A Very Merry Un-birthday To Me

TODAY IS my birthday.

Not gonna say how old I am.

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

Another year wiser, presumably.

Presumably.

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

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

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

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

What am I doing to live the best life philosophically?

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

It’s been kinda a rough year.

Hasn’t it been for everybody?

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

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

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

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

Would Plato throw a surprise birthday for Aristotle? 

Would Descartes throw back a few birthday shots?

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

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

Do philosophers have anything to say about any of this?

I pretty sure Kant had something to say about birthdays.

That guy had something to say about everything.

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

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

And philosophically fun isn’t much fun at all.

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

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

Well, folks…

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

I AM VEGAN

 

THERE ARE ONLY TWO months of the year that mean anything to me: October and February.

Not because of Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

The reason why October and February hold such a dear place in my heart is because October and February are the months when The Walking Dead seasons begin.

First half of the season begins in October. Second half begins in February.

It’s March. Second half of season 8. They just killed Carl Grimes.

No old man Carl. No Lydia licking Carl’s empty eyehole. No Carl doing ANYTHING.

Dammit.

Oops. Spoiler alert.  

3e881fe46e827186d42633e8789f5954

 

Well, anyway….

 

While watching a tv show about flesh eating ambulatory revenants, my mind drifts, from time to time, to the subject of flesh – namely, the fact that zombies consume human flesh.
In the world of The Walking Dead, living humans are just meat to eat.

Even the vegetarian zombies chow down on the non-undead.

It must be quite odd for a person who has their entire life not eating animal flesh to die, knowing that their reanimated corpse will compelled to eat nothing other than the substance they’ve sworn off.    

I mean, is a vegan zombie morally offended every moment they’re devouring a person?

Can a zombie experience an ethical dilemma?

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A zombie probably can’t, but a living person certainly can experience the ethical conundrum – should I eat meat?    

Now, I’m not asking if a person can eat meat – most humans have canine teeth, meat is digestible, and we can derive nutrients from animal products.

Heads up: I’m not making my argument here.

Not doing a because-we-can-we-ought-to kind of argument kind of thing.

giphy

But I will say this. I’m gonna say it right now:

I eat meat.

This is a fact about myself that I’m not exactly proud of.

As a person who is halfway aware of the way things are and remotely concerned about my health, I’m aware that the unnecessary suffering and abuse inflicted on animals on factory farms is not only cruel to my fellow living beings, but also the unsanitary conditions (and excessive use of antibiotics) makes for meat that is potentially harmful to human health as well.

And as a philosopher, the infliction of pain and suffering on sentient beings should bother me (at least a little bit) morally.

 

It does.

 

But still… despite what I know about harvesting and eating, I continue to consume meat. I feel like there’s something that is keeping me from joining the growing chorus of voices that have abandoned their meat-eating ways and declare I AM VEGAN.

 

…and not just because bacon tastes yummy.

tenor

 

I think the reason why might have something to do with speciesism.

A lot of humans, whether they know it or not, practice speciesism.  

In his book Animal Liberation (1975), the Australian philosopher, Peter Singer (born: July 6, 1946), describes speciesism as a bias in favor of one’s own species and against a species because that particular species is that species. That is, people are biased in favor of people (and people-like animals like primates) at the expense of the interests of other non-human species.

We are less inclined to consider the interests of species that do not resemble humans or ones we cannot anthropomorphize. 

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THE ONLY REASON WHY YOUR FIRST THOUGHT ABOUT THIS MOUSE IS “AWW” INSTEAD OF “KILL IT BEFORE IT INFECTS THE SHIP”, IS BECAUSE FIVEL IS ADORABLE. HE’S ADORABLE BECAUSE OF A-N-T-H-R-O-P-O-M-O-R-P-H-I-S-M

The fact that non-human animals are not human or can’t be given human-like qualities shouldn’t exclude them from our moral considerations. Non-human animals feel, and that, Singer argues, is enough to consider the interests of non-human animals.

 

 

Preferably using utilitarian ethics.

 

According to Singer, speciesism is as morally wrong as racism or sexism.

We recognize that prejudice against humans based on religion, gender, or race, is arbitrary (therefore, unjustifiable). Most people would reject the argument that a particular race or religion is more valuable than another. The notion that men are more valuable than women is…well, we like to say that we’ve advanced beyond thinking about women like Aristotle. Or Nietzsche.

 

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YEP…HE WROTE THAT

 

Likewise, according to Singer, valuing human life over non-human life or treating a species better because it is cute and cuddly (and it does “human” things) is arbitrary and unjustifiable. To insist that a cat or a dog is more valuable than a cow or a chicken is, according to Singer, a double standard.

Historically speaking, philosophy hasn’t been kind to animals. Aristotle referred to non-human animals as “brute beasts”. Rene Descartes (1596 -1650) maintained that animals are incapable of reason and do not feel pain. Animals, Descartes stated, are mere organic machines.

Because animals cannot reason, Descartes argued, they don’t have souls. And because animals don’t have souls, we are not morally obligated to consider their interests.

Remember, folks… that howling you hear isn’t the sounds of an animal screaming in pain.

 

It’s the sounds of the clock’s springs breaking.

 

Although the German Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) believed that animals are mere beasts, Kant rejected the notion that we can do with non-human animals as we please. Kant argues that, although we are not directly morally obligated to animals, we have an indirect moral duty to care for their welfare. Kant argues that our treatment of animals is tied to our treatment of those we have a direct moral obligation to  people.

Kant argues that people who are cruel to animals are often also cruel to people.

In Lectures on Ethics, Kant states:

American philosopher Christine Korsgaard (born: April 9, 1952), not only argues that it is wrong to kill animals for consumption, but also argues that the factory farming, specifically the production of meat, is more damaging to the environment and human health than a plant-based diet. Korsgaard argues, like Singer, that our moral obligation to animals is not negated by the fact that animals are not human.  

Korsgaard states:

 

…the loss of life matters to a human being in certain ways that it wouldn’t matter to another sort of animal… I don’t think it follows that a non-human animal’s life is of no value to her: after all, the loss of her life is the loss of everything that is good for her.

On factory farms, Korsgaard states:

 

…the whole human enterprise will be supported by a bloodbath of cruelty, hidden away behind the closed walls of those farms.

 

Korsgaard also observes the irony of maintaining the belief in the higher rationality and morality of humans while simultaneously justifying the killing of other, supposedly less developed, species. 

Ok… Factory farms are bad. And maybe we shouldn’t eat animals. But that doesn’t mean that we should start treating non-human animals like people, right? Humans are just different from other animals… right? But what, if anything, makes people different from non-human animals? What makes people different from cats and dogs and cows and chickens has something to do with a little concept called personhood.

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Our friend, Wikipedia defines personhood as:

 

the status of being a person. Defining personhood is a controversial topic in philosophy and law and is closely tied with legal and political concepts of citizenship, equality, and liberty. According to law, only a natural person or legal personality has rights, protections, privileges, responsibilities, and legal liability.

 

If you are a person, you are worthy of moral consideration.

If you are worthy of moral consideration. your interests matter.

