I’ve Been Thinking A Lot About John Lennon Lately… and Too Much About Death

I’M PRETTY QUICK to admit that John Lennon is not my favorite member of The Beatles. He’s not even my second favorite (Ringo) or even the The Beatle I say when I’m feeling particularly assholish.

That’s Pete Best, by the way.

If you’re wondering, it’s George. George Harrison is my favorite Beatle.

LOOK AT THIS BRO. HOW CAN HE NOT BE YOUR FAVORITE BEATLE?

Honestly, John Lennon isn’t even in my top 5.

And there were four The Beatles.

But, given that I, at one time, existed at the same time as John Lennon, and I am a The Beatles fan, I do think, from time to time, the perennial Beatles fan what if — what if John Lennon hadn’t been murdered on December 8, 1980?

That kind of question is called a hypothetical. You know who LOVES hypothetical questions — philosophers.

Philosophers call their hypothetical questions thought experiments.

A WELL-KNOWN PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHT EXPERIMENT, THE TROLLEY PROBLEM

Like a lot of people, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands to think about hypothetical situations. Since I (and everybody else) wasn’t going anywhere, I had to imagine situations and places i would go — if I could go out. You kinda have to when you can’t leave your house.

If I’d say there’s a silver lining to any of this, life during lockdown has been a godsend for my imagination.

Wait a minute. Who am I kidding? Covid-19 hasn’t changed a damn thing about my social life. I never go outside. And I’ve always avoided people.

Although Covid hasn’t altered my Schopenhauerian tendencies, it has affected me in one significant way.. Namely, life during quarantine has me thinking a lot more about death.

The past year has put me in a thinking about death kind of mood.

Covid has also got me digging through my old record collection. I’ve been listening to The Beatles quite a bit; John Lennon in particular.

My not-favorite Beatle.

Listening to “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, and thinking how “Run For Your Life” is possibly the most red flaggy song of all time (Jesus, how did they not see that song was problematic?), my mind, unoccupied with actual thoughts generated by actual socializing, naturally drifted to the question,

what if John Lennon wasn’t murdered?

Never said I wasn’t a morbid bastard.

As I’m a philosopher. I tell myself A) I can’t just toss out some simple, over-asked hypothetical question, and B) That’s a genuine THOUGHT EXPERIMENT.

So naturally I had to dig a little deeper.

And then the question hit me: WHY was I asking what if John Lennon hadn’t died in 1980? My (first) answer was this: the reason why I (and every other The Beatles fan) asks “what if?” is because we believe John Lennon shouldn’t have died in 1980.

John Lennon’s death was, for lack of a better word, bad.

And if you’re gonna say death is bad and not also say the name Thomas Nagel, I’d suspect you weren’t a real philosopher.

Yep. I’m going Nagelian on this one.

John Lennon’s death (he was only 40) deprived him of what could have (and arguably what should have) been.

There would be albums of songs that would never be recorded. Lennon would never again have the opportunity to perform live. Fans would never see a full The Beatles reunion. With his death, Lennon’s sons were deprived of their father; Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, deprived of her husband. More importantly, John Lennon himself was deprived of the ability to engage in a long, active, (hopefully fufilling) life.

Any person’s death, not just John Lennon, is bad because death, as Nagel writes,”is an evil because it brings to an end all the goods that life contains”.

MAYBE IF JOHN LENNON WASN’T MURDERED HE WOULD HAVE STOPPED PAUL McCARTNEY FROM RECORDING “SAY SAY SAY”. NOT HATIN’, BUT THAT SONG IS WORSE THAN “EBONY AND IVORY

Now, if I actually left my apartment and had any kind of a social life, I’d end things right there, satisfied with my slightly Nagelian thoughts on a decades-dead rock legend.

But I’m a lover of wisdom. We’re never satisfied.

Not when it comes to a damned thought experiment, anyway.

So I kept thinking.

So…

The German not-actually-nihilist-but-existentialist philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, famously thought up a little mind blower of his own: Eternal Recurrence.

In Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1883), Nietzsche introduces the thought experiment. He writes:

“What if a demon crept after thee into thy loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to thee: “This life, as thou livest it at present, and hast lived it, thou must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to thee again, and all in the same series and sequence—and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself.”

The underlying question the demon is asking is a question of the quality of life. If you say yes to the demon’s proposal to repeat your life forever, you’ve probably lived a good life. However, if your answer is no, you better go do something with your life. It sucks.

Ok, we got some Nagel. We got a little Nietzsche — but what does this have to do with John Lennon?

I’m getting to that.

Alright. Let’s imagine some scientist (or demon. Wait — is there a difference?) invents a machine that can transport us back in time to Liverpool in 1962, right before The Beatles made it big in England. After some sight-seeing, the science-demon stakes out a spot to meet a pre-fame John Lennon.

The science-demon meets John, and because it’s a science-demon, it’s able to talk to John for a few minutes, long enough to, in a most serious philosophical tone, offer a proposal: what if I told you you will be in the most influential rock & roll band in music history, be more famous than you can possibly imagine, become fabulously wealthy, and more popular than Jesus, BUT 18 years from now you’ll be murdered by someone who wants to kill you precisely because you’re rich, famous, and more popular than Jesus?

It tells young John Lennon if he agrees to be a famous star of the screen, he absolutely will be murdered in 1980 — there’s nothing he can do to prevent it. Of course, if John, not wanting to die young, gives up a career in music, he’ll (likely) live a longer, but perfectly ordinary, life.

