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

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

I couldn’t tell you what happened, tho.

I didn’t watch it.

I haven’t watched the entire season, actually.

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

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

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MEMORIES OF BETTER DAYS… AND BETTER EPISODES

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

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

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

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

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

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Buzz gets it.

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

Wouldn’t you rather just watch tv instead?

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

How do we know it’s an obligation? 

Utilitarianism.

And, utilitarianism is PHILOSOPHY.

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

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

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

Wait a minute there is one.

Star Trek.

Another tv show is Star Trek. 

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

And who can forget this philosophical as hell episode?

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

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

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

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YEAH. , AIN’T JUST LUCILLE

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

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

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

I no longer do that.

I’m no longer a fan of the show.

So I don’t watch the show anymore.

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

I hope it was.

Not likely, but I hope it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

The Way Things Are

SOMETIMES IT’S EASY to dismiss a kids’ movie. After all, films featuring cute animated talking animals voiced by not-exactly-kid-friendly actors are easy to not take too seriously.

Existential dread isn’t exactly the kind of subject matter suited for a film geared towards the pre-school set.

But every once in awhile a kids movie goes and gets all philosophical on everybody.

Something you wouldn’t expect in a movie about a talking pig.

Aristotle wrote that all beings act according to their nature.

Aristotle calls it our characteristic function.

Aristotle says human characteristic function is the use of reason in accordance with virtue

What is the function of man? For as the goodness and the excellence of a piper or a sculptor, or the practiser of any art, and generally of those who have any function assigned to him by nature? Nay, surely as his several members, eye and hand and foot, plainly have each his own function, so we must suppose that man has some function over and above all these

(Man’s function then being, as we say, a kind of life — that is to say, exercise of his faculties and action of various kinds with reason — the good man’s function is to do this well and beautifully [or nobly]. But the function of anything is done well when it is done in accordance with the proper excellence of that thing.) Nicomachean Ethics, I 7.

Dogs, cats, bumblebees, frogs – According to Aristotle, nature not only designs a purpose for all beings, but also it is unnatural to deviate from that being’s designated purpose.

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NOT ONLY IS THIS AN INCREDIBLY TACKY PAINTING, IT IS ALSO UNNATURAL.

A fish’s characteristic function is to swim in water.

A bee’s characteristic function is to pollinate flowers.

A cat’s characteristic function is to be an asshole.

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THE LABEL ON THE BOX SAYS IT ALL

Aristotle states that thing’s characteristic activity (whoops, function), can be performed well or performed poorly.

Not only does a species have an characteristic function, but individuals do as well.

In humans, we can determine one’s characteristic function by observing one’s natural inclination, that is, your characteristic function is what you’re good at:

Mariah Carey’s characteristic function is to sing.

Rembrandt’s was to paint.

Mine is philosophy because frankly, I’m not good at doing anything else.

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PRETTY MUCH HOW I ROLL THESE DAYS

Aristotle attempts to define the Good in terms of characteristic function.

And by the capital “G” Good, Aristotle means Eudaimonia.

Loosely translated, eudemonia means “flourishing”.

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Wait – I think I’m straying off topic. I was talking about characteristic function.

If you want to read all about eudemonia read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. You don’t even have to pay for it. It’s all over the internet in print and audiobook. FOR FREE.

Now, I’d like to think that I’m too old for kids’ movies, but truth be told, I’m not. I’d rather watch Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island over The Seventh Seal any day of the week.

For the record, I think Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island is a very philosophical movie.

The reason why, I think, I’d rather watch a kids’ movie is because unlike movies made for adults, where philosophical subtext is often handled with the subtlety of a pillaging berserker wielding a cudgel, kid-oriented entertainment can’t really overwhelm its target audience with deeper meaning.

Because they’re kids.

And most kids don’t know Hegel.

At least l hope most kids don’t know Hegel.

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THIS KID’S LIFE IS RUINED

But kids do know about talking pigs.

This talking pig in particular.

The movie Babe, directed by Chris Noonan, based on the book The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith, and adapted for the screen by George Miller (yes, the guy who wrote Mad Max!) is the story of a pig… named Babe.

