Howardism Musings from my Awakening Dementia
My collected thoughts flamed by hubris
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Side Note

A friend of mine is on vacation in Eastern Europe, and was chatting to a couple of us here. The following is a snippet of the conversation…

matt: oh christ there are few things i hate more than people sitting around chattering about philosophy

po: Philosophy gets the chix0rz

matt: yeah, this dipshit who just said "Even white trash in Missouri believe in Descartes" probably gets laid far more often than I do

po: That's a very funny, ignorant, and sexy assertion.


It's always worth having a few philosophers about the place. One minute its all 'Is truth beauty?' and 'Is beauty truth?' and the next its, 'I say, putting in a 30 foot parabolic reflector on a high place to shoot the rays of the sun at enemy ships would be a very interesting demonstration of optical principles.

—Terry Pratchett, Small Gods

I noticed that one of my favorite radio programs, Philosophy Talk, wants to change their name. Seems that the term, philosophy has a certain kiss-of-death aspect.

My favorite suggestion from one of the listeners was "Rappin' 'bout da deep shit". Now that's a label!

Why Hate Philosophy

The other day, while having lunch with a friend, I remarked that I was reading some philosopher, and he interrupted with rolled eyes and said, "I hate philosophy." That certainly killed a rollicking discussion on how the enlightened ideas of Plato's Republic kept Europe in the "dark ages" for more than a millenia.

But it brought up a thought… since every human has a "personal philsophy" that guides their actions and thoughts, why wouldn't every one be interested in talking about it? Actually, it appears we do, from how we stand on issues and vote in elections, to our activities next to the "honor snack boxes".

In fact, we all might be better off if we were more tolerant of one another idea's, and what better way to discuss them than under the brittle umbrella of philosophy?

But why do people hate philosophy? From my culture, philosophy was a tool of the devil to lull men into trusting their own rational abilities and leave the religious institutions and absolute laws given by God… Although you've got to wonder at any establishment that expects you to check in your "intelligence" at the door.

I suppose there is also a sense of boredom associated with the label… you know, dead white men and all that stuff. But philosophers argued about the same issues that we are struggling with … morals, politics, religion and the human mind. Still worthy discussions now.

So, I've decided on a subtle plan to ask subversive questions at parties and other gatherings that will get people to discuss philosophy, but not realize it. Obviously if the questions are too weighty and too general, people will mistake me for Socrates, and we can't have that. I'm much better looking.

So, I am proposing to you, my readership (yes, both of you) to help me come up with some good, thoughtful zingers.

Let me begin the list. Of course, I can't just walk up to someone out of the blue with one of these questions. Expect a certain amount of weather-and-football-talk beforehand. Let's begin, shall we?

  1. While some people may not be up on this, it is a great party question…

    Have you heard about the elephants that paint pictures? How much would you pay for one of these masterpieces?

    The owners of retired elephants and zookeepers have been trying to offset the cost of caring for elephants by having them work for their supper. You can buy Elephant Pictures and purchase CDs of Elephant Gamelons. Not a bad idea, and the music is pretty interesting.

    This leads into questions like "Is Elephant painting actually art?" and if so, "Is this sort of art just a gimmick or could it be hung in a museum of modern art?"

  2. This question has got some good debates:

    Is the subtle flavors in a glass of wine (or scotch) actually in the wine, or is it only the subjective perspective of the drinker?

    Obviously, you can dive into the question of objective reality, or keep it light with the follow-up, "Is drinking wine a skill?" (see either this interview or this interview with Barry Smith, who wrote a book on this subject.

  3. This question might be a bit too deep for most of the parties that I go to:

    With everything you read about in the newspapers… from the bloody attrocities to the generous philanthropists, do you think the world is getting better or worse with time?

    I bet this boils down a religious perspective, for most religionists feel that the "end of times" needs to be particularly nasty in order to prompt Jesus to leave his thrown and begin the burning of the sinners. However, it is easy to see both sides.

  4. How about the most famous of all questions:

    Are human's inner nature good or bad?

    I find this question very important given the news about the murder of Giuseppina Marineo, an Italian artist known as Pippa Bacca , who was traveling the world to promote peace and trust. Her essential message was that people are trustworthy and basically good in order even attempt such a goal.

    What we have with this question are the extreme views of most religionists that man is inherently evil and "fallen from grace", on one hand. On the other, we have the extreme of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his "nobel savage". Another option is Spinoza's view that there is no concept of "good" and "bad" without a society to dictate those values, for in a state of nature, man's might is all that is right. This will needs to be tamed or controlled in order for an individual to function in a society of others, and hence society's dictate of morality.

  5. This next question may require a bit of background on Quantum Mechanics for it to be really effective, but at most of the parties I go to, they are full of geeks…

    Albert Einstein once made a comment that "God does not play dice with the universe." He said this in regard to the world of subatomic particles essentially are random. Do you think its random, or is something else going on?

    This question is not completely accurate, for subatomic particles do not act randomly, just not predictably, but this is what people generally think of when Einstein's comment is brought up. And it may be successful at getting people to express their perspective on metaphysics.

  6. If I'm feeling particularly safe, and in a reasonably tolerant party, politically that is, I may ask this loaded question…

    Is the American electoral process a good idea or bad?

    Plato saw democracy as essentially mob-acracy, with the ability of a charismatic leader to sway people with rhetoric and passion to work against the better good. This is why America was set up such that the people actually don't vote for their president … they just think they do.

    The Greeks experimented quite a bit with different kinds of social organizations, and one of these experiments lead to Athenian democracy. But after they put Socrates to death, Plato came up with the idea to have the wisest be rulers, i.e. philosopher kings . His kingship, however, was always open to the next person who demonstrated his cranial ability.

Continue this discussion with Ms. Miami's post at SuperFrenchie who has my favorite Bertrand Russell quote:

Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves.

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