Thursday, September 8, 2011

Bronouncement: Some clarifications

So, lately I've been seeing more and more comments coming through that assume I hold to the ideas in my summaries. In particular, when it comes to God and/or religion. For example, this comment on my most recent summary:


wrt way # 1: Bro, just because there's an unmoved mover (and who knows, maybe there is just an infinite regress of movers), that doesn't mean it's Jesus Christ. That's just lazy goddamn thinking right there. It could have been (well, not really) any of a myriad of other gods attested throughout history, or more likely there's some natural explanation.
wrt way #2: Bro, more laziness? It's the same fucking thing, with 'cause' substituted for 'move'. FFS, college freshmen are coyer about their bullshitting than Aquinas, bro.
wrt way #3: Yeah okay, this is Philosophy Bro and not Physics Bro, but there's plenty of research in physics that indicates that absolutely nothing is a lot less stable than something. Nature abhors a vacuum, and all that.
wrt way #4: So good just comes from god? Killing babies is good, so long as god gives the go-ahead? Sorry bro, I need to go make a call to someone about some good psychiatrists.
wrt way #5: http://tinyurl.com/3v7rlbf
I love this site, bro, but where's the diversity of viewpoints that normally comes with your other posts? This seems a little lazy.


Or this comment on my Nietzsche summary:
To the author of the article: Man oh man, are you ever confused about religion and God. You probably don't feel confused though, but you are. Thoroughly.
And just the other day I got an email that started out, 
I'm curious, since you believe there's a God... 


I suppose I'll go ahead and take responsibility for this misconception; I did precious few summaries this summer and stuck mostly to the Mailbag, and any new readers who showed up in that time period might think that's most of what I do. The Mailbag is much, much less work than a summary, and, well, it was a busy summer. It turns out, though, what initially launched me to fame and what constitutes the bread and butter of this site during the academic year when I have full access to the usual resources and the right sort of time and whatnot, are my summaries of the philosophical works of others. All such summaries are written from the perspective of the original author, or else in some way follow their style (as in the dialogue format of The Allegory of the Cave or the objection/response format of the Summa) and if a summary lacks a diversity of viewpoints, it's because the original work lacked diversity of viewpoints, which is pretty standard for, you know, works that purport to explain the one way shit is. As my FAQ will tell you, I have intentionally occluded my own views on almost all subjects, because they are not the point of this blog. 


However, where I think you will find a decent diversity of thought (thought I do admittedly heavily favor the traditional Western Philosophical tradition, as a result of both my background and the majority of requests I get from you guys) is in my selection of works to summarize. In the obviously controversial field of religion, for example, you will find - in addition to the Thomistic apologetics and antitheist existentialism linked above - Christian existentialismHumean skepticism, and whatever the fuck Schopenhauer was trying to say. I don't really favor one viewpoint over another; I make an effort not to, in fact.


So, if you don't find those ideas very convincing, then you probably wouldn't find the original text very convincing. Which is fine! I have, by now, summarized several works that I am not personally persuaded by, and in fact disagree with strongly. My views are not the point of this blog. Please! Feel free to discuss in the comments the content of the works at hand. And if you feel like there's a major view that's underrepresented, the solution there is to email me a work to remedy that.


Finally, and this is just a peeve of mine I'm going to take the opportunity to pontificate on, it's fucking annoying to be told I'm lazy or confused. Not because I'm particularly insulted - I'm perfectly aware that I'm awesome, thanks - but because you're really calling the ideas lazy or confused, and I fucking hate to see a lack of engagement with the ideas. That happens all the time in philosophy classes, when people dismiss a historically badass motherfucker just completely out of hand. ALL THE TIME I see freshmen like, "Uh, Descartes used circular reasoning, herp derp." And it's just not that simple. We wouldn't read Descartes in every single fucking intro class ever for the last three centuries if it were as simple as, "He's going in circles, NEXT." I'm not saying you have to agree with Descartes or Aquinas or Nietzsche or, really, anyone; I am saying that a bro who spent his entire life in a monastery writing the two-volume treatise of philosophy that defines an entire era of thought and that people still find relevant today is probably not guilty of intellectual laziness, and of all the shit you could accuse Aquinas of being, lazy probably isn't in the top 50. There are perfectly valid arguments against all five of his Ways, but this shit's lazy isn't any of those arguments. It's possible Aquinas is dead fucking wrong. That doesn't make the thinking less excellent. THIS IS JUST AN EXAMPLE. My point is, if a guy is really, really famous for philosophy, at the very least a bunch of professors with PhD's think his ideas are valuable in some way, so don't be dismissive out of hand. You will be a much, much better thinker if you learn to respect your ideological opponents' strength. Because if you call some bro lazy or confused and it turns out you're wrong and their shit is super-rigorous and really thorough, then you look like a fuckwad instead of an engaged and intelligent participant in dialogue. And there are plenty of fuckwads in the world already, out there mucking up public discourse. Why would you want to be one? You wouldn't. You're much too intelligent for that, which is why you find this blog valuable.


