KIERKEGAARDING WITH THE KARDASHIANS

IF THERE’S ONE THING that most people can agree upon, its that we live in a culture of celebrity worship. Its not just that there’s a few tabloid rags at the check-out counter; there are entire networks devoted to exploring the lives and goings-on of the famous and almost famous.

Entire networks.

We weren’t always like this, they say…

And with a marketplace oversaturated with a celebrity idolatry, its easy to pick out, or rather, pick on, the famous folks that we choose to blame for our culture’s obsession with celebritydom.

Now, there’s plenty of famous folks to blame

We can blame Oprah. Or Snooki and reality TV. Or even blame TMZ.

e1w6i0y

I FOUND THIS MEME. I DID NOT MAKE IT. A LOT OF PEOPLE HATE TMZ….. APPARENTLY.

But most say the blame for the decline of American civilization truly lies here, with this family

THE KARDASHIANS.

landscape-1455277317-kanye-west-kardashians-yeezy-front-row
They are undeniably the first family of reality television. And they’ve built a brand so popular and successful that those who are merely Kardashian-adjacent manage to snag more than their fair share of 15 minutes of fame.

A brand so popular and successful that their activities and scandals are even covered on the “legit” news.

I think we can all agree that it’s a fairly “in” thing to talk shit about the Kardashians. It’s easy to dismiss or to talk disparagingly about the family, either as individuals or collectively. And I’m not going to deny that I’ve participated in more than my fair share of Kardashian-bashing. To say that you not only do not watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians but also despise them is seen as a badge of honor and integrity.

Despising the Kardashians and all that they symbolize means that one is enlightened.

I no longer believe that this is the case.

I’ve discovered, while talking shit about people that you’ll never meet and can’t possibly hear you (at least I don’t think any of them can hear me), that doing so isn’t helpful.
At least not helpful if you want to do something more than talk shit.

Doing more is exactly what I intend to do.

55721696

I’m not going to say that my opinion on celebrity culture has completely changed (for the record, I still think that TMZ is one of the worst things out there. And yes, I watch it regularly), but I’ve come to a new conclusion, at least so far as my feelings towards the Kardashians.

Listen:

It would be easy to say that nothing of value has come from this family. They’re celebrities, and celebrity matters only to those people who have nothing of value to say, anyway.

“Small minds discuss people” they say.

But, offhandedly dismissing the Kardashians would be rude and unphilosophical.

I hold to the idea that anything – everything is philosophical.

28019091

Anything or any one has lessons to teach, and yes, even the Kardashians.

And you don’t even have to watch the show to learn a lesson, either.*
I’ve drawn up a list of the philosophical things I thought about while watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians:

  • The nature of fame and its effects on the individual and the society. What kind of people become famous. Are they the kind of people that we should look up to? Are famous people inherently better than others? Are they the kind of people that philosophers like Plato had in mind when he wrote of those who should be leaders of the polis?
  • Caitlyn Jenner and gender: What is gender and gender identity/gender expression? What makes us masculine a/or feminine? How do we navigate the intersection between biological gender, gender identity, and sexuality? We do feminist philosophers such as Judith Butler, Simone de Beauvoir, bell hooks, and Helen Longino have to say about the subject?
  • Kanye West and what makes a philosopher? Some (often derisively) name Kanye West as a modern philosopher. Is he a philosopher? What makes a philosopher? Is philosophy strictly limited to academia or can anyone become a “philosopher”?
  • The Kardashian/Jenner sisters are not only known for their celebrity but are also well-known for their looks and their association with beauty products. We can discuss the philosophical definition of beauty, and how the philosophical definition conforms (or does not conform) to our conversations about beauty and aesthetics.
  • Reality and reality TV. Is reality television reality or the appearance of the real? How does reality TV present the real world to the audience and are reality television producers morally obligated to inform the audience that reality TV isn‘t “real”? There’s plenty of material to cover here, including commentaries (from postmodernist philosophers such as) Jean Baudrillard, to the ontology of Platonic forms, Kant’s transcendental idealism, and Descartes’ evil demon.
  • Questions of value: What is valuable? How do we measure value – is it merely a matter of taste or can we quantify value philosophically? Is what is valuable good? What is the Good? Are some reality TV shows Good – better for us philosophically than others?
  • There’s always some sort of moral dilemma going on: So long as people act, there will be motivations and consequences of their actions, and those actions can be evaluated ethically.
  • Personal identity: Who we are. Who do we present ourselves and is that presentation authentic?