And exactly what makes you a person with interests that matter?

If you ask Immanuel Kant, you are a person with interests that matter if you are rational.

Kant writes:

 

…every rational being, exists as an end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will…Beings whose existence depends not on our will but on nature have, nevertheless, if they are not rational beings, only a relative value as means and are therefore called things. On the other hand, rational beings are called persons inasmuch as their nature already marks them out as ends in themselves.

 

Non-human animals can’t be “persons” because they are not rational.

Hold on a minute, you say. There are plenty of humans that aren’t rational.

 

irrational-behavior-1024x768

PICTURED: NOT RATIONAL PERSON

 

Small children are notoriously irrational. Mentally ill and developmentally disabled people may also lack the degree of rationality required for personhood. On the other hand, non-human animals such as crows, pigs, octopuses, certain breeds of dogs, and primates (like chimps and bonobos) often display a degree of cognitive ability (aka, rational thought) not seen in some humans. 

So, that means some animals are persons, right?

 

 Well….

 

In 2013, the Florida-based Nonhuman Rights Project filed a lawsuit in the state appeals court of Manhattan on behalf of a pair of chimpanzees named Kiko and Tommy, arguing that the pair should be released from captivity and placed in an outdoor habitat. The lawsuit claimed the chimpanzees’ captivity violated their rights. Wise argued that Kiko and Tommy are entitled to the same legal rights as persons.  Their lawyer, Steven Wise, argued that chimpanzees (like Kiko and Tommy) possess the mental capacity for complex thought and can perform tasks and make choices.

 

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KIKO AND TOMMY

 

Now, if philosophers (including Aristotle, Descartes, and Kant) hold that the capacity for cognitive thought and decision making are qualifications for personhood, it should follow that a non-human animal capable of complex thought and decision making – even to a minimal degree − is a person.

If not legally, then at least philosophically.

And if we hold moral objections to eating animals that are like us or are us, then we should not eat non-human animals.  

Unfortunately for Tommy and Kiko, the Appellate Court in Manhattan ruled that Kiko and Tommy are not persons under the law and therefore not entitled to human rights.  

The Court ruling stated:

 

The asserted cognitive and linguistic capabilities of chimpanzees do not translate to a chimpanzee’s capacity or ability, like humans, to bear legal duties, or to be held legally accountable for their actions

The Court added that non-human animals “lack sufficient responsibility to have any legal standing.”

 

So…. What are we to do?

 

As of now, non-human animals are not entitled to legal personhood. Legally speaking, speciesism remains the law of the land. Killing, eating, or experimenting on (most) non-human animals is legally permitted, if not, in large part, socially acceptable.

Unless the law changes (or a zombie apocalypse turns us all into meat eaters), the question of eating meat will remain a philosophical conundrum – a matter of personal taste between you and your ethical theory of choice.

Until then…. Subway® Chicken & Bacon Ranch sandwiches. Forever.

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SOURCES:

https://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/05/27/peter-singer-on-speciesism-and-racism/

https://green.harvard.edu/news/ethics-eating-animals

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-animal/

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

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/captive-chimps-tommy-kiko-not-entitled-human-rights-court-article-1.3231598

 

WILL THE REAL PHILOSOPHER PLEASE STAND UP?

WORLD PHILOSOPHY DAY was on November 16th.

UNESCO designated the third Thursday of every November to be a day the world celebrates the… well, I’ll just let UNESCO explain it −

By celebrating World Philosophy Day each year, on the third Thursday of November, UNESCO underlines the enduring value of philosophy for the development of human thought, for each culture and for each individual.

Did you know that?
Nah, me neither.
Who really pays attention to philosophy these days, anyway?
Really. Who?
Nobody does.
At least that’s what you’d think if you watch t.v

I can tell you, I watched television all day on November 16th, and there was not one mention of UNESCO World Philosophy Day 2017.

I can tell you what they did talk about on the t.v., though – Louis CK.
For those of you out there who have no clue who Louis CK is, he’s a comedian.

Louis CK has – had a t.v. show.

He had a couple, as a matter of fact.

The reason, if you don’t know, why Louis CK has been in the news has to do with this:

deadline-business-breaking-news-harassment-louis-c-k-accused-of-masturbating-28903187

That’s why Louis CK doesn’t have his t.v. show anymore.

I was − still am − a fan of Louis CK’s work. Show me any of Louis CK’s HBO stand-up specials, and I’ll laugh like I wasn’t aware that the jokes aren’t eerily too similar to the behavior Louis CK is accused of doing to women in real life.
Yeah, Louis CK is… problematic.

I watch a lot of comedy. Not just the highbrow stuff, either. I’ll laugh at the Three Stooges or an Adam Sandler flick like I don’t got no more than two functioning brain cells in my head.

 

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EXCEPT FOR “THAT’S MY BOY!” THAT MOVIE WAS BEYOND AWFUL

 

I initially became a fan of Louis CK, not just because his comedy is funny or because his comedy is smart and witty, but because despite the now-creepy comedy routine Louis CK’s jokes are philosophical.

That is, Louis CK’s jokes make you think – make you think.

The overwhelming presence of dick jokes in modern comedy might lead one to think that comedy can’t be philosophical, but comedy is no stranger to philosophy.

The ancient Greek philosophers Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics all wrote about comedy.

In Poetics Aristotle categorizes comedy as either farce, romantic comedy or satire. Aristotle says comedy, along with tragedy, epic poetry, and lyric poetry, make up the original four genres of literature.
In Plato’s Republic, Socrates criticizes laughter-inducing comedy, stating that laughter causes men to become irrational and to lose self-control. Laughter, according to Socrates, is to be avoided, because, says Socrates,

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

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote “Let not your laughter be loud, frequent, or unrestrained.”

The story goes that no one ever saw Epictetus laugh.

Nobody.

 

epictetus-011

MAYBE EPICETUS WATCHD “THAT’S MY BOY!”?

 

The Greek playwright Aristophanes wrote The Clouds, a satirical comedy about Athenian intellectuals and (specifically) the philosopher Socrates.

A scene from Aristophanes’ The Clouds:

DISCIPLE:
I wonder what then would you say, if you knew another of Socrates’ contrivances?
STREPSIADES:
What is it? Pray tell me.
DISCIPLE:
Chaerephon of the deme of Sphettia asked him whether he thought a gnat buzzed through its proboscis or through its anus.
STREPSIADES:
And what did he say about the gnat?
DISCIPLE:
He said that the gut of the gnat was narrow, and that, in passing through this tiny passage, the air is driven with force towards the breech; then after this slender channel, it encountered the rump, which was distended like a trumpet, and there it resounded sonorously.
STREPSIADES:
So the arse of a gnat is a trumpet. Oh! what a splendid arsevation! Thrice happy Socrates! It would not be difficult to succeed in a law-suit, knowing so much about a gnat’s guts!

That’s a joke about Socrates.

It’s supposed to be funny.

Hobbes, Descartes, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, and Kant also wrote about comedy.

I’ll tell you nothing is less funny than reading Kant analyzing a joke.