The question that John Lennon has to ponder is which life is the better life — that is, which life is worth repeating for an eternity?

Would John Lennon choose the presumably good life — the life of a rich and famous (and rich) rock star, doomed to die at 40

THEY DON’T CALL IT THE GOOD LIFE FOR NOTHING

Or, would he have chosen an ordinary, not-rich and famous (presumably longer) life?

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A WHAT IF JOHN LENNON WASN’T FAMOUS FLICK, CHECK OUT SNODGRASS (2013)

That’s the question Nietzsche says we (all) must ask about our own lives.

Would you go back, Jack and do it again?

Of course we’ll never know what Lennon’s answer would be, but I have the feeling whatever he chose I’d still end up hearing “Say Say Say”.

Seriously, I like Paul McCartney. I like Michael Jackson. But that song sucks.

SOURCES:

Thomas Nagel. Mortal Questions. New York: Cambridge U. Press. 1979.

The Post Where I Say I’m Grateful About Stuff.

IT’S BEEN AWHILE, I haven’t written anything since March. Anything. ANYTHING,

It’s not that I didn’t want to write. At least for awhile I wanted to. I did. I had all sorts of keen philosophical ideas in my head to write about. But things,,, happened.

I’m not going to say because you all know what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I wanted to write and I didn’t. And then I waited and forgot that brilliant dissertation on Hegel I was going to write.

Sorry folks.

But, as my mama never told me, there’s a silver lining to everything, and forgetting about everything I was going to write about — even my brilliant dissertation on Hegel — can be a good thing.

That Hegel dissertation was gonna be brilliant. Brilliant.

But, since wonderful things can come from complete chaos, a lack of productivity has allowed me to think of the things I’m grateful for.

Which works out pretty swell considering today is Thanksgiving Day.

And they say there’s no such thing as a coincidence.

So… because today is a day to be grateful. And because philosophers like listing things

ok, i don’t know if that’s true, but it seems like something that should be true

Here’s my philosophical things I’m grateful for list:

  • I’m grateful 2020 is almost over.
  • I’m grateful there are folks out there who, despite an overwhelming collective case of The Dumb, are still lovers of wisdom.
  • I’m grateful philosophy is still a thing.
  • I’m grateful I decided (ok, I was persuaded) to add a philosophy major.
  • I’m grateful for Facebook. Yes, There, I said it. I’m grateful for Facebook. And I’m grateful for every one of my likes and followers. I;m a so-so philosopher, and I may never answer that message you sent me, but I appreciate that, of all the philosophy pages on Facebook, you’ve come to mine…. and I promise that I will attempt to try to avoid going cringe.
  • I’m grateful for JSTOR. And the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • I’m grateful for Hegel memes.
  • I’m grateful for The Good Place and the new Star Trek and for all those Netflix shows that got people asking, “what does all of this really mean?”
  • Lastly, if you’re reading this, my silly “philosophy” blog post, however you are reading it, thank you. I’m grateful to you most of all.

A Very Merry Un-birthday To Me

TODAY IS my birthday.

Not gonna say how old I am.

I’m just gonna say I’m another year older.

Another year wiser, presumably.

Presumably.

Another year I understand a little more why Schopenhauer was so damn grumpy.

Well…as another year has passed, I, as I do every year, take a philosophical assessment of my life

I actually do this every year. I’m not lying. 

You know… I may have gained or lost weight between birthdays  (it’s almost always gained). I may be richer or poorer (it’s almost always poorer), but every birthday reminds me to think about the things that are more important than my waistline or bank account.

What am I doing to live the best life philosophically?

I have to say that the answer this year is “not much”.

It’s been kinda a rough year.

Hasn’t it been for everybody?

And yet, here I am. Another birthday. Another year closer to the inevitable.

Sorry I’m being so melancholy. Birthdays get me like that.

You know what’s kinda funny? Every birthday I reflect on my life (philosophically) yet I can’t think of one philosopher who ever said anything about birthdays. I mean, a birthday might be significant philosophically, but are birthdays philosophically significant?

What a philosopher say is the philosophical way to celebrate your birthday?

Would Plato throw a surprise birthday for Aristotle? 

Would Descartes throw back a few birthday shots?

Would Hegel tell a stripper it’s his birthday for a free birthday lap dance? 

Would chowing down on that second piece of birthday cake involve choosing between being a dissatisfied Socrates or a satisfied pig? 

Do philosophers have anything to say about any of this?

I pretty sure Kant had something to say about birthdays.

That guy had something to say about everything.

Anyway… Does it really matter what philosophers have to say about birthdays? I can’t imagine any would have any tips for making a birthday more fun.

They’d all have ways to make your birthday philosophically fun.

And philosophically fun isn’t much fun at all.

I suspect Diogenes would really know how to celebrate a birthday, tho.

I imagine a birthday night out with Diogenes would require stashing away bail money…. because of that public masturbation thing.

Well, folks…

If today’s your birthday, Happy Birthday! You made it through another year. And may the year to come bring you health, wealth, and wisdom.

And if it’s not the date of your birth, have a merry un-birthday and be sure to always have bail money — One of your philosopher pals might invite you out to celebrate a birthday night out on the town.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINDLESS PHILOSOPHY EPISODE I: The Phantom Christmas Post

WELL, FOLKS. IT’S THAT time of year again. It’s time for another mediocre Star Wars flick.

Nah. I’m joking. Rogue One was pretty awesome.

Well…the last two minutes anyway.

