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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MINDLESS PHILOSOPHY EPISODE I: The Phantom Christmas Post

WELL, FOLKS. IT’S THAT time of year again. It’s time for another mediocre Star Wars flick.

Nah. I’m joking. Rogue One was pretty awesome.

Well…the last two minutes anyway.

Well… Except for that bringing back a young Princess Leia thing. That was a one-way ticket to the uncanny valley. Mind you, it wasn’t Polar Express-level uncanny valley, but Rogue One Princess Leia definitely lives on an Alderaan adjacent to that creepy-kids-with-dead-eyes neighborhood that is Polar Express.

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Yikes.

I guess the silver lining, if there’s any, is that Polar Express isn’t a mediocre movie.

Unlike some Christmas movies, Polar Express is a fairly decent Christmas flick. Some Christmas flicks are downright pieces of shit.

Mediocre.

I’m talking December-release Star Wars flick level mediocre.

A funny thing about Christmas is that it’s a holiday swimming in mediocrity.

Just take, for instance, the Christmas torture device jingle”Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer”. That yuletide ditty about a dysfunctional family’s struggle to cope with an alcoholic member of the family’s sudden and tragic (and perhaps not entirely accidental) alcohol-related death is all kinds of suck ass, even for a Christmas song.

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She had hoof prints on her forehead and incriminating Claus marks on her back — that’s not a Christmas song, it’s an episode of Forensic Files.

By the way, Grandpa totally murdered his wife and made it look like she’d been the unfortunate victim of a drive-by sledding. I saw a woman murder her husband the same way on an episode of Snapped.

And let’s not forget that Christmas also spawned the Faul McCartney song “Wonderful Christmastime”. *

I actually like that song.

It’s catchy. Catchy in the same way an incantation from the Necronomicon is… catchy.

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As far as I’m concerned, it ain’t Christmas until I’ve annoyed myself singing that repetitive chant that releases the souls of the ancient ones chorus —

Come on. Sing it with me, folks

SIMPLY HAVING A WONDERFUL CHRISTMASTIME!!!

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I seriously think that singing the chorus of “Wonderful Christmastime”opens a portal to an alternate dimension.

Probably because every time I sing it, my apartment walls bleed.

But then, red is a Christmas color, so it’s all good.

I have gone dreadfully off topic.

You know, it’s not a regular philosopher thing to associate mediocrity with philosophy. We, that is, those who do philosophy — especially those who do philosophy professionally — wouldn’t use a word like mediocre to describe anything associated with the love of wisdom.

Some might use words like stupid or irrelevant or useless

But not mediocre.

However, the fact that philosophy itself isn’t mediocre, does not mean it’s immune from an occasional bout of mediocrity.

I PROMISE I’M NOT GOING TO USE THIS AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO PICK ON IMMANUEL KANT.

I mean, just say the words “mediocre philosophy” and then count the minutes before somebody says the name Ayn Rand or has something to say about the trolley problem or rolls their eyes at the complete lack of any real-world practicality of the categorical imperative…

Philosophers may consider themselves the Philosopher-Kings of rational thought, but like Star Wars, Christmas music, and odd-numbered Star Trek movies, philosophy has its fair share of not very good ideas.

More than its fair share of mediocre ideas, actually.

Logical positivism fails its own verification principle.

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According to some people, Atlas Shrugged is considered legit philosophy.

Kantianism.

All bad ideas.

All mediocre ideas.

Anyway…

Enough with the philosophy stuff.

It’s Christmas. It’s time to simply do wonderful stuff. It’s time to listen to the choir children sing their song.

They’ve been practicing all year, you know.

It’s time to over drink, over think, over eat, and pretend that philosophy books make good Christmas presents.

Speaking of mediocre…

So, from me, The Mindless Philosopher, to you and your kin, Seasons Greetings, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas or whatever preferred sentiment you use to wage the War On Christmas.

And as I tweeted this afternoon…

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MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYBODY!!!

 

 

 

 

* I consider the existence of “Wonderful Christmastime” to be definitive proof that the real Paul McCartney died in 1966. The real Paul would have never recorded this song.

 

 

 

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

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

I couldn’t tell you what happened, tho.

I didn’t watch it.

I haven’t watched the entire season, actually.

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

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

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MEMORIES OF BETTER DAYS… AND BETTER EPISODES

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

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

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

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

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

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Buzz gets it.

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

Wouldn’t you rather just watch tv instead?

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

How do we know it’s an obligation? 

Utilitarianism.

And, utilitarianism is PHILOSOPHY.

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

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

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

Wait a minute there is one.

Star Trek.

Another tv show is Star Trek. 

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

And who can forget this philosophical as hell episode?

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

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

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

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YEAH. , AIN’T JUST LUCILLE

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

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

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

I no longer do that.

I’m no longer a fan of the show.

So I don’t watch the show anymore.

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

I hope it was.

Not likely, but I hope it was.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Misinterpretation Station

I’LL BE THE FIRST to admit that I rarely ever read comments.

It’s not because I don’t want to read comments. I do. I would never discourage anyone from writing them, even on my blog where I almost certainly will never read them. I just never get around to reading them. My mind is always occupied by other things.

Like composing the perfectly philosophically adroit tweet inside my head and then never actually tweeting it.

I’m kidding I never think about that. Never.

When I do get around to reading comments — and I do appreciate anyone who takes the time to write one — there’s a particular kind of comment that I never fail to enjoy:

It’s the comment that starts off like, I think you misunderstand what so-and-so said…

it’s the not-negatively phrased negative comment that philosophers love to make.

Listen: I kinda know that.

It’s kinda the point.

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Sometimes I’m wrong. But sometimes… I’m wrong on purpose. 

The key to being wrong on purpose is that you actually gotta know what you’re talking about.

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It’s kind of like how people say that Marilyn Monroe made a career playing the dumb blonde, but was in on the joke the whole time. She was smart enough to know there was money to be had in playing dumb.

