Ask A Vulcan Black Dude

You know something, if a lifetime spent as a pop culture connoisseur has taught me anything, I have learned this one thing: it’s amazing what one sees watching late night television.

A few years ago, comedian Dave Chappelle’s comedy show, the Chappelle’s Show, aired a segment called “Ask a Black Dude”. The general idea of the sketch was that average people would ask a black dude (comedian Paul Mooney) questions about black people. One person asked the black dude why black people like to smoke marijuana so much. Another guy asked can black guys jump high? Really, there wasn’t anything worth noting about the questions asked to the black dude, until one question, posed by horror writer Stephen King, was not only quite startling, but also opened the door for a moment of philosophical contemplation. The question Stephen King asked the black dude was this: do black people prefer to be buried by black undertakers and prefer to go to black dentists?

I’m not making this up. Watch Chappelle’s Show, season 1, episode 7.

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/g25b0b/chappelle-s-show-ask-a-black-dude—dentists—uncensored

 

Now, I’m not a person who is easily startled, but Stephen King’s question was without doubt the most WTF-inducing query ever asked on basic cable television. Although one could spend hours probing the possible philosophical subtext of Stephen King’s easily-construed-as-quasi-racist question, however, Stephen King’s question wasn’t as philosophically interesting as Paul Mooney’s response. Paul Mooney’s answer was this: “What’s the difference when you’re dead? They don’t care who buries you… if they can fix the teeth, cool. If they can’t, that’s cool, too.”

Whoa, did you get that?

If you didn’t, put on your philosopher’s thinking caps and read it again.

If someone asked me to describe Paul Mooney’s response to Stephen King’s question on only one word the word I would say is “indifference”. That is, Paul Mooney appears to be indifferent to the race of his dentist so long as his dentist is skilled enough to fix one’s teeth. For those of you who are familiar with philosopher’s jargon, the word “indifference” should be setting off fireworks in your heads right now. And as I watched the Chappelle’s Show sketch, I thought there’s one type of philosopher for whom indifference is a way of life.

So naturally, my immediate question was Is Paul Mooney a stoic philosopher?

The answer to my question is “possibly”.

Generally when we think of stoics, the first image that often comes to mind is the popular iconic image of the stoic as the strong, silent type; the unflappable hero with the Easter Island statue façade. We’re all familiar with this type of guy: he (and it almost always is a he) is a movie gunslinger like John Wayne, Gary Cooper in High Noon, or Clint Eastwood’s famous “man with no name”.

THE UNEMOTIONAL, STEEL-JAWED STOICISM OF EASTER ISLAND HEADS

 

THE UNEMOTIONAL, STEEL-JAWED STOICISM OF GARY COOPER

THE UNEMOTIONAL, STEEL-JAWED STOICISM OF GARY COOPER

In literature, the stoic is embodied by characters like Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch, Shakespeare’s Brutus in Julius Caesar, or hard-boiled detectives like Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade and Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe.

 

THE UNEMOTIONAL, STEEL-JAWED STOICISM OF HUMPHREY BOGART AS SAM SPADE

THE UNEMOTIONAL, STEEL-JAWED STOICISM OF HUMPHREY BOGART AS SAM SPADE

 

On stage, you’ll find stoical characters like Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. And if you’ve watched enough TV, you’re more than well acquainted with Star Trek’s resident stoic, the U.S.S. Enterprise’s Vulcan First Officer, Mr. Spock, played by the late Leonard Nimoy.

 

n' prosper

Although it is quite possible to learn the basics of stoicism from watching an all-day marathon of Star Trek, but as I was reminded by a Facebook friend, one should never watch Star Trek as a substitute for reading the real thing.

Thank you, Jean-Louis.

 

AS THE EXPRESSION ON THIS CAT’S FACE CLEARLY DEMONSTRATES, WATCHING STAR TREK IS NEARLY AS FUN AS ACTUALLY READING STOIC PHILOSOPHY

AS THE EXPRESSION ON THIS CAT’S FACE CLEARLY DEMONSTRATES, WATCHING STAR TREK IS NEARLY AS FUN AS ACTUALLY READING STOIC PHILOSOPHY

How about a little about what stoicism really is:

Ask a philosopher, and he’ll tell you that stoicism originated in ancient Greece about 300 B.C.E. courtesy of the philosopher Zeno of Citium (Fun Fact: Stoicism derives its name from the Greek word stoa meaning “porch” where Zeno taught in ancient Greece).

 

 THIS IS ZENO OF CITUIM (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH ZENO OF ELEA)

THIS IS ZENO OF CITUIM (NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH ZENO OF ELEA)

 

Zeno’s question, like all other philosophers, was how do we live a good life? The stoics believed that there is an order to the universe and that our lives are better when we act in harmony with nature. Zeno wrote,

All things are parts of one single system, which is called Nature; the individual life is good when it is in harmony with Nature.

Here’s the thing: the stoics not only believed that our lives are better when we act according to Nature, but that our lives are, in actuality, controlled by an indifferent universe.

 

THE HUMAN REPRESENTATION OF AN INDIFFERENT UNIVERSE

THE HUMAN REPRESENTATION OF AN INDIFFERENT UNIVERSE

What this means is that we can’t control what happens to us. The stoic says that the unpleasant reality about life is that sometimes good things happen to us (and that’s great), but sometimes bad things happen and that is, as the say, the way the cookie crumbles. In the end, we have as much control over what happens to us as we would if we were to stand on a shoreline and attempt to control the waves in the sea.

Did you know stoicism has its own emblem?

 

THIS IS THE EMBLEM FOR STOICISM... PRETTY NEAT, HUH?

THIS IS THE EMBLEM FOR STOICISM… PRETTY NEAT, HUH?

 

The stoics believed we can’t control what happens to us in the physical world, but we can control what happens internally – how we think and react towards what happens to us. The stoics believed that stoicism helps us to deal with the things we can’t control.

In a nutshell, stoicism is what we might call a philosophical coping mechanism.**

Stoics claim that the greatest impediment to living a good life is that we tend to get all wrapped up in all sorts of emotions that make us angry and very unhappy. Epictetus said,

There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things
which are beyond the power of our will.

According to the stoic, we have more important obligations and duties to attend to than fret over things that we cannot control or ultimately do not matter. Instead of living a life of emotional turmoil, troubling ourselves with our inability to cope with life’s situations, we’re to be indifferent and unbiased; to learn to cope with whatever comes. Once we learn to rid ourselves of our inappropriate emotional responses we can be happy. The Roman emperor and stoic, Marcus Aurelius (121-180 A.D.), wrote in Meditations,

 

When thou has been compelled by circumstances to be disturbed in a manner, quickly return to thyself and do not continue out of tune longer than the compulsion lasts; for thou wilt have more mastery over the harmony by continually recurring to it.

If you want a contemporary example of a mastery of stoicism, one need only to watch Fight Club’s Tyler Durden. Tyler Durden does not care if Jack’s apartment is blown up, or if he hurts the feelings of Jack’s would-be girlfriend, Marla Singer, or if civilization is destroyed for the sake of Project Mayhem. The reason why Tyler Durden acts the way that he does is because these things, in the grand scale of things, do not matter. Jack describes Tyler Durden as someone who “lets those things that do not matter truly slide.”

 

You-Do-Not-Talk-About-Fight-Club
Oops. Sorry Sir.

The stoics believed practicing stoicism leads to a virtuous character. According to the stoics, the man who has developed a virtuous character and mastered the ability to control his emotions and be free of his passions is a stoic sage.

 

…p.s. If you’re thinking that the main goal of stoicism sounds a lot like Aristotle’s idea of eudemonia, you’ve earned ten extra points. Good job!

 

good job

 

Remember how I mentioned watching Star Trek awhile back?

 

 

Although there are many famous fictional stoics to choose from (ok, there are a few) , undoubtedly the first name that comes to mind is Mr. Spock. It goes without saying that Mr. Spock is popular culture’s most famous fictional stoic.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the origins of Mr. Spock’s emotionless demeanor, here’s a quick lesson in the origin of Vulcan stoicism:

Long before the Vulcans adopted the tradition of ritualistically purging their emotions ( a process called “Kolinahr”), Vulcans were once emotional as humans (and their cousins the Romulans), however, unlike humans, who can occasionally exert control over emotions, ancient Vulcans were ruled by their emotions. Vulcans were quick to anger, paranoid, and violent. The Vulcan race was on the brink of self-destruction until the great Vulcan philosopher Surak observed that Vulcans were sure to destroy themselves if they maintained an emotion-dominated existence.

Surak’s philosophy urged Vulcans to purge themselves of their emotions and devote their lives to logic. Like the stoics of ancient Greece, Surak convinced the inhabitants of the planet Vulcan that life is best lived when one’s actions are ruled by reason or logic.

