Archive for June, 2009

The ends of philosophy

June 24, 2009

Knowledge, if Dr Dewey is right, cannot be any part of the ends of life; it is merely a means to other satisfactions. This view, to those who have been much engaged in the pursuit of knowledge, is distasteful.

Bertrand Russell implies that means are ‘mere’ in this case, obviously for rhetorical effect; as if the journey was always so unimportant and disappointing compared to the destination. He is mistaken in thinking that philosophy must have its ends in itself in order for the philosopher to have any joy along the way.

Bertie finds Dewey’s view of knowledge as serving pragmatic ends distasteful, and admits that he could be illogical in thinking so. He never bluntly says why he finds such a view distasteful, but, as one could easily imagine, it would wreak havoc on the self-image of a earnest, self-important philosopher who engaged in academic, artificial puzzles that rarely bore any pragmatic fruit.

Bertie should have been more philosophical in considering the ends of philosophy, rather than letting his ego get in the way. We might have had something of significance from him, instead we get only a preacher to those converted to his speculative, pointless way of life.

Nietzsche: the truest disciple of Socrates

June 21, 2009

Jonathan Ree discussed Kierkegaard @ In Our Time.

Ree states that Kierkegaard believed that Socrates was about taking down pretensions to knowledge, not the building up of philosophical systems, such as that of Hegel. I can think of no one who more attacked pretensions to knowledge than Nietzsche (Hume comes second). Perhaps Nietzsche was Socrates truest disciple – now that’s irony.

Existentialism in Film

June 20, 2009

I’m coming up with a list of popular films with existential motifs. I plan to discuss these in later posts. Care to list anymore?

  • American Beauty
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Blade Runner
  • Breathless
  • Children of Men
  • Clockwork Orange
  • Dark Knight
  • Donnie Darko
  • Dr Strangelove
  • Easy Rider
  • Fight Club
  • Hamlet
  • High Noon
  • Hiroshima Mon Amour
  • I (Heart) Huckabees
  • Ikuru
  • Macbeth
  • No Country for Old Men
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  • Paths of Glory
  • The Big Lebowski
  • The Bucket List
  • The Rules of Attraction
  • The Seventh Seal
  • The Third Man
  • Silence of the Lambs
  • Taxi Driver
  • Waking Life
  • Watchmen

When does an interest in philosophy become vulgar conceptual consumption?

June 20, 2009

Aristotle considered contemplation/philosophy an end in itself, but was he just an addict to conceptual consumption?

Perhaps the dopamine rush due to the expectation of finding a magical conceptual key to an undefined treasure kept him hooked? (Hence his praise of ‘wonder’, which is the curiosity-interest-expectancy dopamine system in disguise). It is clear that many philosophers engage with superficial and artificial problems merely to mentally masturbate, because it feels good.

Philosophy must serve an end and that end is life. Don’t get hooked on the drug of wonder and forsake it for everything else.

Suppression is futile

June 20, 2009

Why Thought Suppression is Counter-Productive

It is better to confront your thoughts and emotions and work through them. Trying to distract yourself, with speculative philosophy for example, is counter-productive.

Suppressed emotion tends to show itself anyhow in a deformed manner. Certain ancient philosophers (e.g. Socrates, Plato) tried to suppress their emotion in favour of ‘reason’. In not confronting and dealing with their emotions, they came to hate and reject this world in favour of another. In trying to idealise mankind in themselves through reason they only deformed it. That’s the real practical joke.

What does it mean to be happy?

June 20, 2009

How to find happiness? Good question. A few responses:

Smackdown! Homer (Simpson) vs. Aristotle: What Does it Mean to Be Happy?

Aristotle’s conception of the good life in a nutshell is: (pleasure + honour [in political/social spheres]  + contemplation) x excellence [virtue]

Thomas Hurka on Pleasure – some pleasures are more equal than others

The Happiness Machine – much like the above

A quick guide to the reading of philosophical texts

June 19, 2009

This guide is to assist you in deciding what to concern yourself reading. Follow these heuristics:

  • The length of a text on a particular topic, beyond a certain extent, is inversely proportional to what significant things it has to say. Long-winded, rambling texts don’t communicate important points in ways that are memorable. If one cannot easily remember the key points of a text it will be difficult, nay impossible, to implement them in daily life. Words are only significant if they can be applied to the means and ends of life.
  • If some point could have been made with less words than those used, the philosopher has overrated their attention-worthiness and mistaken their audience for people who don’t have clear aims in reading them.
  • The degree of formal references to others, particularly to academics, is inversely proportional to the creativity and value of the text in terms of unique insights. (Group norms kill creativity.)
  • The use of much philosophical jargon and overly formal style points to a lack of communication skills on part of the philosopher and heightened irrelevance to the life of the everyday citizen of anything they may say
  • Avoid at all costs texts which talk about issues and concepts only of interest to philosophers; there is no wisdom in store
  • Philosophy is often used by nerds as a means by which to impress others with their supposed intellectual superiority and to gain status amongst peers. Consider what self-concept the writer may be trying to project with their text. You may get more ego than content.
  • If the reputation of the philosopher precedes the text, rest assured that the text is not as good as the cult surrounding its authority believe
  • If from the opening paragraph of  a text you do not infer practical wisdom for your life on offer, put the text down and find something worth reading

The problem of philosophy: relevance

June 13, 2009

Isaiah Berlin knew it:

…he found the philosophy as it was practiced in the years immediately after the Second World War in Britain, and particularly in Oxford, lacking in the human relevance that he needed in a subject, lacking in the connection with human dilemmas. I mean one could even say and this of course was anathema to philosophers, then, and still is to some extent today, that he wanted to practice and study and examine and explore a type of thinking which shed light on the dilemmas of human life. In the very last conversation I had with him before he died, I asked him whether there was a single thinker or writer or philosopher who had influenced him more than any other, and without a single second of hesitation, he said ‘Herzen’. In other words, he didn’t mention a philosopher such as David Hume or John Stuart Mill, or any of the philosophers, some of them whom he admired greatly, he immediately mentioned a radical writer rather than an academic philosopher, as one who had influenced him more than any other single writer or thinker.

One wonders if all that is left of philosophy is a bunch of dictionary editors and literary critics. The sophists of the Academy have truly ravaged it over the years, but you can’t keep a true thing down forever.