25 THOUGHTS ABOUT PHILOSOPHY

I’VE BEEN DOING this philosophy thing for a few years now.

I’ve done the college. I’ve done the book. I do the blog.

In fact, this isn’t my first philosophy blog.

I had another one. It was called The Kantian Egoist. I ended that blog to start up this blog, The Mindless Philosopher. I think I’ll be doing this for awhile.

Earning a philosophy degree, writing a book, and writing a philosophy blog for a few years – that’s a lot of years thinking about things. In particular, it’s a lot of years spent thinking about philosophy.

And after thinking about philosophy for a few years, I’ve come to a few conclusions.

Twenty five, to be exact.

Some of these thoughts I hold to with more conviction than others. Some are just thoughts that popped up in my head and I probably won’t believe in a couple of months.

I think these few things:

1. Don’t get into philosophical arguments with people who aren’t philosophers.

Philosopher/non-philosopher arguments never turn out well – especially for the philosopher. If you feel the need to use some philosophical jargon coming on, just stop talking. Things can only go downhill from there.

2. Everything ultimately is philosophical.

Everything.

3. Philosophy isn’t dead or dying. It’s just having a really bad hair day.

6357338101003128221881152669_screen20shot202015-07-2420at207-07-2320pm

 

The very act of declaring philosophy is dead is a philosophical statement. ‘Nuff said.

4. There’s nothing wrong with having a philosophy degree.

useless-degrees-philosophy

*NOT ACCURATE

5. Everyone is a little bit of a philosopher, and not just when they’re drunk.

download (1)

6. Philosophers drink way too much alcohol… and coffee.

n-at-any-rate-570

7. There is a real problem with academic philosophy.

Academic philosophy is out of touch with what’s going on outside academia. Professional philosophers spend too much time focusing on theory and not enough time on real people in the real world.

8. Accept the fact that there will always be people who think what you do is useless.

Like they say, haters gonna hate.

1kzone

9. Analytic philosophy will make you a better thinker, but continental philosophy will tell you what’s going on.

Or at least to figure out David Lynch flicks.

eraserhead-baby

WHAT. THE. F@#K?

10. There is a real possibility that the postmodernists won.

11. Dropping Hegel’s name in conversation will never make you appear smarter. Even when talking to philosophers.

12. Whatever you think you know about Nietzsche’s philosophy, you’re probably wrong.

If someone tells you they’re a nihilist, they probably ain’t.

13. If you ever see these on someone’s bookshelf, RUN.

2790769920_19a26894d2_z

14. Nobody’s arguments are a declarative statement, supported by a set of premises. Nobody in the real world argues like that. Not even philosophers.

15. There’s more to philosophy than what you read in college.

16. Read the German philosophers. You won’t like it, but you’ll appreciate it after to do.

Well, at least try to read the German philosophers. We’ll understand if you skip Hegel.

wqjmmn

17. Read some Eastern philosophy. Heck, read philosophy that wasn’t written by a man or a western European.

18. Don’t forget that you’re a part of all of this too. Philosophy is not a spectator sport.

19. If you’re on a bus and you want people to leave you alone, read Kant. Better yet, read Hegel.

3466829003_1361d8a8bd_b

YEAH. NOBODY’S GONNA TALK TO THIS GUY

20. If you want to start a conversation, read Marx or Rand.

img_5799-500x500

CHICKS DEFINITELY WANT TO TALK TO THIS GUY

21. Something may sound profound, but it ain’t always philosophical.

22. All philosophical theories/schools of thought have been depicted in at least one episode of Star Trek.

Name an episode: Second Chances, A Measure of a Man, The Omega Directive… any episode. IT’S ALL PHILOSOPHY.

23. Woody Allen is not the end-all, be-all of philosophical filmmaking. Its ok if you’re not a fan.

You can learn a bit from watching old Toho Godzilla flicks, too.

7568456

THERE ARE INNUMERABLE MORAL IMPLICATIONS OF FUCKING THIS BRIDGE

24. Consulting Wikipedia and/or watching YouTube philosophy videos is acceptable to explain/clarify a philosophical theory or concept (so long as neither is your only primary source).

25. And lastly, I thought this: Never let anyone make you feel like your well-reasoned, philosophy-based ideas, observations, or arguments aren’t relevant or are worth less because you studied “philosophy”.

Philosophy is the mother of medicine. Philosophy also is the mother of science. And philosophy is the mother of political science and economics. Plato’s Republic influence on politics stretches from ancient Greece to Washington D.C. today. Adam Smith called himself a moral philosopher. Aristotle’s philosophy not only shaped the Catholic Church but also shaped western civilization. Whether folks want to believe it or not, philosophers and their irrelevant, navel-gazing thoughts have shaped and influenced ideas and institutions since… well, since forever. If anybody gives me guff about studying philosophy or being a philosopher, I tell them to buzz off.

large

Or I can call the nay sayers “flat-headed, insipid, nauseating”, and “illiterate” – just like Schopenhauer said about Hegel.

Becoming A Philosopher Was the Worst Thing To Happen To My Record Collection

I WASN’T BORN a fan of philosophy.

Many, many years ago I was just another latch-key kid who watched too much TV. With an empty house, plenty of snacks, and a TV remote in hand, I spent countless hours not doing my homework, watching everything from He-Man to The People’s Court to The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Back in the day, when music television meant a channel actually showed music videos, I watched a lot of MTV.
Now, back then, when music videos were becoming a thing, most videos weren’t very good.

And sometimes after watching a video, you would wish you’d never seen what the band actually looked like.

 

3-air-guitar

I WISH I’D NEVER SEEN THIS VIDEO

But every so often you’d see a video that had something more than bad camera work, cheesy sets and costumes, and big 80’s hair going on.

Some videos gave you the idea that there we something going on behind what we see.

In some cases, the thing going on behind the thing we see is philosophical.

Before I had ever heard of Jean-Paul Sartre. Before I had heard of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. And long before I had ever heard of postmodernism, I had heard of David Bowie.

Not only were Bowie’s music videos visually stunning, but many of his videos would leave me thinking, “Is there something else going on, here?”

As it turns out, there almost always was.

 

bowie-ashes-o

LOOK CLOSELY. THERE’S SOMETHING GOING ON, HERE

This explains why when David Bowie died in January of this year, I felt a little sadder than I normally would for the usual celebrity death. Bowie’s death wasn’t just the loss of a musical idol. It was a philosophical loss as well.

 

bowie kierkegaard

THE FACT THAT THEY LOOK ALIKE MAY NOT BE COINCIDENTAL

If I had my choice, I’d much prefer that my philosophical lessons come from watching music videos rather than from reading philosophy books. Really, if you think about it most songs are kinda philosophical, so it would make (some) sense that one would learn a philosophical lesson or two from their favorite musician.

 

bill ted and socrates

WE ALL REMEMBER THAT TIME SOCRATES TOURED WITH WYLD STALLYNS

 

It wouldn’t be too unreasonable, then, to consider the philosophy of some musicians in the same way that we adhere to the ideas of a particular philosopher.

The trouble pops up when one’s musical idols become what YouTube famous* atheist Steve Shives calls “problematic”.

And David Bowie certainly is “problematic”.

 

apollo-13-houston-we-have-a-problem-tom-hanks

 

David Bowie, like many other musicians, had certain relations that may be called “inappropriate”.

 

(comment) chris hansen

THIS KIND OF INAPPROPRIATE

“Baby Groupie” Lori Mattix recounted in an article for Thrillist that was deflowered by Bowie in the 1970s when she was just 14 years old.

Although Mattix insists that she’s suffered no irreparable damage from her encounter with David Bowie (in fact, Mattix says she was a willing participant and has no regrets), the fact that Bowie was an adult and Mattix had not yet reached the age of consent presents a problem. To wit: sexual relations with an individual under the age of consent, even if the individual is willing, is illegal.

The law calls it statutory rape.

 

giphy

 

The statutory rape allegations against David Bowie rape have lead some to argue that we should think of Bowie less like this:

 

Greatest Artists of All Time

 

and more like this:

 

bowie mugshot

 

The reason why, I think, has something to do with the fact that our favorite musicians are more than mere entertainers.

You see, music, according to Socrates, is an essential element in life. Not just because listening to music makes a long road trip fun, but because music plays a part in the formation of a good soul.

According to Socrates, it is important that we not only listen to music, but also listen to the right kind of music.

 

don't let your baby

And because the music we listen to is the right kind of music the quality of the music also reflects the quality of the people making the music. The right kind of music is made by the right kind of people.

And by “the right kind of people” we mean the kind of right-souled examples the community should follow.

 

not socrates 2

IT’S NOT AN UNFAIR ASSUMPTION THAT SOCRATES WOULD APPROVE OF MUSIC PERFORMED ONLY BY PEOPLE DRESSED LIKE THIS

 

But what about philosophers? As lovers of wisdom, philosophers should also be the right-souled kind of people the community should follow. Socrates even suggested that society should be ruled a philosopher-king. If we use the same standard for philosophers that we use for music and the makers of music, how many philosophers qualify as the right kind of people?
Well, let’s take a look at a few philosophers, shall we?
Hume and Kant were racists. Jean-Jacques Rousseau abandoned his family. Hegel was shitty to his illegitimate son. Hegel also said “The difference between man and woman is as between animal and plant”. Schopenhauer was a misogynist who described women as “[a] mental myopic” and pushed a woman down a flight of stairs.

 

arthur schopenhauer 1

Bertrand Russell had multiple infidelities with the wives of his friends. Nietzsche was a German nationalist who may or may not have influenced the Nazis. Heidegger was a Nazi. Descartes experimented on cats while they were still alive. Diogenes masturbated in public. Colin McGinn resigned from his position at the University of Miami following allegations by a female student of sexual harassment . Rutgers University philosophy professor, Anna Stubblefield was tried and convicted of sexually assaulting an intellectually disabled man.

 

Foucault was just weird.

 

sexy foucault

If you think about it, it’s not exactly a group of good souls.

Long story short, if we’re looking for the kind of good-souled people worth following, we may find very few in philosophy.

