The Mouse That Bored

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

Ready for it?

Listen carefully.

Here it is:

I hate reading philosophy.

I HATE READING PHILOSOPHY.

There. I said it.

There’s a perfectly legit reason for it.

 

philosophy messes your mind up

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

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

Except if I’m reading Bertrand Russell.

That mofo confuses me.

ME, READING RUSSELL

ME, READING RUSSELL

 

 

 

I hate reading philosophy because it’s boring.

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

Philosophy is boring.

It’s tedious and dull.

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

 

 

zooey

 

 

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

 

NIETZSCHE ROCKED THAT MUSTACHE LIKE A TOTAL BOSS

NIETZSCHE ROCKED THAT MUSTACHE LIKE A TOTAL BOSS

 

 

All philosophy might as well be written in comic sans.

 

 

no comic sans

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

AND HERE’S KE$HA:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Now honestly, who would you rather party with?

Right.

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

Star Trek is awesome.

 

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

 

It’s exactly the opposite of philosophy.

 

 

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

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

 

 

Ok. Do me a favor. Read this:

 

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

 
Pretty boring, right?

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

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

 

Now read this:

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

 

 

Liked that, didn‘t you?

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

Whoops. I shouldn’t have said that.

 

 

whoops

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

LT. WORF. BADASS LEVEL: KLINGON

LT. WORF. BADASS LEVEL: KLINGON

 

 

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

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

 

That’s just a few.

 

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

 

Precisely the opposite of what you get in most philosophy.

kirk and spock go platonic

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

 

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

 

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

 

EVERYBODY WOULD READ DESCARTES IF DESCARTES LOOKED LIKE THIS

EVERYBODY WOULD READ DESCARTES IF DESCARTES LOOKED LIKE THIS

 

I would add the following suggestions:

 

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

 

NOT PICTURED: RAMPAGE JACKSON

NOT PICTURED: RAMPAGE JACKSON

 

 

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

 

 

THIS OUGHTA PULL IN RATINGS

THIS OUGHTA PULL IN RATINGS

 

 

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

 

Ok philosophers, now it’s your turn.

 

I’ll tell y’all how it all works out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Current Events

Five minutes into the conversation and I was already regretting saying anything in the first place.

 

I’d made the mistake of telling a lady I’d just met that I was a political science major in college. Apparently she was one of those types who liked to discuss politics.

And when I say “discuss”, I mean someone preaches at you for the next thirty-three minutes.

There really are perks to being a wallflower.

 

Listen: I don’t mind discussing politics. I like to, actually. That’s kind of the reason why I majored in political science. I wanted to know how government works. To be formally educated on the form and function of our representative republic.

Unfortunately, the only lesson I can say that I’ve had so far, is that when you meet anyone wants to discuss politics one needs to tread lightly. I now realize that there’s a difference between an exchange of political ideas and a full-scale inquisition of all of my political opinions.

That’s what I’d been experiencing for a full five minutes.

 

A full-on Spanish-style inquisition.

 

the spanish inquisition

 

 

She demanded to know my opinion on Syria. Afghanistan. Edward Snowden.

Voter ID laws, abortion, 9/11 Truth, Obamacare, and Ted Cruz.

The corporate media. Fox News. And gun control.

Fracking.

 

Illegal NSA surveillance. Same-sex marriage. Drones. The Zimmerman verdict. Wikileaks and Bradley Manning.

 

Chris Christie.

 

What I thought about the Tea Party, Rand Paul, and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

 

Hillary Clinton hasn’t even announced her candidacy yet.

 

OH YEAH. SHE’S RUNNIN’ FOR PRESIDENT, ALRIGHT

OH YEAH. SHE’S RUNNIN’ FOR PRESIDENT, ALRIGHT

 

 

Getting waterboarded had to be easier than this conversation.

 

Five minutes into a lecture about dissolving the Federal Reserve, and all I could think of was how much this didactically-oriented (and annoying) lady looked like a young Walter Becker.

 

I felt the urge to sing “Reeling In the Years”.

 

THIS IS WALTER BECKER. NOW, IMAGINE SOMEONE WHO LOOKS JUST LIKE WALTER BECKER LECTURING A FELLOW PROGRESSIVE ABOUT THE EVILS OF CAPITALISM, WHILE WEARING A DEMOCRACY NOW! T-SHIRT… WITH BOOBS.

