, politics is almost unavoidable.

Actually, it’s more like he is unavoidable.

HE.

 

donald-trump-pictures

HIM

 

Whether you live in Topeka, Kansas or Taraz, Kazakhstan, and if you use any variety of media, the New York real estate mogul, former reality TV star-turned president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, has managed to become the weather of all celebrities.

He’s everywhere. He’s unavoidable.

And he’s damn-near as disruptive as a cyclone.

I’m not going Left or Right on that one. Whether you believe Trump is destroying the country or draining the swamp, the guy is plain disruptive.

I can’t watch TV or read a supermarket tabloid without seeing something about the President. I’ve even found myself lamenting the lack of Kardashian stories on TMZ because even TMZ is all about Donald Trump.

So far, with a few exceptions, I’ve managed to avoid writing about President Donald Trump.

Mostly because, at this point in my life, I can do without engaging in pointless political arguments with people I don’t know (probably Russian bots) on the internet.

1vf7pc1

 

However, there comes a time in every lover of wisdom’s life when that wisdom lover realizes that it as a dereliction of duty to not say something – especially if the something they’ve avoided talking about is a human tornado.

So, with saying something in mind, I will say this: WE’VE GOT A PROBLEM. AND THAT PROBLEM IS PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP.

Alright… before you prepare yourself to not enjoy yet another SJW anti-Trump think piece, and before anyone says the words cuck, triggered, snowflake, or MAGA, I’m not coming from the political Left or Right on this.

Politically speaking, the problem of Donald Trump has an easy remedy: the 2020 presidential election.

 

flat800x800075f

I THINK I’VE ALREADY DECIDED WHO I’M VOTING FOR

 

For me, a lover of wisdom, President Donald Trump isn’t a problem politically as much as he is a problem philosophically.

And really, it isn’t just Trump. It’s all politics.
There’s a problem with all politics.
…which is precisely why I can’t avoid the subject any longer.

I have the feeling I’m gonna use some bullet points.

PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM NO. 1: THE TRUTH

The 17th century French philosopher Rene Descartes (1596-1650) asked, “Of what can I be certain?” Descartes called all his beliefs into doubt and accepted only those beliefs that were distinctly, clearly, and indubitably true.
If being a philosopher is all about seeking wisdom − philosophers LOVE wisdom − it is also, as Descartes tells us, about finding the truth (as truth is an essential element of wisdom), then living in a country with a presidential administration that has been described as fostering a “post truth” political environment can be philosophically troubling.

Wikipedia describes post-truth politics as:

Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics and post-reality politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. Post-truth differs from traditional contesting and falsifying of truth by rendering it of “secondary” importance. While this has been described as a contemporary problem, there is a possibility that it has long been a part of political life, but was less notable before the advent of the internet and related social changes.

In the seminal political treatise , the ancient Greek philosopher Plato (428-7B.C.E.-348-7 B.C.E) states that the state will be secure and flourish only if the state is ruled by the most wise – the Philosopher-King.

Plato states,

The society we have described can never grow into a reality or see the light of day, and there will be no end to the troubles of states, or indeed, my dear Glaucon, of humanity itself, till philosophers are kings in this world, or till those we now call kings and rulers really and truly become philosophers, and political power and philosophy thus come into the same hands…

The Philosopher-King is not only a ruler, but also, as his title states, a philosopher.

Philosophers, according to Plato…

The philosopher is in love with truth, that is, not with the changing world of sensation, which is the object of opinion, but with the unchanging reality which is the object of knowledge.

If philosophers are in love with the truth, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find a most wise leader in a president lies on average 5.5 to 9 times a day.

A. DAY.

trump-lies

Also – should we really be in the business of making truth relative? Should we hold that what is true for me may not be true for you, as White House Senior Adviser, Kellyanne Conway, suggested when she explained to Meet the Press host, Chuck Todd, that the Trump Administration had “alternative facts” concerning the size of the crowd at the President’s inauguration?

If we can’t agree on what is true, it becomes difficult to agree – something that can have detrimental consequences when passing legislation and creating public policy.