And that’s the point – just like some advised when David Bowie’s sexual improprieties came to light following his death – perhaps we should learn to separate the artist from his art – and the philosopher from his philosophy.

art from artist

philosophy from philosopher

 

Although I think that it’s sometimes for our own psychological peace of mind to ignore the unsavory bits of a philosopher’s or artist’s personal life, there’s something about overlooking the unpleasant parts that kinda, well, bugs me.

 

grinds my gears

EXCUSE ME WHILE I HAVE A PETER GRIFFIN MOMENT

I mean, why would we? Can we ignore the unsavory bits? Should we? Is it to our philosophical benefit to excise aspects of a person’s life and actions? Are some illegal acts really no big deal? At what point can we or should we not overlook the personal life or actions of a pop culture idol or a philosopher?

 

no heidegger

 

To be honest, I don’t know. I’m well aware of Bertrand Russell’s adulterous behavior and yet I still believe that Russell is one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. I’ve read the racist views of Hume and Kant and yet I still refer to Kant’s ethics and Hume’s metaphysics regularly in my writing. And even though Schopenhauer truly was an awful person, he retains a soft spot in my heart.

 

I still hate Hegel, though.

Finding out that Hegel was a turd of a human being only makes me hate him more.

 

hegel TLDR

 

I probably won’t stop listening to David Bowie’s music, either.

 

I think, in the end, we shouldn’t be required to abandon our fandom or appreciation for Hegel, Heidegger, Hume, Kant, or David Bowie. What we should be, however, is mindful. We should be mindful of the fact that anyone we look up to, be they a philosopher or our favorite singer, is a flawed human being.

We should never fail to remind ourselves that the ability to communicate profound words or deep insights does not make a person perfect (nor should it). We should remember that sometimes even good people do bad things.
tumblr_inline_mxe0qqbxnq1qcryb6

When all is said and done, there’s still a philosophical lesson to be learned – if only for the opportunity to ask what do we do when our idols are “problematic”?

I still don’t know.

If you figure out the answer let me know.

 

 

 

 

* I mean the term “YouTube famous” un-disparagingly, but to merely state that Steve Shives has a sizable following on YouTube. I, for one, am rather jealous of Shives’ following. I’m not even “Wordpress famous”.
I would also recommend checking out Shives’ commentary on David Bowie: 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/01/17/david-bowie-and-rock-n-roll-s-statutory-rape-problem.html

I F@&#ING LOVE PHILOSOPHY

philosophers vs welders

 

 

I’VE BEEN WRITING The Mindless Philosopher blog for some time now. And I’m not ashamed to say that after one book and years of blogging that I have developed a true love of wisdom. I have more philosophy books on my bookshelf than any other genre of literature.

It wasn’t always the case, though.

My first intellectual love wasn’t philosophy. It was politics.

I LOVED politics.

The mere thought of a presidential election cycle gave me the all over tinglies.

However, my love of all things political eventually faded and I found happiness with another, older, love

PHILOSOPHY.

 

From the moment I read my first line of Hume, I was hooked. I’ve been through Kant and Russell. Descartes and Kierkegaard. Aristotle and Kripke. I truly believe that there’s no greater intellectual satisfaction than actually understanding Hegel.

I can’t put it any other way than to say

 

i fucking love philosophy

 

This is why it distresses me so much to hear practitioners of my first love speak with such harshness towards something I hold so dear to my heart.

On November 10, 2015, during the Republican Presidential debate, Florida Senator, Marco Rubio said:

 

Rubio debate 1

 

Needless to say, I took the Senator’s sentiments personally.

I was perplexed. Hurt. I sat and stared at my TV set, baffled by what I had just seen.

 

my-mad-fat-diary-rae-what-face

 

Rubio’s inexplicable attack on philosophers was not his first, nor was Senator Rubio’s comment the only anti-philosopher sentiment expressed during the debate. Senator Ted Cruz (R, Texas), asserted that the Federal Reserve is being run by “a series of philosopher kings.” Said Senator Cruz

What the fed is doing now, it is a series of philosopher kings trying to guess what’s happening to the economy.

tumblr_nangn827x01rfduvxo1_250

 

The candidates might have talked all about budgets and foreign policy, but for me, the overwhelming message I took from the debate was

 

philosophy

 

I could have gotten angry about what I believed was straight-up philosophy bashing. I didn’t though. I didn’t because I think I know what Senator Rubio is trying to get at.

Assuming that Senator Rubio isn’t just on an anti-philosopher kick, the Senator is expressing his frustration over the fact that our culture does not value manual labor. We over value occupations where people talk and pontificate (and in some cases, literally don’t produce anything) over occupations where people actually do things – make stuff.

 

stuff2band2bthings

 

Truth be told, Plato’s philosopher-king doesn’t really bother himself with manual tasks.

 

cm-52261-05130280d33ed6

 

The problem with pursuing a college degree in philosophy, according to the philosophy non-enthusiasts, is that students take out loans to study subjects that seemingly have no prospects for occupations in the “real” world or outside of academia. They leave university swamped with student loan debt that they are unable to pay (because the lack of professional philosopher gigs). This is a burden not only on individuals, but also on the economy.

 

philosophers-famous-photos-wife1

 

The perception that philosophy is a surefire path to poverty is why there’s been a push among educators to direct students into the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, with the intention of producing students who will be competitive in the international job market and secure the nation’s economic prosperity.

 

phil pic 124

THIS IS WHY YOUR TEACHERS WANT YOU TO LEARN GEOMETRY

 

 

The belief that philosophy is not a economically viable career is why politicians want to see students to learn how to do this:

 

computer engineer

 

Instead of doing this:

 

philosophers under tree.jpg

 

Ok, you know how I said that Senator Rubio’s sentiments weren’t complete bullshit?

Well, of course, saying something isn’t complete bullshit suggests the possibility that something may be just a little bit bullshit.

And in this case, that happens to be true.

There’s a noticeable bit of bullshit to what Senator Marco Rubio said.

 

rubio grammar

THERE CERTAINLY WAS SOME BULLSHIT. AND NOT JUST RUBIO’S BAD GRAMMAR

 

You see, there’s something that Senator Marco Rubio is forgetting, namely, the fact that philosophy is the mother of many disciplines. The first politicians were philosophers. You’d be one hell of an idiot to dismiss how PHILOSOPHERS like Plato, Aristotle, Mill, Locke, Hobbes, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, Bentham, Rousseau, Marx, Ayn Rand, John Rawls (and many other philosophers) have shaped and influenced political institutions and political discourse.

 

Senator Rubio can’t neglect the fact that American statesmen – and philosophers – Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Thomas Paine did better for the country by pursuing philosophical contemplation rather than taking up a career in welding.

 

thomas jefferson. philosopher

Ummmm…… yeah

 

Philosophy, as Jefferson was well aware, stresses critical thinking – an essential element for a lasting democracy.

Thomas Jefferson declared

“wherever the people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government.”

It’s not unreasonable to assume that a well-informed people, in Jefferson’s view, are also a contemplative people. People who use their faculties to reason when casting their votes.

 

tumblr_inline_mpf70ibwyr1qz4rgp

 

 

And let’s not forget that Leo Strauss, the father of Neo-Conservatism, a political view Senator Rubio is quite familiar with, was a philosophy professor at University of Chicago.

 

strauss-large

ON SECOND THOUGHT, MAYBE STRAUSS SHOULD HAVE TAKEN UP WELDING

 

Seriously, even economists started out as philosophers.

 

download (11)

 

Philosophy’s mark can be found in many fields including medicine, psychology, mathematics, even physics.

Now that I’m thinking of it, Senator Rubio’s fellow republican presidential contender, Carly Fiorina, is a philosophy major. Fiorina received her philosophy degree from Stanford University in 1976.

 

 

qbmmxuo

 

Seriously, the real reason why Senator Rubio’s comments are more than a tad bit on the bullshit side, is because what he said just isn’t true.

Philosophy, despite beliefs to the contrary, can be a economically viable career.

 

money-gif

 

And not just for those in academia.

 

Check out this graph:

philosopher vs welder 2

 

And this pie chart:

welders vs. philosophers

 

Professional philosophers earn on average, $71,000/yr. versus the average $40,000 yearly salary earned by professional welders. The average salary over time for a worker with bachelor’s degree in philosophy is nearly $100,000 per year.

In addition to not-too-shabby yearly earnings, philosophy majors earn high (if not the highest scores) on exams, including the Law Schools Admission Test (LSAT), Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT) and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE).

 

power of philosophy

 

And it’s not like philosophers just sit under a tree, being broke all day, contemplating their big toe. Philosophers aren’t limited to just being philosophers. There are many successful folks with philosophy degrees in fields outside of philosophy.

 

Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel has a degree in philosophy.

peter thiel

 

As does LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.

 

reid hoffman

 

And Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield.

 

stewart butterfield

 

And Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger.

larry sanger

 

And activist investor Carl Icahn.

 

carl icahn

 

So does billionaire George Soros.

 

george soros

 

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer also has a degree in philosophy.

 

stephen breyer

 

Pope John Paul II also majored in philosophy.

 

pope john paul II

 

And you can’t get any more successful than that.

 

txtvbdl

 

*For a more comprehensive list of successful philosophy majors see: 

http://www.apaonline.org/?whostudiesphilosophy

 

If you think about it, the point of the welder-philosopher conflict isn’t that we should praise one and discourage the other, but that we should appreciate both.

 

85833-is-it-too-much-to-ask-for-both-2yvg

 

Yes, the world needs welders. A lot of them. Vocational work is not only necessary but also valuable work. But so is philosophy. Philosophy is essential to the kind of life we should want to live.

 

socrates johnson

BE HONEST. THIS IS THE KIND OF LIFE YOU WANT TO LIVE, ISN’T IT?

 

Society needs people who will question, analyze; argue. Philosophy teaches critical thinking and intellectual clarity. Philosophy empowers us to understand not just the foundations of our political institutions, but also to examine our moral choices and the moral implications of what we do (by the way, ethics is a branch of philosophy). Philosophers ponder life’s big questions.

 

giphy

 

Even theology can’t escape the influence of philosophy. Many theologians, past and present, were and are also philosophers.

