A Very Merry Un-birthday To Me

TODAY IS my birthday.

Not gonna say how old I am.

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

Another year wiser, presumably.

Presumably.

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

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

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

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

What am I doing to live the best life philosophically?

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

It’s been kinda a rough year.

Hasn’t it been for everybody?

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

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

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

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

Would Plato throw a surprise birthday for Aristotle? 

Would Descartes throw back a few birthday shots?

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

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

Do philosophers have anything to say about any of this?

I pretty sure Kant had something to say about birthdays.

That guy had something to say about everything.

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

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

And philosophically fun isn’t much fun at all.

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

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

Well, folks…

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

MY RESTING BITCH FACE (aka, I look like Schopenhauer)

I REMEMBER I ONE DAY while I was walking down the street……

I usually spend my time while walking thinking about current events or my daily philosophical musings, but that day I wasn’t really thinking of anything in particular. I was kinda minding my own business.  As I was not thinking about anything in particular, I walked by a guy from the telephone company working on some telephone lines.

As I passed by. minding my own business, the telephone worker guy exclaimed, “Damn! You look like you just killed somebody!”

I look like I killed somebody?!?!? But this is how I always look.

I mean, It’s my face.

Apparently, despite my inner mood, I always look angry.

Actually, homicidal.

That was the day I discovered I have something called RESTING BITCH FACE.

On the inside, I think I’m thinking happy thoughts, but on the outside I look like this:

ezgif-2885415605

 

I guess if I want to be philosophically correct, I’d say I look less like this

the-philosopher-slavoj-z-007

And more like this:

slavoj-zizek

If I had to put a philosopher’s name to it, I guess you can say I have resting Schopenhauer face.

Although I just posted a couple of pictures of Slavoj Žižek.

Schopenhauer looked like this:

schopenhauer_185211

CLEARLY A HAPPY LAD

 

H.L. Mencken said, “There is no record in history of a happy philosopher.” I guess that’s true. philosophy isn’t known for its appeal to one’s funny bone.  In Plato’s Republic, Socrates says that laughter should be discouraged, in particular, laughter among the  members of the Guardians class.  Plato (as Socrates) writes,

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

So… if the father of Western philosophy says we shouldn’t be laughing all the time, it’s not hard to imagine that, for philosophers, resting Schopenhauer face isn’t just a facial expression, but a way of life. THE LIFE OF A PHILOSOPHER IS AN UNHAPPY LIFE. If you want to be a philosopher, you gotta perfect the look of a man who looks like, as a random telephone wire repair man would say, he just killed somebody.

Just look at this batch of philosopher sour pusses!

IMMANUEL KANT:

i-kant

GEORG HEGEL:

hegel1

THE SIDE EYE IS ON POINT

LUDWIG WITTGENSTEIN:

file-20180514-178746-136bfdq

FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE:

56-3730663-14391660861a93f43a6cd844aa90f34cd0a6e15657

HE’S NOT SMILING UNDER HIS MUSTACHE

Of course, there’s always an exception to the rule. 

You can find plenty of pics of Foucault smiling.

 

foucault

 

That half smile on Rousseau’s face is hard to miss…

 

jean-jacques_rousseau_28painted_portrait29

THE HALF SMILE OF A MAN WHO JUST DITCHED HIS FIVE KIDS

I guess the lesson here is, to be a happy philosopher you have to either abandon your kids or be into BDSM.

Hey, I’m halfway there already!

Anyhoo…. I think I’ve figured out that a life of loving wisdom is, by nature, a fairly unhappy thing.  Finding WISDOM and TRUTH in a world that runs on lies, alternative facts, and truthiness is an often hapless task. It’s not surprising that so many philosophers sport a frown turned upside down. Unfortunately for me, the more years I do this philosopher thing, the more less happy I get.

I think I kinda figured out why:

When I started a Facebook page for my blog (which was an blog for my book — or was it the other way around?) I wanted folks to know that  written philosophy isn’t just for professional philosophers. I wanted people to enjoy reading philosophy. Not exactly all academic level philosophy, but philosophy that would come from anyone who is a fan of all things philosophical. I wanted my blog and my other social media pages to serve as a platform for me and other people who write about philosophical stuff to share their works.

I really need to tweet more.

…and I gotta post more than one picture a month on Instagram.

But, despite my best laid plans, this is the internet and the internet is all about the memes. So, I started posting philosophy memes. It wasn’t long after I started posting memes that I realized that memes generated more likes than written philosophical content.

I had this revelation: MEMES ARE THE ONLY THING THAT GETS LIKES.

