Archive for category Unwise

Je suis Charlie!

Yet again, an epic fail by extremists. Now we all know about Charlie Hebdo. Now we all have seen their cartoons (and sometimes even laughed at them). Now we are less circumspect about how the authorities deal with these murderers and their ilk. As I write this, two of the perpetrators (at least) remain at large. They will be caught and probably killed. Lots of other people will likely be injured or killed as well. Muslims, largely unfairly, will be mocked by cartoonists and humorists and a sea of wanna-be comedians at an increasing rate. And when they are not, they will be increasingly objects of suspicion and even hatred.

How is any of this anything other than complete failure?

I looked at some of the cartoons in Charlie Hebdo, a publication about which I was previously unaware. I have to say that a lot of the cartoons I saw were fairly disgusting. I can easily see how many people would be offended by them. But however little I like vulgar, offensive, juvenile attempts at humor, I like humorless, violent, extremist, willfully-ignorant ideologues even less. Much, much less. How many of the world’s crises are due, in the end, to a lack of a sense of humor? Seriousness kills.

Well, a lot of the time, anyway.

My condolences to the family and friends of the victims of this senseless attack. I am so sorry for your loss.

Love is stronger than hate. (And the pen, in the end, is mightier than the sword.)

Love is stronger than hate. (And the pen, in the end, is mightier than the sword.)

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Bad Reporting

As I write these words, there is a shooting incident ongoing at the Canadian Parliament. Here is a headline I hate (from CNN):

There is no evidence yet that the shootings are linked to Islamic extremism.


First of all, CNN is reporting on what it does not have evidence of. I am going to to way out on a limb here and say there is a lot that CNN does not have evidence of.  

Second, what exactly is meant by the word “yet” in this headline? Do they have some reason to anticipate that they will have that evidence? If so, then it seems that, in fact, they do have at least some evidence for the claim. But they don’t, so the word “yet” is unjustified.

And then why mention “Islamic extremism” when attacks like the present one can be carried out by all sorts of groups or none.

Now, please don’t misunderstand me: I hope they get this situation controlled in short order and get to the bottom of it. And let the chips fall where they may. But CNN is way out of line with this headline at this point.

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I am tired from reading my Facebook stream this morning. For some reason, the cute little baby pictures, amusing jokes, and forest fire updates are being peppered with posts expressing hatred of somebody or another or some group or another. It is so tedious. “Every (fill in the blank) is an evil, untrustworthy, lying terrorist, and all of us (your name here) are good, kind, peace-loving innocent people who would never hurt a fly except when we need to kill the (repeat name in first blank). They definitely have it coming.” These hate-posts practically write themselves.

Now, to make sure there is no hypocrisy or unintended irony here, let me be clear: I do not hate the hate-posters one little bit. Their posts I can do without, but the posters are (for the most part) simply scared little small-minded persons in a world that has been presented to them by the powers that be to be filled with dangerous enemies, enemies that “fortunately” it is very easy to identify. They are the (repeat name in first blank, above). I pity them, really, and that would be the end of it if they were not such an obvious danger to others and even to themselves. It is quite sad.

Are there bad, bad people in the world, people hoping to do bad, bad things to others? You bet! Are “we” (innocent or not) within our rights to try to stop them? Of course. With violence? If necessary (in my opinion…I am not a pure pacifist). But could we please go back to a time (if there ever really was such a time…) to where we believed…indeed, we knew…that these bad, bad people were individuals more than groups and that they were rather rare in the world and that most people — no matter to which group they belonged – were probably just like us, trying to make it through the day?

No, of course we can’t.

Why not, you ask? Because hate has become the fashion. Everybody is working on honing their hating skill set — and they’re doing quite a good job of it, if social media and the news of the world are any indication (and they are).

So I am going to try to tune you out, all you haters, and hope for the best (and expect the worst, of course). And if you would be so kind, please stop posting your hate-stuff on my social media. I like the baby and cat pictures quite a lot, and you are definitely harshing my mellow.

Over and out.

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Is Philosophy a Show about Nothing?

Peter Unger, author of Empty Ideas, thinks so. Read this interview with one of his former students. Here’s a taste:

Back to Empty Ideas, I guess you think people should just face up to that, instead of thinking that they’re doing something very important, or deep.

