Viewing blog entries in category: Religion and Philosophy
I'm a survivor. I have survived two major medical illnesses. Why have I arrived on the other side whereas others with similar illnesses have lost the battle or are continuing to fight for their lives—daily, hourly? Why me? Why not me?
When I got spinal cancer at age 16, I could have felt pity for myself. Instead I decided not to be a victim but rather a warrior. I was going to live, dammit. Thirty years later, I remain cancer free. I have a few scars—battle wounds—but I am walking and breathing and still occupying space on this planet.
Nineteen years ago I was thrown another curve ball. I fell into a deep, dark and hellish depression which hijacked my life and held me hostage for more than fifteen years. Today I am depression free—miraculously. I feel happier and more hopeful than ever. Why did I make it through to the other side when so many linger in purgatory—or worse still—succumb to death?
Is it just a roll of the dice—who gets sick and who survives? Who, what, decides who thrives and who dies? It would be simple to say nature deals the blow, but then, we, become responsible for the fight—we will ourselves to live and live well—or at least well enough. But I think it is more complex than that. There are things like chemicals and other mysterious factors that come into play—things outside of our control.
Should I feel guilty for getting sick in the first place? Should I feel guilty for surviving? Probably not. But sometimes I do—to both. Sometimes I take responsibility when there is simply, unequivocally, none to be taken. It was not my doing, it was chance or luck—bad and good.
I'm sorry Gia. I am sorry Jeff. I a sorry Tibby. I am sorry you lost, are losing. I'm sorry I am happy and living. I wish things were different. But these things are out of my control. My guilt is irrational—I know—but it persists none the less.
When I was fourteen years old, I fell in love for the first time with a boy named Brett. He was fifteen, handsome, and tall, with silky black hair. He looked a bit like a muscular Steve Perry—frontman for the band, Journey. At the end of the summer—that summer of my first love—Brett and his family moved to Florida. I never saw him again.
Brett and I never kissed or even dated. Too many obstacles kept us from hooking up. First off, he was my boyfriend Scott's best friend. They had been best buds since childhood. Secondly he was my best friend, Tina's, boyfriend. Thirdly, and most importantly, he was Jewish. And according to his religion—if adhered to—he needed to marry a fellow Jew. So even if we were to fall madly in love—leaving Tina and Scott on the sidelines—it was to be short lived. It was a star-crossed love. He was Jewish; I wasn't. Simple as that. It was over before it ever began. At the time, this seemed as silly as saying, my hair is black, yours is brown, so we can never be together. I was an atheist. I was never taught that I was a member of some exclusive club that denies others memberships based on their religious beliefs—or lack thereof. I did not care that he was Jewish—and not atheist. Why should it matter to him that I was not Jewish? Because he was indoctrinated to believe he must stick with his own kind. In the same way that blacks and whites only dated those within their own race. And the way that gays didn't date in the open—at all. This was the early eighties in Akron Ohio—not exactly the center of progressive ideas. So many prejudices. Misunderstandings. Tolerance was not a word or concept on the radar. Political correctness? What was that? Ignorance and fear were dividers—the dividers that kept Brett from even entertaining the thought that we could be together in the future.
Odd, but Tina was not Jewish either. But it was OK in his mind to have a short-lived fling with a gentile. But an everlasting love affair with one? Not a chance. Brett loved me too. I felt the reciprocity in every inch of my body and soul. That Tina and Scott were oblivious to our desires remains a mystery. Were they in denial? Neither were the sharpest blades in the drawer. But still. Scott went on the be my first. Yes, I wish it had been Brett. Elusive Brett. I spent the next five years looking for my next Brett. I found him in 1989 in San Francisco. His name was Israel and he was from Israel. Uncanny. He would become my first husband and the father of my only child, David.
That first rejection—based on my lack of Jewishness—was traumatic. It scarred me—changed me forever. It was not the last time I would be made to feel inferior for not being Jewish. It happened again at the US Embassy in Israel when I was told that my son, who was still in my womb at the time, would be a bastard if I did not convert to Judaism. He would be illegitimate. This was in the early nineties. Ignorance and fear were still alive and thriving there—and possibly still are to this day. Worse still, just a few weeks earlier, I learned that I could not marry Israel anywhere in Israel. There was no civil marriage in the entire state; it was illegal. And a Jew could not marry a non-Jew. Our only practical option was to take a boat to Cyprus and marry there. So we did. And were married by the mayor of the city, Nicosia. It was a simple ceremony—lasting under ten minutes. After we married, another couple, an American Christian woman and a Lebanese Jewish man, were married. Israel's religious bigotry created a thriving, cottage industry in Nicosia. There were even travel brochures advertising wedding and officiating services in Cyprus, much in the same way that Chapels in Las Vegas do. People literally run off to Cyprus to get married just like they run off to Nevada.
After my second divorce in 2010 from a non-Jewish man, I fell for another Jew. Three's a charm? Hardly. Another elusive Jew. Will he be the very last? Has the spell been broken? The fetish extinguished? The chase over? Have I have finally let my demons go? Said goodbye to the Jewish knight that I had hoped would save me, make my life wonderful—complete? My Jewish lover is a façade—an illusion. A delusion that some other person can rescue me, fill in the void, give my life meaning and structure. The elusive Brett is the elusive happiness. And this happiness cannot be found outside ourselves in the other. But rather, must come from within ourselves. The chase is up. I am no longer running towards something, someone. I am standing still, perfectly happy being alone—Jew free.
The album, World Peace is None of Your Business, is about human agency—particularly the structures which limit it.
Human agency is the capacity for humans to make choices. In World Peace is None of Your Business, Morrissey describes numerous situations where agency is limited or influenced by structures outside of one's control. Many of the songs address society's pressure to make individuals conform. Several other songs concern themselves with freedom: how much and how little the individual has to make choices in his or her life. In other words, the album is about the power struggle between the individual and society.
World Peace Is None of Your Business ~ Government control
You must not tamper with arrangements
Work hard and sweetly pay your taxes
Never asking what for
Neal Cassady Drops Dead ~ Choice
Victim or life's adventurer
Which of the two are you?