Well… Except for that bringing back a young Princess Leia thing. That was a one-way ticket to the uncanny valley. Mind you, it wasn’t Polar Express-level uncanny valley, but Rogue One Princess Leia definitely lives on an Alderaan adjacent to that creepy-kids-with-dead-eyes neighborhood that is Polar Express.

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Yikes.

I guess the silver lining, if there’s any, is that Polar Express isn’t a mediocre movie.

Unlike some Christmas movies, Polar Express is a fairly decent Christmas flick. Some Christmas flicks are downright pieces of shit.

Mediocre.

I’m talking December-release Star Wars flick level mediocre.

A funny thing about Christmas is that it’s a holiday swimming in mediocrity.

Just take, for instance, the Christmas torture device jingle”Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”. That yuletide ditty about a dysfunctional family’s struggle to cope with an alcoholic member of the family’s sudden and tragic (and perhaps not entirely accidental) alcohol-related death is all kinds of suck ass, even for a Christmas song.

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She had hoof prints on her forehead and incriminating Claus marks on her back — that’s not a Christmas song, it’s an episode of Forensic Files.

By the way, Grandpa totally murdered his wife and made it look like she’d been the unfortunate victim of a drive-by sledding. I saw a woman murder her husband the same way on an episode of Snapped.

And let’s not forget that Christmas also spawned the Faul McCartney song “Wonderful Christmastime”. *

I actually like that song.

It’s catchy. Catchy in the same way an incantation from the Necronomicon is… catchy.

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As far as I’m concerned, it ain’t Christmas until I’ve annoyed myself singing that repetitive chant that releases the souls of the ancient ones chorus —

Come on. Sing it with me, folks

SIMPLY HAVING A WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME!!!

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I seriously think that singing the chorus of “Wonderful Christmastime”opens a portal to an alternate dimension.

Probably because every time I sing it, my apartment walls bleed.

But then, red is a Christmas color, so it’s all good.

I have gone dreadfully off topic.

You know, it’s not a regular philosopher thing to associate mediocrity with philosophy. We, that is, those who do philosophy — especially those who do philosophy professionally — wouldn’t use a word like mediocre to describe anything associated with the love of wisdom.

Some might use words like stupid or irrelevant or useless

But not mediocre.

However, the fact that philosophy itself isn’t mediocre, does not mean it’s immune from an occasional bout of mediocrity.

I PROMISE I’M NOT GOING TO USE THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO PICK ON IMMANUEL KANT.

I mean, just say the words “mediocre philosophy” and then count the minutes before somebody says the name Ayn Rand or has something to say about the trolley problem or rolls their eyes at the complete lack of any real-world practicality of the categorical imperative…

Philosophers may consider themselves the Philosopher-Kings of rational thought, but like Star Wars, Christmas music, and odd-numbered Star Trek movies, philosophy has its fair share of not very good ideas.

More than its fair share of mediocre ideas, actually.

Logical positivism fails its own verification principle.

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According to some people, Atlas Shrugged is considered legit philosophy.

Kantianism.

All bad ideas.

All mediocre ideas.

Anyway…

Enough with the philosophy stuff.

It’s Christmas. It’s time to simply do wonderful stuff. It’s time to listen to the choir children sing their song.

They’ve been practicing all year, you know.

It’s time to over drink, over think, over eat, and pretend that philosophy books make good Christmas presents.

Speaking of mediocre…

So, from me, The Mindless Philosopher, to you and your kin, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas or whatever preferred sentiment you use to wage the War On Christmas.

And as I tweeted this afternoon…

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MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!!!

 

 

 

 

* I consider the existence of “Wonderful Christmastime” to be definitive proof that the real Paul McCartney died in 1966. The real Paul would have never recorded this song.

 

 

 

MY FIRST ANNUAL (well…maybe annual) PHILOSOPHICAL HALLOWEEN SPOOKTACULAR

HI.

It’s Halloween time again, and that means it’s that time of year when we forget there’s a November and go straight to playing Christmas music 24/7.

Personally, I’m not much into Christmas (yuletide only reminds me of how poor I am — but hey, I chose a career in philosophy — what did I expect?), but Halloween has always been my kind of thing. For some folks, Halloween is the unnecessary evil between the return of pumpkin spice lattes and blasting “All I Want For Christmas Is You” , but for me, Halloween means:

The spookiness.

Black cats and witches.

AMC’s Monsterfest©

…and all the candy I can eat.

Except for candy corn.

The fact that candy corn is an actual thing is definitive proof that the devil exists.

Now, I’m way past the age that is acceptable to go out trick-or-treating, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t like dressing up for Halloween.

My usual costume is “person who never goes out anymore and just sits at home and overthinks about everything” (the scariest costume of all), but from time to time I try to find a costume that’s not only spooky, but also philosophically appropriate. Unfortunately, I have to say that I haven’t found a spooky, yet philosophically correct Halloween costume.

This disappoints me.

I was really hoping to dress up as sexy Diogenes this year.

SERIOUSLY. What do philosophers do at Halloweentime? What’s a philosophical ghost story? What do poo philosophers do — tell each other spooky stories about logical positivism?

Still…despite the lack of philosophically-themed Halloween costumes, there’s still plenty of scary things that keep this lover of wisdom up at night:

  • Re-reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.
  • Discovering there’s a whole section of Pornhub devoted to “Jeremy Bentham” and “head”.
  • A weekend film festival on the philosophical analysis of the films on Michael Bay.
  • Sketches of Schopenhauer based in the style of Tom of Finland.
  • Hegel.
  • A world where everyone is a utilitarian (or, the possibility that utilitarianism is the only correct moral theory).
  • A series of films based on popular philosophical thought experiments, including a feature-length film based on Kant’s ax murderer scenario, directed by Zach Snyder.

