OF THE MANY subjects that I like to talk about but rarely write about, at the top of my list is a little subject called “current events”.

In particular, politics.

Although I enjoy thumbing through a treatise of classical political philosophy or even engaging in the occasional mostly political debate, the act of actually writing about something political kinda makes me cringe.

Mostly because a trip through any comment section about politics is cringe inducing.

toon-comment-section-31515176The internet has made political debate an often cringeworthy endeavor, but the cringe + politics combo isn’t new.

Cringy political talk (often in the form of shit talking and/or trolling) is as old as people with differing opinions saying their opinions out loud.

Founding Fathers Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton were masters at 18th century shit talking. Jefferson wrote about Hamilton:

I was duped … by the Secretary of the treasury, and made a fool for forwarding his schemes, not then sufficiently understood by me; and of all the errors of my political life, this has occasioned the deepest regret.

That’s pretty much the equivalent of Jefferson calling Hamilton a fucktard.*



We’ve all seem that word on Facebook.

…some of us have been called that word on Facebook.

Lucky us, eh?

The entire dialogue between Socrates and Thrasymachus in Book I of Plato’s Republic is one of the cringiest political debates in philosophy.

Especially the part when Thrasymachus asks Socrates if he had a wet nurse.

That’s what we call owning the libs.



Sometimes — more than sometimes — the internet kinda makes me wish politics never existed.

But, that’s the funny thing about politics. Politics can’t not exist.

I had a political science professor who used to tell his classes, “you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.” What he meant is, even if we personally don’t vote, participate in or keep informed about political affairs, politicians still make laws that effect us.

Try as we might to not get involved, politics is unavoidable.

And no, unfollowing our tinfoil hat-wearing, conspiracy nutjob uncle on Facebook won’t help.


Even if politics is unavoidable, exactly why should we get involved?

Well… the answer to that question, my friends, has something to do with a certain 4th century Greek philosopher.

A fellow named Aristotle.

…And they didn’t call him “The Philosopher” for nothing.

Aristotle says, people, it seems, are designed for politics.

In Book I of Politics Aristotle wrote:

That man is much more a political animal than any kind of bee or any herd animal is clear. For, as we assert, nature does nothing in vain, and man alone among the animals has speech….speech serves to reveal the advantageous and the harmful and hence also the just and unjust. For it is peculiar to man as compared to the other animals that he alone has a perception of good and bad and just and unjust and other things of this sort; and partnership in these things is what makes a household and a city.

Wait a minute. I forgot to do something.


As an old English professor of mine repeatedly said, if you introduce a bit of jargon, a writer should define what the but of jargon is. And since I’m writing, and I introduced a bit of jargon, I should explain what that bit of jargon is.

I’ve been using the word “politics” as if we all agree on a universal definition of the word. I’ve spent enough time on the internet and listened to enough talk radio to know that the word “politics” carries different connotations for different people.

So, with that in mind, when I say “politics”, I mean:

 The activities, actions, and policies that are used to gain and hold power in a government or to influence a government. (Merriam-Webster)

There. Alright. Back to what I was talking about.

If I was actually talking about anything.

According to Aristotle, the role of politics in the city (or, polis — the Greek word from which the word “politics” is derived) is for the proper training of citizens. Proper training, Aristotle says, is to raise virtuous people.

p.s. you might want to check out the prequel to Politics, Nicomachean Ethics. Aristotle explains virtue and what it means to be (philosophically) virtuous…and some other stuff.

You see, according to Aristotle, man, like other animals, gather in groups (or herds). However, unlike other animals, man (and he does mean MAN) possesses the capacity for rational thought. Man, by way of his intellect, is able to discern good from bad, just from unjust. This ability enables man to form social units (families) and the social bonds (of families) required to establish cities.

Because the goal of politics, Aristotle says, is the HIGHEST GOOD (i.e. virtue) of the state, citizens must take an active part in city affairs.

That is to say, according to Aristotle, political participation is mandatory — if we want to be Good (virtuous) people. 

And you should want to be a virtuous person.

Whoa. Wait. I’ve done it again.


I’ve used a word without defining it. Virtue, as defined by Aristotle, is:

a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are vices. We learn moral virtue primarily through habit and practice rather than through reasoning and instruction.

Aristotle argues a virtuous citizenry is essential to a successful state.

And only through political participation can we become virtuous.

(Because virtue isn’t merely a state of being, it’s a way of life)

You may not like politics, but you can’t achieve eudaimonia without it.

You can’t.



So…… I guess what I’m saying is, even though the internet has amplified the shitstorm that is politics, we have a philosophical obligation to engage in the political, no matter how soul-destroying we feel it may be.

The strange not-quite irony about politics is that politics isn’t destructive to our souls at all. In fact, we become better people — the city becomes a better city — a VIRTUOUS city when we get involved.

And who can resist that eudaimonia, right?









By the way, you may have noticed that nowhere in this blog post have I mentioned anything about affirming the antecedent. I wasn’t going to….I just thought it would make a clever title.




* I’m pretty sure Jefferson wasn’t the only Founder who felt that way about Hamilton. I’d bet cash that the first time someone said the word “fucktard” was referring to Alexander Hamilton.

I’d also bet cash that person was Thomas Jefferson….or Aaron Burr.



Aristotle. Politics.





I THINK THEREFORE I AM (Gonna be your valentine)

IT’S VALENTINE’S DAY – the day to celebrate all things romantic. The day for chocolates and roses, poetry and romance.

Valentine’s Day is a day for LOVE.

…and philosophy.

Not this kind of philosophy


This kind of philosophy.


A popular perception of philosophers is of an ineffectual, navel gazing infertility, more inclined to spend the night with Plato’s Republic than out on an actual date with an actual person.

That’s not always, tho.

Another popular perception of philosophers, specifically philosophy professors, is, in movies, that philosophy professors are always pervy. If all I knew about philosophy professors came from movies, I’d swear that philosophers are prone to sleeping with their students.

…and by “sleeping” I mean have sex.