I'm Not a Man ~ Gender as a construct
Ways to sit
And of course
Ways to stand
I'm not a man
Istanbul ~ War
Give him back to me
Give me back my brown eyed son
Earth Is the Loneliest Planet ~ Anomie
But you're in the wrong place
And you've got the wrong face
Staircase at the University ~ Conformity
"If you don't get three As," her sweet daddy said
"You're no child of mine and as far as I'm concerned, you're dead."
The Bullfighter Dies ~ Rebellion
The bullfighter dies
The bullfighter dies
And nobody cries
Kiss Me a Lot ~ Liberation
I don't care when or where
I only care that the two of us are there
Smiler With Knife ~ Surrender
Time has frittered long and slow
All I am and was will go
Kick the Bride Down the Aisle ~ Heteronormativity
She just wants a slave
To break his back in pursuit of a living wage
So that she can laze and graze
For the rest of her days
Write down every word I say
Oboe Concerto ~ Indoctrination
There's a song I can't stand
And it's stuck in my head
World peace is none of your business
You must not tamper with arrangements
Work hard and sweetly pay your taxes
Never asking what for
What is Morrissey saying? Where are his ideas coming from? Russell Brand? Perhaps. But Brand is not a creator of ideas just a distributor with a comedic twist. I think the real thinker behind it all is Stephan Molyneux. I've just started reading his books which are all available for free as audiobooks or eBooks on his website. His Freedomain Radio Podcast is very popular and is touted as: The Largest Philosophy Conversation in the World.
What do Morrissey (apparently), Brand, and Banksy all have in common? Anarchy. The word “anarchy” evokes images of dangerous mobs, spiky-haired youths hurling garbage cans through Starbucks windows, and the chaos of the war of all against all. However, the word “anarchy” simply means “without rulers” - and this state of affairs is something we desperately desire and defend in so many areas of our own lives. ~ SM
Oh oh, you poor little fool
Oh oh, you fool
Remember the Brand Rant?:
Each time you vote you support the process
Stephan Molyneux addresses Brand:
I think Brand is more of an anarcho-syndicalist (think Chomsky) whereas Molyneux is an anarcho-capitalist. Morrissey? Not sure where he lies on the spectrum—if at all. While he does seem to be considering these ideas, he also calls for regulation—outlawing things like eating animals and hunting seals. Or is he just raising awareness, hoping people will change their behaviors voluntarily? If he has in fact caught the anarchist fever then surely he'll be ditching that cross one day soon, no? For one cannot truly be an anarchist and not be atheist. No gods; no masters.
Stephen Molyneux is a strong atheist. His refutation of agnosticism and belief is very good:
He has a pleasant and engaging voice. Not sure if he will ever take a place in my head and heart like Hitchens did. But I am open to letting another thinker in.
Listen to audiobooks online:
I am not open-minded;
My brain is not elastic;
It's more like hardened plastic.
I know you must agree;
It is not difficult to see;
Denying it would be silly.
My beliefs are firmly planted;
Opinions sort of cemented;
Rarely changing over the seasons.
A paradigm shift is unlikely;
The skeptic in me prevents it;
You'll have to do some persuading.
Emotional appeals won't do;
Reason and evidence are what's needed;
Do you have what it takes to convince me?
Debate is what I love to do;
It's the platform to change convictions;
It's the time when my mind adjusts.
I'm not humble enough, I know;
But I am not too proud and stubborn;
I can see the flaws in my thinking.
Just yesterday, I dismissed the semicolon;
I said it was archaic and pretentious;
Good writers, I claimed, never use it.
But I was convinced otherwise;
I saw the errors in my perception;
Decided it was something worth embracing.
Semicolons can be effective on the page;
They alter the speed of the read;
They change the reader's pace.
So they are not overkill as I suggested;
They have their time and place;
Perhaps this poem has you convinced?
There is no such thing as objectivity. Everything is a construct—constructed by subjects.
No one is capable of being completely objective. We all start with a subject—ourselves. Even in eastern philosophy—though they fervently deny there is such as thing as 'self'—a person cannot think, feel, make decisions, or critiques without the self being a part of the picture. All film, food, art, and music critics critique from a place of subjectivity. Even you do. You choose to read about certain bands and genres and ignore others. We cannot consume all the culture out there. Our ignorance prevents us from being 'objective.' How do you know what you are missing? You don't even know what you don't know, most of the time.
Scientists may conduct their research using objective methods—quantitative research. But even then, the subjectivity is never left outside of the lab. What theory will they test? What area of research? Who did they study under? How much funding do they have for this research? How many assistants will they have? So many variables influence their 'science.' Objectivity is a goal. Not an absolute.
As far as philosophy goes, the more I learn about the different traditions and philosophers the more I see just how subjective the whole thing is. Philosophers are almost always egotistical and self-absorbed. And they build upon the works of other egotistical and self-absorbed thinkers. Objective? Hardly. Once a branch in philosophy becomes objective, it leaves the philosophy department. All sciences and mathematics were once branches of philosophy. "I think therefore I am," claims to assert an objective truth about reality—from a subjective position. Perhaps logic, physics, and mathematics are more in line with objectivity. But bring the mathematician, logician, and physicist into picture, and you have now contaminated anything that was once potentially pure, with subjectivity.
Law, objective? Never. Law is a construct. Constructed by human subjects. It was not something discovered. Some a priori entity. Like Plato's Forms. Even the concept of 'human rights' is a construct. Animal rights? A construct. Justice? A construct. Fairness? Depends on who you are asking. All completely subjective—constructed by subjects. Interpreted by subjects. The beauty of the Constitution of the United States is that it is NOT objective at all. It is a living and breathing document that is capable of changing with the times as the society and her subjects change. Subjects will interpret its contents differently to suit their needs. Brilliant, isn't it?! A perfect subjective construct. Perhaps objectivity is overrated. Even an illusion.
Hater and lover are constructs.
Do haters hate themselves and so they project this hate upon a musical artist—Morrissey? They are misogynistic so they project misogyny onto Morrissey? They are uncomfortable with their own sexuality so they claim Morrissey is uncomfortable with his? This is a cop-out and seems to be a convenient way to dismiss all criticism. What kind of criticism is objective—enough? I know I am not projecting my feelings about myself onto Morrissey. Are the 'haters?' Perhaps some deranged haters online—somewhere are. But, I honesty don't see any of those types on this website, at all.
