Tag Archives | Philosophy

The Closing of the Scientific Mind

Pic: Repdan (CC)

Pic: Repdan (CC)

Yale Professor of Computer Science David Gelernter thinks that science as become an “international bully”. You may recall that Gelernter was severely injured after receiving a mail bomb from Ted Kaczynski. Wonder what an open dialogue between these two would have been like had Kaczynski chosen a more peaceable tactic for his activism?*

Via Commentary:

The huge cultural authority science has acquired over the past century imposes large duties on every scientist. Scientists have acquired the power to impress and intimidate every time they open their mouths, and it is their responsibility to keep this power in mind no matter what they say or do. Too many have forgotten their obligation to approach with due respect the scholarly, artistic, religious, humanistic work that has always been mankind’s main spiritual support. Scientists are (on average) no more likely to understand this work than the man in the street is to understand quantum physics.

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Laozi, Nietzsche and Kropotkin: Are The Common People Good?

Pic: Hugh Rankin (PD)

Pic: Hugh Rankin (PD)

What say you, Disinfonaughts? Are the common people, and the uncivilized, good? Are they better off than those on high?

via Bao Pu 抱朴

I picked up Nietzsche’s The Genealogy of Morals (1887) yesterday and found a passage which immediately made me think of Laozi. Here’s Nietzsche, writing about the origins of the concept of “good” :

… the judgment good does not originate with those to whom the good has been done. Rather it was the “good” themselves, that is to say the noble, mighty, highly placed, and high-minded who decreed themselves and their actions to be good, i.e., belonging to the highest rank, in contradistinction to all that wasbase, low-minded and plebian. It was only this pathos of distance that authorized them to create values and name them … Such an origin would suggest that there is no a priori necessity for associating the word good with altruistic deeds, as those [English] moral psychologists are fond of claiming.

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A Belated Reply to Plato: Is Democracy the Wisest Choice?

Is democracy the wisest choice, and the only fit for philosophers? Share your thoughts, links, and recommendations with us please.

Plato in his academy, painting by Swedish pain...

Plato in his academy, painting by Swedish painter Carl Johan Wahlbom, woodcut for the magazine by an unknown xylographer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (PD)

via 3 Quark Daily

Plato is among the most famous critics of democracy.  His criticism is relatively simple, but potentially devastating.  It runs as follows.  Politics aims at achieving justice, and so political policy must reflect the demands of justice.  Only those who know what justice is and have the self-control to enact what justice requires are capable of doing politics properly.  Alas, the average citizen is dumb and vicious.  Hence Plato’s conclusion is that democracy is a fundamentally corrupt form of politics; it is the rule of those who neither know nor care about justice.  In The Republic, Plato’s Socrates argues for a philosophical monarchy, the rule of the wise and virtuous.

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Famed Philosopher Martin Heidegger Speaks In This Rare Documentary

via Wikipedia

Martin Heidegger (German: [ˈmaɐ̯tiːn ˈhaɪdɛɡɐ]; September 26, 1889 – May 26, 1976) was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the “question of Being”.[6] Heidegger is known for offering a phenomenological critique of Kant. He wrote extensively on Nietzsche and Hölderlin in his later career. Heidegger’s influence has been far reaching, influencing fields such as philosophy, theology, art, architecture, artificial intelligence, cultural anthropology, design, literary theory, social theory, political theory, psychiatry, and psychotherapy.[7][8]

His best known book, Being and Time, is considered one of the most important philosophical works of the 20th century.[9] In it and later works, Heidegger maintained that our way of questioning defines our nature. He argued that philosophy, Western civilization’s chief way of questioning, had lost sight of the being it sought. Finding ourselves “always already” fallen in a world of presuppositions, we lose touch with what being was before its truth became “muddled”.

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Epictetus On How Perception And Accountability Can Render Freedom

Epictetus

Epictetus (Photo credit: Wikipedia) (PD)

How perception and accountability can render freedom.

The Stoic Epictetus famously believed that his mind was free even if his body was enslaved, and this was enough freedom for him.

The Stoic word for freedom, ἐλευθερία, emphasizes the freedom from external coercion that modern compatibilists argue is the only freedom in the idea of voluntary actions and “free will.”

But long before the Stoics, Aristotle had used “depends on us” (ἐφ’ ἡμῖν), to describe the kind of internal freedom Epictetus prized.