Leaves of Grass, Irrational Man, Lover For A Day…

All movies about philosophy professors.

All maximum pervage.

Movie philosophers live their lives like the lyrics of a Steely Dan album.



Whether we think of philosophers as hapless neuters or as dirty old (and not so old) men who use their university campus as a eating agency, we often don’t think of real philosopher’s real love lives.

What they do when the lights are turned down.

So, with Valentine’s Day in mind, I think it’s time to take a little time to think about philosophers and love.



You might think that philosophers wouldn’t be interested in thinking or writing about a subject like love. Love is emotional. Philosophy is rational – logical. Everything love is not.

If you’re thinking philosophers don’t think about love (philosophically), you’d be quite wrong. Philosophers think and write about everything.


If we’re thinking about love philosophically, the first thing we might ask is What is Love?

If you’re Rick Sanchez, the answer to the question “what is love?” is easy


Of course, if you’re a philosopher, the answer is more complicated than that.

Why is it complicated?

Because philosophical reasons.

Well, if we’re being philosophers about things, to figure out what love is, we can look at love epistemologically. 

We might ask an epistemological question like, how do you know you’re in love?

We can have all kinds of philosophical fun sorting out all the necessary and sufficient conditions to determine what love is and if we are in it.

There are people who actually do this.

If we’re thinking about the ethics of love, we might ask if we are obligated to love others? To love ourselves? What is the value of love? Who should we love?


Before we look at love epistemologically, ethically, or whateverly, might want to ask what kind of love we’re talking about.

In philosophy, love isn’t just one thing: the ancient Greek philosophers distinguished love between philia (friendship), agape (love for mankind or brotherly love), and eros (erotic or sexual desire).

Plato writes about love in Phaedrus and Symposium. According (but not limited) to Plato, we are torn between the desires of the flesh and the soul. The body, driven by lowly carnal desires, corrupts the soul and gets in the way of finding higher truth.

The objective of love – true love – according to Plato, is to transcend the body. True love gets us to truth.

And truth leads to wisdom.

Philosophers love wisdom.

Aristotle places a heavy emphasis on philia – friendship.

Book VIII of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics is devoted to friendship. Aristotle writes,

Moreover, friendship is not only an indispensable, but also a beautiful and noble thing: for we commend those who love their friends, and to have many friends is thought to be a noble thing; and some even think that a good man is the same as a friend.

Religion traditionally emphasizes agape, as agape love is tied to our love of God.

The Aristotelian idea of love: the meeting of one soul inhabiting two bodies, is still a part of our modern idea of love.

Aristotle says,

Lovers delight above all things in the sight of each other, and prefer the gratification of this sense to that of all others, as this sense is more concerned than any other in the being and origin of love. 

So, what about actual philosophers and love?

You can probably guess.

Cue Lady Gaga.


There’s a perception that philosophers make for lousy romantic partners. That perception isn’t too far from reality. After all, philosophy takes time and energy.

It’s difficult to remember anniversaries and flowers and candy for Valentine’s Day when you’ve dedicated yourself to the full-time pursuit of wisdom.

Here’s a short list of the romantic misadventures of a few (western) philosophers:

Socrates married, but if you’ve read anything about Socrates, you know how he felt about his wife, Xanthippe.*

Xanthippe wasn’t exactly the love of Socrates’ life. Socrates’ true love was a young soldier named Alcibiades.

images (1)

And there’s no cruising the Internet without seeing this quote from Socrates:

By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you will be happy. If you get a bad one, you will be a philosopher.

The unmarried philosopher’s club boasts some rather famous members:

Locke, Hume, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Kant never married.

Kant’s life was described as “monastic”.

images (2)

Nietzsche and Schopenhauer never married, either.

Kierkegaard’s devotion to philosophy ended his engagement to his muse and great love, Regine Olsen.


Kierkegaard also never married.

If you ask me, Kierkegaard lost out.

Amazingly, Hegel found a wife.

Speaking of children out of wedlock…

Rousseau, perhaps the poster child for pervy philosophers (He flashed women. Seriously, he did. Look it up), famously abandoned his five children. Although Rousseau married his mistress (who was also the mother of his fifth child), he married her only after he ditched his kids.


Rousseau’s Maury Povich Father-of-the-Year award might not say much about Rousseau’s romantic inclinations, but it does say he didn’t love his kids.

Not even philia love.

Not even agape.

Heidegger had an affair with Hannah Arendt while she was his student.

Ayn Rand said she loved her husband, Frank O’Connor, for selfish reasons. Rand explained in a 1959 interview with journalist Mike Wallace that her love for O’Connor was in her own interest.

“I take selfish pleasure in it,” Rand said.

We probably know too much about Foucault’s sex life.


On the bright side of philosophical romance, Sartre had a life-long relationship with de Beauvoir.



Bertrand Russell not only married (four times!), he also believed that love is important because love leads people to seek knowledge. We seek knowledge to benefit those we love.

Russell wrote,

Although both love and knowledge are necessary, love is in a sense more fundamental, since it will lead intelligent people to seek knowledge, in order to find out how to benefit those whom they love.

Russell wasn’t too keen on our traditionally modest views on sexuality, either.

…which could explain why Russell was described as suffering from “galloping satyriasis”.

Bertrand Russell



Whether you got mad Bertrand Russell romance skills or you’re kicking it Immanuel Kant style this Valentine’s Day, don’t forget that philosophy ain’t just about contemplating your big toe or counting angels on the head of a pin. Philosophers think about love, write about love, and fall in and out of love just like everybody else.

Unless your name is Immanuel Kant.

So, while you’re celebrating tonight with champagne and roses, while your home tonight with the one you  love, getting down with some Hegel and chill, remember to whisper into the ear of your love the romantically philosophical words of Immanuel Kant, “All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds them to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”

That’s romantic speak for Kant, you see.

Because Immanuel Kant never dated anyone. Ever.





*It seems that the common depiction of Socrates’ wife Xanthippe is incorrect. History portrays Xanthippe as a unpleasant shrew, however, Socrates described Xanthippe as a good, caring wife.




Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. F.H. Peters [1893]. New York: Barnes & Noble Books. 173, 218.








The Way Things Are

SOMETIMES IT’S EASY to dismiss a kids’ movie. After all, films featuring cute animated talking animals voiced by not-exactly-kid-friendly actors are easy to not take too seriously.

Existential dread isn’t exactly the kind of subject matter suited for a film geared towards the pre-school set.

But every once in awhile a kids movie goes and gets all philosophical on everybody.

Something you wouldn’t expect in a movie about a talking pig.

Aristotle wrote that all beings act according to their nature.

Aristotle calls it our characteristic function.

Aristotle says human characteristic function is the use of reason in accordance with virtue

What is the function of man? For as the goodness and the excellence of a piper or a sculptor, or the practiser of any art, and generally of those who have any function assigned to him by nature? Nay, surely as his several members, eye and hand and foot, plainly have each his own function, so we must suppose that man has some function over and above all these

(Man’s function then being, as we say, a kind of life — that is to say, exercise of his faculties and action of various kinds with reason — the good man’s function is to do this well and beautifully [or nobly]. But the function of anything is done well when it is done in accordance with the proper excellence of that thing.) Nicomachean Ethics, I 7.

Dogs, cats, bumblebees, frogs – According to Aristotle, nature not only designs a purpose for all beings, but also it is unnatural to deviate from that being’s designated purpose.



A fish’s characteristic function is to swim in water.

A bee’s characteristic function is to pollinate flowers.

A cat’s characteristic function is to be an asshole.



Aristotle states that thing’s characteristic activity (whoops, function), can be performed well or performed poorly.

Not only does a species have an characteristic function, but individuals do as well.

In humans, we can determine one’s characteristic function by observing one’s natural inclination, that is, your characteristic function is what you’re good at:

Mariah Carey’s characteristic function is to sing.

Rembrandt’s was to paint.

Mine is philosophy because frankly, I’m not good at doing anything else.



Aristotle attempts to define the Good in terms of characteristic function.

And by the capital “G” Good, Aristotle means Eudaimonia.

Loosely translated, eudemonia means “flourishing”.

Wait – I think I’m straying off topic. I was talking about characteristic function.

If you want to read all about eudemonia read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. You don’t even have to pay for it. It’s all over the internet in print and audiobook. FOR FREE.

Now, I’d like to think that I’m too old for kids’ movies, but truth be told, I’m not. I’d rather watch Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island over The Seventh Seal any day of the week.

For the record, I think Daffy Duck’s Fantastic Island is a very philosophical movie.

The reason why, I think, I’d rather watch a kids’ movie is because unlike movies made for adults, where philosophical subtext is often handled with the subtlety of a pillaging berserker wielding a cudgel, kid-oriented entertainment can’t really overwhelm its target audience with deeper meaning.

Because they’re kids.

And most kids don’t know Hegel.

At least l hope most kids don’t know Hegel.



But kids do know about talking pigs.

This talking pig in particular.

The movie Babe, directed by Chris Noonan, based on the book The Sheep-Pig by Dick King-Smith, and adapted for the screen by George Miller (yes, the guy who wrote Mad Max!) is the story of a pig… named Babe.



Orphaned as a piglet, adopted by Farmer Hoggett, and raised by Hoggett’s sheep herding dogs, Babe is condemned to the short (and inevitably tragic) life of a pig: to one day become the farmer’s next meal.

Babe, however, wants more for his life than to become Christmas dinner.

Babe wants to herd sheep.

Naturally, Babe’s efforts to redefine his role on the farm meets with opposition from the other farm animals (including his adopted canine family), and Farmer Hoggett, who does not believe that a pig is capable of herding sheep.

The farmer’s cat explains to the would-be sheep pig nature’s rules of life on the farm – that each farm animal has a purpose – and that pigs have no purpose.

download (1)
The cat says this because cats are assholes.



It’s their characteristic function.
The small pig is not deterred by the cat or anyone else on the farm. He ignores the naysayers and strives to prove that a pig can indeed herd sheep. Babe follows his heart even though everyone around him, including Farmer Hoggett, doubts that he can defy the laws of nature.

Now, if we were following Aristotle, we might have been on the side of the cat; pigs serve no purpose other than to get fat and feed the farmer and his family.



Luckily for the piglet (and the audience), Babe isn’t Aristotilean; he refuses to allow nature or the expectations of others to define his place in the world.

That’s downright existential.


The late 19th – 20th century philosophy of Existentialism, most notably associated with French philosophers Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Albert Camus, and the German philosopher, Martin Heidegger (and also associated with Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, who is credited with being the first Existentialist philosopher).

According to the dictionary,

“Existentialism is the name given to the branch of philosophy which is concerned with the meaning of human existence – its aims, its significance and overall purpose – and the freedom and creative response to life made by individuals.”

If you’re in the mood to think philosophically, Babe can be a philosophical gateway to thinking about more than a couple of philosophical topics (brush up on your Peter Singer ‘cause you gonna be discussing animal rights). It’s pretty much undeniable that the philosophical undertone of the film’s major theme is essentially existentialist. Babe rejects the idea of purpose assigned by biology and society. He defines his own purpose.

His purpose is to herd sheep.

And more importantly, he’s good at it.



The existentialist French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre wrote

Life has no meaning a priori… it is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that we choose.

Babe finds meaning in herding sheep. It’s almost like sheep herding is his characteristic function.

Take that Aristotle!



If Babe was a practicing existentialist, he would say that existence preceded his essence.

Sartre says,

What is meant here by saying that existence precedes essence? It means first of all, man exists, turns up, appears on the scene, and, only afterwards, defines himself. If man, as the existentialist conceives him, is indefinable, it is because at first he is nothing. Only afterward will he be something, and he himself will have made what he will be.

Man can will nothing unless he has first understood that he must count on no one but himself; that he is alone, abandoned on earth in the midst of his infinite responsibilities, without help, with no other aim than the one he sets himself, with no other destiny than the one he forges for himself on this earth.