“For if we admit that with all our thoughts is harmonically combined a movement in the organs of the body, we will easily comprehend how to this sudden transposition of the mind, now to one now to another standpoint in order to contemplate its object, may correspond an alternating tension and relaxation of the elastic portions of our intestines which communicates itself to the diaphragm (like that which ticklish people feel). In connection with this the lungs expel the air at rapidly succeeding intervals, and thus bring about a movement beneficial to health; which alone, and not what precedes it in the mind, is the proper cause of the gratification in a thought that at bottom represents nothing.”

Did that make you think of something funny?

And, as anyone will tell you, Ayn Rand is nothing short of pure comedy.

COMEDIC GOLD.

 

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THAT LOOK ON YOUR FACE WHEN YOU’RE HALFWAY THROUGH ATLAS SHRUGGED AND YOU REALIZE YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER HUNDRED PAGES OF THIS SHIT TO GO

 

Just as philosophers have tried their hands at comedy, comedians also dabble in philosophy.

Proving that comedy is more than just the standard fart and poop jokes, comedians have mined philosophical topics like existentialism, nihilism, and the absurd for comedic effect since mankind discovered that philosophy can be funny.

There really is nothing funnier than a good metaphysics joke.

 

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OK. IT’S PROBABLY NOT AS FUNNY WHEN YOU READ IT

 

Comedians use humor to observe and examine the human condition, something that philosophy is sorely lacking.

Wittgenstein was brilliant, but he wasn’t funny.

Philosophy is at the center of the plot of the modern comedy classic, Groundhog Day, and in the films of Wes Anderson and Woody Allen*. Many fans of philosophy enjoy the philosophy- drenched comedic genius of Monty Python (FYI: some of the troupe’s most popular sketches are based in philosophy). Television shows like Seinfeld and Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm often feature philosophical themes. In stand-up comedy, George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Bill Hicks, Lewis Black, Louis CK, Patton Oswalt, Sarah Silverman, Mitch Hedberg, and Ricky Gervais (who actually studied philosophy) entertain audiences with jokes that not only make people laugh, but also make people think.

Prospect Magazine named Russell Brand the world’s fourth most influential thinker in 2015.
Yes. That Russell Brand.
Don’t laugh.
Well, unless he’s telling a joke.
Then you can laugh.

Bill Maher’s stand-up often includes philosophical observations on religion and politics.
Comedians like John Oliver and Jon Stewart fill the role of public intellectuals.

Folks like the Sartre used to do that.

 

sartre

I MEAN, EXISTENTILISM IS KINDA FUNNY

 

This is the reason why Chris Rock says that comedians are the last philosophers.

If that’s true, then Louis CK is the Diogenes of comedy.

That would also make Ayn Rand the Carlos Mencia of philosophy.

 

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I’M NOT GOING TO MENTION THIS GUY’S NAME… I WON’T

 

The Greek philosopher Socrates caused a stir in ancient Athens. He challenged the social order and angered the people. Socrates was the gadfly. Comedians are the modern gadflies.
When Politically Incorrect host, Bill Maher, less than a week after the September 11, 2001 attack on the U.S., stated:

“We have been cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly…Staying I the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it’s not cowardly.”

Maher did not merely challenge the perception of the terrorists responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, Maher questioned the notion of courage.

Courage, if you didn’t know, is an Aristotelian virtue.

Bill Maher also lost his late night t.v. show for what he said.

The late comedian Lenny Bruce rattled the chains of 1960’s conventional American society. Bruce’s comedy involved frank and open jokes about politics, religion, and sex − and like Socrates, Lenny Bruce was no stranger to accusations of vulgarity. Bruce was eventually charged with, tried, and convicted of obscenity.

…which is kind of like Socrates being tried for corrupting the youth of Athens.

In the end, both Socrates and Lenny Bruce paid with their lives.

But this is the thing: If philosophy was restricted to observations of people and the human condition, what Chris Rock said would be true. Comedians observe, often keenly so, but there’s no ontology; no ethics. Carlin’s Brain Droppings has bits of wisdom but it’s no Nichomachean Ethics.

And really, comedians shouldn’t be the new philosophers. Philosophers should be the new philosophers.

Why look to comedians for wisdom when there are plenty of folks out there who are doing philosophy who actually studied philosophy?

Unless that comedian is Chris Hardwick. He has a philosophy degree.

From UCLA, no less.

 

Chris Hardwick - Talking Dead _ Season 5 - Photo Credit: Jordin Althaus/AMC

PHILOSOPHY DEGREE + STAND-UP COMEDY = SWEET “THE WALKING DEAD” AFTERSHOW GIG…RIGHT?…….RIGHT?

 

Slavoj Žižek, Noam Chomsky, Kwame Anthony Appiah, Daniel Dennett, Martha Nussbaum, Cornel West, Judith Butler, David Chalmers, Michael Sandel, Peter Singer, Christine Korsgaard, Alvin Plantinga, and Saul Kripke are just a few of the philosophers – living − right now − doing philosophy.

And it ain’t all navel gazing gobbeldygook, neither.

Sure, they may not be a funny as Louis CK…
…although it’s pretty hard not to laugh every time Žižek rubs his nose

And if you think philosophers are above sex scandals, forget it.

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But if you’re contemplating the meaning of life, you might want to check out what Schopenhauer had to say about it.

At least check it out before you watch the Monty Python flick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*There are many philosophical comedies – The films of the Coen brothers are good for philosophical movie watching. Heck, check out any Peter Sellers comedy.

 

 

 

SOURCES:
http://classics.mit.edu/Aristophanes/clouds.html
https://en.unesco.org/events/world-philosophy-day
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/humor/

 

STOP ME IF YOU’VE HEARD THIS ONE BEFORE

EVERY FOUR YEARS Americans go through what can only be described as a moderate case of national silliness. For those who prefer to use technical words to describe these things, the collective silliness is called election season.
This election season has been particularly silly.
And not just because of Donald Trump.
As American politics usually goes, by the time the Democrats and Republicans head to their Party (respective) national conventions, the silliness gives way to the serious business of each Party choosing its presidential candidate.
As I said, this is how it usually goes.
This year, Republican National Convention has guaranteed that the silliness will last until election day in November.

How so, you say?

A single word:

plagiarism.

Plagiarism, as defined by Google, is:

The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

Republican Party candidate Donald Trump’s wife (and potential First Lady) Melania was accused of plagiarizing a speech given by current First Lady, Michelle Obama, at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

 

speech

THIS IS MELANIA TRUMP’S SPEECH FROM THE 2016 RNC…..  AND AT THE 2008 DNC, MICHELLE OBAMA SAID… WELL, WHADDYA KNOW!?!

Although all of this hullabaloo over Melania Trump’s alleged plagiarism seems like it’s just a bunch of journalists and hypocrites (wait, isn’t that the same thing?) causing drama over  political silliness,  plagiarism isn’t such a silly thing. In some circles, using another person’s words or work without proper citation is serious business. There’s an expectation, especially in academia, that one’s writing be original. Every college student knows you can get kicked out of school for plagiarizing someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. In professions such as journalism, plagiarism can cost you your job.

