Thursday, April 28, 2011

Immanuel Kant's "Perpetual Peace": A Summary

People seem to think world peace is impossible; whether that's because of mankind in general, or rulers, or states, or even because philosophers are silly idealists, I don't know. And if politicians are going to look down on us theorists for being impractical and dismiss us, whatever, as long as they don't freak out and come after us when we have a workable idea they don't like. After all, I'm not trying to overthrow anyone here - I just know a lot of people seem to want perpetual peace; I'm just a humble theorist, here to tell you how to make that shit happen.

First of all, stop making treaties after wars with provisions for future wars. That's such a fucking copout. If you want everyone to stop fighting, just agree to stop fighting; But it doesn't count if you just say, "Yeah, fine, we'll leave them alone. Unless, you know, they start doing stuff we don't like or whatever. Then it's back on like Donkey Kong." You're that asshole on the playground who told the teacher, "Fine, I'll stop beating his ass. Unless he drinks his milk too loudly. Then he's fucked." That doesn't fly.

Second, stop trading countries, you imperialist fucks. States aren't things you can trade, any more than people are. Governments get to rule when they have a contract with the people; when governments buy and sell countries, they're just buying and selling people en masse. That shit is unacceptable; you deny the people the right to be ruled by their own government. Cut it out.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Mailbag Monday: What Do We Know?

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 with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.


Emanuel writes,
I was curious to see if you could do a post about justified true belief and whether it counts as knowledge. As I am sure you know, the writings on this range from the MenoTheatetus, all the way to the more contemporary writings of Edmund Gettier (Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?) and some of Goldman and Plantinga's writings. There are a whole host of positions on this question, and I have no specific requests for which ones you might cover. I would very much enjoy reading your analysis of this issue.
Great question, and one that aspiring philosophers, six-year olds, and  intractable douchebags everywhere are fond of asking: How do you know? The question of what counts and doesn't count as knowledge is one of the central problems of epistemology, the philosophy of knowledge. Chalk up another point for Plato in the "Who's your daddy?!" column, because, big surprise, he pretty much started it all; the Theatetus is where he puts in the most work on what it means to know something, and in the Meno he pretty much lays out his theory.

Now, knowledge is a pretty fucking important thing to philosophy, since what we know dictates how we act in so very many areas of our lives. Knowledge is central to human functioning; a lot of people think that it's our ability to systematically build knowledge that sets us apart. Dolphins are pretty fucking smart, but we invented the Internet with our knowledge, no big deal or anything. So we've tried to hold knowledge per se to a pretty high standard. There are a lot of concepts related to knowledge - certainty, belief, conclusiveness, and so on, and some of those are like participation ribbons - easy to have, don't mean a thing. But when we say someone knows something, that's the blue fucking ribbon. And you don't want to hand out blue ribbons to just anybody. You've got to earn that shit.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Jean-Paul Sartre's "Being and Nothingness": A Summary

First of all, fuck Kant.

Why is his shit so needlessly complicated? A whole world we can't talk about or know anything about? Then how the fuck can he possibly talk about it? What if the world is just exactly the way we see it? Why complicate things even further? Don't tell me I can't get to the chairness of a chair - it's a pretty simply concept, chairness - it's just being a chair. Legs, maybe a cushion, and you sit in it. Can't stop being a chair. Was that so hard?

Look - there are two ways to exist in this world. Chairs just are the way they are, they have being-in-itself. There's nothing special about them. But bros? Oh man, bros are a whole different story. There's no intrinsic broness we all have; we get to make our own shit. Every bro is like a completely blank canvas, devoid of any color, and he gets to paint himself however the fuck he wants. Seriously, this blankness, this void, isn't just any ordinary property; it cuts to the very meaning of what it means to be a bro - a bro exists with being-for-itself, with an incompleteness that he must take care of himself.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Whatever Happened to Descartes?

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 with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.


roy writes,
I was wondering if you could cover some historical points. During the first half of the semester, my professor lectured about Descartes, then moved onto existentialism and structuralism in the second half. How did we go from Descartes' (and Kant's) skeptic/solipsist situations and move on to a point where people were already in a world, like in existentialist or structuralist thought? Had the thinkers of the latter movements "solved" skepticism? Or did they presuppose certain conditions that allowed them to "ignore" skepticism? Or something else maybe?
Sup bro? So, the short answer to your question is "yes". All of those things happened, and several more besides. 

But first let's back up and figure out exactly what Descartes did - what situations did he put us in? He's definitely most famous for two lasting legacies: the radical doubt he attempted, and the cogito he formulated to get out of it. First he went, "How the fuck can we know anything at all? Can we be certain of anything?" and then he was like, "Well, someone has to exist to do the doubting, so obviously I can be certain of me. I can be certain I have ideas." After that, he did a bunch of other stuff concerning the idea of God and how ideas worked and whatnot. Generally philosophers agree that he didn't succeed in getting all the way out of the everything-hole he had dug himself - in fact, his failure was so bad we gave it a name. We call it the "Cartesian circle" - he's arguing for himself based on an idea of himself, and that his ideas are outside him based on God, and the truth of God based on something in his ideas. We disagree over how radical a failure that is - no matter what, though, the first time you read it you're like, "Jesus, Descartes, is this fucking amateur hour?"

