You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Philosophy’ category.

This is one of my favourite talks. It presents a very important perspective.

One lesson I’ve tried to take from this involves dealing with those I might view as more wrong than me. It is common to wonder at how people can possibly be as stupid as they are. I have heard this sentiment expressed by many different people in many different situations. It is so easy to just think of the offending idiot as a moron and be done with it. It is not the most charitable of moods. The proper thing would be to recognize that we are all idiots, and we should deal with the stupid people in our lives as we would like our own stupidity addressed: with patience and courtesy. I admit, I don’t live up to this standard very often, but I’m working on it.

Laurie Penny has a great review of some of Jordan Peterson’s work, this quote illustrates the continued reliance of sociobiological principles by JP.

“Peterson insists in the very first chapter of 12 Rules for Life that if you’re an adult human man worried about your place in the world, you’ve a surprising amount in common with lobsters, “especially when you are feeling crabby, ha ha.” He then draws a thick, wonky line through several hundred million years of natural selection to advise human primates on their posture. If you stand up straight, like the biggest, toughest lobsters do, “you are a successful lobster, and the most desirable females line up and vie for your attention.”

Idiots will believe anything; fools will believe anything that makes them feel better. Peterson’s followers are not idiots. In November 1975, the New York Review of Books published an open letter from a group of Boston scientists, educators, and students entitled “Against Sociobiology,” in which they warned about the enduring popularity of biological justifications of inequality, ideas for which there is scant evidence but huge public appetite: “The reason for the survival of these recurrent determinist theories is that they consistently tend to provide a genetic justification of the status quo and of existing privileges for certain groups according to class, race or sex.”

Peterson is extravagantly dedicated to this justification, festooning his unscholarly interpretations of nature documentaries with ethical significance. His vision is of a world of crustacean anhedonia, an ordered utopia of jostling invertebrates endlessly battling to be top lobster, all tough carapace and no backbone.

This is Social Darwinism, not science. Peterson is working in a long, long tradition of conservatives, from Galton to Rockefeller to Reagan, using weak scientific data to give their dogma the mouthfeel of objectivity. Actual science journalists like Cordelia Fine and Angela Saini have done the hard work of going through every lazy assumption exhaustively, making it clear that using evolutionary theory alone to make sweeping pronouncements about human behavior is about as useful as scrying from the migratory patterns of birds or the entrails of whatever we’ve sacrificed to the god of late-capitalist male fragility on this day. Possibly our principles.

Social Darwinism, by itself, is a feeble philosophy. Combined with an investment in mythology and spiritualism, however, it becomes more dangerous. And this, brazenly, is what Peterson does. Standing up straight, for example, is important because of the lobsters, but also:

“To stand up straight with your shoulders back means building the ark that protects the world from the flood, guiding your people through the desert after they have escaped tyranny, [and] making your way away from a comfortable home and country… It means shouldering the cross.”

The simultaneous appeal to both science and religious mysticism, to God-and-or-genetics, is an ingenious arse-covering mechanism: if God didn’t strictly say he created man to compete in a series of vicious status battles and fuck the other guy, then genetics probably did, and any blue-haired social justice neuroscientists popping up to explain that that’s really not how gene expression works simply haven’t grasped the larger cosmic context. If there’s no actual scientific evidence for it, then it’s all a metaphor. It’s a prosperity gospel for toxic masculinity, The Art of the Deal via the Book of Leviticus.”

A review of The 12 Rules of life.

I need to find a pdf or two of JP’s works, there looks like there is a lot of comedy gold to mined.

We didn’t spend much time looking at Hume way back in philosophy university land – a rather unfortunate oversight – as the quiet rational approach to life he articulates is not only reasonable, but sensibly accessible, a quality I find quite appealing.  Julian Baggini’s essay on Hume is a great primer on the subject of his philosophy and how he approached life.  I excerpt the description of some of the main principles of Hume’s philosophical arguments.