THIS IS WALTER BECKER. NOW, IMAGINE SOMEONE WHO LOOKS JUST LIKE WALTER BECKER LECTURING A FELLOW PROGRESSIVE ABOUT THE EVILS OF CAPITALISM, WHILE WEARING A DEMOCRACY NOW! T-SHIRT… WITH BOOBS.

 

 

Sometimes I want to discuss politics, but I don’t want to discuss politics.

 

I definitely don’t want any conversation to feel like I’m being interrogated at Gitmo.

 

Sometimes I really don’t feel like discussing anything politically important.

I’d rather talk about Justin Bieber’s retirement, Miley Cyrus’ latest media-grabbing antics or if Kim K really plucked her infant daughter’s eyebrows.

 

MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN DISCUSSING THE SEQUESTER

MUCH MORE IMPORTANT THAN DISCUSSING THE SEQUESTER

 

Sometimes I don’t feel like thinking about anything philosophically significant.

Sometimes I really don’t feel like dealing with reality.

Sometimes I want to hold on to my Panglossian view of the world. But my view keeps getting interrupted by current events. Reality can be annoying like that.

It’s hard to face reality every morning when this kind of headline is the first thing you see on the internet:

 

 

Capture fukushima

 

Looking at the headline I can conclude one of two things: I’ve been totally irradiated by fallout from Fukushima or Armageddon is going to start soon.

I’m pretty sure that both involve Godzilla rising up from the Pacific Ocean.

 

That’s just the start of the horribleness. If you think about it, there’s plenty of things going on in the real world that makes you not want to face the real world.

 

th (4)

 

That can be difficult if you’ve assumed the life of a philosopher. Philosophy is supposed to be about thinking about reality and stuff. There’s a whole field of philosophy devoted to doing just that.

 

It’s called metaphysics.

 

 

I SWEAR THIS IS NOT WHAT I'M DOING. BUT IF IT APPEARS THAT I AM, I'M JUST DEEP IN PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHT

I SWEAR THIS IS NOT WHAT I’M DOING. BUT IF IT APPEARS THAT I AM, I’M JUST DEEP IN PHILOSOPHICAL THOUGHT

 

But really, there are times that thinking about truth and what’s real and all that is just plain exhausting. I’d much rather think about the discontinuities in the Star Wars movies, comic books, and TV shows. I’d rather write The Walking Dead fanfic about romantic liaisons between Rick Grimes and his former friend and partner, Shane Walsh.

 

THEY SHARED A LOVE THAT DARED NOT SPEAK IT'S NAME... AT LEAST IN THE STORIES I WROTE.

THEY SHARED A LOVE THAT DARED NOT SPEAK IT’S NAME… AT LEAST IN THE STORIES I WROTE.

 

I so prefer an unreality reality that I’m totally obsessed with Don Draper but I have almost no interest at all in Jon Hamm.

I prefer this:

 
suit & tie

 

To this:

 

I SWEAR THIS GUY DOES NOTHING FOR ME

I SWEAR THIS GUY DOES NOTHING FOR ME

I’m way past elementary school but I still enjoy daydreaming.

 

Sometimes I would prefer to spend my day floating inside Robert Nozick’s experience machine than deal with what’s actually going on.

 

YEA! SENSORY DEPRIVATION!

YEA! SENSORY DEPRIVATION!

 

I mean, I know reality is a “big deal” and the point of Nozick’s thought experiment was to point out exactly why we shouldn’t want to spend our time in an artificial reality. But really, how much reality do we have to deal with?

Is it ever ok to just tune out? Ever?

The real world is often much too bothersome to deal with.

There aren’t enough philosophers to deal with the overwhelming dumbness.

It’s scary sometimes.

And besides, Kant says we’ll never truly know ding an sich, anyway.

 

neil de grasse tyson doesn't give a shit

AND BY NOBODY I REALLY MEAN “I”

 

 

Ok, I know. The answer is no. As a philosopher and as a human being, I should want to be intellectually, emotionally, and philosophically engaged with the world. The philosopher Robert Nozick (1938-2002) said that we should prefer real world experiences because our lives are made richer by the experience of actual (as opposed to electronically simulated) living. And to examine one’s life, as Socrates suggests, requires that one face all aspects of life, both pleasant and unpleasant.