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OK. MAYBE NOT THE BEST EXAMPLE. I SHOULD HAVE SAID JAYNE MANSFIELD. YOU KNOW… BECAUSE SHE HAD A HIGH I.Q.

Although you’d be hard pressed to find even one professional philosopher who would admit that they were ever wrong (aka, dumb), even if they’re in on the joke.

…unlike Marilyn Monroe.

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THIS WOULDN’T BE A MUG IF PHILOSOPHERS EVER THOUGHT THEY WERE EVER WRONG

When I was a kid, I used to go to Bible study.

I know, we all do strange things in our childhood.

Anyway, while I was supposed to be reading the Bible to learn the correct way to interpret the infallible word of God, I was more interested in learning all the ways people get Bible verses wrong.

There are a lot of bad ideas about what the Bible says out there, and by golly, I was going to figure it all out.

I was ten years old.

You see… the way I see it, the one thing that makes the examined life worth living is grabbing a philosophical idea or two and then pushing and pulling the (ever-loving) shit out of it, just to see where it goes.

even if, in the end, all our pushing and pulling goes nowhere.

even if, in the end, we got it all wrong.

We all know that philosophers have a thing for an exact fit. That is to say, we (assuming I can call myself a philosopher) like the theories that not only look good on paper, but also  explain the how and why of everything and defeat all counterarguments in any and every philosophical situation — real or thought experiment.

But if you’ve lived for more than two minutes outside of a philosophy class, you’d know that the real world doesn’t work that way. There is no exact fit. Contrary to whatever Immanuel Kant may have thought about his transcendental idealism, there is no theory that does — or can — explain everything.

or in that case of Kant, explain anything.

…and that’s where all that pop culture stuff comes in.

You see folks, we can use movies, books, notable people and events, and tv shows (collectively known as “pop culture”) to push and pull on philosophical ideas. We can use pop culture as ready-made thought experiment templates, filled with characters and situations we can use to expand, clarify or even disregard philosophical ideas (in the real world) when we apply, and at times, misapply philosophy.

Is the movie Groundhog Day and exact fit of Nietzsche’s eternal return? No. It isn’t.

Is The Matrix the most philosophically correct depiction of whatever it was that Descartes said about not knowing if the world is real and all that evil demon stuff?

Nope.

Is Ferris Bueller an true Randian objectivist? Probably not.

He’s actually more of a utilitarian.

Would Descartes say that cinematic zombies don’t think, so therefore they aren’t am, so therefore they aren’t rational beings, so therefore we can regard them in the same way that we would regard a clock….or a cat?

…wait a minute, he probably would say that.

The point is, is that when you apply philosophical ideas (or theories) to something pop culture-ish, like a movie or a fictional character, there will always be multiple ways to interpret how a character is and what that character does.

…unless your name is Ingmar Bergman and you totally made your movie philosophical intentionally.

Multiple ways to interpret things correctly also means there are multiple ways to misinterpret things.  Misinterpreting (even the intentional misinterpretation) a philosophical idea or how the idea can be applied in the real world does some good, too. How else would you know if it works?

And really, not getting it right doesn’t mean you’re wrong.

Especially if you’re having fun.

And anyway, who cares? It’s not like you’re up for tenure.

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ALTHOUGH I’M NOT HAVING MUCH FUN WITH THE WALKING DEAD ANYMORE (sucks what they did to Carl)

So… pack a bag and come with me down to misinterpretation station!

You might just enjoy yourself doing some philosophical pushin’ and pullin’.

 

I AM THE MINDLESS PHILOSOPHER

YEARS AGO, I WROTE a book.

It’s a philosophy book. Or rather, it’s a book about philosophy.

…kinda sorta about philosophy.

I mean, I use the word “philosophy”. And I quote Nietzsche.

That’s all you need for a philosophy book, right?

Now, when I was a philosophy student, I used to lament (sometimes – ok, a lot of times − out loud) the fact that most of the philosophy texts I was reading – the books every philosophy student is required to read – THE GREAT PHILOSOPHICAL TEXTS BY THE GREATEST PHILOSOPHICAL MINDS – were… well…boring.

Positively dull.

If earning a philosophy degree taught me anything, I learned that reading Immanuel Kant is the perfect cure for insomnia.

Reading Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason = snoozefest.

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KANT’S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON CAN ALSO BE USED AS A PILLOW OR AS A MAKESHIFT  BLUDGEONING DEVICE TO BE USED AGAINST WOULD-BE AXE MURDERERS

It’s not just mind-numbing boringness that philosophy has to overcome; people just don’t like philosophy or philosophers.

Americans are notoriously anti-intellectual. The average stereotypical American doesn’t trust a guy who’s a smarty pants. And really, who can blame them?

Smarty pants people invented the atomic bomb.

They also created reality tv.

If it wasn’t for that smart guy Dr. Phil, none of us would have any idea what “cash me ousside” means.

and if you don’t know, god bless you.

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THANKS, DR. PHIL

To be fair, Dr. Phil isn’t a philosopher. He’s a psychologist.

William James was a psychologist. And a philosopher.

William James was one of the fathers of Pragmatism.

Dr. Phil is pragmatic.

Therefore, I think, Dr. Phil IS a philosopher.

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CAN’T BE ANY WORSE THAN NICOMACHEAN ETHICS

Anyway… generally speaking, there’s always been a certain amount of negativity directed towards philosophers and philosophy.

Popular culture depicts philosophers as mopey navel gazers.

If society is correct, philosophers are only good at contemplating things that, in the long run, aren’t useful.

Schopenhauer was mopey.

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THE MAN EXUDES MISERY, DOESN’T HE?

Wittgenstein realized logical positivism was a dumb idea – even though he was the person who invented it.

Here’s the thing: even though people think philosophers are good only for thinking about things that no normal person cares about, there’s always been a place for the philosopher in society.

No one wants to admit it; the lovers of wisdom are an essential part of the way things are.

Just think about our popular culture for a minute.

