THERE ARE FEW things, I imagine, as positively dumb as a 24-hour Facebook ban.

I mean, you can pretty much get slapped with a can’t post, can’t comment for just about any stupid thing, and it’s not like I posted bare ass or unclothed man peen.

I actually did that. I posted a link with a barely visible thumbnail pic of John Lennon’s naked weenie.

Wait. I mean the thumbnail pic itself was barely visible, not…his… uh…

By the way, I wrote about that 24-hour ban, too.

I thought (mistakenly) that I was being careful about what I was posting and commenting, but as one’s best laid plans don’t always get you laid like you planned, I found myself once again violating Facebook’s confusion-inducing COMMUNITY STANDARDS.

Seriously, does anyone really know what TF Facebook’s “community standards” are?


And, like I said in a previous post, Facebook’s community standards are a well-intentioned, but misguided attempt at moral policing.


I mean, certainly Facebook’s intentions are good. Suggesting that we kill people and leave the corpses for others to see is a problematic statement. It’s reasonable to think that a social media site that ignores a comment like that would be failing in its moral duty to its users.

…assuming we think a social networking site has any moral obligations to its users.

But here’s the thing. J wasn’t talking about harming people. I was talking about birds.

I wanted to kill





Pigeons, specifically.

Parrots and parakeets are fine, but pigeons can straight-up go F themselves.

This is the meme I violated community standards commenting on:

You see — dear God, I can’t believe I’m saying this — sometimes morality isn’t so cut and dry. Sometimes morality needs a little bit of context.

Now, for the record, I’m a fan of deontology. This guy’s deontological ethics, to be exact.

IMMANUEL KANT (1724-1804)

And, because I’m an ethical kantian, I’m not concerned with the consequences of our actions. What matters to me when evaluating an act is the motivation behind an act.

For Kant, the proper ethical motivation is not consequences — we act from duty.


This is why, according to Kant, we must tell the ax murderer the location of his hiding intended victim. Our ethical duty (or obligation) is to not lie…

Ok, I’m gonna interrupt my post right here to say that Kant explains why we are more morally obligated to not lie to the ax murderer than to not facilitate a murder (and other imperatives)in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. If you haven’t already read it I suggest thumbing through it at least once.

And here’s where I think the problem is.

Facebook seems to be guided by a utilitarian ethical principle. That is, they feel that it is their moral obligation to provide a safe space for social interaction for the greatest number of people. Providing that safe space can, from time to time, result in a bit of over-policing and the occasional (and unnecessary) 24-hour bans. However, as long as the company’s intention is to produce the greatest good for the greatest number, they can provide at least some justification for an hyper-reactive algorithm. My comment simply pinged the algorithm.

My comment, regardless of the intended target, was a threat, and threats pose a danger to he greater Facebook community.

Now, I know that being a utilitarian isn’t only about meaning well; you’ve got to produce results. Utilitarianism is all about consequences. Facebook wants to create a safe space for social interaction (for the greatest number of people), but are they?

I honesty have no idea if they are or not.

According to utilitarianism, we are obligated to consider the effect of (consequences) of our actions on, well, pretty much everybody. “Everybody” may or may not include non-human animals, like pigeons. If “everybody” extends to non-human animals, my kill ’em and let God sort ’em out-inspred comment may have violated Facebook’s community standards and the 24-hour ban was justified. However, as an ethical kantian, I’m not required to extend my moral obligations to animals lacking the capacity for autonomous decision making and rational thought.

Therefore, a mere threat against pigeons is neither a moral outrage nor is it worthy of a 24-hour ban.

After all, I didn’t threaten a person.


Although… I’m not sure leaving the corpses to warn other pigeons is morally kantian, either.

Well… in the end did I deserve a 24-hour Facebook ban? I dunno. Probably. I did make a threat, and even though it was directed at a bunch of lousy pigeons in a meme, I — ugh — violated community standards.

If there’s any lesson to be learned from all of this, it’s that, as a member of a community, I have moral obligations to others, including (and perhaps most importantly) to help nurture an environment where participants feel (yes, feel) safe. And really, I shouldn’t be calling for the mass slaughter of pigeons, anyway.

What I should be worried about is Facebook finally catching all that German poop porn that I posted nine years ago.

That stuff is gonna get me permanently banned.

What Happens On the Holodeck Probably Won’t Stay On the Holodeck

SOMEBODY WROTE “STAR TREK IS philosophy for stupid people”.

I wouldn’t say it’s for stupid people.

I wouldn’t say that sentiment is entirely wrong, either.

I’d say it’s just easy to dismiss the philosophy of Star Trek (and of any pop culture-based philosophy, for that matter) as something that would appeal to stupid people. And, with “aliens” that look like this, it’s easy to dismiss Star Trek fans as… well… as stupid as this obviously-a-dog-wearing-a-dumb costume.




Well… some folks may think there’s a the correlation between Star Trek and the collective stupidity of its audience (that particular folk was Chuck Klosterman, I think), and that’s fine. Like anything in pop culture, Star Trek got its fair share of smart fans and a more than generous helping of stupid fans.




But, if Star Trek is philosophy for stupid people, the show is putting out some pretty heavy philosophical stuff — for stupid people.

I’m no smart guy, but I’m pretty sure that the writers wouldn’t waste their time writing episodes for a fanbase with the mental acuity of a Pakled.



Just ask a Trek fan to describe the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of A Man”, and you’ll hear a bunch about how philosophically deep the episode is.

That’s because it is a philosophically deep episode.

Normally when I’m making the case that Star Trek is philosophically deep, I’d rattle off a list of philosophical episodes and themes — but I’m not going to do that right now.