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BABE

Orphaned as a piglet, adopted by Farmer Hoggett, and raised by Hoggett’s sheep herding dogs, Babe is condemned to the short (and inevitably tragic) life of a pig: to one day become the farmer’s next meal.

Babe, however, wants more for his life than to become Christmas dinner.

Babe wants to herd sheep.

Naturally, Babe’s efforts to redefine his role on the farm meets with opposition from the other farm animals (including his adopted canine family), and Farmer Hoggett, who does not believe that a pig is capable of herding sheep.

The farmer’s cat explains to the would-be sheep pig nature’s rules of life on the farm – that each farm animal has a purpose – and that pigs have no purpose.

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The cat says this because cats are assholes.

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A CAT WILL ALWAYS SHOW YOU EXACTLY WHAT HE IS

It’s their characteristic function.
The small pig is not deterred by the cat or anyone else on the farm. He ignores the naysayers and strives to prove that a pig can indeed herd sheep. Babe follows his heart even though everyone around him, including Farmer Hoggett, doubts that he can defy the laws of nature.

Now, if we were following Aristotle, we might have been on the side of the cat; pigs serve no purpose other than to get fat and feed the farmer and his family.

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FARMER HOGGETT, ON HIS WAY TO MAKING BABE CHRISTMAS DINNER

Luckily for the piglet (and the audience), Babe isn’t Aristotilean; he refuses to allow nature or the expectations of others to define his place in the world.

That’s downright existential.

Existential.

The late 19th – 20th century philosophy of Existentialism, most notably associated with French philosophers Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus, and the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger (and also associated with Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, who is credited with being the first Existentialist philosopher).

According to the dictionary,

“Existentialism is the name given to the branch of philosophy which is concerned with the meaning of human existence – its aims, its significance and overall purpose – and the freedom and creative response to life made by individuals.”

If you’re in the mood to think philosophically, Babe can be a philosophical gateway to thinking about more than a couple of philosophical topics (brush up on your Peter Singer ‘cause you gonna be discussing animal rights). It’s pretty much undeniable that the philosophical undertone of the film’s major theme is essentially existentialist. Babe rejects the idea of purpose assigned by biology and society. He defines his own purpose.

His purpose is to herd sheep.

And more importantly, he’s good at it.

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BABE, SHOWING THE DUMB SHEEP WHO’S BOSS

The existentialist French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote

Life has no meaning a priori… it is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that we choose.

Babe finds meaning in herding sheep. It’s almost like sheep herding is his characteristic function.

Take that Aristotle!

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If Babe was a practicing existentialist, he would say that existence preceded his essence.

Sartre says,

What is meant here by saying that existence precedes essence? It means first of all, man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself. If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be.

Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.

Babe did have a purpose. One that he determined for himself. Babe proves that he is capable of doing something other than his biological destiny.

All’s well that ends well, right?

Well, not quite.

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PHILOSOPHERS ARE LIKE STEPHEN KING NOVELS OR A RELATIONSHIP WITH RICK GRIMES. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A HAPPY ENDING

Of course, with all things philosophical, there’s a glitch.

Possible glitch.

Existentialists hold that our true essence isn’t assigned to us by society or by our biology and we assign meaning to ourselves – we create our own meaning, purpose, and values in life. This means we are completely responsible for who we become.

Completely responsible.

Sartre writes,

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.

See how Sartre says we’re “condemned to be free”? We’re condemned, Sartre says, because without God or biology to determine the meaning of our lives, we are solely responsible for creating meaning. This can be rather disorienting.

 

Or nauseating….

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OR NAUSEATING… GET IT?

Lucky for us, we’re watching a kid’s movie. Babe is spared the agony of experiencing the existential dread of complete freedom. Babe‘s mind is as unencumbered as a pig satisfied.

He is completely happy and at ease once he becomes what he wants to be.

A pig-dog.

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SO… we’re full of tears of happiness, cheers, and assumptions of lives lived happily ever after by the time the barn mice tell us we’re reached “The End”.

And we’ve just been given our first big lesson in existentialism.

There was, however, the inevitable follow up, Babe: Pig in the City.

