Monday, January 31, 2011

Mailbag Monday: The Problem of Evil

Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else. Send your questions to philosophybro@gmail.com with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.


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Luke writes:
I got a request for you if you're up for it bro. It's motherfucking Epicurus. That's right, that old Greek badass. The man who originally came up with the Problem of Evil. Can I get it explained further?
Sure thing, bro. Epicurus is credited with originally formulating the problem of evil (though he probably meant it not as proof that the gods didn't exist, but as proof that the gods were far away and didn't give a fuck about us. After all, the idea that the gods didn't exist was inconceivable to most ancients.) We find his formulation as follows:
"“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?”"
The argument runs something like this: Of the following three ideas, only two of them are compatible at any given time:
  1. An omnipotent God
  2. A benevolent God
  3. Evil in the world
Seriously, if an all-powerful God who can do literally whatever the fuck he wants exists and really loves us, why would he allow us to suffer? Why would he allow evil to exist, when he can clap his hands and fix everything?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

David Hume's "Of Miracles": A Summary

Unfortunately, we can't see everything that goes on everywhere all the time to verify it for ourselves. That would be really convenient, but it's just not possible. So we have to rely on the testimony of others to verify things we haven't seen for ourselves. How do we actually know Charlie Sheen is a bro king? We didn't witness him having sex with porn stars and partying for 36 straight hours for ourselves - maybe that never actually happened. Still, in the face of zero denials and 24/7 news coverage, it's pretty hard not to believe - the evidence overwhelmingly supports the Charlie Sheen is a Fucking G Hypothesis, and it's perfectly reasonable to believe it based on all that. It turns out, though, we have the same rule for everything, even the laws of nature. How do we that gravity causes rocks to fall to the ground when they're dropped? Because every single person in history who has ever dropped a rock on Earth reports that it fell. Everyone. No exceptions. Gravity, magnetism, speed of light, we know all that shit because we've seen it, and everyone swears they see it too - that's how laws of nature are discovered. It's that simple.


Of course, not everything is universally agreed upon. Did OJ Simpson really kill Nicole? Well, I mean, the evidence seems pretty compelling to all of us out here, but the 12 people whose opinion really mattered, who really got treated to the full exposition of the evidence, said they weren't sure. So we can't say outright, "He absolutely killed that bitch." At best we can say, "Probably. He probably absolutely killed that bitch." Really, we should say, "Maybe. Maybe he absolutely killed that bitch." We have to weigh the evidence and the testimony, just as with any claim - we can only believe a claim insofar as the evidence favors it over its denial. Sometimes, it's just barely.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Immanuel Kant's "How is Metaphysics in General Possible?": A Summary

There is a ton of shit you can reason successfully about. Hell, math provides literally an infinite number of things you can reason about, including, conveniently enough, actual infinities. Still, some bros never have enough, and the stubborn fucks insist on trying to reason about experience. Of course, they all run into the same problem: it can't. fucking. be done.


Sure, you can understand experience, but that's completely different. Understanding just puts labels on everything so your brain can file it neatly away. That color you're seeing? Yellow. The shape? Curved. The curved yellow thing? Banana. Fucking CHECK. Everything you know about bananas, you know because you had an experience, and you understood; what the hell could reason possibly tell you beyond that? If you're trying to get to the 'essence' of a banana, its 'ultimate reality', then enjoy your aneurysm. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

John Stuart Mill's "What Utilitarianism Is": A Summary

People want to be happy; that seems pretty clear. What makes people happy? Why, pleasure makes people happy. Bros fucking love pleasure. Pleasure is the only thing people want for its own sake, as an end; everything else people do is to attain some final pleasure. Pleasure is happiness. What the fuck else could happiness be? And what could be right, other than making people happy? 

Can I prove it? No, that's not the sort of thing that's provable - we want pleasure, and that's it. If you can come up with something better, fucking be my guest. Therefore, the right action is the one that maximizes the ratio of pleasure-to-pain. If the people want happiness, let them have happiness. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Vegetarianism

Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else. Send your questions to philosophybro@gmail.com with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.