All I’m gonna say is if you want to watch a tv show that, if you say you watch it you can claim it’s because it’s “philosophical”, give Star Trek a look.

…or you can watch Rick and Morty.

Because you need to have a high IQ to understand that.

download (1)


But really. Go ahead and watch the Star Trek episode “City On the Edge Of Forever”.

and “Arena”.

and “Plato’s Stepchildren”.

and “Encounter At Farpoint”.

and “The Inner Light”

and while you’re at it, you might as well watch “Darmok”.



Now, any incarnation of the Star Trek franchise is chocked-full of philosophy, but my personal favorite philosophical Star Trek is Star Trek: the Next Generation. I prefer ST:TNG (as the fans call it) to other Star Treks because there’s less this:


and A LOT of this:





No, really tho… I prefer Star Trek: the Next Generation to other incarnations of Star Trek because Star Trek: the Next Generation, 1) it was the first Star Trek series I watched on a regular basis, and 2) the series wields philosophy with the subtlety of being struck on the head with a cudgel.

Wait a minute…




So I guess Star Trek is philosophy for stupid people.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway, my likely stupidity aside, the one thing I appreciate about Star Trek IS that the show’s philosophical themes are easy to comprehend. You don’t have to study philosophy to see the philosophy in an episode of Star Trek.

There’s a bunch of philosophical topics and themes to explore all over Star Trek universe (there are six separate incarnations of the tv show and 13 films), so you can take your pick of which one strikes your philosophical fancy.

…but the Star Trek thing that makes me think most philosophically is the Holodeck.




I know not everyone reading this is a Star Trek fan, so I’ll have Wikipedia explain what the Holodeck is to you:

The Holodeck is a fictional device from the television series Star Trek. It is presented as a staging environment in which participants may engage with different virtual reality environments. From a storytelling point of view, it permits the introduction of a greater variety of locations and characters that might not otherwise be possible, such as events and persons in the Earth‘s past, and is often used as a way to pose philosophical questions.

Thank god for that Wikipedia.

Now, according to Wikipedia, the Holodeck can be used in various ways, including…

Re-enacting Klingon rites of passage:



Re-creating accidents to get Riker off when he’s charged with murder



and for creating hot Holodeck babes to get Riker off in general…



Wikipedia* says that the Holodeck can also be used “as a way to pose philosophical questions”.

But here’s the fun part (and when I say “fun” I mean PHILOSOPHICAL) about the Holodeck: we can also ask philosophical questions about the Holodeck.

Namely, why the Holodeck? Why would we want to use the Holodeck in the first place?

If you weren’t thinking philosophically already, I bet you’tr doing some philosophical thinking now!



Ok… If somebody told you, “hey buddy. I’ve got this fantabulous machine that you can step into and live any life you choose”, would you do it? WAIT — before you say “sure, why not?” let me drop a name on you — Robert Nozick.

Although the American philosopher Robert Nozick (1938-2002), is known (around philosophical nerds fans) for his book on political philosophy Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), he is probably best known for his thought experiment, THE EXPERIENCE MACHINE.

If you’ve watched The Matrix, you know this one.

Red pill, people. Choose the red pill.




Whether you’ve watched The Matrix or Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Hollow Pursuits” (or seen neither), you probably already have an idea of what The Experience Machine is. But if you don’t know the concept, Nozick says (about the Experience Machine):

Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any
experience that you desired. Superduper neuropsychologists could stimulate
your brain so that you would think and feel you were writing a great novel, or
making a friend, or reading an interesting book. All the time you would be
floating in a tank, with electrodes attached to your brain. Should you plug into
this machine for life, preprogramming your life’s experiences?

Sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t want to spend a day or twenty years inside a machine  designed to give us nothing but pleasurable experiences?

All I’m gonna say is



…and a plate of nachos.

Now, the way it’s described, Nozick’s Experience Machine initially sounds like a great thing. The crewmembers of the star ship Enterprise D (that’s Picard’s Enterprise, but y’all already knew that) enjoy the Holodeck as something that evolved 23rd century people are into.

You know there’s something wrong with that 23rd century kind of thinking, right?

Philosophers notoriously have a knack for making everything that’s fun un-fun, and like a true philosopher, Nozick managed to make the idea of climbing into a pleasure machine created by superduper neuropsychologists un-fun.

Before we jump into the Experience Machine for some good-time hedonistic fun, Nozick asks us a question.

Of course, there’s a question…

The question at the core of the Experience Machine is, Is pleasure all that matters?

The answer is supposed to be no.

Listen: The thing (aka, the catch) about the Experience Machine is, despite the lure of a life of good times inside the device, the purpose of Nozick’s thought experiment is to persuade us that life is more than just pleasurable experiences. The point of the machine, Nozick says, isn’t to demonstrate the awesomeness of life in the Matrix, but to show that we should prefer an authentic life in the real world to an (in)authentic one inside the machine.

Nozick gives us at least three reasons why we shouldn’t want to plug in:

First, we want to do certain things, and not just have the experience of doing them. In the case of certain experiences, it is only because first we want to do the actions that we want the experiences of doing them or thinking we’ve done them. (But why do we want to do the activities rather than merely to experience them?) A second reason for not plugging in is that we want to be a certain way, to be a certain sort of person. Someone floating in a tank is an indeterminate blob. There is no answer to the question of what a person is like who has been long in the tank. Is he courageous, kind, intelligent, witty, loving? It’s not merely that it’s difficult to tell; there’s no way he is. Plugging into the machine is a kind of suicide. It will seem to some, trapped by a picture, that nothing about what we are like can matter except as it gets reflected in our experiences. But should it be surprising that what we are is important to us? Why should we be concerned only with how our time is filled, but not with what we are?