 

If you’re curious to know what kind of philosophizing Surak did, an example of the philosophical teachings of Surak, is something like this: “Cast out fear. There is no room for anything else until you cast out fear”. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock warns the Enterprise’s resident hot headed sawbones and occasional adversary, Dr. “Bones” McCoy (played by DeForest Kelley), “You must learn to govern your passions; they will be your undoing.” That sounds a little like stoicism, doesn’t it?

If you’re curious to know what kind of philosophizing Surak did, an example of the philosophical teachings of Surak, is something like this: “Cast out fear. There is no room for anything else until you cast out fear”. In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock warns the Enterprise’s resident hot headed sawbones and occasional adversary, Dr. “Bones” McCoy (played by DeForest Kelley), “You must learn to govern your passions; they will be your undoing.” That sounds a little like stoicism, doesn’t it?

 

Vulcan stoicism adheres to the philosophy that once a Vulcan has purged his or her emotions and lives according to logic, a Vulcan possesses clear judgment and behaves correctly. The Vulcan statement on Logic is: “Logic is the cement of our civilization with which we ascend from chaos, using reason as our guide.” Vulcans believe,

The highest objective of a traditional Vulcan life is to either control or suppress all emotion, thus rendering a purely logical being.

 

It sounds like Surak’s Vulcan stoicism has hit the stoic philosophy of Zeno on the head.
Vulcans accurately capture Zeno’s sentiment that using one’s reason is preferable to relying on one’s emotions, and that uncontrolled emotions can be very destructive not only to individuals, but to society as well. It’s not surprising, then, that for many fans of pop culture, the answer to the question Where would I find a stoic character on TV? , the answer is “Go watch Mr. Spock”.

 

spock approves

 

Ok, now we have our example of a stoic, let’s all take a break, grab some popcorn, and watch a couple of episodes of Star Trek, shall we?
eating MJ's popcorn

 

Hold on a moment; let’s not jump the gun too fast, there. We shouldn’t declare the Vulcans stoics just yet. A stoic and a Vulcan might agree that emotions are our problem but Surak and Zeno would disagree on one major philosophical point: namely, the stoics did not argue that the emotions needed to be extinguished, as Surak’s Vulcan philosophy dictates, but that we should accept what happens to us without letting our emotions control us and interfere with our ability to reason.

For the stoic, the solution to the matter is not the denial of emotions but indifference to circumstances we cannot control. The fact that a Vulcan lacks emotions does not make Mr. Spock a stoic.
Although being emotionless makes a Vulcan a bit of a weirdo.

 

SPOCK IS TOTALLY WEIRD, MAN

SPOCK IS TOTALLY WEIRD, MAN

 FUN FACT: Another famous sci-fi stoic is the Star Wars saga’s Jedi Master Yoda. Yoda is a prime example of a stoic sage: Yoda has emotions but is not ruled by them. He possesses wisdom and virtue. Yoda also warns young Anakin Skywalker (In Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace) to keep control over his emotions. Yoda’s oft quoted admonition to young Skywalker is a prime example of Yoda‘s stoic philosophy, “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. And hate leads to suffering.”

 

YEAH. I WENT THERE

YEAH. I WENT THERE

 

We’ve already established that the stoic says that the purpose of his philosophy is to help him to deal with the things that he can’t control and that life is better when we live in harmony with the universe. Furthermore, the stoic tells us if we let our emotions control what we do we are disturbing that balance and cannot be at peace. But if the Vulcans are getting stoicism all wrong, just how is a stoic supposed act?

 

fake stoic

 

We shouldn’t think that the fact that the stoic lives according to the will of the cosmos necessarily means that a stoic does nothing when something bad happens. It’s just when something bad does happen, a stoic does not allow his emotions dictate his actions. A stoic acts when he can act. Yielding our fates to the will of the heavens does not negate our responsibility to act when the situation requires our involvement. Ultimately, the goal for a stoic is peace, happiness, and acting in harmony with nature. That means if getting involved is required, that’s ok. But if our action is not required, that’s ok, too.

 

SPOCK COULD HAVE ACCEPTED THIS PUNK’S LOUD MUSIC AND DONE NOTHING TO STOP IT JUST AS EASILY AS HE COULD DO SOMETHING TO BRING PEACE AND QUIET TO THE BUS AND ITS PASSENGERS

SPOCK COULD HAVE ACCEPTED THIS PUNK’S LOUD MUSIC AND DONE NOTHING TO STOP IT JUST AS EASILY AS HE COULD DO SOMETHING TO BRING PEACE AND QUIET TO THE BUS AND ITS PASSENGERS

 

Although Spock may not be a “real” stoic, it still sounds like stoicism ain’t so bad, right?

But, before you start your Kolinahr training, there are just a couple of small caveats to mention…

 

EVEN SPOCK DIDN’T FINISH HIS KOLINAHAR TRAINING

EVEN SPOCK DIDN’T FINISH HIS KOLINAHAR TRAINING

 

Although one can claim that stoicism sets us onto the path of life-long, philosophical happiness via the path of indifference, it’s almost guaranteed that if one goes around telling everybody not to worry about things and to just accept whatever happens, one is bound to be accused, not only of preaching a kind of out-of-touch version of Pollyanna-ism, but of preaching that the best kind of happiness is a state of apathy.

 

 THE HUMAN REPRESENTATION OF AN APATHETIC PHILOSOPHY

THE HUMAN REPRESENTATION OF AN APATHETIC PHILOSOPHY

 

This accusation isn’t too far-fetched. Stoicism does seem to suggest that a stoic is at peace because he simply could not care less about what happens to either himself or to anyone else.

Famous stoics, even TV stoics like Mr. Spock, don’t do much to debunk the belief that stoics are cold, callous, and unsympathetic. Given the fact that stoics believe that our lives are controlled by the cosmic forces of fate, it’s easy to criticize the stoic’s “whatever happens, happens” attitude for coming off as emotionally apathetic and more than somewhat fatalistic.

And fans of fatalism are absolutely no fun to be around.

 

debbie downer GIF

 

We may be inclined to give a stoically-inclined friend a pass on his stoic attitude if he’s a fan of The Big Lebowski, and committed to simply “abide” like The Dude, but the fact that one sees more than a hint of fatalism in stoic philosophy suggests that there may be a big something wrong with stoicism – it’s almost impossible to be an actual stoic.

Friedrich Nietzsche called stoicism a “fraud of words!”.

A word about apathy: You don’t have to be a fan or a friend of a fan of The Big Lebowski to come to the conclusion that practitioners of stoic lifestyle can come off as a little apathetic. Dr. “Bones” Mc Coy isn’t the only person who has ever accused a stoic of being an unfeeling hobgoblin. Certainly Jeff Lebowski and Mr. Spock do come off as if they really don’t care (Spock’s feelings towards his crewmates and Lebowski’s about his life in general). But before we officially tag all stoics as apathetic, it would do us some good to understand what apathy is — you see, apathy has both a philosophical and colloquial meaning. Our modern usage of the word “apathy” means an individual who is disengaged from the world and does not care about anything. To be apathetic is to be inactive, unresponsive, a philosophical nihilist. Stoic apathy (apatheia) which was practiced by the ancient stoics is defined as freedom from the passions. Apatheia is tranquility, peace of mind; eudemonia. A man who practices apatheia is indifferent to life’s circumstances, not apathetic. The difference between a stoic and man who is apathetic is a stoic changes what he can change and accepts what he cannot; a man who is apathetic doesn’t do a thing about anything.

Think about it; a stoic has to maintain his indifference-based stoicism in the face of a very emotional world.

Even Mr. Spock got emotional from time to time.

 

spock amok time GIF

 

When the Roman stoic philosopher Seneca was implicated in a plot to kill the Emperor Nero, Seneca was ordered to execute himself by slitting his own wrists. Facing a death sentence is hard enough, but having to perform one’s own execution might prove difficult. Most people, if ordered to commit suicide, would feel emotionally compelled to disobey the Emperor’s command. A stoic like Seneca, on the other hand, has to ignore the innate desire for self preservation, since, according to stoic philosophy, whether one lives or dies is unimportant.

You know what happened? Seneca actually slit his own wrists.

 

Honestly, you’ve got to be one hardcore mofo to maintain that kind of lifestyle.

 

Historical tidbit: Seneca did not die by slitting his wrists. Because the philosopher was old and in poor health, he failed to bleed out as expected. Seneca attempted to poison himself, but that failed as well. Finally, Seneca’s servants were ordered to fix him a warm salt bath (in hopes that the warm water would stimulate blood flow). The stoic philosopher was overcome by the bath’s fumes and asphyxiated. Seneca most likely complied with the order not just because he had to, but because his stoic beliefs Seneca held no philosophical (or psychological) qualms against committing suicide.