…actually, that last one might not be so horrifying. Maybe swap out Zach Snyder for Eli Roth…it’ll be the PCU — the Philosophical Cinematic Universe..

Picture it: a saga of Nietzsche-based flicks starring Dwayne Johnson as the Ubermensch.

Hey! Nobody steal my idea!!!

Who am I kidding. There ain’t gonna be a PCU.

Although I am kind of surprised that hasn’t been a major motion picture based on the life and tragic death of Camus.

Sure, it’s not Halloween, but how can anyone look at a picture of Camus in the trench with a cigarette and not immediately think that image alone demands a movie starring James Franco as the novelist/philosopher.

Any of this frighten you yet?

No? Maybe you should listen to “All i Want For Christmas Is You”.

I swear, that song scares the hell out of me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Better When I’m Drunk

I HAVE AN IDEA. It might not be an original idea (I think it is, but then again, it might not be) but I gonna say my maybe-not-original idea anyway. Here it is:

Wait. First, a question: do you know that show Drunk History?

No? It’s on Comedy Central. You should check it out.

Ok…back to my idea…

This might take awhile, so hear me out, here.

Well, on the show Drunk History, a famous person (or kinda famous person) gets drunk and tells…history.

You see, the point if the show is that they tell the story of a historical event… While they’re drunk!

It’s supposed to be funny

It often is.

That’s because binge drinking is funny.

So…that said, here’s my idea: HIGH PHILOSOPHY.

It’d be like drunk history, but instead of drunken famous (?) guests recollecting historical events, people get high and talk about… philosophy.

Picture this: a half-hour of professional, recreational, and armchair philosophers telling tales of great people and events in philosophy– ON WEED.

Everyone would watch it, right?

It’d get higher ratings than that M*A*S*H finale, man.

…and higher guest stars.

ALRIGHT…I want to clear up something before I go any further with this: I’m not talking about people getting high and pontificating on things. We’ve all either done or seen this enough times already. And I’m not talking about a bunch of dudes getting high and talking about dumb shit like what kind of dog is Goofy.

Conversations like that sound deep and philosophical but they’re not.

And I’m not talking about any body using hard-core drugs.

Although the idea of watching someone tripping on acid while talking about Diogenes is beyond appealing.

What I am talking about is a couple of dudes getting high (on marijuana – in a state where it’s legal) and talking about philosophy.

It may not seem like it, but this actually is a great idea.

For starters, the philosophy market is wide open. Virtually NOBODY is doing philosophy outside of academis, and no one is doing it on tv.

The Good Place is in its last season, folks. Once it’s off the air, no more prime-time philosophy.

Secondly, there are some pretty interesting characters in philosophy.

Zizek already is a household name.

I mean, come on… just looking at David Chalmers, don’t you want to hear what he has to say about the Kalaam Cosmological Argument?

What’s more, being in a state of high places an individual in a philosophical state.

The likelihood of pontifications on the meaning of life are increased almost ten-fold if an individual is under the influence of mind-altering substances!

Most folks wouldn’t think so, but there are plenty of  partially amusing stories in philosophy that could be made marginally more interesting if told by someone who is under the influence of The Pot:

  • The Death of Socrates
  • Descartes’ method of doubt and his cogito argument (all that evil demon stuff — evil demons are funny if you’re high)
  • Nietzsche dies of a venereal disease…maybe
  • Kierkegaard and Regina
  • Schopenhauer vs. Hegel
  • Bertrand Russell’s amazing sex life (at least I hear he had an amazing sex life…who cares, they’re high, right?)
  • Diogenes of Sinope
  • Sartre and de Beauvoir
  • Sartre’s amazing sex life
  • Foucault
  • Why Camus is the Ryan Gossling of philosophy
  • Anything about Zizek, probably

If nobody has already done this show, somebody needs to whatever the not-porn equivalent to Rule 34 is to this idea and make HIGH PHILOSOPHY: the series happen.

Oh god, Rule 34 philosophy is an even better idea!

I mean, Kant already sounds like a dirty word…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Everybody’s out there philosophizing and I’m just sitting here…

I THINK I’M NEGLECTING my philosophical duty to be a gadfly.

I mean, I think I should be saying something about some stuff. Denying the local gods… corrupting the youth — that sort of stuff — philosopher things. I mean, what’s not to talk about?

There’s a lot of political stuff going on out there.

It’s not that I want to avoid saying anything, it’s just that I…don’t.

I know that’s not very a Socratic thing of me to do. Socrates was a speak your mind kind of guy. At least I think he was. Of course, all I know about Socrates is from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

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DUST. WIND. DUDE. YEP. THAT’S ALL I KNOW

Socrates spoke his mind. He challenged the MAN out there in ancient Athens. So much so the city of Athens put Socrates to death. They made him drink hemlock. Socrates’ followers begged him to not drink it, but he did it anyway. That’s because Socrates believed in what he believed in and accepted his death sentence like a real philosopher should.

He wasn’t a punk about it.

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SOCRATES AND THE ORIGINAL TOXIC FANDOM

These days, drinking hemlock is easy. You could get your own reality tv show about that.

The fear these days is being doxxed.

Well, until that Equifax data breach. You can bet your personal info is out there now.

The thing is, it’s not that I don’t want to say anything. I do. I’ve got plenty to say about EVERYTHING.

I am philosopher, after all.