Nozick adds:

Thirdly, plugging into an experience machine limits us to a man-made reality,
to a world no deeper or more important than that which people can construct.
There is no actual contact with any deeper reality, though the experience of it
can be simulated.

So… according to Robert Nozick, I shouldn’t want to spend any of my time living Experience Machine-induced “experiences” with Will Gardner



Just as Star Trek’s Lt. Barclay shouldn’t want the Holodeck pleasures of a romantic relationship with ship’s counselor (and Commander Will Riker’s imzadi) Deanna Troi




Reggie Barclay and I ( and we collectively) shouldn’t want to go into the Experience Machine because, by going in, we deprive ourselves of the real (authentic) experiences that make a meaningful life. Philosophers, and ordinary folks, should prefer truth to a pleasurable fiction.

But why, right?

You know, lovers of wisdom say we (should) want authentic experiences because we need truth if we want to find wisdom, and through wisdom and truth, we find deeper meaning…blah, blah, blah.

Life shouldn’t be about just pleasure. As John Stuart Mill tells us, we should want to be a dissatisfied Socrates rather than a satisfied pig.




AAAANNNNDDD —  if we learn anything about the Holodeck from watching Star Trek, we’ll see that Holodeck “experiences” have the potential to cause problems in the real world. In the episode “Hollow Pursuits”, Lt. Reggie Barclay becomes so involved in his life inside the Holodeck that he neglects his responsibilities in the real world. Barclay’s work performance (he’s a member of Lt. Geordi LaForge’s engineering crew) is below standard and his constant tardiness (because he’s in the Holodeck) nearly endangers the safety of the Enterprise. Barclay’s Holodeck depictions of his superior officers, especially his Holodeck of Cmdr. Riker, cause “problems” when Barclay’s superior officers discover his Holodeck fantasies.




Worst of all, Barclay’s Holodeck addiction is preventing him from overcoming his real world social anxiety.





Eventually, Barclay realizes what we, the viewers, already know: life inside the Holodeck is nothing more than a hollow pursuit. Barclay’s Holodeck relationships aren’t authentic– and more importantly — he is depriving himself of the opportunity to form real friendships (and romantic relationships) with his real fellow crewmembers. 

And you know what Aristotle says about the importance of real friendships…

…and on a personal note: I think, for a society that has advanced past the use of money, like they have in the 23rd century of Star Trek, it’s odd (to me) that an experience machine on a starship would be seen as an advancement in human progress.

I mean, you’d think a culture advanced enough to provide a ship’s counselor on staff would know about the dangers of VR addiction.

Also, who is monitoring what goes down in the Holodeck, anyway? I mean, I can’t keep a post of naked boobs up on Facebook for more than three minutes before I get one of those “your post was removed because it violated community standards”things. Who’s keeping watch over community standards violations on the Enterprise’s Holodeck?

You gotta assume there’s some sick shit going on in there.


If you think Star Trek is dumb philosophy for stupider people, you’re kinda wrong on that. Despite all that living in their mom’s basement stuff, Terk fans tend to be pretty smart people — that’s why Star Trek has been cranking out pop culture-ready philosophy for over a half century.

One great thing about Star Trek is that the writers assume that the fans are not only capable of understanding the thump-to-the-back-of-the-head philosophical stuff, but also the deep philosophical subtext that gets us talking about dudes like Robert Nozick and asking ourselves if taking a dive in the Holodeck or Experience Machine is really worth it.

Just in case you forgot, the answer is it’s not. BECAUSE THERE’S MORE TO LIFE THAN MERE PLEASURE.


I don’t know how you feel about the Experience Machine, but

all I’m saying is that 

I prefer my nachos with guacamole.







*You may have noticed my excessive use of Wikipedia. It’s true. I refer to Wikipedia a lot. I know, Wikipedia has the reputation for being a less-than-accurate source of information. Rest assured, before I use Wikipedia as a source I check with additional sources for information. So far, so good…. I think. 


This Post Does Not Have A Name

I watch a lot of movies.

Maybe too many movies.

I must say, however,  I’ve never seen any of The Fast and the Furious franchise.

I’m more of a horror/sci-fi person. Not much of an action fan.

On November 30, 2013, one of the stars of The Fast and the Furious franchise, Paul Walker, died in a car crash.

He was only 40 years old.


paul walker


There’s something funny about movie stars. You never really think of them as having an actual age. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have spent one second thinking about his age. But now that I’m older, the first thought on my mind when I heard the news was the fact that Paul walker was only a few years older than me.

And even if he wasn’t so close to me in age, his death would still be tragic. He was a person. He has family and friends. And many fans who are now mourning his sudden and violent death.

I don’t know how many R.I.P. pages popped up on Facebook.

And, of course, his death made for plenty of programming on TMZ.

TMZ posted video of the car Paul Walker  in in flames.


paul walker accident scene


A few days after the crash, TMZ aired their  “last known video footage” of Paul Walker.


tmz last shot of paul walker


You know, when a famous person dies, there’s no shortage of sensational coverage of a person’s life. Death, whether a person is famous or not, is often treated like an entertainment event. I guess if you’re famous or  unfortunate enough to die in a spectacular fashion, the news and entertainment show vans and their cameras aren’t too far behind.

Unfortunately for Paul Walker, he was both.

But sometimes, it gets us thinking about those things that we otherwise often put off – like the inevitability of death. That death, no matter whether a person is 9 months or 99 years old, is an unpleasant and often unwelcome reality we all must face. But as tragic and uncomfortable as the subject of death (even the death of a famous person) is, it’s also an opportunity to ask philosophical questions.

Naturally, when someone dies,  our minds often drift to questions about our own lives – what our lives mean. We ask if our lives have meaning. Have we accomplished all with our lives that we wanted to do? What will our lives mean to others after we’re gone? Have we made a difference?