And as far as trolling goes, studies have shown that the notion of the bully bullying because he hates himself and projects this hate onto his victims is erroneous. Many bullies have very high self-esteems. Are actually narcissists. Even psychopaths. They are not projecting self-hate onto others. They are toying with someone else for pleasure. For fun. Because they like it. We want to believe that all haters hate themselves and are broken in some way. Not always the case. Not even often the case.
What does it mean when we say a person is a lover or a hater, anyhow?
'Hater' has lost meaning from overuse and misuse. A pejorative construct. Notice how its counterpart, 'lover,' is not a pejorative term? 'Lover' is sweet and positive and conjures up things like goodness and peace and beauty—all lovely things. I prefer the term sycophant instead of lover. Because truly that is a more accurate description of the obsessive fan who is projecting, in denial, and completely subjective. I think if you are going to label some fans as haters, you must label their opposites as 'sycophants'—not lovers.
Perception is a construct.
I would also suggest there are more 'lovers' here than 'haters.' Way more. And, I would argue if there is any projecting going on it is coming from that camp. Some of the comments and attitudes of the 'positive obsessives' are seriously problematic and three miles from reality. Pure subjectivity. And projection. Read the, Does Moz hate his female fans? thread. And Who is Tina Dehghani? Numerous heterosexual female fans, who claim to have read Morrissey's Autobiography, exhibit a complete denial of the misogynistic and homosexual content in the book. They don't WANT to believe those things. So they don't see them. Willful ignorance. That IS projecting a worldview, sexual orientation, values, etc., onto a person—Morrissey. He is what they want him to be. Not what he says he is or shows himself to be through his actions and comments in the press. It doesn't help that Morrissey has made it easier for his American hetero female fans to remain in their delusional states now that he has edited out the 'gay' parts from his book. Should he publish a special edition for his radical feminist fans so that they too don't have to struggle with cognitive dissonance? Edit out the misogynistic tidbits? Protect your fan base by protecting your image. If there would have been as much talk of the misogyny found in Autobiography, in the reviews and press, as there was of homosexuality, you better believe those misogynist parts would also have been absent in the US edition as well. But as we all know, sexism and misogyny are so pervasive and ingrained in our culture, that some—most—can't even see these things when they are staring them in the face. See those two previously mentioned threads for evidence to back this claim.
It is all a construct folks.
Morrissey is a construct. His fans are constructs. I am a construct. Fandom—is a construct. Morrissey will let you see what he wants you to see. Image. Damage control. It is hilarious. And kind of sad. But... brilliant. That cannot be denied. He knows his fans all too well. He created them after all, didn't he? Morrissey constructed his own fan base. Perhaps like no other.
Why do some of us 'fans' appear to focus more on psychoanalyzing the man rather than discussion his music? I think this has a lot to do with the fact that Moz's musical output has been slim pickings as of late. What is on offer to discuss? Not much. Certainly nothing new. Whereas we had a a 450 page book about THE MAN to dissect, analyze, speculate, critique. And all his comments in the press and statements on TTY—an endless supply of content to mull over. Of course many of us became armchair analysts. That was what we had to work with. The book revealed little about the music and much more about the person. Plus some of us are more fascinated with the persona of Moz than his music—at this point in his career. The song remains the same. How many times can we dissect a piece of music? Or lyrics? New fans can and will, of course. But for us long-term fans? Been there, done that. The music is static. The man is dynamic. Much more interesting to discuss, I think. But that is just me. Can we have both types of discussions here? I say yes, we can, and should.
A disembodied mind could be an immortal mind.
I want to have my mind uploaded before dementia sets in. Then all that data to be downloaded into a computer. I would be happy to be without a body. Would actually prefer for my mind to be disembodied. I could live inside a computer. People could download an App if they want to access me, interact with me. I could have an online blog/website where I continue to post my thoughts and whatnot. I could have instant access to all the information on the Net. Could download it instantly into my hard drive—me. Wow. I am getting excited just thinking about the possibilities.
One benefit to being disembodied, would be the absence of physical pain. And, I'd argue, psychic pain as well. Because, how much suffering that occurs in the mind, is necessitated by having a body? Doesn't depression start as an organic process inside the brain? What about schizophrenia? Aren't these diseases of the physical brain structure itself? Surely it is not due to faulty thinking by a mind with free will. Brain misfirings limit free will, causing irrational thinking, delusions, anxiety, and depression. A brain without organic matter, such as one that acts like a program inside a computer, would be free of these misfirings. Psychic suffering could be rendered non-existent as well. Even grief would no longer have to exist, because loss would not have to manifest. If my loved ones' minds were immortal as well, then no relationship would have to end—unless by choice. Suffering could become a thing of the past. Even animals would be relieved of suffering. They would not be used by humans—for anything. Would animals then become irrelevant to human life? Would we still want them around? Maybe for aesthetic reasons alone? Who would take care of the earth if we all lived in computers? And who would take care of us? Would a group of mortal humans need to stick around to keep us running smoothly—in tip top shape? Maybe we'd all start out as embodied caretakers of other minds. Then we'd become disembodied—immortalized once we reach a certain age. Perhaps some of us would produce caretakers—our caretakers—before we become disembodied. Overpopulation would not be an issue, as life as a computer program would not require much space or resources—no food, water, transportation, clothing, or personal shelter needed.
What about pleasure? Would we have to give that up?
Would we then be unable to feel pleasure? Would pleasure even be missed in the absence of pain? How does a brain without a body feel pleasure? Do I feel pleasure when I learn new information because endorphins are released in my brain—bathing it in serotonin and dopamine? Or is something else going on? Why am I excited, happy, and high when a quest for information materializes? Are endorphins being released, making the payoff feel good? Knowledge seems intrinsically valuable—to the mind. I don't seem to need a reward for learning something new? The reward is learning itself, right? Or is it? Is this just an illusion?Are some brains rewarded by feel-good endorphins which cause pleasurable sensations in the brain—making them feel that they are craving knowledge? Are information junkies really endorphin junkies? Would an inorganic brain without endorphins still be motivated to learn? Or is it a system of punishment and reward? Could a brain be made to crave information without an organic reward? Is having information and knowledge what makes a mind so wonderful? Or is it the drive for knowledge, that is the real beauty of it? Are the ends (knowledge) irrelevant? And the means (drive), where the wonder, magic, and value reside? What is a beautiful mind, anyhow? Its ability and desire to learn, or the information it contains? Or both? I say both.
