Dec 312010

There are a number of read-aloud Schopenhauer selections on the web that you should be aware of, which cover very directly the pessimism he is most famous for but which we didn’t cover in the episode. For instance:

Listen on youtube (There’s nothing really to watch). Read the text.

This is over half an hour of simply the text, read slowly and pleasingly by D.E. Wittkower. Continue reading »

Dec 302010

DFW cartoon

Slate Magazine recently posted a great article on the recently-departed author and essayist David Foster Wallace, focusing on how Wallace (correctly?) interpreted Wittgenstein’s early and late philosophy to cope with his allegedly crushing sense of solipsistic dread. I’m not sure I buy this thesis, but Wallace’s suicide implies something was clearly bothering him. Even so, I’d ascribe a more clinical complaint like depression than a philosophical one like solipsism.

For anyone who reads the article and wonders whether Wallace (a fellow philosophy grad school dropout) had anything interesting to say about Wittgenstein, here’s a clip from his essay “Tense Present: Democracy, English, and the Wars over Usage,” as it originally appeared in Harper’s Magazine in 2001:*
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Dec 292010

One point on our Schopenhauer episode that we didn’t take much time to get into was his attitude towards geometric demonstration, which was of course the model for all philosophy for thinkers like Descartes. Here’s a short selection from section 39 of the Fourfold Root, which illustrates his idea that our knowledge of geometry is founded on our intuition of space (“knowledge from the reason of being), not deduction (“knowledge of the reason of knowing”):

When once the reason of being is found, we base our conviction of the truth of the theorem upon that reason alone, and no
longer upon the reason of knowing given us by the demonstration. Let us, for instance, take the sixth proposition of the first Book of Euclid :

“If two angles of a triangle are equal, the sides also which subtend, or are opposite to, the equal angles shall be equal to one another.” Which Euclid demonstrates as follows:
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Dec 292010

Note: This post has been edited at the request of the guy who complained about all these Personal Philosophy posts, because the point of my doing these is to entertain and amuse, not to offend or embarrass.

Guy Who Doesn’t Like Personal Philosophies’ Personal Philosophy*

I know nearly every guy philosophizes, whether they’ll admit it or not, but I am REALLY into philosophizing, and do it just about every day, sometimes twice. The Internet has been great for philosophizers. I know I could just philosophize just using my own thoughts, but looking at some philosophy on the Internet makes it easier and more fun, I think. Don’t get sucked into using one of those pay philosophy sites; there’s more than enough free philosophy on the web so that you can find what will really get you philosophizing if you’re willing to click around a little, and once you find a free source you like, you can keep going back there, though you shouldn’t bookmark it, and in fact should use the “Private Browsing” feature on most web navigators, so your wife or whoever won’t see what philosophy you’ve been looking at.

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Dec 282010

Melvyn BraggAmong my favorite podcasts is the BBC Radio 4 show In Our Time. IOT is usually a genteel forum dedicated to discussing “the history of ideas.” Topics and tone range from Oxbridge middlebrow to Oxbridge highbrow, but I always walk away learning something. I almost swerved the car, however, when tempers flared on last week’s episode. IOT’s host, Lord Melvyn Bragg, just about lost it when one of his guests declared “nationalistic” and “racist” his suggestion that British inventors played a non-trivial role in the Industrial Revolution. Who was more (in)correct is almost beside the point – academics yelling is great radio!

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Dec 272010

Let me be super clear about this one: This is a donation to Iain, purely because he was a guy that was in the Ph.D. program with Seth, Wes, and myself who did go on to get a job (at U. of Houston) and because I thought he’d have a sense of humor about such things.

As an actual, employed, professional philosopher, he is perhaps less in need than one of these Personal Philosophies than any of us laypeople, and my entry here was written before deciding on Iain in particular, but, you know, I thought maybe he could use a spare, for when his regular philosophy (which I guess involves a masturbating Kant)is being reupholstered or something. He has not advocated this site or even to my recollection answered the e-mail I sent him about this podcast, even though I can safely say that many more people have listened to our thrown-together Kant episodes than have thus far read his $50 awesome Kant book.

Iain Morrisson’s Personal Philosophy*

To get ahead as a philosopher, I need to keep on the cutting edge. If I’m out there espousing Cartesian dualism or Aristotelian teleological analyses, or even Husserlian phenomenology, I’m going to get laughed back into the stone age where I belong! No, I have to anticipate the next step in the dialectical progression of philosophical history, and I’ve got the smarts to do it, and I’m not talking about book smarts, but the street smarts you need to make it in the professorial profession.

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Dec 262010

My favorite non-philosophy podcast that I’ve not kept up lately with is Wasted Words, which is just funny people talking about a variety of topics, which occasionally veer into philosophy, but usually not. This was one of the couple of podcasts that served as a proof of concept to me that I could do something like this even though none of the other participants lived in the same city as me or would want to hang out in my basement recording so much with me anyway.

