Tag: philosophy

Things I don’t have to think about…

| October 18, 2010 | 1 Reply
Things I don’t have to think about…

From Whatever.

“Today I don’t have to think about those who hear “terrorist” when I speak my faith.
Today I don’t have to think about men who don’t believe no means no.
Today I don’t have to think about how the world is made for people who move differently than I do.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m married, depending on what state I’m in.
Today I don’t have to think about how I’m going to hail a cab past midnight.”

“Today I don’t have to think about whether store security is tailing me.
Today I don’t have to think about the look on the face of the person about to sit next to me on a plane.
Today I don’t have to think about eyes going to my chest first.
Today I don’t have to think about what people might think if they knew the medicines I took.
Today I don’t have to think about getting kicked out of a mall when I kiss my beloved hello.”

“Today I don’t have to think about if it’s safe to hold my beloved’s hand.
Today I don’t have to think about whether I’m being pulled over for anything other than speeding.
Today I don’t have to think about being classified as one of “those people.”
Today I don’t have to think about making less than someone else for the same job at the same place.
Today I don’t have to think about the people who stare, or the people who pretend I don’t exist.”

[More . . . ]

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An existentialist firefighter

| May 27, 2010 | 4 Replies
An existentialist firefighter

For the other philosophy geeks here, the Onion has got another humorous story you’ll enjoy, rooted in existentialist themes:

In an ultimately futile act some have described as courageous and others have called a mere postponing of the inevitable, existentialist firefighter James Farber delayed three deaths Monday.

“I’m no hero,” Farber said after rescuing the family from a house fire on the 2500 block of West Thacker Street, and prolonging for the time being their slow march toward oblivion. “Like any other man, I am thrown into this world, alone and terrified, to play a meaningless role in an empty life. In my case, that role happens to involve charging through towering blazes to pull helpless individuals from a sea of flames before they suffocate or are burnt alive.”…

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Comprehensive moral instruction

| April 11, 2010 | 4 Replies
Comprehensive moral instruction

We’ve all seen many Internet lists offering suggestions for improving one’s life or state of happiness. This list, by a young man named Henrick Edberg at The Positivity Blog, caught my attention today, perhaps because it includes some of my own favorite bits of productivity reminders and folk wisdom, including the “80/20 rule” and the advice to not beat yourself up for making mistakes. His list also includes a nice twist to the golden rule: Give value to get value, not the other way around. Another item on his list reminds us to express gratitude to others in order to enrich our own lives, reminding us that expressing gratitude is socially contagious.

What also intrigued me was Edberg’s pre-list commentary: He laments that the nuggets of advice in his list aren’t taught as part of the high school curriculum.

But I still think that taking a few hours from all those German language classes and use them for some personal development classes would have been a good idea. Perhaps for just an hour a week in high school. It would probably be useful for many students and on a larger scale quite helpful for society in general.

I think I know why there are no such classes in public schools. Teaching advice on how to navigate through the complexities of life in a positive state of mind would too often trigger discussions regarding “morality,” which too often trigger discussions of specific religious teachings which, in turn, tend to anger at least some parents and students, which would then shut down the course (in public schools, anyway). I suspect that this causal chain is a big reason that so many schools tread lightly on teaching students how to navigate through life, even though there is an immense amount of information that needs to be discussed. Instead of vigorously teaching what the students need to know to be functional and virtuous, most schools ostensibly defer to families and churches (though they actually defer at least as much to pop culture, including magazines, “news” programs, television shows and movies) to fill that “moral” vacuum of students.

In America, however, even “serious” teachers of morality often insist that the way to best live one’s life is by obeying a standardized set of “moral” rules. Is the advice to follow any set of rules really the best approach for instructing us how to get along with each other down here on planet Earth? Is it even possible for any form of obedience to serve as the foundation for a high-functioning society? I think not.

I’m going to digress at this point . . .

[more . . . ]

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What is truth?

| October 18, 2009 | 4 Replies
What is truth?

What is truth?

Big question, right?

It’s something philosophers have been pondering for as long as there have been philosophers pondering. I’m not going to pretend to be able to answer it here but I would like to list a few things that truth is not.

Belief is not truth.

Faith is not truth.

Desire is not truth.

Hope is not truth.

Vague prophecy is not truth.

The other day a believer in a religion forum conversation I was a part of told me that he hopes that some day I learn the “truth” and get saved. I am always wary when a word is willfully and consistently misused. There is an Orwellian doublespeak creepiness about the mis-use of the word “truth” by believers that is disturbing to me whenever I hear it.