I have a political science degree (the second most useless degree). That almost guarantees that I’ve got more than a few things to say about politics. Jf you think about it, how can anyone look at the state of international events and the Trump Administration and not have something to say?

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YOU SAY YOU HAVE THE BEST WORDS, MR. PRESIDENT? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED

All this shit going on around the world is enough to bring out the inner Socrates in anybody.

And yet, I am silent.

…bout politics anyway.

I could have a TEDx talk. I could be the cool kids’ philosopher. I could reach the same level of the pop culture popularity as Slavoj Žižek..if I said something.

But I don’t.

But I’m not out there delivering my life-affirming, yet philosophically enlightening talk on the TEDx stage. I’m not Ben Shapiro, the cool kids’ philosopher. I finally have to admit that, at this point, I’m never gonna be as zeitgeisty as Žižek.

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PICTURED: A ZEITGEISTY ZIZEK MEME

The philosopher’s place in society is to ask questions and to challenge the fundamental assumptions upon which we derive our “knowledge” of things, but I’m having none of that.

It seems like everybody’s out there philosophizing and I’m just sitting here masturbating.

Wait — whoops.

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Alright. I might have overshared a bit, but my POINT is that I feel like I should be saying something about what’s going on.

Something philosophical.

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WHY? Well, the why I feel like I feel I’m neglecting my philosophical duty to say something about current events is because everybody else is saying something, but philosophers have been (strangely and inexplicably) silent.

I don’t want to hate, but when we get to the point when reality tv show people are asked for their opinions on the Trump tax cut — on the news — I think it’s time to have at least one philosopher spend a few minutes chatting it up with Chuck Todd. About anything.

What does Saul Kripke think about this season of The Bachelorette?

I dunno. But, it makes as much sense asking Kripke about The Bachelorette as it does asking any other rando about politics

Especially about politics.

You see, philosophers were the first political scientists. Not many people know this, but philosophers INVENTED politics. Have you read The Republic? Second Treatise of Government? A Theory of Justice? Alright, nobody has. But they were all written by philosophers!

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PHOTO OF SOCRATES EXPLAINING TO INTERLOCUTOR WHO INVENTED POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY (circa 380 BCE, colorized)

 

Philosophers were the first people to write about the law. Do you like Law and Order? Do you watch Judge Judy?

Thank a philosopher for that.

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You like The Matrix? Are you a Trekkie? Ever wondered where John Locke got his name from on the tv show Lost? Enjoying The Good Place? Have you ever considered the moral implications of not killing Marty at the end of The Cabin In the Woods?

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ACTUALLY, WE KNOW WHAT HAPPENED WHEN MARTY DIDN’T DIE

THAT’S ALL BECAUSE OF PHILOSOPHERS.

Wait…

I know what you’re saying… How can I claim that there are no philosophers out there saying anything about anything? “The cool kids’ philosopher” (aka, Ben Shapiro) is out there destroying folks with FACTS and LOGIC. So is Jordan Peterson. Heck, Slavoj Žižek is all over the place enough to generate a dank meme stash.

 

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PICTURED: A DANK ZIZEK MEME

I can’t say I’ve never seen Cornel West on MSNBC.

Cornel West is on The Matrix DVD commentary, for goodness sake!

Isn’t that enough philosophy?

After all, didn’t Hawking say that philosophy is dead?

It’s not like philosophy is as popular as Lizzo and NOBODY is demanding philosophers  join the MCU.

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DEFEATING THANOS WITH THE POWER OF INDIFFERENCE

 

OK. Reality check time. I know that even the most popular contemporary philosopher (yes, even best-selling author Jordan Peterson)  isn’t as popular as the least well-known Jonas Brother. I know that philosophers, especially philosophers in academia, ain’t EVER going to be popular ’round here.

Not as long as philosophers don’t look like this:

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Or like this….

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Let’s be honest, Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson are philosophers but they’re not PHILOSOPHERS. And PHILOSOPHERS are the kind of philosophers I’m talking about. Sure, Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life is fine, and kudos to Russell Brand for diving head-long into the role of public intellectual, but where are the folks who actually studied philosophy????

Jordan Peterson is a psychologist.

Not knocking psychology, but a psychologist ain’t a philosopher.

Ok, except for William James.

Where are the ethicists to tell us about the morality of the Trump tariffs? Where are the epistemologists to chat with Rachel Maddow about the known unknowns?

Why doesn’t Judith Butler have her own reality tv show?

Why isn’t Žižek on Ellen?

Come on, this guy was made for tv.

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Where’s the philosopher “grab her by the pussy” tape?*

But, alas…. there are no philosophers on tv. Or anywhere else in the public square.

I think I know why.

Philosophers aren’t on tv (or anywhere else in public) in part, because of the perception that philosophy is tedious and boring and irrelevant. Unfortunately, philosophers haven’t done much to change this perception. Philosophers, unlike other dork professions like astronomy, quantum physics, and whatever field of science Bill Nye the Science Guy actually does, ain’t leaving the academy to chat with normal folks. Philosophers don’t talk about philosophy with people who aren’t philosophers.

it’s kind of like philosophers just talk to themselves.

kind of  like….masturbating.

…at least intellectually.

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Philosophy has got a terminal case of academicitis.

And that’s what it is, I think. Even though I’m not a professional philosopher, I’m still a product of the academia. And, as a product of the academia, I carry the academic attitude — namely, the attitude that the only people who are worthy of having philosophical conversations with are other philosophers.

What’s stopping me from speaking out is I’m a snob.

This attitude isn’t uncommon in philosophy. Philosophers tend to be a snobby bunch of assholes.