Babe did have a purpose. One that he determined for himself. Babe proves that he is capable of doing something other than his biological destiny.

All’s well that ends well, right?

Well, not quite.

School Crossing Guard


Of course, with all things philosophical, there’s a glitch.

Possible glitch.

Existentialists hold that our true essence isn’t assigned to us by society or by our biology and we assign meaning to ourselves – we create our own meaning, purpose, and values in life. This means we are completely responsible for who we become.

Completely responsible.

Sartre writes,

Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to you to give [life] a meaning.

See how Sartre says we’re “condemned to be free”? We’re condemned, Sartre says, because without God or biology to determine the meaning of our lives, we are solely responsible for creating meaning. This can be rather disorienting.


Or nauseating….



Lucky for us, we’re watching a kid’s movie. Babe is spared the agony of experiencing the existential dread of complete freedom. Babe‘s mind is as unencumbered as a pig satisfied.

He is completely happy and at ease once he becomes what he wants to be.

A pig-dog.



SO… we’re full of tears of happiness, cheers, and assumptions of lives lived happily ever after by the time the barn mice tell us we’re reached “The End”.

And we’ve just been given our first big lesson in existentialism.

There was, however, the inevitable follow up, Babe: Pig in the City.



I’m just going to leave it at that**.










** Babe: Pig in the City was criticized at the time of it’s initial release for being a darker, less family-friendly film. the film currently holds a 62% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film is darker than its predecessor, however, it’s arguable that the film, directed by George Miller, is also a more philosophically developed film. The late film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel both praised the film, with Siskel naming the movie one of the best films of 1998.


Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. F.H. Peters. 2004 [1893].New York: Barnes and Noble Books.

Mel Thompson. Teach Yourself: Philosophy. 2003. Chicago, IL. Contemporary Books. 184.

Jean-Paul Sartre. Existentialism is a Humanism.

Sartre. Being and Nothingness. (1943).


EVERY FOUR YEARS Americans go through what can only be described as a moderate case of national silliness. For those who prefer to use technical words to describe these things, the collective silliness is called election season.
This election season has been particularly silly.
And not just because of Donald Trump.
As American politics usually goes, by the time the Democrats and Republicans head to their Party (respective) national conventions, the silliness gives way to the serious business of each Party choosing its presidential candidate.
As I said, this is how it usually goes.
This year, Republican National Convention has guaranteed that the silliness will last until election day in November.

How so, you say?

A single word:


Plagiarism, as defined by Google, is:

The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.

Republican Party candidate Donald Trump’s wife (and potential First Lady) Melania was accused of plagiarizing a speech given by current First Lady, Michelle Obama, at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.




Although all of this hullabaloo over Melania Trump’s alleged plagiarism seems like it’s just a bunch of journalists and hypocrites (wait, isn’t that the same thing?) causing drama over  political silliness,  plagiarism isn’t such a silly thing. In some circles, using another person’s words or work without proper citation is serious business. There’s an expectation, especially in academia, that one’s writing be original. Every college student knows you can get kicked out of school for plagiarizing someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. In professions such as journalism, plagiarism can cost you your job.



When I was in college, a couple of my professors were so cuckoo for plagiarism that one professor even required students to affirm that our term papers were our own original work.

On the cover sheet of every term paper we had to write this:

I understand the rules governing plagiarism and I certify that the work contained in this paper is my own, I have given appropriate citations for quotations and ideas that I have taken from other authors.

In the eyes of academics and many employers, passing off another’s work as one’s own is no different from theft.

They think that this




Is the same as doing this


But for every armchair political pundit, professional journalist, and university professor who believes that a plagiarist is a thief of the lowest order, there is someone looking at all the Melania Trump plagiarism hubbub asking, what’s the big deal? Political speeches are saturated with copious amounts paraphrasing and outright plagiarism.

The correct question isn’t Did Melania Trump plagiarize Michelle Obama’s speech? but Name a politician who hasn’t been accused of or is actually guilty of plagiarism.

This politician was accused of plagiarism.




So was he.

Official Portrait



And so was this guy.



And this president.



These guys have been accused of plagiarism.

led zeppelin 1970s


More than once.
At least seven times, to be exact.

And THIS is the problem with plagiarism. What exactly is plagiarism?

Yeah, there’s the textbook definition, but, you see, people are often inspired by, or borrow from, or even imitate the work of other writers and artists.

And that’s exactly it. Where do we draw the line between inspiration and stealing? Where does mere similarity end and plagiarism begin?

A clear line might have helped Robin Thicke.


FYI: In 2013, the family of the late R&B singer Marvin Gaye sued contemporary R&B vocalist Robin Thicke for plagiarizing Gaye’s 1977 song “Got To Give It Up”. The Gaye family argued (successfully) that Thicke’s 2013 hit song “Blurred Lines” copied chords from “Got To Give It Up” and Thicke and fellow “Blurred Lines” songwriter, Pharrell Williams, were ordered to pay $7.4 million to the Gaye family.

Let’s be honest, these days, few ideas are completely original. So how original can one be when writing on a subject that has been written about before?

Despite our best efforts, sometimes two (or more) people will write exactly the same thing.

How many different ways can you originally say “Make America Great Again”?



Even philosophers are not immune.

Modern philosophy is all based on someone else’s ideas.

I’ve written plenty of papers under the impression that I’d written some deeply brilliant philosophical sigight only to find that someone else had already written it.

The so-called Elvis of philosophy, Slavoj Zizek, was accused of plagiarism.

From the White Nationalist Journal The American Renaissance, no less.



Google search “philosophers on plagiarism” and you’ll find Did Nietzsche plagiarize Max Stirner?

For the record, Nietzsche said he was influenced by Schopenhauer.

So, we’re tempted to say that plagiarism is no big deal, right?



Well, it kinda is and it kinda isn’t.
This is kinda why plagiarism is a big deal:

Plagiarism is defined as The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. In short, if you’re a plagiarist, you’re basically stealing someone else’s stuff.