We can drift into some pretty heavy existential conversations, right there.

Everyone knows you cant discuss anything pop culture without somehow drawing in Nietzsche. Someone is bound to quote (or misquote) an aphorism or two.

friedrich-nietzsche

 

And lastly, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, or any other television program, can aid in the philosophical study/analysis of pop culture in general.

Those are just a few thoughts I had while watching the show.

I’m not saying that watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians is a replacement for reading Kierkegaard or that you should quote Kim Kardashian in your next term paper.

… unless she says something really brilliant.

Then by all means, do.

Just as philosophers defend philosophy against those who decree philosophy dead and useless

Stephen Hawking I’m looking at you…

quote-why-are-we-here-where-do-we-come-from-traditionally-these-are-questions-for-philosophy-stephen-hawking-12-67-47

 

Philosophers shouldn’t get into the habit of offhandedly dismissing something that we may think is useless – it just might be very useful.

So at least give the show a peek before you completely write it off.

And even if you hate it, you can probably find a philosophical explanation for why you hate it, too.

It’s one of E! Network’s most popular shows, which means it’s on a lot.

It’s probably on right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* ALTHOUGH WATCHING KEEPING UP WITH THE KARDASHIANS ISN’T NECESSARY TO DISCUSS THEM, IT’S STRONGLY SUGGESTED THAT YOU CHECK OUT AT LEAST A COUPLE OF EPISODES. IF ANYONE SEES YOU AND DEMANDS TO KNOW WHY YOU’RE WATCHING THE SHOW, JUST TELL THEM YOU’RE WATCHING IT FOR “RESEARCH PURPOSES”.

On the One Benefit of Never Having Learned How to Play A Musical Instrument

Music is the answer to the mystery of life.
– Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

Lately, I’ve gotten into this thing of watching documentaries.

I’m not saying this to sound smart or anything. I’m certainly not bragging about it.

Truth be told, I’m not too keen on indie cinema or documentaries. Any documentary I’ve ever watched I saw on cable television.

So I’m really not as much of a fan of documentaries as I am a fan of cable TV.

Thank goodness for Time Warner Cable.

I hate to have to admit that.

should not have told you that

I know that when a person says that they like documentaries, the immediate mental picture that comes to mind is of some pompous ass who only drinks fair-trade coffee, can determine the quality of wine from its smell, and tells people that they watch documentaries only so they can pontificate about how the only important cinema is based on true life.

I assure you I am not one of those people.

Well, I don’t watch the documentaries that air on the Sundance Channel. I watch the ones that air on HBO. The ones that come on late at night.

The ones that have Taxicab Confessions or Real Sex in the title.

I especially enjoy the documentaries they play on VH-1.

Because I find VH-1’s Behind the Music on Lynyrd Skynyrd more compelling than March of the Penguins.

That one VH-1 aired about Soul Train changed my life.

How can you not watch this and be changed for life?

Did I just admit that?

did i just say that GIF

Being a sucker for anything on VH-1 with the word “documentary” in the description, I decided to watch The Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl’s documentary Sound City.

BACK IN MY DAY DAVE GROHL WAS JUST THE DRUMMER IN NIRVANA. OH GOD, I’M OLD.

BACK IN MY DAY DAVE GROHL WAS JUST THE DRUMMER IN NIRVANA. OH GOD, I’M OLD.

In the documentary, musicians like Grohl, Lee Ving, Tom Petty, Rick Springfield, Mick Fleetwood, and Trent Reznor talk about their passion for music.

There’s no denying that music plays a fairly important part in most of our lives, not just the lives of musicians. Many of us have arm chaired judged contestants on American Idol.

JUST LOOKING AT WILLIAM HUNG AND YOU KNEW THE SINGING WAS GOING TO BE BAD

JUST LOOKING AT WILLIAM HUNG AND YOU KNEW THE SINGING WAS GOING TO BE BAD

And even more of us are guilty of singing more-than-slightly-off-key renditions of popular songs in the shower.

a pocket full of sunshine

Although most of what philosophers write about music concerns itself with the ontology of music*, drawing the distinctions between art and music, the classification of high and low forms of music, and the role that music plays in the philosophical development of the individual, even philosophers appreciate a tune or two.