Even if it’s philosophy.

So now, I post memes with an occasional (actual philosophy) post. I throw in an original post only occasionally.

BECAUSE ORIGINAL MATERIAL DOES NOT GET LIKES — unless it’s a meme.

13bvgo

 

Here’s what I think: memes killed words on the internet. WORDS. SENTENCES. ACCURACY. COHERENT THOUGHTS….

That’s kinda the stuff that philosophy is all about.

……..And since I’m griping, may I add that people treat comment threads like it’s open mic night at Uncle Fuckety’s Chuckle Hut* and they’re testing their new material for their next Netflix stand-up special.

This situations doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.

This has got me feelin’ all

resting-bitch-face

 

I don’t know what made Schopenhauer sport the perpetual stinkeye (as there was no internet or philosophy memes back then)

Wait — we do know. It was Hegel.

…but I know what’s got me giving the Wittgenstein death stare when I walk down the street.

I could be thinking about the current state of philosophy.

hqdefault

 

You know, It’s probably nothing. It’s just my face.

Pretty sure it was just Schopenhauer’s face, too.

 

 

 

Nah. It was because of Hegel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*I totally stole this phrase from Stewie Griffin (The Family Guy).

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

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

I couldn’t tell you what happened, tho.

I didn’t watch it.

I haven’t watched the entire season, actually.

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

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

if-daryl-dies-we-riot-15

MEMORIES OF BETTER DAYS… AND BETTER EPISODES

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

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

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

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

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

1p7i8a

Buzz gets it.

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

Wouldn’t you rather just watch tv instead?

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

How do we know it’s an obligation? 

Utilitarianism.

And, utilitarianism is PHILOSOPHY.

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

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

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

Wait a minute there is one.

Star Trek.

Another tv show is Star Trek. 

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

And who can forget this philosophical as hell episode?

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

giphy

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

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

tenor

YEAH. , AIN’T JUST LUCILLE

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

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

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

I no longer do that.

I’m no longer a fan of the show.

So I don’t watch the show anymore.

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

I hope it was.

Not likely, but I hope it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

A Philosophical Problem of Memes

THERE’S A PROBLEM in philosophy.

Not that problem. No, not that problem, either.

There’s a problem greater than any problem philosophy has ever faced before.

It’s not the Trolley Problem.

It’s not the Problem of Induction.

It’s not the Problem of Evil.

The problem, my friends, is stolen memes.

Specifically, uncredited stolen memes.

This problem may destroy philosophy.

Like Fight Club, the internet has rules.

and the first rule of internet memes is give credit to the creator. Giving thanks to the creative geniuses who find new and interesting ways to caption Salt Bae memes isn’t just being courteous — it’s the law.

Unfortunately, like Fight Club, the cardinal rule of internet memes is consistently broken.

I admit I don’t always give credit.

Anyone with a social media account and an interest in philosophy would observe that philosophy, like everything else ruined by the internet, is dominated by memes (after all, who actually wants to read Hegel?).

This unfortunate reality means the problem of meme attribution is now a philosophy thing — welcome to the ethics of philosophy memes.

Back in the early days of the internet, the notion of the internet as a digital commons wasn’t a far fetched idea. The internet, some were stupid enough to believed, could and should serve the common good. Ideas would be freely and openly exchanged across the fiber optic superhighway — everyone would have access to everything — the internet would be the ultimate egalitarian paradise.

And in a lot of ways it is.

Memes are freely and openly disseminated through social networks, and meme generating sites give any user the opportunity to use uploaded images, adding their own (presumably funny, but not always funny) caption.

Wait a minute. Do I have to explain what a meme is?

Just in case there are still folks out there who have no clue what a meme is, memes are:

a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users. (Google)

If we wanted to think of memes somewhat philosophically, we could argue that memes serve a utilitarian purpose. Memes inform, persuade, entertain, and (sometimes) convey complex ideas, in easily understood images.

We all know Schopenhauer detested Hegel.

What’s easier to understand, this — an actual quote from Schopenhauer about Hegel:

May Hegel’s philosophy of absolute nonsense – three-fourths cash and one-fourth crazy fancies – continue to pass for unfathomable wisdom without anyone suggesting as an appropriate motto for his writings Shakespeare’s words: “Such stuff as madmen tongue and brain not,” or, as an emblematical vignette, the cuttle-fish with its ink-bag, creating a cloud of darkness around it to prevent people from seeing what it is, with the device: mea caligine tutus. – May each day bring us, as hitherto, new systems adapted for University purposes, entirely made up of words and phrases and in a learned jargon besides, which allows people to talk whole days without saying anything; and may these delights never be disturbed by the Arabian proverb: “I hear the clappering of the mill, but I see no flour.” – For all this is in accordance with the age and must have its course.