Stealing stuff is usually considered morally wrong.


Now, if you were a philosopher like Aristotle, this would be a serious moral transgression.

According to Aristotle’s virtue ethics, the things we do are the result of what kind of character we have. If a person does good things it’s likely that that is a good (i.e. morally virtuous) person. If you do something bad, like stealing, according to Aristotle’s ethics, you’re probably an absolute POS.*

In Aristotle’s treatise on morality, Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle says:

It is well said, then, that it is by doing just acts that the just man is produced, and by doing temperate acts the temperate man; without doing these no one would have even a prospect of becoming good.

Plagiarizing someone else’s material may seem like it’s no big deal – or it could be an indicator of one’s bad character.

And nobody wants to be around bad people.


People who do bad things may seem like fun people, but in the end they’re not so fun to be with.

Especially when they steal your stuff.

It’s worth mentioning that plagiarism isn’t merely stealing. Plagiarism is the act of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own. Passing off someone else’s work as your own is deceptive – and deception is a form of lying. So, if you’re doing the plagiarism thing, you’re not only a thief, you’re also a liar.

But wait a minute. If Melania Trump did indeed plagiarize her Republican National Convention speech, are we wiling to go so far to call her a person of bad character? Her plagiarism may not be an act of outright theft. Trump’s speechwriter claims that Melania Trump was “inspired” by Michelle Obama – and that may explain the close similarity between Obama’s 2008 speech and Trump’s Republican National Convention speech. Melania Trump’s intention wasn’t to rip off Michelle Obama, but to express sentiments that she also shared with the First Lady.



So… when all is said and done is plagiarism a bad thing? Is plagiarism even a thing? I don’t know. Maybe.

It’s possible that we aren’t looking at the whole picture when it comes to plagiarism Perhaps we should consider what role influence, inspiration, homage, and when great minds think alike plays in creating a piece of work before we heap our righteous moral condemnation upon so-called plagiarists.

You know I’m saying this only because the chance that I’ll inevitably plagiarize someone is about 80 percent.




* POS: piece of shit.







Descartes Would Have Done the Maury Povich Show (Metaphysics vs. METAPHYSICS)

I finally figured out something.

After many years of soul searching and asking other people, I finally figured out why philosophy isn’t popular. Why no one ever mentions the name Immanuel Kant or says the words “virtue ethics”, even when the conversation is about deontology or virtue ethics.

Or why contemporary philosophers like Peter Singer and Slavoj Žižek are relegated to occasional appearances on NPR.

Or why Cornel West is identified as a social critic and not a philosopher. And why, when anyone discusses matters of religion, they turn to guys like Rick Warren and not to philosophers like Peter van Inwagen.

There’s a reason why the only metaphysics ever spoken about is ghost hunting and talking to the dead.

That kind of metaphysics gets its own TV show.



paranormal TV show



What I discovered is this: nobody talks to philosophers or talks philosophy because nobody likes philosophy.

It’s all pie-in-the-sky navel gazing and talking about nothing.







More people follow the life philosophy and ethics of Donald Trump than they follow the life philosophy and ethics of Aristotle.

That’s why this metaphysician


james van praagh



Sells more books than this metaphysician


peter van inwagen



If you told the average person you’re into metaphysics, it’s more likely that they’d think you’re into Sylvia Browne or that you’ve mastered The Secret. There’s a real problem for your field of interest when you mention the word “philosophy” and people think you’re talking about the Laws of Attraction.

If I had to put money on it, I’d bet the reason why small “m” metaphysics is more popular than capital “M” metaphysics (that is, philosophical metaphysics) has to do with the fact that when you practice small m metaphysics, you’re supposed to get things.

Practitioners of The Secret call these things “abundance”.

Mike Dooley, who is featured in The Secret, says “Thoughts become things”. According to Dooley, it’s not just that what we think influences how we perceive reality, what we think actually affects the world around us. That is to say, our thoughts can become real things in the real world. We can actualize our desires for a good job, a good home, stable, and substantive relationships with our significant others. And, we can manifest abundance.

That means lots of money.

You see, if you practice small “m” metaphysics, it can make you very rich.

I wouldn’t claim that Rhonda Byrne is infinitely more knowledgeable than Socrates or Immanuel Kant, or that James van Praagh’s Talking to Heaven is a better philosophical guide than Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. it’s just that subscribing to one philosophy is potentially more financial rewarding than the other.

It’s as simple as that.

Think of it: small “m” metaphysics tells us that we can attract things like money and happiness simply by thinking about it. On the other hand, Aristotle’s brand of happiness, eudemonia, or “flourishing”, doesn’t even require that a person be emotionally happy.

According to Aristotle, even a dead man can be happy.

In fact, according to John Stuart Mill, we should prefer to be a dissatisfied Socrates than want to be a satisfied pig.

If how our lives end is any indication of how fulfilling one’s life is (financially or otherwise), one can make an argument that being a philosopher positively sucks.

  • Socrates was condemned to death and forced to drink hemlock.
  • Isocrates starved to death.
  • Hypatia was killed by a mob of Christians.
  • Seneca was ordered to cut his own throat.
  • Descartes died from the common cold.
  • Richard Montague was beaten to death.
  • Jacques Derrida died of pancreatic cancer.
  • Leibniz died of arthritis and gout (I had no idea either one of those conditions was fatal)
  • Camus died in a car accident.
  • Foucault died from complications from AIDS.

…. It’s been rumored that Nietzsche died of syphilis.

I’d bet that none of those philosophers were blessed with “abundance”, either.

Deepak Chopra is worth an estimated 80 million dollars.

And, unlike Descartes, Deepak Chopra was on the Oprah Winfrey Show.




Aristotle, Schmaristotle

I’ve been listening to quite a bit of Harry Nilsson lately.

Not just the song “Without You”.

Even though he died long before I was aware of who he was, I just can’t get enough of his music.