The point is, Descartes said that we can only be sure of things definitely, clearly present to us, so close we can't possibly fuck it up, and then he failed to show that anything except the self met that criterion. So now he's just a self, standing around, not sure if his ideas are outside himself or all internal. Plus it’s raining and he doesn't have an umbrella, so he's getting soaked. He just looks so sad. What an asshole. His failure to get out of the hole leaves us in a position where we can't be sure of shit (skepticism) except maybe ourselves (solipsism).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mailbag Monday: The Future of Philosophy

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 with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.


Zummy writes,
To me, it seems like philosophy is becoming less important over the years, maybe because all the older gents figured most of it out now, or that people are just losing interest in the subject as a collective whole and moving on to more technical stuff for our industrial society.  While I like the subject, I haven't indulged much time into reading/looking/researching much of it.  What do you think about the trend of philosophy and philosophers?  How do you feel about modern philosophy vs. ancient, and the outlook of future philosophy?  What do you think about the role that philosophy plays today, as apposed [sic] to Hellenic Greece?

Interested to hear what a more seasoned bro has to say about this.
Good question Zummy, and it strikes very close to the heart of the broad project that is Philosophy Bro. Why does philosophy matter? Does it make a difference to the lives of individuals? It's also a pretty fucking important question - indeed, urgent - in light of the ongoing battles in a practical sense over funding philosophy. For example, not long ago the Nevada state government proposed cutting the entire philosophy department at UNLV - if philosophy is useless, or largely complete, why bother?

Stephen Hawking has attacked philosophy from a different direction - he has expressed the opinion that philosophers like to sit around and argue with each other, but that it has little practical value, and scientists who ignore philosophers are making headway nonetheless. "Yeah, philosophy was once useful. Karl Popper? Falsifiability? Quine on holism? Important as shit. But who gives a shit over whether everything is made of properties or sets? Why does it matter if possible worlds are propositions or concrete objects, or whether there's a completely inaccessible world behind our perceptions? We've got better things to worry about. While you guys are busy arguing over whether there's a soul or not, we're inventing fusion reactors and curing cancer, bitches."

Friday, April 8, 2011

Special Event: Sam Harris v. William Lane Craig

EDIT: Here's video of the debate, broken into 9 parts. Here's the official ND video, one long file.

Yeah, this is way outside the realm of what I usually do, but it was cool as shit and I couldn't help commenting on it.

Last night Sam Harris debated William Lane Craig at the University of Notre Dame on what the source of morality is. A friend of mine from ND told me they'd live-stream it over teh interwebs, so I was able to watch it remotely, and it was fucking sweet. I'm sure eventually they'll have video up on their YouTube channel; apparently this was the second in a series, and they have last year's debate up. I'll link it when it goes up, because you should definitely watch when you get a chance.

A Google search of the debate reveals how much a bro's predispositions influence his opinions on the outcome - several athiest blogs seem convinced that Harris crushed WLC, and Christian apologists are already bragging about their debate superstar chalking up another one.

Here's the deal: WLC wrecked Harris' shit.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics, Book I": A Summary

Look, bros don't do shit for no reason. We have reasons when we do things - we act with ends in mind, whatever those ends may be. Sometimes we want to get rich, sometimes we want to get laid, whatever. My point is, we don't bumble through life arbitrarily. Now you might be thinking, "But Aristotle, isn't getting laid an activity, too?" Hell yeah it is - I didn't say activities have to have a single end. Often, we seek goods as instrumental to other goods - but there has to be a highest good, otherwise we get an infinite chain of goods, which is obviously impossible. 

Everyone pretty much agrees that that final good is happiness. Who doesn't want to be happy? What asshole is moping around going, "Fuck happiness. I hate being happy." No one, that's who. The problem is, not everyone agrees on what happiness is or how to get it, which is what I'm here to clear up for you guys. Some people think that happiness is pleasure, which is just stupid. How could it be? Pleasures conflict all the time. When we're presented with two competing pleasures, it's a tough fucking choice, and we always agonize about it; when two options make us equally happy, though, we shrug and say, "I don't give a flying fuck, bro. Honestly, I'm happy either way."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Solipsism and Laplace's Demon

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 with 'Mailbag Monday' in the subject line.


Paul writes,
Hey bro. Love the blog. Can you cover Solipsism for me? Particularly the difference between the metaphysical, epistemological and methodological variants? Thanks bro.
Sure thing, bro. I can absolutely cover solipsism for you. Broadly, solipsism is the idea that the only thing that we know for sure exists is our own mind; that any individual can only know for sure that his own mind exists. Anything else might as well be the Loch Ness Monster, the moon landings, or that one kid's girlfriend he "met at summer camp. Seriously bro, she's real. She's, uh, a model in Sweden." Sure, Melvin.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Some of the Challenges of Summarizing

Sup broteges, 

Sorry I've been absent this week - it's been an incredibly stressful few days, I think I'm getting sick, and I just haven't had the time to summarize as well as I'd like to. Fuck it. The good news is starting next week I'll have a ton more time to write, so I should get back into the swing of things pretty quickly.

 In the interim, here's an in-depth and challenging look into some of the hermeneutic challenges I face day in and day out: