April 27, 2015

Low But Solid Ground

"It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization [Kultur] is built up upon a renunciation of instinct.” ― Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

As I said last week, the awareness of the fact that the world consists of many diverse cultures is not a new insight and has been recognized for at least 2500+ years. Yet, oddly enough, the word “Culture" is of relatively recent vintage in the Western lexicon.

There is simply no ancient Greek word that can be translated as such—even despite the fact that the recognition of the disparity between Nature and Convention is the foundation of all Political Philosophy. Plato, in his Allegory of the Cave, even basically gives a perfect description of what Culture is: a collection of symbols and signs, virtues and heroes that unite a group of individuals into a united whole. This failure to specifically name it mainly arises from the fact that all pre-Modern societies were wholistic—i.e. there was no distinction between public life and private. Modern, pluralistic societies, though, have invented a way in which individuals and groups with differing conceptions of the “Good” can live together more or less peacefully: our Laws are not considered divinely inspired, instead, are based on calculation and Reason.

April 20, 2015

Ain't Gonna Work On Maggie's Farm No more

"Just as the soil needs cultivators of the soil, the mind needs teachers. But teachers are not as easy to come by as farmers." — Leo Strauss, What Is Liberal Education

I’ve been talking a lot recently about the concept of Culture in my writing.

This, again, is another one of those big words that we throw around all over the place today, despite it having lost all meaning. Now, when we say "Culture," all we mean is any random group of individuals who happen to have shared values and at least some sort of collective hopes and dreams. It is truly amazing, though, how far this word has fallen from its original meaing, and the implications that this has had for our society.

April 19, 2015

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. . . castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” — C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Is it really possible to live a completely non-judgmental existence?

So often today this is touted as some sort of ideal, but judgment is really just a synonym for Reason. Do we really believe that Reason is a bad thing now? We claim to want better, more rational social policy, yet destroy all ground upon which we could construct it.

The real problem here, though, is what this theory that everything is equal and unjudgable is now used for. I don't believe anyone can truly be completely non-judgmental—it is far too dehumanizing. But it is now often employed as a bludgeon to silence people. We now publicly shame individuals for "shaming"—i.e. judging—others. We're told we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe, except if it happens to be that there is right and wrong. If you do believe that, then you are evil—apparently.

I believe that it is possible to judge the action and not the actor—to have compassion for the individual, while not just indiscriminately accepting everything that they do. Have we really become so fragile that we must be validated in every little thing that we think and do now?

 4 Ways Non-Judgmental People Are The Worst

April 17, 2015

What's So Good About Nature?

“Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of Man.”Rousseau, Emile or On Education

In America today, we've become so obsessed with consumer products being "all-natural" with "no artificial ingredients." But we seem to exempt our-Self from this criteria. What does it mean for a Human Being to be natural, to fulfill the Philosopher's dream of living according to Nature?

Check out my new piece exploring these questions and more: What's So Good About Nature?.

April 13, 2015

In the Hall of the Philosopher King

"You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners. Like ourselves, I replied." — Plato, The Republic

How determined are we by the age in which we live? Are we all merely swept along by the current of our particular times or is it possible to mount our will against the swell and truly be an "individual"?

All epochs have a Zeitgeist, a certain “spirit of the time,” which determines the intellectual, artistic, rhetorical and fashion trends of that society. And if one wishes to have a career within said society, one must be unabashedly timely in order to be “relevant.” In other words, one must accept the prevailing forms of taste, or its not likely that anyone will care what you are doing—at least not the mass of society.

So who—or what—determines the “taste” which is deemed acceptable in any given age?

April 09, 2015

Exoteric Exercises

Have three new pieces up over at Thought Catalog, and have been slacking on updating about them over here.

An exploration of the history that our current debate about Multiculturalism and diversity was cultivated in—which, of course, no one knows anymore. It seems we believe today that the only way to create peace and unity is through Nihilism, through destroying the past and starting over at year zero—we saw how well that worked out during the French Revolution (or for the Khmer Rouge).

April 06, 2015

This House Is Not A Home

The early 20th century German philosopher Martin Heidegger, in his monumental work Being and Time, made the claim that “language is the house of Being.” What all he meant by this oblique statement I do not wish to delve into here, but the main point he was trying to make was the power of language for Human Beings. Language shapes our conception of the world by giving shape to our consciousness. And it is for this reason that I have created my Dictionopolis section to explore important words that we commonly use today when talking about the nature of reality, despite them having lost all meaning; or that we use as answers to the mystery of existence, when all they actually do is point to questions.

Today, the word I have chosen is Creativity.