I think it has to do with this documentary I watched on PBS. On the documentary, they said that Harry Nilsson did this movie called  The Point. I haven’t seen the movie but they said it’s philosophical. They said that Harry Nilsson was into philosophical kinds of stuff.

Yeah. I had pretty much figured that out. I get that philosophical feeling every time I hear the song “Coconut”.

Now, I know that If I asked around very few people would say that Harry Nilsson was a (professional) philosopher. But I’d like to think that if Aristotle was a professional singer he’d sound just like Harry Nilsson.

So the next time you think of this guy:


Imagine this guy singing:


Now tell me true, how can you think of Aristotle and not think of Harry Nilsson?

It’s totally the perfect soundtrack for Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics.

Really. It is.

If you were wondering, the reason why thinking of and listening to Harry Nilsson reminds me of Aristotle is this: Like Harry Nilsson, Aristotle was a bit of a rock star. A philosophical rock star. For centuries, the philosophy of Aristotle was the philosophy.

Not consequently, Aristotle was called THE Philosopher.

Why, you say?

In case you didn’t know, Aristotle invented physics.

I know, big deal. Only nerds are into physics, right?

But Aristotle’s brilliance didn’t end there!

In addition to inventing all that big-brained Einstein stuff, Aristotle is credited with inventing psychology economics, astronomy, biology, and psychology. Aristotle also founded the first philosophical school, The Lyceum (The Academy). Aristotle wrote on subjects ranging from politics to aesthetics. He’s the inventor of virtue ethics and Aristotle’s logic was the standard logic for philosophy (and all higher thinking) until Gottlob Frege.

And Frege didn’t come around until the 20th century!

Did I fail to mention that Aristotle was the only philosopher to get the thumbs up from the early Catholic Church?

He was.

Aristotle’s philosophy was so influential on early Catholic thought, that Scholasticism, a philosophy based on the teachings of the Catholic Church and the philosophy of Aristotle, dominated Western thought from the 11th to the 15th century.

Reason-based philosophy of Aristotle + divine intervention = scholasticism

And like every VH-1 Behind the Music story goes, like every rock star, the good times didn’t last for long. Unfortunately for Aristotle, Scholasticism eventually fell out of favor.

I know what you’re thinking, if Aristotle was THE philosopher, how could a school of thought based in part on his teachings fall out of favor?

The reason why is this: people finally realized that Aristotle was wrong about EVERYTHING.

Ok, maybe not everything.

But still, have you heard of Aristotle’s Four Causes?

No? I thought not. Because Aristotle was wrong!

Just to let you know, the Four Causes are: material, formal, efficient, and final.

Helps to know that, eh? That kind of info has gotta be worth at least the $600 question on Jeopardy!

You can reason that everyone should listen to Harry Nilsson because he was a brilliant songwriter and vocalist and, even though his music is decades old, it’s better than half or the auto-tuned “music” on the pop charts. But why should we study the ancient philosophers like (the often-wrong) Aristotle? What good is studying Aristotelian logic if the whole world’s logic is Russell and Frege?

But what’s downright puzzling to me is why, after so many centuries of being proved wrong, Aristotle and his philosophy are still so popular. I mean, people actually (still) take his writings seriously. There’s not a university philosophy department that doesn’t have at least one class (usually there’s several) devoted to Aristotle. Really.

It’s strange that so much professional philosopher brain space is devoted to studying, teaching, and writing about a philosopher who has a philosophy with the same degree of accuracy as a local TV news weatherman.

Lest you doubt my verisimilitude, here are some more things Aristotle was completely wrong about:

The planets do not float on invisible spheres.
Everything is not either earth, air, fire, or water.
Animals do in fact, laugh.
The average human infant laughs for the first time approximately 90 days after birth, not 40, as Aristotle states.
Women do not need semen to retain body heat.
There is NO SUCH THING as a natural slave.
Semen does not contain little, full-grown people in it.

Trust me, there’s more than that.

But since this is a blog post and not a novel, I’ve kept the list short.
If you think about how wrong Aristotle was about nearly everything he wrote about, it’s amazing that Aristotle’s philosophy, let alone Scholasticism, ever caught on at all.

Especially since Aristotle couldn’t seem to make Scholasticism work himself.

I guess Aristotle isn’t so brilliant after all.

The late Zen Buddhist philosopher Alan Watts says if we had followed the teachings of Heraclitus instead of Aristotle, we’d be better off.

I can’t say that I disagree.

But then again, Alan Watts dropped acid.

Still, despite what I (and apparently Alan Watts) feel about Aristotle, this one thing is unfortunately true: There’s not a college campus with a philosophy department that is not teaching Aristotle. And – oh, wait, I just remembered, there are Neo-scholasticists aren’t there?

Damn. Never mind.

Hey, any of y’all out there wanna hear “Coconut”?

If you’re happy and you know it rattle your chains

I watch a lot of MSNBC.

Yeah, I’m a liberal so I watch MSNBC.

Plus, I got this thing for Rachel Maddow.

I won’t explain it here. I don’t want it to get weird.

Too weird… More weird.

My God, what was I talking about?

Oh yeah, this.

I watch MSNBC. I even watch on weekends. I suspect that whoever is in charge of weekend programming thinks no one is watching because they air the same shows practically every weekend. They show that Dominick Dunne show about people killing each other. A lot. I think I’ve seen the same one about the poor dude who marries the rich lady from Texas and then poisons her with arsenic-laced pills about a dozen times already.

Besides, Dominick Dunne has been dead for how many years now?

Dominick Dunne died in 2009. I think it's time MSNBC change it's weekend line-up

Dominick Dunne died in 2009. I think it’s time MSNBC change it’s weekend line-up


Anyway, in addition to showing the same episodes of that Dominick Dunne show (Really, MSNBC. Airing that show is getting a little creepy) the weekend programming staff seems to be fascinated by shows about sex slaves.

Apparently they’re everywhere.

I had no idea.

Next to illegal drugs and guns, human trafficking (especially for the purpose of prostitution) is big (illegal) international business. It’s estimated nearly 800,000 people, especially women and children, are globally trafficked a year.