Trust me, most philosophers are assholes.

(seriously, Google “philosophers are assholes” and see what comes up in your search results)

The fact that philosophers are (on whole) intellectual masturbating assholes is kinda odd, considering that Bertrand Russell suggested that philosophy should be for everyone. Russell wrote:

…even in the time that can easily be spared without injury to the learning of technical skills, philosophy can give certain things that will greatly increase the student’s value as a human being and as a citizen.

Now, I know that being an asshole (especially an intellectual masturbating one) is the wrong way to go, and I know Bertrand Russell said that philosophy shouldn’t be exclusively for philosophers, but gash darn if I’m still not throwing my philosophical two cents in when it comes to politics and other current events.

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I should be shouting nuggets of philosophical wisdom from the rooftops! I should be telling the not-philosopher people how and what a philosopher should think about all things political. I should be enlightening the people on the foundations of democracy. I should be telling everyone on how studying Lock and Montesquieu will change their lives. Regular folks tweet gossip about Taylor Swift and Kardashians. I should tweet about Hegel and Peter van Inwagen.  I shouldn’t be able to say more than three sentences in a conversation without paraphrasing Kant  — but I’m not. I’m not saying anything. Not even in this blog.

I SHOULD HAVE A PODCAST DEVOTED EXCLUSIVELY TO TALKING ABOUT POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY! I SHOULD BE THE FOX NEWS (equivalent) OF PHILOSOPHY, DAMMIT!!!!

But I don’t.

And because of this, I can’t help from thinking that I’m neglecting my philosophical duty to be a gadfly.

I mean, there’s a lot going on out there to talk about.

And why should Jordan Petersen be the only guy in the spotlight?

But I guess if I’m gonna be on camera, I gotta work on my abs.

And I really should stop being a snob.

And I should stop masturbating.

…intellectually speaking, that is.

 

 

 

 

*This comment originally had the name John Searle in it: “Where is John Searle’s ‘grab her by the pussy’ tape”?  I originally wrote this line based on the recent sexual harassment scandal involving well-noted philosopher John Searle. I thought it would be better to change the comment from Searle’s name to “philosopher” to avoid further dragging Searle’s name in the mud.,,,,although I just mentioned Searle’s name and the scandal here. 

MY RESTING BITCH FACE (aka, I look like Schopenhauer)

I REMEMBER I ONE DAY while I was walking down the street……

I usually spend my time while walking thinking about current events or my daily philosophical musings, but that day I wasn’t really thinking of anything in particular. I was kinda minding my own business.  As I was not thinking about anything in particular, I walked by a guy from the telephone company working on some telephone lines.

As I passed by. minding my own business, the telephone worker guy exclaimed, “Damn! You look like you just killed somebody!”

I look like I killed somebody?!?!? But this is how I always look.

I mean, It’s my face.

Apparently, despite my inner mood, I always look angry.

Actually, homicidal.

That was the day I discovered I have something called RESTING BITCH FACE.

On the inside, I think I’m thinking happy thoughts, but on the outside I look like this:

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I guess if I want to be philosophically correct, I’d say I look less like this

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And more like this:

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If I had to put a philosopher’s name to it, I guess you can say I have resting Schopenhauer face.

Although I just posted a couple of pictures of Slavoj Žižek.

Schopenhauer looked like this:

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CLEARLY A HAPPY LAD

 

H.L. Mencken said, “There is no record in history of a happy philosopher.” I guess that’s true. philosophy isn’t known for its appeal to one’s funny bone.  In Plato’s Republic, Socrates says that laughter should be discouraged, in particular, laughter among the  members of the Guardians class.  Plato (as Socrates) writes,

for ordinarily when one abandons himself to violent laughter, his condition provokes a violent reaction.

So… if the father of Western philosophy says we shouldn’t be laughing all the time, it’s not hard to imagine that, for philosophers, resting Schopenhauer face isn’t just a facial expression, but a way of life. THE LIFE OF A PHILOSOPHER IS AN UNHAPPY LIFE. If you want to be a philosopher, you gotta perfect the look of a man who looks like, as a random telephone wire repair man would say, he just killed somebody.

Just look at this batch of philosopher sour pusses!

IMMANUEL KANT:

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GEORG HEGEL:

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THE SIDE EYE IS ON POINT

LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN:

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FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE:

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HE’S NOT SMILING UNDER HIS MUSTACHE

Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule. 

You can find plenty of pics of Foucault smiling.

 

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That half smile on Rousseau’s face is hard to miss…

 

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THE HALF SMILE OF A MAN WHO JUST DITCHED HIS FIVE KIDS

I guess the lesson here is, to be a happy philosopher you have to either abandon your kids or be into BDSM.

Hey, I’m halfway there already!

Anyhoo…. I think I’ve figured out that a life of loving wisdom is, by nature, a fairly unhappy thing.  Finding WISDOM and TRUTH in a world that runs on lies, alternative facts, and truthiness is an often hapless task. It’s not surprising that so many philosophers sport a frown turned upside down. Unfortunately for me, the more years I do this philosopher thing, the more less happy I get.

I think I kinda figured out why:

When I started a Facebook page for my blog (which was an blog for my book — or was it the other way around?) I wanted folks to know that  written philosophy isn’t just for professional philosophers. I wanted people to enjoy reading philosophy. Not exactly all academic level philosophy, but philosophy that would come from anyone who is a fan of all things philosophical. I wanted my blog and my other social media pages to serve as a platform for me and other people who write about philosophical stuff to share their works.