Think climate change.

climate-change-is-hoax

 

As the late former U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (March 16, 1927 – March 26, 2003), said (attributed), “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”

 

PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM NO.2: IF YOU DON’T KNOW THE TRUTH YOU CAN’T KNOW ANYTHING

As any epistemologist will tell you, epistemic certainty* is kind of a big deal.
It is in philosophy, anyway.

Knowledge requires truth.

Before we say that we know something (or make a claim about the world), we must meet certain requirements for knowledge, namely that we believe our claim, and that our claim is true**.

Whether you believe we are capable of epistemic certainty or not, we should be able to have at least a reasonable expectation that our information is consistently reliable. That is to say, we should be able to trust that the information we receive is accurate (or true). Reliable information allows us to know how the world is − the truth gets us to trustworthy conclusions or claims about the world.

If all our beliefs about the world are based on alternative facts, what can we say we truly know?

20128331

That question isn’t rhetorical, by the way.

 

PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM NO. 3: INCONSISTENCY (or incoherence) IS ANNOYING

So… in philosophy, there’s a fallacy called the Inconsistency Fallacy. The fallacy happens someone makes an argument that contains contradictory statements − that is to say, the statements are inconsistent with one another.

That’s kind of like saying you’re for states rights while also supporting a federal ban on…whatever.

You don’t have to sport a tricorne hat or attend a Tea Party rally (or attend a Tea Party rally while wearing a tricorne hat) to know that advocating federal supremacy while simultaneously declaring your belief in individual state sovereignty is kind of, well, inconsistent.

Or, like saying you’re a fan of Ayn Rand but you’re also a follower of Jesus…

 

prgmeme5

YES, PAUL RYAN. WE’RE LOOKING AT YOU

 

Not saying that there’s anything like that going on in government.

Well… tonight President Trump will deliver his first State of the Union address. I’m fairly certain, without even watching one minute, that the viewers – the people who support the President and the people who do not support the President − will see exactly what each wants to see.

Some folks will see a moment of presidential brilliance.

Others will see good Lord in Heaven, it actually happened someone worse than George W. Bush.

Meanwhile, I’ll be in the darkened corner counting fallacies… trying to not go Left or Right on this.

 

 

 

 

 

*I know I just dropped some philosophy jargon on ya. I also know that, when you drop jargon, you gotta define your terminology (that makes it easier for people to know what you’re talking about). When I drop a phrase like epistemic certainty and epistemologist, I’m talking about the field of philosophy called Epistemology. Epistemology, as defined by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP):

Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits?

 

** There’s a bunch more to knowledge than my overly truncated explanation of what knowledge is. After all, this is a blog post, and not a scholarly treatise. If you’re interested in reading scholarly treatises on knowledge and epistemology, I refer you to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (SEP) article on Epistemology at: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/. And if you’ve got a few bucks to spare, I also recommend the textbook Epistemology by Richard Feldman.

 

9780133416459_p0_v1_s1200x630

THIS IS THE EPISTEMOLOGY TEXT I READ AT UNIVERSITY. SINCE IT IS A COLLEGE TEXT (AND BECAUSE IT’S PHILOSOPHY), IT AIN’T CHEAP

 

 

SOURCES:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/

https://www.salon.com/2017/11/17/trump-lies-9-times-a-day-on-average-lately_partner/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-truth_politics 

Alt-Philosophy

ALTHOUGH I’VE BEEN writing this blog for awhile, I haven’t really made a habit of writing about my opinions. I mean, I write philosophical interpretations of movies and TV and music and stuff based on some other philosopher‘s philosophy, but rarely (I think) have I ever said, “Y’all know what I think?” about anything, much less on a topic that may not be (at least at first glance) philosophical.

After all, who wants to hear opinions?

You know what they say about opinions?

a63ab54d8fd1ce51479b93a6cd13484d

 

And most of them stink…

That was then.

This is post-November 9th 2016.

Now, a big part of, dare I say, the allure of philosophy is that it’s all about thinking.

Thinking about stuff; thinking about anything, everything.