Nietzsche famously said, “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

Philosophers, like the professional musicians in Dave Grohl’s documentary, also appreciate music as art.

And philosophy, like music, can be an art.

This looks like a fine place to drop a “That Look On Your Face When” meme.

that look

I know this all seems rather unbelievable.

Not because there are no artists anymore.

But because no one is into philosophy.

You see, even though the media doesn’t make much ado about modern-day painters, poets, or sculptors, being an artist is a fairly legit occupation. Even if they don’t talk about you on TMZ, a person can still find a successful career writing poems, painting or sculpting. We still read the works of Shakespeare, marvel at the paintings of Rembrandt and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Students still study Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

It’s a safe bet that if you walked around the streets of any major city you would find at least one person who can name a modern-day painter or poet.

Unfortunately, the same probably can’t be said about philosophy.

Sure, a few folks know about Aristotle and Socrates but how many people can name a philosopher who was born after the Titanic sank?

I know you philosophy majors can. You don’t count.

I blame TV and the movies.

When the television and the motion picture camera were invented philosophy went the way of the dodo.

philosophy's tombstone

What I mean, is that there are still writers and other artists. There are still romantic figures in the arts – modern-day Lord Byrons and Voltaires carry on the days of the troubadours. But they’re mostly in the arts that are meant to entertain. Our romantic artists are all actors or musicians. No one is ever celebrated for the art of creating a beautiful philosophical theory.
You can say your brain is an instrument, but who are we trying to kid?

Nobody ever sold out Madison Square Garden playing their brain.

AN ACTUAL PHOTO FROM SCHOPENHAUER’S LAST PHILOSOPHY TOUR (SCHOPENHAUER SHOWN CENTER STAGE)

AN ACTUAL PHOTO FROM SCHOPENHAUER’S LAST PHILOSOPHY TOUR (SCHOPENHAUER SHOWN CENTER STAGE)

And since I never learned how to play an instrument I’ve had plenty of time to think about these things….

I suppose that’s one benefit of never having learned how to play a musical instrument.

The problem isn’t just that philosophers aren’t very popular these days, thinking about things in general has gotten a bad rap.

There is something wrong with our ideology.

There’s something wrong with the basic principles upon which our culture is based.

You see, a growing number of Americans aren’t into reading anything. According to a Pew Center poll nearly a quarter of Americans did not read a single book in 2014.

SEE?

SEE?

It seems that the space where we communicate is getting smaller and smaller. So small in fact that we aren’t really required to read at all. Twitter limits us to 140 characters. Websites like Snapchat are purely visual.

There is no need to write anything.

And it’s not just that there are no words, but that the image we post disappears in a matter of minutes.

Think about it – what we communicate literally disappears.

poof 1

Even the visual image doesn’t last for very long.

I don’t know if it’s because we want to save trees or because the Illuminati has dumbed down the herd so they can imprison us in re-education death FEMA camps, but I contend that when people don’t read – when people stop studying the written word, there’s a problem.

Sure, you can learn from visuals. We’re all been able to put together a bookshelf by just looking at the diagram. But when a significant number of people (and growing) stop reading and society increasingly communicates via the visual image and the visual is temporary, how can we expect to sustain a culture that wants to read, analyze, and develop the kind of passion for the written word that some have for music?

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THERE IS ACTUALLY SUCH A THING AS LOVING BOOKS TOO MUCH

BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THERE IS ACTUALLY SUCH A THING AS LOVING BOOKS TOO MUCH

You see, to truly develop the intellect, you need to read; to meditate on what you‘ve just read. If we don’t appreciate the written word, we lose the capacity to communicate complex ideas (like philosophy, for instance). Like the great works of literature, complex ideas can’t be communicated in just 140 characters. Complex ideas can’t be limited to just visuals. Much less one that self destructs in 90 seconds.
Look, I’m not calling for everyone to throw out their guitars and ditch their Twitter accounts because we should all study philosophy. Yeah, I write and blog about philosophy. But it’s not even deep philosophy. I write about how philosophical concepts relate to the things we see on TV, in movie theaters, read in books, hear in songs and see in our popular culture in general.
I know what I do is not as marketable as a fashion blog or a mommy blog. Or blogging recipes or posting pictures of my cat. I know anything I will ever post on the internet will never have as many views as Tyler Oakley. A philosopher will never be asked to host a late night talk show.