I'm not talking about this kind of slave, but real ones.

I’m not talking about this kind of slave, but real ones.


You Know, if you think about it, it’s not entirely shocking that modern slavery still exists given the fact that slaves and slavery (of some form or another) have been around since the birth of human civilization.

Slavery is not only a historical fact; it’s been tolerated (historically) in many cultures. Slaves traditionally were conquered people or people who owed money and were sold into slavery to work off debts. Ancient Mesopotamia, India, China, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and pre-Columbian Americans held slaves. Slavery is even mentioned in the Bible. Despite its prohibitions against such immoral acts such as witchcraft, mixing fabrics, eating shellfish, and making fun of bald men, the Bible does not prohibit slavery. Christian civilizations sometimes lessened slavery and occasionally slaves were liberated,  but neither Christian nor Islam (Mohammed urged that slaves should be treated well) did not end the practice of enslaving people.

By the way, the Bible does tell us how we should treat slaves (Leviticus 25:35-55).

Seriously though, according to the Bible making fun of a bald man may be a bad idea.

Just read 2 Kings 2:23-24.





Bears, man. Bears.


And now for the philosophy.

Like many folks in the ancient world, the Greek philosopher Aristotle does not object to slavery. Aristotle argues that just as nature produces philosophers (the highest men), nature also produces natural slaves. Some are designated from birth to rule while others are destined to be ruled. Aristotle states that in the household (which is the foundation of society) slavery is not only expedient, it’s right. The slave is (and should be) naturally inferior to the master. Slaves should not be Greeks but inferior people but barbarians, (who are natural slaves). In Politics, Aristotle writes:

But among barbarians no distinction is made between women and slaves, because there is no natural ruler among them: they are a community of slaves, male and female. Wherefore the poets say:

“It is meet that Hellenes should rule over barbarians”;

as if they thought that the barbarian and the slave were by nature one.

The slave, says Aristotle, is a “living tool” and the master cannot be friends with his slaves (that’s because slaves are not full people like their masters). Aristotle states that slaves should not be educated as a superior person is educated (because they can‘t be, anyway). Slaves should be taught useful arts like cooking, cleaning, and how to care for livestock.

Although the ancient Greek philosophers inspired the philosophy of the Enlightenment, it’s clear that there is no “all men are created equal” according to Aristotle.

(At this point it’s important to note that even though slavery has existed since people figured out that you can force other people to do hard work for you if you beat them, the criteria for who was fit (in Aristotle’s case naturally fit) for slavery is not racial in the same sense that we view race. The racial qualification for servitude (i.e. being African) wasn’t established until the mid-1400s when the enslavement of Africans was justified on the basis that Africans were an inferior race only fit for servitude).

With the pre-Enlightenment ideals of freedom, liberty, and self-determination spread across Europe and the American colonies, some saw enslavement of Africans as contrary to those ideals and by the mid-1800s objections to slavery on the grounds that enslaving one’s fellow humans is morally wrong (namely because lifelong servitude causes suffering) grounded the abolitionist movement. Abolitionists saw slavery as a sham, a denial of human rights; and to force others to forfeit their God-given liberty is contrary to the American belief in Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Slaves were miserable. They weren’t happy and presumably would be happier if they weren’t slaves.

That’s a fairly easy assumption to make about people who lived like this:

slaves in chains


The great abolitionist Frederick Douglass addressed how the institution of slavery contradicted the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Douglass wrote:

What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham… your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery… are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy

A thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages


Douglass wrote “It was not color, but crime, not God, but man, that afforded the true explanation for the existence of slavery.”

Douglass wrote “It was not color, but crime, not God, but man, that afforded the true explanation for the existence of slavery.”


The funny thing about slavery (if it’s even possible for anything to be funny about slavery) is that the America’s Founding Fathers, some of whom were certainly slave owners, believed that slavery was wrong. The late historian Howard Zinn writes that in the original draft of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson wrote that King George III of England suppressed “every legislative attempt to prohibit or restrain the execrable commerce”.

However, Zinn adds, Jefferson’s condemnation of the king was excised from the final draft of the Declaration by the Continental Congress.

The funny thing about the funny thing about slavery is although Jefferson believed that slavery is evil he still owned slaves. Jefferson, like his fellow Founders, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, believed slavery was an evil institution that was antithetical to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence.

But some of them still owned slaves.

I think I kinda know why.

Besides the fact that no one who has the opportunity to say no wants to pick cotton by hand.

I know I’m going to do a bit of stretching here. But play along with me.

We trace our ideals of freedom and liberty (at least as a politically guaranteed right) to the philosophy of John Locke (who, by the way, was heavily invested in the slave trade), but we also trace our idea of democracy to ancient Athens, a society that believed that not only is slavery morally permitted but a part of the natural order. Our idea of democracy isn’t just Lockean but also the ancient Platonic/Aristotelian view of the purpose and function of proper government.

I’m getting to my point. Bear with me. It’s gonna take a sec.

Aristotle (and Plato and Socrates) believed that the aim of government is the good of the whole. And Happiness (capital H) is a part of that good. The good, according to Aristotle, consists in acting virtuously, but also (as Socrates also believed) in performing according to one’s assigned role in society. The good of the community is inextricably tied to everyone doing what he (or she) is supposed to do. Society cannot function if people do not perform according to their characteristic function this is the only way a society can be harmonious. Aristotle writes:

But perhaps the reader thinks that though no one will dispute the statement that happiness is the best thing in the world, yet a still more precise definition of it is needed.

This will best be gained, I think, by asking. What is the function of man? For as the goodness and the excellence of a piper or a sculptor, or the practiser of any art, and generally of those who have any function or business to do, lies in that function, so man’s good would seem to lie in his function., if he has one.


So, when everyone is acting according to his/her characteristic function, we are not only acting for the good of the community, we are also Happy. We are unhappy when we don’t perform according to the role assigned to us by nature.

Aristotle says “thus it seems that happiness is something final and self-sufficing, and is the end of all that man does.”