“Hume’s philosophy does not add up to an easily digestible system, a set of rules for living. Indeed, Hume is best known for three negative theses.

First, our belief in the power of cause and effect, on which all our reasoning about matters of fact rests, is not justified by either observation or by logical deduction. We only ever see one thing following another: we never observe any power that makes one thing necessitate an effect. Even if we could be satisfied that we had established x caused y, logic can’t establish any general principle of causation, since all the regularities we have observed in nature were in the past, but the principle of cause and effect is assumed to apply in the present and future. Logically, you can never arrive at a truth about the future based entirely on premises that concern the past: what has been is not the same as what will be.

Hume did not deny cause and effect were real. We could not reason about any matter of empirical fact without assuming their reality, as his own writings frequently do. However, he was clear that this linchpin of sensible thinking is not itself established by reason or experience. This is philosophically strong stuff but hardly the source of inspirational Instagram quotes.

Hume is also well known for his arguments against various aspects of religion, although he never came out as a fully fledged atheist. Most famously, he argued that it would never be rational to accept the claim of a miracle, since the evidence that one had occurred would always be weaker than the evidence that such things never happen. It would always be more likely that the witness to a miracle was mistaken or lying than that the miracle actually took place. But again, skepticism about the claims of traditional religion does not amount to a substantive, positive philosophy.

Hume’s third notable negative claim does have the benefit of a stirring slogan, albeit one that is somewhat opaque: ‘Reason is, and ought only to be, the slave of the passions.’ Reason by itself gives us no motivation to act, and certainly no principles on which to base our morality. If we are good it is because we have a basic fellow-feeling that makes us respond with sympathy to the suffering of others and with pleasure at the thought of them thriving. The person who does not see why she should be good is not irrational but heartless.

As these three core claims illustrate, Hume’s philosophy is essentially skeptical, and skepticism seems to take away more than it offers. However, understood correctly, Humean skepticism can and should be the basis for a complete approach to life. It is built on the skeptical foundations of a brutally honest assessment of human nature, which could be seen as the essence of Hume’s project. It is not accidental that his first attempt to set out his philosophy was called A Treatise of Human Nature. Humanity was his primary subject.

Hume saw human beings as we really are, stripped of all pretension. We are not immortal souls temporarily encaged in flesh, nor the pure immaterial minds Descartes believed he had proved we were. Humans are animals – remarkable, highly intelligent ones – but animals nonetheless. Hume did not just bring human beings down to Earth, he robbed us of any enduring essence. Arguing against Descartes’s claim that we are aware of ourselves as pure, undivided egos, Hume challenged that when he introspected, he found no such thing. What we call the ‘self’ is just a ‘bundle of perceptions’. Look inside yourself, try to find the ‘I’ that thinks and you’ll only observe this thought, that sensation: an ear worm, an itch, a thought that pops into your head.”

I’m impressed by what Hume has to say, and intend to read further on his philosophical suppositions – I recommend you do as well, as his thoughts seem to be a reasonable tonic to these chaotic times.

    I missed out on the Objectivist phase of growing up, not glomming on to Rand’s insipid ideas saved me a great deal of fuss and bother as following Randian ideology tends to make one into a large swirling vortex of petty narcissism (see asshole).  However, as Skye C. Clearly argues in her essay, ignoring Rand is not the solution, but rather critical nuanced refutation is the key, so we can learn from Rand’s arguments and hopefully come up with more pro-social solutions to the problems she presents.

 

   “Vilifying Rand without reading the detail, or demonising her without taking the trouble to refute her, is clearly the wrong approach. Making her work taboo is not going to help anyone to think critically about her ideas either. Friedrich Nietzsche – a philosopher sometimes aligned, albeit superficially, with Rand, partly due to her Übermensch-like protagonists – warned in 1881: ‘The innocent will always be the victims because their ignorance prevents them from distinguishing between measure and excess, and from keeping themselves in check in good time.’

