Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ethics that doesn’t need transcendent god to anchor it

It’s important for students to realize that when they’re composing papers for philosophy courses they’re not just laying down their opinions. Provided they give reasons to support their assertions, their papers are made up of arguments, not opinions. The reasons are what make an assertion more than mere opinion.
This is why it’s unfortunate that the new philosophy series, The Stone, in The New York Times is under the Opinion banner, as Postural Thinking notes in his latest entry. Of course, many of the the pieces in the Opinion page of the newspaper are more than mere opinion. But the newspaper maintains the myth that personal views are nothing more than mere opinion, just as the cable news shows keep viewers believing that there are always two sides to every story and that, furthermore, neither of these sides is better than the other.  All opinion is equal. You believe what you believe and I’ll believe what I believe. We’re both right.

The NY Times has introduced a new series on Philosophy. Oddly enough, it is in the "opinion" section of the paper, with Simon Critchley moderating (most of Critchley's introduction has to do with Plato, for whom "opinion" was never much of a safe place to be). Critchley's introduction is provocative, and should be questionable to a philosopher. This is, however, a good thing. A philosopher should find questionable attempts at making philosophy "public", but this does not mean that it should not be done. It's a dangerous thing, but then, so is driving a car, getting on an airplane, or using an electrical device of just about any sort. Philosophy is dangerous, too, as Critchley seems to suggest in his article.
This series comes at a time when philosophy's popularity may be at an all time low. It also comes at a time when religious and political fanaticism may be at an all time high. This "high", mind you, may not be decided by the number of people who fall into such a category, but by the threat it exercises upon civilization.
Naturally, most of the potential readers of this series are probably already fairly reasonable, intelligent people. But who knows? Any chance we've got at promoting thinking is a chance worth taking these days. Perhaps, as Nietzsche said, there really are more idols than there are realities. Maybe our thinking can be the hammer, even if this hammer is broadcasted. POSTED BY JACOB AT 6:16 AM MONDAY, MAY 17, 2010

What I'm interested in is the boundary between philosophy and theology. Aristotle spoke of "thinking thinking of thinking." Socrates claims to have lived the life of philosophy because he was doing the bidding of the god. We study Augustine and Aquinas in philosophy schools (although many think we shouldn't). The theological influence on Heidegger's work is undeniable (Benjamin D. Crowe has shown this well in his book, Heidegger's Religious Origins.) But the question is, at what point do we stop calling something philosophy, and start calling it theology (and this is what interests me about Heidegger). POSTED BY JACOB AT 2:48 PM SATURDAY, MAY 15, 2010

I spend a LOT of time in my manuscript trying to explain precisely how we can do work very similar to Whitehead today, but without the need for these objects/classes/types being eternal or transcedental.

But can we find an ethics that doesn’t need transcendent god to anchor it? Can we find a way to be ethical beings, and a way out of the society of the spectacle? And can we find a way to stop playing god or being cannibals of the rest of the world off which we feed in the process? Can we avoid becoming paranoidly insane, and devouring ourselves and the world in the process? Can we find a way out of the bubble of contemporary spectacle-capitalism, before we eat ourselves and the world with us alive? The only way, it would seem, is to understand how it was that the original world vanished, and the mutation started in the first place. We need to remember our history, even if this is as much about the future as the past. The alternative is to simply live for pure survival, with no reason why. In which case, the masters of the universe can have their sway with us all, because we can’t see anything beyond the present moment. Which means we are blind to the mutations as they occur. And of course, the masters of the universe are a sham, they don’t exist. They are merely the paranoid projections of our collective, frightened, deer-in-headlights, spectacle dazed selves. This is I think the challenge we find ourselves in today.

The Tehran Times interviews Lawrence J. Hatab.
Q: Is 20th century the best century in the history of philosophy? Why? 
A: This is a very difficult question to answer. In a sense, no century can match the 4th Century BC in ancient Greece, because there the very nature, shape, and scope of philosophy was created for the first time, and we still wrestle with the questions of Plato and Aristotle.
But I think the 20th Century has one great element, and that is sometimes called the ""linguistic turn."" Here the questions of philosophy must begin with how our language operates, rather than with suppositions about certain ""realities"" to which our language only ""refers."" Two giants of 20th Century philosophy, Heidegger and Wittgenstein, both worked in this way.
On the other hand, one of the worst parts of the 20th Century has been the ""professionalization"" of philosophy, where the discipline has become over-specialized, insulated in academia, and conversing mainly with fellow specialists, to the point where philosophy loses touch not only with concrete affairs of life, but also with an intelligent general readership. This is one reason why public discourse has become so much more shallow and thoughtless.
Hatab has written on ethics and finitude and on empathy and Heidegger.

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