Wednesday, May 25, 2011

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

Right. So now that we know we must be virtuous to be happy, I should probably tell you what virtue is. There are two kinds of virtue: intellectual virtues and moral virtues. They work exactly like you'd think - we're taught intellectual virtues, and we learn moral virtues by doing, through practice. We absolutely must train ourselves to be virtuous. Think of all the bullshit sayings we have about courage: neat, tidy little aphorisms that are supposed to explain a lifetime of learning in a single sentence - fuck those. I'm sure you can quote dozens of those about what courage is, and how to be brave - knowing about courage doesn't make you courageous any more than knowing about flight makes you a goddamn Eagle. The question is, when you're up against the wall and things look bad, do you have the stones to figure out what's right, and do it? That shit takes work. No one gets to be born a hero.


There are no hard and fast rules for virtue that you have to memorize, no table you can consult to determine what the right action is. How could there be? There'd have to be a rule for every single conceivable situation. I... I don't have time for that shit. I can't sit here and think, "Should a guy fight an enemy soldier who is way bigger? What if there are three soldiers who all look kinda tired? What if there are four soldiers on elephants, but the guy is on a flying narwhal? What then?" Virtues aren't rules you learn to follow, they're the mean between excess and deficiency, too much and too little. If some punk kid is robbing an old lady and you don't step up and stop him, you're probably a bit of a pussy, deficient in courage. If you've ever thought, "Bruce Lee and eighty clones? Fuckin' bring 'em on!" you should, y'know, maybe reconsider, because that's excessively aggressive, some might even say foolhardy. You're going to get the piss beat out of you. Where is the line in between? That's what you have to figure out.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Freedom

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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Switters writes,
Bro,What is freedom? Or to be more specific, what do the philosophers have to say about freedom?
Politicians love to rant about freedom ad nauseum, but have the great thinkers ever weighed in on the subject?
Holy shit, Swits, (D'ya mind if I call you Swits?) have they ever weighed in on the subject. And the consensus is... well, I mean, there isn't one, which is exactly what you'd expect from philosophy.


But there are two broad ideas of freedom (or liberty), two camps into which most philosophers fall. Those camps are negative freedom and positive freedom. It's not that philosophers disagree over which one is real so much as they disagree over which one is more important.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Objectivity



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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B. Weave writes, 

PB! I’ve been a stumped Bro for a long time about this one: What’s the deal with truth? Is it a universal thing, or can one Bro’s truth be another Bro’s fallacy?

Oh, man. What is truth, amirite? 

Let's start at a pretty fundamental spot in the universal truth discussion: metaphysics. Does everyone objectively share the same reality? Are we, as philosophers, trying to figure out how the world really is, or are we just trying to get to how we see it?  "There is no universal truth" is a claim that is supposed to be universally true, so it looks self-defeating; still, defenders of objective truth want something stronger than that, and there are much more nuanced ways of setting up the problem.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mailbag Monday: Happiness

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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Jeremy writes,
 
Philosophy bro, what the fuck is happiness? Are humans even supposed to be happy and shit? 
 
And Jason wants to know,
 
Bro-hammer, what is the fuck is the happiness principle?  Does it give a complete account of the nature of moral judgements? Help a bro out.
 
Good questions, kids. Obviously anyone who wants to do axiology, the philosophy of what is valuable, better have some shit to say about happiness, since it seems pretty goddamn valuable; if they’re going to tell us to value something other than happiness, they better have a good fucking reason. As a result, tons of bros over the years have had something to say about it.
 
Now, the happiness principle itself is better known as the greatest happiness principle, which John Stuart Mill formulated in his Utilitarianism. He said the right action out of a set of choices is the one that produces the greatest happiness - and he equates happiness with the presence of pleasure and the absence of pain. So happiness is a ratio: pleasure/pain. The higher that number, the more right an action is. Obviously happiness should be the ratio: it would give some people great pleasure to steal millions of dollars, but that would also make a bunch of people fucking miserable. So, no bueno.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Feeling Sick

Hey broteges,

I'm running a bit of a fever today, and I'm in no mood to produce a quality Monday Mailbag. Which sucks. I know.

So until I get better, I leave you with another Monty Python classic:




-PB