Philosophers do a great deal of it. Thinking. In fact, philosophers are often accused of over thinking.

Unfortunately, I may been doing way too much overthinking these days.

Some of it has to do with this guy

trumpandflag

The President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump.

62,979,879 Americans voted for Trump.

I was not one of them.

Since the election of Donald Trump on November 9th, 2016 (or maybe because of the election of Donald Trump), things have been a little weird for those of us who “think” too much.

And I mean weird as in President Trump and his administration have a lot of people thinking and talking about not telling the truth.

Specifically, that the President and his administration have some difficulty saying it.

The truth.

There’s so much non-truth telling going on that the experts are now saying that President Trump and his administration are proof that we living in a “post-truth” world.

Post-truth is defined as:

Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief

So far as politics goes, appealing to emotions isn’t new. Politicians have appealed to how we feel over what we think for, well… since there have been politicians.

And it’s not as if politicians have suddenly become not truthful.

It’s just that I can’t quite remember when the truth was so… unimportant.

Folks on t.v. and on the internet are conjuring up images of the Newspeak of Orwell’s 1984 and of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World; painting images of a world where facts are not objective but are, well, whatever they say that they are.

At least that’s the way the truth goes down in Oceania .

4b347998493febba30cf47962ae7b669

The president doesn’t lie, he’s merely “misspoken”.

That’s not a lie coming from the administration. It’s a “alternative fact”.

images-11

Although it seems like it’s a pretty obvious thing to think, there are some people out there who believe that telling the truth isn’t as important as people say it is.

Truth is kind of funny, though.

The funny thing about the truth is that the truth, despite what we may believe, really is important.

You see, those of us who are into over thinking philosophically about things place a high value on truth. Truth is a very important thing to philosophers. Truth gets us to wisdom.

Philosophers love wisdom.

Philosophy literally means love of wisdom.

i_love_wisdom_philosophy_i_love_sophia_postcard-rc10363aff64f4777b9b3a9ab77f4d91d_vgbaq_8byvr_324

Truth is an essential part of how we accurately describe reality, how the world really is.

How we know things.

It is easy to come up with two conditions for knowledge: truth and belief. It’s clear that knowledge requires truth. That is, you cannot know something unless it is true. – Richard Feldman, Epistemology.

We know things because our beliefs about things in the world are true.

As Plato said,

And isn’t a bad thing to be deceived about the truth, and a good thing to know what the truth is? For I assume that by knowing the truth you mean knowing things as they really are

Truth may not be a valued commodity in politics, as Machiavelli wrote:

Everyone admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep his word, and to behave with integrity rather than cunning. Nevertheless our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have considered keeping their word of little account, and have known to beguile men’s minds by shrewdness and cunning. In the end these princes have overcome those who have relied on keeping their word.

And like Machiavelli suggested, lying may get you far in politics… and sometimes quite far in life.

machiavelli-meme-2

 

But there’s a very important reason truth matters.

Not telling the truth (aka lying) isn’t just a matter of disseminating bad information or misspeaking. Not telling the truth is pernicious deception and manipulation that makes us incapable of making correct choices.

If we are indifferent to truth or we don’t know what the truth is – if someone is lying to us and we believe them – we’re unable to navigate in the world. We see reality how it really isn’t.

cyu3whowsaabgxg
Imagine that you are planning to take a trip across the Atlantic Ocean.

No need to say why. You got your reasons.

You’ve been told by the ship’s owner that the ship you are sailing on is safe and that there is absolutely no chance of the ship sinking. You believe the ship owner’s assurances (because you have no reason not to) and believe that the ship is sea worthy. You decide to take the trip across the Atlantic Ocean.

However, the ship owner is not telling you the truth. He knows that the ship shouldn’t be anywhere near water, let alone sailing upon a whole ocean full of water. He knows the ship will not complete its voyage.

man-watching-ship-manouvering-in-tidal-river-lune-glasson-dock-lancaster-bc2h3m

YEP. HE KNOWS WHAT’S UP

While at sea, the ship begins to take on water and eventually (and inevitably) capsizes, killing all aboard. Including you.

