My Favorite Philosopher Is… Problematic

THERE ARE A FEW things these days that truly worry me: Crepey skin… Opioid-induced constipation…

Am I entitled to financial compensation if my loved one was exposed to mesothelioma-causing asbestos?

There is one thing I thought I never had to worry about: philosophers.

I was wrong.

Recent sex scandals involving the (formerly) respected philosophers Colin McGinn and John Searle, and the trial of Rutger’s University philosophy professor, Anna Stubblefield, who was convicted of the sexual assault of a 29 year old man with severe cerebral palsy, have made me think twice about the profession I’d once thought as scandal free.

Stubblefield’s conviction was overturned, by the way.

Nonetheless, it’s all kind of a black eye to the profession.

You see, pretty much nobody likes philosophers.

Sure, our moms and pops love us plenty, but when it comes to what society thinks of lovers of wisdom, the love is much to be desired.

“I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is far superior”
– Hippolyte Taine (1828 – 1893)

Philosophers got a shout out during the Republican Presidential Debates last year, but not for the reason that anyone would want to brag about.

Former Republican presidential candidate, Florida Representative Marco Rubio, declared that we need more welders and less philosophers.

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WHO’S TO SAY THIS GUYS DOESN’T READ SCHOPENHAUER IN HIS SPARE TIME/

Rubio’s fellow Republican candidate, Ted Cruz, declared that the Federal Reserve was being run by philosopher-kings.
That kinda sounds like a good thing, but Cruz didn’t mean it that way.

“There is, however, nothing wanting to the idleness of a philosopher but a better name, and that meditation, conversation, and reading should be called “work”.
– Jean de La Bruyere (1645 – 1696)

I’m not saying that welders aren’t a necessity. Lord knows that when I think about the folks who built my apartment, I’m glad that some of them picked up welding instead of Socrates.

But I’m also saying that philosophers can be useful, too.

Speaking of useful…

I thought if I went back to read the old philosophers, I’d find guys (and a few gals) who are not only brilliant, but also free of defect.

Uh…

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Sure, there’s some great classic philosophy, but going back to read the old philosophers just proves that those old white guys really were a bunch of old. white. guys.

They call it the Enlightenment but really, some of them folks weren’t very enlightened.

All Most Some of history’s greatest philosophers are sexist (dare we say even hovering near misogyny) and slightly more than casually racist.

Rousseau abandoned his kids.

Hegel fathered an illegitimate son with his landlord and was kind of a dick to the kid.

Descartes tortured animals.

Heidegger was a Nazi.

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NOT TALKING ABOUT METAPHORICAL NAZI, LIKE HEIDEGGER WAS GRAMMAR NAZI, BUT FULL-ON, HITLER SALUTING NAZI

Even my favorite philosopher, the 18th century Scottish philosopher, David Hume, wrote things that could only be described these days as… problematic.

In 1742, Hume wrote:

“I am apt to suspect that the Negroes, and in general all other species of men to be naturally inferior to the whites. There never was any civilized nation of any other complection than white, nor even any individual eminent in action or speculation.”

Hume also said that the Jews of Europe were “noted for fraud”.

But hey, at least Hume was against slavery!

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WHO KNEW HUME AND HEIDEGGER WOULD HAVE SO MUCH IN COMMON?

Ok, we can say that we shouldn’t judge others by our modern standards. And sometimes we shouldn’t. But here’s the thing: we can judge. We should judge.

You know, something about moral relativism.

Actually, there were plenty of people who objected to racism and sexism even back then.

I got so bummed out about philosophers that like a damned idiot I thought that turning to fictional philosophers would help.

Nope.

First off, there’s a real lack of philosophers in movies.

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LOOKING FOR A SOMEWHAT-DECENT PORTRAYAL OF A PHILOSOPHER IN A MOVIE OF A TV SHOW

As opposed to philosophy or movies that are philosophical – there’s plenty of that.

A lot of it bad.

…Although Richard Linklater’s Waking Life is a pretty good philosophical movie.

In the real world, we have highly entertaining philosophers like Slavoj Zizek, but in film (in movies that aren’t strictly biographical – there’s been movies about Socrates, Hypatia of Alexandria, Confucius, Descartes, Wittgenstein, and Hannah Arendt, among others or adapted from philosophical works, like Ayn Rand’s 1949 film adaptation of her novel, The Fountainhead), philosophers are depicted as dull, ineffectual, arrogant, and morally bankrupt.

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AYN RAND DIDN’T INVENT PHILOSOPHICAL MORAL BANKRUPTCY. SHE JUST GOT THE MOST POPULAR AT IT

Granted, movie philosophers are smart guys (and it is almost always a guy) but personally, especially morally, the movie philosopher is always royally screwed up.

Wait a minute. That describes a few real philosophers.

Movie philosophers are all thought and no action. All preparation and no H. They’re excellent at navel gazing and pontificating; high on the stink of their capacity for rational thought.

Popular depictions of philosophers (in film) tend to reflect the idea that intellectuals are not to be trusted.

Or at the very least they’re not to be taken seriously.

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Cinematic philosophers add nothing of value to society other than to increase the amount of bullshit and useless opinions.

You’re nodding your head, aren’t you?

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In movies, the goal always is to prove how stupid and wrong philosophy and philosophers are.

And philosophers don’t believe in GOD.

Movie philosophers are often philosophical but not philosophers. Like Yoda.

Yoda is a badass because he’s not a philosopher.

I decided to watch a few movies with philosophers in them to get a look-see at philosophers in film.

… and to affirm my confirmation bias.

“Philosophers say a great deal about what is absolutely necessary for science, and it is always so far as one can see, rather naïve, and probably wrong.
– Richard Feynman (1918 -1988)

In Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part 1, when a “stand-up philosopher” (played by Brooks) gives his occupation, his occupation is corrected to “bullshit artist”.

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In The Life of David Gale, Kevin Spacey plays a philosophy professor put to death for murder.

By the way, he’s not guilty of the crime for which he is executed, mind you. He set himself up to be executed for a crime he didn’t commit to prove that the death penalty is wrong.

That’s a pretty underhanded thing to do.

Because movie philosophers do underhanded things.

Oops. Should I have said SPOILER ALERT?

In Woody Allen’s Irrational Man Joaquin Phoenix plays a philosophy professor (long story short) who attempts to murder a student he was flirted with.

Woody Allen is the king of movies with philosophical themes.

He’s also the king of movies about older men having semi-inappropriate relationships with disturbingly much younger women.

Because philosophers have inappropriate relationships with much younger women, especially if they’re students.

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PHILOSOPHY PROFESSORS AND STING. NOT GONNA EXPLAIN THE REFERENCE

Somehow its always the philosopher who wants to ball his students…

Speaking of balling students…

In the film Leaves of Grass written and directed by Tim Blake Nelson, Edward Norton stars as a Brown University philosophy professor, Bill Kincaid. Kincaid goes back to his hometown in Oklahoma to trade places with his hillbilly marijuana-dealing identical twin brother, Brady (also played by Edward Norton), who is mixed up with the local drug kingpin. In no surprise to the audience, Brady is the smarter twin and is also philosophical – but not like an overeducated intellectual Ivy League college philosophy professor kind of way.

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COME ON, WOULD YOU IF EDWARD NORTON WAS YOUR PHILOSOPHY PROFESSOR?