Epictetus knew that some actions in the world were external to his will and out of his control. Like all Stoics, he said we should not be bothered by anything out of our control. Our emotions should only respond to things that we can control, that depend on us, and these he called προαίρεσις.

For Epictetus, good and evil were exclusively involved in things under our control, not in external events.

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The Scientist: John C. Lilly

I don’t know about you, but blissful idiot sounds attractive. All the more reason to avoid this state of consciousness.

Via Wikipedia: John Cunningham Lilly (January 6, 1915 – September 30, 2001) was an American physician, neuroscientist, psychoanalyst, psychonaut, philosopher and writer. He was a researcher of the nature of consciousness using mainly isolation tanks, dolphin communication, and psychedelic drugs, sometimes in combination.

 

 

 

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Of Immanuel Kant and Sexbots

Dollfriend  (CC)

Dollfriend (CC)

posits the question, are sexbots more like animals or more like stones? Via Talking Philosophy

The Fox sci-fi buddy cop show Almost Human episode on sexbots inspired me to revisit the ethics of sexbots. While the advanced, human-like models of the show are still things of fiction, there is already considerable research and development devoted to creating sexbots. As such, it seems well worth considering the ethical issues involving sexbots real and fictional.

At this time, sexbots are clearly mere objects—while often made to look like humans, they do not have the qualities that would make them even person-like. As such, ethical concerns involving these sexbots would not involve concerns about wrongs done to such objects—presumably they cannot be wronged. One potentially interesting way to approach the matter of sexbots is to make use of Kant’s discussion of ethics and animals.

In his ethical theory Kant makes it quite clear that animals are means rather than ends.

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On Consumer Choice And The Quest For Meaning

666girlsVia The New Inquiry Rob Horning warns that attempting to express our identities has become a zero-sum game:

Consumerism is sustained by the ideology that freedom of choice is the only relevant freedom; it implies that society has mastered scarcity and that accumulating things is the primary universal human good, that which allows us to understand and relate to the motives of others.

Choosing among things, in a consumer society, is what allows us to feel autonomous (no one tells us how we must spend our money) and express, or even discover, our unique individuality — which is proposed as the purpose of life. If we can experience ourselves as original, our lives will not have been spent in vain. We will have brought something new to human history; we will have been meaningful. (This is opposed to older notions of being “true” to one’s station or to God’s plan.)

The quest for originality collides with the capitalist economic imperative of growth.

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FBI Spied On Sartre And Camus In Effort To Unravel Subversive Conspiracy Behind Existentialism

sartre_jpThe New York Times reports that beginning in 1945, the FBI began spying on the French philosophers, fearing that their ideas on being and nothingness were part of a plot against the United States:

[Sartre and Camus]’s lectures at Columbia University were well attended by students and faculty members — and by agents from J. Edgar Hoover’s F.B.I.

Yet Sartre, on his visit, was actually invited to the Pentagon; Camus, in contrast, “was stopped at immigration…Hoover sent out a ‘stop letter’ to all U.S. customs agents saying this man should be detained,” Mr. Martin said. Eventually, Camus was allowed to proceed to New York, where his novel “L’Étranger” (“The Stranger”) had just been published in English.

“Hoover thought there must be some kind of conspiracy between communists, blacks, poets and French philosophers. He was hoping for some kind of evidence of conspiracy,” he said.

The F.B.I. was baffled by Sartre. “These agents were trying to work out what the hell existentialism was all about,” said Mr.

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NFL Player Quits Midseason, Citing Noam Chomsky

moffitt

Not that I’m expecting football fans across the country to wake up and question whether they themselves are “pawns in a machine”,  but the abrupt retirement of John Moffitt, as reported by the New York Times, is commendable and intriguing:

“I don’t want to risk health for money,” said Moffitt, 27, who walked away from about $1 million in salary, various benefits for retirees who play at least three seasons and quite possibly a trip to the Super Bowl with the 9-1 Broncos. “I’m happy, and I don’t need the N.F.L.”

In the off-season, Moffitt started reading the writings of the Dalai Lama and Noam Chomsky, among others. They helped him conclude that he was a pawn in a machine that controlled his life.

Moffitt insisted that he did not care about the lost income, and he was shocked that people thought he was nuts for walking away from what they think is a glamorous lifestyle.

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