When a celebrity dies, especially if there were others killed along with the famous person, we ask what is the true value of a life. Paul Walker was a famous person but he was not the only person killed in the accident. Walker’s friend, race car driver Roger Rodas, also perished.

I’m certain that many people were shocked and saddened by the death of Rodas, but if you spent any time watching the Hollywood-centered media, it’s likely that you may have had the idea that Paul Walker was the only occupant in the car.


roger rodas



That’s because in our media-driven culture, the lives of the rich and famous are often more valued than the lives of average people. We want to believe that our lives, that any life, is important and if tragedy befalls anyone, what happens to us will be treated as important as if it had happened to a famous person.

Look, I’m not downplaying the situation. Lives, whether the lives are famous or not, are equally valuable.  That’s why it is so upsetting when any life is treated like it is less valuable. It’s why the fact that Roger Rodas’ death was virtually ignored by the entertainment media affects our moral sense on the value of life.



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.





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.





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.







Plato. Timaeus. (90e). Available at Project Gutenberg

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


“I don’t believe that one should devote his life to morbid self-attention. I believe that one should become a person like other people”  – Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver (1976)



I’m on the internet.

I mean I have access to the internet.

Duh. How else would I be writing?

What I mean is that besides being on the internet writing right now, I use social media.

Am I supposed to put social media in quotes or capitalize it or something?

I wouldn’t say that I have an internet “presence” (I am putting quotes around that word) or something.

I’m no Jenna Marbles.

But I’m sure I’ve been on the World Wide Web long enough to suspect that the government might have looked at what I’ve posted online at least once.

At least that’s what I assume from everything that Edward Snowden says.



I suppose Rockwell was right. Someone is watching me.

I suppose Rockwell was right. Someone is watching me.

If you’re on the internet. Someone has watched or is watching you.

Internet “presence” not required.

This seems a little weird to me.


I don’t have the investigatory curiosity of the NSA, but I know for most people peeping into the average person’s email box wouldn’t seem worthwhile. After all, who wants to spend all day sifting through unintentionally forwarded messages (usually off-color, potentially job-losing jokes), a marginal friend’s political rants, inappropriate vacation pics, video of someone’s cousin’s niece’s goddaughter’s 2nd birthday party, or Grandma Jean’s old borscht recipe?

Wouldn’t watching someone who actually has a “presence” on the internet be much more useful?

At least it would be more entertaining.

Right, NSA?

My philosophical inclinations tells me that ultimately I know nothing, but I know even if my online activity isn’t being monitored by the NSA, that whatever I post is likely to be seen by someone, somewhere.


At least that’s what I assume.


But is a 43 year-old single man in Toledo, Ohio who posts pictures of his cats dressed as characters from popular TV shows on Facebook really more likely to be an Al Qaeda operative?
Now, I know be truly watch-worthy on the internet (to have a “presence”), the first indicator that someone is worth watching is that one has posted pictures of one’s self.

Lots of pictures.

Too many pictures.

Preferably taken in a bathroom.
Those who are familiar with the internet identify this type of self-portraiture as is commonly called: the selfie.

Whether you’re Justin Bieber or a 15 year-old Justin Bieber fan, the internet is an infinite digital reservoir for one’s self portraits.


bieber selfie



Who knew there could be something worse than glam shots?

Who knew there could be something worse than glam shots?




Duckface not optional

Duckface not optional


This is me doing a selfie:



This is as close as I get to a selfie, folks.

This is as close as I get to a selfie, folks.



If you think about it, the selfie isn’t such a new thing.

All the great artists painted self portraits.

Those are selfies, right?



rembrant selfie




van gogh selfie




Cindy Sherman does nothing but self portraits.


This is Cindy Sherman. This is also the most expensive photograph ever sold. And it's a selfie!

This is Cindy Sherman. This is also the most expensive photograph ever sold. And it’s a selfie!

If you really think about it, is there really a difference between a van Gogh and a selfie?
That’s not a rhetorical question.


You see, there’s a real philosophical conundrum here.

Sure, posting pics of ourselves online is a fun way to catfish meet other people or to stay in touch with friends. Or even as an art or means of self-expression.

But what does the selfie say about us philosophically?
Certainly devoting one’s online presence (oops, “presence”) exclusively to self portraiture may be viewed (and perhaps rightly so) as narcissistic. And it may be difficult to argue that you’re not inordinately self-centered when most of your photographs look like this:






Ok you say. We need to get a philosophical grip of ourselves. Selfies are innocuous. They’re nothing more than young folks with their smart phones posting harmless pictures online. But here’s the thing: have you noticed that there is an immoderate amount of self portraits online? That people seem to be overcome with the urge to snap photos of themselves everywhere, in any situation – no matter how inappropriate photo-snapping may have been?


We all know you want a presence on the internet, but do we all have to see this?

We all know you want a presence on the internet, but do we all have to see this?

Given the volume of online self portraits, one could argue that our cultural fixation on posting images of ourselves is exactly the kind of vain self indulgence that gets in the way of thinking and acting in ways that benefits more than us. Bertrand Russell says:


One of the troubles about vanity is that it grows with what it feeds on. The more you are talked about, the more you wish to be talked about.


We post pictures of ourselves to show others our massive hotness. We post selfies to show off our new tattoos. Or our ability to pose for pictures cleverly. Our selfies show others how hip we are. That we have a presence on the internet.


That we’re relevant.

That we matter.

That we are important.

That we exist.

All eyes on me.


Go ahead and post it. Nobody's going to see it, anyway.

Go ahead and post it. Nobody’s going to see it, anyway.



