Category Archives: Actual philosophical discussion!

Brains and math

Here is a strange but true brain story about a guy who has trouble figuring out what number “5” represents, let alone adding and subtracting, but who has other unimpaired comeptencies. I find this interesting because the rationalist in me has always found the ability to comprehend math simply basic to having an intellect. I need to study the article further, but a quick read suggests he has an intellect without even a minimal capacity for math.

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Universal condition of despair?

In the long chain of comments following Kleiner’s “Are we alone?” post, Vince suggests that there are some basic truths any human can recognize, if they are paying attention, and recognizing them forces a move in one direction or another:

1. I am not who I want to be.
2. I cannot change things of my past.
3. I have a dead end in the future.
4. I cannot completely control my relationship with others.
5. The world around me is full of terror and sadness that I cannot erase.

… I sound a bit like Schopenhauer (”the worst of all worlds”).

But these conditions bring angst when a finite person reflects on his very large and (mostly) uncontrollable environment. The Buddhist hopes to remove the desires that bring this angst. The Christian hopes to receive forgiveness and an new life to remove this angst. Sartre hopes to remove angst by being free to choose his experience (his estimate of freedom is rather optimistic). Nietzsche, who seemed to be full of alienation and despair, required of himself the complete embracing of his actions in the presence of his alienation and despair — to live his actions (and angst) eternally.

I still hold that anyone with a human self-consciousness experiences angst over something or they are not working as a complete human in some way. The existentialists seem to be saying that these discoveries and decisions of the finite self in the midst of this large world are the essence of a human. I don’t believe this is necessarily metaphysics. It is observational sociology. Once the existentialists start relating the human condition to Other or Being or No Other, then this is metaphysics.

This does seem to me to be a plausible list of items we typically try to ignore in our day-to-day lives, but once we recognize them, we can either try to do something or try to forget. And “doing something” means, in part, doing philosophy.

Any thoughts?

New Philosophers’ Carnival…

… can be found here. This time the focus is on comedy in philosophy, or philosophy jokes, or philosophical satire. There are some interesting links, though I wish someone would treat the philosophy of humor with the seriousness it deserves.

To what extent might philosophy require humor, satire, and buffoonery? It seems to me that there is a kind of skepticism that is built on satire. It’s a simple as the Dr. Phil question: “how’s that working out for you?” Imagine Kant laying out the categorical imperative at length, only to be faced with that question. The question undercuts his whole enterprise, in the sense that it trades upon viewing his moral philosophy as a kind of psychological coping mechanism, and raises the question whether a moral philosophy, at bottom, is anything more than that.

There, I just spoiled a good line. doesn’t the fact that I spoiled it reveal something about the significance of satire for philosophy?

Carbon emission indulgences?

I’d love to hear what people have to say in response to this provocative essay, which includes the following:

Here in the West, the so-called ‘war on global warming’ is reminiscent of medieval madness. You can now buy Indulgences to offset your carbon guilt. If you fly, you give an extra 10 quid to British Airways; BA hands it on to some non-profit carbon-offsetting company which sticks the money in its pocket and goes off for lunch. This kind of behaviour is demented.