Ben writes via e-mail:
Can you discuss the philosophical arguments on each side of the vegetarianism debate (meat eaters vs. non-meat eaters)? It's a subject that's interesting to me, I would enjoy seeing both sides laid out.
Sure thing, bro.


So first, no one seems to have a philosophical reason to eat meat. No one is taking a principled stand, thinking "Eating meat is the only way to save the planet, or the cows will fucking take over!" or waving signs that say, "GOD HATES PIGS" at PETA conferences. Meat eaters usually don't feel the need to justify themselves to vegetarians, since apparently a diet that includes meat is the natural state for humans: after all, our teeth are suited for both grinding plants and tearing flesh, and our digestive system has no problem dealing with a diet with lots of protein in it. Plus, we find it fucking delicious. How did that evolve unless meat is beneficial?

Friday, January 21, 2011

More Broings On: A Bronouncement from PB

Hey kids,

So, the day has come. I'm going to have to move to a reduced schedule. *gasp*. It turns out I just can't keep up with posting every day; it doesn't give me as much flexibility as I'd like, and I feel bad if I can't. It's really important that this blog remain something fun for me, and I honestly have a blast writing the summaries that I do. I don't want this blog to become a source of stress for me. So I'm going to aim for MWF postings - and on Monday, I'll try to do a mailbag AND a summary. So I'm shooting for a Mailbag Monday and three summaries a week, instead of four. No cause for panic. In fact, it's pretty much what I've produced anyway. On the off-days, I'll also throw in bonuses like my Heidegger summary as often as possible. Cool story.

In other news, I'm working on expanding Philosotees this weekend, so hopefully there'll be even more sweet Philosophy Bro gear availablein the next few weeks. PLUS: if you come up with a great idea that you let me use, and I turn it into a t-shirt, you'll get one FREE. Eh? Eh? Send ideas to, as usual, philosophybro@gmail.com.

You guys have flooded me with suggestions, and it's fucking awesome. I love it. As you may have noticed, I'm tending toward shorter pieces, breaking longer works into chapters. I do plan to return to finish A Theory of Justice, Meditations on First Philosophy, and anything else I break up. But that way I can give a work its proper due, without cutting out important details or glossing over them. Plus it gives me more to do! Win-win.

You might be interested in following me on Twitter.

Finally, someone told me that my RSS feed was broken; that should be fixed now. If you didn't subscribe for that reason, try again now - if it still doesn't work, shoot me an e-mail.

So, welcome to all the new readers who've followed in the last few weeks! Thanks for the chance to do what I love, which is write hilarious shit. Keep shooting me e-mails with your suggestions and requests, and anything else you feel like I should know. And be sure to tell your bros!

-Philosophy Bro

John Rawls' "A Theory of Justice, Part I: Theory": A Summary


What kind of government do you want to live under? Yes, of course you asshole, we all want to be absolute dictator, but that's not how social contracts work. So let's try again - what kind of government does everyone want to live under?

Utilitarianism sounds like a sweet-ass basis for government. Why shouldn't a government try to satisfy as many rational desires of its constituents as possible? After all, democracy is all about the 'will of the people', and utilitarianism takes that vague phrase and literally fucking maximizes it. There's no denying, that's badass.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations": A Summary

Look, there's a lot of unavoidable bullshit out there. Tons of it, in fact, and there is precisely nothing you can do about it. The sooner you accept that, the better your life will be; rather than bitching and complaining, learn to deal with it. Or, of course, you could keep whining like a little bitch; sure, maybe that'll fix everything.


