Monday, February 28, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Vegetarianism and Free Will Redux

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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Audrey writes in the comments of my vegetarianism post:
Comepelling [sic] piece, but the main reasons behind my veganism are rooted in environmental reasons, not animal rights. I think it's a bigger issue than people realize, or are exposed too. 
It's a fair point, Audrey, and one I'll happily address.


So what are the environmental reasons that might motivate vegetarianism? Consider an example of the economic scenario known as 'tragedy of the commons':
You're pounding brewskis and playing video games, two things bros are fucking awesome at. Your bro gets back to the Bro-cave, decides he wants to join you because he can, and grabs a beer from the fridge himself. Soon there are four of you, drinking and playing Mario Kart, when suddenly you run out of cold beer. Nothing but warmies in the fridge. Fuck that.
What precipitated this crisis of epic broportions? If you had just gone slower, the beer in the fridge would have had time to cool down, and you wouldn't be out. But bros don't like to go slow - as rational actors, they want to maximize their utility, and in this scenario that means drinking as many of the cold beers as possible. If everyone had slowed down, everyone would have had more cold ones, but slowing down unilaterally isn't in any one individual's best interest. So you overexploited your resource, and now everybody loses.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

UMass Dartmouth Talk: Wrap-up


On Wednesday I had the opportunity to speak to UMASS Dartmouth's philosophy club, which was really cool. They specifically asked that I address Heidegger, despite my frequent and publicly disparaging remarks about him. Well, challenge fucking accepted, and I think everyone had a great time. The notes from that talk formed the basis of today's post on Being and Time, except that everyone at the talk had the opportunity to hear me deliver it. In addition, they got more a more detailed discussion on Heidegger's phenomenology, a discussion of W.V.O Quine's essay "On What There Is", its relationship to Heidegger, and a general overview of the question of 'being' in the history of philosophy. Afterwards, we had a question and answer session about Heidegger and then about philosophy and bro-dom in general.  Sure seemed like everyone had a blast; I definitely did. We covered the current direction of philosophy and a bunch of other stuff including Pragmatism, Objectivism, and Zizek. They got to see me broify on my feet - It really had the feel of an interactive summary, as if they were watching my writing process, responding and interrogating it in real time. Really, just awesome.

I Skyped in to this talk, which was super fucking convenient for everyone involved. I wish I could have made it out there and given them some face time, but alas, 'twas not to be, thanks to irreconcilable scheduling conflicts. Still, as compromises go, though, this was fucking sweet. Hopefully I'll have some video from the talk up later this weekend and you guys can get a preview of what it's like to go face-to-face with Philosophy Bro.

Thanks again to UMASS Dartmouth philosophy club for having me, and especially Maureen, the moderator, for working so closely with me to make this a success. If you're interested in having me come talk to your student group/religious congregation/political rally/book club, shoot me an e-mail at the usual spot! 

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

Note: This post is drawn from the notes of a talk I gave to the UMass Dartmouth philosophy club this Wednesday, which you can read more about here.


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Philosophy lost its way a long fucking time ago. They treat 'being' like some trivial thing, instead of the most important fucking question of our time, the one that matters most of all. What does it mean to be? Plato ignored it and went about his merry fucking way, and now philosophy is useless.  We don't even know what it takes for something to exist. What makes a thing a thing? What are the criteria for being? Of course, the only way to get to Being itself is through beings, things that are, which is inconvenient as shit but just the way it is. Fortunately, we are beings who can understand Being, the Dasein.


At this point, you're either a bit confused or you've begun diagramming the uses of the word 'Being'. Good call, but I hope you brought tons of colored pencils and a good sharpener, or you're fucked. The truth is, the single word 'being' just wasn't meant to bear as heavy a load as this project puts on it. So think of 'Being', the essential thing we're trying to get at, like a Party, and think of 'to be', the verb, as 'to rage'. Now, there are lots of people at this party - chairs, trees, pretty much everything that is. Where is this Party? In the world, which we'll call the 'house'. And who do we know who rages the hardest? That's right, fucking Bros, that's who. They're the Dasein at this party, the partiers who rage with awareness and understanding. Turns out, Dasein being is a lot like a Bro raging, and Dasein understanding Being is a lot like Bros understanding the Party. There, isn't that better?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Free Will

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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Ricky writes,
Bro,
Can you do free will or determinism please?
your fellow bro
Alright, bro, I'll take a crack at it.


