Rather than writing…it’s Hegeltime

Yes, I know I’ve been bad about writing lately. No, it’s not just because I’ve been busy (though that’s part of it), much as I’d like to blame it on that; mostly, it’s because I keep starting posts and then deleting them (there’s a really good one on philosophy, bicycling, and unfriendly motorists who pass inches away from you to make a point that just needs me to find the right words that aren’t too inflammatory that I must have redrafted four times by now, and have been thinking about since a ride in November), and, well, I’ve been reading Hegel.

Yes, Hegel. Why? Because I can. Continue reading

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More Book Advice from a Nonexistent Bookstore

So, if last round was the Greatest Hits, this time’s for the album tracks and rarities—not everything here will be to everybody’s taste, some of these will be to almost nobody’s taste (well, except maybe yours, Asher), and at least a few of them should be loved by none. Continue reading

Science Isn’t Objective

The title’s clickbait, but I mean it: science, even physics, isn’t objective, and, more to the point, it can’t be.

There are a lot of assumptions to unpack there (for instance, why do people think physics is the most objective science?), but let’s start with the obvious one: the assumption science, whatever it is, is, in fact, objective, whatever that is. Continue reading

High Art, Good Art, & Bad Ideas

Context, if you want it: a recent article in The Stone, the NYT’s philosophy blog that Brian Leiter likes to mock. The position, if you want it: some forms of art/music/etc. are superior to others, with classical music, for instance, being superior to pop music.

My views, if you want them: sure, there’s good art and bad art. There’s also a whole lot of complications that philosophers of art, especially those who think you can make simple divisions between high culture (the kind academics like and participate in) and low culture (the kind they look down on, or study in “studies” departments) with impunity. Continue reading

Exile, Occupation, Persecution: The Birth of Philosophers

Bertrand Russell, Typical Philosopher

Time to pick up where I left off last time—why so many of The Greats come from less-than-ideal circumstances. While today’s philosopher is stereotyped as a rather comfortable man in his armchair complete with tweed, pipe, and beard, it seems that most philosophers, especially before Kant, spent some time on the run, hungry, alone, forsaken, and with the law at their heels. For a few of them, there was a jail cell and executioner rather than departmental office and publisher.

I’m all about historical narratives around here, so let’s whip up another one—how philosophers found themselves on the wrong end of The Man: Continue reading

What’s the Great Scholastic Novel?

Yes, another aside at the beginning of a post, but, thanks to a very nice reference from The Smithy, home of other fans of John Duns the Subtle, ye olde humble blogge’s visitor counter’s pretty much exploded. Seriously, I’ve gotten almost as many people visiting in the last three days as I’ve ever gotten in a month around here. Thanks for visiting, y’alls!

Why aren’t there any great novels written from a Scholastic viewpoint? For that matter, how many truly great works of literature that weren’t written by Dante can those of you who don’t study the middle ages name that explicitly follow a Scholastic worldview? Heck, what about the great Stoic novel? Sure, Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations aren’t poorly written at all, but really, what great play, poem, or book follows a Stoic worldview, rather than explicitly espousing one?* It seems that you can’t be an existentialist without writing novels (Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Camus, Sartre, and de Beauvoir were all pretty dang good novelists), and postmodern nihilism, especially of the “there is no truth—which should really scare you” postwar variety, produced any number of temporally disjointed and bone-crushingly dense black comedies. The Greek aristocratic ideal gave us some of the greatest epic poetry and drama the world has ever known, while postwar Japanese novelists infuse their works with Zen Buddhism’s unique wabi-sabi aesthetic, and Romanticism and German Idealism gave us a flood of great poetry. Heck, even Puritanism has produced great novels—according to at least one argument I’ve read, all of them.** So where’s the great stuff involving the nuances of virtue ethics, natural ends, and hylomorphism? Continue reading

Underappreciated Philosophers II: Machiavelli

Seriously? Niccolo Machiavelli, one of the most studied, influential, and reviled philosophers ever, underappreciated? Really? Really?

Yup, really. Or, perhaps, misunderstood. If you ask me, you should never take anything in The Prince at face value. It’s not a treatise on government; no, if you’ve read your Plato and your Boethius, you’ll see it for exactly what it is: a sarcastic warning to anyone who might want to become entangled in the affairs of courts and princes. Continue reading

Ai Weiwei Is a Bad, Bad Man

If anyone from the Chinese censorship office is reading this: 草泥马.  The title of this post is meant ironically, and there’s a special place reserved for the likes of you.  Forgive the unprofessional language, but you can go straight to Hell.  What you do is evil, and the civilized peoples of the world, including most of your fellow citizens, will never forgive you for it.  I know one Anglophone philosopher on the Internet means nothing to you, seeing as you have no scruples about silencing thousands of other voices, but there you have it: the truth, and nothing but.

For the rest of you, whom I have no doubt I like much more,* it’s time for radical philosophy, art, and odd curatorial decisions.** Continue reading

Philosopher Shaming!

Time for some philosopher shaming.  Things I actually and truly believe, but know I probably shouldn’t:

  • There is no way we can have anything worth calling knowledge of objective scientific truths.  This shouldn’t bother us, though.
  • We can have knowledge of moral truths.  It may be that it’s not that hard to know what they are, even; it’s just that, since they make inconvenient demands of us, we choose to act like we don’t know them.
  • I studied Thomas Aquinas mostly because I thought he was respectable and Blaise Pascal wasn’t.
  • I really, really dislike reading Aquinas, and I don’t think burnout explains all of why.
  • Thomas Hobbes is nowhere near as shocking, modern, or cool as Marsilius of Padua once you understand the latter’s philosophical context.  Seriously, writing a work in the middle ages without a lengthy discussion of human nature or happiness?  If that doesn’t start ringing all sorts of alarm bells, you evidently didn’t spend way too much time studying Scholastic political philosophy.
  • Basically, Kant was right.
  • John Duns Scotus may just be the most brilliant person who wrote during the 12oo’s.  That’s saying a lot.
  • Realizing I’ve always had sympathies with French continental philosophy was . . . well, I still feel kinda dirty about it.  Also that I should have saved it for 11 October.
  • I sometimes read feminist philosophy just for the great titles.
  • The more Aristotle I read, the more I’m convinced he’s the third most overrated philosopher ever.  One and two are Berkley and Lacan, by the way.
  • On Tuesdays, I think David K. Lewis was right.

The Complete History of Philosophy, Abridged

This, perhaps more than anything else, may be my biggest scholarly disagreement with how philosophy is practiced today.  Sure, I have much bigger gripes on a personal and professional level—the casual sexism for starters—but this is less depressing.

Philosophy has a history, and its history shapes how we do things.  The problem is that each side of the philosophical turf war has its own narrative, and these narratives . . . well, they’ve got issues. Continue reading