Historical tidbit: Seneca did not die by slitting his wrists. Because the philosopher was old and in poor health, he failed to bleed out as expected. Seneca attempted to poison himself, but that failed as well. Finally, Seneca’s servants were ordered to fix him a warm salt bath (in hopes that the warm water would stimulate blood flow). The stoic philosopher was overcome by the bath’s fumes and asphyxiated. Seneca most likely complied with the order not just because he had to, but because his stoic beliefs Seneca held no philosophical (or psychological) qualms against committing suicide.

 

Because it doesn’t matter to a stoic whether he lives or dies or for what reason he lives or dies, one can imagine Seneca telling his Roman accusers, “If I have to kill myself, that’s fine. If I live a long life and die later, cool. Either way works for me.” I suspect that since Seneca knew that there was nothing he could do to save himself, he must have told himself why not just go with the flow; as Bobby Mc Ferrin sang, “don‘t worry, be happy”. After all, we can’t prevent ourselves from dying. If our fate is decided by nature and a part of nature is to die, to go against nature will only make us unhappy. A stoic would tell us that if we must to choose between a death that we cannot prevent and a lifetime of unhappiness, the logical choice is to choose to be not-unhappy.

 

IN STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, A DYING SPOCK TELLS CAPTAIN KIRK NOT TO GRIEVE FOR HIS DEATH. BECAUSE SPOCK WAS GOING TO DIE AND THERE WAS NOTHING ANYONE COULD DO ABOUT IT. FRETTING ABOUT THE ENEVITABLE IS JUST WASTING ONE’S TIME AND ENERGY….. PLUS, SPOCK PROBABLY KNEW HE’D BE BACK IN THE NEXT SEQUEL

IN STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN, A DYING SPOCK TELLS CAPTAIN KIRK NOT TO GRIEVE FOR HIS DEATH. BECAUSE SPOCK WAS GOING TO DIE AND THERE WAS NOTHING ANYONE COULD DO ABOUT IT. FRETTING ABOUT THE ENEVITABLE IS JUST WASTING ONE’S TIME AND ENERGY….. PLUS, SPOCK PROBABLY KNEW HE’D BE BACK IN THE NEXT SEQUEL

 

It’s worth noting that Seneca was likely not involved with the plot to kill Emperor Nero.
I suppose, now that I’ve thought about what Paul Mooney said about dentists and undertakers, is that Paul Mooney’s ambivalence towards the race of his dentist was in fact a stoic response to Stephen King’s (somewhat bizarre) question. Paul Mooney is right, at least stoically so, to say that it makes no difference what the race our dentist or undertaker is. Whatever factors determine a person’s qualifications to bury people or to fix teeth is beyond our control. A stoic would tell us that we shouldn’t get hung up over whether our dentist or undertaker is black, white, or Andorian. But rather we should focus on our own ability to discern a good dentist or undertaker from a bad one – since that is something we can control.

MAYBE IT DOES MATTER THAT MY DENTIST IS ANDORIAN. THEY’RE NOT TO BE TRUSTED.

MAYBE IT DOES MATTER THAT MY DENTIST IS ANDORIAN. THEY’RE NOT TO BE TRUSTED.

When Paul Mooney said, “If they [a dentist] can fix teeth cool, if they can’t that’s cool, too”, he wasn’t just talking about his indifference to a potential dentist’s skin color, but really, what Paul Mooney was laying down is a philosophy of life. That’s precisely what the stoics were up to when they sat around on the stoa and figured out that life is better when we devote our lives to reason and let what does not matter slide.

 

penguin slide

 
One need not be a Vulcan to figure that one out.

If you were going to ask a black dude it would have to be a black dude like this:
tuvok

 

‘Cause he’s a Vulcan.  And, well, you know…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

http://www.winwisdom.com/quotes/author/zeno-of-citium.aspx.

Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. 2003 [Originally published 1909]. Trans. George Long, M.A. NY: Barnes and Noble Publishing, Inc. p. 44.

William O. Stephens. “Stoicism in the Stars: Yoda, the Emperor, and the Force”. Star Wars and Philosophy: More Powerful Than You Can Possibly Imagine. 2005. Eds. Kevin S. Decker & Jason T. Eberl. Chicago: Open Court Press. p. 20-1.

Quote on Vulcan philosophy: http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Vulcan_philosophy.

Info on Vulcans: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vulcan_ (Star_Trek).

Vulcan philosophy quotes: http://www.stogeek.com/wiki/Philosophy_and_Teachings_of_Surak.

Apatheia quote: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apatheia.

 

 

 

* In real life, former POW and 1992 Reform Party VP nominee, Admiral James Stockdale (1923-2005), used the stoic philosophy of Epictetus during his imprisonment and torture in Vietnam.
**A bit about stoic virtue: The stoics believed that happiness should be based on reason, not pleasure. A wise man does not devote his life to the pursuit of physical pleasure, but should prefer a life devoted to virtue and reason (like Aristotle, the stoics believed that virtue is important) because we are guaranteed happiness when we rely on our own virtue. And when we act virtuously, we always do the right thing. Zeno wrote, “It is in virtue that happiness consists, for virtue is the state of mind which tends to make the whole of life harmonious.” This is why the stoics thought they’d found the key to Happiness and a good life. No matter what happens around us, nothing that happens in the physical world can make us unhappy. So, the stoics say when an individual is virtuous, uses his reason, and is in harmony with nature, that individual is at peace. In other words, it’s all good.
*** You may have noticed that I have used the term “indifference” several times without defining what indifference means. The common definition of indifference is “a lack of interest or concern; unimportance”.

On the Intentional Ending of Life

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “The thought of suicide is a great consolation: by means of it one gets through many a dark night”.
I wouldn’t call the thought a consolation, but I think it’s safe to assume that I’m not the only person out there who has thought about suicide once…

Or twice.

Suicide is defined as the intentional (but sometimes accidental) ending of one’s own life.

Of course, that would exclude self-sacrifice or giving up one’s life to save others.

Those acts are considered heroic.

 

Sometimes encouraged.

 

 INTENTIONALLY TAKING ONE’S OWN LIFE IS ENCOURAGED HERE

INTENTIONALLY TAKING ONE’S OWN LIFE IS ENCOURAGED HERE

 

 

BUT NOT HERE

BUT NOT HERE

 

The reasons people commit suicide (acts of heroism excluded) are as varied as the individuals who (decide to) end their lives. The reasons vary from accidents to the want to end suffering or to depression.

This list of notable people who have committed suicide is long: Ernest Hemmingway, Meriwether Lewis*, Aaron Swartz, Hunter S. Thompson, Marilyn Monroe*, Sylvia Plath, Diane Arbus, Cato the Younger, Kurt Cobain, George Eastman, Peg Entwistle, Sam Gillespie, Abbie Hoffman, William Inge, Vincent van Gogh, David Foster Wallace, Richard Jeni, Elliot Smith, Ian Curtis, Virginia Woolf….

Socrates took his own life.

 

Of course his suicide wasn’t completely voluntary.

 

THE SUICIDE OF THE ANCIENT GREEK PHILOSOPHER WAS IMMORTALIZED IN THIS PAINTING BY JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID

THE SUICIDE OF THE ANCIENT GREEK PHILOSOPHER WAS IMMORTALIZED IN THIS PAINTING BY JACQUES-LOUIS DAVID

Many of my fellow Gen-Xers still vividly remember the news of the suicide of Nirvana front man, Kurt Cobain.

 

 

 

Many people were shocked by the suicide of actor and comedian Robin Williams in August, 2014. The news media was quick to report on Williams’ struggle with substance abuse and depression. In the days that followed Williams’ suicide, cable news and the internet featured stories on suicide prevention and suicide prevention hotline numbers.

 

williams

 

There were a few who openly claimed that Robin Williams was selfish in his actions. Fox News anchor Shepard Smith called Williams a “coward” (Smith later retracted his statements) and actor Todd Bridges got himself into hot water for saying that Williams’ act was “selfish”.

 

Gene Simmons of the rock band KISS said of those who commit suicide:

Drug addicts and alcoholics are always, ‘The world is a harsh place’. My mother was in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany. I don’t want to hear fuck about “the world is a harsh place.” She gets up every day, smells the roses and loves life…. And for a putz, 20 year-old kid to say, ‘I’m depressed, I live in Seattle.’ Fuck you, then kill yourself.

 

Simmons continued:

I never understood, because I always call them on their bluff. I’m the guy who says “Jump!” when there’s a guy on top of a building who says, “That’s it, I can’t take it anymore, I’m going to jump”… Are you kidding? Why are you announcing it? Shut the fuck up, have some dignity and jump! You’ve got the crowd.