People often speak of a personal truth and I suppose that concept has some validity, but all too often that personal revelation, which ends up being called truth, is applied to humanity as a whole. In other words, “My truth must be your truth”. That is a very myopic viewpoint and one thing about belief in God that has always rubbed me the wrong way.

That same believer more recently posted that because he knows the truth no one will ever be able to change his mind or shake his faith. He is mistaken if that’s what he thinks the non-believers are trying to do by arguing against certainty. Why would I want to take away from him his life’s philosophy that he has worked so hard to discover? Conversely, why would he want to deny me mine?

As an atheist all I have ever wanted from believers is respect. Respect for my doubts. Respect for my journey. Respect for MY personal “truth”.

Does belief rule out respect and understanding for other paths of life? I don’t think so but if that is the case, that is just one more reason that I would prefer to hold on to my doubts.

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Guess this author

| September 3, 2009 | 1 Reply
Guess this author

The more things change, the more they stay the same, it seems. See if you can guess who authored this quotation on capitalism vs. socialism: (all emphases are mine)

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals. For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist.

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This much I know: AC Grayling

| July 5, 2009 | 1 Reply
This much I know: AC Grayling

Today I share a few pearls from philosopher AC Grayling, writing for The Guardian.

A human lifespan is less than a thousand months long. You need to make some time to think how to live it.

The democracy of blogging and tweeting is absolutely terrific in one way. It is also the most effective producer of rubbish and insult and falsehood we have yet invented.

When I was 14 a chaplain at school gave me a reading list. I read everything and I went back to him with a question: how can you really believe in this stuff?

Christian churches and Muslim groups have no more right to have their say than women’s institutes or trades unions. The government has actively encouraged faith-based education, and therefore given a megaphone to religious voices and fundamentalists.

Science is the outcome of being prepared to live without certainty and therefore a mark of maturity. It embraces doubt and loose ends.

I’m not sure it is possible to think too much. You don’t refresh your mind by partying in Ibiza.

That single sentence: “science is the outcome of being prepared to live without certainty…” says more about my own views than an entire caffeine-fueled screed ever could. It’s said that brevity is the soul of wit; those nine words illustrate that it can also be the soul of wisdom.

Certainty seems to be the single most important thing that separates the devout believer from the atheist, the agnostic, the deist & the doubter. It’s fine to say “my god, and my way of worshipping my god, will see me rewarded in the afterlife.” I have no issue with that claim on the surface. But you can’t be certain of it – certainly not certain enough to damn or pity people who disagree with you or dare to shine lights on the holes in your story. I can’t be certain my direct ancestors had opposable big toes and could manufacture their own vitamin C or that our universe is thirteen billion years old, but that’s the direction in which the evidence points – convincingly, with a giant pointy finger. No, I’m not certain at all, but that’s where I’m putting my money. The holes in those converging storylines are not nearly as glaring as those present in the many, certain alternatives – and they’re getting smaller all the time. All those from the “certainist” camp can do is rationalise (ironically enough) the size, shape and positioning of their holes – or look at their stories from such an angle that the holes aren’t visible. Well, I prefer a story that makes sense no matter how you look at it.

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What is a human “body”?

| December 23, 2008 | 2 Replies
What is a human “body”?

In his 2008 book, The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding, philosopher Mark Johnson makes a strong argument that “meaning is grounded in the body” (p. 274). That assertion, however, invites the question: “What is a human “body”? Johnson implores us to not slip into mind/body dualism. He also warns us not to […]

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Jonathan Haidt urges that we escape moral righteousness

| November 25, 2008 | 1 Reply
Jonathan Haidt urges that we escape moral righteousness

In this lecture on TED, Jonathan Haidt discusses his approach, which involves “five foundations of morality.” Haidt also explains that, in our attempts to better understand morality, too many of us are trapped in a non-ending cycle in which “everybody thinks they are right.” We are in need of humility, and the best way to get moral humility is to escape moral righteousness by striving to step out of the struggle. We need to see that liberals and conservatives both have something to offer to the conversation of change versus stability.

I’ve written repeatedly and glowingly about Haidt’s approach to morality. You can find earlier DI posts regarding Haidt’s approach to morality here and here.

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Why Choose Naturalist Explanations Over Biblical Creation?

| October 8, 2008 | 109 Replies
Why Choose Naturalist Explanations Over Biblical Creation?

Discussions in the comment sections of many posts on this site chaotically tend toward the strange attractor of one generally off-topic issue: Why does Creation/Evolution seem correct to you? It is usually a discussion between Creationists who believe that the scientific conclusions are based on faith, and Naturalists who believe that the Scientific Method is […]

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