Or this meme?

if-you-want-to-know-what-schopenhauer-was-like-just-7095191

It’s the meme, right?

*You may have noticed I did not give credit to the creator of that meme.

And that’s the problem.

The problem.

We’ve come to think of the internet as the place where everything belongs to everyone, however, online content  — every meme, blog post, or vlog — is the product of someone’s imagination.

That funny Hegel meme you just posted might seem like it has been floating around Facebook forever, but rest assured, someone created it. And if someone created it —

that somebody thinks it’s theirs.

Now, there used to be a time when (if) you used something that belongs to someone else, you’d say the words “thank” and “you”.

Giving credit to the creator of a meme is just that.

It’s saying “thank you”.

Giving thanks isn’t just a courtesy, it’s a way of acknowledging that someone else created something that, because of their creativity, we are afforded the opportunity to not have to create something.

Which is great for me, because I have no knack for creating clever memes whatsoever.

WHAT. SO. EVER.

If we was using law words, someone might call their meme their intellectual property.

Intellectual property is:

Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property that includes intangible creations of the human intellect, and primarily encompasses copyrights, patents, and trademarks Artistic works like music and literature, as well as some discoveries, inventions, words, phrases, symbols, and designs, can all be protected as intellectual property. (Wikipedia)

According to the law, intellectual property belongs to its creator. We violate copyright laws when we use (another’s) intellectual property without permission.

Because taking possession of someone else’s stuff without permission is theft.

There’s a reason why people call it stealing memes.

2b12dl

YES. I STOLE THIS MEME

The problem with stealing memes isn’t just using someone else’s creation without permission or acknowledgement, stealing memes also steals views and likes from the original creator.

If you peddle in stolen memes, you’re benefiting at someone else’s expense — using someone as a mere means to your ends.

And you know there’s no way in hell we’re going to make that a universal law.

Ok… so memes (at least none I’ve seen) are not copyrighted, but memes definitely are the creations of human intellect (specifically, someone else’s intellect). And– if we have on our philosopher hats, we’d know that the ethically correct individual shouldn’t depend on copyright law to tell him what is the morally right thing to do.

The ethically correct individual would give proper credit to the original meme makers because it is the right thing to do.

You could say it’s our moral duty to do so.

IMG_20181005_182629.jpg

You didn’t think I’d go a whole post without mentioning Kant, did you?

So…

Ok, I’ll admit I was a bit hyperbolic at the beginning of this post. Uncredited memes aren’t going to destroy philosophy.

I know what’s going to destroy philosophy, but it ain’t that.

The philosophical problem of memes isn’t a “real” philosophical problem.

Not to professional philosophers, anyway.

Professional philosopher’s DO NOT meme.

But, the taking and using someone else’s original ideas without giving proper credit is a problem — and not just a problem in philosophy.

I guess… if the next time you’re cruising the world wide web and you see fantastically hilariously derisive Hegel meme that absolutely must be shared, that giving a quick nod to the original creator is a good thing to do.

I mean, if using someone else’s intellectual creation without permission is theft, the very least we can do is say thank you while we’re doing it.

Becoming A Philosopher Was the Worst Thing To Happen To My Record Collection

I WASN’T BORN a fan of philosophy.

Many, many years ago I was just another latch-key kid who watched too much TV. With an empty house, plenty of snacks, and a TV remote in hand, I spent countless hours not doing my homework, watching everything from He-Man to The People’s Court to The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Back in the day, when music television meant a channel actually showed music videos, I watched a lot of MTV.
Now, back then, when music videos were becoming a thing, most videos weren’t very good.

And sometimes after watching a video, you would wish you’d never seen what the band actually looked like.

 

3-air-guitar

I WISH I’D NEVER SEEN THIS VIDEO

But every so often you’d see a video that had something more than bad camera work, cheesy sets and costumes, and big 80’s hair going on.

Some videos gave you the idea that there we something going on behind what we see.

In some cases, the thing going on behind the thing we see is philosophical.

Before I had ever heard of Jean-Paul Sartre. Before I had heard of Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble. And long before I had ever heard of postmodernism, I had heard of David Bowie.

Not only were Bowie’s music videos visually stunning, but many of his videos would leave me thinking, “Is there something else going on, here?”

As it turns out, there almost always was.