Ok, Aristotle wants everybody to be happy. And we know that being a slave obviously makes one unhappy, so there’s no way we can justify having slaves, right?

Well, not entirely.

You see, when Aristotle wrote about happiness, he wasn’t exclusively writing about how we feel. He was writing about how we are that is, what kind of people we are. If we are virtuous, we are happy no matter what role we occupy in life. Aristotle calls this kind of Happiness eudemonia.

Aristotle writes that the good things that make us happy (wealth, pleasure, health, etc.) are second to a higher good. According to Aristotle, eudemonia consists in development of a virtuous soul.

And as we all know, Aristotle says when we act according to our characteristic function we are participating in virtuous activity.

This all has me wondering…

If it was believed that Africans were naturally fit for slavery is it possible that, despite the fact that slavery is brutal and is a denial of human freedom, that Jefferson believed that his slaves were happy?

At least in the philosophical sense?




If anyone objects to my argument, remember this is just a philosophical exercise (or thought experiment, if you will), not an actual treatise on slavery, its philosophical merits (if any), or Thomas Jefferson’s actual view on the emotional/philosophical state of his slaves. I’m more than certain that my ancestors would have thrown over philosophical happiness for freedom.

In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes, “Again, the enjoyment of bodily pleasures is within the reach of anybody, of a slave no less than the best of men; but no one supposes that a slave can participate in happiness, seeing that he cannot participate in the proper life of man. For indeed happiness does not consist in pastimes of this sort, but in the exercise of virtue, as we have already said.” (pg. 233)  According to Aristotle, since a slave is not a full human being, a slave cannot be happy.

Yikes! That’s worse than Jefferson!


1. Howard Zinn. A People’s History of the United States: 1492-Present. 1999. 1980. NY: Perennial Classics. 72, 182-3.

2. Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. Trans. F.H. Peters, M.A. 2004 [1893] . NY: Barnes and Noble Books. 10-11, 232, 233.

3. Aristotle. “Politics”. Trans. Benjamin Jowett. The Pocket Aristotle. 1958, 1942. Ed. Justin D. Kaplan. NY: Pocket Books. 279.


A brief philosophical treatise courtesy of the Loki Appreciation Society

I watched The Avengers a few weeks back. You know, when it comes to thinking about things philosophically, especially anything pop culture-wise, superheroes are pretty much the easiest way to go. You got the good guys (Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Batman sort-of) on one side, and you got some bad guys on the other. In the realm of the superhero separating the good guys from the bad (except maybe for Batman) and deciding moral rights and wrongs is pretty danged easy.

The Avengers was no exception.

Here’s the tip-off to finding the good guys: The Avengers, collectively speaking, are better looking.

So, while I was watching this movie, I started to think about something: I know that Captain America, Thor and whatever the hell that character Scarlett Johansson played was named, are the good guys. They’ve got loads of muscles and they’re blond, and they’re all fairly easy on the eyes. But, while I was watching the CGI enhanced cinematic spectacle that is The Avengers, I found myself not rooting for the heroes, but rooting for Loki. I asked myself why am I rooting for Loki? Loki is the bad guy. We’re not supposed to like the bad guy. And if we’re thinking about The Avengers philosophically, we’re in no way supposed to root for a character who is the embodiment of all that is evil (or at the very least anti-good guy).

This is Thor. He is a good guy

This is Loki. He is (obviously) a bad guy.

This is a Loki from another movie. He is also (obviously) a bad guy.

As a philosopher, I know that the love of wisdom also means a love of the Good. According to philosophers, loving the Good means that a philosopher or one who is inclined to think philosophically wants to do what is morally right. A philosophically good life is a life that is not based on things that would contribute to the corruption of one’s character. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato said this about good and bad people:

“Good people do not need laws to tell them how to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”

Good people don’t just obey the laws, they also adhere to them — because they’re good people.

This is Socrates. Believe it or not, he is a good guy (there are exceptions to The Avengers rule).

Aristotle also tells us that good (Aristotle calls moral good “virtue”) is an activity of the soul. This means good isn’t just what we do, it is who we are. Aristotle informs us that we are not born good. We have to work at becoming good (virtuous) people. In Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle writes:

The moral virtues, then, are produced in us neither by nature nor against nature. Nature, indeed prepares in us the ground for their reception, but their complete formation is the product of habit…

Men acquire a particular quality by constantly acting in a particular way… you become just by performing just actions, temperate by performing temperate actions, brave by performing brave actions.

See, the reason why we think (or even know) Loki is the bad guy is because, as Aristotle would say, Loki has a bad soul. The reason why Loki’s soul is bad is this: Loki’s got issues. Daddy issues. Loki’s got this whole being pissed off at Thor because Odin’s not his real dad-thing going on. Loki wants to rule Asgard, the home of the gods, but Odin’s (real) son Thor is next in line to the throne of Asgard. As a consequence, Loki’s heart is filled with malice and vengeance. If you haven’t been on the receiving end of either of these two emotions, I’ll have you know that malice and vengeance are not virtues. Loki spends all of his time being angry and doing bad things that he neither takes the time to perform good acts nor does he engage in activities that will cultivate a good soul.

In short, no matter how snazzy Loki’s outfits are, no matter how slick his jet-black hairdo is, no matter how snappy his dialogue is, Loki is not a good person.

This is the reason why we shouldn’t root for Loki.

(By the way, if you have no plans for the next two weeks and you’re really curious as to why Aristotle says maliciousness and a heart full of vengeance are not considered virtues, read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. if you don’t have time to waste you can read this Wikipedia article:

Although we can all agree that the Good is often boring and is often difficult to do (philosophers from Aristotle to Mill agree that being good isn’t easy), if we truly love wisdom, we must not indulge our base natures. When our minds are filled with hate, anger or vengeance, we are distracted from looking towards the attributes that make our lives better; that make us better people.

Being better people is what’s important, right?

You know, now that I’m on the internet, I gonna go see what Aristotle looked like.

I’d bet he was very sexy.