 

 

I’m just going to leave it at that**.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

** Babe: Pig in the City was criticized at the time of it’s initial release for being a darker, less family-friendly film. the film currently holds a 62% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is darker than its predecessor, however, it’s arguable that the film, directed by George Miller, is also a more philosophically developed film. The late film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel both praised the film, with Siskel naming the movie one of the best films of 1998.

 
SOURCES:

http://people.wku.edu/jan.garrett/arisne1.htm

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. F.H. Peters. 2004 [1893].New York: Barnes and Noble Books.

Mel Thompson. Teach Yourself: Philosophy. 2003. Chicago, IL. Contemporary Books. 184.

Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism is a Humanism.

Sartre. Being and Nothingness. (1943).

Everyone’s A Critic (Or, 10 Good Reasons To Hate Philosophy)

I remember when I was a kid, Mr. Blackwell would put out a list of the year’s best and worst dressed celebrities.

Although the more positive thing to do would have been to talk about the best dressed list, the media seemed to anticipate the announcement of Mr. Blackwell’s worst dressed list. They treated Mr. Blackwell’s announcement like a little kid flips his lid opening up his presents on Christmas.

You’d think that Santa Claus had delivered the list.

I don’t remember too much about Mr. Blackwell’s critiques other than his proclamations  were announced in rhyming couplets.

This is Mr. Blackwell

mr blackwell

 

Mr. Blackwell is dead now.

That was Mr. Blackwell.

I guess Joan Rivers does his job these days. I don’t think she uses rhyming couplets, though.

It’d be pretty cool if Kelly Osbourne did.

 

Whether it’s cars, movies, electronic equipment, summer reads, fashion icons, or reality television shows, everyone from the editors of Entertainment Weekly to any guy or gal with a blog has got a top ten list of something. If you spend any significant amount of time doing  or paying attention to anything, you’re bound to think up a list of things about that thing you do or don’t like. You don’t have to read very many lists to see that for some things, the lists are pretty much the same.

I’ve read more than twenty  top ten lists that name Breaking Bad as the best TV show.

Nearly every list of the best music groups say that The Beatles are the greatest band ever*.

If you’re wondering who the greatest president of the United States was, eleven out of ten political scientists will tell you that America’s greatest president was Abraham Lincoln even before he was a vampire hunter.

 

But, just as everyone has a list of music groups, books, or movies, that you love, everyone also has a list of everything and anyone we just cannot stand. Everybody has a list. A THAT list. Although I have yet to hear anyone say it, I know that every philosopher, philosophy fan, and philosophy student has that list of philosophers that they feel less than a positive affinity towards. A philosophy shit list.

Although one might assume that finding a list of hate-inducing philosophers would be a challenging task, picking the list is actually quite easy. After all, it’s easy to come up with a list of philosophers we’re supposed to like: Socrates, Descartes, Hume, Kant… But let’s be honest, some philosophers practically scream out to be hated. For every great philosopher, for every great philosophical idea like the problem of induction, Gettier examples, the naturalistic fallacy, or correspondence theory of truth, there’s a Pascal’s wager or transcendental idealism. Or the homunculus.

That bad idea, by the way, was peddled by Aristotle.

 

Some philosophers were not good people. Other philosophers were/are a-holes. And some philosophers invent theories that are so wacky that you have no other reasonable choice but to hate that philosopher and everything they’ve ever written.

I promise I won’t say a thing about logical positivism or Wittgenstein.

Still, sometimes you come to hate other philosophers merely by looking at them.

I mean, it’s easy to hate a guy that looks like this:

 

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Really, the more one reads philosophy, the more one finds philosophers (and theories) worthy of a “worst of” list.

So without further ado, I present my top ten worst philosophers (aka 10 good reasons to hate philosophy):

 

1. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

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Perhaps best known for his works Critique of Practical Reason (1788), Critique of Pure Reason (1781), and the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), the German Enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel Kant, is considered the greatest philosopher since Aristotle. Kant taught at the University at Konigsberg  (East Prussia) where he was a popular and well-regarded professor. Satisfied with neither the rationalist nor the empiricist theories of knowledge, Kant called for a “Copernican revolution” in philosophy an attempt to provide a satisfactory account for knowledge.