 

thomas aquinas

WE’RE PRETTY SURE THAT THE REASON WHY SUMMA THEOLOGICA WAS NEVER FINISHED HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH ST. THOMAS AQUINAS’ OBSESSION WITH WELDING

 

Really, in the end, folks, there’s no rule that says that a person can’t be a welder and a philosopher.

 

ThinkerWelderWeb

 

Some folks might think that the economy-er… world would be better off with less philosophers, but I say that’s just a load of poppycock. Being a philosopher doesn’t mean that one looks down from their academic ivory tower, scoffing at all the not-deep thinking people who work with their hands and take their showers after they come home from work. Nor does being a welder mean that a person can’t enjoy reading Plato and contemplating the meaning of life. I may be going out on a limb here, but I’ll say, with more than a little bit of certainty, that there at least a few welders out there who would join me when I proclaim that I – I mean, WE FUCKING LOVE PHILOSOPHY.

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
http://www.vox.com/2015/11/10/9709948/marco-rubio-philosophy-welder

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2015/11/10/3721387/why-marco-rubio-owes-philosophy-majors-an-apology/

http://dailynous.com/2015/09/04/salaries-of-philosophy-majors-over-time/

http://www.techinsider.io/insanely-successful-philosophy-majors-2015-11

 

The Trouble With Melanin

“At the heart of racism is the religious assertion that God made a creative mistake when he brought some people into being” – Friedrich Otto Hertz
HAVE YOU EVER had one of those moments?

One of Those kind of moments.

Maybe you had one in a department store. Or in an elevator. On a sidewalk.

Or in a restaurant.

Or if you’re the President of the United States….
One of those kind of moments when you have to stop and ask yourself

was that racist

It’s pretty easy to spot a racist or an act of racism when a person is dressed like this:

klans men
or if you find one of these burning on your front lawn

cross burning

But, you see, racism is sometimes difficult to figure out.

Is a seemingly racist incident an unintentional micro aggression or a full-on David Duke-style PDR?

Public Display of Racism.
no dogs negroes or mexicans

Quick quiz: Is this a Public Display of Racism?

Is this?

Or this?

Are you thinking the answer is definitely yes

…. or are you thinking that the question is debatable?

A couple of weeks ago, while shopping at the local KMart

Because layaway is wonderful.

I was perusing the home entertainment section when an elderly white woman approached me and asked if I had seen the movie 12 Years A Slave in the DVD section. She explained how she loved the book and wanted to watch the movie to see if it is a good as Solomon Northup’s memoir of his life as a free man wrongfully enslaved.

Asking a fellow customer if they know the location of a product isn’t unusual. I’ve done it plenty of times myself.

I think the reason why she specifically asked me had a little something to do with my complexion.

My complexion, mind you, looks a little like this:
arm
So naturally, in response to the woman’s inquiry, I felt a little like this:

I assumed that the reason why the woman asked me, and not any other person in the home entertainment department (including store employees) if I knew where 12 Years A Slave was, was because of one thing.

One, elephant-sized, melanin-soaked, thing.

A BIG, MELANIN-SOAKED ELEPHANT

A BIG, MELANIN-SOAKED ELEPHANT

Now, here’s the problem: I don’t know if the woman was racist.
I have only what I assume to be true of the woman and her state of mind.

TRY AS I MIGHT, I HAVE NOT MASTERED THE ART OF MINDREADING.

TRY AS I MIGHT, I HAVE NOT MASTERED THE ART OF MINDREADING.

Based on my prima facie assessment of the situation, I made three assumptions about the elderly woman.

The elderly white woman asked me where to find 12 Years A Slave because:

1. She assumed that because of my race, I had not only seen the movie 12 Years A Slave, but I also knew the location of the DVD in the store ( possibly an unintentional microaggression).

In case you’re wondering, a microaggression is:

the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

B. The elderly woman was merely asking the nearest person in the area.

3. The lady was a full-on racist who assumed that I had not only seen the movie 12 Years A Slave, but I also knew the location of the DVD in the store.

You see, despite my epistemic prowess, I don’t know what the lady was thinking. I can only assume to know – and even then, my assumption is just an assumption. Even assuming that the woman’s inquiry was made with the best of intentions doesn’t mean that my perception of racism wasn’t actually racism.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that it was, either.
images redneck
In The Souls of Black Folk , W.E.B. DuBois wrote, “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.”
no japanese
If you’ve spent any time paying any attention to the media, you’d know that in the 21st century race is still a problem.

THIS IS NOT A PHOTO FROM THE 1950S. IT WAS TAKEN AT A KLAN RALLY IN SOUTH CAROLINA IN JUNE, 2015

THIS IS NOT A PHOTO FROM THE 1950S. IT WAS TAKEN AT A KLAN RALLY IN SOUTH CAROLINA IN JUNE, 2015

That fact might have something to do with this:

THIS IS A LIST OFTHE NUMBER OF KNOWN HATE GROUPS IN THE UNITED STATES

THIS IS A LIST OFTHE NUMBER OF KNOWN HATE GROUPS IN THE UNITED STATES

THIS IS A MAP OFTHE DISTRIBUTION OF KNOWN HATE GROUPS IN THE UNITED STATES

THIS IS A MAP OFTHE DISTRIBUTION OF KNOWN HATE GROUPS IN THE UNITED STATES

It’s obvious that we spend a lot of time thinking about and discussing (and often arguing about) race. And we think we have a grip on exactly what race is.

Wait a minute. I’ve been talking about the term “race”.

The philosopher in me says it’s time I define my terminology.

Generally speaking, race is defined as a set of characteristics that differentiate groups of humans. Race is viewed as an indicator of certain inherited attributes of which traits like skin color physical features, body type, hair color and texture, provide an indicator of supposedly biologically based attributes such as mental capacity, and moral aptitude. The concept of race has evolved over time, but the practice of classifying people is as old as history. Civilizations have always defined and separated themselves according to tribe, language or religious practices. In the Bible, God distinguished the Israelites from the Gentiles. The Greek philosopher Aristotle differentiated the “civilized” Greeks and the Persian “barbarians” and wrote, “This is why the poets say ‘it is fitting for Greeks to rule barbarians’”.

 ARISTOTLE: CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHER AND ANCIENT GREEK RACIST

ARISTOTLE: CLASSICAL PHILOSOPHER AND ANCIENT GREEK RACIST

Our modern concept of race is a relatively new idea. The modern concept can be traced back to the 15th century (a.k.a. the Age of Discovery). European exploration of the New World is significant for two reasons: 1) European expansion led to the colonization of newly acquired territories, and 2) contact between fair-skinned European explorers and the darker complexioned native populations of Asia and Africa led to the development of racial categorization based on physical characteristics

… or phenotypes.
The concept of biological race developed as exploration of the New World and the need for labor required a justification for the enslavement of indigenous peoples and European colonialism. As a result of the enslavement of indigenous Americans and Africans in the New World, the world’s population was divided into three primary races:

the Caucasian race

Albert-Camus

the Mongoloid race

asian man

and the Negroid race

african woman

The white race, according to the race of European colonizers, is superior, while other races (in particular enslaved Africans) are considered inferior.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, THIRD PRESIDENT OT THE UNITED STATES, WROTE AFTER SLAVERY THAT, “WHEN FREED, HE [NEGROES] IS TO BE REMOVED BEYOND THE REACH OF MIXTURE”  SO, IF JEFFERSON HAD HIS WAY, THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN THE 23RD CENTURY

THOMAS JEFFERSON, THIRD PRESIDENT OT THE UNITED STATES, WROTE AFTER SLAVERY THAT, “WHEN FREED, HE [NEGROES] IS TO BE REMOVED BEYOND THE REACH OF MIXTURE”
SO, IF JEFFERSON HAD HIS WAY, THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN THE 23RD CENTURY

The 2008 election and the 2012 re-election of President Barack Obama was supposed to have ushered in an era of American “post-racialism”; the fulfillment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of a society where individuals are judged not by race, but by the content of their character.

Race, in this era of post-racialism, is supposedly not an issue.

Or so we’d like to think.

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THIS IS EVEN REMOTELY RACIST

THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO WAY THIS IS EVEN REMOTELY RACIST

Let’s face it, we think in stereotypes. Thinking of serial killers conjures up images of white guys. Looking of terrorists? Sorry, Arabs. When your neighbor says someone tagged his retaining wall, we think Mexican tagging crew.

That might just be a Californian thing.

You say someone just knocked over car a liquor store (probably to get money to buy crack)? Yep, it probably was a black dude.

None of us likes to be stereotyped, but the justification for stereotyping (or its cousin, racial profiling) is often stated as, given one’s racial and/or ethnic background one is predisposed to certain behavior can provide us with handy shortcut for figuring out what kind of people we’re dealing with and how those people are likely to behave. After all, when we look at other people, race is one of those things we notice.

 THERE’S A REASON WHY SOME PEOPLE DON’T WANT THIS GUY TO BE THE NEW JAMES BOND. YES, THAT REASON

THERE’S A REASON WHY SOME PEOPLE DON’T WANT THIS GUY TO BE THE NEW JAMES BOND. YES, THAT REASON

Race is never a pleasant subject to talk about. It’s one of those subjects that doesn’t usually pop up in a philosophy class (unless the class is specifically about race). I suspect that the reason why race isn’t discussed much in philosophy has to do with the fact that philosophy is dominated by white men. That’s no lie. I was once pressed to name five African-American philosophers. I came up with Cornel West, Ken Taylor and Angela Davis, but after conjuring up three names, I was tapped out of black philosophers.

I was shocked by my lack of knowledge about non-white male philosophers. I thought, “Hey, I’m not just some dude on the street, I actually studied philosophy, and I should be able to name five black philosophers!” Yet I had no idea of the names of more than three philosophers who share my skin tone.

THIS GUY IS THE BEGINNING AND END OF MY BLACK PHILOSOPHERS LIST (p.s. THE GUY IN THE PICTURE IS PHILOSOPHER KEN TAYLOR)

THIS GUY IS THE BEGINNING AND END OF MY BLACK PHILOSOPHERS LIST (p.s. THE GUY IN THE PICTURE IS PHILOSOPHER KEN TAYLOR)

The subject tends to stir up emotions. A lot of historical baggage. We want clear-headed conversations. Naturally, my inclination would be to turn to what philosophers have to say about the subject of race. They’ve actually had plenty to say, just not all of it good.