Now, you made a choice based on the word of someone who did not tell you the truth.

And it cost you your life.

Possible death wishes aside, had you known the true state of things (i.e. reality) you probably would have decided to not take the trip.

Truth is important. And not just in dealing with issues of metaphysics.

We must know what the facts are if we want to make the right decision, not just on practical matters but also when we act morally.

Truth is an absolute necessity when assigning moral culpability.

4131769

 

Lying, withholding truth or otherwise not being truthful are generally considered to be immoral acts.

52575494
The reason why you shouldn’t maintain your own set of “alternative facts” in the face of objective reality is because when we act, our actions have consequences.

cnn_rs_facts_170122a-800x430

And consequences, unless you’re a deontologist, can be judged morally.

Remember that ship owner I was talking about? Well, because the owner withheld the truth from the ship’s passengers and misrepresented the safety of the vessel, the passengers couldn’t make the correct choice – to take the trip or not.

The ship owner’s deception led to the loss of lives. People died because the ship owner didn’t tell the truth.

65457472

Causing other people’s deaths is bad and if people die because of you, your are morally responsible for their deaths.

We really don’t need to go to an extreme of people dying to demonstrate that truth is a good thing – and not just because philosophers say so.

Without the truth, claims are unreliable. Truth cannot be “alternative” or “relative” or “its true for me.” Without the belief that what we’re told is true, we cant place our trust in the individuals (or institutions) that make claims or tell us anything about the way the world is. When we don’t trust people; when we don’t trust institutions (that they run), and the lack of trust undermines the legitimacy of institutions (like government). We need to be mindful that truth is an essential for good government

If you know your Thomas Jefferson and John Locke, government necessarily depends on legitimacy.

giphy

Legitimacy relies on the consent of the governed.

Consent is based on trust.

Trust requires truth.

And this is kinda why we have to believe that truth is important.

We need truth to point out those who, by not telling the truth, corrupt government and undermine our ability to trust what others want us to believe.

In the end, we all know that seeking and preserving truth isn’t just about the right now. Presidents come and go; there will always be ship builders who’ll lie about the seaworthiness of their ship.

 

 

 

 

And that’s the honest truth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:
https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definiton/post-truth

Richard Feldman. Epistemology. 2003. Upper Saddle River, NJ. Prentice Hall. 12.

Niccolo Machiavelli. The Prince. 1532.

99 Problems and Gettier Ain’t One

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

You didn’t know that you knew?

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

You might have even said you had an intuition.

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

and now for something completely different

 

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

Sometimes they’re called Gettier problems.

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

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

DSCN1351

 

 

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

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

Remember: his name is Edmund Gettier

 

edmund gettier

 

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

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

Or did the MLA Handbook say that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is this making sense so far?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Do you kinda get it, now?

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

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

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

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

Simple enough, right?

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

It might not seem all that important but justification matters.

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

I decide to make checklist:

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

 

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

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

 

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

But there’s a problem.

Saw this coming, right?

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Remember: 2 paragraphs or less.

 

 

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

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

I’m Not Sexy. I Know It… and I’m Not Laughing My F.A.O.

Every year some song gets popular and no one has any idea why.

The Macarena.

The Ketchup Song.

Y.M.C.A.

Any song by Nickleback.

Yeah, I know, I just dumped on Nickleback. It’s a very in thing to do.

About a year ago, everybody was into that song by the group L.M.F.A.O.

“I’m Sexy and I Know It”.

Not me, I mean, that’s the name of the song. It’s called “I’m Sexy and I Know It”.

There was no escaping that song. There wasn’t anywhere I could go without hearing that song. Now I know what being stalked feels like.

If “I’m Sexy and I Know It” looked like a person, it would look like this:

 

creepy_gun_dude

I hate that freaking song.

You know, there’s something that happens when you’re harassed by a song you hate. It’s kind of like what happens when you find out you’re going to die. That Elizabeth Kubler-Ross On Death and Dying, stages of grief stuff. First you’re annoyed by the song. Then you hate it. Then you hate the people who made the song. Then you hate every radio station and DJ who plays the song. Then you realize there’s no escaping the song. Then you stop changing the channel when the song comes on.