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JAYSON BLAIR LOST HIS GIG AT THE NEW YORK TIMES FOR PLAGIARIZING STORIES FROM OTHER NEWS OUTLETS

When I was in college, a couple of my professors were so cuckoo for plagiarism that one professor even required students to affirm that our term papers were our own original work.

On the cover sheet of every term paper we had to write this:

I understand the rules governing plagiarism and I certify that the work contained in this paper is my own, I have given appropriate citations for quotations and ideas that I have taken from other authors.

In the eyes of academics and many employers, passing off another’s work as one’s own is no different from theft.

They think that this

 

plagiarism-checker-tools

 

Is the same as doing this

4602719-bandit-stealing-businesswoman-bag-in-the-street

But for every armchair political pundit, professional journalist, and university professor who believes that a plagiarist is a thief of the lowest order, there is someone looking at all the Melania Trump plagiarism hubbub asking, what’s the big deal? Political speeches are saturated with copious amounts paraphrasing and outright plagiarism.

The correct question isn’t Did Melania Trump plagiarize Michelle Obama’s speech? but Name a politician who hasn’t been accused of or is actually guilty of plagiarism.

This politician was accused of plagiarism.

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FOR THE 29%OF YOU  AMERICANS WHO DON’T KNOW, THIS IS VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN

 

So was he.

Official Portrait

THIS IS THE GUY EVERYONE THOUGHT MIGHT WIN AGAINST HILLARY CLINTON BEFORE WE ALL REALIZED THAT PEOPLE WOULD TAKE A TRUMP PRESIDENTIAL BID SERIOUSLY, AKA SENATOR RAND PAUL

 

And so was this guy.

forbes-names-vladimir-putin-worlds-most-powerful-man-russia-933x445

 

And this president.

president_barack_obama

 

These guys have been accused of plagiarism.

led zeppelin 1970s

 

More than once.
At least seven times, to be exact.

And THIS is the problem with plagiarism. What exactly is plagiarism?

Yeah, there’s the textbook definition, but, you see, people are often inspired by, or borrow from, or even imitate the work of other writers and artists.

And that’s exactly it. Where do we draw the line between inspiration and stealing? Where does mere similarity end and plagiarism begin?

A clear line might have helped Robin Thicke.

maxresdefault1

FYI: In 2013, the family of the late R&B singer Marvin Gaye sued contemporary R&B vocalist Robin Thicke for plagiarizing Gaye’s 1977 song “Got To Give It Up”. The Gaye family argued (successfully) that Thicke’s 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines” copied chords from “Got To Give It Up” and Thicke and fellow “Blurred Lines” songwriter, Pharrell Williams, were ordered to pay $7.4 million to the Gaye family.

Let’s be honest, these days, few ideas are completely original. So how original can one be when writing on a subject that has been written about before?

Despite our best efforts, sometimes two (or more) people will write exactly the same thing.

How many different ways can you originally say “Make America Great Again”?

multiple-thoughts-man-line-art

DON’T BOTHER TRYING TO DO IT. THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY TO SAY “MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN”

Even philosophers are not immune.

Modern philosophy is all based on someone else’s ideas.

I’ve written plenty of papers under the impression that I’d written some deeply brilliant philosophical sigight only to find that someone else had already written it.

The so-called Elvis of philosophy, Slavoj Zizek, was accused of plagiarism.

From the White Nationalist Journal The American Renaissance, no less.

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THIS PICTURE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THIS POST. I JUST THOUGHT THIS POST NEEDED A PIC OF A SHIRTLESS ZIZEK IN BED

Google search “philosophers on plagiarism” and you’ll find Did Nietzsche plagiarize Max Stirner?

For the record, Nietzsche said he was influenced by Schopenhauer.

So, we’re tempted to say that plagiarism is no big deal, right?

ideas-header-2

 

Well, it kinda is and it kinda isn’t.
This is kinda why plagiarism is a big deal:

Plagiarism is defined as The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. In short, if you’re a plagiarist, you’re basically stealing someone else’s stuff.

Stealing stuff is usually considered morally wrong.

61163034

Now, if you were a philosopher like Aristotle, this would be a serious moral transgression.

According to Aristotle’s virtue ethics, the things we do are the result of what kind of character we have. If a person does good things it’s likely that that is a good (i.e. morally virtuous) person. If you do something bad, like stealing, according to Aristotle’s ethics, you’re probably an absolute POS.*

In Aristotle’s treatise on morality, Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says:

It is well said, then, that it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would have even a prospect of becoming good.

Plagiarizing someone else’s material may seem like it’s no big deal – or it could be an indicator of one’s bad character.

And nobody wants to be around bad people.

2

People who do bad things may seem like fun people, but in the end they’re not so fun to be with.

Especially when they steal your stuff.

It’s worth mentioning that plagiarism isn’t merely stealing. Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. Passing off someone else’s work as your own is deceptive – and deception is a form of lying. So, if you’re doing the plagiarism thing, you’re not only a thief, you’re also a liar.

But wait a minute. If Melania Trump did indeed plagiarize her Republican National Convention speech, are we wiling to go so far to call her a person of bad character? Her plagiarism may not be an act of outright theft. Trump’s speechwriter claims that Melania Trump was “inspired” by Michelle Obama – and that may explain the close similarity between Obama’s 2008 speech and Trump’s Republican National Convention speech. Melania Trump’s intention wasn’t to rip off Michelle Obama, but to express sentiments that she also shared with the First Lady.

13744255_1579480709019249_2034769528_n

FUNNY MEME, BUT A TAD BIT EXAGGERATED

So… when all is said and done is plagiarism a bad thing? Is plagiarism even a thing? I don’t know. Maybe.

It’s possible that we aren’t looking at the whole picture when it comes to plagiarism Perhaps we should consider what role influence, inspiration, homage, and when great minds think alike plays in creating a piece of work before we heap our righteous moral condemnation upon so-called plagiarists.

You know I’m saying this only because the chance that I’ll inevitably plagiarize someone is about 80 percent.

 

 

 

* POS: piece of shit.

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

http://www.newsweek.com/did-marxist-philosophy-superstar-slavoj-zizek-plagiarize-white-nationalist-258433

http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/19/politics/politicians-plagiarism/

http://fusion.net/story/3826/rand-paul-is-not-alone-5-more-politicians-accused-of-plagiarism/

http://www.musictimes.com/articles/6250/20140520/7-songs-other-than-stairway-to-heaven-that-led-zeppelin-stole.htm

https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/mar/10/blurred-lines-pharrell-robin-thicke-copied-marvin-gaye

https://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2919427

PHILOSOPHY F#%K YEAH!

WHEN A PHILOSOPHER thinks of philosophical things, one’s thoughts usually turn to things like the usual philosophical subjects: metaphysics or ethics or epistemology.

A philosopher may even be inclined to think of logic.

Although I would never encourage anyone to do that.

I suspect that it is a rare occasion that one would think of the word philosophy and immediately think politics.

Yes, indeed. As you may have observed, there’s not one thing that philosophers don’t have an opinion about, including the form, purpose, and function of government.

Yep.

Philosophers think about politics.