The Alfred Hitchcock film Rope (1948) is about a pair Nietzsche fans that demonstrate what happens when you get Nietzsche all wrong and that nihilism isn’t for everybody… or anybody.

…and then there’s my favorite, God’s Not Dead, the Christian cinema classic from 2014 starring Kevin Sorbo as an atheist philosophy professor. Yes, THAT atheist philosophy professor – the one, who, on the first day of class, challenges students to prove that God exists.

Or rather, confirm that God doesn’t exist.

Philosophy professors, like Sorbo’s Professor Jeffery Radisson, delight in breaking the faith of his Christian students.

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IT’S AN ESTABLISHED FACT IN PHILOSOPHY CIRCLES THAT SCREAMING ATHEISM IN A STUDENT’S FACE WILL SCREAM THE GOD RIGHT OUT OT THEM

Because he believes that philosophers know everything.

So far as I know, only Hegel thought that. About himself.

God’s Not Dead relies heavily on the popular (mis)conception that all philosophers are godless, God-hating atheists. Sorbo’s philosophy professor is high on his intellectualism. Proving God does not exist is an exercise in confirming his intellectual arrogance.

Obviously the folks who made God’s Not Dead have never heard of Alvin Plantinga.

Or Richard Swinburne.

Or Peter van Inwagen.

Of course the atheist philosophy professor dies in the end.

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RADISSON IS AFRAID TO DIE BECAUSE HE KNOWS ALL PHILOSOPHERS GO TO HELL

By the way, in my experience, never once in a philosophy class that wasn’t specifically a philosophy of religion class did any professor even mention arguments for or against the existence of God.

All of these depictions of philosophers are around because we think philosophers, not just the old white sexists and racists of the past, and not just the present-day philosophers accused of sexual impropriety, are problematic.

Philosophy is problematic.

That is something worth worrying about.

Not crepey skin-level worry, but worrying nonetheless.

 

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SERIOUSLY, HOW CAN YOU LOOK AT THIS AND NOT BE WORRIED?

 

 

** I’d like to add here that there is at least one awesomely excellent portrayal of a philosopher in popular culture, NYU philosophy degree-havin’, tai chi mastering, rip a man’s throat out with his bare hands-doin’ , bouncer (whoops) cooler, James Dalton, portrayed by the late (always great) Patrick Swayze in Road House.
Road House is a supremely bad movie, but in its awfulness is cinematic gold.
And Dalton’s great piece of philosophical mantra, “Be Nice, Until It’s Time To Not Be Nice”.

** I encourage anyone to watch all the films mentioned in this post. If not to see how philosophers are depicted in cinema, some of the movies actually are entertaining to watch.

 

 

For details on the Anna Stubblefield case: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/03/opinion/who-is-the-victim-in-the-anna-stubblefield-case.html

 

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How To Destroy Hegel

IF YOU ASK ANY random group of philosophy fans who their least favorite philosopher is, you won’t have to survey more than two philosophiles before you hear the name of the 19th century German Idealist philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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THIS IS GEORG WILHELM FRIEDRICH HEGEL (1770-1831), PERHAPS THE MOST HATED MAN IN PHILOSOPHY

Hegel (if you’ve bothered to read his work at all ‘cause these days a lot of people don‘t) is most famously associated (although some say mistakenly) with the concept of the dialectic. The dialectic goes as follows: one starts with an idea, the thesis, “against which is opposed by” a conflict (the antithesis). The result of the confrontation is called synthesis, which is meant to resolve the conflict.

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DID YOU KNOW THAT THE  DIALECTIC, DESCRIBED AS THESIS/ANTITHESIS/SYNTHESIS NEVER ACTUALLY APPEARS (AS SUCH) IN HEGEL’S WRITINGS? DO YOU CARE?

As one of philosophy’s notoriously (mostly German) incomprehensible philosophers,a list that also includes Nietzsche, Kant, Lacan, and Husserl, Hegel’s philosophy was popular in the late 19th century. During that time, the majority academic philosophers in Great Britain and in the U.S. were Hegelians. Hegel’s writings on modernity, politics, and civil society not only influenced the German Idealists, but also Protestant theologians who attempted to reconcile philosophy and Christianity.

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Hegel’s philosophical masterpiece Phenomenology of the Spirit, written in 1807, was intended to get us to absolute knowledge. Hegel believed that his philosophy was the culmination of previous philosophical thought and attempted to solve all the problems of philosophy through a focus on logic and history.

Hegel says

What I have set out to do is to help bring philosophy closer to the form of science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title ‘love of knowing’ and be actual knowing

Now, there are people who like philosophy.

Most people who like philosophy have a favorite philosopher.

Hegel is no one’s favorite philosopher.

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SAID NO ONE, EVER

Personally, Hegel is not one of my favorites.

No German philosopher is.

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Listen: It’s no secret that there’s a lot of Hegel hate out there. Not that it’s completely undeserved.

Someone of it, I think, has to do with the way he looks.

I mean, look at the guy

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THIS IS THE KIND OF FACE YOU CAN GROW TO HATE BY JUST LOOKING AT IT

Ok, that’s kind of ad hominemy. We shouldn’t dislike a philosopher solely based on their looks.

If we did absolutely no one would read Leibniz. Or Heidegger.

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OH, THANK GOD

If you think about it, it’s kind of an accomplishment to be so despised by so many people.

Ayn Rand called Hegel’s philosophy “witchdoctory”.

This is a critique of Hegel coming from a woman about whom Dorothy Parker once said of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

It is not a novel that should be thrown aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Even Schopenhauer called Hegel’s work “stupid and inept”.

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SURE YOU DO, OSCAR WILDE. SURE YOU DO.

Lots of philosophers dislike Hegel, but why do so many other people hate Hegel so much?

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What did Hegel do that was so philosophically horrible?
Maybe people hate Hegel because, as some claim, Hegel the man is as boring as his philosophy.

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Maybe our collective hatred of Hegel has something to do with the fact that Hegel treated his landlady like crap. Or maybe because Hegel fathered an illegitimate son (Ludwig) with his landlady, and that Ludwig not only spent his first ten years in an orphanage, but that Hegel also refused to pay for the boy’s education.

Yeah, Hegel was a shitty person but that’s probably not the reason why people hate him so much.
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Maybe it’s because Hegel dared to argue that Kant’s notion of ding an sich, is contradictory and inconsistent.

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It’s generally held that it is not wise to knock Immanuel Kant, but it’s a good guess that the reason why no one likes Hegel has everything to do with his philosophy. Second to fellow German philosopher Martin Heidegger, Hegel rates high on the “Huh???” chart.

Hegel is notoriously difficult to understand.

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Thus maintaining the German tradition of convoluted writing.
Simply put: the reason why so many people hate Hegel is because most people do not understand Hegel.

Even philosophers.

Hegel claimed on his death bed that only one man could understand him and that that man had misunderstood him.

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And those who do understand Hegel think his work is, well, stupid.

Especially philosophers.
I’m not going to even PRETEND to understand the first thing about anything Hegel wrote.

This fact, however, doesn’t necessarily prohibit us from hating him.

Especially if you’re a philosopher.