Rand is dangerous precisely because she appeals to the innocent and the ignorant using the trappings of philosophical argument as a rhetorical cloak under which she smuggles in her rather cruel prejudices. Her writing is persuasive to the vulnerable and the uncritical, and, apart from the overextended set-piece monologues, she tells a good story. It’s her novels that are the bestsellers, remember. Almost two-thirds of the thousands of reviewers on Amazon give Atlas Shrugged a five-star rating. People seem to be buying it for the story, and finding a convincing philosophy neatly packaged within, which they absorb almost without thinking. It’s not too much of a stretch to imagine what people find admirable in her characters: Rand’s heroes are self-interested and uncaring, but they’re also great at what they choose to do, and they stick by their principles. It’s a prime example – and warning – of fiction’s influential power.

Hoping that Rand’s ideas will, in time, just go away is not a good solution to the problem. The Fountainhead is still a bestseller, 75 years since first publication. And perhaps it’s time to admit that Rand is a philosopher – just not a very good one. It should be easy to show what is wrong with her thinking, and also to recognise, as John Stuart Mill did in On Liberty (1859), that a largely mistaken position can still contain some small elements of truth, as well as serving as a stimulus to thought by provoking us to demonstrate what is wrong with it. Rand’s rhetoric continues to enthral millions of readers, so we need compelling language and stories to provide counterarguments with eloquence. Imagine if a writer could persuade the millions who are reading Rand today to come to different, kinder and more compassionate conclusions, to see through her self-serving egoism rather than be seduced by her prose. We need to treat the Ayn Rand phenomenon seriously. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Its effects are pernicious. But its refutation should be straightforward.”

As a Physicalist, I can get behind some of what Rachlin says.  I think I’ll have to read some more regarding his thoughts on pain though, because I’m finding it hard to take out the direct connection our nervous system has with the world out there and replace it with the notion that it is simply an interaction over time.

Interesting article none the less, and of course the three questions that get you thinking about what Teleological Behaviourism is reproduced here:

 

“As far as I am concerned, our minds are not mysterious entities in our brains but rather equivalent to the long-term patterns in our overt behaviour. This view stems from Aristotle’s philosophy of teleology, in which the end, not the means, is the most important part. For a psychologist, the viewpoint is known as teleological behaviourism, and that’s where I fall.

The concept might be difficult to accept at first, but give it a chance. Following are three questions and answers that are hard to resist; they might not convince you to become a teleological behaviourist, but they should demonstrate that teleological behaviourism is not as crazy as it might seem at first:

QUESTION: It is the far-distant future. Knowledge of the brain has progressed to the point where our brains can be removed from our bodies and stored safely in a room while communicating wirelessly with our bodies; such disembodied brains can control our movements as they do now in situ. American football teams use this brain-separation technique to protect themselves from concussions. Yet there are still broken arms and legs, and players writhing on the ground. Where is the pain?

ANSWER: The pain is in the players’ behaviour. The brains in the locker room contain the pain mechanisms, but pain itself is not an internal mechanism; it is an interaction over time between a person’s overt behaviour and the environment. It is the player writhing on the field, not his or her brain, that needs assistance; pain can function as a signal for that. For the hurt football player, as for us all, the pain of the moment exists in the context of a wider relationship over time between harmful stimuli (such as a hot stove) and overt and generally functional behaviour (such as pulling your hand away).

QUESTION: Again, it is the far-distant future. Suppose you lived then and married a wonderful person and had a great life together with perhaps children and grandchildren. After 50 years of marriage, on his/her deathbed, he/she tells you that he/she is a robot, manufactured rather than normally born. Would you be disappointed?

ANSWER: I would not be disappointed. If anything (say, a non-physical soul or some neural circuit in her brain) had been left out of my wife’s composition, that thing would have been entirely irrelevant to me. If her behaviour after all these years was that of a normal human being, her consciousness must have been that of a normal human being, by definition. Otherwise, consciousness would be a truly trivial thing. Consciousness evolved as did our less-extended behavioural patterns. The separation of consciousness from long-term behavioural patterns allows you to say that a normally behaving person, normal in every way (perhaps, over the long run, a better behaving person than you are), is ‘really’ inferior to you because his or her in-principle non-detectible consciousness is faulty or non-existent. Such a notion is not just wrong but destructive, and can underlie racism and prejudice of every kind.