A lot.

When professional folks talk about politics they call it political science.
When regular folks talk about government they call it politics.
And when philosophers talk about it, they call it political philosophy.

Now, we’ve become quite accustomed to thinking of politicians and the political process through a cynical lens. Politics is a necessary (and sometimes unnecessary) evil. Many people think of politics as a dirty game where the needs of the people come last and only the most corrupt win. Politics is a bunch of people bought and sold by corporations and special interest groups and the only principles that matter are the ones that come attached to a big, fat, lobbyist check.

whosincharge

 

Politicians consistently rank among the least trusted professions.

Our dim view of government was echoed in the words of the 40th president of the United States, Ronald Reagan who said

 

Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.

 

Reagan also said

 

The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.

 

The man was president and he said this.

The freaking head of GOVERNMENT.

joke-politics-7

 

Here’s the thing, though: you may not be able to name who came up with what political theory, but you can bet the farm that those philosophers with names you don’t know have influenced the way you live, believe, and act politically more than you know.

Here’s a quick quiz: Name a political philosopher.

Can you?

No?

Come on, take a wild guess.

Still no?

That might have to do with the fact that when we think about politics we think this

donald-trump

 

Instead of this

1b83686d-452a-4dfb-87ed-1062f09418ac_560_420

 

When we think about politics, politicians, and people who think about government stuff, we likely to conjure mental images of former B-list actors or former reality show hosts, but philosophers thinking about philosophy is as old as… well, philosophy.
Whether you’re a conservative, liberal, libertarian you have a philosopher to thank for giving you your political ideas.

Philosophers know that politics isn’t just a bunch of theories but a lifestyle.

Take Plato.

Plato’s Republic, written in 360 B.C.E., is all about what makes the ideal city? Plato (as Socrates) asks, what is justice?

You ever heard of Noble Lies? That’s Plato. The Allegory of the Cave? Yep. Plato again.

ab2470f5da56ee2cc2d7329953067467954d34161b7a9f6fb71b71600d9e42e6

In Politics, Aristotle wrote “Man is a political animal”.

Aristotle asked how do we achieve the Good life for the people and the polis.

Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan established the idea of the social contract and is considered to be the foundation of Western political philosophy.

The English philosopher John Locke is credited as the father of Liberalism.

In Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, Locke lays the groundwork for American political thought, writing of concepts like natural rights, property, the Law of Nature, and the relationship between the government and the governed.

archive lost 110110

IF THIS IS THE FIRST PERSON YOU THINK OF WHEN SOMEONE SAYS THE NAME “JOHN LOCKE”, YOU PROBABLY WATCH TOO MUCH TV

Edmund Burke is considered the father of Conservatism.

Political philosophy is all over everything.

Remember that scene in A Bronx Tale when Sonny asked Calogero if it’s better to be loved or feared?

Sonny was quoting Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli was a political philosopher.

tumblr_n86vjkufv71svefdfo3_500

NOT ONLY DO YOU GET A GREAT LESSON IN MACHIAVELLIAN POLITICS FROM “A BRONX TALE”, BUT YOU ALSO LEARN THE SIGNIFICANCE OF CAR DOORS AND DATING

Are you a capitalist?

You are because of Adam Smith. And he wrote about politics.

Did you abandon your children and had them placed in orphanages?

You probably did because you read Jean Jacques Rousseau.

8427892e34e8a3ca28bcbc1c55b7963bbbc7d303bd97048189c2a4b4219ac715

Rousseau argued that monarchies did not possess a divine right to rule.

Some say Rousseau’s writings inspired the French Revolution.

Are you a Bernie Bro?

Thank Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

bernie-sanders-socialism-scare-gif

I CAN WATCH THIS GIF ALL DAY

Are you a neo-Conservative who hates modernity, thinks Ronald Reagan is the greatest American president, and you often refer to people on welfare as “moochers”?

If so, your personal political philosophy is the product of Leo Strauss and Ayn Rand.

We say we hate all things political, but the political theories of John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, Alexis de Tocqueville, Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Friedrich Hayek, Michel Foucault, John Rawls and Robert Nozick (just to name a few) are such an intrinsic part of how we live and think that political philosophy may be – no, IS the most relevant field of philosophy.
You may never read Kant’s metaphysics. You may never experience your own Cartesian method of doubt. Or figure out how to do one of these:

3-1-4d1

 

But you will vote. Or think about voting. Or think about not voting. Vote to stay. Vote to leave. If you pledge allegiance to a flag. Or wave a flag in solidarity. Or burn a flag in effigy. It’s all political – and it’s all philosophical.

 

… Just something to think about on America’s 200 and something-nth birthday.

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:
http://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx

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

The Four of Us Are Lying

Bill Clinton. John Edwards. Richard Nixon.

Roger Clemens.

David Vitter. Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

Here’s a couple more names…

James Frey. Jayson Blair. Stephen Glass.

Notice the pattern?

No?

How about this one:

Lance Armstrong.

Still don’t see it?

Pinocchio.

Ok. Think then-Secretary of State Colin Powell announcing to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

Got it yet?

Ok, last one: “Remember the Maine”.

Still no?

Well, just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll tell. Each of these men (and one wooden boy) told lies. They were lying.

Not just little white lies, mind you. BIG LIES*.

Whoppers.

The forces-you- to-resign-from-elected-office kind of lies.

The subject of a week’s worth of stories on TMZ kind of lies.

The has to talk to Oprah in a public display of contrition kind of lies.

The kind of lies that’ll have you end up doing this:

 

 

 

 

Or this:

 

 

 

 

Yeah.

Public humiliations galore.

 

Whether we tell half-truths or little white lies, spin tall tales, rip yarns, or lay down the kind of lies that would put Goebbels to shame, the funny thing about lying is even though no one likes it when somebody tells them, everyone lies.

daria on lies

 
Don’t say you don’t. You’d be lying.

 

pants on fire

 

We’ve all lied about one thing or another. We know that lies and lying are an inevitable part of human interaction. We might even say that the occasional lie is useful.

 

good lies

 
Yet we’re offended when it happens. We don’t like it when people lie.

Especially when they lie to us.

 

louie c.k. on liars

 

It’s not even that we’re merely offended by lies – we completely flip our wigs when we discover we’ve been lied to. We’re so put off by lies and liars that anyone who’s caught in a lie not only knows they’ve messed up big time, but also know that a long journey of mea culpas on the path of liar redemption is essential if one wants forgiveness.

If all works well, all will be forgiven.

However, if you’re a regular schmo like me – you get caught in a lie it might ruin you forever.

Contrition is not my forte.

 

baby liar meme

 

 

 

But why is that?

Why do we get so butthurt when someone lies?

Emperor Butthurt

 

 
I mean, after all, even the Bible admonishes us against lying. Exodus 20:16 specifically states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”.

According to the Bible there’s an especially awful kind of lie: false witness.

 

Whatever that is.

 

I don’t know. I don’t read the Bible.

That’s why I’m going to hell.

 

I‘M A PHILOSOPHER. IT’S ALMOST A GIVEN THAT I‘M DOOMED TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.