I really need to tweet more.

…and I gotta post more than one picture a month on Instagram.

But, despite my best laid plans, this is the internet and the internet is all about the memes. So, I started posting philosophy memes. It wasn’t long after I started posting memes that I realized that memes generated more likes than written philosophical content.

I had this revelation: MEMES ARE THE ONLY THING THAT GETS LIKES.

Even if it’s philosophy.

So now, I post memes with an occasional (actual philosophy) post. I throw in an original post only occasionally.

BECAUSE ORIGINAL MATERIAL DOES NOT GET LIKES — unless it’s a meme.

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Here’s what I think: memes killed words on the internet. WORDS. SENTENCES. ACCURACY. COHERENT THOUGHTS….

That’s kinda the stuff that philosophy is all about.

……..And since I’m griping, may I add that people treat comment threads like it’s open mic night at Uncle Fuckety’s Chuckle Hut* and they’re testing their new material for their next Netflix stand-up special.

This situations doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.

This has got me feelin’ all

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I don’t know what made Schopenhauer sport the perpetual stinkeye (as there was no internet or philosophy memes back then)

Wait — we do know. It was Hegel.

…but I know what’s got me giving the Wittgenstein death stare when I walk down the street.

I could be thinking about the current state of philosophy.

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You know, It’s probably nothing. It’s just my face.

Pretty sure it was just Schopenhauer’s face, too.

 

 

 

Nah. It was because of Hegel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*I totally stole this phrase from Stewie Griffin (The Family Guy).

If Daryl Dies…. eh… I’m not even watching anymore

WELL, FOLKS… IT’S APRIL and April means the season finale of my favorite tv show.

I couldn’t tell you what happened, tho.

I didn’t watch it.

I haven’t watched the entire season, actually.

That’s because it used to be my favorite tv show.

Unfortunately, the fate that has befallen so many others has finally happened to me: I am no longer a fan of The Walking Dead.*

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MEMORIES OF BETTER DAYS… AND BETTER EPISODES

I gotta admit, it’s been a fun ride. I was genuinely impressed for a few seasons.

Most tv shows these days have only a handful of good episodes.

Don’t get me wrong, The Walking Dead has never been as impressive as Westworld or Game of Thrones (or its fellow AMC drama series, Mad Men), but for a tv show that is — honestly speaking — a soap opera about zombies, The Walking Dead has supplied a more than expected bounty of philosophical stuff (and thangs) to think about.

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RICK GRIMES IS THINKING… PROBABLY BAD DECISIONS THAT WILL GET PEOPLE KILLED, BUT HE’S THINKING

Listen: if kinda sorta doing philosophy for awhile has taught me anything, it’s taught me that philosophical stuff is everywhere. Literally everywhere.

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Buzz gets it.

A great thing about studying philosophical stuff, believe it or not, is discovering philosophy in stuff that isn’t explicitly philosophical. Sure, you can spend your summer boning up on Kant’s categorical imperative or slogging through Hegel (that nobody wants to read or actually reads), but wouldn’t you rather not do that if you don’t have to do it?

Wouldn’t you rather just watch tv instead?

FUN WITH PHILOSOPHY: if, by watching a tv show, we can not only learn philosophical ideas easier, but also expose a greater number of people to philosophy, we are OBLIGATED to watch the tv show!

How do we know it’s an obligation? 

Utilitarianism.

And, utilitarianism is PHILOSOPHY.

In the whatever-many years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve written posts entirely about or have mentioned The Walking Dead in no fewer than 39 posts. I’ve used The Walking Dead to write about philosophical topics including (but not limited to):

  • Determinism vs. Free Will
  • Moral Culpability
  • The Ethics of Pacifism
  • Hobbes’ State of Nature
  • Socrates’ Philosopher-King
  • Gettier Problems
  • The Meaning of Life
  • The Metaphysics of the Undead
  • The Ethics of Loyalty
  • Justifying killing
  • The Ethics of Veganism
  • The Utilitarian/Hedonistic Calculus
  • The Trolley Problem
  • Moral consistency (or, if I’m writing about Rick Grimes, moral inconsistency)
  • …And some other philosophical stuff

And– although I got my problems with Negan, I can’t think of another tv series that has inspired me philosophically.

Wait a minute there is one.

Star Trek.

Another tv show is Star Trek. 

The thing is, unlike The Walking Dead, Gene Roddenberty created Star Trek with philosophical subtext in mind. Classic Star Trek episodes “The City On the Edge Of Forever”, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield”, “The Measure of a Man”, “Yesterday’s Enterprise”, and “Thine Own Self” are extra philosophical.

And who can forget this philosophical as hell episode?

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The episode “Plato’s Stepchildren” isn’t merely philosophical — it also features one of tv’s first interracial kiss.

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And THAT’S the reason why I used to like The Walking Dead. The philosophy wasn’t served up on a platter like an episode of Star Trek or a philosophy-themed series like The Good Place.

If you wanted to get down and philosophical while watching The Walking Dead, you had to dig for it. You had to put on a yellow miner helmet with a little flashlight and mine every that-didn’t-happen-in-the-comic-book moment (like that whole fiasco of Glenn’s under-the-dumpster plot twist, aka the moment everybody yelled “you’ve got to be kidding me!!!”) to find the philosophical subtext. Episodes like season 4’s “The Grove” and season 2’s “Judge, Jury, Executioner” demonstrate the ethical dilemma — do we kill one to save many –– as well as any other Trolley Problem scenerio. The characters Rick, Shane, The Governor, and Negan depict examples of leadership guided by ethical principles and the justifications each uses for their individual leadership styles — the benevolent autocracy of Rick Grimes, the seeming utopia of The Governor, the violent dictatorship of Negan…

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YEAH. , AIN’T JUST LUCILLE

I could (believe me, I did) go on for hours explaining why The Walking Dead wasn’t the best tv show on the air — it was the most GOOD show on tv.