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Here’s a short list of what other philosophers say about Hegel:

Bertrand Russell on Hegel in Philosophy and Politics:

Hegel’s philosophy is so odd that one would not have expected him to be able to get some men to accept it, but he did. He set out with so much obscurity that people thought it must be profound. It can quite easily be expounded lucidly in words of one syllable, but then its absurdity becomes obvious.

Russell says that Hegel is the most difficult to understand of the great philosophers because almost all of his doctrines are false.

Schopenhauer wrote on “the stupefying influence of Hegel’s sham wisdom” and suggested that no one under forty read Hegel. Schopenhauer not only suggested reading Hegel will ruin one’s brain, he also declared Hegel a pseudo-philosopher whose philosophy paralyzes all mental powers and stifles one’s ability to think.

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Philosopher Glenn Alexander Magee says:

Hegel is not a philosopher. He is no lover or seeker of wisdom -he believes he has found it. […] By the end of Phenomenology [of Spirit], Hegel claims to have arrived at Absolute Knowledge, which he identifies with wisdom. Hegel’s claim to have attained wisdom is completely contrary to the original Greek conception of philosophy as the love of wisdom, that is, the ongoing pursuit rather than the final possession of wisdom.

Roger Scruton calls Hegel’s work

Like a beautiful oasis around a treacherous pool of nonsense, and nowhere beneath the foliage is the ground really firm.

Popper calls Hegel “meaningless verbiage”.

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You spend years trying to understand Hegel, but no one can agree on exactly what’s the meaning of Hegel’s philosophy.

Even Hegel himself proclaimed that no one ever understood him.

And if no one understands you, that means there’s a lot of room for misinterpretation.

This, as everyone knows, is a problem.

Some folks think that the problem with Hegel is that a lot of people misunderstand Hegel’s dialectic. And everyone not agreeing on the meaning of Hegel’s philosophy has resulted in a bunch of Hegel-influenced philosophical ideologies ranging from Continental philosophy to the philosophy of Karl Marx, and the rise of Nazism in Germany.

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YOU CAN BLAME ALL OF THIS ON HEGEL

The real problem with Hegel, according to a bunch of philosophers (and some other people), is that Hegel builds theories so great (great meaning big, not fantastic) that his philosophy collapses under its own weight. Hegel attempt to explain all reality – tries to solve all problems of philosophy – a task Hegel ultimately fails to accomplish. Hegel’s philosophy is so convoluted, complicated, and disconnected from reality, that it lacks any practical usefulness. Hegel is just so many words.

But in the end, he hasn’t really said a thing.

Ok, if no one likes Hegel or his philosophy – especially his philosophy, how is Hegel still so popular? Why or how does anyone still know who he is? Why are philosophy students still assigned Hegel’s work as a part of their required reading?
Seriously, why haven’t we decided to just stop reading Hegel?
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The real real problem with Hegel is that getting rid of the man and his philosophy isn’t as easy as declaring Hegel’s work meaningless verbiage and tossing it out to the rubbish bin of bad philosophical ideas. The reason why we can’t destroy Hegel is this: so much of our culture is Hegelian. Hegel’s philosophy, even though he’s possibly the most hated man in philosophy, is an inextricable part of our culture.

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Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and The Last Man, wrote of Hegel’s lasting influence on philosophy:

For better or worse, much of Hegel’s historicism has become part of our contemporary baggage. The notion that mankind has progresses through a series of primitive stages of consciousness on his path to the present, and that these stages correspond to concrete forms of social organization, such as tribal, slave owning, theocratic, and finally democratic egalitarian societies, has become inseparable form the modern understanding of man. Hegel was the first philosopher to speak the language of modern science, insofar as man for him was the product of his concrete historical and social environment and not, as earlier natural right theorists would have it, a collection of more or less fixed “natural” attributes. The mastery and transformation of man’s natural environment through the application of science and technology was originally not a Marxist concept, but a Hegelian one. Unlike later historicists whose historical relativism degenerated into relativism tout court, however, Hegel believed that history culminated in an absolute moment – a moment in which a final, rational form of society and state became victorious.

In the end, what are we to think about Hegel? I don’t know. Think whatever you want. Read, don’t read. I’m pretty sure there’s little chance that Hegel will take offense at what you think of him or his works.

Or what anyone thinks of what he wrote.

I’ll admit I haven’t met a book by Hegel that i finished, so really, am I in any position to say anything about the most Hated Man in Philosophy? Maybe. Is anybody?

"There you go Professor..."

 

 

Whatever we decide about Hegel, I’m sure that Schopenhauer is looking up at us and enjoying all of this… or not.

 

 

 

SOURCES:


http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/hegel-kimball-234

http://www.evphil.com/blog/hegel-poster-child-for-what-is-wrong-with-philosophy

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel#Quotes_about_Hegel

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/12/what-the-hell-hegel/

The world IS a treat… When you’re on Easy Street

SOMETIMES IT’S DIFFICULT to participate in a fandom.

Fandoms aren’t like normal people who merely watch a TV show.

…. Or read a book. Or go out and see a movie.

Unless the movie is Star Wars.

Star Wars people are NUTS.

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NOT EVERY POPULAR FRANCHISE CAN CLAIM TO HAVE FANS THIS DEDICATED

Normal people can watch an episode of their favorite series, turn off the TV and be done with it. There’s always something else to occupy their time.

Fandoms LIVE their favorite TV shows. Breathe them. They become their favorite TV shows.

The sign of a true fandom fanatic is all about the cosplay.

Cosplay:

“The practice of dressing up as a character from a movie, book, or video game, especially one from the Japanese genres of manga and anime.

Cosplay.

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THE MOST AWESOME COSPLAY EVER

There are plenty of TV fandoms that inspire the fans to dress up as their favorite characters, but nothing quite captures the dedication to a single character than fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

In particular, fans of this character

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Daryl Dixon.

Now, I’ve written about The Walking Dead in (too many) other blog posts. Thinking about the show and writing about its characters has, for me, become a philosophical past time.

Or obsession…

I’ve written about former Sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes and his lack of moral consistency. I’ve also compared the world of The Walking Dead to Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan. I’ve written a thing or two about utilitarian ethics in a world populated by the undead…

I’ve written more than a couple posts about Daryl Dixon.

Mostly about Daryl and his life’s purpose – meaning of life stuff.

I’ve even jotted off a post about The Walking Dead companion series, Fear the Walking Dead.

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STILL ASKING “WHY ISN’T NICK DEAD YET?”

On a TV show where it’s easy to be distracted by the hodge-podge of the ethics and questionable ethical decision making that is Rick Grimes, it’s easy to overlook other characters worthy of equal moral scrutiny.

I haven’t really focused on Daryl Dixon from a moral point of view.

At least I don’t remember if I have.

And unlike Rick Grimes, who is, I believe, a stellar example of moral inconsistency, Daryl Dixon may be the only morally consistent character on The Walking Dead.

Or should I say that Rick Grimes is morally fluid?

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But that’s another blog post for another day…

Daryl considers his fellow survivors family and does what he can, including risking his own life (he’s been shot, pieced through with an arrow, grazed by a bullet, imprisoned, abused, nearly devoured by zombies on several occasions, made to fight his own brother in a contest to the death, almost beaten to death, nearly cannibalized, robbed of his motorcycle) all in service to his group.