 

DAMN YOU, ROBERT NOZICK!!!

DAMN YOU, ROBERT NOZICK!!!

 

I understand that the purpose of Nozick’s experience machine is to convince us that we should not want to escape reality. That’s not what I’m suggesting. Completely escaping reality is not what I had in mind. Reality sometimes is a fun thing. There’s Disneyland, the smell of Tide detergent on freshly-washed sheets, hot chicken pot pies, getting kicked in the face in the pit at a Pantera concert. All of these things should be experienced first hand. And really, if escape is the plan, there are easier ways to do that. I could drop acid every waking moment of my life.

And those moments would look like THIS:

 

psychedelic image

 

My question is that as a philosopher, am I required to pay attention to everything. Would I (or anyone else) be neglecting my (our) philosophical duty if I (we) decided that there are some subjects that I’m (we’re) not going to think about? If I do does it make me a bad person? Am I wrong if I decide to think about these fictional people:

 

downton abbey

 

 

Instead of this guy:

 

edward snowden

 

 

Which reminds me. The new season of Downton Abbey is on.

Gotta go.

 

 

 

 

(Although my tone is somewhat light-hearted, this was and continues to be a real dilemma for me. I think others may understand when I say that thinking about too many things often leads to a philosophical fatigue or intellectual malaise, where one may be tempted to not think or care about anything beyond trivial matters. I think the origin of my dilemma resides in the fact that a lack of knowledge or interest in worldly matters is a sign of malignant narcissism or stupidity. I insist that in my case that neither is so. I had mistakenly operated under the impression that either my attention has to focus on “important” issues or on the trivial, and had neglected to consider the possibility that one can do both. I found this quote by Nietzsche useful: “To live alone one must be a beast or a god, says Aristotle. Leaving out the third case: one must be both – a philosopher.”)

 
SOURCES:

The Portable Nietzsche. 1982 [1954]. Ed. and trans. Walter Kaufmann. NY: Viking Penguin Inc. p 467.

Living the Good Life: On the Pursuit of Happiness, Fame, Fortune, and the Philosophical Necessity of Twerking

Miley Cyrus.

There. I said it.

Nowadays, if someone even whispers the word “twerking”, she’s the first (and often only) name that comes to mind.

miley

I guess it’s up to you whether you want to tack a “fortunately” or “unfortunately” on that fact. For the record, when I think about twerking I think about this:

I’m not going to say anything about whether it is a good career move to officially shed one’s child star image by shaking one’s rear end in public places, but what I will say is that I can’t watch more than five minutes of TMZ Live without hearing the words “Miley”, and “Cyrus”, and “twerking”.

I’ve heard the word Syria on TV fewer times than I’ve heard the word “twerking” all month.

I gotta say that as much as I enjoy watching people twerk, I’m not a Miley Cyrus fan.

Luckily, for everything one can grow to dislike as much as one hates paper cuts or tequila-induced hangovers, there’s a philosophical something hidden in it somewhere.

They say that all of Miley Cyrus’ twerking antics isn’t about being inappropriate, but is about her want to reclaim the childhood that she lost while she was the star of the Disney series Hannah Montana®. It seems that Miley Cyrus has decided, now that she has the opportunity, to act the manner she wasn’t permitted to act when she was at the age when young people typically behave in a manner that we would call “acting out”.

In Miley Cyrus’ case, her “acting out” includes smoking weed and hanging out with “Molly”.

 

GOTTA THANK EBAUM'S WORLD FOR THIS.

GOTTA THANK EBAUM’S WORLD FOR THIS.

 

It seems that what’s really at the heart of Miley Cyrus’ behavior is that Miley, like so many of us, is trying to live the good life – the kind of life that makes one happy.

And when you talk about stuff like the good life and happiness, you’re talking philosophy.