By GOOD, I meant The Walking Dead  wasn’t just “good” because it was entertaining, but GOOD because it was philosophically beneficial.

Like, watching The Walking Dead gets you all up in the eudaimonia –philosophically beneficial.

I no longer do that.

I’m no longer a fan of the show.

So I don’t watch the show anymore.

For all I know, season 9 might have been philosophical AF. 

I hope it was.

Not likely, but I hope it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

* for the one of you that was wondering exactly why I’ve stopped watching The Walking Dead, I can only explain my dis-fandom by saying the show caught a bad case of The Dumb.

Y’all that also don’t watch any more know what I mean.

Misinterpretation Station

I’LL BE THE FIRST to admit that I rarely ever read comments.

It’s not because I don’t want to read comments. I do. I would never discourage anyone from writing them, even on my blog where I almost certainly will never read them. I just never get around to reading them. My mind is always occupied by other things.

Like composing the perfectly philosophically adroit tweet inside my head and then never actually tweeting it.

I’m kidding I never think about that. Never.

When I do get around to reading comments — and I do appreciate anyone who takes the time to write one — there’s a particular kind of comment that I never fail to enjoy:

It’s the comment that starts off like, I think you misunderstand what so-and-so said…

it’s the not-negatively phrased negative comment that philosophers love to make.

Listen: I kinda know that.

It’s kinda the point.

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Sometimes I’m wrong. But sometimes… I’m wrong on purpose. 

The key to being wrong on purpose is that you actually gotta know what you’re talking about.

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It’s kind of like how people say that Marilyn Monroe made a career playing the dumb blonde, but was in on the joke the whole time. She was smart enough to know there was money to be had in playing dumb.

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OK. MAYBE NOT THE BEST EXAMPLE. I SHOULD HAVE SAID JAYNE MANSFIELD. YOU KNOW… BECAUSE SHE HAD A HIGH I.Q.

Although you’d be hard pressed to find even one professional philosopher who would admit that they were ever wrong (aka, dumb), even if they’re in on the joke.

…unlike Marilyn Monroe.

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THIS WOULDN’T BE A MUG IF PHILOSOPHERS EVER THOUGHT THEY WERE EVER WRONG

When I was a kid, I used to go to Bible study.

I know, we all do strange things in our childhood.

Anyway, while I was supposed to be reading the Bible to learn the correct way to interpret the infallible word of God, I was more interested in learning all the ways people get Bible verses wrong.

There are a lot of bad ideas about what the Bible says out there, and by golly, I was going to figure it all out.

I was ten years old.

You see… the way I see it, the one thing that makes the examined life worth living is grabbing a philosophical idea or two and then pushing and pulling the (ever-loving) shit out of it, just to see where it goes.

even if, in the end, all our pushing and pulling goes nowhere.

even if, in the end, we got it all wrong.

We all know that philosophers have a thing for an exact fit. That is to say, we (assuming I can call myself a philosopher) like the theories that not only look good on paper, but also  explain the how and why of everything and defeat all counterarguments in any and every philosophical situation — real or thought experiment.

But if you’ve lived for more than two minutes outside of a philosophy class, you’d know that the real world doesn’t work that way. There is no exact fit. Contrary to whatever Immanuel Kant may have thought about his transcendental idealism, there is no theory that does — or can — explain everything.

or in that case of Kant, explain anything.

…and that’s where all that pop culture stuff comes in.

You see folks, we can use movies, books, notable people and events, and tv shows (collectively known as “pop culture”) to push and pull on philosophical ideas. We can use pop culture as ready-made thought experiment templates, filled with characters and situations we can use to expand, clarify or even disregard philosophical ideas (in the real world) when we apply, and at times, misapply philosophy.

Is the movie Groundhog Day and exact fit of Nietzsche’s eternal return? No. It isn’t.

Is The Matrix the most philosophically correct depiction of whatever it was that Descartes said about not knowing if the world is real and all that evil demon stuff?

Nope.

Is Ferris Bueller an true Randian objectivist? Probably not.

He’s actually more of a utilitarian.

Would Descartes say that cinematic zombies don’t think, so therefore they aren’t am, so therefore they aren’t rational beings, so therefore we can regard them in the same way that we would regard a clock….or a cat?

…wait a minute, he probably would say that.

The point is, is that when you apply philosophical ideas (or theories) to something pop culture-ish, like a movie or a fictional character, there will always be multiple ways to interpret how a character is and what that character does.

…unless your name is Ingmar Bergman and you totally made your movie philosophical intentionally.

Multiple ways to interpret things correctly also means there are multiple ways to misinterpret things.  Misinterpreting (even the intentional misinterpretation) a philosophical idea or how the idea can be applied in the real world does some good, too. How else would you know if it works?

And really, not getting it right doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

Especially if you’re having fun.

And anyway, who cares? It’s not like you’re up for tenure.

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ALTHOUGH I’M NOT HAVING MUCH FUN WITH THE WALKING DEAD ANYMORE (sucks what they did to Carl)

So… pack a bag and come with me down to misinterpretation station!

You might just enjoy yourself doing some philosophical pushin’ and pullin’.