That’s because philosophers are lousy at stand-up.**

 THERE IS NO OPEN MIC NIGHT AT THE PIRAEUS

THERE IS NO OPEN MIC NIGHT AT THE PIRAEUS

But dammit, this what I write. This is my passion. I think that reading and thinking about philosophy should be everyone else’s passion, too.

At least somewhat as much as some people love music.

Now that I think about it, Rush is pretty much that band, isn’t it?

ONLY RUSH COULD MAKE THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYN RAND SEEM DEEP

ONLY RUSH COULD MAKE THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYN RAND SEEM DEEP

So the question is, how do you get people to want to think about stuff like philosophy? How do you convince people that a career in philosophy can be just as rewarding as a career in the music industry?

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD SANG SONGS ABOUT BANGING GROUPIES, NOT READING BERTRAND RUSSELL

GRAND FUNK RAILROAD SANG SONGS ABOUT BANGING GROUPIES, NOT READING BERTRAND RUSSELL

Listen: some people worked long and hard to figure out how to get people to stop thinking. There must be some way to do the inverse. Plunking down books in front of people and making them read doesn’t work anymore. There’s nothing to be gained by being all smart and philosophical about everything.

Keep in mind when I say “nothing to be gained” I mean doing philosophy doesn’t make you a lot of money.

CHANCES ARE ALVIN PLANTINGA WILL NEVER TAKE A PICTURE LIKE THIS

CHANCES ARE ALVIN PLANTINGA WILL NEVER TAKE A PICTURE LIKE THIS

The average philosophy professor earns about $65,000/year.

Unless you work for California State University system (you’ll only make a measly $48,000/year).

THIS ACTUAL PHILOSOPHER HAS EXACTLY TWO DOLLARS IN HIS POCKET

THIS ACTUAL PHILOSOPHER HAS EXACTLY TWO DOLLARS IN HIS POCKET

Dave Grohl is worth $260 million.

dave grohl smiling

WORTH MORE THAN THE ENTIRE PHILOSOPHY DEPARTMENT AT YOUR LOCAL UNIVERSITY

What’s worse is that we’ve been trained to think that only ugly and/or un-famous people think.

People who are decidedly un-rock star.

Really.

Seriously. Think about it for a minute. Studying and thinking about serious stuff is for ugly people. This is why, no matter what contributions this man has made to modern thought –

YEP. PHILOSOPHERS PRETTY MUCH LOOK LIKE THIS

YEP. PHILOSOPHERS PRETTY MUCH LOOK LIKE THIS

We wouldn’t buy him for one second doing something like this:

david lee roth GIF

That’s why folks like Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow are on MSNBC and not on Fashion Police.

Why you’ll never see Kate Upton at an APA convention.

Not to say that Rachel Maddow is unattractive. I don’t think she is.
And not to say that Kate Upton would never give a keynote speech to the American Philosophical Association.

But you get my point.

There has to be a way to convince people that thinking, dare we even say philosophizing about things is not only not just for the unattractive, but for everyone. That all of our lives will be a little better if we start critically thinking about things.

That being a philosopher is as sexy as being a musician.

sexy philosopher

Here’s something I think Dave Grohl and Socrates would agree on: There’s something about music that can make us think, that can motivate us in ways that other forms of art cannot. That’s why Kant made a distinction between high and low forms of music.

popstars y u no read kant

It’s why Socrates tells us that we must be careful of what kind of music we listen to.

good music vs. bad music

Of course, there is a dark side to encouraging all this philosophical thinking; to making philosophy sexier.
Our problem is this: If we want to encourage thinking about philosophy the same way we think about our favorite rock musician, philosophical thinking inevitably will be sexualized, thus counteracting the point of encouraging people to value our capacity to reason over mere physical attributes.

pig thoughts

Not to mention the incredible difficulty of convincing the intellectual elite that gaining sway over public perception and opinion means they’ll have to ditch their academic ivory towers for the low and gritty world of common public discourse.

SOCRATES REALIZES HE'S GOING TO HAVE TO TALK TO AVERAGE PEOPLE

SOCRATES REALIZES HE’S GOING TO HAVE TO TALK TO AVERAGE PEOPLE

The thing is, philosophy really is like music.