Its host for the past 80 episodes or so has been R.J. White, who has a blog and other things. He’s an old fashioned kind of guy, a jazzy early 60s New Yorky kind of guy, and so he gets this complimentary Personal Philosophy:

RJ White’s Personal Philosophy*

I think mostly my philosophy is to be like one of those guys in that show Mad Men. I mean, I haven’t actually watched that show, but I’ve heard stuff. I mean, it’s pretty much an a priori ideal of machismo and class, right? That’s what I hear. I don’t need to watch the show to get that a real man is one who isn’t afraid to have a mustache and drive a fast car. And drink martinis. Out of a woman’s navel.

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Dec 252010

High praises on this day to listener Bradley E. Herbler who contributed the big $50 to earn himself an extra special Personal Philosophy. Note that he supplied, and required that I use, this picture.

Brad E. Herbler’s Personal Philosophy*

Socrates may have said that the unexamined life is not worth living, but I can say from experience that the unexamined life is fucking awesome!

Continue reading »

Dec 242010

When philosophers do ontology (coming up with a list of types of things that “exist,” what are they actually doing? Martin Heidegger thinks this is a real problem: What is existence? What is “being?” It is, he thinks, the core problem behind all of philosophy, the underlying thought nagging us that needs to be settled before we can ground science coherently discuss ethics or anything else. Worse yet, though we start our inquiry with some intuitive notion that there is a problem here, this doesn’t come to us formulated in a specific, concrete question, so we not only have to answer the question; we have to figure out what the question is.

Heidegger’s answer, not surprising given that he was Husserl’s student, is that we need to use phenomenology, i.e. the careful description of experience, though Heidegger has different ideas than Husserl about exactly how this can be most fruitfully done. So to figure out being, we end up by starting with an analysis of “the being for whom being is a question,” i.e. ourselves.

We’ll be reading the beginning of Heidegger’s most famous work Being and Time (1927): definitely the Introduction and Chapters I and II of Part One, though our discussion may range through Chapter IV.

Read online or buy it.

Dec 242010

A Mr. Steve Williams from Melbourne has commissioned a Personal Philosophy for his brother Michael, presumably in lieu of an actual Christmas gift, so I am rushing this one out to him instead of spending Christmas Eve time with my family. You’re welcome!

Michael Williams’s Personal Philosophy*

My philosophy is derived mostly from my cat, I think. Cats have a special insight into things. They don’t take shit from nobody. They’re independent. My cat will just NOT come when I call it. I don’t even think it knows it has a name, or distinguishes me from anyone else, or even from furniture.

Continue reading »

Dec 232010

A Personal Philosophy has been donated to Matt, who has appeared in many TV shows and movies and video games. He also broadcasts via the entertaining GeeksOn podcast I’ve blogged about, but is perhaps best known for being the first dude killed in Species III.

Matt Yang King’s Personal Philosophy*

I believe there is a force within each of us that can enable us to do amazing things. Scientists say that the human short term memory is only able to remember seven numbers at a time, but when I reach deep down and touch that spark of divinity within myself, I can totally remember eight. As long as they’re not fours. I’m not so good with fours.

Continue reading »

Dec 232010

Atlantic associate editor Jared Keller attracted our oracular, magnetic Personal Philosophy pen by asking someone who tweeted about this series for more information. Does this mean he’ll write a Pulitzer-winning article about us as the inevitable end point of the juxtaposition of high culture and the Internet? Only he knows for sure! (Well, Santa too.)

Jared Keller’s Personal Philosophy*

My life is a confusing muddle, but when I’m in my car, drivin’ fast, everything makes sense. Feeling the wind whipping through my hair from the open windows, I know what it is I really want and where I fit in. When the G-force pushes me back against my seat, I finally understand what would constitute a truly effective economic stimulus.
Continue reading »

Dec 232010

More personal philosophies (you can have one too!).

This one MAY have been sponsored by an anonymous donor, or it may have been selected by me to acknowledge my debt to The Onion in conceiving some of these now plentiful personal philosophies. So, in keeping with the desire to select not the top brass at some organization but a tireless mid-level functionary, Onion “Staff Writer” Jason Roeder is the recipient of today’s cogitation:

Jason Roeder’s Personal Philosophy*

I believe that any situation can be transmuted into humor. Or pathos. One of those. I could just be sitting here doing nothing, but if I pull back the camera and see my sitting as the the force of gravity with a stranglehold on my overindulged girth, and my “doing nothing” as an admission of the vapidity of my ordinary actions and the fruitlessness of even the best intentions, well, you can just about hear the laugh track. Or stark cinematography of the sort used to depict pathetic mundanity. One of those.