 

bowie-ashes-o

LOOK CLOSELY. THERE’S SOMETHING GOING ON, HERE

This explains why when David Bowie died in January of this year, I felt a little sadder than I normally would for the usual celebrity death. Bowie’s death wasn’t just the loss of a musical idol. It was a philosophical loss as well.

 

bowie kierkegaard

THE FACT THAT THEY LOOK ALIKE MAY NOT BE COINCIDENTAL

If I had my choice, I’d much prefer that my philosophical lessons come from watching music videos rather than from reading philosophy books. Really, if you think about it most songs are kinda philosophical, so it would make (some) sense that one would learn a philosophical lesson or two from their favorite musician.

 

bill ted and socrates

WE ALL REMEMBER THAT TIME SOCRATES TOURED WITH WYLD STALLYNS

 

It wouldn’t be too unreasonable, then, to consider the philosophy of some musicians in the same way that we adhere to the ideas of a particular philosopher.

The trouble pops up when one’s musical idols become what YouTube famous* atheist Steve Shives calls “problematic”.

And David Bowie certainly is “problematic”.

 

apollo-13-houston-we-have-a-problem-tom-hanks

 

David Bowie, like many other musicians, had certain relations that may be called “inappropriate”.

 

(comment) chris hansen

THIS KIND OF INAPPROPRIATE

“Baby Groupie” Lori Mattix recounted in an article for Thrillist that was deflowered by Bowie in the 1970s when she was just 14 years old.

Although Mattix insists that she’s suffered no irreparable damage from her encounter with David Bowie (in fact, Mattix says she was a willing participant and has no regrets), the fact that Bowie was an adult and Mattix had not yet reached the age of consent presents a problem. To wit: sexual relations with an individual under the age of consent, even if the individual is willing, is illegal.

The law calls it statutory rape.

 

giphy

 

The statutory rape allegations against David Bowie rape have lead some to argue that we should think of Bowie less like this:

 

Greatest Artists of All Time

 

and more like this:

 

bowie mugshot

 

The reason why, I think, has something to do with the fact that our favorite musicians are more than mere entertainers.

You see, music, according to Socrates, is an essential element in life. Not just because listening to music makes a long road trip fun, but because music plays a part in the formation of a good soul.

According to Socrates, it is important that we not only listen to music, but also listen to the right kind of music.

 

don't let your baby

And because the music we listen to is the right kind of music the quality of the music also reflects the quality of the people making the music. The right kind of music is made by the right kind of people.

And by “the right kind of people” we mean the kind of right-souled examples the community should follow.

 

not socrates 2

IT’S NOT AN UNFAIR ASSUMPTION THAT SOCRATES WOULD APPROVE OF MUSIC PERFORMED ONLY BY PEOPLE DRESSED LIKE THIS

 

But what about philosophers? As lovers of wisdom, philosophers should also be the right-souled kind of people the community should follow. Socrates even suggested that society should be ruled a philosopher-king. If we use the same standard for philosophers that we use for music and the makers of music, how many philosophers qualify as the right kind of people?
Well, let’s take a look at a few philosophers, shall we?
Hume and Kant were racists. Jean-Jacques Rousseau abandoned his family. Hegel was shitty to his illegitimate son. Hegel also said “The difference between man and woman is as between animal and plant”. Schopenhauer was a misogynist who described women as “[a] mental myopic” and pushed a woman down a flight of stairs.

 

arthur schopenhauer 1

Bertrand Russell had multiple infidelities with the wives of his friends. Nietzsche was a German nationalist who may or may not have influenced the Nazis. Heidegger was a Nazi. Descartes experimented on cats while they were still alive. Diogenes masturbated in public. Colin McGinn resigned from his position at the University of Miami following allegations by a female student of sexual harassment . Rutgers University philosophy professor, Anna Stubblefield was tried and convicted of sexually assaulting an intellectually disabled man.

 

Foucault was just weird.

 

sexy foucault

If you think about it, it’s not exactly a group of good souls.

Long story short, if we’re looking for the kind of good-souled people worth following, we may find very few in philosophy.

And that’s the point – just like some advised when David Bowie’s sexual improprieties came to light following his death – perhaps we should learn to separate the artist from his art – and the philosopher from his philosophy.

art from artist

philosophy from philosopher

 

Although I think that it’s sometimes for our own psychological peace of mind to ignore the unsavory bits of a philosopher’s or artist’s personal life, there’s something about overlooking the unpleasant parts that kinda, well, bugs me.