There are two ways your existence could turn out: either there are no gods, in which case nothing means anything, so fuck it; or there are gods and they'll take care of us in the life to come. And by two ways, I actually mean only one way, since I think we can all agree that the gods definitely exist. If there's one thing I'm absolutely sure about, it's those bros. Still, your body is going to be dust in a hundred years, and all that really matters is your mind. Does anyone here remember who won the first Olympics? Yeah, I didn't think so. Only things of the mind last; therefore, it's supremely important to cultivate your mind on your own, to think for yourself. And the best way to do that? You guessed it - fucking philosophy, bro.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mary Wollstonecraft's "Vindication of the Rights of Women": A Summary

For centuries, bros have treated hoes like they're completely worthless. To be honest, they're not far from wrong, but for some reason they also seem to think that if they keep treating us that way we'll somehow fix ourselves or something. Yeah, six thousand years of male dominance, but we're right the fuck around the corner from catching up, guys. That plan has turned out great so far.

D you want to know why women fit your stereotypes of stupid, silly creatures? Because they're taught that it's the only way to be. That's what happens when all the bros running education just want pretty idiots to take as mistresses instead of smart ladies to take as wives.  Every girl is being taught by these assholes, so if you're frustrated that your wife is like a mistress who spends her time shopping instead of putting out, stop pointing fingers, bro. No wonder she wants nothing more than to shop and drink tea - I don't care how resilient you are, twenty years of being told pretty is the highest value and eventually anyone would start to believe it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Occam's Razor

Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else. Send your questions to philosophybro@gmail.com with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.

Petey Pueblo writes via e-mail:

Oh Wise Philosophy Bro, what's the deal with Occam's Razor?

Bro, good question. Occam's Razor is a principle that says, roughly, that we should prefer the simplest explanation. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ayn Rand's "This is John Galt Speaking": A Summary

If you don't think the entire world is completely fucked, you're not paying attention. Yeah, it's pretty bad out there. But until you realize why things are so out of hand, it's only going to get worse. So listen the fuck up.

Rocks don't have morality because they're not alive. Plants can't be criminals because they can't make choices. 'Right' and 'wrong' describe choices, and every one of you has a fundamental choice: to live or to not live. And since bros are the smartest fucking things in the world, we survive by using our brains. When bros think, they live, and they find happiness. Oh shit, you have to think to be happy? Yup. Rational men are happy men, which is why free trade is so fucking sweet - it lets two thinking bros make a deal, and trade what they have for what they want. Guess who comes out ahead when two bros trade: Both bros. Otherwise, they just wouldn't trade.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Descartes' "Meditations on First Philosophy: First and Second Meditation": A Summary

How do I know anything at all to be true? I've been wrong about things before - perfectly reasonable shit, in fact, that seemed at the time quite clear to me. And sometimes, I believed other shit on the basis of that original, mistaken shit. I've eventually realized my errors before, and gone back and corrected my shit, but it would be pretty arrogant to assume I've gotten rid of every single one of my mistaken beliefs, wouldn't it? All it would take is one sneaky little motherfucker near the foundations of my beliefs to blow everything else I believe up, and not only is that fucking terrifying, it's completely possible. Shit.


So I'm going to start completely fresh and build from the ground up. After all, what if I'm dreaming? It sure as hell feels like I'm sitting in front of a toasty-ass fire, comfortably doing philosophy, but God knows I've dreamed crazier shit than that and believed it. What if every memory I have and every sense experience I'm having are all just part of a dream? It's possible, so out the window with it. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lao Tzu's "Tao Te Ching Book One: The Book of Tao": A Summary

So, there's this force (not to be confused with The Force) that pervades and begets everything, and it has the really inconvenient property of being unnameable. I know, it's a bitch. We'll call it the Tao, except that naming it Tao doesn't tell us anything about it; it doesn't help us to know it. Oh yeah, it also has the property of being unknowable, which is just fucking super. If someone tells you they fully understand the Tao, they're lying, or they're wrong. Either way, they don't have the true Tao.