It should surprise no one that philosophers are partially to blame not only for our inaccurate conceptions of race, but also more than a little bit responsible for racism.

Wanna know how?

LOOK AT THIS PHILOSOPHER CLOSELY. HE HAS A LOT TO DO WITH WHY RACISM EXISTS

LOOK AT THIS PHILOSOPHER CLOSELY. HE HAS A LOT TO DO WITH WHY RACISM EXISTS

Given Aristotle’s sentiments towards non-Greek peoples, we are tempted to assume that modern (keep in mind that “modern” philosophy starts in the 17th century) philosophers would have been immune from the ancient view of classifying people as superior and inferior based solely on the assumed characteristics (of inferiority and superiority) associated with one’s geographical location.

Our assumption, however, would be wrong.

Enlightenment philosophers not only championed reason and science but also the belief that only certain groups of people are capable of rational thought. The Enlightenment belief that only certain people possess the capacity to reason provided the scientific basis for race and racism. Enlightenment thinkers developed the notion that the so-called superior, “civilized” races of Europe were successful because other, inferior races, specifically the African race, lack the capacity for rational thought.

In Immanuel Kant’s essay, “On the Different Races of Man” (1775), Kant attempts to establish a scientific basis for the classification of the races and divides humans into four distinct races:

1. Northern Europe (very blond) of damp cold
2. America (copper red) of dry cold
3. Black (Senegambia) of dry heat
4. Indians (olive-yellow) of dry heat

Based on his observations of the different races, Kant declared the natural moral and intellectual superiority of the white race and stated that superiority or inferiority of the world’s other races depends on its proximity to whiteness. Naturally, the dark skin of the African race, sets it in opposition to the white race.

Therefore, black = inferior.

don't listen to negroes
Kant observes, blacks are “passionate” and “talkative” and lack the capacity for reason. Because blacks cannot reason, Kant argues, they cannot be educated but can only be trained to serve as slaves. Kant agrees with Hume, who also argued that blacks lack the capacity to reason, that since blacks lack the capacity for rational thought, blacks also lack the capacity for talent, as talent necessarily depends on the capacity for reason. Kant writes:

The yellow Indians do have meager talent. The Negroes are far
below them, and at the lowest point are part of the American
people.

So, if observation of behavior leads to stereotyping, we are likely to think that Asians are better at math but make for bad drivers, white people are genetically prone to bad dancing, have a penchant for fair trade coffee, as I am genetically predisposed to having many children and speaking loudly in public places. In addition to stereotyping, as Immanuel Kant and his fellow philosophers demonstrate, we tend to think of our “group” as superior while emphasizing the supposed “inferior” qualities of other groups. It is, then, no surprise to us that Kant declares:

The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the
trifling. Mr. Hume challenges anyone to cite a single example in
which a Negro has shown talents, and asserts that among the
hundreds of thousands of blacks who are transported elsewhere
from their countries, although many of them have even been set
free, still not a single one was every found who presented anything
great in art or science or any other praiseworthy quality, even
though among the whites some continually rise aloft from the lowest
rabble, and through superior gifts earn respect in the world. So
fundamental is the difference between these two races of man, and
it appears to be as great in regard to mental capacities as in colour.

Well, while we’re at it, why don’t we take a look at what David Hume had to say about black people:

I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to whites.
there scarcely ever was a civilized nation of that complexion, nor
any individual eminent either in action or speculation.

ALTHOUGH HUME CONSIDERED THE “BARBARIAN” ANCIENT GERMAN RACE INFERIOR TO OTHER EUROPEANS (LIKE SCOTSMEN, LIKE HUME), HUME STATED THAT THE ANCIENT GERMANS “HAVE STILL SOMETHING EMINENT ABOUT THEM, IN THEIR VALOUR, FORM OF GOVERNMENT, OR SOME OTHER PARTICULAR”

ALTHOUGH HUME CONSIDERED THE “BARBARIAN” ANCIENT GERMAN RACE INFERIOR TO OTHER EUROPEANS (LIKE SCOTSMEN, LIKE HUME), HUME STATED THAT THE ANCIENT GERMANS “HAVE STILL SOMETHING EMINENT ABOUT THEM, IN THEIR VALOUR, FORM OF GOVERNMENT, OR SOME OTHER PARTICULAR”

Let’s take a moment to read what other great minds and “enlightened” philosophers had to say about black people:

Thomas Jefferson:

…in memory they are equal to the white; in reason much inferior,
as I think one could scarcely be capable of tracing and
comprehending the investigations of Euclid; and that in
imagination they are dull, tasteless and anomalous… never
yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level
of plain narration.

Montesquieu:

It is hardly to be believed that God, who is a wise being, should
place a soul, especially a good soul, in such a black ugly body…
The negroes prefer a glass necklace to that gold which polite
nations so highly value. Can there be a greater proof of their
wanting common sense?

Alexis de Tocqueville:

I do not think that blacks will ever mingle sufficiently completely
with the white to form a single people with them. The introduction
of this foreign race is anyhow is the one great plague on America.

Voltaire:

If their understanding is not of a different nature from ours… it is
at least inferior. They are not capable of any great application or
association of ideas, and seem formed neither for the advantages
nor the abuses of our philosophy.

President Gerald Ford Administration cabinet member, Earl Butz, said to singer Pat Boone:

Pat, the only thing coloreds are looking for in life are a tight pussy, loose shoes, and a warm place to shit.

Well, seriously, who isn’t looking for that?

PROOF IT’S NOT JUST BLACK FOLKS WHO ENJOY A NICE PLACE TO SHIT

PROOF IT’S NOT JUST BLACK FOLKS WHO ENJOY A NICE PLACE TO SHIT

Unfortunately for Hume, Jefferson, Montesquieu, Voltaire and Kant, (not to mention the Social Darwinists), and the aptly-named Mr. Earl Butz, a close examination of race reveals: A) philosophers don’t know everything, and second: there is no biological basis for race.

Most scientists agree that race is not a matter of biology, but is a social construct.*

Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates contends, all humans can trace their origins to 50,000 years ago to Ethiopia in Africa. Unfortunately for Immanuel Kant, one’s physical appearance (or even supposed inherited genetic qualities) is not a reliable method of judging a person’s character, moral aptitude, or intellectual capacity.

We can’t assume based on one’s perceived race that this person is inferior

prince mugshot

Or assume based on perceived race that this person is superior

bill gates mugshot

But here’s the thing: it’s not entirely our fault that we stereotype groups of people. Scientists theorize that our tendency for stereotyping is the result of a biologically engrained need to classify people and objects and to form tribal connections with other, like humans. To successfully operate and adapt to our environment, humans make associations between objects and actions (not too unlike Hume’s view on cause and effect). We associate objects and actions – for instance, lemons and sour, bees and sting, or black neighbors with higher crime rates. If we observe a group of people and a particular behavior, we are likely to assume that all of the members of that group also behave in a similar manner.

stereotypes_are_awesome

Funny thing, race is. Despite the fact that plenty (if not all) of us know that race is a social construct, when we inquire about someone’s race, we’re still looking for some indication of who a person is. And when someone doesn’t act according to our notions of how that race should act, we’re often perplexed. We observe that such and such or so and so doesn’t “act black” or that a particular person acts like an “Oreo”, Uncle Tom, “Twinkie”, “banana” or “wigger”.

white person with dreadlocks

There’s a nasty little idea floating around that people who do not act according to how their race should act aren’t acting authentically.

THIS IS PROBABLY NOT WHAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK OF WHAT A “TYPICAL” ASIAN MAN SHOULD LOOK LIKE

THIS IS PROBABLY NOT WHAT COMES TO MIND WHEN YOU THINK OF WHAT A “TYPICAL” ASIAN MAN SHOULD LOOK LIKE

But as any scientist will tell you, the fact that one is biologically a particular “color” or race does not infer that one’s behavior or cultural race conforms to our perception or expectations of how an individual of that race or color should act. The philosopher Robert Gooding-Williams distinguishes being racially (or biologically) black and being a black person. A racial personhood, according to Robert Gooding-Williams, is one’s racial identity – how we choose to identify ourselves.** 
rachel dolezal ebony cover

It’s worth noting that on the 2010 U.S. census form, individuals were given a choice of fifteen racial categories: American Indian of Alaska Native, Black, African-American or Negro, White, Native Hawaiian, Asian Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Guamanian or Chamorro, Samoan, other Pacific Islander, Other Asian, and some other race. There is some degree of satisfaction that the ability to choose one’s racial identity from fifteen races is a far cry from the three race categorization (Caucasian, Asian, and Negro) that dominated racial thinking for centuries, however, having more choices hasn’t necessarily cleared up our definition of race.
The terms “Latino” and “Hispanic” are specified on the U.S. Census form as an ethnicity, not as a separate race. However, if asked to specify a race a person may identify himself as Latino or Hispanic, but racially he may be categorized as Caucasian, Asian, or black. …. Just in case you were wondering.

I’m not a fan of Metallica. It’s not for lack of trying. I’m not saying that their music sucks or anything like that. I appreciate the band’s role as a seminal hard rock/metal band that has influenced and continues to influence many other rock bands. And their 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is well deserved. It’s just that Metallica, musically speaking, is not my cup of tea. Well, that’s only partially true. Really, it’s not even that I don’t like Metallica; I’m actually not supposed to like Metallica or any other hard rock band.

Metallica and all other musical artists who fall under the rubric “metal” is generally thought to be “white guy music” – angry white guy music – off limits to folks like me. Music, like everything else, is categorized. Or, more to the point, there’s music we’re supposed to like and music other people are supposed to like.

kanye lennon

Listen: I like the angry white guy music. I read David Sedaris books. I watched The Daily Show (and truly was heartbroken when Jon Stewart announced he’s leaving the show), and not only do I thoroughly enjoy watching The Colbert Report, I think that Stephen Colbert is sexy (in a snarky kind of way). I listen to National Public Radio. I love This American Life. I have a Liberal Arts degree. I recycle. I write a blog. I drink bottled water. I’m even a fan of Noam Chomsky.

