Nihilism, I contend, broadly comes in two different flavors. There is the nihilism of hopelessness and existential dread, whereby the meaninglessness of everything is more contemplative, yet psychologically paralyzing. I tend to fall more into this camp. The second flavor is selfishness and greed. A person concludes there is no meaning to anything, so why not just enjoy myself?
Philosophy is broadly concerned with two questions: what is there (i.e. what exists)? And what is the good life? The former still holds a prominent place in philosophy. The latter has undergone an evolution. If it is asked now days, it is usually rephrased something more like: how can I maximize pleasure and reduce suffering? But is this the question we ought to be asking?
One of the main issues that proponents of Critical Race Theory (CRT) have with the liberal status quo is the idea of meritocracy. Ideally, meritocracy means that the persons who are best qualified for some position in the economy (or even society at large) will be the ones who obtain those positions. The CRT proponent will say that meritocracy is not only bad in practice, but also bad in principle. Thus, some other criteria – such as ones status in a particular group, such as race or sex – ought to be used when determining who fills different positions.
Classical liberalism was the inauguration of ideas such as personal and economic liberty, secular government, and being allowed to define happiness based on your personal beliefs. What has resulted from the liberalism of western society is an atomization of our personal lives. People feel less connection to family and community; relationships have become another avenue to pursue happiness, with the consequence that friendships and romantic partners, like material possessions, can be jettisoned as soon as they don’t spark joy; and shallow materialism has become a stand-in for happiness. Is this because we lost what allowed liberalism to work in the beginning – namely, religion?
There has lately been controversy about whether schools – both at the primary and secondary education level – are teaching kids critical race theory, otherwise known as CRT. School administrators and CRT theorists have both denied this, claiming that CRT is not taught to children. But this is sort of misleading.
Information can be broadly defined as the reduction in uncertainty. The reason that the location and momentum of 100 particles in a 1×1 meter box contains less information than either A) the location and momentum of 100 particles in a 10×10 meter box or B) 1,000 particles in a 1×1 meter box is because, in case A, one must specify a greater number of microstates (i.e. there are more possible arrangements of particles) and in case B, there are more particles whose position must be specified. What can we say about cosmology using the integrated information of all particles in existence?
When using formal logic, what are the referents of a given proposition? If we take a proposition to be of the form X is P where the subject X is some object or concept sublated to a predicate i.e. a more general concept P, what is it that X and P refer to? Logicists like Gottlob Frege would say that X refers to some object in the world while P refers to a concept; Ferdinand de Saussure would deny that X refers to anything in the real world, instead saying that it refers only to the psychological concept of some object.
Most people who are familiar with the term deontological ethics are likely acquainted with Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative most famously set out in his The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (hereafter referred to as Groundwork). Descriptively speaking, I think most people follow a sort of ethical intuitionism; prescriptively speaking, I think most people would subscribe to some hybrid form of ethical consequentialism. Deontology, particularly given the widespread misinterpretation and misunderstanding of Kant’s deontological moral philosophy, is often regarded as a sort of wooden formalism which is meant to be universally and unquestioningly adhered to, leading to scores of counterexamples where it would dictate we take actions that are clearly morally wrong. But it is actually quite difficult to fully ground any system of ethics without what Kant would have thought of as the supreme principle of morality.
What is consciousness? And can we be sure that anything exists outside our own consciousness?
The first election in which I voted was the 2004 race between the Democrat challenger John Kerry and the Republican incumbent George W. Bush. I voted for Kerry primarily because I was against the war in Iraq. In 2008 I voted for Barack Obama, again because of the war (and because I didn’t like McCain’s hawkishness), but also because I believed Obama to be the candidate that would best preserve the civil liberties that Bush had been attempting to dismantle during his tenure. By 2012, though, I had become disillusioned with the Democratic party – Obama did not deliver on the things I felt were important (getting out of our Middle Eastern wars and upholding civil liberties at home). I could never bring myself to vote Republican, though, since in my mind they were (and still are) the party of neocon war hawks and pearl-clutching social conservatives. So, in 2012 I voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian party candidate (which I did again in 2016; I voted for the Libertarian candidate Jo Jorgensen in 2020).
Here I am not talking about gender, or the mode in which a person self identifies. I have talked about the biological underpinnings of gender in the past. What I am discussing in this post is whether sex – being male or female as determined by primary and/or secondary sex characteristics – is a social construct.
The is/ought problem, or dichotomy, is the idea from David Hume that one cannot get an ought (prescription) from an is (description) – one cannot determine how one ought to behave given just a description of the world. Sam Harris, in his book “The Moral Landscape” disagrees with this, arguing that values/ethics can be derived from science. Is Harris correct or misguided?
It’s almost proverbial that it is difficult to win an argument. That is, if we take successfully changing the opponent’s mind as the condition for victory. Most arguments end up with all parties involved becoming frustrated that their opponent is incapable of agreeing with them. Worse, both parties are often just as likely to become even more convinced of the beliefs they held when the argument began.
When it comes to changing our minds about some issue, the is/ought dichotomy once again comes into play. The former is the question: what conditions actually obtain when a given person changes their mind? The latter is the question: what conditions ought to obtain for a given person to change their mind?
When an artist does something heinous (or, at least, is accused of something heinous), can we separate the artist from their art? This conundrum has become more salient in the Me Too era, where many people in film, TV, music, comedy, influencer, and other forms of entertainment and content creation are called out for their bad behavior. There doesn’t seem to be any readily available answers, but that doesn’t mean these aren’t important questions to ask.
When considering the religious aspect of the fanatical MAGA mob and their QAnon conspiracies, I can’t help but be reminded by Kierkegaard‘s leap of faith. Just as Abraham was told to do something heinous in the name of God, and despite the fact that nobody would understand why Abraham had done it, he must still do it.
In recent decades, the idea in modal logic and metaphysics of possible worlds has become a widely used tool in philosophy. But are the hypotheticals discussed using possible worlds even, well, possible? To test this idea, I am going to try to construct an idea of possible worlds by way of mathematical models for making adjustments to the world as understood in both a metaphysically materialist/physicalist sense as well as what assumptions must be present for immaterialist/spiritualist claims to be true.
Immanuel Kant famously turned the empiricism-rationalism debate on its head by proposing that, instead of our mental representations of reality having to conform to objective reality, it is objective reality that must conform to our mental representations (if such objects are to be represented at all).
Ludwig Wittgenstein famously talked about language as an interconnected assemblage of language games that make up a world-picture. A world-picture are all of the assumptions, norms, and grounds that a community holds as certain, and from there certain propositions in the language games the community employs will be either true or false. While I somewhat disagree with Wittgenstein’s conclusion that the truth criteria of any proposition is its proper usage within a language game, rather than the proposition’s correspondence with reality, I think his analysis gives a good framework for examining the epistemic disunity in the culture of the west.
What are the laws of logic, and are they universal? Are the laws of logic something that exists “out there” and our symbolic and syntactical conventions merely a way of describing it? Or do our logical propositions and assertions dictate the truth? This may seem like an easy question to answer, but not everyone agrees.