It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it
dancing philosophers

But seriously, tho.
Contemplating life’s “big questions” touches us deep in our souls in the same way we are moved by a good song by our favorite band. Philosophers and rock stars are equally known for coming off as arrogant.

One can easily imagine Hegel, who said philosophy “must not lower itself to the people” jumping into the crowd to quell one of the rowdy rabble like this:

I suppose people will eventually get to a point when they’ll collectively rise up and after so many years of intellectual abuse, change the way we think about things.

And that, my friends, is the one benefit of never having learned how to play a musical instrument.

It’s knowing that one day doing this

philosophy lecture

Will get you just as famous as doing this

dave grohl guitar

….. and your name won’t have to be Slavoj Zizek, either.

Alas, it remains a great deal more difficult to covey the passion or sex appeal of thinking critically.

OK, SO IT’S NOT QUITE AS APPEALING AS ADAM LEVINE

OK, SO IT’S NOT QUITE AS APPEALING AS ADAM LEVINE

A working knowledge of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is still a lot less sexy than playing a guitar and bedding groupies.

Wait – do philosophers have groupies?

Guitar solo!
* If you want to read one of those articles on the ontology of music read: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/music/

** a notable exception to the philosophers are lousy at stand-up rule may be Ricky Gervais, who has a degree in philosophy from University College London.

SOURCES:
http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-decline-of-the-american-book-lover/283222/

http://work.chron.com/much-philosophy-professor-make-year-8750.html

http://www.celebritynetworth.com/richest-celebrities/rock-stars/dave-grohl-net-worth/

The Four of Us Are Lying

Bill Clinton. John Edwards. Richard Nixon.

Roger Clemens.

David Vitter. Former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford.

Here’s a couple more names…

James Frey. Jayson Blair. Stephen Glass.

Notice the pattern?

No?

How about this one:

Lance Armstrong.

Still don’t see it?

Pinocchio.

Ok. Think then-Secretary of State Colin Powell announcing to the United Nations that Saddam Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

Got it yet?

Ok, last one: “Remember the Maine”.

Still no?

Well, just in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’ll tell. Each of these men (and one wooden boy) told lies. They were lying.

Not just little white lies, mind you. BIG LIES*.

Whoppers.

The forces-you- to-resign-from-elected-office kind of lies.

The subject of a week’s worth of stories on TMZ kind of lies.

The has to talk to Oprah in a public display of contrition kind of lies.

The kind of lies that’ll have you end up doing this:

 

 

 

 

Or this:

 

 

 

 

Yeah.

Public humiliations galore.

 

Whether we tell half-truths or little white lies, spin tall tales, rip yarns, or lay down the kind of lies that would put Goebbels to shame, the funny thing about lying is even though no one likes it when somebody tells them, everyone lies.

daria on lies

 
Don’t say you don’t. You’d be lying.

 

pants on fire

 

We’ve all lied about one thing or another. We know that lies and lying are an inevitable part of human interaction. We might even say that the occasional lie is useful.

 

good lies

 
Yet we’re offended when it happens. We don’t like it when people lie.

Especially when they lie to us.

 

louie c.k. on liars

 

It’s not even that we’re merely offended by lies – we completely flip our wigs when we discover we’ve been lied to. We’re so put off by lies and liars that anyone who’s caught in a lie not only knows they’ve messed up big time, but also know that a long journey of mea culpas on the path of liar redemption is essential if one wants forgiveness.

If all works well, all will be forgiven.

However, if you’re a regular schmo like me – you get caught in a lie it might ruin you forever.

Contrition is not my forte.

 

baby liar meme

 

 

 

But why is that?

Why do we get so butthurt when someone lies?

Emperor Butthurt

 

 
I mean, after all, even the Bible admonishes us against lying. Exodus 20:16 specifically states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor”.

According to the Bible there’s an especially awful kind of lie: false witness.

 

Whatever that is.

 

I don’t know. I don’t read the Bible.

That’s why I’m going to hell.

 

I‘M A PHILOSOPHER. IT’S ALMOST A GIVEN THAT I‘M DOOMED TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.

I‘M A PHILOSOPHER. IT’S ALMOST A GIVEN THAT I‘M DOOMED TO ETERNAL DAMNATION.