What motivates us?
Why are some people so driven to learn, while others are not? An example might be a skilled athlete who is driven to master his athleticism—push his abilities to their limits, extremes—but has little interest in reading, writing, or discussing ideas. Perhaps only an intellectual could entertain the notion of, and desire for, their mind to be housed in a computer for all eternity—to be disembodied—where it could learn at rapid speed and acquire an endless supply of information and knowledge. Is this something that is utterly undesirable to an athlete, whose body itself is the vehicle—the means to the end— to pleasure? What if there were no pleasure endorphins at all? Would a mind want to think? A body want to move? Maybe technology would render pleasure possible in a disembodied mind—even one which was 100% inorganic. Electrical impulses, perhaps?
What about you?
Are you an intellectual? Do you place thinking at a premium? Ever refer to yourself as an information junkie? Would you rather learn than eat, make love, or take a walk? Do you want to live inside a computer too? Email me. I think we could be great friends.
Companion piece: A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste
From 2005: Mind Transferring
Ray Kurzweil — Immortality by 2045
If in the future, we have the ability to save minds from disease and decay, should we make them immortal by housing them in new bodies every three decades? Or should we let them die to make room for new minds? What if overpopulation were not an issue? Or if we could house the minds in computers? Should we keep minds alive forever? I say yes, we should.
Don't you think it is more tragic for a fully developed personality to die rather than for a new 'potential one' not to be born? Let the people who already live continue to exist. And keep new ones from being born. Sterilization (voluntary) would solve that problem. All future births could be sterile. Parenthood—having children—would become something to read about rather than experience firsthand. Or we could inhabit and populate other planets. Perhaps by the time we could become 'immortal', the technology that would make living on Mars will also have been developed.
Why let the already developed personalities live on instead of replacing them with new ones? Because the mind gets better over time. If it is possible to keep the brain healthy and free of disease, then the benefits of a mind that is full of knowledge and experience is of great worth for both historical and practical reasons, and would only become more valuable over time.
It seems like a huge loss for someone's mind, which spends its whole life getting better, to have to decay and die. Why shouldn't the journey continue, forever? People look at the past through nostalgic lenses, stating, oh I wish I lived in the 20s, or 50s. In the future, we could live through hundreds of decades. Think what this experience and information would afford us. The utility of a super intelligent mind can't be overstated. Think if Einstein were still alive. Or other brilliant philosophical, scientific, or literary minds such as Thomas Jefferson, Shakespeare, or Beethoven. What technologies and discoveries and wisdom could they impart if they were still churning out creative works and brilliant ideas today? A mind is a terrible thing to waste. The body is just a vehicle to house the mind. It is replaceable. The mind is unique, irreplaceable. Give me a new body. Or house my brain's data in a computer. Just let my mind live on forever.
Do we need new blood to have fresh ideas? Do old minds become rusty? Or are these just stereotypes—assumptions not based on evidence? How do we know that these geniuses wouldn't still actively be producing output for hundreds or thousands of years? It would be worth finding out. But not all of us are geniuses, right? Does that mean our minds are not just as valuable? Not really. Most minds are worth saving.
What about heaven? Wouldn't an afterlife offer a form of immortality for my mind? Yes. But heaven is an illusion—a product of wishful thinking. If it can't be proven to exist, it most likely doesn't. I'm putting my money in science—the natural world. The supernatural world is for dreamers. I am a realist.
Companion piece: A Disembodied Mind
From 2005: Mind Transferring
Ray Kurzweil — Immortality by 2045
Morrissey states: "If you believe in the abattoir then you would support Auschwitz. There's no difference. People who would disagree with this statement have probably never been inside an abattoir."
Are his comments insensitive, even crass? Well, yes.
The Nazis DEHUMANIZED Jews, gays, Gypsies, the handicapped, and other undesirables, under the UNSCIENTIFIC theories of Eugenics, reducing the status of these humans to the status of non-human animals. So, Auschwitz victims were regarded as being non-human animals—just like cattle. The modern meat industry treats animals as non-humans—as they are—just like cattle. Thus, non-human animals are just like the non-humans of Auschwitz. This is the logic behind Morrissey's proposition. It makes sense on paper. And coming from Jewish intellectuals and scholars who survived the Holocaust, makes it look more legitimate. Who can argue with the victims of the Holocaust themselves, right?
Morrissey claiming animals are treated like the victims of Auschwitz is not a new argument, nor one which he concocted. But, even if it is logically sound, it is still insensitive coming from a non-Jew who is using the historical tragedy of a group of people for his own political purposes. It is emotional PROPAGANDA. And the Anti-Defamation League agrees.
Humans were treated like non-human animals. Animals are not treated like humans. Jews are humans, NOT non-human animals. Are animals being treated like Jews? It was wrong to treat Jews like animals, right? Is it also, then, wrong to treat animals like animals? This is essentially what Morrissey and Newkirk are saying. It is wrong to treat animals like animals. We need to treat them like humans. So the question is, should we give animals the same consideration as humans? If we do, this would mean they could not be used for food, or resources such as milk and fur, labor of any kind, entertainment, or even be regarded as pets. Why? Because they cannot offer consent. And without consent, this would amount to involuntary exploitation and confinement. In other words, slavery. And slavery is illegal. Do you agree with that? If not, then you don't accept this argument. And neither does Morrissey, really, when you think about it. He is all talk and no action. Because the man consumes diary and owns pets.
His inconsistency and hypocrisy is apparent to all, and makes him look like a silly, insensitive man, exploiting the tragedy of a group of people for his own selfish ideology—an ideology which in practice, he doesn't even fully embrace himself.
This will be an ongoing entry, to be updated regularly with new podcasts and audio files. My faves are noted with a ♥. Podcasts hosted by Alan Saunders noted by *. (All digital art/images are by me.)