I‘M A PHILOSOPHER. IT’S ALMOST A GIVEN THAT I‘M DOOMED TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.

 
Alright. I remember in my English 101 class, my professor said if you introduce a term you have to define it. So it might help us a bit to get clear on what exactly a lie is.

A lie, at least according to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), has three “essential features”:

 

1. A lie communicates some information
2. The liar intends to deceive or mislead
AND –
3. The liar believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true

 

According to the BBC, if you’re not doing any of those 3 things, you ain’t lying.

 

bad luck brian lies

 
But if lying is sometimes useful, we must ask, is lying all that bad?
Before you say yes or no you might want to ask around.

 

Psalm 31:18 may say “Let lying lips be put to silence”.

Obviously God has never heard of Socrates or noble lies.

Noble lies, in case you didn’t know, are fictions told with the intent to preserve loyalty to the state and the social order.

pinocchio bitch

 

 

Wait a minute, you say. Lies are bad. Anyone who watched what followed Lance Armstrong’s admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs knows that lying causes nothing more than absolute misery. So why does Socrates think that lying ever serves a useful, even a good, purpose?

You see, Socrates thought that people need to be lied to because most people are too stupid to handle things.

And by people, Socrates meant people like you and me.

Socrates says in Book III of  Republic:

“Could we,” I said, “contrive one of those lies that come into being in case of need, of which we were just now speaking, some noble lie to persuade in the best case, even the rulers, but if not them, the rest of the city?”

 

According to the late Socrates fan and political philosopher, Leo Strauss, the state may lie to the public when “an extreme situation in which the very existence or independence of a society is at stake.”

 

So according to Socrates and Strauss, so long as your lie serves a greater good for society, we should heartily approve of some lies.

 

WHO DRANK HEMLOCK AND LIKES LYING? THIS GUY!!!

WHO DRANK HEMLOCK AND LIKES LYING? THIS GUY!!!

 

 

Perhaps our anger at Colin Powell was misplaced.

 

… that’s because deposing Saddam Hussein would be good for everybody.

 

Keep that point in mind.

 

Socrates tells us so long as a lie is told by the right people for the right reasons, lying to people is perfectly fine. In fact, according to Socrates, lying to people is a necessary function of the ruling class.

Alright. Hold on a minute. Before you think Socratic noble lies gives us free rein to fib at will, remember that point I told you to keep in mind. ‘Cause you should be thinking there’s something extremely rotten in the polis.

Two points:

  • We get angry when we are lied to.
  • Even if a lie is justified, we feel that some punishment or an apology is necessary.

 

That’s why Lance Armstrong ended up on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

 

There’s a reason why we feel a sense of moral indignation when we find that someone has lied to us. There’s a reason why this guy’s nose grew every time he lied.

Pinocchio-007

 
The reason is because no matter what explanation, cause or excuse we give for telling a lie, a lying is wrong.

We feel an innate desire to hear the truth.

We prefer the company of those who tell the truth over those who tell lies.

 

This is what Aristotle wrote about people who tell the truth:

Such a man would seem to be a good man. For he who loves truth, and is truthful where nothing depends upon it, will still more surely tell the truth where serious interests are involved; he will shun falsehood as a base thing here, seeing that he shunned it elsewhere, apart from any consequences: but such a man merits praise.

 

According to Aristotle, a person who tells the truth is trustworthy. An honest person is someone of good character who we can rely on when we deal with them – we can expect that what they say is true and that by trusting them we will not experience emotional, philosophical or physical harm.

Of course, we well know that’s not what happens when someone lies.

 

OK, MAYBE ZACH MORRIS IS A BAD EXAMPLE

OK, MAYBE ZACH MORRIS IS A BAD EXAMPLE

 

Let’s remember: the second and third essential features of a lie states that the liar “intends to deceive or mislead”, and that a liar “believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true”.

Intentional deception and misleading, no matter what  justification for doing so, always deprives others (those to whom the lie is directed) of the full knowledge of a situation. If we lack full knowledge, we cannot make fully rational decisions.

Kant says this is what happens, folks, not me.

 

BLAME HIM

BLAME HIM

 

 

That means that a lie is inherently pernicious. The short-term benefit of a lie is almost always obliterated upon the discovery of the lie.

Lance Armstrong lost his Tour de France medals. Roger Clemens was tried on charges of perjury. President Clinton was impeached.

 

 

th (7)

 

 

Twelve years and we’ve still got troops in Iraq.

 

 

WILL ALWAYS BE KNOWN AS TRICKY DICK

WILL ALWAYS BE KNOWN AS TRICKY DICK

 

 

And if you read Plato’s Republic, you would know that in no way did Socrates think that average Joes and Janes like you and me could – or should – be a part of the ruling class.

 

th (8)

 

What that means for us is that a lie, no matter what noble intention the speaker may have, can do nothing other than to cause harm.

And a liar, no matter what he tells you, is almost always up to something bad.

However, songs about liars are nearly always entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* I realize there’s a matter of what exactly constitutes a lie, especially concerning the intent of the liar. I realize that instances of lying include a liar being unaware that his false statement is indeed false or when an individual tells the truth with an intention to deceive. For an example of this kind of lie, I suggest watching Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – in particular, the scene between Count Dooku and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

 

 
NOTE: Socrates details the purpose of noble lies in Book III, 414 d – 415 a-d, of Plato’s Republic.

 

 

SOURCES:
1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/lying/lying_1.shtml

2) Plato. Republic. 1968. Trans. Allan Bloom. NY: Basic Books. Bk. III, 414 b-c.

3) Leo Strauss. Natural Right and History. 1953 [1950]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 160.

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

My New Year’s Resolu – Oh, Nevermind.

It’s the end of the year.

2013 is over and done. Onward to 2014!

 

i can't believe it's been a year

 

The end of the year means taking the time to assess the important things: Life. Relationships. My credit rating. Blog views.

 

You know,  the important stuff.

 

Unfortunately, being the cynic that I am, thinking about life inevitably leads to thoughts like this:

 

ending one minute at a time

 

Thanks a lot, Chuck Palahniuk.

 

And of course as the end of one year approaches, we mark the occasion by making resolutions.

Or as I call them, my annual list of unreasonable goals and broken promises.

 

stop lying resolution

 

The funny thing about New Year’s resolutions is, even though I absolutely know that I’m never going to stick to my resolution, I can’t not make them. Not making a resolution leaves me feeling like I’ve gone somewhere and left something behind. Like driving to the beach only to realize that I’ve left my towel at home.

 

You can’t go from one year to the next without making a resolution. That just ain’t American.

 

New-year-resolution-2014

 

Ok. I know that 9 out of 10 resolutions anyone makes at any time of the year are made to be broken. And to reduce my chances of failure, I’m not going to vow to lose weight or to become a better person (whatever that is),  And as a philosopher, I know that consistently making and breaking promises to myself violates Kant’s Categorical Imperative. So, I figure, in order to actually achieve my goals and to maintain any kind of philosophical integrity,  that this and all my future New Year’s resolutions shall be more realistic  – that is, accomplishable.