This all makes Kant sound like a swell guy but there’s plenty of reasons to hate him and his philosophy.

For starters, philosophers, until Immanuel Kant, weren’t exclusively academics.

Kant was.

Second, not only are Kant’s Transcendental Idealism and synthetic a priori knowledge incredibly (and annoyingly) confusing concepts, but Kant’s ethical opus, the CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE, is damned-near impossible to carry out in real life.

In Kant’s first formulation of the Categorical Imperative, Kant instructs that we may never violate any moral rule, no matter what good may come about as a result of violating the rule. So, if your friend comes to your house and says to you that he’s being followed by an axe murderer and he wants to hide in your closet, according to Kant, you’re supposed to tell the axe murderer that your friend is hiding in the closet if the murderer asks you where your friend is hiding.

The reason why you gotta fink out your friend, Kant says, is because it is morally wrong to lie. Kant writes:

Whoever then tells a lie, however good his intentions may be, must answer for the consequences of it… because truthfulness is a duty that must be regarded as the basis of all duties founded on contract, the laws of which would be rendered uncertain and useless if even the least exception to the were admitted.

 

The act of lying undermines our pursuit of truth, Kant says.

You see, Kant says we have an inviolable duty to the axe murderer to tell the truth because if we lie, we are endorsing the act of lying, not just to save lives, but in any situation where the circumstances may work out nicely for ourselves (or anyone else for that matter). What if the axe murderer knows you’re lying, Kant asks. And because he knows you’re lying he sneaks around to the back of your house where your fried is also sneaking out the back way. The murderer kills your friend. Kant says that you’re not only morally on the hook for the lie but for the murder as well.

If you didn’t lie the murderer wouldn’t have doubted you. And if he hadn’t doubted you, he wouldn’t have sneaked around to the back door. If you had pointed to your closet and said “He’s right in there”, sure, you’re violating your friend’s trust and handing him over to a deranged killer, but, at least according to Kant, you did so with a clear moral conscience.

It doesn’t take much contemplation to figure out that this line of thinking is kind of…. wrong.

 

2. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

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The 19th century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is undoubtedly one of the most influential (if not most popular) philosophers ever. Besides Socrates, Friedrich Nietzsche has probably contributed more ideas and catchphrases to the popular culture than any other philosopher (eternal recurrence, the ubermensch, master/slave morality, “God is dead”, “What does not kill me makes me stronger”, “there are no facts, only interpretations”…) Nietzsche is considered one of the forerunners of existentialism and credited with founding the philosophy of nihilism.

And is the patron philosopher saint of goth kids everywhere.

That’s pretty much where the problem with Nietzsche starts.

The philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche is the sole genesis of more philosophical misinterpretation and wrongheaded-ness than any other philosopher in history.  Nietzsche’s misogyny, anti-Semitism, and fervent German nationalism not only inspired the malevolent philosophy of National Socialism, but we can find Nietzsche’s philosophical influence in the Satanic religious teachings of  the late Anton LaVey  to  the mass murderers at Columbine High School.

 

 

3. Gottlob Frege (1848-1925)

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Gottlob Frege is credited with revolutionizing the study of logic, which, until Frege, was dominated by Aristotelian logic. His work, Begriffsschrift (1879) set forward a system of formal logic that overthrew Aristotle’s logic. Frege, (along with Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein) is credited with creating the groundwork of modern philosophy of language. Frege argued that logic, mathematics, and language have continuity, and that we should view language more logically for clarity and to remove confusion (in language).

Anyone who hated symbolic logic or encountered the phrases Venus is Hesperus or Venus is phosphorus has Frege to blame.

And as many philosophy students has complained, Frege’s formal logic operates too much like mathematics which is precisely the subject that many mathophobic philosophy students aim to avoid.

 

4. Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

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Called “The Philosopher”, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote on subjects as diverse as politics, economics, psychology, biology, physics, ethics, logic, and auto repair. Scholasticism, the school of theological thought based in part on the philosophy of Aristotle, was the official doctrine of the early Catholic church, and  Aristotle’s logic was the standard logic until Frege. Aristotle’s philosophy (which includes ideas such as the golden mean, eudemonia, and virtue ethics) is still a foundation of philosophical and political thought. Aristotle’s philosophical works are so extensive and he remains one of the world’s most influential philosophers, it’s amazing to think that it’s possible to dislike the man they called “The Philosopher”.