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GUNS DON’T WORK ON DARYL DIXON. HE’S GOT IMPENETRABLE PLOT ARMOR

Daryl Dixon’s principles are clear: hurt a member of his family, you deserve to be hurt in return. If someone injures or threatens members of Daryl’s group (the Governor, Negan, Officer Dawn Lerner, etc. ) look forward to a royal asskickin‘ courtesy of Mr. Dixon.

But what exactly are Daryl Dixon’s principles? Is Daryl Dixon’s morality an eye for an eye? Does Daryl act because its his duty to do so? Is it because it’s the right thing to do? Is it because he wants good outcomes? Does Daryl do what he does because he believes a divinely cosmic force demands that’s the way things have to be?

I actually don’t know.

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DARYL DIDN’T SEEM TOO ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THE WHOLE JESUS THING

Namely, Daryl Dixon’s ethics are so difficult to pinpoint because Dixon’s ethics do not conform 100% to any deontological, utilitarian or divinely-inspired ideologies.

…but he is consistent.

Philosophers value consistency.

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Perhaps it’s Daryl Dixon’s complete originality – that he isn’t tied to the source material – allows him (unlike the characters that originated in The Walking Dead graphic novel) to be morally consistent.

We can imagine that Daryl feels it is his moral obligation to defend his family.

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A moral obligation grounded on loyalty.

Daryl Dixon’s primary moral principle is loyalty.

Daryl Dixon loyal almost to a fault.

Daryl puts down Dale after Dale is attacked by a walker – because he is loyal to Dale.

Daryl’s last words to Dale: “Sorry, brother.”

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Daryl’s loyalty to his brother Merle leads him to leave Rick’s group.

Even though Merle Dixon is a short-fused racist who, as Merle later reveals, intended to rob his fellow survivors.

AND… Daryl’s loyalty to Rick Grimes and his fellow survivors leads him right back.

When Officer Dawn Lerner kills Beth Daryl does not hesitate to dish out some retributive justice – out of loyalty to Beth and her father, Hershel Greene.

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WHEN DARYL CRIES, WE CRY

When Claimer Joe threatens to kill Rick, Michonne and Carl, Daryl offers his life in their place.

Because he is loyal to Rick.

When bad guy Negan brutally murders Abraham, Daryl strikes out at Negan.

You get the idea…

Unfortunately, Daryl’s actions gets another member of Daryl’s group killed.

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TOTALLY YOUR FAULT, DARYL

That’s because Daryl’s loyalty as a groundwork of ethics didn’t calculate the possibility of another death.

Although Daryl’s retaliation on Negan demonstrates that Daryl is a so-so utilitarian, Daryl clearly demonstrates that his only moral principle is to protect the group – because he is loyal to them.

That keeps Daryl pretty consistent, morality-wise.

Which is more than I can say for this guy

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But wait, you say. There is no such thing as an ethics of loyalty!

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Loyalty as the basis of ethics is the ethical theory founded by American philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916), who advocated the virtue of loyalty.

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Royce wrote that when a person joins a community committed to a shared cause, the cause develops moral significance. Royce calls the morally significant commitment “loyalty”. We can understand an individual’s morality by looking at the plurality of their loyalties.

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So, if we take a look at Daryl Dixon’s loyalties, we will see that his morals are based in his obligation to protect his group; his family. Daryl is committed, like the other members of his community, to the survival of the group – perhaps survival at all costs.

Of course, I have way oversimplified Royce’s theory.

In the end, when we look at the characters of The Walking Dead, it’s quite easy to find what’s morally wrong with the characters. They indeed are a mess of moral inconsistencies, ambiguities, contradictions, and cherry picking. Watching the show, it’s easy to throw up one’s hands and declare the characters all bad.

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Trust me, I’ve done that before.

We’re given former sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes as the character who is morally most like us; he’s an ordinary guy thrust into an extraordinary situation; he strives to do good in a world where words like good and evil no longer apply.

It’s easy to dismiss Daryl Dixon as a character merely there for the fangirls and boys. Daryl is the not-at-all-realistic backwoods hillbilly who does nothing more for the show than to glare at people, shoot his crossbow, and leave the audience to ponder when is the last time he showered and what ungodly stank emanates from his nether region.

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I FIGURE THAT STENCH IS SOMEWHERE BETWEEN SWASS, DEAD SKUNK…AND AXE BODY SPRAY

But if we’re thinking of the characters of The Walking Dead morally, stanky, backwater Daryl Dixon may be the most moral character on the show.

At least so far as moral consistency goes.

…or according to fangirls.

 

 

 

 

Sources:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/Royce/#Loy

A BRIEF ARGUMENT IN FAVOR OF DETERMINISM ON THE WALKING DEAD

I’VE ALWAYS HAD an inkling that there was something odd about the way characters act on The Walking Dead. Sometimes a character’s actions defies common sense. Like something makes them act in a particular or peculiar way.

Those things are usually called writers.

But seriously, characters on The Walking Dead sometimes seem unable to do other than what they do, even if what they don’t do is the logical thing to do – almost as if an unseen force is compelling these characters to act in a specific way.

Characters on this show often have a bad case of the dumb.

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THE REAL TITLE OF THE SHOW

I used to think that the inexplicable choosing of bad choices was the product of bad writing.

I blamed bad writing until I saw The Walking Dead Season 7, episode 16, “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”

It was then that everything became more clear to me.

mind blown

Characters on The Walking Dead do dumb things because that’s what they’re determined to do.

In the universe of The Walking Dead there is no free will.

There is only determinism.

Determinism:
“Determinism is the philosophical idea that every event or state of affairs, including every human decision and action, is the inevitable and necessary consequence of antecedent states of affairs.

The reason why I think the lives of the characters on The Walking Dead are governed by determinism has a little something to do with a speech by Maggie Rhee.

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PICTURED: MAGGIE CONTEMPLATING HER ROLE AS POSSIBLE MORAL CENTER OF THE GROUP. SHE SHOULD WATCH OUT ABOUT THAT

In the aftermath of the brutal bludgeoning murders of Abraham Ford and Glenn Rhee (Maggie’s husband) by the leather jacketed, inexplicably leaning to the side, baseball bat-wielding Negan, Maggie delivers this speech:

The decision was made a long time ago. Before any of us knew each other. We were all strangers who would have passed each other on the street before the world ended. But now we mean everything to each other. Glenn didn’t know you but he helped you. He put himself in danger for you and that started it all. From Atlanta, to my daddy’s farm, to the prison, to here. To this moment now – not as strangers; as family – because Glenn chose to be there for you, that day a long time ago – that was the decision that changed everything. It started with both of you and it just grew, all of this: to sacrifice for each other, to suffer and stand, to grieve, to give, to love, to live, to fight for each other. Glenn made that decision, Rick. I was just following his lead.

As poignant as Maggie’s voice-overed speech was, there was something that struck my mind about it, namely, the first line: The decision was made a long time ago.

Maggie’s speech suggests that everything that happened (presumably from the first episode on) was the inevitable outcome from one decision.

A decision that was made a long time ago.

A decision I call determinism.