 

 

GENE SIMMONS: A LEGENDARY ROCK MUSICIAN WITH THE WISDOM OF JIGSAW

GENE SIMMONS: A LEGENDARY ROCK MUSICIAN WITH THE WISDOM OF JIGSAW

 

 

jigsaw

 

 

In the days and weeks that followed Williams’ suicide there was no shortage of professional and non-professional opinions on the issue.

 

Robin Williams’ death reignited the public debate over the ethics of suicide.
Those of us who are old enough to remember the days of the late Jack Kevorkian and his assisted suicide machine know that suicide is one of those issues that is approached with caution, at best.

 

 

JACK KEVORKIAN (1928-2011), EUTHANASIA ACTIVIST, CLAIMED TO HAVE ASSISTED IN THE SUICIDES OF AT LEAST 130 CHRONICALLY AND TERMINALLY ILL PATIENTS

JACK KEVORKIAN (1928-2011), EUTHANASIA ACTIVIST, CLAIMED TO HAVE ASSISTED IN THE SUICIDES OF AT LEAST 130 CHRONICALLY AND TERMINALLY ILL PATIENTS

 

The debate over suicide is often moral.

 

Ethical theories both permit and forbid the intentional taking of one’s life.

 

IF ONLY MAKING MORAL DECISIONS WERE THIS EASY

IF ONLY MAKING MORAL DECISIONS WERE THIS EASY

 

The French philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960) wrote that suicide is the only truly serious philosophical problem.

 

Albert-Camus

 

Camus writes:

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories – comes afterwards.

Camus uses the myth of Sisyphus to demonstrate our struggle against the urge to commit suicide.

 

… Or rather, to demonstrate the struggle against wanting to commit suicide in the face of absurdity.

 

 

IN THE ANCIENT GREEK MYTH SISYPHUS IS CONDEMNED TO ROLL A LARGE ROCK UP A HILL FOR AN ETERNITY. WHEN SISYPHUS REACHES THE TOP OF THE PEAK THE ROCK ROLLS DOWN THE HILL AND SISYPHUS MUST ROLL THE ROCK BACK UP THE HILL AGAIN

IN THE ANCIENT GREEK MYTH SISYPHUS IS CONDEMNED TO ROLL A LARGE ROCK UP A HILL FOR AN ETERNITY. WHEN SISYPHUS REACHES THE TOP OF THE PEAK THE ROCK ROLLS DOWN THE HILL AND SISYPHUS MUST ROLL THE ROCK BACK UP THE HILL AGAIN

 

 

No matter how many times he rolls the boulder up the hill he knows the rock will roll back down and he will have to roll the it back up the hill again. The act of rolling the rock seems futile. There is no point in doing it. Sisyphus is overwhelmed by the futility of his task. In the mind of Sisyphus, his life is absurd.

 

A word about the word absurd:

 

LISTEN UP, FOLKS. A PHILOSOPHER IS ABOUT TO LEARN YOU A NEW WORD

LISTEN UP, FOLKS. A PHILOSOPHER IS ABOUT TO LEARN YOU A NEW WORD

 

 

mindy kaling GIF

 

 

When we usually say something is “absurd” we mean something is silly.

 

Something like this:

 

 

 

 

 

Although that’s silly, that’s not what philosophers mean when they use the word “Absurd’.

 

On the absurd, the great philosophical index (otherwise known as Wikipedia) says this:

In philosophy, “the Absurd” refers to the conflict between (1) the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and (2) the human inability to find any. … the Absurd arises by the contradictory nature of the two existing simultaneously. … the efforts of humanity to find inherent meaning will ultimately fail (and hence are absurd)…

Sisyphus can find no meaning in a task that he can never complete. And we, like Sisyphus, find that we are often tasked with duties and obligations in our lives that we cannot complete. Our lives often seem to lack meaning and have no purpose. And so we, like Sisyphus, are overwhelmed by the despair of the absurd. Overwhelmed by absurdity, we may conclude that the only way to escape absurdity is by ending our own lives.

 

 

WE MIGHT IMAGINE SISYPHUS PUSHING THE ROCK TO THE SIDE AND JUMPING OFF THE CLIFF

WE MIGHT IMAGINE SISYPHUS PUSHING THE ROCK TO THE SIDE AND JUMPING OFF THE CLIFF

 

However, Sartre (and existentialists in general) say that we must accept that despair and overcome it. We must build meaning into our lives in the face of meaninglessness.

Even Sisyphus, Sartre says, learns to be happy.

 

imagine sisyphus happy

 

 

We must also learn to be happy.

Sartre isn’t the only philosopher that says that suicide is not the solution for life’s problems.

 

Yep. Kant did, too.

 

The German philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) argued that suicide wasn’t just the result of bad decision making. Killing oneself is downright wrong.

Kant declares that suicide is a violation of the Categorical Imperative.

What’s Kant’s Categorical Imperative, you say?

 

Kant’s Categorical Imperative is as follows:

First Formulation: Formulation from Universal Law
* act except in such a way that I can also will that my maxim should become a universal law

Second Formulation: Formulation for Ends In Themselves
*  man, and in general every rational being exists as an end in himself not merely as a means for arbitrary use by this or that will: he must in all his actions, whether they are directed to himself or to other rational beings, always be viewed at the same time as an end

 

 

categorical imperative arguments

 

What this all means is that when we perform any act we must ask ourselves a couple of questions:
1) would we want everyone else to do it, and
2) do we use or exploit anyone to get what we want?

 

Kant’s argument against suicide states:

A man who is reduced to despair by a series of evils feels a weariness with life but is still in possession of his reason sufficiently to ask whether it would not be contrary to his duty to himself to take his own life. Now he asks whether the maxim of his action could become a universal law of nature. His maxim, however is: For love of myself, I make it my principle to shorten my life when by a longer duration it threatens more evil than satisfaction. But it is questionable whether this principle of self-love could become a universal law of nature. One immediately sees a contradiction in a system of nature whose law would be to destroy life by the feeling whose special office is to impel the improvement of life. In this case it would not exist as nature hence that maxim cannot obtain as a law of nature, and thus it wholly contradicts the supreme principle of all duty.

 

Kant argues we can’t universalize suicide because the act of killing oneself is contradictory to our own self-love. Ok, wait a minute. What does Kant mean by “self love”?

Not that, you dirty bird.

You see, according to Kant, we all possess a sense of self-love.

I guess you can call it a sense of self-preservation.

Kant says we (should) love ourselves too much to intentionally take our own lives.

 

THE UPSHOT OF NARCISSISM IS THAT YOU PROBABLY WON’T VIOLATE THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE

THE UPSHOT OF NARCISSISM IS THAT YOU PROBABLY WON’T VIOLATE THE CATEGORICAL IMPERATIVE

 

 

Kant also argues that it is wrong to use another as a mere means to our ends.

Ok, bear with me, here.

To use a person as a mere means to our ends is to deny a person the respect of their personhood that every human being is entitled to; to treat a person as a thing. Treating a person as a thing devalues the respect that every (rational) human being is entitled to. And so, by killing ourselves we treat ourselves as a thing, we are denying the respect that we are entitled to as rational beings. We become a mere means to an end.

 

means to an end

 

Although Kant’s philosophical mission is to get away from a religion-based ethics, we can’t help from observing that Kant’s argument parallels religious edicts in the form of divine universal law (in Kant’s case his is the inviolable universal law of nature). Like Kant’s ethics, God-based arguments against suicide are rooted in the belief that every life is sacred and that we have no (moral) authority to end any human being’s life. To do so, according to the religious view, is, in essence, playing God.

We are forbidden to usurp God’s plan for us.

We are forbidden to destroy what God has created.

In doing so we risk condemnation.
In an article that appeared on Catholic Online, Chaplain Adele M. Gill says to end one‘s life prematurely is not a courageous act. Gill says:

Because it is not. Rather it is anything but. In fact, in my mind, it is a self-destructive act of selfish cowardice to end your own life before God’s perfect timing.

 

GOD DEFINITELY IS NOT DOWN WITH FRANCINE FISHPAW’S END-OF-SUFFERING PLAN

GOD DEFINITELY IS NOT DOWN WITH FRANCINE FISHPAW’S END-OF-SUFFERING PLAN

 

Although religious-based arguments are probably the most convincing anti suicide arguments (if not just for the fact that we must weigh the utility of the cessation of pain and suffering against eternal damnation), God arguments cut both ways.

 

Especially when philosophers make them.
This is probably due, in part to the fact that an estimated 62% of philosophers are atheist.