It is possible.

Aristotle proves that the quantity of one’s writing doesn’t necessarily correlate to the fact that everything that someone writes is correct.

A few examples:

On the subject of slavery Aristotle wrote:

… from birth certain things diverge, some towards being ruled, other towards ruling… Accordingly, those who are as different [from other men] as the soul from the body or man from beast and they are in the state if their work is the use of the body, and if this is the best that can come from them are slaves by nature. For them its is better to be ruled with this sort of rule…

 

No, you didn’t read it wrong. Aristotle believed some people are natural slaves.

 

And On the subject of women Aristotle wrote:

Woman is more compassionate than man, more easily moved to tears. At the same time, she is more jealous, more querulous, more apt to scold and to strike. She is, furthermore, more prone to despondency and less hopeful than man, more devoid of shame or self-respect, more false of speech, more deceptive and of more retentive memory.

 

Pretty much speaks for itself.

 

Aristotle also believed:

  • Deformed children should be put to death.
  • If people married young their children would be weak and female (Aristotle probably believed that was redundant).
  • Animals are mere tools to be used however people see fit.
  • Democracy is bad.
  • The Earth is the center of the universe.
  • Heavenly bodies float on eternal invisible spheres.
  • Some people have no souls (and therefore are fit to be used as slaves)
  • And, of course, Aristotle believed a man’s semen contains fully-developed, miniature people.

 

We expect that even the greatest philosopher may miss the mark, but when Aristotle was wrong, he wasn’t just slightly incorrect or a wee bit off track; the guy was wrong.

WRONG.

 

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Centuries of Aristotle’s wrong-headed philosophy dominating church doctrine not only held back the progress of science (as it was not in one’s best interest to oppose church doctrine), but Aristotle’s  truly messed up notions involving the intellectual aptitude of women and the (in)ability of average citizens to manage government are still prevalent.

If that isn’t enough, Aristotle’s political philosophy influenced neo-conservatism.

‘Nuff said.

 

5. John Rawls (1921-2002)

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Veil of ignorance. Period.

6. Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

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Best known as the author of objectivist masterpieces The Fountainhead (1943), Anthem (1938), and Atlas Shrugged (1957), Ayn Rand is only slightly less regarded by philosophers as a philosopher worth taking seriously. Rand is the founder of Objectivism, the philosophical school of thought grounded on the principle of rational self interest. Rand’s rational self interest is defined as follows:

Man every man is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life.

 

At first glance Rand’s philosophy makes sense. It’s difficult to argue that we shouldn’t place the achievement of our own happiness first and foremost among our life goals.

And we should wan to be happy.

The problem with Rand is that following her philosophy will turn you into a complete dick.

Anyone who has endured a soon-to-be-former-friend’s Rand-soaked rants about “moochers”, “the virtue of selfishness” or “going Galt”, knows that the mere sight of The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged on a friend or prospective mate’s bookshelf spells certain doom for any relationship. The trouble with Ayn Rand is that fans of Rand often espouse Rand’s anti-helping-one’s-fellow-man sentiments, while also failing to realize, like Rand, that helping the less fortunate actually benefits society.  You see, Rand’s fans often fail to see that she wrote fiction.

That’s probably why if you ask any philosopher if he takes Ayn Rand seriously, you’ll be laughed out of the room.

Rand not only calls philosophical god Immanuel Kant “evil”, but Rand proclaimed that the Christian ethic of altruism is dangerous and harmful to society.

Which is pretty odd considering some of Rand’s biggest fans are Christian politicians.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is such a bag of mixed-up ideas that Rand’s influence can be found behind the personal philosophies of former Republican 2012 Vice-Presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, who insisted all his staffers read Atlas Shrugged, and Anton LaVey, the late founder of the Church of Satan.