Well, more of a fan of Chris Hedges than Noam Chomsky.

All of these traits (at least according to the website Stuff White People Like) are associated with white people.
People like this:


Not people like this:

But, if we know that race is nothing more than a social construct, the fact that Cornel West suggests that Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim is a blues man, or why Rachel Dolezal, a white woman, identifies as a black woman or why Latino kids living in East Los Angeles are some of Morrissey‘s most ardently loyal fans, and why I, being nowhere near being an angry white guy enjoys the snarky humor of The Colbert Report and am proud to say that my favorite musical artists are The Beatles, Steely Dan, The Cure, and nine inch nails.

Given my druthers, I would rather dress like this:

black goth girl

Than like this:

hip hop girl

The truth about race is that a particular frame of mind or set of characteristics is not innate and does not belong exclusively to one racial group.
W.C. Fields once said, “It ain’t what they call you, it’s what you answer to”. Contrary to what Kant, Hume, and Jefferson believed, our race does not determine who we are and what we are capable of. Every individual is capable of dictating his own course in life, according to what each person determines is the path to personal happiness. For many of us, race is irrelevant when it comes to who we are. We are who we are, regardless of what we are.

…..Which brings me back to the old lady in Kmart.

I think that the elderly woman who asked me where to find the movie 12 Years A Slave was suffering from making an assumption about another individual based on hundreds of years of misguided (and often pernicious) thinking about race. She may not believe the racist ideology of Kant or Thomas Jefferson, but we’ve certainly been reared in a culture grounded in the Enlightenment philosophies of Immanuel Kant, David Hume, and the Founding Fathers. And in that way, we may believe or act upon certain beliefs and stereotypes about a particular race without ever making the conscious effort to adopt a racist world view.

So, although I could have reasonably yelled at that woman:

I also have to acknowledge the possibility that philosophers really are as influential as every philosopher bitches and moans wants them (us) to be. Many of us practice Kantian philosophy –

Just not the right kind of Kantian philosophy.

YOU MAY THINK THAT YOU’RE NOT INTO PHILOSOPHY, BUT DEEP DOWN THIS IS WHAT YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE

YOU MAY THINK THAT YOU’RE NOT INTO PHILOSOPHY, BUT DEEP DOWN THIS IS WHAT YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE

Besides, in the end, our race does not matter; what matters is that each of us finds a way to live authentically.

Well, it matters if you’re an existentialist.
Wait, Kant wasn’t an existentialist, was he?

*I’d like to state here that the philosophers that I am quoting (Kant, Hume, etc) spoke about all races, not just those of African descent. I am singling out their opinions on blacks for selfish reasons and secondly to demonstrate how wrong many well-regarded philosophers have been (and sometimes are) on the subject of race. In fact, some nationalities and ethnicities are now categorized as “white” were not only excluded from the white race, but also subject to racially-motivated stereotyping, such as Eastern Europeans (including Poles, Slavs, and Jews), natives of Southern Italy, Germans, and the Irish.
** This does not just apply to black people but to all races. According to Gooding-Williams biological race is not equivalent to cultural race.

SOURCES:

1. Census racial categories from: http://www.prb.org/Articles/2009/questionnaire.aspx.

2. Aristotle. The Politics. Trans. Carnes Lord. p.36.

3. Matthew R. Hachee. “Kant, Race, and Reason” https://www.msu.edu/~hacheema/kant2.htm.

4. Kant quote on the difference between the talent of Negroes and Asian “Indians”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism#Immanuel_Kant.

5. Hume’s essay “Of National Character”. http://www.philosophicalmisadventures.com/?p=6.

6. Thomas Jefferson. “Notes On the State of Virginia”. The Portable Thomas Jefferson. 1975. Ed. Merrill D. Peterson. NY: Penguin Books. pp.188-9.

7. Great Treasury of Western Thought: A Compendium of Important Statements of Man and His Institutions by the Great Thinkers in Western History. 1977. Eds. Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren. NY: R R Bowker Company. p.756.

8. Great Treasury of Western Thought: A Compendium of Important Statements of Man and His Institutions by the Great Thinkers in Western History. 1977. Eds. Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren. NY: R R Bowker Company. p. 759.

9. Voltaire quote on race is from Voltaire’s essay “The Negro” [1733]. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php%3Ftitle=666&chapter=81914&layout=html&Itemid=27.

10. “10 Questions”. Time. February 16, 2009. Vol. 173. No. 6. p.6.

11. Siri Carpenter. “Buried Prejudice: The Bigot In Your Brain”. Scientific American Mind. May 1, 2008: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=buried-prejudice-the-bigot-in-your-brain.

12. Kant’s statement on the inferiority of blacks is from “Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and the Sublime” (1764) http://www.philosophicalmisadventures.com/?p=20.

13. Francis D. Adams and Barry Sanders. Alienable Rights: The Exclusion of African Americans In A White Man’s Land, 1619-2000. 2003. NY: Harper Collins Publishers. p.92.

14. Paul C. Taylor. Race: A Philosophical Introduction. 2006. Malden, MA: Polity Press. p.112.

15. Gilbert Ryle. “The Concept of Mind”. Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. 1988. Eds. G. Lee Bowie, Meredith W. Michaels, Robert C. Solomon, and Robert J. Fogelin. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc. p. 178

On the One Benefit of Never Having Learned How to Play A Musical Instrument

Music is the answer to the mystery of life.
– Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Lately, I’ve gotten into this thing of watching documentaries.

I’m not saying this to sound smart or anything. I’m certainly not bragging about it.

Truth be told, I’m not too keen on indie cinema or documentaries. Any documentary I’ve ever watched I saw on cable television.

So I’m really not as much of a fan of documentaries as I am a fan of cable TV.

Thank goodness for Time Warner Cable.

I hate to have to admit that.

should not have told you that

I know that when a person says that they like documentaries, the immediate mental picture that comes to mind is of some pompous ass who only drinks fair-trade coffee, can determine the quality of wine from its smell, and tells people that they watch documentaries only so they can pontificate about how the only important cinema is based on true life.

I assure you I am not one of those people.

Well, I don’t watch the documentaries that air on the Sundance Channel. I watch the ones that air on HBO. The ones that come on late at night.

The ones that have Taxicab Confessions or Real Sex in the title.

I especially enjoy the documentaries they play on VH-1.

Because I find VH-1’s Behind the Music on Lynyrd Skynyrd more compelling than March of the Penguins.

That one VH-1 aired about Soul Train changed my life.

How can you not watch this and be changed for life?

Did I just admit that?

did i just say that GIF

Being a sucker for anything on VH-1 with the word “documentary” in the description, I decided to watch The Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl’s documentary Sound City.

BACK IN MY DAY DAVE GROHL WAS JUST THE DRUMMER IN NIRVANA. OH GOD, I’M OLD.

BACK IN MY DAY DAVE GROHL WAS JUST THE DRUMMER IN NIRVANA. OH GOD, I’M OLD.

In the documentary, musicians like Grohl, Lee Ving, Tom Petty, Rick Springfield, Mick Fleetwood, and Trent Reznor talk about their passion for music.

There’s no denying that music plays a fairly important part in most of our lives, not just the lives of musicians. Many of us have arm chaired judged contestants on American Idol.

JUST LOOKING AT WILLIAM HUNG AND YOU KNEW THE SINGING WAS GOING TO BE BAD

JUST LOOKING AT WILLIAM HUNG AND YOU KNEW THE SINGING WAS GOING TO BE BAD

And even more of us are guilty of singing more-than-slightly-off-key renditions of popular songs in the shower.

a pocket full of sunshine

Although most of what philosophers write about music concerns itself with the ontology of music*, drawing the distinctions between art and music, the classification of high and low forms of music, and the role that music plays in the philosophical development of the individual, even philosophers appreciate a tune or two.

Nietzsche famously said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Philosophers, like the professional musicians in Dave Grohl’s documentary, also appreciate music as art.

And philosophy, like music, can be an art.

This looks like a fine place to drop a “That Look On Your Face When” meme.

that look

I know this all seems rather unbelievable.

Not because there are no artists anymore.

But because no one is into philosophy.

You see, even though the media doesn’t make much ado about modern-day painters, poets, or sculptors, being an artist is a fairly legit occupation. Even if they don’t talk about you on TMZ, a person can still find a successful career writing poems, painting or sculpting. We still read the works of Shakespeare, marvel at the paintings of Rembrandt and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Students still study Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

It’s a safe bet that if you walked around the streets of any major city you would find at least one person who can name a modern-day painter or poet.

Unfortunately, the same probably can’t be said about philosophy.

Sure, a few folks know about Aristotle and Socrates but how many people can name a philosopher who was born after the Titanic sank?

I know you philosophy majors can. You don’t count.

I blame TV and the movies.

When the television and the motion picture camera were invented philosophy went the way of the dodo.

philosophy's tombstone

What I mean, is that there are still writers and other artists. There are still romantic figures in the arts – modern-day Lord Byrons and Voltaires carry on the days of the troubadours. But they’re mostly in the arts that are meant to entertain. Our romantic artists are all actors or musicians. No one is ever celebrated for the art of creating a beautiful philosophical theory.
You can say your brain is an instrument, but who are we trying to kid?

Nobody ever sold out Madison Square Garden playing their brain.

AN ACTUAL PHOTO FROM SCHOPENHAUER’S LAST PHILOSOPHY TOUR (SCHOPENHAUER SHOWN CENTER STAGE)

AN ACTUAL PHOTO FROM SCHOPENHAUER’S LAST PHILOSOPHY TOUR (SCHOPENHAUER SHOWN CENTER STAGE)

And since I never learned how to play an instrument I’ve had plenty of time to think about these things….

I suppose that’s one benefit of never having learned how to play a musical instrument.

The problem isn’t just that philosophers aren’t very popular these days, thinking about things in general has gotten a bad rap.

There is something wrong with our ideology.

There’s something wrong with the basic principles upon which our culture is based.

You see, a growing number of Americans aren’t into reading anything. According to a Pew Center poll nearly a quarter of Americans did not read a single book in 2014.

SEE?

SEE?

