Archive for the Philosophy Category

On debate

Posted in Philosophy with tags , , , on 18 December, 2008 by J-Man

I love debate. I’m not talking about a debating club, or using a fancy word in a pretentious manner, I’m talking about debate; the simple joy of arguing a point or topic. Someone usually defends an idea, someone usually attacks it, and someone occasionally presents a completely differing theory or idea. The joy of debating is that you always seem to learn something. It’s rare, but I’m occasionally so persuaded by someone’s argument for something, that I defect and join them.

Out of all social interactions, it seems like I learn most from open debate, rather than discussions between loads of people just agreeing on something. Perhaps I should make it clear that I don’t like rowing or arguing, I avoid that at all costs. It’s intellectual debate, where emotions are set aside, that I enjoy.

When you debate with someone, you see a different perspective. Sometimes you’ll be persuaded, sometimes you’ll remain where you originally stood on the subject, sometimes you’ll realise the flaws in both yours and their arguments, and think of an alternative. One of the things that saddens me is the huge amount of perspectives I will never experience or understand due to simple prejudice.

I’d like to understand the mind of a racist, a homophobe, a republican or someone like that, but due to simple fundamental disagreements, my mind simply blocks off the arguments they provide. It frustrates me that I can’t understand these people, and makes me look stubborn sometimes, but I do try to understand them. It’s just that my initial opinion of them is so low, its already too hard for them to communicate to me in a way that I’ll actually be interested.

I’m kinda running out of ideas for this post, but I think I’ve summed up the basics. If I think of extra stuff I’ll update it.

Epically awesome blogs

Posted in Philosophy, Site news with tags , , on 17 December, 2008 by J-Man

So… I seem to have started a trend. Tons of people I know are setting up blogs, so I thought I might direct you to the best ones.

We have Artificial Sweetener, a blog which has great writing and is by a friend,

There’s Vicinity of Obscenity, Or Thoughts Of a Dying Atheist, another incredibly well written blog with some fantastic philosophy.

And finally we have Bearded Gentleman, a blog written by the brother of one of my close friends, with possibly the best widget ever.

Oh, and I should mention peterd102, but he’s always been on the blogroll, and a great source of everyday philosophy.

On self-deprecation

Posted in Philosophy, Uncategorized with tags , , on 8 December, 2008 by J-Man

Self-deprecation is the quality I most abhor in others. Someone says “I’m too dumb to understand it.” and it usually means one of three things; that thing is ridiculously complicated, that person is too dumb, and you really like that person.

And because you really like that person, you have to say something like “no you’re not” or “nah, this is just way too complicated.” Except my problem is that it always sounds fake. They always give me a vacant gaze that says ‘don’t patronise me’, and that always makes me feel ten times worse.

There’s only one thing worse than self-deprecation; comparative self-deprecation. It’s ok if they say “I’m dumb compared to so-and-so” because I can sometimes manage to dismiss that with a little bit of spite and say “what?! So-and-so is stupid compared to you.” Which makes them feel much better. But then it means slagging off so-and-so.

And the worst type of self-deprecation is comparative self-deprecation to the person you’re talking to. “I’m so dumb compared to you.” This is absolutely the worst for me. I have to convince the person I’m on their level, and they’re on mine, which I regularly fail at doing.

The thing is, (and imagine I’m saying this in a shy, little voice) I am actually quite smart/attractive/awesome in every way. For example, I’m the only guy in my year with a (good) blog. I honestly can’t say with conviction “no, I’m not that smart”, because I am (unfortunately) self-assured of my intelligence.

So next time, please don’t self-deprecate. It makes me feel terrible, and my weak efforts to try and restore the situation to normal will fail terribly. Instead, just give me a hug. See? Everybody’s happy!

On prejudice

Posted in Philosophy with tags , , , on 8 December, 2008 by J-Man

Prejudice is ridiculous. It’s a diluted form of discrimination, and you see it everywhere. I’m not above prejudice, in fact I’m a very prejudiced person. I hate people on the far right, and I greatly dislike people who try to convert the world to their religion.