Rand herself decried social assistance to the poor (because it takes from the rich, who, according to Rand had all earned their money, so no poor person has a right to be helped by it) while receiving social security a social assistance program.

That’s not only mixed up. That’s being a total Dick.

 

7. Ayn Rand

Rand proves that it is possible to so despise a philosopher she’s worth mentioning twice.

 

8. Sir Bertrand Russell (1873-1970)

bertrand russell

 

Regarded by many as the greatest philosopher of the 20th century and (perhaps) the greatest philosopher ever, Sir Bertrand Russell (along with Gottlob Frege and Ludwig Wittgenstein) played a major role in the development of analytic philosophy. Russell’s works includes writings on logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of mathematics, epistemology, metaphysics, moral philosophy, politics, economics, religion, and Russell, with Alfred North Whitehead, wrote Principia Mathematica (1910-13), which established the logical foundations of mathematics.

Ok. I know, I know, Bertrand Russell is the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, quite possibly the greatest philosopher ever. Blah blah blah.

It’s absolutely correct that every philosophy student should know the philosophical importance of Bertrand Russell. But here’s my problem:

First: Russell’s Paradox.

Second: Unlike Leo Strauss, whose approach to writing was to be intentionally obscure, Bertrand Russell is damn-near un-understandable. I have no clue what Russell is writing about.  Read this:

The unity of the sentence is particularly obvious in the case of asymmetrical relations: ‘x precedes y’ and ‘y precedes x’ consist of the same words, arranged by the same relation of temporal succession; there is nothing whatever in their ingredients to distinguish the one from the other. The sentences differ as wholes, but not in their parts, it is this that I mean when I speak of a sentence as a unity.

 

Now, either Bertrand Russell is that brilliant or I’m that dumb.

Because I have no idea what that meant.

That’s why I hate Bertrand Russell.

9. Leo Strauss (1899-1973)

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Known as the father of neo-conservatism, the political philosophy of  the late German-American philosopher, Leo Strauss, has created more animus between liberals and conservatives than the epic “tastes great/less filling” debate. In fact, Leo Strauss is probably the most influential modern philosopher no one has ever heard of.

Have you ever heard the name Paul Wolfowitz?

If you haven’t, I’m guessing you’re not an American.

If you are an American and you haven‘t, God help you.

What’s important to know about Paul Wolfowitz is that he was a student of Leo Strauss.  AND he was a Deputy Secretary of Defense in the George W. Bush administration. That means Paul Wolfowitz had the ear of the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld.

No big deal, right?

Well, that would be no big deal if Leo Strauss hadn’t spent his entire philosophical career lamenting modern political theory and what he saw as modernity’s liberal, relativistic values, and “the corroding effects of mass culture.” Strauss writes:

Many people today hold the view that the standard in question is in the best case nothing but the ideal adopted by our society or our “civilization” and embodied in its way of life or its institutions. But, according to the same view, all societies have their ideals, cannibal societies no less than civilized ones. If principles are sufficiently justified by the fact that they are accepted by a society, the principles of cannibalism are as defensible or sound as those of civilized life.

 

Strauss explains that moral relativism and “the uninhibited cultivation of individuality” is “bound to lead to disastrous consequences” and nihilism.

It would be no big deal if Strauss hadn’t taught at the University of Chicago from 1949 to 1968,  allowing Strauss to influence a generation of students (they’re called “Straussians”). And it wouldn’t be a big deal that Leo Strauss taught guys like Paul Wolfowitz and influenced a generation of Straussians if Strauss hadn’t believed and taught his students that philosophy should be esoteric, and not understood by everybody, and that knowledge is something that is hidden to most people and only understood by a few individuals (namely Strauss and his students).

It wouldn’t be a problem that Strauss taught guys like Paul Wolfowitz if Strauss hadn’t taught his students that society should be structured so that the wisest should rise to the top (mind you, Strauss believed that he and his students were the wisest) and that it’s perfectly within a government’s power to lie to and ignore the will of the people.

It wouldn’t be a big deal if Straussians hadn’t been affecting American domestic and foreign policy for the last 12 years*.

It wouldn’t be a problem if Strauss’ followers didn’t go into politics and influence and entire administration to follow Strauss’ wacked-out ideas.