 

TYPICAL PHILOSOPHER LISTENING TO ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

TYPICAL PHILOSOPHER LISTENING TO ARGUMENTS FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD

 

In “On Suicide” the Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) considers the existence of God. If there is a God, Hume asks, and everything happens according to his will, how can suicide go against the will of God?

Hume argues: if a person fights the urge to commit suicide he is fighting against the will of God.

 

… And defying the will of God gets you a one-way ticket to hellfire and eternal torment.

 

IT’S NOT ENTIRELY INCORRECT TO ASSUME THAT, DESPITE HIS PHILOSOPHICALLY PERSUASIVE ARGUMENTS, IT IS HIGHLY LIKELY THAT AT THIS MOMENT DAVID HUME IS ROASTING IN HELL

IT’S NOT ENTIRELY INCORRECT TO ASSUME THAT, DESPITE HIS PHILOSOPHICALLY PERSUASIVE ARGUMENTS, IT IS HIGHLY LIKELY THAT AT THIS MOMENT DAVID HUME IS ROASTING IN HELL

 

Now, some people may ask why would a philosopher find it necessary to weigh in on a subject like suicide? After all, dealing with life, death, and the hereafter is best handled by one’s personal spiritual adviser, priests, imams, and rabbis.

That might be true.

 

However, Not every suicide is the result of depression or a feeling of hopelessness.

Some people commit suicide for what they believe are completely legitimate reasons.

When we ponder the outcomes our actions have in this world and (possibly) in the next, we realize that to have an outcome we have to do something. We have to make a choice; a decision.

Decisions inevitably have ethical implications.

 

Philosophers deal in ethics.

 

I WEAR THIS SHIRT EVERYWHERE I GO. ... BECAUSE IT'S TRUE

I WEAR THIS SHIRT EVERYWHERE I GO.
… BECAUSE IT’S TRUE

 

Philosophical arguments on suicide (especially arguments in support of physician-assisted suicide) often focus on a person’s mental state (i.e. level of cognition) when we act.

Kant tells us that the use of reason separates humans from mere beasts.

 

 

kant reason

 

 

Our capacity for reason allows us to make deliberate and rational choices.

… You see, philosophers have this idea that in order to be a fully functional, autonomous human being, one must possess the capacity to make rational choices.

The recent news story of Brittany Maynard, the 29 year-old newlywed diagnosed with terminal brain cancer who opted to commit suicide rather than to go through suffering of her disease, Maynard articulated the rational argument in favor of what Dr. Jack Kevorkian called “patholysis” (literally translated, “destruction of suffering”).

 

 

brittany maynard

 

 

 

 

 

Most arguments about suicide, pro and against, tend to center on physician-assisted suicide.

Or as some supporters call it, death with dignity.

 

Although even the most ardent assisted-suicide proponent would have a difficult time defending suicide of those who are not chronically or terminally ill, there are many people who support physically healthy people who opt to commit suicide for psychological and/or philosophical reasons. Some argue that it is perfectly rational to make choose to commit suicide to prevent suffering and to have control ones life. Death, they argue, is inevitable. The terminal diagnosis has been made. The point isn’t to die, it’s to avoid unnecessary pain and suffering.

Several U.S. states and a handful of nations in Europe allow euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide. The Swiss group Dignitas (based in Zurich, Switzerland) is a notable example of an organization providing terminally ill with death with dignity services.

 

 

THIS IS THE DIGNITAS FACILITY IN ZURICH, SWITZERLAND

THIS IS THE DIGNITAS FACILITY IN ZURICH, SWITZERLAND

 

Dignitas’ assisted-suicide services has been accused of promoting “suicide tourism”.

 

 

 

 

The philosophical arguments for physician-assisted suicide are compelling. Certainly a philosopher would agree that we should respect the decisions made by someone who is mentally competent and able to make full use of their capacity to think rationally. But there’s the problem we have as philosophers – we must weigh an ethic that tells us to preserve life against an ethic that tells us to respect autonomy.

Philosophers like Immanuel Kant tell us that we have a duty to help others but we also have a duty not to interfere with the actions of morally autonomous beings.

 

autonomy
However, we can still argue that suicide, despite our moral autonomy and our justifications, can’t be a rational choice.

Namely:

  • A rational choice, by necessity, has to be made when one is fully aware and knowledgeable of what they’re doing. Since no person possesses the ability to know how their death will affect others, we can‘t reasonably argue that we can calculate (all of) the consequences of a suicide.
  • If a person commits suicide they are hurting more than themselves. A person who commits suicide deprives people not only of their presence, but also of what they could have done. Especially if we end our lives before we reach our full potential.
  • Death, no matter the circumstance, is bad. Death causes us harm. Why would someone willingly do something that is harmful?
  • Someone who is mentally depressed, mentally ill or mentally impaired (by illness or medication) can not, by definition, be entirely rational and therefore is incapable of making rational choices.
  • Young people lack the mental/psychological/philosophical maturity required to make rational choices and should be strongly discouraged from committing suicide, even if the reason for doing so seems rational.
  • Given the possibility that one would burn in hell, why would someone risk an eternal punishment, even to avoid pain or to end suffering?

 

WE WOULDN’T WANT TO DISCOVER THAT THE CONSEQUENCE OF A SEEMINGLY RATIONAL ACT IS ETERNAL

WE WOULDN’T WANT TO DISCOVER THAT THE CONSEQUENCE OF A SEEMINGLY RATIONAL ACT IS ETERNAL

 

Suicide is always a tragic event. We can be certain that there will be arguments on both sides of the issue. No matter what or justification for ending our own lives may be, there will be questions that will remain unanswered: Is it always wrong to commit suicide? Are mental or chronic or terminal physical illness enough reason to commit suicide? Should doctors assist the terminally ill to end their own lives? Should we continue to struggle to against the absurdity of life and how should we escape it?

 

 

Unfortunately, neither philosophers nor the clergy have given us answers we all can agree on.

 

 

 

 

 
* if you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (in the U.S.) 1-800-273-8255
Or go to the website: suicidepreventionlifeline.org

 

 

NOTE:
* It is still debated whether Meriwether Lewis and Marilyn Monroe actually committed suicide.
* For more reading on reasons why people commit suicide:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201004/the-six-reasons-people-attempt-suicide
SOURCES:
Immanuel Kant. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. 1997 [1785]. Trans. Lewis White Beck. 2nd Edition (Revised). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 38-39.

Albert Camus. The Myth of Sisyphus. 1975 [1942]. Trans. Justin O’ Brien. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. 11.

Fred Feldman. Confrontations With the Reaper: A Philosophical Study of the Nature and Value of Death. 1992. NY: Oxford University Press.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/camus/

http://philosophynow.org/issues/61/Kant_On_Suicide

http://www.etonline.com/news/149905_gene_simmons_tells_depressed_people_to_kill_themselves/index.html

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/curious/201405/why-do-people-kill-themselves-new-warning-signs

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absurdism

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/19/brittany_maynards_brave_choice_why_religious_arguments_against_physician_assisted_suicide_fall_flat/

The Mouse That Bored

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

Ready for it?

Listen carefully.

Here it is:

I hate reading philosophy.

I HATE READING PHILOSOPHY.

There. I said it.

There’s a perfectly legit reason for it.

 

philosophy messes your mind up

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

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

Except if I’m reading Bertrand Russell.

That mofo confuses me.

ME, READING RUSSELL

ME, READING RUSSELL

 

 

 

I hate reading philosophy because it’s boring.

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

Philosophy is boring.

It’s tedious and dull.

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

 

 

zooey

 

 

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

 

NIETZSCHE ROCKED THAT MUSTACHE LIKE A TOTAL BOSS

NIETZSCHE ROCKED THAT MUSTACHE LIKE A TOTAL BOSS

 

 

All philosophy might as well be written in comic sans.

 

 

no comic sans

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

AND HERE’S KE$HA:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Now honestly, who would you rather party with?

Right.

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

Star Trek is awesome.

 

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

 

It’s exactly the opposite of philosophy.

 

 

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

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

 

 

Ok. Do me a favor. Read this:

 

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

 
Pretty boring, right?

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

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

 

Now read this:

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

 

 

Liked that, didn‘t you?

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

Whoops. I shouldn’t have said that.

 

 

whoops

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

LT. WORF. BADASS LEVEL: KLINGON

LT. WORF. BADASS LEVEL: KLINGON

 

 

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

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

 

That’s just a few.

 

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

 

Precisely the opposite of what you get in most philosophy.

kirk and spock go platonic

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

 

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

 

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

 

EVERYBODY WOULD READ DESCARTES IF DESCARTES LOOKED LIKE THIS

EVERYBODY WOULD READ DESCARTES IF DESCARTES LOOKED LIKE THIS

 

I would add the following suggestions:

 

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

 

NOT PICTURED: RAMPAGE JACKSON

NOT PICTURED: RAMPAGE JACKSON

 

 

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

 

 

THIS OUGHTA PULL IN RATINGS

THIS OUGHTA PULL IN RATINGS

 

 

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

 

Ok philosophers, now it’s your turn.