 
Alright. I remember in my English 101 class, my professor said if you introduce a term you have to define it. So it might help us a bit to get clear on what exactly a lie is.

A lie, at least according to the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation), has three “essential features”:

 

1. A lie communicates some information
2. The liar intends to deceive or mislead
AND –
3. The liar believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true

 

According to the BBC, if you’re not doing any of those 3 things, you ain’t lying.

 

bad luck brian lies

 
But if lying is sometimes useful, we must ask, is lying all that bad?
Before you say yes or no you might want to ask around.

 

Psalm 31:18 may say “Let lying lips be put to silence”.

Obviously God has never heard of Socrates or noble lies.

Noble lies, in case you didn’t know, are fictions told with the intent to preserve loyalty to the state and the social order.

pinocchio bitch

 

 

Wait a minute, you say. Lies are bad. Anyone who watched what followed Lance Armstrong’s admission that he used performance-enhancing drugs knows that lying causes nothing more than absolute misery. So why does Socrates think that lying ever serves a useful, even a good, purpose?

You see, Socrates thought that people need to be lied to because most people are too stupid to handle things.

And by people, Socrates meant people like you and me.

Socrates says in Book III of  Republic:

“Could we,” I said, “contrive one of those lies that come into being in case of need, of which we were just now speaking, some noble lie to persuade in the best case, even the rulers, but if not them, the rest of the city?”

 

According to the late Socrates fan and political philosopher, Leo Strauss, the state may lie to the public when “an extreme situation in which the very existence or independence of a society is at stake.”

 

So according to Socrates and Strauss, so long as your lie serves a greater good for society, we should heartily approve of some lies.

 

WHO DRANK HEMLOCK AND LIKES LYING? THIS GUY!!!

WHO DRANK HEMLOCK AND LIKES LYING? THIS GUY!!!

 

 

Perhaps our anger at Colin Powell was misplaced.

 

… that’s because deposing Saddam Hussein would be good for everybody.

 

Keep that point in mind.

 

Socrates tells us so long as a lie is told by the right people for the right reasons, lying to people is perfectly fine. In fact, according to Socrates, lying to people is a necessary function of the ruling class.

Alright. Hold on a minute. Before you think Socratic noble lies gives us free rein to fib at will, remember that point I told you to keep in mind. ‘Cause you should be thinking there’s something extremely rotten in the polis.

Two points:

  • We get angry when we are lied to.
  • Even if a lie is justified, we feel that some punishment or an apology is necessary.

 

That’s why Lance Armstrong ended up on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

 

There’s a reason why we feel a sense of moral indignation when we find that someone has lied to us. There’s a reason why this guy’s nose grew every time he lied.

Pinocchio-007

 
The reason is because no matter what explanation, cause or excuse we give for telling a lie, a lying is wrong.

We feel an innate desire to hear the truth.

We prefer the company of those who tell the truth over those who tell lies.

 

This is what Aristotle wrote about people who tell the truth:

Such a man would seem to be a good man. For he who loves truth, and is truthful where nothing depends upon it, will still more surely tell the truth where serious interests are involved; he will shun falsehood as a base thing here, seeing that he shunned it elsewhere, apart from any consequences: but such a man merits praise.

 

According to Aristotle, a person who tells the truth is trustworthy. An honest person is someone of good character who we can rely on when we deal with them – we can expect that what they say is true and that by trusting them we will not experience emotional, philosophical or physical harm.

Of course, we well know that’s not what happens when someone lies.

 

OK, MAYBE ZACH MORRIS IS A BAD EXAMPLE

OK, MAYBE ZACH MORRIS IS A BAD EXAMPLE

 

Let’s remember: the second and third essential features of a lie states that the liar “intends to deceive or mislead”, and that a liar “believes that what they are ‘saying’ is not true”.

Intentional deception and misleading, no matter what  justification for doing so, always deprives others (those to whom the lie is directed) of the full knowledge of a situation. If we lack full knowledge, we cannot make fully rational decisions.

Kant says this is what happens, folks, not me.

 

BLAME HIM

BLAME HIM

 

 

That means that a lie is inherently pernicious. The short-term benefit of a lie is almost always obliterated upon the discovery of the lie.

Lance Armstrong lost his Tour de France medals. Roger Clemens was tried on charges of perjury. President Clinton was impeached.