First of all, though, there's a more fundamental question than free will or determinism. For some reason, lots of bros seem to think that if determinism is true, free will is obviously an illusion. It's an intuitive line of reasoning - 'if the future is already determined, then of course we can't have free will. Fucking elementary, Watson.'  Hold your horses there, asshole. Not so fast.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Jean Jacques Rousseau's "Discourse on Inequality": A Summary

Savage man was the most effective fucking animal out - no more, no less. While every other animal relied on pure instinct, bros had freedom, and it was super fucking effective. Was he cold and wet without shelter from the elements? Fuck no. Savage man wasn't a bitch like you. He didn't give two shits about gourmet dining or fine tobacco or bearskin rugs - as long as his basic needs were met, he was happy as fuck. And his needs were the most basic needs any bro has ever had - sandwiches, sleep, sex. Ladies, take note. In fact, write those down. He'll thank you later.


That's why bros never fought in the state of nature. Why bother? Once his needs were met, that was it. He wasn't wicked or greedy; in fact, he had no idea of good and evil. All he knew was hunger and exhaustion and desire. Since men had the advantage of freedom over instinct, it wasn't hard for anybro to satisfy these.


Did inequality exist back then? Well, of course. Sometimes smart-as-shit bros devised a plan that required a strong-as-fuck bro to execute. But when bros absolutely had to work together, they did so simply and advantageously - they didn't intrude on each other's freedom. Instead, they made deals, fulfilled them, and went on their way. Fuck, bros barely even needed language, so simple were their needs and the tasks required to fill them. Point, grunt, kill, eat, sleep. Fucking lather rinse repeat, bitches. If something didn't help a bro preserve himself, he had no use for it - words were as few as needs. Men were naturally unequal, but back then, that just meant different. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

David Hume's "Sceptical Doubts concerning the Operations of the Understanding, and a Sceptical Solution": A Summary

We have two kinds of ideas: 'relations of ideas' and 'matters of fact'.

'Relations of ideas' are simple and provable without any recourse to experience at all - think math. Three times five will always be fifteen, and nothing can change that. These are absolutely certain. It would be a contradiction of logic if three times five equaled anything else. It's impossible.

'Matters of fact' not so much. Matters of fact require experience. There's no way you could reason your way to the sun rising, or even to the existence of the sun, without having some experience of the sun. There's nothing in logic or mathematics that says that the sun has to come up or that your friend is too hammered to walk - you couldn't prove or disprove either of them. Of course, we don't directly experience everything we think we know - in fact, I'll bet you think you know a lot of shit about tomorrow that you couldn't possibly have experienced.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Time

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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Mikko Leino writes via e-mail:
I don't have a paper coming up, but! Philosophy of Time has always intrigued me a lot. So how about it?
Alright, Mikbro, let's see what we can do here. 


The 'philosophy of time' is a blanket term that covers a lot of different meanings - questions about time say things about free will, determinism, natural language, skepticism and a bunch of other topics. But the most fundamental question about time is whether it exists, and if so what it is - what is the nature of time?


Some of you are, perhaps, presently thinking - "what the fuck would it mean for time to not exist?" After all, we have a clear sense of the passage of time - we measure it, mark it, divide it, and bitches take up so much of it. I know what it's like to not have enough time - but no such thing as time? That's fucking crazy.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Plato's "Crito": A Summary

Crito: "Good morning, Socrates. Look, there's no time to waste - we have to get you the fuck out of here before you're executed tomorrow. Don't worry about imposing on your friends, we're more than happy to support you, and I know a bunch of people who will gladly take you in in exile. I bribed the guard, I have a boat waiting, it's time to go."


Socrates: "Calm down. They won't execute me for at least three days. But I'm not going anywhere. I will go through with the execution as scheduled."