You know what is beautiful and light and big, which is also how you know what is ugly and dark and small. But while you're busy judging, consider how they came to be - what would be beautiful without ugliness? If everything was beautiful, would anything be beautiful? We all know people who walk around talking about how beautiful everything is, how we need to wake up and see the beauty all around us or some shit, but usually those people are ugly. That's not necessarily a bad thing; it's just not realistic to walk around pretending everything is beautiful all the time. Light and dark, big and small, same thing. These opposites are all part of the Tao, and he who wishes to know the Tao must embrace the dark as well as the light.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Trees and Existentialism

Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else. Send your questions to philosophybro@gmail.com with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.


Derek Brown writes:


If a tree falls in the woods and nobody's there to hear it, does it make a sound?


Bro, great question. When I was in high school, my Social Studies teacher asked us this and I was like, "Of course it does, you British asshat. How could it not? IT'S FUCKING PHYSICS." But really, this is a question of epistemology. How the hell could we know if a tree does in fact make a sound when it falls in the forest? Here are some different perspectives:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Marx and Engel's "Manifesto of the Communist Party": A Summary

History is one big class struggle. Ancient Rome was all about keeping the plebes down; Feudalism was just some rich nobles keeping the peasants in line; Guilds divided workers into the cans and the cannots, who was and wasn't allowed to work; Slavery - well, obviously. It always ends in revolution, except it never ends - the revolutionaries just become the new assholes, and the whole cycle starts over again. 


And back in the day, the broppressors at least pretended that they had a good reason for the shenanigans they pulled. Divine mandate, social contract, meritocracy, whatever bro. But now the struggle is between those with capital and those without it, the brourgeois and the broletariat, and the brourgeois don't even pretend like they have a good reason. "It's about money, asshole, what're you going to do about it?" Either you're in or you're out, either you have capital and can exploit, or you have nothing and you're exploited. That's the fucking way it goes.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Wittgenstein's "On Certainty": A Summary

Here is a hand. How do I know? Look closely, asshole, it's clearly a hand


Look, if you really insist on doubting that here is a hand, or anything else, there's nothing really I can say to convince you otherwise. What the tits would the world even look like if this weren't a hand? What sort of system is your doubt endorsing? After all, you can't just say "It's not true that here is a hand." You have to be endorsing some other picture of the world. Let's say, "There are no hands." Then what. the fuck. do you call these things with five fingers that I have two of? Perhaps I don't really have them. Sure, okay, but let me ask you this: does that really sound more reasonable than, "I have two hands?". What would it even mean for me to make that mistake? How the fuck can a bro even be wrong, much less about something like having fucking hands? Bros use their hands all the time. Are we mistaken every time we act like we have hands? Sometimes skepticism isn't helpful, it's just you being an asshole.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Heidegger's "Being and Time": A Picture Summary



I tried to read Being and Time, and I came to the conclusion that Xzibit could do a better job than I could of summarizing for you.
Don't worry, we'll return to your regularly scheduled summaries sometime today ;)


-PB

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kierkegaard's "Fear and Trembling": A Summary

Abraham - more like Abroham - was a fucking badass. God commanded him to sacrifice his only son, after promising him descendants more numerous than the stars, and he obeyed faithfully. He didn't just obey, he fucking obeyed - he didn't try to go 'above and beyond' the will of God, or interpret it based on what he thought God should want or probably wanted; he didn't obey resentfully or hesitantly. Bro just fucking packed up his son, built a goddamn altar, and got ready to sacrifice him, because God said so. That is fucking incredible.


Does that seem paradoxical or contradictory to you? Good. It should, and if it doesn't then you're not paying attention. Was that shit unethical? Of course it was, but that's why Abraham is ten times the bro any of us is. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Pascal's Wager and Schrödinger's Cat

Mailbag Monday: A weekly segment that covers readers' questions and concerns about all things Philosophy, Bro, and Philosophy Bro that don't quite fit anywhere else.

Arfurtrollington asks on Reddit:
I'd like to request Pascal's Wager.
Sure thing, bro. Pascal's saying, "Look. Either God exists, or he doesn't. It has to be one or the other, right? And you can't know for sure. You think you can, but you can't. Reason tells us fuck all about whether God exists or not, so good fucking luck with that project.