Continue reading »

Dec 222010

Perhaps best known (by me) for being the person on Facebook who complained about all these Personal Philosophy postings (see inset), Ms. Ryan is also known for her excellent sense of humor and her facility with plastic explosives. This personal philosophy has been commissioned for her by an elderly billionaire who is too shy to introduce himself.

Also, it should be noted, I’m making a point of putting up “real” posts in addition to these goofy things to recognize that Ms. Ryan’s comment expresses a perhaps not uncommon if heretofore otherwise unvoiced reader compliant. To answer her question: this will likely stop when the Husserl episode drops, though I’ve toyed with the idea of going for 100 of these if ideas persist. There is sort of a philosophical point to this apart from my own creative self-indulgence, but I will leave it to my astute readers to guess at what that point is.

Kathleen M. Ryan’s Personal Philosophy*

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Dec 212010

A while ago, I reviewed my ex-bassist Lee’s project Rumi Music, which is just one of several albums he’s finished since being knocked out of the bass-playing (and walking and talking) business by ALS. His latest shtick is a 2012 Presidential run, so as a speech-writer audition I thought I should create a personal philosophy for him, based on an idea he sent to me, which was something like: “Listen to this awesome song I wrote. How could anyone listen to this and not believe in God?”

Lee Abramson’s Personal Philosophy*

Since the dawn of time, people have argued about the existence of God. I, for one, have never had a doubt, nor has my mother, starting at the moment of my birth, nor any of the lovers, medical professionals, people at the gym or on the subway that one time, or others that have seen me undressed, for I can confidently say that it is impossible to behold my penis and not believe in God.

Continue reading »

Dec 212010

Apparently Johanna Schopenhauer, Arthur’s mom, was an author, “the first German woman writer to publish books without making use of a pseudonym,” and “the most famous author in Germany” for a while in the 1820s. She wrote fiction, travelogues, and biography, and Arthur considered her work juvenile, and told her so.

Her wikipedia page gives the story of her bad relationship with her son: how they couldn’t really stand each other, how he blamed her for his father’s suicide, how she left her inheritance solely to Arthur’s sister. She was no fan of his pessimism and I imagine not an avid reader of his philosophy.

-Mark Linsenmayer

Dec 212010

Mr. Matt Gantner of Gantner Creative Media (a company with no web site Google has heard of) has donated more money to P.E.L. than anyone not actually on the show, despite our not knowing him personally or having provided him any quid pro quo philosophical favors like putting in a good word for him with Arthur C. Danto and/or the Absolute.

With his latest donation, he asked me to help him figure out what philosophy a character in a book he’s writing should have. I provided what help I could, but the results are not publishable here, as I don’t want to give away any of the goings-on in his book (though I can say that it involves bipedal crocodiles roasting the President over a spit).

So, since he cares so much about his book, I have interpreted his donation as a request to write a Personal Philosophy about his book qua soul-endowed monad.

Matt Gantner’s Literary Child’s Personal Philosophy*

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Dec 202010

Here Bryan Magee gives some background on Schopie, which leads into an interview with philosophical historian (and Jesuit priest, known for debating Bertrand Russell on the radio re. the existence of God) Frederick Copleston:

Watch on youtube.

At the end of this first clip, Copleston points out that Kant thought of things in themselves as plural: there’s the table as you see it, and the table in itself, whereas Schopenhauer thought that if you take away space and time, you can’t have multiplicity: the object as it is in itself, not conditioned by these things, must be one. We are all one. This reflects his interests in the Hindu Upanishads, which apparently he read frequently and helped with a translation of.

Continue reading »

Dec 202010

Today’s Personal Philosophy is sponsored by Melissa Murphy and created expressly for her handle-bar mustachioed high-school-physics-teaching husband.

Michael K. Murphy’s Personal Philosophy*

I believe that we need to act now to preserve our fragile ecosystem. I also believe that robots are our future. Giant robots with rockem’ sockem’ type arms and lasers that shoot out of their eyes in beautiful (to them) artistic patterns.

Continue reading »

Dec 192010
Arthur Schopenhauer

Discussing Arthur Schopenhauer’s On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, published in 1847 (as an expansion of his doctoral thesis from 1813).

What kinds of explanations are legitimate? S. thought that causal and logical explanations are often confused, resulting in philosophical errors. In laying out the four types of explanation — the four versions of the principle of sufficient reason — he clearly elaborates his modernized Kantian epistemology. We also discuss his strange notion of “will” that was so influential on Nietzsche and Freud. Plus, we discuss “Action Philosophers!”and “Walking Dead.”

Read the book online here or purchase it.We also read this chunk of The World As Will and Representation.

End song: “The Answer,” from the forthcoming album Impossible Things by New People.