Crito: "Um, what? Socrates, this city fucked you over and condemned you to die when you did nothing. Look, if you won't leave for your sake, leave for our sake. Seriously, your friends are going to look like complete assholes if it looks like we didn't at least try to get you the fuck out of here - and since we're rich as balls, anything less than success will look like that. Besides, who will raise your sons?"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Just War and Vigilantism

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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Derek Brown writes from his iPhone:
Why do people who are opposed to murder support the army? Is frontier justice ever justified? Why or why not? How is frontier justice different from war?
Good questions, bro. They're all kind of related, but let's take them one at a time.
Why do people who are opposed to murder support the army? 
So, as a starting point, and in answer to your first question, it seems like although all murders are killings, not all killings are murders. Murders are usually thought of as unjustified killings, really. People against murder (just about everyone, really - do I have any pro-murder readers, any murder apologists out there?) who support the army believe that there are some legitimate reasons for killing someone - if someone is shooting up a school and the only way to stop him is to kill him, you're probably all clear to take the shot. So supporting the military, even in wartime, doesn't necessarily mean supporting murder - it ostensibly means supporting justified killings on the way to some objective.


Of course, there seems to be a disconnect between killing an asshole in the process of committing a dick move like a school shooting, and killing a father of three drafted into an opposing military through no fault of his own. What gives? How is this different from murder? We have to find some justification for that killing.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Arthur Schopenhauer's "The World as Will and Idea": A Summary

What is the nature of reality? The entire world is just an idea. That's it. Kant was so close, but Berkeley fucking nailed it - the entire world is one bigass idea. There are two parts to this idea: object and subject, which sound more complicated than they are. The 'object' is just all the things that anyone perceives; it's the entire world as we know it. Except that you can't have a perception without someone perceiving it, and that is the subject, the 'haver' of the idea. It’s like when a bro sees something; his perception of seeing is the object, and the bro himself is the subject, except these are inseparable. You can't have one without the other - there's no thought without a thinker, and you're not thinking if you don't have thoughts. It really is all just one big fucking Idea. Any attempt to separate 'object' and 'subject' into truly different things, rather than parts of the same Idea, is doomed to failure, just like any attempt to separate ‘sight’ from ‘the bro who sees’ makes no sense.

But that's not enough. Kant said we want to know ultimate reality behind the Idea, and he was fucking right - we aren't happy being told that it lies beyond our grasp. Fuck that noise - I want to know what my ideas mean, what they say, whether there is any substance behind them, and if that yearning is wrong then I don't want to be right. Of course, Kant was right that we can never grasp ultimate reality from the outside looking in, which is exactly what everyone before me has tried. But where they all fucked up, and what makes me awesome, is that they all imagined themselves as winged cherubs, looking down on the world without being a part of it. But we are in the world as much as anything else; our bodies are objects just like the chair I'm sitting in. What sets my hand apart from the pen it holds? What if my body were just the object I'm closest to, and I had no more control over it than your body, which is also an object to me?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

G. W. F. Hegel's "Lordship and Bondage": A Summary

Self-consciousness is a tricky motherfucker. Like every other idea, it has to encounter its opposite before it can be complete. Why? Because otherwise, it's way too fucking abstract. Have you ever had a friend get really high and say, "Bro, I think I understand ultimate reality!" And then after you listen to his explanation about how we're just a simulation or a computer game or some bullshit you say, "That's fucking retarded. There has to be some level of reality that isn't a simulation - why should I believe this isn't it?" And unless your friend has baked himself beyond comprehension, he'll stare into space for ten minutes and then say, "Oh. I don't know, bro, it just occurred to me. But maybe we just misinterpret things sometimes so they don't seem real. I guess this is reality, just with some glitches." It's not a perfect explanation, but it's closer than it was. An idea encounters its opposite, and after some struggle, a new idea emerges, more concrete than before. And it happens at every level of consciousness.


So why is self-consciousness so fucking tricky? Because its opposite is just  other self-consciousnesses. To become aware of ourselves, something else has to be aware of us, too - otherwise, we see everywhere but inwards. It's like having a flashlight that only points away from you and into the world. Sure, it helps you see everything else, but you can't see yourself for shit because you're cloaked in darkness. And you can't infer your existence from everything else; nothing can resist you, since you're a bro and bros get what they want. You exist for yourself and no one else, and when the entire world also exists for you, the line is blurry. When the world is identical to your desires, you can't tell the difference between the two. It's not until you meet another bro with a flashlight that you becomes illuminated. Self-consciousness absolutely must meet another self-consciousness, or else it can't exist - it's just plain consciousness, a bro with a flashlight and no sense of self.