Philosophers, from Socrates to Mill, have written about what kind of life constitutes the good life. Socrates wrote (actually, Plato wrote) that the good life is a life of philosophical contemplation. For Aristotle, the good life meant that one lives virtuously. John Stuart Mill says that once we’ve acquired a preference for higher pleasures (instead of lower pleasures) we are well on our way to living not only a good life, but a happy life. Mill writes that lower pleasures (e.g. sexual promiscuity, intemperance, gluttonous consumption of food and twerking) are merely physically satisfying and can’t make us happy. Indulging in mere physical pleasures, Mill writes:

“a beast’s pleasures do not satisfy a human being’s conceptions of happiness. Human beings have faculties more elevated than the animal appetites, and when once made conscious of them, do no regard anything as happiness which does not include their contemplation.”

Mill says that we should want to be a dissatisfied Socrates than a satisfied pig.
Unfortunately, though Socrates tells us that the best life is a life spent in philosophical contemplation, that’s not what society tells us is the good life. Two thousand years ago you could hire a philosopher (or a sophist, if you went that way) to teach you how to think. These days, the media not only tells us what the cultural zeitgeist is, the media tells us what to think about it.

The media tells us not only what’s important, what we should care about, but more importantly, what makes a good life. If you pay attention to the media long enough, you’ll soon be convinced that nothing matters more than being young, rich, famous, and beautiful.

And if you watch TMZ you’ll spend your day wondering what Lindsay Lohan is doing right now.

lindsay lohan tmz

What the media tells us is no matter how good we think our lives are, there are people out there (i.e. famous people) whose lives are marvelously better than ours. Not only are their lives better than ours, we should want to live the lives they lead. Their lives are the good life. After all, what could be more essential to living the good life than smoking salvia or twerking?

What can be more essential to living the good life than being famous?

So, when we watch the real-life downward-spiraling life of a Hollywood starlet or watch a fictional character whose life is nothing but a meaningless, black void, as long as they are either rich, famous, of good-looking, we can believe that their lives, despite all appearances, is good. Sure, a guy like Don Draper is a morally bankrupt, miserable, S.O.B., who lies not only to himself but to everyone else, but the fact that Don is moderately well-off and looks swell in a Brooks Brothers suit tells us that we need not worry about his philosophical well-being.

A guy like Don Draper is certain to live a good life and be happy.

I guess it has to do with pulling off a debonair look while smoking a cigarette.

don draper smoking

PRETTY SEXY, EH?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily condemning Miley Cyrus, TMZ  or any other celebrity.

Well, maybe I am condemning TMZ.

Any philosopher, well, most, will tell you that the right amount of physical pleasure is a good thing. A proper philosophical soul knows how to satisfy our higher and lower pleasures. And really, when’s the last time you heard of a philosopher drowning in his own vomit?

Our problem is that when we look at the media, they tell us that a good – THE good life is a life devoted to lower pleasures. According to our culture, the life of celebrity is the quickest way to living a lower pleasure-filled life. He might not have known it when he said it, but Andy Warhol hit the nail when he said that everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes.

As long as there’s reality television, everybody’s got a chance of getting famous on TV.

No doubt that being rich and famous is a good gig, but there are far too many examples of how fame and fortune has good reversing effect on people’s lives.

I mean, have you ever heard of the 27 club?

It’s not entirely wrong to appreciate the fact that the contemplative lifestyle requires longevity. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Gram Parsons, and Amy Winehouse all lived the culturally-approved good life, but they all died before their 28th birthday.
Aristotle lived to be 62.
Leibniz lived to 70.
Sartre died at 76.
Ayn Rand unfortunately lived to the ripe old age of 77.
Immanuel Kant lived to 80.
Heidegger died at 87.
Bertrand Russell nearly made it to the century mark. He died at age 97.

Noam Chomsky is 85 years old and counting…

Listen: A philosopher may be a dissatisfied Socrates, but living past the age of twenty seven might give us enough time to realize that satisfied piggery isn’t the best life to lead. Having fun is alright. We have an inalienable right to be happy (The Declaration of Independence says so), but we also should want to do more than have a good time or feel that knowing intimate details about the Kimye baby is more important than knowing details about the Chelsea Manning case. We should know that twerking or even reclaiming one’s lost childhood isn’t a bad thing, so long as we realize that some of the things we believe will make us happy or make our lives “good” are merely distractions; things that keep us from pursuing the kind of life that will make us truly happy – the philosophical life.

… But then again, it’s hard to argue that partying with Molly won’t make your life good, too.

Sources:

John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism. 2005 [1861]. NY: Barnes and Noble Books. pp. 12.