The French-German philosopher (and hard determinist) Baron d’Holbach (1723-1789) writes of man’s actions:

Man’s life is a line that nature commands him to describe upon the surface of the earth, without his ever being able to swerve from it, even for an instant. He is born without his own consent; his organization does in nowise depend upon himself; his ideas come to him involuntarily; his habits are in the power of those who cause him to contact them; he is unceasingly modified by causes, whether visible or concealed, over which he has no control, which necessarily regulate his mode of existence, give the hue to his way of thinking, and determine his manner of acting. He is good or bad, happy or miserable, wise or foolish, reasonable or irrational, without his will being any thing in these various states.

You will say that I feel free. This is an illusion.

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LOOKS EXACTLY THE WAY YOU’D IMAGINE THAT A GUY THAT SAYS YOU HAVE NO FREE WILL WOULD LOOK, DOESN’T HE?

 

The character’s lives are kind of like dominoes: You knock down the first domino, setting off a chain of events, causing each proceeding domino to fall.

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So…

IF Maggie and Baron d’Holbach are correct, Glenn’s actions, and the events in The Walking Dead are the inevitable consequence of a prior series of events.

Glenn had to save Rick.

Rick had to be reunited with his family.

Shane and Lori had to have an affair.

Rick had to kill Shane.

Lori had to die.

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THIS MAY BE THE ONLY GOOD THING ABOUT DETERMINISM

The group had to leave Georgia.

The group had to find Alexandria.

Maggie had to have complications with her pregnancy.

And this had to happen to Glenn.

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Now, Maggie says that Glenn made the choice, but it is plausible that something else made the decision.

That is, something made the choice for Glenn to make a choice.

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IF GLENN’S CHOICE IS NOT THE OUTCOME OF A CAUSAL CHAIN IN THE NATURAL WORLD, THEN…. 

You can call it fate that Glenn found Rick Grimes hiding in a zombie-surrounded tank in Atlanta. But Glenn had to be there just as Rick had to be there.

Because the decision was made a long time ago.

But who made the decision?

God, maybe?

Is it possible that a Divine power has determined the character’s fates?

The show seems to suggest that (the Christian) God exists, or at least the possibility that God exists.

Religious characters exist in The Walking Dead: Hershel Greene, Father Gabriel Stokes. Characters pray. Bible verses and references to Bible verses appear throughout the series. Events in the show have paralleled stories in the Bible (Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac/Rick’s sacrifice of his son’s arm).

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YOU MAY NOT HAVE REALIZED IT, BUT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE THINKING OF THE BOOK OF GENESIS DURING THIS SCENE

 

And a few characters have religious names.

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THERE’S A CHARACTER NAMED JESUS FOR PETE’S SAKE!!!

When Rick’s group encounters a lone doctor, Edwin Jenner, at the CDC, Jenner does not exclude the possibility that the zombie apocalypse may be due to an “act of God”.

If God exists and everything that happens in The Walking Dead is the result of a choice made a long time ago, Maggie Rhee’s view of the world may be fatalistic, events are fated to happen.

There’s a religious doctrine that teaches (us that) all human action is determined: Theological determinism.

Or fatalism, if you prefer.

'Well, You've sent them floods, earthquakes, famines, pestilence, plagues, wars, and hurricanes -- of course they're fatalistic!'

Predestination if you’re a Calvinist.

Theological determinism is a belief professed by St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and the American philosopher, Jonathan Edwards.

Strong theological determinism is the belief that

“everything that happens has been predestined to happen by an omniscient divinity.”

Some believe that the Bible makes the case for theological determinism. Ephesians 1:11 states

“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.

According to theological determinism, God does not need to follow (natural) causal rules of d’Holbach’s philosophical determinism. Human actions and events are not the necessary result of a series of prior events, but occur according to the totally inescapable capricious will of an omniscient, all-powerful deity.

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION

Things happen because HE has ordained it so.

A long time ago.

As John Calvin says,

“All events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel of God

So… does Maggie Rhee’s decisions made a long time ago speech mean that The Walking Dead exists in a determined universe? Of course not. If anything, the abundance of bad choices and poor decision making indicates that Rick Grimes, Maggie Rhee, and their fellow survivors possess an abundance of free will.

After all, what kind of all-knowing deity would make people do so many things that are so… dumb?

It’s probably a safe bet to assume that The Walking Dead, like the real world, is frequently governed by dumb luck, chance, and the occasional stars lining up just right that it only seems like everything works out the way it’s supposed to.

 

…unless they’re compatibilists

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
http://www.informationphilosopher.com/freedom/determinism.html

Baron d’Holbach. System of Nature (1770). http://www.ftarchives.net/holbach/system/a11.htm

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

THE WORLD’S WORST UTILITARIAN FOOD FOR THOUGHT

HANG AROUND WITH philosophers long enough and you’ll realize that philosophers think about some strange things.

I was going to say strange shit but I’m not sure about the parental settings on my blog.

Now, you can drop acid and open the doors of perception but as much as I enjoy “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, I ain’t ever seen anyone tripping on LSD think up something as far out as transcendental idealism or logical positivism.

Philosophers think up this kind of stuff sober.

There’s a little thing that some philosophers do called ethics.

These ethics-practicing philosophers (or ethicists, if you prefer) sometimes engage in a game of “what if?”

An ethical “what if?” is pretty much about thinking up the most f’ed up situation one can think of (with moral implications, of course) and then asking, now, what would you do?

Folks on the outside call those kind of what ifs hypothetical situations.

If you’re a philosopher, you call those f’ed up situations a thought experiment.

If you don’t know already, thought experiments, as defined philosophically:

Thought experiments are devices of the imagination used to investigate the nature of things…
The primary philosophical challenge of thought experiments is simple: How can we learn about reality (if we can at all), just by thinking?

In ethics, thought experiments allow us to test ethical theories and by examining the principles or consequences of an act, we can determine whether an act is morally right or wrong.

Hypothetical situations like thought experiments allow us to be prepared for when a similar situation (or moral dilemma) confronts us in the real world.

There are many famous thought experiments:

The Trolley Problem

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Brain in Vat

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The Chinese Room

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The Ticking Time Bomb

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The Experience Machine

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Schrodinger’s Cat

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The Drowning Man

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Funny thing about that drowning man thought experiment…

For those who are unfamiliar with the scenario, The Drowning Man goes as follows:

You’re walking along (alone) by a lake when you see a man in the lake flailing his arms and yelling for help. It is clear that the man is drowning. Do you jump in the lake to save the man?

At first glance the answer is obvious: jump in the lake and save the man.

Most of us would jump into the lake to save the drowning man without hesitation.

But because this is a question cooked up by philosophers, it ain’t that easy.

A philosopher might throw in another “what if” like, what if getting to the lake requires you to cross a patch of grass and there’s a sign that says “Stay Off The Grass” or what if you can’t swim?

or, what if you’re in Germany in 1920 and the drowning man is ADOLF HITLER????

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UNFORTUNATELY HITLER APPEARS IN TOO MANY THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS

The goal of the “what ifs” in The Drowning Man thought experiment (and any variable in any thought experiment) is to put a moral obstacle in front of you.

Most people would step on the grass to save a drowning man. But what if the sign read TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT? What if the sign read DO NOT STEP ON GRASS BY ORDER OF THE GOVERNMENT?

Would you risk your own life to do save a drowning man?

Would you violate a rule or a law (and what kind of rule or law would you violate?) to save a drowning man?

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THINK BEFORE YOU STEP. WHAT ARE THE MORAL RAMIFICATIONS OF TREADING ON THE LAWN?