Then you start to listen.

And then, you start to like it.

That’s what the experts call acceptance.

That’s the final stage.

A funny thing: When you like a song you tend to listen to the lyrics.

If you’re a philosopher this could be especially troubling.

You see, philosophers have a weird habit of analyzing things over analyzing things.

When you’re a philosopher, you can’t just sit and listen to a song, read a book, or watch a movie or TV show. You have to start thinking about what it all means; to see if what you’re reading, watching, or listening to has a hidden philosophical meaning. And if you’re at all philosophically inclined, even if you don’t see it right away, you’ll find a meaning.

Let me show you how it’s done:

First, ask yourself what’s the name of what you’re going to overthink about? This is important. A title might not seem like a big deal to most folks, but for the philosophically-inclined, sometimes a title gives us a big philosophical clue. In this case, the title gives us exactly how to think about the song: I’m sexy and I know it.

I italicized “and I Know it” for a reason.

To say that one is sexy and you know it, you’re saying that you know something. That is, you’re making a claim that you possess some kind of knowledge, which is in this case; you know that you’re sexy.

When you know (or say you know) something, philosophers say that you’re making an epistemic claim.

The branch of philosophy that deals with all sorts of epistemic claims is called  EPISTEMOLOGY.

According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one’s own mind?

 

Ok, nevermind  all that philosophical stuff about justification and justified true beliefs (and let’s not dwell on the necessary and sufficient conditions for being sexy and knowing it as I believe that the following conditions are both necessary and sufficient).

So, how might someone initially formulate the idea that they know that they’re sexy?

Well, from the lyrics we can easily see that being sexy has something to do with working out.

So how else does one guesstimate that one is sexy?

One:

  • rolls with animal print pants “out of control”
  • wears a “big ass ‘fro”
  • looks like Bruce Lee whilst “rocking the club”
  • has tan cheeks
  • causes girls to look at one’s body
  • has passion in one’s pants and is not afraid to show it
  • wears no shoes and no shirt but still gets served
  • works out

And, of course, one wiggles.

So, if one rolls with animal print pants that are out of control, wears a big ass ‘fro, looks like Bruce Lee while rocking the club, has tan cheeks, causes girls to look at your body, has passion in your pants and is not afraid to show it, wears no shirt and no shoes but you still get service, works out, and wiggles, one has met the necessary conditions (what is required to be sexy) and sufficient conditions (what is enough to be sexy), then not only is one sexy, but you know it.

 

These guys are sexy and they know it.

These guys are sexy and they know it.

 

 

Yeah.

That’s it.

That’s pretty much how you do epistemology. Congratulations. You’re an epistemologist.

You’ve just participated in your first over-analysis of a popular song!

Do you feel like a philosopher?

You should.

So now that you know what it takes to be sexy and know it, are you sexy?

I already know my answer.

And if you’re a philosopher with a blog I’m pretty sure you know your answer, too.

 

 

 

 

NOTE:

If you’re not familiar with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief check them out here:

http://www.ekrfoundation.org/five-stages-of-grief/

SOURCES:

1) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology/

2) “I’m Sexy and I Know It”. lyrics by Kenneth Oliver, George Matthew Robertson, Stefan Gordy, David Jamahl Listenbee, and Erin Beck. Copyright. 2011. Kobalt Publishing Ltd.

The Creepiest Song…Ever!

