Archive for November, 2005

Tool

by Jason Stotts

Usually Tool is not one of my favorite bands – I find their songs to be overly long and not that great. However, recently I hear a song of theirs called “Disgustipated” off the Undertow album that makes a great philisiophical point. I’ve included the lyrics below, but to even half understand what’s going on you’d need to hear the song.

[Said as if from a pulpit by a televangelist]

And the angel of the lord came unto me, snatching me up from my place of slumber. And took me on high, and higher still until we moved to the spaces betwixt the air itself. And he brought me into a vast farmlands of our own midwest. And as we descended, cries of impending doom rose from the soil. One thousand, nay a million voices full of fear. And terror possesed me then. And I begged, “Angel of the Lord, what are these tortured screams?” And the angel said unto me, “These are the cries of the carrots, the cries of the carrots! You see, Reverend Maynard, tomorrow is harvest day and to them it is the holocaust.” And I sprang from my slumber drenched in sweat like the tears of one million terrified brothers and roared, “Hear me now, I have seen the light! They have a consciousness, they have a life, they have a soul! Damn you! Let the rabbits wear glasses! Save our brothers!” Can I get an amen? Can I get a hallelujah? Thank you Jesus.

[In a violent whisper, repeated as a response]

Life feeds on life feeds on life feeds on life feeds on…

This is necessary.
—–

What’s great about the song is that it sets up as a foil the position of someone who thinks that eating even plants is wrong because they’re alive and then points out that this is obviously absurd as life is self-perpetuating and in order to continue, higher organisms (animals) have to eat plants, and then higher animals eat those animals, all the way up until we humans eat everything below us. This is their point “life feeds on life” and their forceful conclusion “This is necessary.”

Thank you Tool for putting something so clearly.

I’d like to add one thing to their argument though: “This is necessary – this is right!”

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Yet Again

by Jason Stotts

On the heels of an ecstatic night,
Comes the familiar sting,
The bitterness of betrayal.

Struck from unguarded quarter,
She, who should have been the ward,
Instead inflicted the wound.

That which had begun to bloom,
Trust, Philia, Eros
Shattered…

What now?
Must I solitarily trudge on?
The bitterness of remorse.

Why did it happen?
It was the wrong thing to do,
It was the irrational choice.

The chooser should have chosen better,
She who had been defended against charges of irrationality and immaturity…
Unjustly defended – it turns out.

I was to be her Erastes…
She was to be my Eromenos…
Is it lost to us now?

Thus seems to be my fate:
A prize, a goal, a promise…
Vacuous nothings!

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A Quote

Small Minds Speak of People
Mediocre Minds Speak of Events
Great Minds Speak of Ideas

-Eleanor Roosevelt (Paraphrase)

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Sanction

by Jason Stotts

When I first became an Objectivist, there was much with which I did not agree – Rand made some claims that I thought were too audacious and broad to possibly be true. I remember there was one thing she said that I thought was particularly wrong: she said that evil can only flourish with the sanction of the good. This claim seemed absurd to me – growing up I had always seen movies and examples of evil being powerful and the good having to fight a losing battle to try and stop it… but looking back I see that it was the result of the dominant philosophy of the time and a malevolent sense of life.

Now having learned so much in the course of just a couple years, between maturing and developing my philosophical skills, I have come to see that this particular assertion from Ayn Rand is true.

Think for a minute about your own life and some very serious situations that involved tragedy. Now, consider those situations that didn’t involve some natural occurrence (such as a tornado, flood or other natural event).

When I did this same experiment, the most poignant examples of suffering I could come up with were of instances of the loss of a value that was dear – such as a family home, a lover, or a family member.

Often, it is the case that the resultant loss could have been prevented had someone only stepped in early in the sequence of events.

Take for example my grandfather on my father’s side. He was supposedly a very virtuous man and a hard worker all of his life – that is until he became an alcoholic. My grandmother didn’t want to abandon him and so she stayed with him for years while he became worse and worse. By staying with him, she sanctioned his immoral actions and allowed him to continue with them uncontested. Thankfully, she finally realized her mistake and withdrew her sanction and her presence from him and left him to his self-destructive behavior. However, if she had left him earlier he may have changed his course before he destroyed his life (he died from drinking).

Life is replete with such examples, everyone can come up with an anecdote of the failure for a good person to act that allowed for evil to prevail. Even our cultural “mythology” such as “Spiderman” starts with Peter Parker failing to stop the thief that subsequently kills his uncle – Peter’s sanction of the thief (allowing him to escape) led to the destruction of a good man and severe pain for his family.

I guess the point of all this is that evil is not omnipotent and is has power only so far as we give it power with our sanction – if the good people of the world (or even the good within the evil people) were to take a principled stand against injustice we would certainly see the world become a better place.

The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it. ~ Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged)

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Eudaimonia

by Jason Stotts

As I study the idea of Eudaimonia for my senior research, I’m struck by how this concept has been lost in our language: we do not even have a word for it in our language. You see, Eudaimonia means something like “human flourishing,” it’s the state of “happiness” that proceeds from being a good person and having favorable external conditions.

Yet I hesitate to use happiness since that is the one word that Eudaimonia is usually translated as; nevertheless there is a distinct difference between the two concepts since our modern idea of happiness is something that more similar to “pleasure” than “flourishing”.

The problem is that the contemporary dominant philosophies don’t even have a conception of human nature nor of what it means to be a truly good person (i.e. a person who is doing those things that are part of human nature well).

To draw a quick example: a “good” knife is one that performs the function of a knife well – in this case that means cutting. So a good knife is one that cuts well.

This kind of analysis is called “teleology” – which is just a fancy way of talking about the end of a thing, where “end” means nothing more than goal or proper state.

Without an idea of human nature, one certainly can’t talk about whether one is fulfilling the goals of one’s nature.

This is problematic since with its loss we have lost any true ideas we have about Happiness (properly defined), we have lost Virtue, and we have lost the right to say that someone is a good person. Nonetheless, these are things that we feel we should do and that seem very important to us as people.

I would even go so far as to say that the loss of the idea of Eudaimonia has caused much of the rampant depression that we see around us in this day and age: without an idea of what it means to be truly happy not everyone is able to stumble across the right path and they end up wandering dark roads of ignorance without the light that comes from the knowledge of Truth.

Eudaimonia is a very important concept and I shall be writing about it more as my research progresses – but if you’re curious about where to find out more about it I’d recommend two sources: 1. “The Virtue of Selfishness” from The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand and 2. The Eudemian Ethics by Aristotle. If anyone would like more precise directions to the concept in Aristotle, leave a comment and I’ll post them.

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Things I Belive

by Jason Stotts

1. There is such a thing as Truth

2. Metaphysical Realism is viable

3. Epistemological Realism is viable

4. Rational Selfishness is the moral principle

5. Morality can be at once perfectly objective and also contextual with no contradiction.

6. “Happiness” is the goal of Morality

7. Most Philosophers are full of shit.

8. No matter how far I’ve come, I still have farther to go

9. Pride is the crown of the virtues

10. Social Injustice is self-contradictory

11. Sex is one of the greatest human goods

12. There is great pleasure in good conversation with good people

(to be continued later…)

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