For a deontologist, this question is more complicated than you think.

Thinking about The Drowning Man Scenario also kinda makes us ask another, less pleasant question of ethics: Are there some people not worth saving?

Is a drowning Adolf Hitler worth saving?

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FOR MANY PEOPLE THIS IS A PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE ANSWER TO THE DROWNING HITLER SCENARIO

If you’re a deontologist, this question is more complicated than you think.

Asking if there are some people not worth saving can get us to asking and even more unpleasant question, are there some people not worth allowing to live?

“Allowing to live” as in letting someone live in the first place.

For instance, would you kill baby Hitler?

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JUST A REMINDER, THIS IS WHO YOU WOULD KILL

Before we all answer a resounding “yes”, let’s figure out why the question is more complicated than we think.

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APPARENTLY THE READERS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES DON’T THINK THE QUESTION IS COMPLICATED AT ALL

Most of us would agree that Adolf Hitler was one of the worst, if not THE worst human being that ever lived. Its arguable that the world would be a better place if he hadn’t been born.

… Or at least the world would be a better place if Hitler was prevented from joining the National Socialist Party and becoming chancellor of Germany.

Although we aren’t capable of actual time travel, a thought experiment allows us to imagine what if we could? If we could travel back in time to April 20, 1889, what would we do?

More importantly, what would be the morally right thing to do?**

Let’s look at the question of killing baby Hitler from the perspective of the two leading ethical schools of thought: Deontological ethics and the consequentialist ethical theory, utilitarianism.

Deontological ethics is defined as:

…the normative ethical position that judges the morality of an action based on rules. (Wikipedia)

Deontologists act from Duty.

It is our duty to respect the (moral) law.

Immanuel Kant writes

…to have genuine moral worth, an action must be done from duty… An action done from duty does not have as its moral worth in the purpose which is to be achieved through it but in the maxim where by it is determined.
Duty is the necessity to do an action from respect of law.

That means, damn the consequences, obey the law.

Let’s say a deontologist has a (moral) law, THOU SHALL NOT KILL.

*Maybe we should refine the rule: Thou Shall Not Murder (as defined as “the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another”).

The law is to be obeyed – no exceptions.

Little boy arguing

If the deontologist believes that a rule is a rule and we must follow the rules, regardless of its consequences, even if his future self deserves it, we can’t exempt baby Hitler.

Because murder is always wrong.

The deontologist is bound by duty to let baby Hitler live.

Since we can’t obtain moral justification for killing the infant Hitler (presuming that is what we are trying to justify), we’ll look to consequentialist ethics (specifically utilitarianism) to tell us what is the morally right thing to do.

Enjoying this thought experiment yet?

For the utilitarian, it’s the consequences that matter.

In Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill writes

The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.

If utilitarian ethics is based on the increase of pleasure and the decrease of pain, and we know that an individual is or going to be responsible for the destruction of over sixty million lives, we may be morally obligated not just to let an adult Hitler drown but also to kill baby Hitler.

However, there’s a hitch…

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Utilitarianism (and other consequentialist ethical theories) judge and action right or wrong based on its consequences.

At the time that we perform an act, we don’t know the consequences. We only know what we think might happen or what we want or expect to happen.

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REMEMBER, IF YOU DO UTILITARIAN ETHICS YOU CAN END UP SPENDING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE LIKE THIS

Right now, we have the benefit of hindsight; we know what Hitler and the Nazis did. But in 1889, when Hitler was an infant, no one could have foreseen what the newborn infant would do as an adult.

If we traveled back in time we would have to weigh the act of (preemptively) killing a child for something that the child hasn’t yet done against the death and destruction we know adult Hitler did.

It might be easy to walk away from a drowning man, especially if that man is responsible for the attempted genocide of the Jewish people, but even those who could walk away from a drowning Hitler in the lake may find it hard, if not impossible to purposefully kill a child, no matter how evil that child may become.

Another hitch with utilitarianism is that we have to consider possible consequences – multiple consequences. If we had some way to travel back in time or to see the possible futures of baby Adolf Hitler, we may also see future where he could be prevented from becoming the most evil man in history.

We discourage killing children, even children who have engaged in “evil” acts, because we believe those children can be rehabilitated.

If it’s possible to rehabilitate an potentially evil child, is this then, another option that we have for baby Hitler?

And if that’s a viable option (i.e., one that will produce good consequences), we can’t justify killing baby Hitler.

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YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE, HANK

So… what would we do with baby Hitler?

What should we do?

A thought experiment can only ask…

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** Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way defending Hitler or suggesting that we should minimize Hitler’s and the Nazi’s atrocities for the sake of a thought experiment, nor am I suggesting that Hitler’s one life is worth more than sixty million lives world wide, including the nine million lives lost (including six million Jews) in Nazi concentration camps.

SOURCES:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/thought-experiment/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deontological_ethics

Immanuel Kant. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. 2nd Edition. Trans. Lewis White Beck. 1997 [1785]. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 15-16.

John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism. 2005 [1861]. NY: Barnes & Noble Books. 8.

Women in Philosophy?

MARCH WAS Women’s History Month.

Since March has been designated the month to celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of the Second Sex throughout history, it seemed an appropriate time to write a blog post about women in philosophy.

As this blog has made abundantly clear, I do philosophy. I did my time at university, thumbing through studying philosophical texts and bullshitting my way through tests and term papers, that somehow I managed to earn a philosophy degree. I think I’ve read enough of the great – excuse me – GREAT (italics added for emphasis) philosophers to say that I have a working knowledge of the who’s who of philosophy.

If you challenged me to name five great (I mean GREAT) philosophers and I can rattle off a quick dozen names – Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Hume, Kant, Spinoza, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Leibnitz, Schopenhauer, Hegel…

You get the idea.

You may also notice that all of those philosophers are men.

Having a working knowledge of a who’s who of philosophy, you’d think it’d be easy to do the same with women philosophers, but for as much philosophy I’ve read, I’ll be damned if I can name more than five women philosophers without really thinking about the names of numbers four and five.

Well, let’s see… there’s Hypatia of Alexandria, Simone de Beauvoir, Judith Butler… uh… there’s uh… Hmmm… let me think… there’s Onora O’ Neill… Margaret Cavendish…

There. That’s five

and Martha Nussbaum.

Martha Nussbaum!

There. I can name six.

And as I’ve said an annoyingly amount of times before, I’ve been writing philosophical blog for a few years now, and as easily as I might be able to rattle off the names of five women… err… six women philosophers off of my head, I know I can’t name ten.

Thank God for Google, I guess.

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I have to admit my philosophical education didn’t prepare me for conjuring the names of more than six women philosophers.

Of all of the philosophy classes I actually showed up for had, only one class dedicated to women in philosophy.

Now that I’m thinking about it, that was the only class where I read any women philosophers.

Of course, in that ONE class we read de Beauvoir – and of course the class was about gender.

When I was taking philosophy classes I didn’t really think about it.

There was plenty else to think about: how long I could put off graduating… what’s the fewest number of classes I could attend without negatively affecting my grade… do I really have to read and study the assigned material or can I just bullshit my way through exams…?

I mean, I thought about the lack of women philosophers but didn’t think about it.
The answer I gave to myself for the lack of women philosophers was this: I knew that earning a philosophy degree meant reading the foundations of philosophy and the foundations of philosophy are men.