 

 

MAKING NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS ALWAYS MAKES ME THINK OF SISYPHUS. HE DIDN'T ACCOMPLISH HIS RESOLUTION, EITHER.

MAKING NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS ALWAYS MAKES ME THINK OF SISYPHUS. HE DIDN’T ACCOMPLISH HIS RESOLUTION, EITHER.

 

 

I’m gonna limit my list to stuff I can actually do.

 

So , without further ado, I, The Mindless Philosopher, hereby resolve to:

 

  • Stop shooting smack (I thought I’d put one at the top of my list that don’t really do, so this one should be easy).
  • Get outside more (and by “outside” I don’t mean periodically poking my head out the front door to check if the mailman has dropped off the stuff I ordered from Amazon).
  • Pick a political philosophy and stick to it.
  • Write more on epistemology and metaphysics (writing on ethics is too easy).
  • Finish writing my second book.
  • Start writing my second book.
  • Stop calling myself a sapiosexual (no one knows what that is. and it sounds pretentious, anyway).

 

sapiosexual

I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THIS WORD MEANT UNTIL THIS YEAR, EITHER.

  • Read something other than true crime books.
  • And on that note, stop watching Mob Wives.
  • Get a Twitter account (No, wait, scratch that one. I’m not going to tweet anything).
  • Learn how to walk in heels.
  • Lighten up my attitude towards Aristotle (the homunculus is no reason to discredit a philosopher’s entire philosophy).
  • Get over my obsession with Morrissey.
  • Devote my Sundays to something other than watching The Walking Dead.
  • Contribute to the Pacifica Network (On second thought, I might actually break this one).
  • Stop wearing pajama pants in public.
  • Stop quoting Nietzsche out of context.
  • Actually read Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason.
  • Admit that I don’t always have to be right.
keep calm i'm always right

WHO AM I KIDDING, I’M ALWAYS GOING TO BELIEVE I’M RIGHT

 

  • Acknowledge that Severus Snape is not a real person and that I cannot marry him.
DOES NOT HAVE A PROFILE ON MATCH.COM

DOES NOT HAVE A PROFILE ON MATCH.COM

 

And finally, stop being so cynical.

 

That last one might not happen this year. I am a philosopher, after all.

 

imnotcynicalLOGO

 

You know, I don’t know if I will break any (or all) of my resolutions by year’s end. If I’ve learned anything from David Hume, it’s that what happened yesterday can’t tell us what will happen tomorrow, next week, or even five minutes from now.  There are literally millions of reasons to break a New Year’s resolution.

No, really. If there are parallel universes the reasons are infinite.

I can imagine pajama pants sweeping the runways during New York Fashion Week. I could find a whole new reason to hate Aristotle.  Or VH-1 could give Big Ang another spin-off reality TV show…

 

Or I just might open my door one warm day in April to find Severus Snape delivering my Amazon order for  Farscape the complete series.

Ok. Probably none of that will happen.

 

But there is one resolution I know I will fulfill this year – and that’s to wish everyone a  Happy New Year.

Here’s to 2014 and a new year of happy thinking!

 

Philosophically yours,

TMP

Chick Writin’

It’s generally thought that philosophy is a man’s game.

Without even really thinking about it, I can name at least a couple dozen male philosophers. At least a couple dozen.

Every philosophy student learns the names by heart: Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Hume, Spinoza, Leibniz, Kant, Locke, Mill, Kierkegaard, Hegel, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Heidegger, Russell, Wittgenstein …

 

They’re the pillars of philosophy.

 

I can name more. I bet you can, too.

Unfortunately I can’t say the same about the ladies.

I mean, I know there are women philosophers. I’ve read a few. Simone de Beauvoir. Judith Butler. Ayn Rand. Hannah Arendt. Helene Cixous. Christine Korsgaard. Susan Wolf.

My list pretty much dries up there.

I’ll be damned if I can name a dozen let alone a couple dozen professional lady philosophers.

 

 

Who is this lady????

Who is this lady????

 

 

And I don’t think I’ve ever identified one by just her last name.

Everybody says they’ve read Nietzsche. When was the last time you heard anyone say they just finished reading Butler?

 

If you don’t know which Butler to whom I refer, I mean this Butler: Judith Butler. She’s a philosopher.

If you don’t know which Butler to whom I refer, I mean this Butler: Judith Butler. She’s a philosopher.

 

 

The general assumption was (and still is) that men are better at thinking than women.

You know, thinking stuff like math, logic map reading, AND philosophy.

I write about philosophy.

I guess in the broadest sense of the word that makes me a philosopher.

However, I am of the female persuasion and I write about philosophy.

 

Uh-oh. Problem.

 

The thing is, is that I don’t really think of myself as a female philosopher. When I engage in a philosophical discussion, if the opportunity conceal my gender arises, I’ll do it. Even my Facebook profile pic is a picture of a man.

This is my current Facebook profile pic.

 
don draper for profile pic

 

 

It’s not only a picture of a man, Don Draper; it’s a picture of a man from a decade when women were definitely treated like second class citizens.

 

Now, I suppose I can say my reluctance to reveal my gender has to has to do with some sort of socially-conditioned, unconscious desire to abide by the white, heterosexual, Christian male patriarchy. But to say that would be a little too obvious.

And really, I don’t think it’s that at all.

The reason why, I think, has something to do with not wanting to be just a female philosopher – that being a female philosopher means that the only philosophical writing I do is chick writing.

 

herstory

 

 

You see, when you tell everyone that you’re a woman and you like to write, it’s almost inevitable that someone will assume that all you write about is your kids, fashion, the men you’re dating, and your period.

Just occasionally pausing to write about the oppressive capitalist white male patriarchy or how lesbians are still under represented and maligned in society, political institutions, and in the media.

Well for starters, I don’t have kids. I haven’t bought a new article of clothing in over two years, and my current dating situation could be best described as Tatooine-esque.

 

The fact that I just used a Star Wars reference might be a reason why it’s so.

 

Or worse yet, being a chick writer or writing about chick issues immediately associates one with militant man-hating.

Philosophy professor Michael Levin wrote in his book, Feminism and Freedom, that feminism is an “antidemocratic, if not totalitarian ideology.”

 

feminist with scissors

 

 

Just for the record I don’t hate men.

But for the ones I do hate, my hatred is well deserved.

 

 

mink

 

Wait. I got off track.

 

I suppose Aristotle was right.

He said that women are more quarrelsome than men.

Aristotle wrote that women favor emotion over intellect. This is the reason why, Aristotle says, women are irrational. Irrationality has no place in philosophy.

 

 

feminist hammer

 

 

Still, feminist philosophy, or philosophy by or about women in general, bears the stigma of being not-quite-legitimate philosophy.
Feminist philosophy tends to focus on the interpersonal – how the individual, in particular, how women (as women) relate to and in society. Whereas male philosophers tend to emphasize the pursuit of knowledge and absolute, objective truth, female philosophers tend to examine the role of women and aspects of femininity in societal institutions (politics, economics, religion), and the relationships between cultural concepts such as womanhood, class, sexuality, sexual preference and identity, and race.
And then there’s this:

 
this is what femimism looks like

 

 

When you’re a feminist, people make cruel memes about you.