Albert Camus (reluctant philosopher/reluctant existentialist):
Considered himself to be an absurdist rather than an existentialist, because unlike the other existentialists, he wasn't concerned with metaphysics, existence. Never believed himself a philosopher, but rather, a writer, as he was not interested in reason. Though arguably his essays and novels are philosophical and ask philosophical questions.
What are We to Make of Albert? ♥ *
Albert Camus and The Absurd ♥ *
The Outsider ♥ *
Søren Kierkegaard (father of existentialism):
Kierkegaard 200 *
Fear and Freedom *
Kierkegaard in 90 Minutes
Nietzsche and the Will to Power ♥ *
Nietzsche in 90 Minutes
Sartre in 90 Minutes ♥
The Enlightenment Philosophers:
The Life of David Hume ♥ *
Hume and God ♥ *
Hume in 90 Minutes
Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet):
Voltaire’s Novel “Candide”
The Life of Mr Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury *
John Stuart Mill:
John Stuart Mill's On Liberty: 150th anniversary *
Spinoza in 90 Minutes
Rousseau in 90 Minutes
The State of the Enlightenment (with Sam Harris)Enlightened Eccentrics in the Age of Reason ♥ *
Thomas Paine - Christopher Hitchens Lecture (Full) ♥
Christopher Hitchens on Thomas Jefferson: Enlightenment, Nation Building, and Slavery (2005) ♥
Kant in 90 Minutes
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel:
Hegel in 90 Minutes
Schopenhauer in 90 Minutes
The Strange Birth of Idealism *
The Analytic Philosophers:
Wittgenstein in 90 Minutes ♥
Why I Am Not a Christian ♥ ♥
Plato's Symposium (Origin of the notion of Platonic love.)
Socrates: Man and Myth
Unforgettable Speeches: the Apology of Socrates *
Utilitarianism ♥ * (with Peter Singer)
What is Morality? ♥ *
Morality and Restraint ♥ *
Can Science Shape Human Values? And Should It? ♥
The Moral Judgment of Psychopaths ♥ *
Martha Nussbaum - Part 1 - The Social Contract ♥ *
Martha Nussbaum Part 2: Thinking about Animals ♥ *
Eric Schwitzgebel on the Ethical Behaviour of Ethics Professors ♥
The Trials and Tribulations of Private Bradley Manning
The New Atheists:
Christopher Hitchens and Stephen Fry - Blasphemy 
Peter Singer - Ethics Without Religion ♥
Author Challenges Faith of a 'Christian Nation' (Sam Harris)
Atheist Brigade Takes Arguments to the Tolerant
What Would Karl Marx Think? *
Marx in 90 Minutes
What Do We Know and How Do We Know We Know It? *
Let's Get Metaphysical *
Objective Truth *
Metaphysics and Epistemology
Sayyid Qutb and Islamist Ideology *
The History of Philosophy in Less Than an Hour
Pragmatism - A Very American Philosophy *
Thinking About the Lives of the Great Thinkers *
A Philosophical History of Russia *
A Romp Through the History of Philosophy From the Pre-Socratics to the Present Day
How To Be A Fashionable Philosopher ♥ *
Literature, Law and Ethics - The Case of Billy Budd *
How Many Logics? *
Christopher Hitchens: Philosophy and Drink
Michel Foucault's Madness and Civilisation: 50th anniversary *
Derrida - The Father of Deconstruction *
A Tribute to Claude Levi-Strauss *
AC Grayling: A Very Public Philosopher *
Kafka and Philosophy *
The Person Test *
Patricia Churchland on Self-control
It's All About Me, a Forum on the Philosophy of Self ♥ *
It's All About Me, the Philosophy of Self Part 2: The Quiz ♥ *
Love Potion ♥
The Hipster Philosopher
But is it Art?
Is That Really You?
Freedomain Radio Podcasts
The Partially Examined Life
Philosophy: Free Courses Online
Open Culture: The Best Free Cultural & Educational Media on the Web
The Philosopher's Zone
Best of the Hitchslap!
Hitchens was one of a kind. His wit, intelligence, graciousness, class, humor, charisma, voice--oh that voice--were like none other. Such a loss. Tragic. A brilliant man's life cut short. A man that should have been the one saved on that hypothetical, over-capacity lifeboat. Some lives are more valuable than others, sorry. Don't believe me? Place Hitler next to Hitchens. Who do you save? Sometimes I feel like my compass is a little wonky without him. I'm on my own. It is sometimes difficult to navigate these current political and sociological waters. I am uncertain... looking at it all through my ignorant, humble lenses. I miss his powerful--yet gentle, insightful, and educated perspective. I feel shortchanged, as I was only privy to this man's greatness for a short five or so years, before his untimely death in December 2011. How I wished I had been there in the early days. It must have been wonderful to have known him when he was a student at Oxford. Or a journalist reporting on the conflicts in eastern Europe. I learned of him too late. And this I regret.
Thank goodness that the Hitch was around during the YouTube and Internet era. All those wonderful debates and interviews have been captured, preserved, and shared... like little intellectual memes spreading across the planet.
Hitchens was not a lyricist or a singer--like Morrissey. But his words, both spoken and written, had, and still have, the ability to capture and transform and enlighten both minds and hearts. There is no doubt in my mind that he is the freethinker's Morrissey. He has legions of loyal fans that literally do hang on his every word. I wonder if they too feel lost sometimes without Hitch as the rudder? There are probably communities out there discussing this very thing right now. But isn't one community enough for me? I really can't be bothered to participate in other online discussion forums. Solo is time consuming enough. I'd probably learn more elsewhere. But is that all it's about? Who knows what the future holds. Solo may close its doors one day. My interests may shift. It's all uncertain.
Here is a thirty minute video that has Hitch answering reddit.com's (top ten questions)...
Ask Christopher Hitchens Anything ~ taped in 2009.
This is a summary/study guide of sorts for myself and anyone else interested in Street Epistemology.