When you get down to it, the philosophical problem with the selfie is that when we spend too much time thinking of ourselves, who we are, or how we are perceived by others – if we reduce ourselves to nothing more than mere images, we get caught in the trivial; as mere visual beings we lack substance. We become a society that values style over substance.

In particular, our own style.

Only our own style.

We fall in love with our own reflection.





Think of it this way: can a narcissist truly do any good for others? Of course, the answer is no. A narcissist lacks the ability to identify or sympathize with others. A narcissist lacks empathy. A narcissist, by definition, cannot fix his attention to anyone or anything beyond himself.


Now imagine an entire culture of people where a fixation on the self is encouraged.

A culture of psychologically solipsistic people, encouraged to think (and sometimes act) as if we are the only people who exist can never be a good thing. A successful, if not philosophically adept, society requires that people pay attention to other people at least some of the time.

Ok, you say. Sure, someone who is overly fascinated with their own image may have some narcissistic issues. And the internet is undoubtedly saturated with amateur self portraiture. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that an internet full of selfies is indicative of a culture that is self absorbed and lacks philosophical depth or awareness. Blogs, pod- casts, personal YouTube channels, and DIY porn sites are better examples of online self-indulgence. Even if we never personally post pictures of ourselves, there’s plenty of us out there in cyberspace.

Have you ever been horrified to see yourself tagged in a photo you didn’t know someone took?
For some, the selfie isn’t all about the image. It represents the philosophical act of self expression.


Don’t scoff. I’m being serious here.

When we post pictures of ourselves online, we are in control if the image that we display to the world. We can use visual images as a means of communication when we are unable to express ourselves in words. A person may be forced to hide particular aspects of their identity or preferences in the real world, but on the internet, a person can freely communicate exactly what they think, feel, or how they want to express themselves.

But if we control the image others see, we are free to post whatever image of who we want to be. Perhaps more importantly, we are free to post images of who we truly are.

Selfies are acts of existentialist expression.

Yes they are.

I use this image as my Facebook profile pic:


cat as heisenberg



It’s obviously not a selfie (although I will insist that it is).

But what does this image say about me?

The image might say that I am a fan of the TV show Breaking Bad. And that I like cats. And perhaps it shows that I have a sense of humor. The fact that it’s not a picture of me says a great deal about me as well. It may say that I’m intentionally and/or maliciously hiding something like my age, race or gender.
It may say that I’m shy and am afraid of being judged before someone gets to know me.

It could also say that I’m a cat person who identifies with the methamphetamine-dealing, anti-hero, Walter White and am looking for others who share my proclivities and point of view.

What does a selfie say about any of us?

If I was Cindy Sherman, my selfies would critique and deconstruct media images of femininity.


obnoxious selfie



You might think this picture is nothing more than an expression of obnoxious vanity, but someone else may see a kindred spirit or philosophically like-minded individual.

If we think of selfies as a personality compatibility gauge, we can quickly determine who we may or may not be attracted to or want to associate with or friend on the internet.

A person who posts a selfie like this:





Sends us a message: The message tells us this is a man who likes his guns and likes his Guitar Hero guitars.

His message will either appeal to or repel us.

If you think about it, selfies are kind of like those old notes we used to pass around in elementary school.


do you like me note


The thing about selfies is that it’s not just solipsists and Randian objectivists who think that they’re the center of the universe. People are not only fascinated with images of other people, we’re fascinated with images of ourselves. We think in images. It would be quite un-human if the internet did not reflect our innate fascination with images.

And even if the selfie is nothing more than an exercise in narcissism, it doesn’t mean that selfies can’t be philosophically useful. Here are a few philosophically worthy things we can learn from selfies:
A fan of Kant’s ethics would not post naked pics (there’s no way you‘d want to universalize that).

A Cartesian dualist knows not to post pictures taken in a bathroom.

It’s highly unlikely that an Aristotelian-type magnanimous man would post pictures of himself smoking weed.

A nihilist would never do duckface.

A Marxist is not inclined to show off his bling.



50 cent and his money



Philosophers have a intrinsic ability to read a deeper meaning into anything.


Remember: There’s a meaning to everything… unless you’re a postmodernist.

The Day I Didn’t Exist

I know there will come a day when I will die.

I am mortal. And, like Socrates, I will die.

It’s going to happen to everybody.

Along with taxes and the Kardashians’ domination of popular culture, there’s no avoiding the end.

It’s inevitable.

I don’t need a syllogism to inform me of my eventual end. Anyone with a grandma or a goldfish knows all mortal beings will die.

You know, I don’t think people are even afraid of death. Or even of dying. I think what scares people most about death is the idea that they no longer exist. The idea that the world will be deprived of our presence. Permanently.

That we won’t be here forever.



But You don’t need to actually die to know what that feels like. To know what the world feels like without you in it.

That feeling is just a computer glitch away.

I couldn’t log onto Facebook.

It wasn’t just me. No one could.

Just “error” messages.
I couldn’t update my status, post or “like” anything. I couldn’t like this funny meme:

kevin hart meme pic

These days, to exist in any full sense of the word, EVERYONE knows one must have an online presence. To know anything about or to interact in any meaningful way with the world, one must be on the internet.

I post, therefore I am.

The French philosopher Rene Descartes wanted to determine how can he be sure that he exists. Descartes concludes, since he is able to question his own existence, that he is, at the very least, a thinking being. A being that thinks, Descartes declares, exists. Descartes writes:

And as I observed that in the words I think, hence I am, there is nothing at all which gives me assurance of their truth beyond this, that I see very clearly that in order to think it is necessary to exist…

If existence in the modern world is (necessarily) dependent on one’s ability to post one’s Facebook status, then I, at least for a day, did not exist.