But perhaps I should start with a basic question; what is prejudice? In this essay it means to dislike a group of people for a certain reason. I’m sure it has other meanings, but it’s the word I’m focusing on for this essay.

Prejudice is sick. People are often prejudiced against others without proper reason, or without direct experience of those other people. For example, many are prejudiced against scientology. I personally am, and believe it should be banned. But for the purpose of this essay, I’m going to try and be objective.

Prejudice leads to hypocrisy. Let’s go back to that scientologist thing. Say you’re a christian. You believe in god, you’re a regular church-goer and you believe in the bible.

Along comes scientology. It claims everyone is stressed, and wants you to join to relieve that stress. You think sure. As you slowly get more involved with it, you find out scientologists’ true beliefs. They believe in thetans, space lords dropping h-bombs in volcanoes, and suddenly it all comes crashing down around you.

…Hang on. You’re not stressed, you don’t believe in thetans or space lords, and you certainly don’t want to give your money to a cult created by a failed sci-fi writer.

Let’s go back again (I know this is becoming a bit long, but it’s necessary). You’re not atheist, you’re not agnostic, and you’re not religious. You’re interested in religion though, so you do some research. You hear about scientology, how it’s a cult and more of a commercial business than a belief.

Then you hear about christianity. They believe we’re all from 2 people who had sex in the garden of eve (so all sex is incest?), that the world is only a few years old, that a baby was born who performed miracles, and died for our sins.

…Hang on. I wasn’t alive when Jesus was born, so how could he have died for my sins? In fact, I live by my own set of morals, and believe there are no sins. Christians also believe in forgiving people. Hang on, I don’t want to forgive people. I don’t want to forgive Hitler, or Stalin or the KKK, for pete’s sake.

Well, you think. At least they don’t want my money. Correction; they ask for money each time you go to church. Go to the Southern parts of the USA and watch some of that gospel television. They ask for your money every 12 seconds.

See my point, dear reader? I’m not making stabs at christianity or scientology, I’m just making a point that you should think before you decide to have prejudice against people.

However, let me state again, I am not above prejudice. I am greatly prejudiced against some people, so don’t send me an email going “how ironic, you’re prejudiced against people also.” I think that prejudice is terrible, but know that I actually do research into groups before I reject them. I’ve had a baptism and a barmitzvah, so I know what I’m talking about when I rant about theism.

On Nietzsche (Part 1)

Posted in Philosophy with tags , , , , on 6 December, 2008 by J-Man

Despite reading only 2 books by Nietzsche (Beyond Good & Evil, Thus Spoke Zarathustra), he is undoubtedly my favourite writer. He inspired the name of my blog, I quote him at appropriate times on forums and on facebook, and generally make a big deal out of him.

 His books went widely unappreciated during his lifetime. The subtitle of Zarathustra was “a book for everyone and no one.” It just so happened that when he wrote it, it really was a book for no one. He was Hitler’s favourite philosopher, which also dented his reputation, but I’m coming to that point now.

 One of the most appealing features of Nietzsche’s philosophy is its ambiguity. Nietzsche has been used as inspiration by anarchists, communists, socialists, nazis and more. For example, allow me to indulge and present a quote:

 

“What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power in man, the will to power, power itself. What is bad? All that is born of weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power is growing, that resistance is overcome.”

-The Antichrist, Part 2

 

 While you may read this and think ‘what a bold statement’ as Nietzsche is essentially saying what true happiness is. Think of your aim in life; to help people? To rise to the top? To have a family and kids? No, it isn’t. Your aim in life is happiness, because whatever your aim is, it will bring you happiness. Please note I am not saying happiness is the meaning of life, I am simply referring to human goals in life.

 Going back to the quote, Nietzsche tells us what good, evil and happiness is, all in a few sentences. But the whole point of using this quote is to show the ambiguity. He tells us a few things (results is the best way to describe the 3 things he talks about) but leaves most of it up to us.