*I am learning to be more tolerant and less judgmental through reading this book. The title is slightly misleading. This book is not about evangelizing. The goal is not to convert anyone into an atheist. The idea is to teach critical thinking skills which will move a person from a faith-based epistemology to a reason-based one. Hopefully this will further move them towards skepticism and possibly atheism. But the goal is not to render them godless, but rather, faithless. This book is a must for dyed-in-the-wool atheists who want to develop the skills needed to interact with the faithful in more loving, tolerant, and productive ways. While at the same time, helping teach them to think more critically. A long overdue book surely to become a classic in the atheist cannon.
Excerpts from book...
Chapter One: Street Epistemology
Street Epistemology is a vision and a strategy for the next generation of atheists, skeptics, humanists, philosophers, and activists. Left behind is the idealized vision of wimpy, effete philosophers: older men in jackets with elbow patches, smoking pipes, stroking their white, unkempt beards. Gone is cowering to ideology, orthodoxy, and the modern threat of political correctness.
Enter the Street Epistemologist: an articulate, clear, helpful voice with an unremitting desire to help people overcome their faith and to create a better world—a world that uses intelligence, reason, rationality, thoughtfulness, ingenuity, sincerity, science, and kindness to build the future; not a world built on faith, delusion, pretending, religion, fear, pseudoscience, superstition, or a certainty achieved by keeping people in a stupor that makes them pawns of unseen forces because they’re terrified.
The Street Epistemologist is a philosopher and a fighter. She has savvy and street smarts that come from the school of hard knocks. She relentlessly helps others by tearing down falsehoods about whatever enshrined "truths" enslave us.
Vision for Street Epistemology...
Hard-boiled means that you look at things straight on. You play it straight. You don’t sugarcoat it, you don’t play it cute, you don’t pull your punches. You look at the cold, hard truth. You lay things out truthfully. That’s your healthy skepticism. You become the investigator—you have to be your own private investigator—you’re the detective—so you better learn how to handle yourself.
The immediate forerunners to Street Epistemologists were “the Four Horsemen,” each of whom contributed to identifying a part of the problem with faith and religion. American neuroscientist Sam Harris articulated the problems and consequences of faith. British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins explained the God delusion and taught us how ideas spread from person to person within a culture. American philosopher Daniel Dennett analyzed religion and its effects as natural phenomena. British-American author Christopher Hitchens divorced religion from morality and addressed the historical role of religion. The Four Horsemen called out the problem of faith and religion and started a turn in our thinking and in our culture—they demeaned society’s view of religion, faith, and superstition, while elevating attitudes about reason, rationality, Enlightenment, and humanistic values.
The Four Horsemen identified the problems and raised our awareness, but they offered few solutions. No roadmap. Not even guideposts. Now the onus is upon the next generation of thinkers and activists to take direct and immediate action to fix the problems Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens identified.
A Manual for Creating Atheists is a step beyond Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, and Dennett. A Manual for Creating Atheists offers practical solutions to the problems of faith and religion through the creation of Street Epistemologists—legions of people who view interactions with the faithful as clinical interventions designed to disabuse them of their faith.
Chapter Two: Faith
Old definition: belief without evidence.
New definition: pretending to know things you don't know.
Common definition: One who does not believe in god(s).
New way to define atheist: An atheist does not assert--claim to know--that there is no god(s). She instead states that, "There’s insufficient evidence to warrant belief in a divine, supernatural creator of the universe. However, if I were shown sufficient evidence to warrant belief in such an entity, then I would believe.” "The atheist does not claim, “No matter how solid the evidence for a supernatural creator, I refuse to believe.”
Do not use the term agnosticism. It is archaic and meaningless.
Faith claims are knowledge claims.
Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that focuses on how we come to knowledge, what knowledge is, and what processes of knowing the world are reliable. Conclusions one comes to as the result of an epistemological process are knowledge claims. A knowledge claim is an assertion of truth.
Faith: pretending to know things you don't.
God works in mysterious ways.
I am pretending to know that god works in mysterious ways.
My faith is true for me.
Pretending to know things I don't know is true for me.
Why should people stop having faith if it helps them get through the day?
Why should people stop pretending to know things they don’t know if it helps them get through the day?
Faith and hope are not synonyms.
One can hope for anything or place one’s trust in anyone or anything. This is not the same as claiming to know something. To hope for something admits there’s a possibility that what you want may not be realized. For example, if you hope your stock will rise tomorrow, you are not claiming to know your stock will rise; you want your stock to rise, but you recognize there’s a possibility it may not. Desire is not certainty but the wish for an outcome.
A recent move by apologists is to avoid the use of the word “faith” entirely, and instead to use the word “trust.” Given that the word “faith” is inherently problematic, I think this is an excellent strategy. The counter to this, however, is identical: “Without sufficient evidence how do you know what to trust?” If the response is, “There’s sufficient evidence,” then your reply should be, “Then you don’t need faith.”
Chapter Three: Doxastic Closure, Belief, and Epistemology
There are five reasons why otherwise reasonable people embrace absurd propositions: (1) they have a history of not formulating their beliefs on the basis of evidence; (2) they formulate their beliefs on what they thought was reliable evidence but wasn’t (e.g., the perception of the testament of the Holy Spirit); (3) they have never been exposed to competing epistemologies and beliefs; (4) they yield to social pressures; and (5) they devalue truth or are relativists.
The word “doxastic” derives from the Greek doxa, which means “belief.” I use the phrase “doxastic closure,” which is esoteric even among seasoned epistemologists and logicians, in a different and less technical way than it’s used in philosophical literature. I use the term to mean that either a specific belief one holds, or that one’s entire belief system, is resistant to revision.
Doxastic openness is the beginning of genuine humility. Awareness of ignorance is by definition doxastic openness. Awareness of ignorance makes it possible to look at different alternatives, arguments, ways of viewing the world, and ideas, precisely because one understands that one does not know what one thought one previously knew. The tools and allies of faith—certainty, prejudice, pretending, confirmation bias, irrationality, and superstition—all come into question through the self-awareness of ignorance.
Chapter Four: Interventions and Strategies
• Develop nonadversarial relationships
• Help clients think differently and understand what could be gained through change
• “Meet clients where they are”17 and don’t force a change
• Express empathy
• Go with resistance
• Tap into internal change behavior
Chapter Five: Enter Socrates
The Socratic method has five stages: (1) wonder; (2) hypothesis; (3) elenchus, (4) accepting or revising the hypothesis; (5) acting accordingly.