March 30, 2015

The Specter of Perfection

"We have discovered happiness, say the last men, and blink thereby." — Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

For the last 500ish years, we have been in what historians have dubbed “Modernity,” as opposed to the Middle Ages or Antiquity. And one of the single most powerful driving forces behind the events of History in our current period (although some speculate that we have now moved into Post-Modernity) has been the idea of Progress—that the past was flawed and that we are moving forward, linearly, toward something better.

March 29, 2015

"Conservatives" Are the True Multiculturalists

Can you believe in Science and still support Multiculturalism?

In my new piece, I explore the contradictions at the heart of Liberalism's recent push for Multiculturalism in academia and pretty much every other institution in America today. The entire point of Liberalism, as originally conceived during the Enlightenment, was to replace opinion with fact based on evidence, i.e. Science. In order to undermine the power of the church and the nobility, they sought to show that Culture is accidental, whereas Truth is universal. Yet today Liberals hold themselves up as promoters of diversity and cultural difference. But Science is trans-cultural, meaning it necessarily undermines Culture.

So does that mean by default that "Conservatives" are the true Multiculturalists?

March 23, 2015

The Forgotten Genius Who Created The Modern World

"I do not care to please either the witty or the fashionable. At all times there will be men destined to be subjugated by the opinions of their century, their country, their society . . . One must not write for such readers when one wants to live beyond one's century." — Rousseau, Discourse on the Arts and Sciences

In 1750, a bashful, unassuming, "citizen of Geneva" named Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote a now scarcely remembered essay for a contest, and it completely altered the course of history. Yet despite its current obscurity, as the preface quoted above predicts, the untimeliness of the ideas contained within continue to be felt even today, 264 years later.

March 16, 2015

Rescuing Rhyme and Reason

"One day a small ship appeared on the Sea of Knowledge. It carried a young prince seeking the future. In the name of goodness and truth he laid claim to all the country and set out to explore his new domain [, but] the demons, monsters, and giants were furious at his presumption and banded together to drive him out."The Phantom Tollbooth

Despite the popular image of America as anti-intellectual—which don't get me wrong, the majority of Americans certainly are (of course, so is the majority anywhere)—our country has actually been a great stage upon which the most profound philosophical ideas of the last 500 years have played out. Although these ideas began in Europe, the comparatively tabula rasa nature of the American mind is uniquely susceptible to their influence. This, most certainly, is a consequence of America being the first (if not the only) country founded by Philosophers, but also of our unshakable optimism in the future and the resulting joy we get from novelty.

March 09, 2015

The Future is Ours to Create

"History consists, for the greater part, of the miseries brought upon the world by pride, ambition, avarice, revenge, lust, sedition, hypocrisy, ungoverned zeal, and all the train of disorderly appetite." Edmund Burke

What is "History"?

Only Humans have History: we are the only species that has a written record of our past accomplishments and follies, and the only ones capable of planning and projecting into the future. Every other species just is—they are as Nature intended—whereas Humans appear to be a bit more malleable.

March 02, 2015

Timing is Everything

"The idea that is overcome is not annihilated, only driven back or subordinated."Nietzsche

So why do I call these untimely meditations?

It doesn't seem like a very good marketing strategy to write a blog which has nothing to do with what is going on in the world today. I mean, isn't the whole point of a blog to be current and engaged; to be commenting on the latest news cycle in order to drive traffic and rack up hits? It would seem that the very nature of a blog is to be as TIMELY as possible.

And the answer to all this would be, yes—that is absolutely correct.

February 23, 2015

Sowing Season

“The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.”Isaac Asimov

The word "Philosophy" comes from the Greek philosophia, meaning "love of Wisdom."

But what is Wisdom? Is it merely knowing a set of facts about the workings of the natural worldor is there some deeper level of understanding that is required to attain to this stature?

February 16, 2015

Constantly Talking Isn't Necessarily Communicating

"But why, my dear Crito, should we care about the opinion of the many? Good men, and they are the only persons who are worth considering, will think of these things truly as they occurred." — Plato, Crito

The majority of humanity, it seems, has very little use—and even less time—for Philosophy, while the remainder are actively hostile to it. This has led some, such as medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides, to claim that it is better if most were not even exposed to it in the first place. Philosophy with its sober analysis and radical skepticism is, in many ways, completely inimical to the commitment required by both private and public life. Yet, we now live in an age that prides itself on both its enlightenment and critical thinking—the two hallmarks that have always characterized the philosophic pursuit.

February 09, 2015

Thoughts Out of Season

Sometimes it is harder to accede to a thing than it is to see its truth.” ― Nietzsche, Untimely Meditations