 For example, what does heighten the feeling of power in man? In fact, what is power? These are unquantifiable, abstract notions, left up to the reader to choose and think over, rather than crammed down their throat. Communists and egalitarianists (including racial and gay equality advocates) would say equality is power. Therefore they will believe that happiness is the growth of equality and overcoming of segregationism/racism/discrimination/capitalism. If you’re wondering what my personal interpretation of power is, I’m getting to that.

 I go by the idea that the “feeling of that power is growing” is in essence, self-improvement in relation to your own set of morals. What I mean by this is that my “will to power” is to self-improve in the ways I want, be that ethically or otherwise. A basic example would be this very essay. I want to study philosophy at university, come back and look at this essay and snort with contempt. I want to improve my thoughts and skills, because that is what “good” is for me. That is in fact a very basic example, by the way.

 I could go on, but I think you get the point. However, there was another point that was nagging me. A chapter in Zarathustra was a rant on a set of people called “tarantulas.” Here’s a quote:

 

“With these preachers of equality will I not be mixed up and confounded. For thus speaketh justice unto me: “Men are not equal.”And neither shall they become so! What would be my love to the Superman, if I spake otherwise?”

-Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Tarantulas

 

 You may be thinking ‘hang on, isn’t he ranting on communists, such as yourself, J-Man?’ No, he is ranting on those who believe all beings are equal. I believe in equality between beings of the same level, that is our current stage of human civilization. Perhaps I should simplify this. On a political level, I believe in equality. On a philosophical level, I do not. Nietzsche is ranting on those who believe we are all equal and always shall be the same, which directly opposes Nietzsche’s belief in the Superman.

 

“All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man? What is the ape to man? A laughingstock or a painful embarrassment. And man shall be just that for the overman: a laughingstock or a painful embarrassment…”

-Thus Spoke Zarathustra

 

 Nietzsche had a theory of a higher level of man, which was set in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The theory stated we must aim as a civilization to reach a higher stage of humanity, to become the superman. However, the true meaning of this is still not known, and is unlikely to be discovered. I like to think of it as another example of Nietzsche leaving it up to the reader.

 It was an interesting idea, and I’m going to write my take on it. Firstly, humanity has existed for thousands upon thousands of years, and we still have not attained the status of the supermen. Can we really hope to achieve that? Perhaps what Nietzsche meant was that humanity should always strive to be the best, and exceed expectations.

 Was Nietzsche really just talking about the superman, or was he simply showing his disdain for current humanity, like saying ‘you guys are pathetic compared to this.’

 Some will also compare the transition to supermen to be similar to evolution, but they are wrong in that firstly, it is willed to be a superman, and secondly, Nietzsche is talking on a philosophical rather than physical level.

 If I may relate this to my explanation of the first quote, I believe Nietzsche is simply talking about the will to power in a more concentrated way. While my “will to power” will result in self-improvement, I get the idea that the superman is a perfect people, one that do not require self-improvement.

 

But whatever. I just hammered this out from 8 o’clock in the morning on saturday, for nietzsche’s sake. I’ve never had any philosophical education, so these thoughts are probably basic and undeveloped, but I’d love to discuss it with any commenters, and I’m probably going to write a few more essays on stuff like this.

 

6/12/08

 

On incompatability

Posted in Philosophy on 6 December, 2008 by J-Man

Uhm… It’s half past 9 on a saturday morning, I just wrote a 800 word essay on Nietzsche, and it won’t come out right in WordPress. Erk.

An utterly brillitant webcomic

Posted in Literature, Philosophy, Uncategorized with tags , , on 17 November, 2008 by J-Man

No, not Cyanide and Happiness.

It’s xkcd.

The utter beauty that these stickmen drawings can create, the hilarity, and the thought provoking philosophy is fantastic. Amusingly, my level of art is the same as the author’s.

Clicking the comic below will take you to the site.

Bunch of rocks