QUESTION: Two people in a room are asked to imagine a lion. One closes her eyes and says: ‘Yes, now I see it; it’s walking around; I see the mane and the tail.’ The other person runs screaming from the room. Which one is imagining a lion?

ANSWER: Clearly the person running out of the room is imagining a lion. The other is imagining a movie of a lion. There are no sense organs in our brains; if there were, we would see nerves and not lions. To imagine something is to behave in the absence of that thing as you would normally do in its presence – as you would do if you perceived that thing. Thus, as Aristotle said, imagination depends on perception. Actors on the stage are performing acts of imagination. Good acting is not a consequence of good imagination but is itself good imagination.”

Helena de Bres writes about how Philosophy if you’re doing it right, is an absurd practice.  What I found interesting about her essay is the idea of the two perspectives we shift between as hypothesized by Thomas Nagel (“One [perspective] is that of the engaged agent, seeing her life from the inside, with her heart vibrating in her chest. The other is that of the detached spectator, watching human activity coolly, as if from the distance of another planet.”).  Us human types bring about so much of our own troubles, often failing to strike a reasonable balance between ‘living in moment’ and the detached ‘from the point of view of the Universe’.  Significant life events, whether positive of negative, can also foment imbalance between these two perspectives, in which I think require careful mixing in order to live a more meaningful life.

One of the things I’ve noticed in the literature about grieving and loss is how important it is to realize the ubiquity of the experience that happens to be engulfing you at the moment.  Most certainly, this is your own personal trauma, but realizing that others have and are experiencing similar feelings and going through similar motions can help frame your personal struggles in a slightly more hopeful context.   For example, people have been grieving the loss of their loved ones for centuries now, and most find a way forward.  There is some small solstice to be found (for the grieving person) in fact that others have found the means to go on after traumatic life experiences.

This contextual switching, I think,  plays a significant role in the rebuilding of the emotional resilience that is necessary to keep life going and for an individual to continue to grow after a major setback.  I see a fair number of parallels in this essay between the notion of dual experiential perspectives and some of the tenets of Buddhism and other Eastern philosophies.

 

“There’s something especially absurd about philosophers, supine or not. The explanation for this might lie in the best-known philosophical account of absurdity, offered by Thomas Nagel in 1971. Nagel argued that when we sense that something – or everything – in life is absurd, we’re experiencing the clash of two perspectives from which to view the world. One is that of the engaged agent, seeing her life from the inside, with her heart vibrating in her chest. The other is that of the detached spectator, watching human activity coolly, as if from the distance of another planet. Nagel notes that it’s our nature to flip between these points of view. One moment we’re fully caught up in our mushroom-cultivation class, our infatuation with our sister’s husband or our intractable power struggle with Terri in accounting. The next moment, our mental tectonics shift and we see ourselves from an emotional remove, like a spirit hovering over its own body. It becomes evident to us that, ‘from the point of view of the Universe’, to use the 19th-century utilitarian Henry Sidgwick’s phrase, none of these things matter.

Our sense of absurdity kicks in when we snap between these two perspectives rapidly, in a kind of duck-rabbit movement of the soul. The sense of absurdity depends on this instability. If we could retain the internal perspective forever, we’d never experience the shock of doubt about whether what we were doing was ultimately worthwhile or made any kind of sense. If, alternatively, we could permanently view all human affairs, our own included, from the perspective of the Universe, we’d never find ourselves eagerly attempting to adhere fungi to a damp log. We’d be full-time ascetics, to whom nothing human mattered at all, people who couldn’t be caught red-handed caring about something small.