 

Unfortunately the view isn’t  that much different in philosophy.

 

That can make a lady philosopher steer clear of writing about any issue that stinks of feminism. Even if what you’re writing is philosophical.

And it really doesn’t help much when a few of those great male minds of philosophy rattle off statements like:

 

It is only males who are created directly by the gods and are given souls. Those who live rightly return to the stars, but those who are ‘cowards or [lead unrighteous lives] may with reason be supposed to have changed into the nature of women in the second generation’. This downward progress may construe through successive reincarnations unless reversed. In this situation, obviously it is only men who are complete human beings and can hope for ultimate fulfillment. The best a woman can hope for is to become a man.

 

Encouraging, right?

 

If Plato thinks I’m a soulless idiot why would I ever imagine that I could possibly have a career in philosophy?

And besides, as we all know all the important philosophers are men.

 

 

on feminism

 

 

The thing is, is that I really don’t have any problem with feminists, feminism, or female philosophers. Goodness knows that there’s more to philosophy than Socrates and Kierkegaard. I think what I’m trying to avoid writing not-really-philosophy philosophy. Even though women have contributed many brilliant ideas, theories, and schools of thought to philosophy, there’s still this thing I can’t get over – the thought that my gender necessarily obligates me to write about – my gender.

Even serious women philosophers, like Ayn Rand, are depicted like this:

 

 

sexy ayn!

 

 

Or worse yet, what they write is dismissed as just chick stuff.

Man-hating chick stuff.

 

 

i need feminism

 

 

Listen, I know I’m being a little short-sighted on the prevalence and influence of women philosophers. I well aware of the fact that women philosophers write about more than sexuality and gender issues and that women have contributed more than their feminine charm and good looks to the body philosophic. Hannah Arendt famously wrote about the Nazis. And Ayn Rand’s ethical philosophy, like it or not, is still influential.

Rand’s followers have ranged from CEOs of major corporations to former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, to the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan.

By the way, are you aware that Ryan now says that his rumored fondness for Rand’s philosophy is an urban myth?

 

 

paul ryan

 

Still, I went through the whole earning a philosophy degree process, and during the entire time I read only one female philosopher who didn’t write about lady stuff. AND during the entire time I was a philosophy student, there was only one class offered on feminist philosophy.

 

keep patriarchy

 

 

Perhaps that’s the problem, eh?

Betty Friedan wrote that she wanted women to “master the secrets of the atoms, or the stars”, and wanted women to pioneer “a new concept in government or society”.

I’m pretty sure what she wanted applies to philosophy, too.

Philosophy will continue be a man’s game so long as folks like me keep referring to themselves (myself) as “folks like me”.

I shouldn’t be so worried about being a chick writer or writing about chick stuff. Certainly philosophy has plenty to do with rational arguments and logic, but it also has to do with things like reality. And my reality is seen through my lady eyes.

 

 

 

ryan gosling hey girl meme

 

 

Whether I like it or even want to admit it, everything I write is chick writin’.
Now I don’t feel so bad writing about my period.

 

 

You can expect that post in exactly 28 days.

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

Plato. Timaeus. (90e). Available at Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1572

Susan Faludi. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. 1991. NY: Crown Publishers, Inc.

Fishers of Supermen

I’ve been doing this philosophy thing for a while, now. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

I’m much better at philosophizing than I am at playing basketball or Scrabble.

I think better than I dance.

I’m better at talking about Hume than I am at gourmet cooking.

I’m pretty good at doing something with minimal money-making potential.

Hurray!

That doesn’t bother me, though. You see, philosophers don’t get into philosophy for it’s money making prospects – they do it because they love it.

We are indeed lovers of wisdom.

That kind of bugs me.

 
I used to get frustrated in my philosophy classes. I read Plato and Aristotle. I read Descartes. I read Hume and Kant.

And Rousseau.

And Russell.

De Beauvoir. Marx. Locke. Mill.

They’re all dead now.

I would sit and think how distant philosophy seemed from anything contemporary. Nothing related to how the world is now. It seemed that right now didn’t matter as much as back then. How so many philosophers seemed to hold anything popular with a fair amount of contempt.

Ancient philosophers are the only ones who know how to think.

That never worked for me.

I promised myself that when I graduated, I would write the book that I always wanted to read. I thought if there was anyone out there who thought like me, we’d find each other across the internet. We’d prove that philosophical thought didn’t stop with Socrates.

We would become a movement.

We would become a new Vienna Circle.

So I wrote a book.

I started a blog and a Facebook page.

I was to be a fisher of supermen.

It’s been a few years since then. Things are pretty much the same as they were when I started. I’m not the Oprah Winfrey of philosophy.

If I’m to believe one of my former professors, it has to do with the fact that I lack proper philosophical street cred. That is to say, philosophers think that the only people qualified to speak (or at least write) about philosophy have a PhD.

Philosophers can be kind of stingy with their wisdom.

A philosophical velvet rope.

Apparently, breaking into professional philosophy is harder than getting into Studio 54.

Alvin Plantinga is the new Steve Rubell.

The thing is, there are plenty of non-professionals writing and speaking about all sorts of topics in books, on TV, and all over the internet. Some are pretty successful.

Could it be that no one is interested in philosophy?

No. that can’t be it. I refuse to believe that it’s that no one is interested in philosophy. There are still philosophy departments on college campuses and plenty of philosophy blogs out there.

Not as many blogs as the number devoted to celebrity gossip, but they’re out there.

My blog is one of them.

There’s a problem, though.

There’s no new Vienna Circle.

All I’ve accomplished is Vienna solipsism.

One thing I have noticed is that everybody else’s stuff seems to have what my stuff lacks – an opinion.
Their stuff has a point of view.
When I write, I try to be topical. I try to humorous and down-to-earth, but it’s not connecting to my an (any) audience.

I barely have 100 likes on my Facebook page.

There are pages devoted to characters from the movie Jaws that have more likes than my page.

So it can’t be that difficult to get a like or two.

See, I think my problem is that I’ve been playing things too safe. I’m stuck on that old habit of writing that one becomes accustomed to when in college.

That damned impartial writing. My writing is passive when it should be active. I write “One” instead of “I”. I say “One may conclude” instead of “I think that”.

I try to write about philosophy but I’ve been trying to do it impartially. That ultimately is impossible to do.

My writing doesn’t have a voice.

It makes for boring philosophy. A boring blog.

A boring Facebook page.

 

I know philosophy is grounded in reason and analytical but that shouldn’t exclude taking a position on anything. Kant definitely thought deontological ethics was the way to go. And there was no convincing Ayn Rand that objectivism might not work even while she collected social security.

Bertrand Russell had an ontology, but he also wrote what he thought about damn-near everything else. Russell wrote his opinions on other philosophers and other philosophical schools of thought. He wrote on topics ranging from politics, religion, international affairs, to marriage and sex.

Here I am. Trying to be analytical.

Trying to be impartial.

Trying not to offend anyone.

Because no philosopher ever did that.

Socrates never had to drink hemlock.