 

10. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

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The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (of course he was German!) is best known for his work The World As Will (1818). Schopenhauer, along with (fellow Germans) Georg Hegel and Nietzsche introduced the concept of the will as a force in the world that makes things happen. The world, according to Schopenhauer (and later Nietzsche) is an expression of the will.

Schopenhauer believed that the Eastern philosophical tradition was better at dealing with our philosophical crises than the established European philosophy. Schopenhauer also believed that animals should be treated humanely. He even objected to animals being used for scientific research.

That makes Schopenhauer seem like a pretty cool guy, right?

Well, if you thought that you’d be wrong.

You could say Schopenhauer was the Debbie Downer of philosophy.

Schopenhauer believed that there is no such thing as friendship or happiness and since the will wants its way, we will always be subject to suffering caused by our unfulfilled desires. According to Schopenhauer’s philosophy, even if we get what we want we can never be truly satisfied. Schopenhauer says that ultimately nothing we do matters because death will eventually claim us, thus rendering all of our efforts at anything futile. Schopenhauer writes:

we blow out a soap bubble as long and as large as possible, although we know perfectly well that it will burst.

 

You don’t have to be a philosopher to know it’s kind of hard to like people like this.

Ok, you say, pessimism is forgivable. Many philosophers display more than an inkling of the dourness. But if Schopenhauer’s sunny attitude isn’t enough to turn you off, Arthur Schopenhauer was also a pretty rotten guy.

For starters, his attitude towards women sucked.

Schopenhauer’s attitude towards relationships with women was no different from his view on friendship and happiness. Schopenhauer had many romantic relationships but no permanent.   Worse yet, not only did Schopenhauer write that women are “mental myopic” with “weaker reasoning powers”, he pushed an elderly neighbor down a flight of stairs. When the woman died, Schopenhauer rejoiced that the woman’s death relieved him of his obligation to pay compensation for the injuries she sustained in the fall.

That alone places Schopenhauer second only to Ayn Rand on the dickness scale.

 

philosophy is magic

 

Alright. I know that my list sounds like I’m just bitching about philosophers without any real, substantive criticism of any philosopher of his or her philosophy. If that’s what you’re thinking, that would be an entirely correct assumption. Just as one my dislike The Beatles because of John Lennon’s nasally vocals, our reasons for disliking (or even hating) a particular philosopher, philosophical theory, or philosophical school of thought, may come down to something as trivial as the fact that that particular philosopher invented symbolic logic.

It may be un-philosophical to say so, but it’s ok if you don’t like everything. It’s even ok to really despise a philosopher or two.

As any philosopher will tell you, everybody’s got an opinion, and

haters-gonna-hate-2

 

* Although the critics are nearly unanimous in their praise of The Beatles, I think that it’s highly unlikely that the Beatles would appear at the number on spot on every best musical artists lists. To my knowledge, The Beatles have never occupied the top spot on a list of the 10 greatest hip hop artists. But then, I haven’t seen every top ten hip hop artists list, either.

 

* It’s clear that the Bush Administration’s policies have continued into the Obama Administration. The U.S. is still involved in Iraq, and U.S. troops are still active in Afghanistan. Bush era economic policies, government surveillance, and rendition of “enemy combatants” have also continued into the Obama Administration.

 

 

 

 

Sources:

1) Aristotle. The Politics. 1984. Trans. Carnes Lord. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 40-1.

2) Aristotle. “The Inequality of Women”. 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. 525.

3) Bertrand Russell. “Sentence, Syntax, and Parts of Speech”. The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell. 1961. Eds. Robert Egner and Lester E. Denonn. NY: Touchstone. p. 122.

4) “Reader’s Guide to the Writings and Philosophy of Ayn Rand”. From The Fountainhead. 1952 [orig. published 1943]. NY: Signet.

5) Immanuel Kant. “On A Supposed Right to Lie From Benevolent Motives”. 1797. http://oll.libertyfund.org/?option=com_staticxt&staticfile=show.php?title=360&chap

6) Leo Strauss. Liberalism Ancient and Modern. 1968. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p.5

7) Leo Strauss. Natural Right and History. 1950, 1953. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  pp.3, 5.