You personally might not give two poops about philosophy, but if you exist right now, your “life” is the product of a long list of philosophers including (but definitely not limited to) Hegel, Nietzsche, Leo Strauss, John Stuart Mill, Plato, and Ayn Rand.

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LEO STRAUSS: THE MOST INFLUENTIAL PHILOSOPHER YOU’VE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD OF, AND LIKELY WON’T GOOGLE, EVEN AFTER READING THIS BLOG POST

You won’t find a critically praised tv show or movie, a failed economic theory, a celebrity-slash-deep thinker, or a dumb politician who hasn’t quoted, misquoted, paraphrased, borrowed or stolen an idea from a philosopher.

Don’t believe me?

You’d think with all the philosophy everywhere, that we would, as a society, be a little more positive about philosophers and philosophy.

Nope.

and I’ll tell you why…

Are you listening? Here’s the reason why:

PHILOSOPHERS ARE NOT FUN.

Seriously, philosophy types are not a very fun lot to be around.

At the risk of being ad hominem-y, take a good look at the nearest philosopher. LOOK.

Look at him. Or her.

Now, ask yourself – am I looking at a person who looks like they’d be fun to be around for more than five minutes?

Sure, a professional philosopher will insist that they’re fun and funny and all-around interesting people, but do not be fooled. A fun philosopher is fun – for a philosopher.

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I’E USED MY POWERS OF PHILOSOPHICAL SPECULATION TO DETERMINE THAT MOST PHILOSOPHERS ARE UNFUN — EXCEPT FOR DIOGENES. DIOGENES SEEMS LIKE A FUN GUY

The reason why philosophers are un-fun has to do with the natural disposition of philosophers. Philosophers operate under the delusion that every conversation must adhere to a set of absolute bullshit rules on how conversations are supposed to go.

NO AD HOMINEMS ALLOWED.

Philosophers use fancy “philosophical” words like invalid, fallacy, and this is complete bullshit, why are you even in my class!?!?! to describe conversations that don’t adhere to The Rules.

Pffft!

As much as I love the love of wisdom, I got tired of not having fun.

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I mean, sometimes rules are great. Rules come in handy. Philosophy is a rigorous intellectual pursuit and strict rules are needed to produce coherent theories and arguments.

Makin’ rules is what made Immanuel Kant the greatest Kantian philosopher of all time.

But, every once in a while, even when doing philosophy, you gotta let one rip.
and not just figuratively.

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I had a philosophy professor who told a story about a conversation they had with another philosophy professor on a plane. My professor said that the conversation got so deep in arguing over theory that another passenger sitting nearby asked them to stop talking.

The professors weren’t using vulgar language. They weren’t looking at pornography. They weren’t defecating on the food cart or having an overly enthusiastic debate to settle whether Negan or The Governor was the baddest bad guy on The Walking Dead.

They were discussing philosophy.

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FOR THE RECORD, THE BADDEST BAD GUY WAS GARETH. GARETH ATE PEOPLE!!!

In the ears and minds of a pair of philosophy professors, a discussion about philosophy is something suitable to engage in around an airplane full of strangers. However, for the other passengers, being stuck in the fuselage of a jet aircraft (involuntarily) listening to a couple of philosophy enthusiasts talk about whatever it is that overthinkers talk about, had made an otherwise somewhat entertaining plane trip intolerable. UNFUN.

PHILOSOPHERS MAKE THINGS UNFUN.

Think about it: think of all the fun times you’ve ever had. Were there party hats? Yes. Mixed drinks? Probably. Strippers dressed as firemen? Undoubtedly. Was a philosopher involved? Absolutely not.

No fun time ever involves philosophers.

…except for maybe Diogenes.

In his 1748 treatise An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, the Scottish philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776), wrote, “Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.” Hume understood the necessity of philosophy, but he also knew that there’s more to life than philosophy. Namely, Hume knew that life is to be enjoyed – to have fun.

In his last days, Hume told jokes, played cards, hung out with his friends.

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ANY GUY WHO WEARS A JACKET THIS FLASHY PROBABLY KNOWS HOW TO HAVE A FUN TIME

And that’s what brings me to this. This blog.

Serious philosophers take philosophy things way too seriously.

There’s nothing worse than telling a good philosophy joke to a philosophy pro and getting nothing but a blank stare because the mofo takes philosophy too seriously to see the humor.

 

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IS THIS THING ON?????

 

Some people study philosophy for the sake of understanding the theory. Some people get their jollies discussing theories.

This is not that kind of blog.

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I think a part of enjoying anything you love is to be willing to take a bit of the piss out of it.

So, what would a philosophy blog written by someone who avoids deep theoretical philosophical discussions… someone who thinks skimming is sometimes just as good as actually reading an actual book… someone who thinks the answer for any philosophical question can be found in an episode of Star Trek look like?

You’re looking at it.

This blog is my philosophical mission. I call it mindless philosophy.

I AM THE MINDLESS PHILOSOPHER.

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I am a philosopher; but, amidst all my philosophy, I am still a man.

I’ve said, from the moment I decided to start a blog, the first aim of The Mindless Philosopher is to have fun. I love philosophical discussions, but, truth be told, The Mindless Philosopher is not above name calling, writing pedantic blog posts of somewhat-deep philosophical analysis based on a misinterpretation, emotion-based arguments or the tried and true ad hominem attack.

 

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IF YOU CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, “YOU’RE A FUCKING MORON!” ALWAYS WORKS

 

Yeah, I know it’s not PHILOSOPHY, but PHILOSOPHY isn’t entirely the point of my blog. I’m not a professional philosopher, I don’t have tenure and I’m not getting paid to do this. I’m just a schmo who got an undergrad degree in philosophy and decided to use it as an excuse to watch way too much tv.

And write a blog about it.

Listen:

You know what’s got a lot of philosophy in it?

TV shows got philosophy. So do movies.
And music
And books

And former reality tv show hosts who become president of the United States.