It’s not just John Lennon who knows what it’s like to be dead.


Well, actually, neither do I. I spent the day checking my gmail.


…. and then there’s always tumblr.






Rene Descartes. Discourse On Method. 2004 [1641]. NY: Barnes and Noble Books. p. 25.

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.


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.

On the Unlikely But Probable Existence of Gettier Truths

Generally speaking, it’s good not to lie to people.

Most people aren’t very good at it and if you make a habit out of lying to people you’re likely to end up getting caught in a web of your own lies. Your lies, as the Blue Fairy would say, become as plain as the nose on your face.



Lying isn’t just wrong according to the Bible (which is bad enough as it is) but if you’re a fan of Immanuel Kant the act of lying is a big no-no.

To quote Kant from his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, “lying is no bueno.”

Of course, as with anything else we’re not supposed to do, like premarital sex, serial arson, or liking Nickleback on Facebook, an admonition to not do something has never stopped anyone from doing anything in the real or make-believe world. And rrally, if you watch enough TV you might think that lying is the necessary evil glue that binds fictional universes together.

…or at least habitual lying makes Don Draper sexy.



In fact, when a fictional character lies it often reveals a greater truth. Even if the liar has no idea that’s what they just did.

If you make it your mission to become an observer of fictional liars and fictitious lies, you’ll soon discover that after binge watching three seasons of AMC’s The Walking Dead, basic cable’s ratings powerhouse, the show (ostensibly) about zombies, is a veritable Whack-A-Mole Ô of primetime lying. After spending approximately one and a half days of my life watching zombie chow-downs and survivor shenanigans, I compiled this short list of lies (in no particular order):

  • Lori lies to Shane about who is the father of her baby.
  • Morgan lies to himself into thinking that he will be able to shoot his reanimated wife.
  • Shane lies to everybody about what really happened to Otis.
  • Guillermo lies to Rick about his “ferocious” dogs.
  • Shane is lying to himself about his “love” for Lori (it’s so obvious).
  • Daryl lies to that vato dude about what happened to the guy who pissed him off (Nobody pissed him off. It was actually Merle’s severed hand).
  • The governor lies to the people of Woodbury about what really happened to the National Guardsmen.
  • Shane lies to Lori about Rick’s “death” (Wait. That may have not been a lie as much as it was wishful thinking. Or a mistake. Whatever).
  • Randall lies about merely watching the two girls getting gang-raped in front of their father (we all know that Randall is a shifty slime ball who probably fully participated in the girls’ rape).
  • Randall lies to Carl that he is a good guy.
  • Jim lies to Jacqui when she discovers that he’s been bitten by a walker.
  • The Governor lies to the people of Woodbury about what kind of person he really is.
  • Glenn lies to Merle about who is at the prison.
  • The Governor lies about what happened to the helicopter pilot.
  • Maggie (initially) lies to Glenn about her attraction to him.
  • Shane lies to Dale when Dale catches Shane pointing his gut at Rick.
  • Axel lies about why he is in prison.
  • The Governor lies to Andrea about his true intentions after his “truce” with Rick.
  • Tomas lies to Rick when he “accidentally” takes a swipe at Rick’s head (Tomas tells Rick “shit happens”. Rick agrees with Tomas and then cleaves him in the head with a machete).
  • Milton (unsuccessfully) lies to the Governor about not knowing about Andrea’s trip the prison.
  • Milton (unsuccessfully) lies to the Governor about not knowing who burned the walkers in the pit.
  • Andrea lies to Michonne when she denies that she chose sex with the Governor over their friendship.
  • Rick fails to inform the group that they are all infected with the zombie virus (this is a lie of omission, but a lie nonetheless).
  • Shane lies to Rick about “banging” a high school P.E. coach (we all know Shane was lying).
  • Shane lies to Rick about playing nice-nice after their fight  (after they failed to successfully abandon Randall).
  • Shane lies to Rick so he can lure Rick into the woods so he can kill him.
  • Shane lies to Carol about his sympathies for Carol after Sophia’s funeral.
  • Shane lies to Randall to lure him into the woods so he can kill him.

My God, Shane does a lot of lying.

Shane is not as big a liar as Don Draper. But then, what fictional character is?

For those who are inclined to view their television through an ethical lens, Shane Walsh demonstrates why Kant tells us that lying is wrong. Namely, that lying violates the Categorical Imperative. Kant tells us that before we perform any act, that:

I only ask myself: Can I will that my maxim become a universal law? If not, it must be rejected, not because of any disadvantage accruing to myself, or even to others, but because it cannot enter as a principle into a possible enactment of universal law, and reason extorts me from an immediate respect for such legislation.

Kant also says that we cannot treat others as mere means to our ends. Kant writes:

… every rational being exists as a end in himself and not merely as a means to be arbitrarily used by this or that will. In his actions, whether they are directed towards himself or toward other rational beings, he must always be regarded at the same time as an end… Man, however, is not a thing, and thus not something to be used merely as a means; he must always be regarded as an end in himself.

You see, Kant tells us that lying (Kant calls “false promises”) is morally wrong because no matter how well-intended our intentions may be, telling lies inevitably leads to some greater moral evil. Kant writes:

Would I be content that my maxim of extricating myself from difficulty by a false promise should hold as a universal law for myself as well as for others? And I could say to myself that everyone may make a false promise… Immediately I see that I could will the lie but not a universal law to lie. For with such a law there would be no promises at all, inasmuch as it would be futile to make a pretense of my intention in regard to future actions to those who would not believe this pretense… Thus my maxim would necessarily destroy itself as soon as it was made a universal law.

In short, Kant says if everybody lies, then no one would believe anyone.

And for all his lies, this is how Shane ends up:

shane walsh as a zombie

Kant would call that retributive justice.