 

 

th (7)

 

 

Twelve years and we’ve still got troops in Iraq.

 

 

WILL ALWAYS BE KNOWN AS TRICKY DICK

WILL ALWAYS BE KNOWN AS TRICKY DICK

 

 

And if you read Plato’s Republic, you would know that in no way did Socrates think that average Joes and Janes like you and me could – or should – be a part of the ruling class.

 

th (8)

 

What that means for us is that a lie, no matter what noble intention the speaker may have, can do nothing other than to cause harm.

And a liar, no matter what he tells you, is almost always up to something bad.

However, songs about liars are nearly always entertaining.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* I realize there’s a matter of what exactly constitutes a lie, especially concerning the intent of the liar. I realize that instances of lying include a liar being unaware that his false statement is indeed false or when an individual tells the truth with an intention to deceive. For an example of this kind of lie, I suggest watching Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones – in particular, the scene between Count Dooku and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

 

 
NOTE: Socrates details the purpose of noble lies in Book III, 414 d – 415 a-d, of Plato’s Republic.

 

 

SOURCES:
1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/lying/lying_1.shtml

2) Plato. Republic. 1968. Trans. Allan Bloom. NY: Basic Books. Bk. III, 414 b-c.

3) Leo Strauss. Natural Right and History. 1953 [1950]. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 160.

4) Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. 2004 [1893]. Trans F.H. Peters, M.A. NY: Barnes and Noble Books. p.91.

This Post Does Not Have A Name

I watch a lot of movies.

Maybe too many movies.

I must say, however,  I’ve never seen any of The Fast and the Furious franchise.

I’m more of a horror/sci-fi person. Not much of an action fan.

On November 30, 2013, one of the stars of The Fast and the Furious franchise, Paul Walker, died in a car crash.

He was only 40 years old.

 

paul walker

 

There’s something funny about movie stars. You never really think of them as having an actual age. A few years ago, I wouldn’t have spent one second thinking about his age. But now that I’m older, the first thought on my mind when I heard the news was the fact that Paul walker was only a few years older than me.

And even if he wasn’t so close to me in age, his death would still be tragic. He was a person. He has family and friends. And many fans who are now mourning his sudden and violent death.

I don’t know how many R.I.P. pages popped up on Facebook.

And, of course, his death made for plenty of programming on TMZ.

TMZ posted video of the car Paul Walker  in in flames.

 

paul walker accident scene

 

A few days after the crash, TMZ aired their  “last known video footage” of Paul Walker.

 

tmz last shot of paul walker

 

You know, when a famous person dies, there’s no shortage of sensational coverage of a person’s life. Death, whether a person is famous or not, is often treated like an entertainment event. I guess if you’re famous or  unfortunate enough to die in a spectacular fashion, the news and entertainment show vans and their cameras aren’t too far behind.

Unfortunately for Paul Walker, he was both.

But sometimes, it gets us thinking about those things that we otherwise often put off – like the inevitability of death. That death, no matter whether a person is 9 months or 99 years old, is an unpleasant and often unwelcome reality we all must face. But as tragic and uncomfortable as the subject of death (even the death of a famous person) is, it’s also an opportunity to ask philosophical questions.

Naturally, when someone dies,  our minds often drift to questions about our own lives – what our lives mean. We ask if our lives have meaning. Have we accomplished all with our lives that we wanted to do? What will our lives mean to others after we’re gone? Have we made a difference?

When a celebrity dies, especially if there were others killed along with the famous person, we ask what is the true value of a life. Paul Walker was a famous person but he was not the only person killed in the accident. Walker’s friend, race car driver Roger Rodas, also perished.

I’m certain that many people were shocked and saddened by the death of Rodas, but if you spent any time watching the Hollywood-centered media, it’s likely that you may have had the idea that Paul Walker was the only occupant in the car.

 

roger rodas

 

 

That’s because in our media-driven culture, the lives of the rich and famous are often more valued than the lives of average people. We want to believe that our lives, that any life, is important and if tragedy befalls anyone, what happens to us will be treated as important as if it had happened to a famous person.

Look, I’m not downplaying the situation. Lives, whether the lives are famous or not, are equally valuable.  That’s why it is so upsetting when any life is treated like it is less valuable. It’s why the fact that Roger Rodas’ death was virtually ignored by the entertainment media affects our moral sense on the value of life.

 

 

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.