 

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CAN’T BE ANY WORSE THAN PRINCIPIA ETHICA

Sure, taking philosophy out of academia and applying it to your favorite tv show can be a daunting task. It’s messy. Theories sometimes don’t work, and sometimes you have to stretch a theory to fit.

Sometimes you discover that your brilliant philosophical analysis of the brave protagonist has been an exercise in how to misapply a philosophical theory.

In the end, I guess if I had to explain why I do this – why an amateur deep thinker (like me) would dare to venture into the world of philosophy − I truly think that anybody can be a philosopher. You don’t need to attend university or have a PhD to ponder life’s big questions. If we’re talking about the human condition, it makes sense to bring philosophy out of the academy and into the real world.

Because that’s where the people are.

 

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LOOK AT ALL THESE NOT-PHILOSOPHER PEOPLE WAITING TO LEARN PHILOSOPHY!

 

Thinking philosophically doesn’t require that anyone read the complete works of Bertrand Russell or understand the Hegelian dialectic. You don’t need to know who Slavoj Žižek is or that he’s called the Elvis of philosophy to do philosophy.

Anybody can do philosophy. Anybody should do philosophy.

You see, we can use philosophy to understand things.

 

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AT LEAST TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THE HELL THIS IS ALL ABOUT

 

If a philosophy degree is an interesting path to poverty, I might as well have some fun with it.

…and do a little bit of mindless philosophy along the way.

 

I AM VEGAN

 

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

Not because of Halloween and Valentine’s Day.

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

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

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

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

Dammit.

Oops. Spoiler alert.  

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Well, anyway….

 

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

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

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

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

Can a zombie experience an ethical dilemma?

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

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

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

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

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

I eat meat.

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

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

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

 

It does.

 

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

 

…and not just because bacon tastes yummy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Preferably using utilitarian ethics.

 

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

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

 

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YEP…HE WROTE THAT

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

In Lectures on Ethics, Kant states:

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

Korsgaard states:

 

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

On factory farms, Korsgaard states:

 

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

 

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

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

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Our friend, Wikipedia defines personhood as:

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

Kant writes:

 

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

 

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

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

 

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PICTURED: NOT RATIONAL PERSON

 

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

So, that means some animals are persons, right?

 

 Well….

 

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

 

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KIKO AND TOMMY

 

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

If not legally, then at least philosophically.

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

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

The Court ruling stated:

 

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

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

 

So…. What are we to do?

 

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

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

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

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SOURCES:

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

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

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

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

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

 

OBLIGATORY CHRISTMAS POST

I’VE SAID IT BEFORE but it’s always worth repeating: I AM NOT A FAN OF CHRISTMAS.

Oh sure, if you want to give me a Christmas present, I’ll take it I’ll eat the hell out of some Christmas cookies.

Just don’t expect that I’ll join you in singing Christmas carols or play any part in a secret Santa.

And I don’t say no Merry Christmas to the greeters at Walmart.

Here’s some war on Christmas for ya, Bill O’Reilly.

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Like Hall and Oates said, I don’t go for that.

My favorite Christmas movie still is Christmas Evil.

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I CAN NEVER GET ENOUGH OF THIS MOVIE

Now, people who spend the holiday season filling themselves up with the Christmas spirit might call someone with my disposition a “Grinch” or a “Scrooge”.

If that’s what you call someone who don’t do Christmas, so be it. A Grinch I am.

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…EXCEPT MY HEART ISN’T TWO SIZES TOO SMALL. QUITE THE OPPOSITE, ACTUALLY.

I.

DO.

NOT.

HAVE.

THE.

CHRISTMAS.

SRIRIT.

If you’re not quite sure if you have the Christmas spirit, the Christmas spirit (according to Answers.com) means:

To have the “Christmas spirit” means to get involved and excited about the atmosphere of holiday traditions and gift giving.

The Christmas spirit, specifically the giving part, is what got me thinking all philosophically about the season of Ho Ho Ho this year.

I’ll admit that I’m a Grinch.
But in no way am I a Scrooge.

20 film adaptations, numerous made-for-TV, stage, radio, and print versions of Charles Dickens’ 1843 Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol (aka, A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas) tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge, as the modern connotation suggests, is a man unaffected by the Christmas spirit.

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Ebenezer Scrooge hates Christmas.

And like his namesake, Scrooge McDuck, the only thing that Ebenezer Scrooge loves is money. Says Ebenezer Scrooge,

“Christmas is a poor excuse every 25th of December to pick a man’s pockets.”

Fortunately for Scrooge, his love of money has made him a very rich man.

Unfortunately, an unmitigated love of money is a sin.

Since God don’t like sin, to save the doomed soul of Ebenezer Scrooge, Scrooge is visited, on Christmas Eve, by three ghosts: the ghost of his late business partner Jacob Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

Wait – that’s four ghosts.

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The spirits’ message to Scrooge: if he doesn’t relinquish his greedy ways, he’s doomed to an eternity of torment, haunted by a life wasted; devoted to nothing more than making money – the same fate that has befallen his old partner, Jacob Marley.

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JACOB MARLEY IS CONDEMNED TO SPEND AN ETERNITY LIKE THIS… 

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in response to the treatment of the poor of late 1800s London.

In short, if you were poor you were screwed.

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DON’T LET THE COBBLESTONE STREETS FOOL YOU. IT’S DIRTY AND DREARY DOWN THERE

In Stave One of A Christmas Carol, a conversation between Scrooge and a couple of charity collectors goes like this:

“At this festive season of the year, Mr. Scrooge,” said the gentleman, taking up a pen, “it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and Destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.”

“Are there no prisons?” asked Scrooge.

“Plenty of prisons,” said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

“And the Union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?”

“They are. Still,” returned the gentleman, “I wish I could say they were not.”

“The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?” said Scrooge.

It’s not entirely surprising, then, that Scrooge, when one of the collectors tells him that the poor would rather die than suffer in prison or the workhouse, says:

“If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

A fan of Ayn Rand before there was Ayn Rand.