 

I’ll tell y’all how it all works out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Chess, Death, Kid N’ Play and the Essence of the Ultimate Pajama Jam

I was listening to the radio awhile ago.

That admission immediately tells how old I am.

I know that these days when someone says that they were “listening to the radio” that they were probably listening to music on the internet. It’s kind of like how some people say that they listen to “albums”.

I still say album.

I still listen to cassettes.

And I was listening to an actual radio.

The old hi-fi.

 

family-listening-radio-home-vintage-photo-01

 

I know that the current technology is supposed to be all that, but there’s at least one good thing about being an old fuddy duddy still hooked on listening to 20th century technology. Namely, listening to a radio allows one to channel surf.

And while channel surfing, one occasionally tunes into something interesting.

And by “interesting” I mean something that allows a person to write about philosophical stuff.

I was listening to a radio show called “The Pocho Hour of Power”. It airs locally in Los Angeles. On Fridays at 4 P.M. On KPFK. An affiliate of the Pacifica Network.    pocho hour of power

 

That’s a Liberal radio station.

 

 

Wait. I think I’m supposed to say it’s Progressive.

Anyway, I don’t remember what exactly led to what, but I remember one of the hosts of the show said something about existentialist cinema. He made a joke about the movies The Seventh Seal and House Party. His joke was that one of the films is deep and packed with existential significance. The other (obviously) is not.

 

I’ll let you guess which one is which.

 

 

th (13)

 

house-party

 

 

 

Figure it out yet?

 

For the host of the show, even slightly suggesting that a movie like House Party can in any way be as existential as a Bergman film is as laughable as the punch line of a joke. At first glance, the host is right. House Party is a thematically shallow movie.* Based on the film’s ostensible meaning, it would be absurd to suggest that the movie is anything more than an urban teenage comedy about a couple of buddies who throw the ultimate house party. But here’s a secret: movies, like books, TV shows, and songs, often have more than one meaning. There’s what a movie is supposed to be about – but then there’s what a movie is really about.

Want to take a guess at what House Party is really about?

That’s right. You guessed it.

Existentialism.

 

claire on existentialism

 

At first glance (or as the philosophers say, prime facie), Ingmar Bergman’s The Seventh Seal is just an old, overly-long movie about a knight who does some stuff, plays chess with death (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Observer from Mystery Science Theater 3000), rides across the Swedish (are they in Sweden?) countryside, and chats it up with some weird lady who is condemned to be burned at the stake.

 

 

If you watch the film on a purely surface level you wouldn’t get much out of it.

Other than annoyance with another foreign black and white movie with subtitles.

And the Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey reference.

And that that’s the old dude from The Exorcist.

Now THAT’S a good movie.

 

max von sydow

THIS DUDE SHOULD LOOK FAMILIAR

 

If you watch The Seventh Seal without really paying attention to the movie, you would miss the film’s philosophical significance.

Philosophical themes/significance in The Seventh Seal include (but not limited to):

  • Reason for man’s suffering.
  • God’s existence.
  • Struggle with religious faith.
  • Identity (as relates to our place in the world).
  • The nature of being (including our place in the world).

There’s another movie that covers some of those philosophical themes, too.

1… 2… 3… Say it all together…

Right!

That movie is House Party.

 

 

 

On the surface, House Party (written and directed by the Hudlin Brothers) isn’t what anyone would call a “deep” movie. The movie’s seemingly simplistic plot goes a little like this: we follow a night in the (mis)adventures of a pair of inner-city high school chums (played by early ‘90s rap duo Kid N’ Play) and their chronic halitosis-besieged buddy (played by Martin Lawrence) as they evade cops, bullies, and Kid’s belt-wielding father (played by the late Robin Harris) to attend the ultimate house party.

 

Not to get off track, but is it just me or did the guys in Full Force look like they were about 40 years old?

 

Don’t get me wrong. I could plausibly suspend my disbelief watching Full Force as high school students in House Party. At least they weren’t as unconvincing as Vic Morrow as a delinquent “teen” in The Blackboard Jungle. Or the obviously-past-thirty-year old Stockard Channing as high school student Betty Rizzo in Grease.

NOT FOOLING ANYBODY

NOT FOOLING ANYBODY

 

And while we’re on the Grease tip, throw in Lorna Luft, Christopher MacDonald, and Adrian Zmed in Grease 2.

 

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

 

When House Party was released in 1990, moviegoers and critics immediately spotted the movie’s themes of race, class, gender relations (in particular, in the African-American community), and how the film bucked against the typical depiction of hypersexuality among teenaged characters in most teen-oriented comedies.

That already kind of proves that there’s more going on in this movie than meets the eye.

 

Now, we can spend our time, like the movie critics did back in ’90, discussing the social and cultural relevance/significance of House Party. And certainly there is plenty there to discuss, even after more than 20 years since the movie’s release.

Or, we can look even deeper and discuss the movie philosophically.

Perhaps existentially.

 

Let’s do it then, shall we?

 

 

In the movie House Party, Kid, played by Christopher “Kid” Reid, is a somewhat nerdy high school student, plagued by bullying classmates and stifled by an over-protective father. Kid is a character at a crossroads. He’s a character on the verge of manhood struggling to find his own identity.

Kid is being pressured by many influences: he wants to be a dutiful son to his widowed father, yet he feels the pressure as a young male at the edge of adulthood, to conform to the expectations of his peers – in particular, the pressure exerted by his best friend, Play (played by Christopher Martin) who urges Kid to attend a house party in hopes of “hooking up” with the object of Kid’s affection, a fellow student named Sydney, portrayed by Tisha Campbell.

 

 

GINAAAAAAAA!

GINAAAAAAAA!

 

Kid’s attempt to stand up like a man ends in a brutal lunchtime beating. His attempt at independence lands him in trouble with the police. His attempt at being a teenage Lothario ends in humiliation.

 

THIS ATTEMPT AT A STYLISH HAIRDOO IS MORE LIKE A HAIR DON’T.

THIS ATTEMPT AT A STYLISH HAIRDOO IS MORE LIKE A HAIR DON’T.

 

But despite the competing influences and occasional humiliation, Kid wants to determine his own life path.

Determining the path that one’s own life takes is the principle at the heart of existentialism.

Existentialism is the:

school of philosophical thought associated with Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, and Nietzsche. Existentialism emphasizes the importance of free will, personal responsibility, and how our experiences and choices forms what we become – what we make of ourselves.

Of course, bearing all the responsibility of who we become presents us (or any movie character) with a dilemma. To wit: how do we decide what we become? How do we determine what makes our lives meaningful? The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) stated that the main message of existentialism is

… to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rest on him.

 

 

THIS IS JEAN-PAUL SARTRE

THIS IS JEAN-PAUL SARTRE

 

For those of you who are well-versed in Sartre quotes, you’ll know that Jean-Paul Sartre famously said “existence precedes essence”.

According to Sartre, we are born without an innate nature. No one is a “natural born” sinner or saint. Or even naturally masculine or feminine. What we are and who we become (our “essence”) is a construct; it is not determined by a priori factors (God, society, biology, destiny, family, etc.) but by our own choices. We must make our own essence. In the absence of external influences, Sartre says, we are nothing more than the products of our own creation.

 

That means we are free to be whatever or whoever we want to be.

This can be a problem.

 

problems

 

 

This is the problem:

Sartre’s “existence precedes essence” says we are free to create our own identity. We are not, as Freud declares, bound by our biology. Sounds good so far. After all, who doesn’t like freedom? But, the freedom to create one’s own essence means that we and we alone, bear all of the responsibility of figuring out who we are and making our lives meaningful.

 

DESPITE HIS MOTHER’S AND SOCIETY’S INFLUENCE, THE CHILD WILLL NOT GROW TO BECOME A JUGGALO BUT CHOOSE TO BE A NICKLEBACK FAN.

DESPITE HIS MOTHER’S AND SOCIETY’S INFLUENCE, THE CHILD WILLL NOT GROW TO BECOME A JUGGALO BUT CHOOSE TO BE A NICKLEBACK FAN.

 

According to Sartre, freedom is a double-edged sword: we are free be whoever we want to become, but we are also free to be whoever we want to become. When we have absolute responsibility for determining who we are, the freedom to choose is as liberating as it is problematic and confusing. Which path of life should we take? How do we figure out which path will make our lives most meaningful? And we can’t blame our bad choices on God or our biology. We almost we have too much freedom to choose. We have no other choice but to be free. This is why Sartre says “man is condemned to be free”. Sartre writes:

 

… man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet, in other respects is free; because, once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.

