Tag Archives | Philosophy

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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DisinfoCast: 80: Daniele Bolelli: How to Be Less of An A**hole

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I spring an entirely unplanned question on fighting philosopher Daniele Bolelli (“On the Warrior’s Path”, “50 Things You’re Not Supposed to Know: Religion”): How can we all strive toward not being assholes? What develops is an interesting conversation on empathy, jealousy, violence, and the philosophical nature of good and evil.

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The Fully Externalized And Hollowed Out Being

maskDoes an interior life still exist when all of our motives, quirks, and desires are quantified, quasi-monetary units? Via The New Inquiry, Rob Horning writes:

When the mechanistic imperative has been successfully internalized as the prevailing life style of our society, we shall find ourselves moving through a world of perfected managers, operations analysts, and social engineers who will be indistinguishable from the cybernated systems they assist.

The cybernated system might demand not conformity but constant innovation within constrained categories — the mechanistic imperative could be: CREATE! Creativity in personal expression is not immune to being bureaucratized.

The new fear is not that people will be all the exact same “blank” dispassionate drone — people’s identities are more variegated and articulated than ever — but that they will become indistinguishable from their social-media profiles, the mark of a systematized personality.

Indeed the sites propose that all of identity must be externalized in order to be authentic.

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Manifesto for Living in the Now

RelojDespertadorCounterculture stalwart Douglas Rushkoff tells Discover that the future is bright for those of us willing to live in the present:

Discover: Are some people confusing the idea of “presentism,” of living in the present, with tweeting and texting and constantly updating Facebook?

Rushkoff: The faux now of Twitter updates and things pinging at you — all the pulses from digitality that we try to keep up with because we sense that there’s something going on that we need to tap into — are artifacts, or symptoms of living in this atemporal reality. And it’s not any worse than living in the “time is money” reality that we’re leaving.

D: What do you have against clocks?

DR: Time has always been used against us on a certain level. The invention of the clock made us accountable to the employer, gave us a standard measure and stopwatch management, and it also led to the requirement of interest-bearing currency to grow over time, the requirement of the expansion of our economy.

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The Danger Of Putting A Price On Everything

market societyVia Motherboard, Harvard philosophy professor Michael Sandel on our slide toward a market society:

In recent decades we’ve been in the grip of market faith, which says that markets are the primary instrument for achieving the public good. This assumption has gone largely unquestioned in the past 30 years. As a result from that we have drifted from being a market economy to being a market society.

A market economy is a valuable tool for organizing productive activity. A market society, on the other hand, is a place where everything is up for sale, in which money and market values begin to dominate every aspect of life. From family and personal relationships to health, education, civic life, and politics. We need to step back and ask some fundamental questions about what the role of money and markets should be.

Utilitarianism assumes that all good things in life can be translated into a single uniform currency or a measure of value, typically money.

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