“I gave a girl a ride in my wagon” opens one of the most creepiest songs ever written in the history of the pop era. For those who don’t know, that statement is the opening line from the 1975 diddy “Chevy Van” by Sammy Johns. Clocking in at a mellow two minutes, fifty-nine seconds, the adventure of a young man, a loose hitchhiker, and their, well, let’s say (alleged) “encounter”, was (as it is said) a typical portrait of the free-lovin’ easy-goin’ days of the ’70s. Whatever. The song goes a little like this: Boy drives shaggin’ wagon, boy picks up hot hitchhiking chick, hot hitchhiking chick immediately and inexplicably loses consciousness, when she awakens, she is struck by the overwhelming desire to take the shaggin’ waggon’s captain “by the hand” and do him. After their moments of love, boy drops the hitchhiker off somewhere south of BFE, and never sees her again. At least until the paternity suit ( I added that). What I find truly interesting about the song is in the chorus. Free-wheelin’ Sammy makes the statement, “she’s gonna love me in my chevy van (and that’s alright with me)”. Hold on, I think, let’s back this one up. “She’s gonna love me in my chevy van”?!? One, that’s a pretty big statement to make, and two, I thought, that sounds like a mighty big EPISTEMIC claim. She’s “gonna” love you? Well, how exactly does he know she will? Maybe he just picked up Susan Atkins? But, Sammy makes the claim that she’s “gonna” love him. Two minutes and fifty-nine seconds worth of claiming. And once again I ask how does he know for sure? I’m almost certain that his explanation will fall along the lines of something like this: ‘Well, whenever I picked up hitchhikers before, they always give it up to me. So I assumed that this chick would be no different. Hey, at least I didn’t charge her for gas money!’ Leaving the comment about gas money aside, what Sammy’s answer is, is straight up induction. We do this kind of thinking all the time. Based on past experiences, we make assumptions about how a present (or future) situation will be. Hume’s famous example was stating that the sun will come up tomorrow. We say this because we have observed in the past that the sun comes up every morning, so we assume that tomorrow will be no different. We say the sun will come up tomorrow. And most of the time this kind of thinking works. You can assume, based on prior experience, that a hitchhiker will have sex with you. But there’s the glitch: This works until we run into a situation where our line of reasoning is wrong and the present or the future doesn’t resemble the past (and this folks, is the problem of induction!). So, let’s say that Sammy wants to make the claim that his sleeping? passed out? riding companion will in fact share her love with him. How does he know that she will? How can Sammy say that he is justified in believing that she will? Enter epistemology 101: knowledge as justified true belief. We know that Sammy believes that the hitchhiker will make love to him (it sounds so silly using the term “make love”, doesn’t it?), but we get the sense that Sammy wants more than to merely believe that claim; he wants to be justified in doing so. To say that we truly “know” something means more than to say that we believe either this or that claim. We would want to say that we also have proper reasons for believing what we believe, or justification. Justification is important because (epistemically speaking) justification makes it more likely that our beliefs are true (or at least more likely to be true). I think that it goes without saying why we want true beliefs. But, in a nutshell, true (or TRUE, or True — depending on how much you want to emphasize the concept) are our foundations for knowledge. If we had no true beliefs, then well… you don’t want to know. All I can say is that there would be no American Idol (and nobody would like that). This, justified true belief, that is, is the traditional view of knowledge. It’s this: 1) s believes p 2) p is true 3) s has good reason (justification) to believe p. 1,2 &3 are necessary conditions for knowledge. Which means if we ain’t got all three, we don’t know. So, how can Sammy go from merely believing that his hitchhiking sleeping beauty is going to sex him up to saying that he knows that she will? Well, by employing a method for justification of course! Let’s look at two of my faves coherentism and reliabilism. According to coherentism, a belief is true if it coheres (or is consistent with) our other held beliefs (what we already believe to be true). So for example, Sammy sees the hitchhiker on the side of the road. His system of held beliefs may include the following: — I drive a sweet chevy van — Hippy chicks esp. hitchhiking ones, are easy — Chicks dig dudes with sweet chevy vans — Chicks who sleep with moonlight dancing off of their hair, wake up and take you by the hand will want to have sex with you, seriously. Sammy’s belief, “she’s gonna love me in my chevy van” which is to say, ‘I believe that this chick will have sex with me’ seems to cohere with his other beliefs (in fact, you could say that Sammy hit the jackpot). But there’s a problem here. The truth of Sammy’s belief relies on Sammy’s other beliefs. Sammy may be wrong. He may have an entire system of false beliefs. In that case, even if his belief was true (in virtue if his other beliefs), he is not justified in making the claim that his belief is true. So what’s Sammy to do? He can use another means of justification. Let’s try reliabilism. The reliabilist (is that right?) says, sure the coherentist has his thoughts to rely on, but that’s the problem in itself. We need something more. If you got whacked on the head so hard that everything you saw had dancing elves around it, no matter whether the dancing elves fit consistently into every belief you had about the world, your “true” statements would not be true (by virtue of the fact that there are no dancing elves). So, the reliabilist says, we need more. Justification, he says, is determined by the reliability of the process by which we form our beliefs. So, instead of relying on other beliefs, the reliabilist uses memory, good reasoning, introspection, etc. to arrive at beilefs that are true or more likely to be true. We can’t justify our beliefs by mere guesses, or by our emotions or what we want to be true. So, if Sammy was of sound mind and body (i.e. he hadn’t smoked too much of the “reefer”), then given the reliability of his belief-forming processes, Sammy is likely to produce true beliefs. And justified in claiming the likelihood of his beliefs being true. All said and done, I think that Sammy did smoke too much of the locoweed, drove nowhere picked up nobody, and made the whole thing up. Just proving that there’s a reason why they call it dope.