It seems that the space where we communicate is getting smaller and smaller. So small in fact that we aren’t really required to read at all. Twitter limits us to 140 characters. Websites like Snapchat are purely visual.

There is no need to write anything.

And it’s not just that there are no words, but that the image we post disappears in a matter of minutes.

Think about it – what we communicate literally disappears.

poof 1

Even the visual image doesn’t last for very long.

I don’t know if it’s because we want to save trees or because the Illuminati has dumbed down the herd so they can imprison us in re-education death FEMA camps, but I contend that when people don’t read – when people stop studying the written word, there’s a problem.

Sure, you can learn from visuals. We’re all been able to put together a bookshelf by just looking at the diagram. But when a significant number of people (and growing) stop reading and society increasingly communicates via the visual image and the visual is temporary, how can we expect to sustain a culture that wants to read, analyze, and develop the kind of passion for the written word that some have for music?

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THERE IS ACTUALLY SUCH A THING AS LOVING BOOKS TOO MUCH

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THERE IS ACTUALLY SUCH A THING AS LOVING BOOKS TOO MUCH

You see, to truly develop the intellect, you need to read; to meditate on what you‘ve just read. If we don’t appreciate the written word, we lose the capacity to communicate complex ideas (like philosophy, for instance). Like the great works of literature, complex ideas can’t be communicated in just 140 characters. Complex ideas can’t be limited to just visuals. Much less one that self destructs in 90 seconds.
Look, I’m not calling for everyone to throw out their guitars and ditch their Twitter accounts because we should all study philosophy. Yeah, I write and blog about philosophy. But it’s not even deep philosophy. I write about how philosophical concepts relate to the things we see on TV, in movie theaters, read in books, hear in songs and see in our popular culture in general.
I know what I do is not as marketable as a fashion blog or a mommy blog. Or blogging recipes or posting pictures of my cat. I know anything I will ever post on the internet will never have as many views as Tyler Oakley. A philosopher will never be asked to host a late night talk show.

That’s because philosophers are lousy at stand-up.**

 THERE IS NO OPEN MIC NIGHT AT THE PIRAEUS

THERE IS NO OPEN MIC NIGHT AT THE PIRAEUS

But dammit, this what I write. This is my passion. I think that reading and thinking about philosophy should be everyone else’s passion, too.

At least somewhat as much as some people love music.

Now that I think about it, Rush is pretty much that band, isn’t it?

ONLY RUSH COULD MAKE THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYN RAND SEEM DEEP

ONLY RUSH COULD MAKE THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYN RAND SEEM DEEP

So the question is, how do you get people to want to think about stuff like philosophy? How do you convince people that a career in philosophy can be just as rewarding as a career in the music industry?

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD SANG SONGS ABOUT BANGING GROUPIES, NOT READING BERTRAND RUSSELL

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD SANG SONGS ABOUT BANGING GROUPIES, NOT READING BERTRAND RUSSELL

Listen: some people worked long and hard to figure out how to get people to stop thinking. There must be some way to do the inverse. Plunking down books in front of people and making them read doesn’t work anymore. There’s nothing to be gained by being all smart and philosophical about everything.

Keep in mind when I say “nothing to be gained” I mean doing philosophy doesn’t make you a lot of money.

CHANCES ARE ALVIN PLANTINGA WILL NEVER TAKE A PICTURE LIKE THIS

CHANCES ARE ALVIN PLANTINGA WILL NEVER TAKE A PICTURE LIKE THIS

The average philosophy professor earns about $65,000/year.

Unless you work for California State University system (you’ll only make a measly $48,000/year).

THIS ACTUAL PHILOSOPHER HAS EXACTLY TWO DOLLARS IN HIS POCKET

THIS ACTUAL PHILOSOPHER HAS EXACTLY TWO DOLLARS IN HIS POCKET

Dave Grohl is worth $260 million.

dave grohl smiling

WORTH MORE THAN THE ENTIRE PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT AT YOUR LOCAL UNIVERSITY

What’s worse is that we’ve been trained to think that only ugly and/or un-famous people think.

People who are decidedly un-rock star.

Really.

Seriously. Think about it for a minute. Studying and thinking about serious stuff is for ugly people. This is why, no matter what contributions this man has made to modern thought –

YEP. PHILOSOPHERS PRETTY MUCH LOOK LIKE THIS

YEP. PHILOSOPHERS PRETTY MUCH LOOK LIKE THIS

We wouldn’t buy him for one second doing something like this:

david lee roth GIF

That’s why folks like Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow are on MSNBC and not on Fashion Police.

Why you’ll never see Kate Upton at an APA convention.

Not to say that Rachel Maddow is unattractive. I don’t think she is.
And not to say that Kate Upton would never give a keynote speech to the American Philosophical Association.

But you get my point.

There has to be a way to convince people that thinking, dare we even say philosophizing about things is not only not just for the unattractive, but for everyone. That all of our lives will be a little better if we start critically thinking about things.

That being a philosopher is as sexy as being a musician.

sexy philosopher

Here’s something I think Dave Grohl and Socrates would agree on: There’s something about music that can make us think, that can motivate us in ways that other forms of art cannot. That’s why Kant made a distinction between high and low forms of music.

popstars y u no read kant

It’s why Socrates tells us that we must be careful of what kind of music we listen to.

good music vs. bad music

Of course, there is a dark side to encouraging all this philosophical thinking; to making philosophy sexier.
Our problem is this: If we want to encourage thinking about philosophy the same way we think about our favorite rock musician, philosophical thinking inevitably will be sexualized, thus counteracting the point of encouraging people to value our capacity to reason over mere physical attributes.

pig thoughts

Not to mention the incredible difficulty of convincing the intellectual elite that gaining sway over public perception and opinion means they’ll have to ditch their academic ivory towers for the low and gritty world of common public discourse.

SOCRATES REALIZES HE'S GOING TO HAVE TO TALK TO AVERAGE PEOPLE

SOCRATES REALIZES HE’S GOING TO HAVE TO TALK TO AVERAGE PEOPLE

The thing is, philosophy really is like music.

It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it
dancing philosophers

But seriously, tho.
Contemplating life’s “big questions” touches us deep in our souls in the same way we are moved by a good song by our favorite band. Philosophers and rock stars are equally known for coming off as arrogant.

One can easily imagine Hegel, who said philosophy “must not lower itself to the people” jumping into the crowd to quell one of the rowdy rabble like this:

I suppose people will eventually get to a point when they’ll collectively rise up and after so many years of intellectual abuse, change the way we think about things.

And that, my friends, is the one benefit of never having learned how to play a musical instrument.

It’s knowing that one day doing this

philosophy lecture

Will get you just as famous as doing this

dave grohl guitar

….. and your name won’t have to be Slavoj Zizek, either.

Alas, it remains a great deal more difficult to covey the passion or sex appeal of thinking critically.

OK, SO IT’S NOT QUITE AS APPEALING AS ADAM LEVINE

OK, SO IT’S NOT QUITE AS APPEALING AS ADAM LEVINE

A working knowledge of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is still a lot less sexy than playing a guitar and bedding groupies.

Wait – do philosophers have groupies?

Guitar solo!
* If you want to read one of those articles on the ontology of music read: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/music/

** a notable exception to the philosophers are lousy at stand-up rule may be Ricky Gervais, who has a degree in philosophy from University College London.

SOURCES:
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-decline-of-the-american-book-lover/283222/

http://work.chron.com/much-philosophy-professor-make-year-8750.html

http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/rock-stars/dave-grohl-net-worth/

The Mouse That Bored

Psst. Come here. I want to tell you something.

Ready for it?

Listen carefully.

Here it is:

I hate reading philosophy.

I HATE READING PHILOSOPHY.

There. I said it.

There’s a perfectly legit reason for it.

 

philosophy messes your mind up

 
Studying. Reading. Writing serious compositions about philosophy. I hate it.

It’s not because I don’t understand what I’m reading.

Except if I’m reading Bertrand Russell.

That mofo confuses me.

ME, READING RUSSELL

ME, READING RUSSELL

 

 

 

I hate reading philosophy because it’s boring.

B.O.R.I.N.G.

Philosophy is boring.

It’s tedious and dull.

And there’s rarely any pictures.
Let’s face it, philosophy is boring. Philosophers are boring. People who aren’t philosophers but like to talk philosophically are beyond boring.

 

 

zooey

 

 

Nietzsche’s mustache is about as exciting as philosophy gets.

 

NIETZSCHE ROCKED THAT MUSTACHE LIKE A TOTAL BOSS

NIETZSCHE ROCKED THAT MUSTACHE LIKE A TOTAL BOSS

 

 

All philosophy might as well be written in comic sans.

 

 

no comic sans

 

 
Quick quiz: Who would you rather invite to a party, Ke$ha or Alvin Plantinga?
HERE’S ALVIN PLANTINGA:

 

 

 

 

 

AND HERE’S KE$HA:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Now honestly, who would you rather party with?

Right.

 

 

When I was a philosophy student, I would sit in class and think about anything other than philosophy.

I’d think about my growling stomach… My itchy right foot… How many names when singing The Name Game rhyme with cuss words… The uneven tile on the floor… Imagining what color and style of underwear my professors wore… Deciphering the lyrics to R.E.M’s “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)”…

 

 

Why film adaptations of good Stephen King books rarely make good movies.

 

 

NOW THAT I’M THINKING ABOUT IT, THE MIST WAS KINDA GOOD.

NOW THAT I’M THINKING ABOUT IT, THE MIST WAS KINDA GOOD.

 

 

 

I’d do anything in class but read or think about philosophy.
I shouldn’t be saying this, but I managed to earn a degree in philosophy without ever actually reading a philosophy book. I’d rather watch philosophy on TV.

I honestly can’t comprehend a philosophical theory unless it relates to an episode of Star Trek.

Star Trek is awesome.

 

It’s interesting and exciting. There’s photon torpedoes, phasers, Vulcan neck pinches, android crew members, the Borg and Captain Kirk shouting, “KHHHAAAAAAANNNN!!!!!”

 

It’s exactly the opposite of philosophy.