 

grinds my gears

EXCUSE ME WHILE I HAVE A PETER GRIFFIN MOMENT

I mean, why would we? Can we ignore the unsavory bits? Should we? Is it to our philosophical benefit to excise aspects of a person’s life and actions? Are some illegal acts really no big deal? At what point can we or should we not overlook the personal life or actions of a pop culture idol or a philosopher?

 

no heidegger

 

To be honest, I don’t know. I’m well aware of Bertrand Russell’s adulterous behavior and yet I still believe that Russell is one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. I’ve read the racist views of Hume and Kant and yet I still refer to Kant’s ethics and Hume’s metaphysics regularly in my writing. And even though Schopenhauer truly was an awful person, he retains a soft spot in my heart.

 

I still hate Hegel, though.

Finding out that Hegel was a turd of a human being only makes me hate him more.

 

hegel TLDR

 

I probably won’t stop listening to David Bowie’s music, either.

 

I think, in the end, we shouldn’t be required to abandon our fandom or appreciation for Hegel, Heidegger, Hume, Kant, or David Bowie. What we should be, however, is mindful. We should be mindful of the fact that anyone we look up to, be they a philosopher or our favorite singer, is a flawed human being.

We should never fail to remind ourselves that the ability to communicate profound words or deep insights does not make a person perfect (nor should it). We should remember that sometimes even good people do bad things.
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When all is said and done, there’s still a philosophical lesson to be learned – if only for the opportunity to ask what do we do when our idols are “problematic”?

I still don’t know.

If you figure out the answer let me know.

 

 

 

 

* I mean the term “YouTube famous” un-disparagingly, but to merely state that Steve Shives has a sizable following on YouTube. I, for one, am rather jealous of Shives’ following. I’m not even “Wordpress famous”.
I would also recommend checking out Shives’ commentary on David Bowie: 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/01/17/david-bowie-and-rock-n-roll-s-statutory-rape-problem.html

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.

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

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

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

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

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

This is Mr. Blackwell

mr blackwell

 

Mr. Blackwell is dead now.

That was Mr. Blackwell.

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

It’d be pretty cool if Kelly Osbourne did.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

ischope001p1

 

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

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

 

1. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)

no you kant
Perhaps best known for his works Critique of Practical Reason (1788), Critique of Pure Reason (1781), and the Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), the German Enlightenment philosopher, Immanuel Kant, is considered the greatest philosopher since Aristotle. Kant taught at the University at Konigsberg  (East Prussia) where he was a popular and well-regarded professor. Satisfied with neither the rationalist nor the empiricist theories of knowledge, Kant called for a “Copernican revolution” in philosophy an attempt to provide a satisfactory account for knowledge.

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

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

Kant was.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

2. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)

old fred

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

And is the patron philosopher saint of goth kids everywhere.

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

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

 

 

3. Gottlob Frege (1848-1925)

Gottlob_Frege

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

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

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

 

4. Aristotle (384-322 BCE)

aristotle bust

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

It is possible.

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

A few examples:

On the subject of slavery Aristotle wrote:

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

 

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

 

And On the subject of women Aristotle wrote:

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

 

Pretty much speaks for itself.

 

Aristotle also believed:

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

 

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

WRONG.

 

allistair gets slimed

 

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

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

‘Nuff said.

 

5. John Rawls (1921-2002)

rawls

Veil of ignorance. Period.

6. Ayn Rand (1905-1982)

ayn rand

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

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

 

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

And we should wan to be happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

7. Ayn Rand

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

 

8. Sir Bertrand Russell (1873-1970)

bertrand russell

 

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

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

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

First: Russell’s Paradox.

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

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

 

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

Because I have no idea what that meant.

That’s why I hate Bertrand Russell.

9. Leo Strauss (1899-1973)

leo strauss

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

Have you ever heard the name Paul Wolfowitz?

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

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

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

No big deal, right?

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

10. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

ischope001p1
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (of course he was German!) is best known for his work The World As Will (1818). Schopenhauer, along with (fellow Germans) Georg Hegel and Nietzsche introduced the concept of the will as a force in the world that makes things happen. The world, according to Schopenhauer (and later Nietzsche) is an expression of the will.

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

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

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

You could say Schopenhauer was the Debbie Downer of philosophy.

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

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

 

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

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

For starters, his attitude towards women sucked.

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

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

 

philosophy is magic

 

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

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

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

haters-gonna-hate-2

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Sources:

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

2) Aristotle. “The Inequality of Women”. Twenty Questions: An Introduction to Philosophy. 1988. Eds. G. Lee Bowie, Meredith W. Michaels, Robert C. Solomon, and Robert J. Fogelin. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc.  p. 525.

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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