Group Solipsism

Oprah’s # 2 thing that she knows for sure: You define your own life, don’t let other people write your script. I used to think that this idea was existentialist, and at it’s face (excuse me, prima facie) it appears to be so. Telling a person to “define your own life” is straight out of the existentialist handbook. (By the way, there actually is one: The Ultimate Guide To Navelgazing and Self-Overexamination. I think it’s available on Amazon or something like that. Maybe not). Existentialist philosophy says that the meaning and purpose of life is defined by the individual. We have no innate nature that determines what or perhaps more importantly, who we become- which fits perfectly with the last half of the statement, ” don’t let other people write your script”. Existentialism, like Oprah, is all about how we relate to the world. Oprah’s #1 thing she knows for sure ” what you put out comes back all the time, no matter what”, certainly addresses the fact that we operate in a world with others, for and with whom our actions will be held in to account. And, like Heidegger, Oprah believes that the way that we live authentically is manifested in the way that we deal with the situations that we are “thrown” ( to use Heidegger’s term) into. The way that we act in a given situation, both believe, is reflective of who we truly are. So far, the philosophy of Ms. Winfrey seems to tell us nothing that we haven’t heard before. It may come out of the mouth of Deepak Chopra or Dr. Phil ( and you can absolutely trust that either of them has read Heidegger or Sartre, among others), but on it’s face, Oprah is giving us early 20th century French philosophy.And this totally falls in line with any other talk/advice show host that has taken a whack at the self-improvement tree of knowledge. And that’s what I thought while I started watching Oprah’s “best life ever”. I thought that she was purely, albeit a little mixed up, chatting the existentialist rag — until I thought a little harder about what she was saying. The first lightbulb ( I suppose Oprah would call it an “a-ha” moment) went off while I was watching Oprah’s show about weight. All the time she was speaking, she was singularly focused on herself. Nothing new, afterall it was Oprah. I know that existentialism, by its design, focuses attention, perhaps too much attention, on the self. After all, it’s all about figuring out how you, the individual, relates to the world. But then, I really started to pay attention: it wasn’t just ordinary self-centeredness; there was something else at work in what she was saying. The something else was revealed when Oprah said that we need to put ourselves back on out to-do list. It seems that we haven’t been self-centered enough. we’ve been spending too much time doing nice things for other people, and that is wrong. We need to reclaim the focus of our attention. We need to be at the top of the list. So, I thought, I’m at the center of the universe, and no one is going to define my life for me. I thought that defining something, especially when one is defining a life, is an act of invention or creation. It clicked: I create my life. I CREATE MY LIFE. It was if there were a flash of light and the sky suddenly parted. All my definitions are self-created. And, it seems, no one else can write the definitions for me. I am more than mastering my own life, if I follow Oprah, I am creating my own reality. I thought, this is amazing. Oprah is saying so much more to us than pop-psych clap trap that you can get any afternoon listening to Dr. Laura. Oprah is laying down some serious metaphysics. So, once more I thought about Oprah’s #2 thing she knows for sure: “You define your own life, don’t let other people write your script” I thought, that I would, break the statement in half and look at the two parts of Oprah’s #2 statement separately. I thought, what if the second half of the statement ” don’t let other people write your script” wasn’t just encouraging existentialist authenticity, but instead a statement about the states of other people’s minds? What do I know about other people’s minds, I thought. The answer: nothing. I can’t even be sure if other minds exist. Maybe this is what is motivating what Oprah is saying to us, I thought. I don’t know what intentions others have for me, so