 

 

THIS SINGLE CINEMATIC MOMENT WAS MORE INTERESTING THAN ALL OF MY YEARS AS A PHILOSOPHY STUDENT

THIS SINGLE CINEMATIC MOMENT WAS MORE INTERESTING THAN ALL OF MY YEARS AS A PHILOSOPHY STUDENT

 

 

Ok. Do me a favor. Read this:

 

We may say, for example, that some dogs are white and not thereby
commit ourselves to recognizing either doghood or whiteness as
entities. ‘Some dogs are white’ says some things that are dogs are
white; and, in order that this statement be true, the things over
which the bound variable ‘something’ ranges must include some
white dogs, but need not include doghood or whiteness. On the
other hand, when we say that some zoological species are cross-
fertile we are committing ourselves to recognizing as entities the
several species themselves, abstract though they are. We remain
so committed at least until we devise some way of so paraphrasing
the statement as to show that the seeming reference to species on
the part of our bound variable was an avoidable manner of
speaking.

 
Pretty boring, right?

I’m not going to tell you who wrote it other than to tell you it was written by a philosopher.

Ok, it was W.V.O. Quine. He wrote that.

 

Now read this:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the road less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

 

Liked that, didn‘t you?

That’s because it’s Robert Frost. Frost was a poet.
The thing is, I managed to earn a philosophy degree without ever really reading a book.

Whoops. I shouldn’t have said that.

 

 

whoops

 

 

In case you haven’t figured it out or experienced it yourself, I didn’t read philosophy books because philosophy is boring!

 

To be honest, I can’t enjoy philosophy unless it relates to an episode of Star Trek.

 

 

I DON’T KNOW HOW THE GORN IS PHILOSOPHICAL BUT DAMMIT, I’M GOING TO WATCH STAR TREK UNTIL I FIGURE OUT HOW IT IS

I DON’T KNOW HOW THE GORN IS PHILOSOPHICAL BUT DAMMIT, I’M GOING TO WATCH STAR TREK UNTIL I FIGURE OUT HOW IT IS

 

 

Come on, admit it. You’d rather watch Star Trek than read ANYTHING philosophical.

 

Star Trek has EVERYTHING – there’s spaceships, space battles, photon torpedoes, phasers, the Vulcan neck pinch, the Borg, and Worf.

 

 

LT. WORF. BADASS LEVEL: KLINGON

LT. WORF. BADASS LEVEL: KLINGON

 

 

And if that’s not enough, there’s all those philosophical episodes:

The Measure of A Man
The Inner Light
Who Watches the Watchers?
In the Pale Moonlight
City On the Edge of Forever
All Good Things

 

That’s just a few.

 

With the notable exception of that cinematic eye violation known as Star Trek: Insurrection, the philosophical undertones of Star Trek enhance the show’s excitement – it makes the show interesting.

 

Precisely the opposite of what you get in most philosophy.

kirk and spock go platonic

 
Although you can intentionally mispronounce Immanuel Kant’s last name to sound like what Fifty Shades of Grey is all about, intentionally mis-doing anything else to Kant (or his name) won’t make reading Kant’s philosophy – or any other philosophy – un-boring.

 

Perhaps this means that philosophers should freshen things up a bit.

 

Maybe it’s time for philosophy to be a little less Plato’s Academy and go a little more Hollywood.

 

EVERYBODY WOULD READ DESCARTES IF DESCARTES LOOKED LIKE THIS

EVERYBODY WOULD READ DESCARTES IF DESCARTES LOOKED LIKE THIS

 

I would add the following suggestions:

 

  • A reality TV show staring J-Woww and Slavoj Zizek
  • Judith Butler would be as popular as Sandra Bullock if she showed a little side boob.
  • An UFC match between Alvin Plantinga and Rampage Jackson

 

NOT PICTURED: RAMPAGE JACKSON

NOT PICTURED: RAMPAGE JACKSON

 

 

  • Car chases
  • A newly-discovered Martin Heidegger-Hannah Arendt sex tape
  • A big-screen adaptation of Fear and Trembling staring Channing Tatum as Kierkegaard
  • A Miley Cyrus concept album based on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico- Philosophicus
  • A prime-time special of philosophical quotes delivered by Honey Boo Boo

 

 

THIS OUGHTA PULL IN RATINGS

THIS OUGHTA PULL IN RATINGS

 

 

I assume, if philosophers expect to enhance their reputation and increase their popularity, that they’ll abandon their academic ivory towers and follow my advice.

 

Ok philosophers, now it’s your turn.

 

I’ll tell y’all how it all works out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
1) Willard Van Orman Quine. “On What There Is” [1948]. From A logical Point of View. 1953, 1980. 2nd ed. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Quine’s essay can also be found online at: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On_What_There_Is.

2) Great American Poets: Robert Frost. 1986. Ed. Geoffrey Moore. NY: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. p34.

On God and the Philosopher (how philosophical thinking can lead to a life of godlessness)

This one is for all of my God-fearing friends who believe that God is all powerful, yet can’t make a rock so heavy he can’t lift it.

 

 

 
I’m out of the closet.

 

SPONGEBOB OUT

 

 

No, not that closet.

I’m out of the other closet. You know the one I’m talking about. I’m talking about that big, dark, sin-filled closet. The one no politician, professional moralizer, or conservative talk show host wants to be seen stepping out of. The closet that once you step inside you’re destined for fire and brimstone and eternal damnation.

The closet with the label written in great big shiny letters “non-believer”.

That closet.

I’m out of the atheist closet.

 

143-Atheists-are-coming-650x365

 

 

I will no longer tell people that I’m an agnostic or “spiritual”.
I will no longer say I am a “skeptic”.
I am an atheist.
I do not believe that God exists.
So far, I have not been struck by lightning.

 

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LAST GUY I KNEW WHO SAID HE WAS AN ATHEIST

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE LAST GUY I KNEW WHO SAID HE WAS AN ATHEIST

 

I haven’t always been an atheist. I used to believe in God. I went to church (some) Sundays. I believed that Jesus is the reason for the season, voted Republican, and listened to nothing but contemporary Christian music. When people sneezed, I said “God bless you” –
And I meant it.

For a couple of years, this was my favorite song:

 

 
I believed that Jesus Christ was my personal Lord and Savior. I believed that His Father so loved the world that he sent his only Son to die for my sins.

I don’t believe any of that now.

 

 

KEEP CALM AND BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

 

Every atheist has a reason for why he or she doesn’t believe in God. I guess if I had to name exactly what got me out of believing in God, I’d say the reason why I no longer believe in God has something to do with studying philosophy.

I’d tell you that studying philosophy caused me to develop the philosopher’s habit of overthinking.

I’d tell you that I literally thought myself out of believing in God.

My explanation would go something like this: as a philosopher, I was dedicated to a life according to the Socratic Method. That, therefore, invariably led to questioning everything. And in turn, asking questioning everything lead to doubt. And in doubting what you you’re thinking – I stopped believing in God.

Really, it went just like that.

 

atheist logic

 

I can only describe my atheist conversion as nothing short of mystical. I was sitting right there in the church pew when I was suddenly hit by a revelation: God does not exist.

Since that day I’ve had no doubt that I don’t think that God exists.

I know that this all might sound like I’m anti-God. I’m not. I’m not even anti-other people believing in God. But then, I also don’t have problem with anyone not believing in God. And, as I said before, I don’t. I just never saw any reason for believing that God exists. Believing in the existence of an Omnicompetent Creator may be a satisfying answer to all of life’s mysteries for some, but as far as my immortal soul goes, I’m more than quite content with the fact that I’ve chosen to live without daily prayers, knowing that Jesus is the reason for the season, and living without that feeling of paranoia and guilt whenever I’d pass along the offering tray without putting anything into it.

Even though I knew I had exactly 28 dollars in cash in my wallet.

Being an atheist means not being afraid to look a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ face and I tell her that I not only refuse to accept her copies of the Watchtower and/or Awake! (Lord knows I wasn’t going to read them anyway), but that I also find the whole believing-in-God-and-accepting-Jesus-as-my-personal-savior-thing quite unbelievable.

 

thank god it's an aligator

I’ll tell you the truth, though. It’s not easy to tell other people that I don’t believe in God. To come out as a non-believer in a self-proclaimed Christian nation can be a bit of scary thing. I’m not just talking about feeling the fear of falling into that old philosophical trap of confirming the existence of God by denying that God exists.*

It’s scary because once you’ve confessed that you don’t believe in God, your mom, your former alcoholic, born-again, on fire with the LORD uncle – even complete strangers are compelled to inform you that rejecting God means your immortal soul is lost and doomed to burn in hell – forever.

It’s hard sometimes to hear that Jehovah’s Witness say as I’m politely slamming the door in her middle-aged face, “God loves you even though you don’t believe in HIM.”
The funny thing about being an atheist is, is despite my own comfort with my current state of godlessness, sometimes it seems that everyone else out there has a problem with uncloseted nonbelievers like me.

I’m not imagining this.

 

OK, I DABBLED INTO SOCIALISM BUT IT HAD NOTHING TO TO WITH BEING AN ATHEIST

OK, I DABBLED INTO SOCIALISM BUT IT HAD NOTHING TO TO WITH BEING AN ATHEIST

 

Americans on whole don’t think very highly of the godless. In a survey conducted by the University of Minnesota, 47.6% of respondents said that they would not approve of their child marrying an atheist, and less than half of Americans (45%) say they would vote for a qualified presidential candidate who does not believe in God. In that same University of Minnesota study 39.5 % said that atheists are the group least likely to believe in the ideals of American society.

This means that according to a significant portion of the American public, more Americans believe that card-carrying communists, anarchists, and Al-Qaeda jihadists are more committed to American principles than people who don’t believe in God.

 

anti god and anti american

 

Although atheists, secularists, and nonbelievers are an estimated 1.1 billion of the world’s seven billion human inhabitants, most Americans surveyed say that they are less likely to vote for an atheist political candidate than to vote for a woman, a minority, a Jewish, Mormon, or even an openly gay political candidate. In a study conducted by the University of British Columbia, researchers found that there is only group the public despises more than atheists.

Care to guess who?

You guessed it: Rapists.

The public trusts people who sexually violate others more than they trust an atheist.

 

ATHEISTS AND SEX OFFENDERS

 

 

I guess if you don’t like God, people don’t like you.