Shane Walsh is an example of what happens when someone lies. Despite the fact the Shane believed his intentions were good, the consequences of Shane’s lies proved that even the best intentioned lie can have disastrous effects. People can get hurt.

And if you are Randall or Otis, people get killed.

… well actually, if you’re Otis, Shane will shoot you in the kneecap, leave you to the zombies, and then lie to everyone about how you really died.



A funny thing about lies.

Even though Kant tells us that all lies are inevitably bad, sometimes when someone lies something weird happens: in the middle of the lie is the truth.

Not just a kind of truth, but THE TRUTH.

The kind of truth-telling lie that reveals how sinister someone truly is.

In the season three (episode three) “Arrow On the Doorpost”,  Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and The Governor (David Morrissey) meet to discuss terms for a treaty following an attack on The Governor’s stronghold in Woodbury.

Wait, this is out of context:

You see, this dude, Merle Dixon, kidnapped two of Rick’s friends, Glenn and Maggie, and so Rick and a few of his people went to Woodbury to rescue them and well, let’s say things went badly enough to require a cease fire between the two survivalist factions.

Ok. So, the meeting between Rick and The Governor pretty much goes nowhere (although Rick agrees to one condition for a peaceful settlement: he agrees hand over one of his men (actually it was a woman) in exchange for peace). But when each man returns to his camp, The Governor and Rick do the exact same thing: they lie.

The Governor tells Andrea wait

Ok, Andrea used to be in Rick’s group, but she was separated from the group when Hershel’s farm (I’m not explaining, just follow along) is overrun by the living dead. Andrea is rescued by Michonne, the nearly-mute, katana-wielding, dreadlocked, badass, who, while she was in Woodbury, got suspicious of The Governor’s motives and skipped town.

Oh yeah, when she returned to Woodbury, she stuck her katana through the skull of  Penny, The Governor’s zombified daughter.

… and she also stabbed out The Governor’s eye.

Folks, if you aren’t watching this TV show, you should be.

Get the plot so far?

Ok. So, The Governor tells Andrea that he and Rick have agreed to let bygones be bygones and as long as Rick’s people stay on their side, things between both groups will be hunky dory. But, when out of earshot of Andrea, The Governor tells his men his real plan that he intends to kill Rick, Michonne, and everyone else in Rick’s group.

We expect The Governor to lie because he’s a bad guy. He does not let the audience down.

But, when Rick returns to his group he tells his fellow survivors that The Governor intends to kill everyone in Rick’s group.

The Governor did not tell Rick this.

But by lying, Rick reveals The Governor’s true intentions.



Rick does lie, but in a strange way, Rick tells something like a Gettier truth: he’s right about The Governor.

But only accidentally so.*


This all makes me wonder: was Rick aware that he was telling his group the truth?

Or was it Rick’s intention to get his people gunned-up to kill The Governor no matter what settlement the two men had reached regarding the attack on Woodbury? Although it would tickle my philosophical soul pink to see it, I’m thinking that a deep, philosophical analysis of Rick Grimes’ motivations isn’t going to be had anytime soon.

Well, not since Andrea died, anyway.

I get the feeling she was the only character who had any idea who Edmund Gettier was.

Oops. Spoiler alert.




* For more information on misapplying the concept of Gettier problems, see my previous post “99 Problems and Gettier Ain’t One”.



Sources: Immanuel Kant. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. 1997 [1785]. Second edition. Trans. Lewis White Beck. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. pp. 19, 45-6

A Philosophy Fan Does Not Make A Sexy Rock Wife

There’s a website called Loudwire (I’m assuming it’s a website because it has a Facebook page).

Anyhoo, they’ve got this ongoing series of photographs of the hottest rock wives.

I guess they’re all pretty hot.

Since I make it a habit of reading the comments section of webpage articles I noticed that at least one person has a slightly more expansive ideal of beauty. Someone in the comments section suggested that Sharon Osbourne be included on the hot rock wives list.

This is Sharon Osbourne

This is Sharon Osbourne



Think about it for a moment.

Got your response yet?

Wait wait a minute. Don’t say it out loud.

Well, someone else responded to the suggestion (to include Sharon Osbourne) that although Sharon Osbourne is badass and married to Ozzy Osbourne (which technically makes her a rock wife), she’s not exactly what you would call “hot”.

Derivation style, the response would look like this:

Philosophy Fan ¹ Sexy Rock Wife


I don’t know how Sharon Osbourne would feel about this, but reading the response to the suggestion made me feel kind of sad.

After all, Sharon Osbourne is a smart, capable, and savvy businesswoman. He kicks ass and takes names. And she seems like a funny gal. These are all positive qualities and certainly each quality is hot in its own right. So why Sharon Osbourne isn’t considered “hot”? It can’t be just because of her age. Sharon Osbourne is not that old. Besides, plenty of women of a certain age are considered hot: Helen Mirren, Susan Sarandon, and Demi Moore to name a few.

Wait, Demi Moore isn’t as old as Helen Mirren is she?

No. she’s not.

Oops. Sorry.

But really, even if we don’t consider Sharon Osbourne’s age, is it just Sharon Osbourne’s looks that keep her from being considered hot?

This brings us to that age-old question what is beauty.

Well, that answer depends on who you ask.

… and if you’re a philosopher.

Most people would say that if someone is considered to be “hot” that one possesses physical beauty; that is, one’s face and body are pleasing to look at.

Someone who looks like this:


If you know who this is you probably don't spend too mcu time studying philosophy

If you know who this is you probably don’t spend too much time studying philosophy

But not like this:

susan boyle


Whether we’re looking at a statue of the Venus de Milo, the zaftig models of Peter Paul Rubens, Marilyn Monroe, the 1970s Breck Girl, or modern-day supermodels, beauty has always been defined as unblemished, youthful, and feminine.