The four spirits (after tormenting the guy all night) persuade Scrooge to give up his greedy ways. However, unlike the factory owners and landlords who were more than willing to allow their workers and tenants languish is poverty and squalor, Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge experiences a change of heart and Scrooge is redeemed.

Changed – for the better.

Scrooge is imbued with the Christmas spirit.

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Dickens wrote:

Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

Because that’s the way that morality tales work.
It doesn’t matter whether Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a Christian allegory, or a simple tale of bad guy gone good The moral takeaway, no matter what you believe in, is the belief that we are here, not just to enrich ourselves, but to do good for others.

There are a few famous philosophers who also wrote something a little along those lines…

John Stuart Mill, inventor of utilitarianism, wrote:

“The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.”

The German philosopher, Immanuel Kant wrote:

“Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of another, always at the same time as an end and never simply as a means.”

The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote:

“What you would avoid suffering yourself, seek not to impose on others.”

From the Upanishads:

“Let no man to do another that which would be repugnant to himself; this is the sum of righteousness. A man obtains the proper rule by regarding another’s case as like his own.”

In his new-found redemption, Ebenezer Scrooge is struck by the desire to do good to others. No longer consumed by the love of money, Ebenezer Scrooge vows to works for the good of everyone: the family of his long-exploited employee, Bob Cratchit, his nephew − oh god, what was his nephew’s name?
Fred. His name was Fred, right?

Dickens writes,

“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did NOT die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”

In the end, I suppose a genuine Christmas hater like myself could learn to enjoy Christmas − if not merely for the pleasure of eating a diabetic coma-inducing number of sugar sprinkled sugar cookies, but for the opportunity to learn a philosophical lesson (in this case, do good for other people or else) from a Christmas movie that doesn’t involve a deranged killer Santa or a terrorist take-over of the Nakatomi Plaza.

By the way, Die Hard – totally a Christmas movie.

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I mean, would I rather have my philosophical lesson of the day reading Kant’s Groundwork or watching the 18th film adaptation of A Christmas Carol?
I’ll tell you right now, I’d rather watch the movie.

I’ll even wear an ugly Christmas sweater while doing it.

 

 

 

 

 

SOURCES:

http://www.answers.com/Q/What_does_it_mean_to_have_the_christmas_spirit?#slide=1

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

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/xmas/scrooge.html

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Carol#Stave_5:_The_End_of_It

How To Destroy Hegel

IF YOU ASK ANY random group of philosophy fans who their least favorite philosopher is, you won’t have to survey more than two philosophiles before you hear the name of the 19th century German Idealist philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

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THIS IS GEORG WILHELM FRIEDRICH HEGEL (1770-1831), PERHAPS THE MOST HATED MAN IN PHILOSOPHY

Hegel (if you’ve bothered to read his work at all ‘cause these days a lot of people don‘t) is most famously associated (although some say mistakenly) with the concept of the dialectic. The dialectic goes as follows: one starts with an idea, the thesis, “against which is opposed by” a conflict (the antithesis). The result of the confrontation is called synthesis, which is meant to resolve the conflict.

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DID YOU KNOW THAT THE  DIALECTIC, DESCRIBED AS THESIS/ANTITHESIS/SYNTHESIS NEVER ACTUALLY APPEARS (AS SUCH) IN HEGEL’S WRITINGS? DO YOU CARE?

As one of philosophy’s notoriously (mostly German) incomprehensible philosophers,a list that also includes Nietzsche, Kant, Lacan, and Husserl, Hegel’s philosophy was popular in the late 19th century. During that time, the majority academic philosophers in Great Britain and in the U.S. were Hegelians. Hegel’s writings on modernity, politics, and civil society not only influenced the German Idealists, but also Protestant theologians who attempted to reconcile philosophy and Christianity.

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Hegel’s philosophical masterpiece Phenomenology of the Spirit, written in 1807, was intended to get us to absolute knowledge. Hegel believed that his philosophy was the culmination of previous philosophical thought and attempted to solve all the problems of philosophy through a focus on logic and history.

Hegel says

What I have set out to do is to help bring philosophy closer to the form of science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title ‘love of knowing’ and be actual knowing

Now, there are people who like philosophy.

Most people who like philosophy have a favorite philosopher.

Hegel is no one’s favorite philosopher.

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SAID NO ONE, EVER

Personally, Hegel is not one of my favorites.

No German philosopher is.

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Listen: It’s no secret that there’s a lot of Hegel hate out there. Not that it’s completely undeserved.

Someone of it, I think, has to do with the way he looks.

I mean, look at the guy

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THIS IS THE KIND OF FACE YOU CAN GROW TO HATE BY JUST LOOKING AT IT

Ok, that’s kind of ad hominemy. We shouldn’t dislike a philosopher solely based on their looks.

If we did absolutely no one would read Leibniz. Or Heidegger.

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OH, THANK GOD

If you think about it, it’s kind of an accomplishment to be so despised by so many people.

Ayn Rand called Hegel’s philosophy “witchdoctory”.

This is a critique of Hegel coming from a woman about whom Dorothy Parker once said of Rand’s Atlas Shrugged

It is not a novel that should be thrown aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.

Even Schopenhauer called Hegel’s work “stupid and inept”.

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SURE YOU DO, OSCAR WILDE. SURE YOU DO.

Lots of philosophers dislike Hegel, but why do so many other people hate Hegel so much?

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What did Hegel do that was so philosophically horrible?
Maybe people hate Hegel because, as some claim, Hegel the man is as boring as his philosophy.

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Maybe our collective hatred of Hegel has something to do with the fact that Hegel treated his landlady like crap. Or maybe because Hegel fathered an illegitimate son (Ludwig) with his landlady, and that Ludwig not only spent his first ten years in an orphanage, but that Hegel also refused to pay for the boy’s education.