For the record, I find it comforting to see that a majority of Americans are willing to vote for a woman, a minority, or an openly gay candidate.

 

Honestly, one doesn’t need to know the stats on American attitudes towards atheists to know that things are bad out there for the average John Q. Atheist. We know that in the minds of (some) God-fearing folks, not believing in an Omnicompetent deity is un-Americanly bad enough, but there is a worse kind of unbeliever – the COLLEGE EDUCATED ATHEIST.

 

college atheist

 

It seems that as much as people dislike run-of-the-mill atheists, they especially dislike non-believers with a post-secondary education.

 

freshman atheist

 

In my book, Mindless Philosopher: How Philosophy Taught Me Everything I Needed to Know About Popular Culture, I purposefully evaded the topic of religion and philosophy of religion. In that book wrote that if time travel were possible, I would go back in time and tell myself under no circumstances should I take a philosophy of religion class. I wanted to avoid religion not because I’m anti-religious. I think if you have a personal belief in something, that’s fine.

 

We all gotta serve somebody, as Dylan sang.

My reluctance was due, in part, to my belief that: 1) any serious discussion on the topic of religion and/or philosophy of religion would fill a book in itself, b) religion is a topic best discussed by priests, ministers, and theologians – not by academics and philosophers, and, more importantly, 3) I don‘t believe God exists.

 

atheist jesus

 

 

I once said that if I ever experience a spiritual crisis I would more likely turn to my local clergy rather than a philosopher.

Well, unless that philosopher was Cornell West. He’s got a degree in theology.

 

The reason why, I think, is because unlike the average non-believer, who may or may not carry his atheism with a sense of shame, pain, or personal failure, the college-educated atheist has one special ingredient that makes him immune from any sense of humility: a college-educated attitude.

I actually said this to a professor in a philosophy of religion class. He told me I was in no “epistemic position” to make that kind of judgment.

Riiiight.

After years of post-secondary training, the college-educated atheist not only believes is there no God, but he’s delusional enough to believe that he’s right (and has the right) to say there isn’t.

 

philosoraptor atheist

 

I remember when I was a freshman in high school, my English teacher told the class that the college campus is a place where a believing man is doomed to lose his religion. He proclaimed, “If you start college as a Christian, you’ll come out godless.” I think he was trying to be helpful. He told us that college will turn you into a skeptic and that losing ones belief in God, at least so far as college is concerned, is inevitable.

America’s universities were no more than full-blown God-hating atheist factories.

After having gone to college and doing the philosophy thing it’s no surprise then, how I’ve turned out. According to what some folks, including my old freshman English teacher, believe about college-educated people, my atheism is typical of both college grads and philosophers. Most philosophers (including most philosophy professors) don’t believe in God.

It’s estimated that 73% of philosophy professors are atheists or lean towards atheism.

 

PROBABLY AN ATHEIST

PROBABLY AN ATHEIST

 

Looking at my high school English teacher’s prophesy, I’m beginning to think he wasn’t being overly pessimistic about our ability to maintain a belief in God in the face of academia-based anti-religiosity as much as he just plain got it right – many people do stop believing in God on college campuses.

 

Really, it’s true.

If you’ve never stepped foot on a college campus, here are a few stats you should know:

Individuals with a post-graduate education are more likely to identify themselves as atheists (This group also included self-professed liberals, Democrats, Independents, and people who live on the East coast).
A Pew Center study estimated that 20% of adults 18-25 (aka college age kids) classify themselves as either atheist, agnostic, or nonreligious, and more than one-half of non-religious Millennials (those born after 1981) state that they no longer practice their childhood faith at all.
According to recent data, church membership has steadily declined among younger Americans, with a growing number of young Americans professing no faith or belief in God at all. One fourth of Millennials identify as religiously unaffiliated. However, the number of older Americans who believe in God has remained relatively unchanged.  And college campuses have seen noticeable increase in the number of atheist groups and secular organizations.

 

stats on belief in god

THIS IS A NICE CHART WITH STATISTICS. BUT YOU KNOW WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT STATISTICS

 

Given the rise in the number of Americans getting college degrees and the popularly-held belief that atheists dwell in a godless moral vacuum, it’s no surprise that, in the minds of some believers, the prevalence of atheism among college-educated folks is a source of some concern. After all, how can America be “one nation under God” if we’re a nation of unbelievers? The college-atheism connection even led 2012 Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum, to say:

It’s no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go to college. The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America … As you know, 62 percent of children who enter college with a faith conviction leave without it.

 

The accuracy of Rick Santorum’s comments and the public’s sentiments towards atheism aside, the belief that colleges are nothing more than atheist indoctrination factories is a real problem – and not just for believers.

 

atheism isn't a religion

 

 

It’s also a problem for philosophers.

Philosophers on whole are a bunch of non-believing people. God could point his finger directly into a philosopher’s face, announce his very existence, and he’d still be an ass about the existence of God. Anyone who has read the anti-theistic philosophy of Ayn Rand, Friedrich Nietzsche or Arthur Schopenhauer knows that it doesn‘t matter if God looks like this guy.

 

GOD

 

 

Or this guy:

 

smiling god

 

Or this guy:

 

sha ka ree

 

 

No matter what it looks like, most philosophers will never admit that HE exists.

73% of them as a matter of fact.

 

Unless you’re Alvin Plantinga.

 

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES IN GOD

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES IN GOD

 

 

Or this guy:

 

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES THAT GOD EXISTS, TOO

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES THAT GOD EXISTS, TOO

 

Of course this leads to the inevitable question: if the majority of philosophers and philosophy professors don’t believe in the existence of an all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful being, and colleges are nothing more than atheist indoctrination camps, why would university-trained folks want to think about, much less conjure up philosophical theories about religion?

That, my friends, is the question, isn’t it? Why would someone – especially a philosopher who doesn’t believe in God – want to know about God?

 

FOR THIS GUY, THE THOUGHT OF ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT GOD IS THE SAME AS ASKING “X7863HSFI#OF!HOIFC?HIOF**H777 OIC&NK” WITTGENSTEIN SAYS GOD TALK IS ALL GIBBERISH

FOR THIS GUY, THE THOUGHT OF ASKING QUESTIONS ABOUT GOD IS THE SAME AS ASKING “X7863HSFI#OF!HOIFC?HIOF**H777 OIC&NK” — WITTGENSTEIN SAYS GOD TALK IS ALL GIBBERISH

 

Philosophy is defined as the love of wisdom. Philosophers believe that we gain wisdom through rational thought, reason and logical arguments. Religion, on the other hand, relies on faith. For the believer, religious belief and indeed, the beauty of religious experience, is the mysterious, spirituality and the supernatural; the unexplained. Something that can’t be explained or justified through the use of reason. Faith, unlike reason, cannot be mediated by anyone other than by God. One does not need logical proof; one simply believes.

The Danish philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard argues we cannot rest our belief in God solely on reason. Kierkegaard states, if we choose faith we must suspend our reason in order to believe in something higher than reason. Kierkegaard doesn’t say reason is worthless, just that we can’t get to the truth of God’s existence through using reason alone. We require a leap of faith.

 

leap of faith 2

 

 

The problem with philosophy is that wisdom and reason are inextricably linked; one cannot claim to be wise if one’s wisdom is not based on reliable, rational evidence. As a consequence, faith and reason don’t necessarily go together. Religion and philosophy are like oil and water.

It’s often impossible to make them mix.

 

 

 ALTHOUGH SOMETIMES WHEN YOU MIX OIL AND WATER YOU MAKE A YUMMY VINAIGRETTE

ALTHOUGH SOMETIMES WHEN YOU MIX OIL AND WATER YOU MAKE A YUMMY VINAIGRETTE

 

 

Philosophical inquiry is understanding why people believe as they do. If we look at what people believe, what they think, how they act, we see that one of the sources of ethics and metaphysics is God. God influences us and our behavior; our metaphysics, what we believe is true. God’s word gives informs us the meaning of life. So does philosophy.
That means we can’t discuss philosophy without at least considering the role of religion.

No matter how any atheist, college educated or not, feels about religion or God, the majority of the Earth’s population, whether they bow to Jehovah or Allah; whether their God is Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Jain, Hindu, Invisible Pink Unicorn or Pastafarian, believe in the existence of an all-powerful being.

 

IS IT A GOD OR ONE OF THE AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE?

IS IT A GOD OR ONE OF THE AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE?

 

 

So it’s probably not a good idea that philosophers should totally ignore the influence of religious belief on philosophical thought.

 

Wait a minute. I’m an atheist. I don’t want to say that.

I need to rethink this.

 

 

 

* The “old trap” , for those who haven’t stepped into it, goes a little like this: by naming an object (in this case God), I am asserting that there is some object in the real world to which the name “God” corresponds. If I say that “God” does not exist, I am saying that that named object to which an object in the real world corresponds (God) does not exist, thus I am contradicting myself. So to avoid such contradiction, I will not name an object but state that I lack a belief in the existence of a being that is described as an all-knowing, all-seeing, omnipotent, perfectly good being (I shall steal a word from a former professor and use the word “Omnicompetent”). If you want to know what I just did to avoid the trap, read up on Bertrand Russell and definite descriptions… or not.

 

 

SOURCES:

1) http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=1786422&page=1
2) http://life.nationalpost.com/2011/11/30/religious-people-do-not-believe-in-atheists-study/
3) http://jezebel.com/5864303/people-think-atheists-are-just-as-bad-as-rapists-christ
4) http://cnsnews.com/news/article/gallup-liberals-democrats-grad-students-easterners-more-likely-be-atheists
5) Pew Center stat: Joanna Sharpless. “Faithlessness On the Rise?” 11/07/07. http://www.secularstudents.org/node/1848
6) The number of Americans with a four-year degree as of 2011, is 28%. http://chronicle.com/article/Census-Data-Reveal-Rise-in/126026/
7) Stats on Millennials: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/05/more-millennials-losing-their-religion_n_1571366.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009
8) http://www.pbs.org/wnet/need-to-know/video/video-are-colleges-encouraging-atheism/13078/comment-page-1/
9) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion
10) http://dudeism.com
11) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philosophy-religion/