 

 

 

Descartes Would Have Done the Maury Povich Show (Metaphysics vs. METAPHYSICS)

I finally figured out something.

After many years of soul searching and asking other people, I finally figured out why philosophy isn’t popular. Why no one ever mentions the name Immanuel Kant or says the words “virtue ethics”, even when the conversation is about deontology or virtue ethics.

Or why contemporary philosophers like Peter Singer and Slavoj Žižek are relegated to occasional appearances on NPR.

Or why Cornel West is identified as a social critic and not a philosopher. And why, when anyone discusses matters of religion, they turn to guys like Rick Warren and not to philosophers like Peter van Inwagen.

There’s a reason why the only metaphysics ever spoken about is ghost hunting and talking to the dead.

That kind of metaphysics gets its own TV show.

 

 

paranormal TV show

 

 

What I discovered is this: nobody talks to philosophers or talks philosophy because nobody likes philosophy.

It’s all pie-in-the-sky navel gazing and talking about nothing.

 

 

IF YOU SAY YOU'RE INTO PHILOSOPHY CHANCES ARE PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT SKIN CARE PRODUCTS.

IF YOU SAY YOU’RE INTO PHILOSOPHY CHANCES ARE PEOPLE WILL THINK YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT SKIN CARE PRODUCTS.

 

 

More people follow the life philosophy and ethics of Donald Trump than they follow the life philosophy and ethics of Aristotle.

That’s why this metaphysician

 

james van praagh

 

 

Sells more books than this metaphysician

 

peter van inwagen

 

 

If you told the average person you’re into metaphysics, it’s more likely that they’d think you’re into Sylvia Browne or that you’ve mastered The Secret. There’s a real problem for your field of interest when you mention the word “philosophy” and people think you’re talking about the Laws of Attraction.

If I had to put money on it, I’d bet the reason why small “m” metaphysics is more popular than capital “M” metaphysics (that is, philosophical metaphysics) has to do with the fact that when you practice small m metaphysics, you’re supposed to get things.

Practitioners of The Secret call these things “abundance”.

Mike Dooley, who is featured in The Secret, says “Thoughts become things”. According to Dooley, it’s not just that what we think influences how we perceive reality, what we think actually affects the world around us. That is to say, our thoughts can become real things in the real world. We can actualize our desires for a good job, a good home, stable, and substantive relationships with our significant others. And, we can manifest abundance.

That means lots of money.

You see, if you practice small “m” metaphysics, it can make you very rich.

I wouldn’t claim that Rhonda Byrne is infinitely more knowledgeable than Socrates or Immanuel Kant, or that James van Praagh’s Talking to Heaven is a better philosophical guide than Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. it’s just that subscribing to one philosophy is potentially more financial rewarding than the other.

It’s as simple as that.

Think of it: small “m” metaphysics tells us that we can attract things like money and happiness simply by thinking about it. On the other hand, Aristotle’s brand of happiness, eudemonia, or “flourishing”, doesn’t even require that a person be emotionally happy.

According to Aristotle, even a dead man can be happy.

In fact, according to John Stuart Mill, we should prefer to be a dissatisfied Socrates than want to be a satisfied pig.

If how our lives end is any indication of how fulfilling one’s life is (financially or otherwise), one can make an argument that being a philosopher positively sucks.

  • Socrates was condemned to death and forced to drink hemlock.
  • Isocrates starved to death.
  • Hypatia was killed by a mob of Christians.
  • Seneca was ordered to cut his own throat.
  • Descartes died from the common cold.
  • Richard Montague was beaten to death.
  • Jacques Derrida died of pancreatic cancer.
  • Leibniz died of arthritis and gout (I had no idea either one of those conditions was fatal)
  • Camus died in a car accident.
  • Foucault died from complications from AIDS.

…. It’s been rumored that Nietzsche died of syphilis.

I’d bet that none of those philosophers were blessed with “abundance”, either.

Deepak Chopra is worth an estimated 80 million dollars.

And, unlike Descartes, Deepak Chopra was on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

 

 

 
Sources:
http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/deepak-chopra-net-worth