Yeah, Hegel was a shitty person but that’s probably not the reason why people hate him so much.
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Maybe it’s because Hegel dared to argue that Kant’s notion of ding an sich, is contradictory and inconsistent.

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It’s generally held that it is not wise to knock Immanuel Kant, but it’s a good guess that the reason why no one likes Hegel has everything to do with his philosophy. Second to fellow German philosopher Martin Heidegger, Hegel rates high on the “Huh???” chart.

Hegel is notoriously difficult to understand.

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Thus maintaining the German tradition of convoluted writing.
Simply put: the reason why so many people hate Hegel is because most people do not understand Hegel.

Even philosophers.

Hegel claimed on his death bed that only one man could understand him and that that man had misunderstood him.

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And those who do understand Hegel think his work is, well, stupid.

Especially philosophers.
I’m not going to even PRETEND to understand the first thing about anything Hegel wrote.

This fact, however, doesn’t necessarily prohibit us from hating him.

Especially if you’re a philosopher.

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Here’s a short list of what other philosophers say about Hegel:

Bertrand Russell on Hegel in Philosophy and Politics:

Hegel’s philosophy is so odd that one would not have expected him to be able to get some men to accept it, but he did. He set out with so much obscurity that people thought it must be profound. It can quite easily be expounded lucidly in words of one syllable, but then its absurdity becomes obvious.

Russell says that Hegel is the most difficult to understand of the great philosophers because almost all of his doctrines are false.

Schopenhauer wrote on “the stupefying influence of Hegel’s sham wisdom” and suggested that no one under forty read Hegel. Schopenhauer not only suggested reading Hegel will ruin one’s brain, he also declared Hegel a pseudo-philosopher whose philosophy paralyzes all mental powers and stifles one’s ability to think.

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Philosopher Glenn Alexander Magee says:

Hegel is not a philosopher. He is no lover or seeker of wisdom -he believes he has found it. […] By the end of Phenomenology [of Spirit], Hegel claims to have arrived at Absolute Knowledge, which he identifies with wisdom. Hegel’s claim to have attained wisdom is completely contrary to the original Greek conception of philosophy as the love of wisdom, that is, the ongoing pursuit rather than the final possession of wisdom.

Roger Scruton calls Hegel’s work

Like a beautiful oasis around a treacherous pool of nonsense, and nowhere beneath the foliage is the ground really firm.

Popper calls Hegel “meaningless verbiage”.

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You spend years trying to understand Hegel, but no one can agree on exactly what’s the meaning of Hegel’s philosophy.

Even Hegel himself proclaimed that no one ever understood him.

And if no one understands you, that means there’s a lot of room for misinterpretation.

This, as everyone knows, is a problem.

Some folks think that the problem with Hegel is that a lot of people misunderstand Hegel’s dialectic. And everyone not agreeing on the meaning of Hegel’s philosophy has resulted in a bunch of Hegel-influenced philosophical ideologies ranging from Continental philosophy to the philosophy of Karl Marx, and the rise of Nazism in Germany.

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YOU CAN BLAME ALL OF THIS ON HEGEL

The real problem with Hegel, according to a bunch of philosophers (and some other people), is that Hegel builds theories so great (great meaning big, not fantastic) that his philosophy collapses under its own weight. Hegel attempt to explain all reality – tries to solve all problems of philosophy – a task Hegel ultimately fails to accomplish. Hegel’s philosophy is so convoluted, complicated, and disconnected from reality, that it lacks any practical usefulness. Hegel is just so many words.

But in the end, he hasn’t really said a thing.

Ok, if no one likes Hegel or his philosophy – especially his philosophy, how is Hegel still so popular? Why or how does anyone still know who he is? Why are philosophy students still assigned Hegel’s work as a part of their required reading?
Seriously, why haven’t we decided to just stop reading Hegel?
keep-calm-and-hate-hegel

The real real problem with Hegel is that getting rid of the man and his philosophy isn’t as easy as declaring Hegel’s work meaningless verbiage and tossing it out to the rubbish bin of bad philosophical ideas. The reason why we can’t destroy Hegel is this: so much of our culture is Hegelian. Hegel’s philosophy, even though he’s possibly the most hated man in philosophy, is an inextricable part of our culture.

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Francis Fukuyama, author of The End of History and The Last Man, wrote of Hegel’s lasting influence on philosophy:

For better or worse, much of Hegel’s historicism has become part of our contemporary baggage. The notion that mankind has progresses through a series of primitive stages of consciousness on his path to the present, and that these stages correspond to concrete forms of social organization, such as tribal, slave owning, theocratic, and finally democratic egalitarian societies, has become inseparable form the modern understanding of man. Hegel was the first philosopher to speak the language of modern science, insofar as man for him was the product of his concrete historical and social environment and not, as earlier natural right theorists would have it, a collection of more or less fixed “natural” attributes. The mastery and transformation of man’s natural environment through the application of science and technology was originally not a Marxist concept, but a Hegelian one. Unlike later historicists whose historical relativism degenerated into relativism tout court, however, Hegel believed that history culminated in an absolute moment – a moment in which a final, rational form of society and state became victorious.

In the end, what are we to think about Hegel? I don’t know. Think whatever you want. Read, don’t read. I’m pretty sure there’s little chance that Hegel will take offense at what you think of him or his works.

Or what anyone thinks of what he wrote.

I’ll admit I haven’t met a book by Hegel that i finished, so really, am I in any position to say anything about the most Hated Man in Philosophy? Maybe. Is anybody?

"There you go Professor..."

 

 

Whatever we decide about Hegel, I’m sure that Schopenhauer is looking up at us and enjoying all of this… or not.

 

 

 

SOURCES:


http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/hegel-kimball-234

http://www.evphil.com/blog/hegel-poster-child-for-what-is-wrong-with-philosophy

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Georg_Wilhelm_Friedrich_Hegel#Quotes_about_Hegel

http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/09/12/what-the-hell-hegel/

THE WORLD’S WORST UTILITARIAN FOOD FOR THOUGHT

HANG AROUND WITH philosophers long enough and you’ll realize that philosophers think about some strange things.

