Friday, December 28, 2018

Random Thoughts, Part 2

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Back in "Random Thoughts, Part 1" I listed some of the random thoughts I decided to start writing down several months ago.  Alas, we have come to "Random Thoughts, Part 2," in which I continue this project.  I've saved some of my longer thoughts for this part, so get ready.  And read to the end for a surprise announcement.  Enjoy!

21. Skepticism, of both the everyday and philosophical varieties, is these days typically associated with cynical dismissiveness. But I think this gets it exactly wrong: once you turn skepticism back on itself to purge yourself of your internal dogmatisms, you are left with a cheerful openness to new ways of being and thinking, unimpeded by the cognitive straightjackets we sew for ourselves. I find great joy in the attitude that the universe doesn’t owe us anything, that we are imperfect creatures doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Imagine how dismal (and boring) it would be to believe that we have almost everything figured out already!

22.  Neither is skepticism inherently conservative (despite the historical reasons for thinking that it has been). It is conservatives who rely on dogmatic beliefs that society and its inhabitants must be a certain way and know their place in some preordained order. Skeptical progressives lack the dogmatisms that hold us back from trying something new, from listening to the demands of people on the margins of societal power. Skepticism, properly applied, is a form of openness to social progress, but without an a priori, fixed idea of what this progress consists in; to my mind this makes it a great deal more progressive than most dogmatic forms of progressivism.

23.  One of the problems I have communicating with people is that almost everything I say is provisional and subject to numerous qualifications, but in our age of polarizing dogmatism – exacerbated by social media – we are expected to speak in polemical pronouncements, purged of subtlety and nuance.

24.  The ability to change one’s mind ought be the mark of a mature intellect, but all too often it is taken as a sign of moral weakness or intellectual decrepitude.

25.  If philosophy isn’t hard, you’re not doing it right.

26.  Mysticism as a skeptical scenario: the possibility of veridical mystical experience shows that we could, for all we know, be massively wrong about the nature of reality. (see Śrī Harṣa)

27.  Hypothesis: Most people who call themselves libertarians are really either conservatives or liberals, but with contrarian tendencies and a distaste for popular labels.

28.  One of the things I find most annoying about our current state of political discourse is the smug condescension of “I know fancy things and have the right opinions unlike you ignorant simpletons.” It’s a form of blatant elitism all the more ironic because it is often espoused by people who claim to reject hierarchies of various types.

29.  For me politics is more about helping people and lessening suffering than it is about ideological purity, philosophical cogency, or strict adherence to some worldview or ideal. I think this is why political philosophy has never been a major interest for me despite my interest in both politics and philosophy.

30.  I want the revolution to come. I want to try for a utopia. But in the meantime people are suffering down here in the mud of our troubled, imperfect system, and I think we should help them via the tainted means at our current disposal.

31.  It seems like people these days think there are but two options for how to think and feel about anything: 100% love or 100% hate. Or have people always been this way and I’m just now noticing?

32.  If you feel that have everything to teach but nothing to learn, you probably don’t have as much to teach as you think you do.

33.  If your skepticism doesn’t apply as much to your own ideas as it does to others’ ideas, are you doing it right?

34. People older than 19 who go on and on about how morality is an illusion or a sham perpetrated by the weak upon the strong or whatever are often just looking for an excuse to be an asshole.

35.  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 "What do people say is the truth?" Nothing 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.

36.  One of the most inauthentic aspects of our current society is the constant evasion of philosophy, of self-examination. We will examine other people, society, nature, or the entire cosmos before we will examine ourselves.

Stay tuned for Random Thoughts, Part 3, coming whenever I have a chance to collect more random thoughts.

ONE MORE THING:  This humble blog was chosen as #54 out of 100 for the Top 100 Fiction Blogs & Websites for Fiction Book Readers & Authors in 2019 on the Feedspot website.  It looks like I'm in pretty good company over there, so check it out!

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