Okay. That got away from me, but I'm glad I said it. Guy who made that comment, don't feel like I'm picking on you in particular, you just gave a really good example of a comment that accomplished a lot of mistakes at once, and I'm trying to help you (and everyone else) not make those mistakes. I don't think you're a fuckwad. I do think you don't know as much as you think you do. That's pretty common. We've all been there.


tl;dr: ideas in summaries belong to the original author, not me, and summaries are not balanced because individual works are not balanced. If you think I'm not covering a perspective that I should cover, make a suggestion. Don't be a dick, and if you're going to be a dick, make damn sure you're correct, or you look silly. No one likes wrong dicks. 

23 comments:

  1. Oh, thank god... This site has been utter chaos lately.

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  2. Damn good advice.

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  3. I'll admit, at first I thought your summaries were your own thoughts... until I started thinking about the summaries themselves, that is. Thanks for what you do, PB, you make this crazy shit we call philosophy so much easier to understand.

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  4. Damn fucking good advice, people are taking summaries of philosophical works wayyyy to seriously. The whole place have been cluttered with too much shit lately.

    I guess it's reasonable to assume that when people start talking religion, shit really hits the fan

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  5. Well I think your awesome....BRO. Derka derka.

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  6. If they don't understand the meaning of the word summary, I'd be pretty perplexed as to how they think they could argue against historically bad-ass philosophers and actually say something insightful.

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  7. "If they don't understand the meaning of the word summary, I'd be pretty perplexed as to how they think they could argue against historically bad-ass philosophers and actually say something insightful."

    Stupidity and confidence are pretty strongly correlated. Confidence is basically a word for "not good at recognizing problems."

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  8. What the fuck bro.
    Since you talk about laziness.....
    The goddamn title says the authors name

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  9. I bow down to your utter awesomeness. I'm not a philosophy student - wish every day that I was. Though I may be fascinated to know what your opinions are about a great many things, I have the utmost respect for what you're doing and how you choose to conduct yourself here.

    Thanks and thanks again :)

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  10. Bro, how is it not lazy to just assume that the god you're trying to prove exists is the judeochristian one? NEVER does Aquinas deal with that question, it's just tacitly assumed, as it is with every theologian.

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  11. Perfectly explained. Sure missing those summaries, hope you get more time this fall

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  12. "Bro, how is it not lazy to just assume that the god you're trying to prove exists is the judeochristian one? NEVER does Aquinas deal with that question, it's just tacitly assumed, as it is with every theologian."

    Well the point isn't really to prove that the deity corresponds to your particular mythology, but to prove that a deity can, does and must exist. The most important philosophical opponents of Christians aren't Muslims or Hindus, but atheists, since they're willing to question the roots of theological assumptions while others aren't. Aquinas wasn't lazy at all - people like him knew long ago (even when atheism was punishable by death) that the existence of God was a much more important assumption than Jesus' resurrection, so it'd better have some hardware behind it. There's an unspoken bond between theists of all stripes - if they can get the atheist to admit that their arguments are valid and sound, then theism has been vindicated and they can move on to bicker about whether Jesus was half-god, fully god, fully human or even real.

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  13. "Bro, how is it not lazy to just assume that the god you're trying to prove exists is the judeochristian one? NEVER does Aquinas deal with that question, it's just tacitly assumed, as it is with every theologian."

    You should re-read the sentence from the article about thinking you know more than you do over and over and over again until it sinks in.

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  14. You know, the first time I read one of your summaries I thought that it was all from your own viewpoint. Then I went back to reread it and READ THE FUCKING TITLE. C'mon, people.

    Keep up the good work, bro.

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  15. I have known quite a few philosophy undergrads--and worse, an occasional graduate colleague--who are like this. I've said the same thing, only not as well as you, to my undergrads. The grad students who make this mistake, frankly, don't strike me as our sharpest minds.

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  16. Bro, can you write more summaries please? I love your work

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  17. i love you bro and i always take your shit seriously

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  18. BEST FUCKING BLOG I HAVE READ in a long time.

    Kudos, Dude. Glad I found this place.

    *sets up camp and a fire*

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  19. I'm new to this blog and even I could tell that these weren't the beliefs of the blogger. Still, I fucking love to see someone get angry on the internet especially when they have a good point, so this post is a good read.

    Anonymous above said this: Stupidity and confidence are pretty strongly correlated. Confidence is basically a word for "not good at recognizing problems."

    Well, Bertrand Russell (Dude!) said it better when he said 'The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.'

    Yeats said it better with 'The best lack all conviction, While the worst are full of passionate intensity.'

    Tell these freshmen to read the intro to Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy. Hey, has anyone ever told you to summarise that book? The mind boggles at how bizarre that would look.

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  20. ahh yeah the first few times i read your summaries i was like, "whoaaaaa" then i was like, "wait a moment..." but ahh!! i love you bro!! you are the best bro, god tier!! top tier!!

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  21. I have read some of those comments and wondered how such myopic beings manage to survive on a daily basis. and these people get to vote. maybe John Stuart Mill had a point about weighted voting.

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