I was going to say strange shit but I’m not sure about the parental settings on my blog.

Now, you can drop acid and open the doors of perception but as much as I enjoy “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”, I ain’t ever seen anyone tripping on LSD think up something as far out as transcendental idealism or logical positivism.

Philosophers think up this kind of stuff sober.

There’s a little thing that some philosophers do called ethics.

These ethics-practicing philosophers (or ethicists, if you prefer) sometimes engage in a game of “what if?”

An ethical “what if?” is pretty much about thinking up the most f’ed up situation one can think of (with moral implications, of course) and then asking, now, what would you do?

Folks on the outside call those kind of what ifs hypothetical situations.

If you’re a philosopher, you call those f’ed up situations a thought experiment.

If you don’t know already, thought experiments, as defined philosophically:

Thought experiments are devices of the imagination used to investigate the nature of things…
The primary philosophical challenge of thought experiments is simple: How can we learn about reality (if we can at all), just by thinking?

In ethics, thought experiments allow us to test ethical theories and by examining the principles or consequences of an act, we can determine whether an act is morally right or wrong.

Hypothetical situations like thought experiments allow us to be prepared for when a similar situation (or moral dilemma) confronts us in the real world.

There are many famous thought experiments:

The Trolley Problem

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Brain in Vat

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The Chinese Room

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The Ticking Time Bomb

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The Experience Machine

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Schrodinger’s Cat

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The Drowning Man

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Funny thing about that drowning man thought experiment…

For those who are unfamiliar with the scenario, The Drowning Man goes as follows:

You’re walking along (alone) by a lake when you see a man in the lake flailing his arms and yelling for help. It is clear that the man is drowning. Do you jump in the lake to save the man?

At first glance the answer is obvious: jump in the lake and save the man.

Most of us would jump into the lake to save the drowning man without hesitation.

But because this is a question cooked up by philosophers, it ain’t that easy.

A philosopher might throw in another “what if” like, what if getting to the lake requires you to cross a patch of grass and there’s a sign that says “Stay Off The Grass” or what if you can’t swim?

or, what if you’re in Germany in 1920 and the drowning man is ADOLF HITLER????

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UNFORTUNATELY HITLER APPEARS IN TOO MANY THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS

The goal of the “what ifs” in The Drowning Man thought experiment (and any variable in any thought experiment) is to put a moral obstacle in front of you.

Most people would step on the grass to save a drowning man. But what if the sign read TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT? What if the sign read DO NOT STEP ON GRASS BY ORDER OF THE GOVERNMENT?

Would you risk your own life to do save a drowning man?

Would you violate a rule or a law (and what kind of rule or law would you violate?) to save a drowning man?

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THINK BEFORE YOU STEP. WHAT ARE THE MORAL RAMIFICATIONS OF TREADING ON THE LAWN?

For a deontologist, this question is more complicated than you think.

Thinking about The Drowning Man Scenario also kinda makes us ask another, less pleasant question of ethics: Are there some people not worth saving?

Is a drowning Adolf Hitler worth saving?

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FOR MANY PEOPLE THIS IS A PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE ANSWER TO THE DROWNING HITLER SCENARIO

If you’re a deontologist, this question is more complicated than you think.

Asking if there are some people not worth saving can get us to asking and even more unpleasant question, are there some people not worth allowing to live?

“Allowing to live” as in letting someone live in the first place.

For instance, would you kill baby Hitler?

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JUST A REMINDER, THIS IS WHO YOU WOULD KILL

Before we all answer a resounding “yes”, let’s figure out why the question is more complicated than we think.

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APPARENTLY THE READERS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES DON’T THINK THE QUESTION IS COMPLICATED AT ALL

Most of us would agree that Adolf Hitler was one of the worst, if not THE worst human being that ever lived. Its arguable that the world would be a better place if he hadn’t been born.

… Or at least the world would be a better place if Hitler was prevented from joining the National Socialist Party and becoming chancellor of Germany.

Although we aren’t capable of actual time travel, a thought experiment allows us to imagine what if we could? If we could travel back in time to April 20, 1889, what would we do?

More importantly, what would be the morally right thing to do?**

Let’s look at the question of killing baby Hitler from the perspective of the two leading ethical schools of thought: Deontological ethics and the consequentialist ethical theory, utilitarianism.

Deontological ethics is defined as:

…the normative ethical position that judges the morality of an action based on rules. (Wikipedia)

Deontologists act from Duty.

It is our duty to respect the (moral) law.

Immanuel Kant writes

…to have genuine moral worth, an action must be done from duty… An action done from duty does not have as its moral worth in the purpose which is to be achieved through it but in the maxim where by it is determined.
Duty is the necessity to do an action from respect of law.

That means, damn the consequences, obey the law.

Let’s say a deontologist has a (moral) law, THOU SHALL NOT KILL.

*Maybe we should refine the rule: Thou Shall Not Murder (as defined as “the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another”).

The law is to be obeyed – no exceptions.

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If the deontologist believes that a rule is a rule and we must follow the rules, regardless of its consequences, even if his future self deserves it, we can’t exempt baby Hitler.

Because murder is always wrong.

The deontologist is bound by duty to let baby Hitler live.

Since we can’t obtain moral justification for killing the infant Hitler (presuming that is what we are trying to justify), we’ll look to consequentialist ethics (specifically utilitarianism) to tell us what is the morally right thing to do.

Enjoying this thought experiment yet?

For the utilitarian, it’s the consequences that matter.

In Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill writes

The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness. By happiness is intended pleasure, and the absence of pain; by unhappiness, pain, and the privation of pleasure.

If utilitarian ethics is based on the increase of pleasure and the decrease of pain, and we know that an individual is or going to be responsible for the destruction of over sixty million lives, we may be morally obligated not just to let an adult Hitler drown but also to kill baby Hitler.