Beauty, from the ancient philosophers to Leonardo da Vinci placed beauty in symmetry, form, balance, and proportion. Plato said beauty is found in proper measure and size. Aristotle writes:

To be beautiful, a living creature, and every whole made up of parts, must not only be present a certain order in its arrangement of parts, but also be of a definite magnitude. Beauty is a matter of size and order…

St. Thomas Aquinas says “Beauty is the mark of the well-made, whether it be a universe or an object.” and that beautiful things have unity, clarity and proportion. Beauty is the physical reflection of a perfect God.

This seems to be significantly relevant to the estimation of the beauty of a woman.

Susan Faludi writes that an “unblemished exterior becomes proof of a woman’s internal purity, obedience, and restraint.” (204)

For Freud, beauty, like all things, is linked to sex. Our perception of beauty is nothing more than our sexual urges telling us who are suitable to have sex with. Anthropologists and biologists determined that certain (supposedly universal) traits such as a woman’s waist-hip ratio are indicators of fertility, overall health, and cognitive capacity.

Darwin observed beauty’s ornamental value in attracting an ideal mate.

There’s a reason why you find these women attractive. Yes, THAT'S the reason

There’s a reason why you find these women attractive. Yes, THAT’S the reason

Science gives us an explanation for what we think is beautiful, but science can be a bit of a trap as well. If scientific fact informs our cultural standards (this is why according to anthropologists some cultural standards of beauty are universal), then living up to the scientific ideal of beauty can be harmful to one’s philosophical, if not physical health.

Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, writes:

…women both young and old told me about their fear of aging; slim women and heavy ones spoke of the suffering caused by trying to meet the demands of the thin ideal; black, brown, and white women women who looked like fashion models admitted to knowing, from the time they could first consciously think, that the ideal was someone tall, thin, white, and blond, a face without pores, asymmetry, or flaws, someone “wholly” perfect…

Seems like we have a problem, here.

Some people think living up to the cultural/biological standard of beauty is unreasonable.

They think biology isn’t the answer for everything.

Just argue for the infallible truth of reductionism with a philosopher. You’ll see what I mean.

Now, if some feel that our cultural ideal of beauty is unrealistic (or unachievable), this suggests that there is something to beauty other than a manifestation of biological urges or cultural standards.

St. Thomas Aquinas said that the beautiful is what “pleases us upon being seen”.

Well, if you ask any ten people what pleases them upon being seen, you might get ten different answers. What pleases us is often subjective. How many times have we been floored by a spectacular sunset only to hear someone dismiss it as no big deal?


Ain’t this a beaut?

If there’s some room for one’s personal tastes, then beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote in Critique of Aesthetic Judgment:

There is no science of the beautiful, but only a critique… For a science of the beautiful we would have to determine scientifically, what is by means of proofs, whether a thing was to be considered beautiful or not; and the judgment upon beauty, consequently, would, if belonging to a science; fail to be a judgment of taste.

So, if we ask should Sharon Osbourne be included on a hot rock wives list we must ask this question: is beauty strictly physical?

Some might say the answer is no. Beauty isn’t exclusive to one’s physicality; whether one is judged “pretty”, “handsome”, or “sexy”.

One can be beautiful without being physically attractive.

(Listen: I am in no way saying that Sharon Osbourne is not a physically attractive woman. In my not-at all-humble opinion she is.)

There’s a reason why we say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that beauty’s only skin deep, and it’s what is on the inside that counts. Yes, to some degree our perception of the beautiful is cultural, even at times exclusively physical, but beauty is also a matter of personal tastes.

That explains how people find this beautiful:

brad pitt

And this beautiful:


Beauty is not just a matter of physical fitness but beauty, at least in the philosophical sense, is transcendent; perhaps even a matter of having a good soul. In Symposium Socrates says

A base man is that common lover who loves the body rather than the soul… for as soon as the flower fades, which is what he loved, ‘He takes to the wing and away he flies’… but the lover of a good character remains faithful throughout life, since he has been fused with a lasting thing.

Socrates cautions us not to become enamored only with the physical. Physical beauty fades. We should not merely strive for physical perfection but perfection of the soul. A good soul lasts forever. We should, as Bertrand Russell tells us, appreciate beauty “without appeal to any part of our weaker nature…”

So, it’s not that unusual if one was thinking of beauty beyond one’s physical appearance, that one would think that Sharon Osbourne should very well be included on a hot rock wives list.

That is, assuming Sharon Osbourne has a good soul.

The deal is when we think about beauty philosophically, we shouldn’t focus exclusively on whether a person is physically “hot” but what kind of person we are dealing with.

Is the person a good person?

Are we inspired to be better people when we are around them?

Would we say a person isn’t merely physically beautiful but has a good soul?

If the answer is yes, we might call that person truly beautiful.

At least that’s what a philosopher might tell you.

But then it’s completely expected a philosopher would say so.

Especially since some philosophers look like this:




1) Mortimer J. Adler. Six Great Ideas. 1981. NY: Touchstone. 112.

2) Susan Faludi. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. 1991. NY: Crown Publishers. 204.

3) Naomi Wolf. The Beauty Myth. 2002. 1991. NY: HarperCollins. 1.

4) D.L. Irick. Mindless Philosopher: How Philosophy Taught Me Everything I Needed to Know About Popular Culture. 2012. CreateSpace.

5) Symposium. The Great Dialogues of Plato. 1956. 1984. Trans. W.H.D. Rouse. Ed. Eric H. Warmington and Phillip G. Rouse. NY: Signet. 80-1.