A hypothesis is never proven to be true. After a hypothesis survives repeated iterations in the elenchus, this only means that to date it has withstood a process of falsification. For example, through a window by a lake, you’ve seen one million white swans; nevertheless, this doesn’t mean all swans are white. No matter how many swans you’ve seen, this does not make the hypothesis that all swans are white true, it only means the hypothesis hasn’t been shown to be false (yet).
Chapter Six: After the Fall
Helping people, especially children, to be comfortable with not knowing, yet at the same time encouraging the development of curiosity, of wonder, and of a zest to explore the world, is a crucial and indispensable undertaking. New books and lines of literature about how to make children comfortable with not knowing and how to develop reliable epistemologies must be written, widely circulated, and read ubiquitously. To start we must create the value of being comfortable with uncertainty, particularly with regard to life’s ultimate questions. In other words, not only do we need to devalue an existing paradigm (faith), we also need to revalue an underappreciated one (reason).
Chapter Seven: Anti-Apologetics 101
There are only eleven defenses for faith. They fall into these three categories:
Faith is True
• Why is there something rather than nothing?
• You can't prove there is no god.
• I don't have enough faith to be an atheist.
• My faith is true for me.
• Science can't explain quantum mechanics.
• You have faith in science.
Faith is Useful
• My faith is beneficial to me.
• Life has no meaning without faith.
• Why take away faith if it helps get people through the day?
To argue that people need faith is to abandon hope, and to condescend and accuse the faithful of being incapable of understanding the importance of reason and rationality. There are better and worse ways to come to terms with death, to find strength during times of crisis, to make meaning and purpose in our lives, to interpret our sense of awe and wonder, and to contribute to human well-being—and the faithful are completely capable of understanding and achieving this.
Atheism is Corrosive
•Without faith society would devolve morally.
Chapter Eight: Faith and the Academy
Epistemological Relativism: That any way to come to knowledge is as good as any other.
Contemporary Academic Leftism: How Criticizing Bad Thinking Became Immoral: Classic and Social Liberalism evolves into Contemporary Academic Leftism
In the twentieth century, social liberalism evolved further still, with its dominant strain becoming contemporary academic leftism.1 This current manifestation of liberalism is a skeleton of former incarnations and is best described not by what it is, but by the parasitic ideologies that have given that skeleton its corrupted form: relativism, subjectivity, tolerance, diversity, multiculturalism, respect for difference, and inclusion.2 These invasive values betray classical and social liberalism’s history of standing for basic freedoms and fighting all forms of tyranny.
Historically, there’s nothing intrinsic to liberalism that necessarily weds it to the ideologies currently piggybacking on it. The fact that there is no necessary connection between the classical forms of liberalism and the values that currently fall within the sphere of contemporary academic leftism is reason for hope—hope that contemporary academic leftism can be decoupled from these external, invasive values, which undermine the emancipatory hope offered by classical and social liberalism, to return liberalism to its historical and intended roots.
Epistemic relativism is either coupled with the idea that any process one uses to form beliefs is either just as good as any other process—a kind of epistemic egalitarianism—or with the idea that processes cannot be judged because one process is always judged by another process.
Yet another tenet of contemporary academic leftism is the belief, the value, that ideas have dignity. When one believes dignity is a property of ideas and not just a property of people, then criticizing an idea becomes akin to criticizing a person. In other words, morally, just as one shouldn’t criticize physical attributes common among sub-Saharan Africans, or among Scandinavians, so too one should not criticize ideas, faith traditions, and so forth.
Granting ideas dignity has two consequences. The first consequence is that criticizing faith traditions becomes viewed as a form of hate speech—like saying the “N” word. This kind of political correctness further buttresses faith from dialectical criticism. Most people won’t criticize faith out of fear people will think not only that they’re bad people, but also that they’re mean-spirited, angry, bigoted, prejudiced, insensitive, hateful people.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the failure of contemporary academic feminism. Feminism is currently married to, or rather cohabitating with, academic leftism. Consequently, feminism has absorbed the same exogenous values that liberalism absorbed. Thus, there has been a tragic, catastrophic, and almost wholesale failure of contemporary academic feminism to speak out against the unbridled, ruthless misogyny of the Taliban, the horrific and wide-scale domestic violence suffered by women in Papua New Guinea, the sexual and physical violence common among Aboriginal women and girls in Australia, and the list goes on, and on, and on.
If one were to abstract feminism from values like tolerance, diversity, multiculturalism as applied to the realm of ideas, etc., what would the results be? Would American feminists be more likely or less likely to criticize the treatment of women in other cultures? The answer is obvious. Feminism’s silence can be understood because it’s been tainted by a litany of invasive values such as multiculturalism and relativism.
Contemporary academic leftism is also faith’s unwitting ally. Contemporary academic leftists have bullied criticisms of faith off the table.12
Multiculturalism and associated ideologies grant “diverse” epistemologies—especially faith processes—immunity from criticism. Multiculturalism buttresses faith-based processes from criticism by conflating race with culture, and by making attacks on faith and reasoning processes ethically synonymous with attacks on race, gender, and other immutable characteristics.
In order to reason well, one needs to be able to rule out competing or irrelevant alternatives. But one cannot do this if one believes that there’s no way to make an objective judgment about those alternatives.
Chapter Nine: Containment Protocols
Just as the body is exposed to toxins so is the mind.
Faith is an unclassified cognitive illness disguised as a moral virtue. Each of us dreads the thought of becoming ill, and we take whatever measures necessary to regain our health. Not so with the faith virus. People infected by faith feel gratitude and appreciation for their affliction. But even beyond gratitude, part of the difficulty in dislodging the faith virus is, as Dennett has argued, that it’s perceived as a moral virtue. People infected with faith don’t think of it as a malady, but as a gift, even a blessing.