Plato. Aristotle. Kant. Russell…

And so on…

But now that I’m thinking about it, I’m thinking certainly there are women that do philosophy, right?

There’s gotta be more than five.

I mean, Women think, don’t they?

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APPARENTLY THIS SITUATION ONLY HAPPENS IN FICTION

If I thought the things that I think now, I would have demanded that my professors tell me where are all the women in metaphysics! Where are the women in epistemology?! Where are the lady ethicists?! Where are the women logicians???

I’d ask about women logicians even though I hate logic.

Now, I know that bringing up a lack of women philosophers probably sounds like I’m going all triggered SJWs complaining about… whatever, but having done the college philosophy thing, I actually did walk away with the impression that the only philosophy that’s done is done by a bunch of dead old guys.

Probably a slightly overweight old dudes with beards.

Some dude that looks like this

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Or this.

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NOT THE GUY FROM THE OTHER PICTURE

Well, at the risk of sounding triggered, I gotta ask, Is there a legit reason why there aren’t women in philosophy?

Is there a reason why philosophy students aren’t taught the works of women philosophers?

Does philosophy have a problem with women?

Probably.

You don’t have to dig too deeply into the annals of Philosophy to figure out that philosophers have written about women for centuries.

Banquet given by the Seven Sages of Greece

PICTURED: PHILOSOPHERS SHIT TALKIN’ ABOUT WOMEN

I’m sure that the reason why – that even now – there’s a lack of prominent women in philosophy has to do with the legacy of sexism and misogyny. We don’t push girls into the thinking fields: math, science, philosophy because women aren’t capable of thinking philosophically.

Because, apparently, sporting a vagina  (or wandering uterus) disqualifies one from being capable of sustaining a rational thought.

Aristotle observed that women are “incomplete” males.

For Aristotle, being a woman was a “deformity”.

Aristotle also said that women are more (than men):

  • mischievous
  • impulsive
  • easily moved to tears
  • jealous
  • quarrelsome
  • apt to “scold and to strike”
  • void of shame or self respect
  • false of speech
  • deceptive
  • difficult to rouse to action

 
But hey, Aristotle said that women have fewer teeth than men.

Whatever that means.

I assume that it’s a good thing.

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THIS FROM THE SAME GUY WHO THOUGHT SPERM HAS TINY PEOPLE IN IT. HE DID. BELIEVE THAT. LOOK IT UP

Women are incomplete, deformed, trouble causing males, therefore, women should be relegated to domestic duties.

That’s because the natural place for a woman is in the home.

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Heck, why go all the way back to the ancient Greek philosophers?

Hegel said women’s

minds are not adapted to the higher sciences, philosophy, or certain of the arts.

The master of misinterpreted philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche, wrote:

Woman has so much reason fir shame; in woman there is concealed in woman there is so much superficiality, petty presumption and petty immodesty…

Nietzsche also declared that woman was God’s second mistake.

Schopenhauer wrote:

One need only look at a woman’s shape to discover that she is not intended for either too much mental or too much physical work.

I truly think that the only person that got more philosophers shit talkin’ about them than women is Hegel.

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IN SHORT, AVOID HEGEL 

But really, you don’t need to read the Simone de Beauvoir catalog to know that women have always had a role in philosophy.

Let’s take a moment to think about Hypatia of Alexandria, the fourth century astronomer and philosopher who not only headed the Neoplatonic school in Alexandria, but was put to death by a Christian mob.

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YOU COULD SPEND A FEW MINUTES READING THE STANFORD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PHILOSOPHY ARTICLE ON HYPATIA OF OF ALEXANDRIA, BUT WHY DO THAT WHEN YOU CAN AVOID READING COMPLETELY AND WATCH THE MOVIE “AGORA”, STARRING RACHEL WEISZ AS HYPATIA?

 

Did Schopenhauer do that?

I can tell you the answer is no.

Women not only have contributed to philosophical thought, but often add a different perspective to philosophy.

Women philosophers have been at the forefront on subjects such as race, gender, sexuality, disability, and the intersectionality of those subjects with (and in) philosophy. Women, inside and outside of philosophy, have proven that the second sex are more than capable of rational thought.

Let’s take a couple more moments to think about a few more women and ideas in philosophy:

 

  • Simone de Beauvoir’s work on gender in The Second Sex
  • Judith Butler on feminist, gender, and queer theory
  • Carol Gilligan’s Ethics of Care
  • The novels of Ayn Rand and Rand’s philosophical theory of Objectivism

I mean, come on, where would the world be without Rand’s objectivism?

 

Probably in a better place, actually.

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WHEN THE SIMPSONS MAKE FUN OF YOU…..

Now that I’m thinking about it, maybe women shouldn’t do philosophy.

I’m kidding.

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REASON ENOUGH TO NOT TAKE AYN RAND SERIOUSLY. YES I REALIZE THAT’S AN AD HOMINEM

If studying philosophy proves anything, it proves that PEOPLE are capable of philosophical thought; that good philosophical ideas and bad philosophical ideas are not exclusive to any gender.

Given the current state of rational thought: dealing in alternative facts and a society where politicians call for “less philosophers”, we should encourage anyone who is willing to THINK. We should welcome them and give them the same intellectual respect as the ancient Greeks, Hume, Kant, or even, God forbid, Georg Hegel.

 

…even if their uterus is wandering.

WHY I COULD NEVER CUT IT AS A VULCAN

AS MUCH I ENJOY philosophy, there is one thing in philosophy that I truly hate: Logic.

I’m not talking about the kind of logic someone is talking about when they say that eating a hot dog without ketchup is the only logical way to eat a hot dog or when we say washing your hands after using the restroom is “logical”.

One “logical” act is just a matter of taste and the other is what any human being even the least bit concerned with being sanitary would do.

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WELL… AT LEAST SHE’S WASHING SOMETHING

There are plenty of things we say are “logic” or “logical” that aren’t logic or logical at all.

I’m talking about the kind of logic that philosophers do. Philosophical logic.

I hate THAT logic.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that logic is the bane of my existence. I’m not good at logic.

At all.

I flunked logic.

But they still gave me a degree in philosophy.

Remember kids: bullshit is better than logic.

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Despite my utter failure at all things logic, I still look for ways to use philosophy in my daily life while avoiding logic.
Which is a fairly easy thing to do on the internet, actually.

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However, instead of bringing me relief, my avoidance of logic has become somewhat of a problem for me.

You see, here in the U.S. philosophy is all about analytic philosophy.

The philosophy with all that LOGIC.

Our heroes are dudes like Frege, Carnap, Quine, and Russell.

Russell wanted to make philosophy more like math.

Something else I hate.

I. HATE. MATH.

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So you understand why sucking at logic can make things difficult when you’ve decided to take up writing philosophy as your somewhat full-time vocation.

Still… as much as I despise logic, I am more than well aware that logic is a necessary part of philosophy.

Logic is used to construct arguments.

Not the kind of arguments you have with bae.

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Actually, I kinda suck at the other kind of arguments, too.

Oh no, couldn’t be arguments like that.