Though Nagel says that we all adopt both the internal and external perspectives on our lives, some people clearly identify more with one than the other. And some of these people cluster in professions where one perspective is disproportionately valued. Academic philosophy is one such profession. When people say: ‘Let’s be philosophical about this,’ they mean: ‘Let’s calm down, step back, detach.’ The philosopher, in the public imagination, is set apart from the mundane concerns and fiery attachments that govern the rest of humanity. He or she takes the external perspective on pretty much everything. When Søren Kierkegaard collapsed at a party and people tried to help him up, he allegedly said: ‘Oh, leave it. Let the maid sweep it up in the morning.’

If this image is accurate, and if Nagel’s account is right, philosophers, parked forever in only one of Nagel’s perspectives, will escape the absurdity of the human condition. We philosophers, however, are among the most absurd people I’ve ever met. The reason for this has a whiff of paradox. Abstraction and detachment might be a philosopher’s stock-in-trade, but philosophers are often fiercely attached to those very things: passionate about impassion, abstract in the most concrete of ways. They spend years working obsessively on papers with titles such as ‘Nonreducible Supervenient Causation’ and then have public brawls about them at conferences. This is part of philosophy’s charm for me. There’s something especially absurd, yes, but also endearing, about people who are so serious about their core life endeavour that they regularly forget its ridiculous aspects, even though the endeavour itself is meant to serve as a perpetual reminder.”

This Blog best viewed with Ad-Block and Firefox!

What is ad block? It is an application that, at your discretion blocks out advertising so you can browse the internet for content as opposed to ads. If you do not have it, get it here so you can enjoy my blog without the insidious advertising.

Like Privacy?

Change your Browser to Duck Duck Go.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 390 other followers

Progressive Bloggers

Categories

January 2019
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Archives

Blogs I Follow

The DWR Community

Volunteer petunia

Observations and analysis on survival, love and struggle

femlab

the feminist exhibition space at the university of alberta

Raising Orlando

About gender, identity, parenting and containing multitudes

REAL for women

Reflecting Equality in Australian Legislation for women

The Feminist Kitanu

Spreading the dangerous disease of radical feminism

Double Plus Good

The Evolution Will Not BeTelevised

la scapigliata

writer, doctor, wearer of many hats

Mars Caulton

Teaching Artist/ Progressive Educator

liberated558

Still she persisted

Old Wives' Tales

feminism, motherhood, writing

Female Personhood

Identifying as female since the dawn of time.

Radfem Resources | Radical Feminist Literature

A virtual library for those interested in radical feminist literature and resources.

Not The News in Briefs

A blog by Helen Saxby

SOLIDARITY WITH HELEN STEEL

A blog in support of Helen Steel

thenationalsentinel.wordpress.com/

Where media credibility made a comeback.

BigBooButch

Memoirs of a Butch Lesbian

RadFemSpiraling

Radical Feminism Discourse

a sledge and crowbar

deconstructing identity and culture

The Radical Pen

Fighting For Female Liberation from Patriarchy

Emma

Politics, things that make you think, and recreational breaks

Nordic Model Now!

Movement for the Abolition of Prostitution

The WordPress C(h)ronicle

These are the best links shared by people working with WordPress

HANDS ACROSS THE AISLE

Gender is the Problem, Not the Solution

fmnst

Peak Trans and other feminist topics

There Are So Many Things Wrong With This

if you don't like the news, make some of your own

Gentle Curiosity

Musing over important things. More questions than answers.

ANTHRO FEMINISM

A place for thoughtful, truly intersectional Feminist discussion.

violetwisp

short commentaries, pretty pictures and strong opinions

Revive the Second Wave

gender-critical sex-negative intersectional radical feminism

Trans Animal Farm

The Trans Trend is Orwellian

Princess Henry of Wales

Priestess Belisama

miss guts.

just a girl on a journey

writing by renee

Trigger warning: feminism, women's rights

RANCOM!

Happily Retired

freer lives

A socialist critique of gender ideology

Centering Women

A radical feminist page made for women only

radicalkitten

radical Elemental feminism

%d bloggers like this: