Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Are College Students Relativists?




Several weeks ago I came up with the following hypothesis.

Hypothesis: College students aren't actually relativists in a normative philosophical sense as many philosophy teachers love to complain about, but rather students look at philosophical questions through a sort of descriptive "pop social science" lens. That is, they don't understand the distinction between the question "What is the truth?" and the question "What do people say is the truth?" Very little in our broader culture or education system prepares them to answer the Socratic question, "What should I personally think is the truth?" beyond unargued personal preference.
Corollary 1: Go easy on your students, philosophy teachers. We are asking them to do something our entire culture (and maybe even human nature) either militates against or deems literally unthinkable.
Corollary 2: This maybe also explains a lot about why philosophy and the humanities more generally are so misunderstood, disrespected, and ignored by the larger culture.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Voting is Like Going to the Dentist




Voting is like going to the dentist.  You don’t have to like it.  You don’t have to look forward to it.  But every so often you should probably do it.

Some people hate going to the dentist.  You have awkward conversations with people’s hands in your mouth. You get moralizing lectures about how you should floss more. The sound of that drill will haunt your dreams.  But a responsible adult should, if possible, go to the dentist for the sake of their dental health despite all this.

Likewise, some people don’t want to vote.  You have to navigate government bureaucracy to register.  You have to find your polling place and wait in line.  In some states you need to obtain the right photo ID.  And all this hassle for, well, what, exactly?  A single vote probably won’t make a difference.  And maybe you don’t like any of your choices.

But what if we thought of voting like going to the dentist, as something that isn’t exciting or pleasant or obviously immediately beneficial, but that responsible citizens should do for the health of their society? 

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Is Dead Better?: Pet Sematary by Stephen King



This is my second time reading Pet Sematary, and I found it even deeper and creepier than the first time.  (See my first review here).

This time I read Pet Sematary for my course on horror and philosophy, a book I chose to cover because I remember it being a great example of how horror can help us face the fact of death.  I found a great article in a book called Stephen King and Philosophy called "Sometimes Dead is Better: King, Daedelus, Dragon-Tyrants, and Deathism" by Katherine Allen.  Allen discusses Pet Sematary (along with The Tommyknockers) in the framework of transhumanism and bioconservatism.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Reflections on Life, the Universe, and Everything Upon the Event of my 42nd Birthday



For several years I’ve been looking forward to the day when I will finally arrive at the age at which I will discover the answer to life, the universe, and everything.  I am speaking of course of my 42nd birthday.

I have also been predicting that when this day comes the answer will remain elusive or will prove to be more perplexing than the question. So, is the answer 42 as told in Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy?  Let’s investigate.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Monsters, Death, and Authenticity: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley



Like most classic novels, there are depths to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and its ideas that a humble review like this can't hope to plumb.  From its complicated framing structure to its deep themes about human nature, science, and religion, it's no wonder this book continues to fascinate readers 200 years after its initial publication.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Why Do People Like Horror?: The Philosophy of Horror by Noël Carroll



The Philosophy of Horror: Paradoxes of the Heart by Noël Carroll is a thorough, academic treatment of the major philosophical issues surrounding the horror genre.  It focuses on two "paradoxes of the heart": the paradox of fiction (why are people scared of things they know don't exist?) and the paradox of horror (why does anyone like horror at all, since being scared is usually a bad thing?).