It’s disturbing that many people who have no faith are untroubled by the possibility of their own infection. The reasons for this are complex and possibly extend into the domain of neuroscience, but a large part of the problem is that faith is intertwined with morality. People infected by the faith virus believe having faith is important, and resolute belief in something—anything—is a virtue.
n the short term, one specific verbal technique to help contain faithbased justifications is through the “Adult Table” response. One can sit at the Adult Table if one has evidence in support of a position. Absent evidence, the claimant needs to go to the Kid’s Table. For example, if one thinks homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed to adopt children because they’re more likely to beat them, this is an empirical claim and the tools of science can be used to ascertain whether or not this is true (it’s not). Make empirically verifiable claims, even if the conclusions are ugly, and you get a voice in the conversation—you’ve earned the right to sit at the Adult Table. Wave an ancient text and expect others to cede to its authority, or claim faith as a justification for your beliefs—then you need to sit at the Kid’s Table. Those at the Kid’s Table can talk about anything they’d like, but they have no adult responsibilities and no voice in public policy.
The Adult Table metaphor is best used with leaders of faith communities who are accustomed to deference. If you’re fortunate enough to engage imams, mullahs, rabbis, pastors, ministers, clerics, swamis, gurus, chaplains, shaman, priests, witch doctors, or any other faith leaders, be blunt and direct when demanding evidence for their claims. Continued failure to produce evidence should be met with, “You are pretending to know things you don’t know. Go to the Kid’s Table, this is a conversation for adults.”
“We fear clear, honest, blunt dialogue, but what we ought to fear are stupid and dangerous ideas, because while blunt and honest dialogue might be offensive to some, stupid and dangerous ideas can be fatal to all of us.”—Matt Thornton
In the event of my death,
Please kindly hold your breath.
Loved ones do not wish you to quote,
Vacuous death cliches,
Uttered by rote.
You claim to speak from the heart,
Offering condolences and support.
But my prayers are with you, rest in peace,
And she's in a better place, are insulting,
To rationalists in mourning.
If you must say anything,
Just a few simple words will do.
Tell my family and friends that,
You are sorry for their loss,
And for your own loss too.
*Updates about Google search results at bottom of post.
So, the other day, I did a Google search for my name, Jehne Lunden. Oh come on, you know you have searched your own name as well. Anyhow, on page eight I found my name was linked to a website titled, Evidence for Christianity. Of course I was curious, so I went to the site to see what was up with that. Lo and behold, some student in a Christian Apologetics Certificate program, quoted me in his research paper. Thanks for asking buddy. Could have tried to contact me. Maybe I would have agreed to an interview... and even scratched my name on your arm.
The research paper is titled, A Survey of World Views. Pretty straightforward, I think. Anyhow, this is where I come in... apparently, after spending time reading posts on various metaphysical blogs, and scrolling through and reading comments left by other readers, he found my lovely prose. And decided, after careful contemplation, that I am the perfect living representation of an atheist existentialist. I am the epitome of a person who holds this world view. My words describe it perfectly. Hoo-ha! Not the words of a famous philosopher or text from a generic Wikipedia entry. Oh no, little ol' me. Too funny. Or... maybe I am the ONLY living atheist existentialist? Nah!
Want to know what was quoted without having to scroll through his paper? Here is what he wrote... my words are in italics:
Although existentialism may be expressed in theistic terms, it is most amenable to an atheistic worldview. This is because existentialism “emphasizes the uniqueness and isolation of the individual experience in a hostile or indifferent universe, regards human existence as unexplainable, and stresses freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of one’s acts.” Although theists recognize the hostility of this world, which often seems to be a place of indifference, they nonetheless acknowledge a personal Creator-God who by nature refutes the notion that humanity is “isolated” and has no one to rely upon. Additionally, theism offers a reasonable and even scientifically-based explanation for human existence. Therefore, theistic-based existentialism struggles against the clear teaching of the fiat creation of humanity.
Atheist Jehne Lunden fairly describes the existentialist outlook on life: “Existentialism is my metaphysical paradigm. I think that we are born, live as physical beings on earth, and then die. That’s it. There is no god, karma, nor fate that has predestined our life’s purpose. We are free to choose our life’s course. Of course the environment and genetics will limit our agency. Therefore, we must give our lives meaning. Perhaps we can find it through the connections we have with our fellow beings or through creating art, music, or literature. This philosophy is enough for me. It can be bleak but it is the only one I’ve come across that makes sense to me. All others encompass leaps of faith and wishful thinking.” The “leaps of faith” that Lunden notes is surely in reference to Soren Kierkegaard’s belief that accepting Christian theism involves a “leap of faith” that surpasses rational understanding – Kierkegaard was the progenitor of theistic existentialism and a Christian fideist.
Atheistic existentialism maintains the following beliefs:
*The only reality is the physical universe; no God, gods, or supernatural realm exists.
*Objective (absolute) truth does not exist.
*“Existence precedes essence,” or we exist but do not know why.
*Life has no meaning other than what we ascribe it.
Atheistic existentialists have followed naturalism to its logical conclusions, but nonetheless they seek to impose value and meaning upon their lives. This is really what separates atheistic existentialists from nihilists, who lack that hope and meaning.
The most influential atheistic existentialists are generally held to be Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sarte, and Albert Camus. Their combined work stretched from the last half of the nineteenth century with Nietzsche to the death of Sarte in 1980.
You may recall me writing about my posting of that original comment in Camels Without Hammers. I wrote about it in this blog post: Sixteen Steps Short of a Coma.
Btw, the student's name is Randy Hroziencik. I wonder, if he does a search for his name sometime in the future, will he find this blog post? I hope so. The world is getting smaller, isn't it?
Oh, I changed the name of my blog from realitybites to Jehne Lunden. I'm curious to learn how this change will effect a Google search for my name. Currently, my blog comes up about ten or so posts down the list. Will it be bumped up on the list now that it has my name for its title? If so, when will the change take effect? I suppose if I were a techie I'd know all this. But I'm not and so I don't.
Oh, and, I reserve the right to change it back at any time in the future.
September 1, the day after ~ My blog has already jumped up two spaces after just one post with the new title. This proves that if one wants to be found, it is obvious one should use a name that is easily searchable and unique. There is no other Jehne Lunden that I can tell. But there are probably millions of realitybites--in some form or another... from film to books to user names. I was lost in the crowd. I'll do another search in the near future and report back.
September 3, blog is now in position number five on the first page, after two blog posts with the title change. facebook is number one.
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