Probably. That’s what Wittgenstein concluded. I’m just not holding myself to be something like a quasi-mystical genius that he was supposed to have been. I’m just an ordinary schlub, who happens to have more perspective on things than other mainstream philosophers.

And I’m smarter than almost all of them. A few of my colleagues are smarter than I am. But except for Tim Maudlin, they all have much less perspective than I do, and some of them none at all. They have no idea what they’re doing, or very little idea of what they’re doing, or distorted ideas of what they’re doing.

One of them who’s much smarter than me is Kit Fine. His office is right over there next to mine. I discuss him in one of the chapters of Empty Ideas. He has no more idea of what he’s doing than Aristotle did, and in Aristotle’s day there was an excuse: nobody knew anything. Nowadays it’s less of an excuse.

Although he clearly is in love with himself, nevertheless Unger strikes me as something like a “self-hating philosopher,” one of those philosophers who tries to philosophize philosophy out of existence. They make for a comical yet pathetic figure. A question: what is the philosophical status of a book like Empty Ideas? Why, on its own terms, should I not take it to be just a bunch of hot air?

Note that Unger’s targets are all so-called analytic philosophers. It is not an uncommon criticism of analytic philosophy that it has, in large swaths anyway, lost touch with human experience (often due to its “science”-envy). But is so-called analytic philosophy – which, btw, is all I’m reading at the moment for a project I am working on – all there is to philosophy?


UPDATE: Here is the Maverick Philosopher’s take on this same interview. Key point: Philosophizing your way out of philosophy is like copulating for chastity. Right!


Richard Wolin reviews Heidegger’s Black Notebooks

Here is a lengthy reflection on the recently published “Black Notebooks” of Martin Heidegger by Richard Wolin. The essence of the review is that Heidegger’s anti-Semitism and pro-National Socialism are not tangential to his philosophy of being but rather lie at its heart. Hand-in-glove is an anti-rationalism that pervades Heidegger’s work, which translates into an anti-modern, anti-enlightenment, anti-democratic view of the world.

Since Heidegger regarded the history of philosophy since Plato as a “history of decline,” he was not bound by the central concepts and standards of that tradition. Consequently, he characterizes the nature of Being, on which so much depends, in terms that, to all intents and purposes, fall beneath the threshold of sense: “Yet Being—what is Being? It is It itself. The thinking that is to come must learn to experience that and to say it.” But if Being can only be defined as self-identical—“It is It itself”—how might we humans make sense of its various manifestations? Heidegger claims to possess superior insight concerning Being’s modalities. But these insights remain undemonstrable: They transcend—often, in ways that seem entirely arbitrary—the basic capacities of the human understanding, which Heidegger frequently mocked.

Anyway, all this was known for ages about Heidegger, and the publication of the “Black Notebooks” only serves to reinforce our general estimation of Heidegger as an unsavory human being with wretched politics who is still – if we can be at all objective about such a person – a genius.

The trouble, for me, is saying in what exactly that genius really consists.

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What’s the real outcome of “learning outcomes”?

Frank Furedi is right:

…learning outcomes are not just another banal instrument deployed to monitor and quantify the achievements of students. The very purpose of this organisational instrument is to accomplish a shift in emphasis from learning to outcomes. This is a technique through which a utilitarian ethos to academic life serves to diminish what would otherwise be an open-ended experience for student and teacher alike. Those who advocate learning outcomes do so expressly with the aim of abolishing such experiences….

And not just a shift in emphasis, but a shift in the fundamental structure of academic institutions. Here’s the recipe (for disaster): Add “learning outcomes” mentality to MOOCs, sprinkle with a generous helping of self-serving misunderstanding of revolutionary education theorists such as Ivan Illich, deploy in a bottom-line obsessed corporate structure, and you can kiss the idea of a “teacher” goodbye. SIRI will be able to to it all at a fraction of the price of a human teacher!

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Grown Adult Actually Expects to be Happy!

NORMAL, IL—According to incredulous sources, local hardware store employee and grown adult human being Rob Peterson, 37, actually expects to be happy in life.

Despite possessing a fully developed brain and a general awareness of the fundamental nature of existence, sources said Peterson apparently continues to believe that achieving long-lasting happiness is somehow possible.

MORE: Grown Adult Actually Expects To Be Happy | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

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