Sartre also says:

 

He was free, free in every way, free to behave like a fool or a machine, free to accept, free to refuse, free to equivocate; to marry, to give up the game, to drag this death weight about him for years to come. He could do what he liked, no on had the right to advise him, there would be for him no Good or Evil unless he brought them into being.

 

To make matters worse, Sartre says man cannot fully exist if he fails to create his own essence.

 

TIM GUNN JUST REALIZED ONLY HE CAN CREATE HIS OWN ESSENCE

TIM GUNN JUST REALIZED ONLY HE CAN CREATE HIS OWN ESSENCE

 

I figure at this point, you’re probably thinking that I’ve completely forgotten that this blog post is supposed to have something to do with the movie House Party. You’re probably wondering what the H-E-double hockey sticks does existentialist French philosophy have to do with early ‘90s urban comedy.

To the point: how exactly is House Party a modern existentialist masterpiece?

This is how:

At the outset of the film, Kid is subject to the kind of external forces that Sartre describes: his father, his friends, the pressure to act like a typical urban male. Kid seems to want to give into the pressure – it would be easier to simply follow along and be exactly what his family, friends, and society expects him to be. But he can’t. Kid must determine his own life path.

 

Kid chooses to live on his own terms in defiance of others’ expectations. Although his father warns against attending the house party, Kid chooses to go to the party despite his father’s threats. During a moment of intimacy with Sydney, Kid chooses not to have sex with Sydney, favoring instead to first develop a friendship with her. Kid is not the culturally stereotypical thug the police believe that he is. The path isn’t his father’s or his friends, but his own. And as a consequence, Kid finds his authentic self – who he truly is – not the person his friends, his father, or school lunchroom bullies want him to be. Kid does what he wants to do what he wants to do, and when he does he realizes the potential consequences.

 

 

HE WAS EITHER GOING TO FIND GOD... OR EXISTENTIALISM

HE WAS EITHER GOING TO FIND GOD… OR EXISTENTIALISM

 

Thus, House Party is really about how to lead an existentially authentic life.

So, when Kid’s father beats his ass with a belt for defying his orders, the punishment is all Kid’s fault.

We assume that he assumes full responsibility.

 

 

 

Ok. I know. You’re not entirely convinced of what I’m telling you. I understand. House Party is not the greatest movie. It’s not even a great movie. But just think about what I’ve told you. Watch the movie again. You might want to have some Sartre handy. It might not have the pedigree of a Bergman film, but trust me, House Party is a film about something.

However, I can’t say the same about Class Act.

 

I have no idea why or what that flick is about.

 

 

 
*NOTE: you many have noticed, when referring to The Seventh Seal and House Party, that I refer to The Seventh Seal as a “film” and to House Party as a “movie”. This choice of words is completely intentional. There are those who use the word “film” when making reference to “quality” cinema – i.e., cinema with social, cultural, and/or philosophical significance. “Movies”, on the other hand, may or may not include significant philosophical themes. In addition, movies, unlike films, are often intended primarily for entertainment purposes.
I might add that referring to a motion picture as a “flick” denotes that the movie has very little to no (obvious) philosophical value and is made strictly for entertainment purposes (e.g. exploitation flicks, drive-in flicks, and pornography).

 

 

SOURCES:

1) Jean-Paul Sartre. “Existentialism”. 1980. The Norton Reader. 5th Edition (shorter). Eds. Arthur M. Eastman, Caesar R. Blake, Hubert M. English, Jr., Joan E. Hartman, Alan B. Howes, Robert T. Lenaghan, Leo F. McNamara, James Rossier. NY: W.W. Norton & Company. pp. 659, 662

2) https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/existentialism

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

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

 

 

 
I’m out of the closet.

 

SPONGEBOB OUT

 

 

No, not that closet.

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

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

That closet.

I’m out of the atheist closet.

 

143-Atheists-are-coming-650x365

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

I don’t believe any of that now.

 

 

KEEP CALM AND BELIEVE IN YOURSELF

 

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

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

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

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

Really, it went just like that.

 

atheist logic

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

thank god it's an aligator

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

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

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

I’m not imagining this.

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

anti god and anti american

 

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

Care to guess who?

You guessed it: Rapists.

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

 

ATHEISTS AND SEX OFFENDERS

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

college atheist

 

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

 

freshman atheist

 

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

 

We all gotta serve somebody, as Dylan sang.

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

 

atheist jesus

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

Riiiight.

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

 

philosoraptor atheist

 

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

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

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

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

 

PROBABLY AN ATHEIST

PROBABLY AN ATHEIST

 

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

 

Really, it’s true.

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

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

 

stats on belief in god

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

atheism isn't a religion

 

 

It’s also a problem for philosophers.

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

 

GOD

 

 

Or this guy:

 

smiling god

 

Or this guy:

 

sha ka ree

 

 

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

73% of them as a matter of fact.

 

Unless you’re Alvin Plantinga.

 

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES IN GOD

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES IN GOD

 

 

Or this guy:

 

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES THAT GOD EXISTS, TOO

THIS PHILOSOPHER BELIEVES THAT GOD EXISTS, TOO

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

leap of faith 2

 

 

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

It’s often impossible to make them mix.

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

I need to rethink this.

 

 

 

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

 

 

SOURCES:

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

 

My New Year’s Resolu – Oh, Nevermind.

It’s the end of the year.

2013 is over and done. Onward to 2014!

 

i can't believe it's been a year

 

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

 

You know,  the important stuff.

 

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

 

ending one minute at a time

 

Thanks a lot, Chuck Palahniuk.

 

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

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

 

stop lying resolution

 

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

 

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

 

New-year-resolution-2014

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

sapiosexual

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

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

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

 

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

DOES NOT HAVE A PROFILE ON MATCH.COM

 

And finally, stop being so cynical.

 

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

 

imnotcynicalLOGO

 

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

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

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

 

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

Ok. Probably none of that will happen.

 

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

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

 

Philosophically yours,

TMP

Chick Writin’

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

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

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

 

They’re the pillars of philosophy.

 

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

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

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

My list pretty much dries up there.

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

 

 

Who is this lady????

Who is this lady????

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

I write about philosophy.

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

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

 

Uh-oh. Problem.

 

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

This is my current Facebook profile pic.

 
don draper for profile pic

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

herstory

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

feminist with scissors

 

 

Just for the record I don’t hate men.

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

 

 

mink

 

Wait. I got off track.

 

I suppose Aristotle was right.

He said that women are more quarrelsome than men.

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

 

 

feminist hammer

 

 

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

 
this is what femimism looks like

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Encouraging, right?

 

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

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

 

 

on feminism

 

 

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

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

 

 

sexy ayn!

 

 

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

Man-hating chick stuff.

 

 

i need feminism

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

paul ryan

 

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

 

keep patriarchy

 

 

Perhaps that’s the problem, eh?

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

ryan gosling hey girl meme

 

 

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

 

 

You can expect that post in exactly 28 days.

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

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

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

What’s the Philosophically Correct Thing for A Philosopher to Say About Jesus On His Birthday?

 

byzantine jesus It’s Christmas Eve and approximately 2.1 billion of the inhabitants of the planet earth will be celebrating the birth of their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I am not one of them.

Still, I think I should probably say something about philosophy and Christmas.

A few years ago, President George W. Bush said that his favorite philosopher is Jesus. Some reporter asked who his favorite philosopher is and he answered the question. I’m not a fan of the former president but I appreciated that he answered the question honestly.

I remember there was some to-do about what the president said.

Stuff like he shouldn’t have named a religious figure

And that Jesus wasn’t a philosopher.

Sure Jesus was.

How is “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” not philosophical?

You see, even though I’m an atheist (actually I’m an apatheist, but who’s being technical?) I’m not one of those atheist types who gets all furious-faced and bent out of shape any time someone mentions Jesus Christ, Christianity, or Christmas. I’m not offended when someone tells me “Merry Christmas”. I’m not all that bothered by Nativity displays in public places. And I think it’s entirely appropriate to mention that Jesus is the “reason for the season”.

That’s because he is, you know.

Despite my beliefs this is not how I spend Christmas

Despite my beliefs this is not how I spend Christmas

It’s no secret that philosophers are notoriously atheistic. There are plenty of non-believing-in-the-existence-of-an-all-powerful-creator philosophers to choose from. A.J. Ayer, Colin McGinn, Julian Baginni, Rudolf Carnap, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Michael Martin, John Searle, Simone de Beauvoir, Friedrich Nietzsche, Arthur Schopenhauer, Albert Camus, J.L. Mackie, Bernard Williams, David Chalmers, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Dennett, Baron d’Holbach, Bertrand Russell, Ayn Rand, Kai Nielsen, James Rachels, George Santayana – Just to name a few.