Nope. Philosophy is all about arguments that look like this:

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IN SOME PLACES, MAKING PEOPLE WORK DERIVATIONS LIKE THIS IS CONSIDERED TORTURE

So, lucky me. I went to college here in the U.S. where it‘s all about the Analytics and logic, and my reward for loving wisdom SO much was having to go to an ANALYTIC PHILOSOPHY focused college and having to take logic classes.

Yeah. That’s pretty much what happened.

Yea…..

Philosophical logic is:

Logic (from the Greek “logos”, which has a variety of meanings including the word, thought, idea, argument, account, reason or principle) is the study of reasoning, or the study of the principles and criteria of valid inference and demonstration, it attempts to distinguish good reasoning from bad reasoning.

Now, as a fan of philosophy it is almost required by law that I also like Star Trek.

Star Trek, Monty Python, and Woody Allen movies. Every philosopher is required to not merely like these things, but live by them. Required.

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WHAT 4 OUT OF 12 PHILOSOPHERS INNER PHILOSOPHER LOOKS LIKE

Doesn’t matter which incarnation of Star Trek: The Original Series, The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine – even Enterprise.

Well, maybe not Enterprise.

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Any philosophical question can be answered by watching an episode of Star Trek.

That’s why I was initially so disappointed that one of the series’ most beloved characters, the Vulcan First Officer of the USS Enterprise (in the original series), Mr. Spock, was a devotee of logic.

Vulcans are all about logic.

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The Matron of Vulcan Philosophy, T’Plana-Hath, says:

Logic is the cement of our civilization with which we ascend from chaos using reason as our guide.

Vulcan society is so devoted to logic that they purge themselves of emotions through a process called Kohlinar.

I swear that’s as far as I’m going to go with the Star Trek lingo.

Vulcans believe that they must purge their emotions so that their emotions don’t interfere with their ability to reason. The reason why is a complex story.

I’ll just say that it has to do with Vulcans being extremely violent and some guy named Surak.

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THIS IS SURAK. DON’T LET THE SMUG SMILE FOOL YOU. VULCANS DON’T HAVE EMOTIONS

Actually, Vulcans don’t so much purge their emotions as they learn to control them. Just in case anybody wants to call me on that.

Like I said, I suck at logic. And the thought that a TV show I was required to watch for my philosopher street cred included a character that was going to be a Carnap in space, made me want to ditch any philosopher cred I’d be awarded if I watched. I knew that every time I watched the show it would be a humiliation. I feared tuning in every week to watch some dude that I would find utterly incomprehensible. I’d have to face the fact that I had no place in philosophy. I knew that Mr. Spock would be just like my logic professor – he would speak in a language I couldn’t understand, even though he’d be delivering the dialogue in English.

Kind of like what happens when I read Bertrand Russell.

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Living as a Wookie would do me just fine, I told myself. I can get angry enough to rip a droid’s arm out of its socket.

But watching Star Trek, I feared, I’d have to face the chilling realization that I could never cut it as a Vulcan.

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So, despite my initial logic-induced trepidation, I watched the show.

I’m kinda glad that I did.

Because exactly what I feared would happen didn’t happen.

Listen: Vulcans claim that they’re all about living the logical life. The catch is, though, is that they weren’t really doing logic at all. At least not in the philosophical sense.

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Doing logic – actual philosophical logic – made me realize that Vulcans, at least
according to the Vulcan logic that Spock explained to Captain Kirk, isn’t… well… it ain’t logic. Spock’s famous admonition to Kirk, The Needs of the MANY outweigh the Needs of the FEW or the ONE, is positively utilitarian.

Anyone who has sat through a bull session of discussing ethical thought experiments knows utilitarian ethics can get us to some very unreasonable, dare we say, illogical outcomes.

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NOBODY NEEDS TO SAY THE WORDS “TROLLEY” OR “PROBLEM” TO KNOW THERE ARE PROBLEMS WITH UTILITARIANISM

 

There’s no doubt Vulcans are intellectual. Mr. Spock hands-down is the smartest member of the Enterprise crew.

And not just because he was accepted to the Vulcan Science Academy and Starfleet Academy.

But it seems that the high-minded Vulcan logic that Spock (and every other Vulcan) adheres to should be described as “this makes sense” or call it what it is, some utilitarian ethics with a dash of everybody kind of thinks this way.

Spock often mentions his inability to lie – IS LYING INHERENTLY ILLOGICAL?

Vulcans boast (and they do boast) that the cornerstone of their logic-based lifestyle freedom from emotions and the irrational nature of emotions leads species (including humans) into behaving illogically.

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According to Vulcan logic, emotion and rationality are presented as mutually exclusive; either you’re logical and emotionless or emotional and illogical.

First, Vulcans often are emotional. During the course of the original series and the six TOS (the original series) films, Spock occasionally displays emotion.

And don’t just blame that on the fact that Spock is half human.

Other Vulcans, including Spock’s betrothed, T’Pring, Spock’s half-brother Sybok, and the Vulcan on Voyager who had a bad case of Pon Farr were all emotional.

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GET THIS VULCAN A WOMAN, STAT!

And then there’s this thing: Irrational (or if you’re a Vulcan, illogical) behavior is based on how you act according to the information you’re working with, not necessarily upon your emotional state.

Contrary to what Vulcans believe, emotions are necessary for decision making.

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In neuroscientist Antonio Damasio’s study of a patient “Elliot” (who lost part of his frontal cortex during tumor surgery) Damasio discovered that his patient’s intellect remained intact, however, Elliot had lost the capacity to experience emotion. Elliot was, Damasio described, “disengaged” from the world. The inability of Elliot’s brain to connect reason and emotion interfered with his capacity for decision making.

Damasio observed that patients like Elliot, people who had damage to their frontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls emotions, were unable to make even simple decisions.

Imagine having to choose between two relatively equal choices: On one plate you are offered a grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread. On the other plate you are offered a grilled chicken sandwich on whole wheat bread with a slice of heirloom tomato. You like grilled chicken sandwiches with and without a slice of heirloom tomato. How do you choose which sandwich to eat? If you have emotions, you may choose by simply deciding that you don’t “feel” like eating a sandwich without a slice of tomato. But without the capacity to feel, you may be unable to decide which sandwich to eat.

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BOTH SANDWICHES LOOK SO TASTY. HOW CAN YOU DECIDE WHICH ONE TO EAT? WELL, FIRST — ASK YOURSELF, DO YOU HAVE EMOTIONS?

In an article in the Arizona State Law Journal, legal scholars Susan Barades and Jessica Salerno wrote:

Emotion helps us screen, organize and prioritize the information that bombards us… It influences what information we find salient, relevant, convincing or memorable.

I suppose it would be worth noting that I am a very emotional person.

And if I’m gonna toot my own horn here, I’m pretty good at making decisions.

Well, nine out of ten decisions.
I guess in the end, it’s ok if I’m not logically correct -according to Vulcans or to real philosophers. Sure, if I ever contact the Long Island Medium to channel the spirits of Godel or Quine, I might want to brush up on my derivations, but if and until then, I’ll still suck at logic, continue to enjoy watching Star Trek, and H.A.T.E. all arguments comprised of a set of premises supporting a logically inferred conclusion.
Besides… Vulcans aren’t really logical, anyway.

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

http://www.philosophybasics.com/branch_logic.html

phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2014/09/18/emotion-is-not-the-enemy-of-reason/

memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/Logic