However, there’s a hitch…

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Utilitarianism (and other consequentialist ethical theories) judge and action right or wrong based on its consequences.

At the time that we perform an act, we don’t know the consequences. We only know what we think might happen or what we want or expect to happen.

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REMEMBER, IF YOU DO UTILITARIAN ETHICS YOU CAN END UP SPENDING THE REST OF YOUR LIFE LIKE THIS

Right now, we have the benefit of hindsight; we know what Hitler and the Nazis did. But in 1889, when Hitler was an infant, no one could have foreseen what the newborn infant would do as an adult.

If we traveled back in time we would have to weigh the act of (preemptively) killing a child for something that the child hasn’t yet done against the death and destruction we know adult Hitler did.

It might be easy to walk away from a drowning man, especially if that man is responsible for the attempted genocide of the Jewish people, but even those who could walk away from a drowning Hitler in the lake may find it hard, if not impossible to purposefully kill a child, no matter how evil that child may become.

Another hitch with utilitarianism is that we have to consider possible consequences – multiple consequences. If we had some way to travel back in time or to see the possible futures of baby Adolf Hitler, we may also see future where he could be prevented from becoming the most evil man in history.

We discourage killing children, even children who have engaged in “evil” acts, because we believe those children can be rehabilitated.

If it’s possible to rehabilitate an potentially evil child, is this then, another option that we have for baby Hitler?

And if that’s a viable option (i.e., one that will produce good consequences), we can’t justify killing baby Hitler.

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YOU’RE NOT THE ONLY ONE, HANK

So… what would we do with baby Hitler?

What should we do?

A thought experiment can only ask…

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** Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way defending Hitler or suggesting that we should minimize Hitler’s and the Nazi’s atrocities for the sake of a thought experiment, nor am I suggesting that Hitler’s one life is worth more than sixty million lives world wide, including the nine million lives lost (including six million Jews) in Nazi concentration camps.

SOURCES:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/thought-experiment/

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deontological_ethics

Immanuel Kant. Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals. 2nd Edition. Trans. Lewis White Beck. 1997 [1785]. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 15-16.

John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism. 2005 [1861]. NY: Barnes & Noble Books. 8.

God Rest Ye Merry Kierkegaard

I WOULD BE LYING IF I said that I am a Christmas person. I’m not.

At all.

I don’t like Christmas.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with the fact that I do philosophy. I started not liking the Yuletide season long before I ever opened up a book of philosophical whatnot. Being a Christmas person is just not in my bones.

I speculate that at least some of my dislike has to do with Christmas carols.
That Christmas Shoes song…

ugh.

 

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Although, I maintain that my love of philosophy has nothing to do with my non-fondness of Christmas, some folks would like you believe that it‘s all because of philosophy.

That being a philosopher is the quickest path to eternal damnation.

 

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LIKE THIS MOVIE

 

Head’s up: some of you may not know this, but there are many philosophers who not only celebrate Christmas but also accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

That’s right, Kevin Sorbo.

Philosophers are Christians, too.

Like this guy

 

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and this guy

 

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and this guy

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There’s actually more than a few Christian philosophers out there.

And not all of them are dead.

 

Kind of like God.

 

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Although the common (mis)perception of philosophers is that philosophers are a bunch of God-hating academics that delight in nothing more than de-Christianizing freshman students.

 

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Yes, Kevin Sorbo. I’m still talking about you.

 

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Actually reading philosophy would inform even the most hardcore philosophers-hate-Jesus/morality folks that philosophy is also chocked full of some of the same Christian values that we teach/preach when we celebrate the birth of Christ.

Unless you’re reading Nietzsche.

 

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IT’S PROBABLY A SAFE BET THAT OLD FRED WOULD HAVE HATED THIS SWEATER

 
All the God talk at Christmastime isn’t just a great opportunity to contemplate the metaphysics of man’s existence and the universe, it’s also the perfect opportunity to contemplate one’s philosophical beliefs while also acknowledging the religious and philosophical influence of the central moral figure of the western world.

That figure would be Jesus.

 

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If you think about it, Christian Christmas ethics, with its principle of peace and good will towards men, is (basically) the foundation of every ethical theory.

 

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EVERY ETHICAL THEORY MAYBE EXCEPT FOR OBJECTIVISM. PRETTY SURE AYN RAND WOULD TELL JESUS F#!K YOU

 

Pick a moral philosopher – Mill, Bentham, Kant, Tillich… you name it. Every ethical theory is all about doing good for our fellow man.

 

The creed which accepts as the foundation of morals, Utility, or the Greatest Happiness Principle, holds that actions are right in proportion as they tend to promote happiness, wrong as they tend to produce the reverse of happiness.

 

Heck, Kant even wrote that our actions must first come from disposition of good will.

 

Nothing in the world – indeed nothing even beyond the world – can possibly be
conceived which could be called good without qualification except a GOOD WILL.

It’s not just getting presents that get philosophers all jazzed about Christmas.

It’s also about all the philosophy to be found this time of year!
Christmas stories of characters like Ebenezer Scrooge and The Grinch teach us about forgiveness and redemption.

ETHICS!

Modern Christmas classics like A Christmas Story and A Charlie Brown Christmas teach us the moral lesson of discovering what’s important in life.

MORE ETHICS!

Rankin-Bass’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer gives us a lesson in what to do when our beliefs are challenged by countervailing evidence and finding one’s place in the world.

EPISTEMOLOGY!
METAPHYSICS!

That’s all stuff that philosophers talk about.

 

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YES. IF YOU BECOME A PHILOSOPHER YOUR ARMS WILL LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THIS

 

So, if you hear anyone say that it’s improper for a philosopher to celebrate the holidays, tell them “Bah, humbug!” and hang another bauble on the Christmas tree. Offer the naysayer a mug of eggnog and explain, despite what Chick Tracts may have them believe, that there is nothing immoral about philosophy.
Still doesn’t mean a philosopher has to like Christmas, though.