All philosophers. All atheists.

The belief about philosophers and God goes that philosophers are all about reason and logical arguments, and that most philosophers believe that believing in a great, big God up in the sky that no one actually sees or hears isn’t exactly reasonable or logical.

Even when we name philosophers who do believe in God no one really ever mentions
Jesus.

All Descartes wanted to do is prove that God exists. I don’t recall him saying anything about Jesus – at least not anything about his philosophy.

I actually think Jesus is a philosopher. And a pretty good one at that.

Need I remind you, I don’t believe in God and I’m willing to admit this.

I think this is actually a picture of Barry Gibb. Maybe Harrison Ford with a beard.

I think this is actually a picture of Barry Gibb. Maybe Harrison Ford with a beard.

I know that some believers out there might take the fact that I’ve considered Jesus a philosopher at all as a sign that my sensus divinitatis is working, which, of course, means that Plantinga is right.

That is exactly what I don’t want to admit during the holidays.

But I really do think that Jesus is a pretty good philosopher.

Now wait, my atheist friends – I’m not talking about Christianity. I’m not advocating following the word of Jesus as a religion or even that anyone should praise, worship, or follow the words of Jesus at all (although if you want to, the Bible makes it pretty easy to do, since everything he said is written in red).

So what makes Jesus a philosopher, you ask?

I know this may be weird for all of you atheist philosophers out there, but if we think of what philosophers do; that philosophers think, write, and, well, philosophize about matters concerning ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology, there’s no reason (other than personal bias) to exclude Jesus from the ranks of philosophers.

And don’t say Jesus isn’t a philosopher because he didn’t write anything down.

Neither did Socrates.

If you’re still not convinced, let me give you a sample of what I’m talking about:

Jesus the ethicist:

A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart. Whatever is in your heart determines what you say (Luke 6:45)

Love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31)

Love your enemies. Do good to those who hurt you. Pray for happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. (Luke 6:27-28)

Jesus the metaphysician:

With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)

God is a spirit… (John 4:24)

I am the way and the truth and the life. (John 16:6)

Jesus the epistemologist:

Your father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)

It’s fairly obvious that Jesus was (or is it is?) a philosopher. But here’s the cool thing: if you follow Jesus, you will be rewarded with an eternity in Heaven.

Can Saul Kripke promise you that?

Jesus looks a little like Kris Kristopherson in this picture, don’t you think?

Jesus looks a little like Kris Kristopherson in this picture, don’t you think? …Or Alan Rickman…

Getting into Heaven is awesome enough to persuade anyone (unless you’re Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett) to give a philosophical read of Jesus a try. But when you read the philosophy of Jesus it’s really no wonder that Jesus’ philosophy, even 2500 years after his birth, is more popular than any other philosopher.

That’s probably because unlike most professional philosophers, when you read Jesus’ philosophy you can actually understand it. And it’s a cinch to follow.

That’s two things no one will never say about Immanuel Kant.

It’s no surprise that this philosopher…
sunday school jesus

is more popular than this philosopher

and this philosopher writes about Jesus.

and this philosopher writes about Jesus.

And that’s the way it should be, isn’t it?

 

I think only me and President Bush would agree to that.

So, from this hell-bound atheist to my fellow philosophers and citizens of planet earth, I wish you a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

ENJOY A LITTLE CHRISTMAS MUSIC

 

NOTE:
My list of atheist philosophers may include an agnostic or two. As I recall Sir Bertrand Russell was an agnostic, not an atheist.

On Overthinking While Watching Fox News

I don’t know if I’m a feminist.

I hear a lot of women these days say that they’re not. Some people say that’s because most young women these days don’t know what a feminist is.

I like to think I do.

Even though I believe that women are intellectually, emotionally, and often physically equal to men and that women shouldn’t be judged strictly on their perceived aesthetic worth; even though Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “When a woman has scholarly inclinations there is usually something wrong with her sexuality”, I still hesitate to say that I‘m a feminist.

The philosopher Georg Hegel argued that women’s minds are not equipped to handle the “higher sciences” or philosophy, and wrote, “The difference between man and woman is as between animal and plant.”

I certainly do not agree with that.

I think I agree with the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus who said “It takes more than just a good looking body. You’ve got to have the heart and soul to go with it.

Maybe my hesitation has something to do with the fact that when someone says the word feminist, one’s mind immediately conjures up an image like this:

I’d like to think that most intellectually or philosophically inclined people (or at least people who think every once in awhile) are beyond thinking that women are only valuable as long as they look good and don’t speak. With all that higher thinking, you’d think that people who think would appreciate a person for their minds more than for their bodies.

I’d like to think smart people would be sapiosexuals.

Unfortunately, in the real world this is not the case.

This is Ken Jennings. He won 74 consecutive games on Jeopardy! If sapiosexuals ran the world this man would be People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.

Definition alert: Urban Dictionary defines sapiosexuality as: To become attracted to or sexually aroused by intelligence and its use.

Even among so-called “enlightened” types there is still the urge to conform to a societal approved standard of beauty. Spend a few hours watching cable news (this is what smart people watch instead of The Bad Girls’ Club) and you’ll see what I’m talking (or rather writing) about. Just look at the women moderating the intellectual debate. Fox News anchors Megyn Kelly, Courtney Friel, and Heather Childers weren’t hired because they look smart or even for their ability to engage in intellectual discourse they were hired because they’re blond babes who just happen to deliver your daily dose of things (i.e. news) you’re supposed to think about. Sure, these women can tell us all about the War on Terror, the debt ceiling, transvaginal probes or the latest suicide bombing in Afghanistan, but it’s easier to devote time to serious contemplation when the topics of intellectual discourse comes from someone who is valued purely for her aesthetic worth.

It’s not just that the anchors are basified; the so-called smart guests are also held to the same standard. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen Judith Butler discuss feminism (or any other philosophical topic, for that matter) on a talk show. Not only is there is a lack of unconventionally attractive feminine intellectuals, there’s no lack of name-calling, even among so-called smart people. And attacks on public intellectuals, particularly if the person is female, inevitably devolve to critiques on physical appearance. Feminists and other female intellectuals are often depicted as raging, loud-mouthed, shrewish, man-hating, “feminazis”, and that the only purpose of feminism, as Right-wing pundit Rush Limbaugh says, “was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.” (here’s the link. Check it out for yourself: http://mediamatters.org/video/2005/08/16/the-truth-according-to-limbaugh-feminism-establ/133652) Even on the Left, you know, those folks who claim they’re smarter and more intellectually inclined than their Right-wing counterparts, non-fans of Fox News regular Ann Coulter, although she is not an unattractive woman, often deride Coulter, not only for her opinions, but for having a (perceived) masculine appearance. She’s often accused of being transgendered. Some of Ann’s non-fans call her “Man” Coulter.

I think you can see what all the fuss is about.

There is even a Facebook page called “Ann Coulter’s Adam’s Apple”.

Ok, I know. You’re saying Ann Coulter is not a public intellectual. Sorry to bust your bubble, you filthy liberal. The days of Bertrand Russell appearing on the Mike Douglas Show or Buckminster Fuller chatting it up with Dick Cavett are over. These days, Ms. Coulter is about as public intellectual as you can get or rather, will get.

And, let’s be honest, Rachel Maddow also has a pretty noticeable Adam’s apple.

Now, really. Is Rachel Maddow’s Adam’s apple that much smaller than Ann Coulter’s?

Of course, a woman’s aesthetic worth goes both ways: if a woman is valuable only for her physical appearance, even if she’s on Fox News, she’s not taken seriously. If she isn’t good looking she isn’t asked to talk at all.

Unless she’s on PBS. That’s where the really smart people go.

This explains why people laughed when Kim Kardashian was depicted reading a quantum physics book in a California tourism ad.

Pretty funny picture, huh?

I guess there’s a reason why I watching Fox News got me thinking about looks and stuff… and it’s not because I’m one of those dreadful feminazis Rush Limbaugh enjoys railing about on his radio show. It’s because as a philosopher, I want and I think we all deserve substance over style. If a woman’s opinion isn’t valued because she does or does not conform to a particular aesthetic standard, regardless of which side of the political aisle a woman sits, we’re doing ourselves an intellectual and (ultimately) a philosophical disservice.

When we don’t hear from those who have knowledge and wisdom to share with us, we don’t learn anything.

That might just be what feminism is all about.

Oh, look! The soapbox I’ve been standing on says “feminist” on the side.

I guess this feminist will step down now.

SOURCES:

1.  http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sapiosexual

2. http://mediamatters.org/video/2005/08/16/the-truth-according-to-limbaugh-feminism-establ/133652