I cannot allow them to set my agenda. And if I cannot be sure of the existence of other minds, I surely cannot allow them to determine what is the best course for my life. I must be in control of what goes on in my own life because I only know what I think is good for myself. Likewise, I must be in control because I can only know myself so far as I know that I exist. So then, I looked at the first half: ” You define your own life”. I was reminded of something that I had heard that drifted along the same lines. Not to long ago, a Bush Administration staffer announced that the Bush Administration created it’s own reality. Meaning, that if the president said that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, then by golly, they did, even if your “reality” contradicted theirs. (this may be a slight distortion of the real meaning of that statement, but this distortion fits the point that I am trying to make, so bear with me). Well, I think that I wouldn’t be wrong if I assumed that, as far as Ms. Oprah defines it, that “define” and “create” are similar in this context. I define who and what I am. If everyone else thinks that I am a dork, so long as I do not share the same sentiment, I am not. I must remember that I refuse to let anyone else define my life — all evidence to the contrary. If I take Oprah’s advice (to the extreme), so long as my “life” is defined by me, then that life — at least my sentiments and beliefs about that life — is true, meaning that life is my authentic or “real” life. And, being the empiricist that I am, my beliefs about the world are my basis for what I hold is true about the world. If I see the bullet to the heart kill the fisherman, than I believe that the bullet to the heart killed the fisherman. And it is true, because I cannot let others define it for me, because I cannot be sure of their intentions for me. I am the only mind that I can know, or at the very least, I am the only mind that I can trust. So, if my mind is the only mind that I can trust, and that mind is the mind that defines, or creates my life , and my life (or beliefs about) is a reflection of an overall “reality”, then I define reality. Wow. But it’s not just that, it goes further. If everyone who follows Oprah’s advise will also define their own lives, the result is the creation millions of separate “realities” — each for every Oprah viewer. If this is the case, then Oprah isn’t advocating existentialism, but group solipsism! Each of us exists in a self-defined universe of one. As crazy as it may seem, I believe that this is what Oprah is truly getting to. We not only create our own perspective on what we believe is real or true, we create our own universe — a separate entity wherein we reside, creating and changing its own separate reality as we see fit. ( so, if I say that someone is on a different world than I am, this statement may be more than mere metaphor, but a statement of fact. Stew on that for awhile). I know that there are some non-adventurous philosophers who would say that Oprah and her ilk are damaging the philosophic enterprise by allowing people like me to take what she says and distort the bejeezus out of it. I will not disagree. On the othre hand, I would also assume that there is some posmodernist who welcomes the destroyers and distorters of philosophy and welcome the opportunity of finding a new way of beating a dead horse. As disfond as I am about fence-riding, I think that there is room here to split the difference. I think that it is, at least, worth the effort to look at what our popular culture is doing to the theories that philosophers hold so near and dear to their hearts. We must remember that philosophic ideas are out there, and that it would do philosophers a little good to roll around with those who may be more clever at peddling distorted philosophical theories than they are at peddling the correct ones. But for now it seems, the media reigns, Oprah is more popular than Swinburne, and so we stand on the precipice of a new view: Oprarian philosophy. I’m not sure where Oprarian philosophy will get us, but I’m sure if it gets us to somewhere where we don’t want to go, we can simply choose to redefine it, our lives and the whole universe, and start over again. Maybe by then, some talk show host will have succesfully distorted Kant.