Make philosophy relevant again

Misunderstanding: After studying “ethics” for many years in university, I don’t know more than the average person about how to behave. I know far less. In that sense, such endeavor is the epitome of uselessness.
On the other hand, not knowing seems to be better (and you rightly ask, where does this judgment come from?) than thinking you do know.

At any rate, I think that a student of philosophy should study real stuff. Philosophy should not, in my opinion, be limited to the study of texts that philosophers have produced. This is precisely how the subject earned its label “navel-gazing”.

Philosophers should wander, literally, on campus. Between a faculty of their choosing and the reinstated interfaculty of philosophy. They should be trained to become the people asking the annoying fundamental questions.
Down with the “courses on Derrida” and the “Habermas-studies”.
Philosophy is more relevant than ever. Philosophers should be trained to be sharper, grittier Yuval Noah Hararis.

“Years after I left the faculty of philosophy, where I had been trained to fence with dull texts, I began my philosophy education…

Make philosophy relevant again was originally published on Meandering home

Burning further apart

Eucalyptus trees depend on fire to release their seeds. Plants need CO2 for their survival. The ignorant, as well as the evil, can point at facts like these to undergird their complacency and inaction in the face of climate change. The ease with which they appear to convince themselves that any worldview matching their lifestyle and habits is the correct one, is chilling.

And if they, the ignorant and the evil, are confronted with scientific evidence, there is always the narrative of Fake News. They can always contrive a story that explains the facts and adheres to their own very low standards.

What happens if you push them further? Do they admit they were wrong? No. Sadly, only very few have that greatness of spirit.

As the fires rage in Australia, climate change deniers are seeking refuge in ever murkier conspiracy theories and pseudoscience. The stories that they are telling themselves, and are spreading on the Internet, become so complex and unverifiable that they will essentially become articles of faith. And we don’t have a cure for faith.

As the fires rage in Australia, climate change deniers are seeking refuge in ever murkier conspiracy theories and pseudoscience.

This is what worries me. To ‘save their face’, continuate their lifestyle, remain accepted by their peers, their minds are compelled to believe a concoction of ad hoc observations, fossil-fuel propaganda, and cherry-picked best seller authors that is very hard to disprove – because it is not a verifiable theory.

Climate change-related disasters pushes the ignorant and evil to the construction of a narrative that is intractible and immune to scientific evidence to the contrary. The best example we have of such idiocy is the Flat Earth Theory. I am afraid we will see theories of a similar level of narrative sophistication in the conversation on climate change. With the powerful vested interests and their ability to manipulate elections in mind, I am also afraid this will be the dominant narrative anywhere outside of disaster zones.

This new narrative could be religious (“God is testing us; this is the punishment for nonbelievers”) or conspiratory (“The elite wants us to pay more taxes”). It will be entirely delusional and proof of the absolute lack of greatness of the ignorant and evil.

 

 

 

Burning further apart was originally published on Meandering home

Exodus 41

And Moses sayeth unto the LORD

I implore you my LORD, could you give me a glass of water?

The LORD, comfortably seated was holding in His hand a celestial glass of water. But His heart was capricious and on that day, He did not feel like charity, nor did the thought cross His mind that he could charge the Israelites for it.

No! Thundered He.

Oh LORD, sayeth Moses, could I at least have one SIP of water, for my throat is dry and I have difficulty speaking Thy name or praising Thee.

No! Answered the LORD, I am a capricious god and not in need of your flattery in the present year. Try again after one full revolution around the sun, you noble FOOL.

AND the LORD layeth back and relaxeth.

One last time, Moses tried.

Oh LORD, could you give me one drop of water?

One drop? Exclaimed the LORD. OH my god, such a ridiculous request! Hahaha!

And the LORD laugheth and thus spoiled the water in His celestial cup. On earth, it began to rain and behold, it was a rain that the Holy Land had never seen!

Moses spread his hands and stuck out his tongue, so much he rejoiced in the Rain.

The LORD kept laughing at His humble servant’s ridiculous request and it raineth for seven days and seven nights. Then the LORD’s cup was half empty and upon noticing this circumstance, He stopped laughing.

Thank you, oh LORD, sayeth Moses, for he hath lost a dozen friends in the floods.

Exodus 41 was originally published on Meandering home

The Luck of Interest

If you write a book, you have to be that book. Your time must become the time of the book. If you engage in public discussion on social media, the world (the others) will always be a step ahead of you. Only the latest analysis and verdict are worth mentioning – everything else is irrelevant, a mere object of the ongoing public debate that relentlessly pushes forward.

With a nod to Albert Camus, the mere act of halting the frenzy of evaluations in order to formulate your own narrative is an act of rebellion. If you are utterly unafraid of being ‘irrelevant’ tomorrow, it means that you have found a genuine interest.

In a world where social media companies are designed to optimize both advertising income and data extraction, their algorithms make sure that we spend as much time online as possible. And since cat photos are unlikely to engage a user’s soul, they reward controversy and political outrage.

 

What the bleep do we want?

Subjected to a deluge of information, knowing what you are really interested in is more important than ever. It depends not only on education, but on luck. If you were lucky enough to find out in your childhood what you are really interested in, you will find it much easier in later life to focus on that subject and avoid distraction. This has always been the case, from the Wright brothers’ fascination with flying to Thomas Aquinas’ fascination with harmonizing the Bible with Aristotle to Claude Monet’s fascination with color. Is it any different in the age of distraction? Should we be more thankful if a genuine interest has befallen us in a time when nearly everybody is wearing a distraction apparatus in his or her pocket? Are people less likely to develop an undiluted interest for something under the new predicament?

A genuine interest is the attempt of our subconscious mind to experience this directedness without an intermediary.

We don’t consciously pick or choose our genuine interest, because, in the language of philosophy, it is logically older than our agency. The I is always-already directed towards the world before it becomes conscious of the fact. Genuine interest is the attempt of our subconscious mind to experience this directedness without an intermediary. When we evaluate potential areas of interest in order to find our true calling, we are rationalizing. We try to find unassailable reasons that will convince ourselves that such and such must be our true interest, or even our calling, to use that unfashionable term.

 

How to not find your calling

This is how, at eighteen, I went about finding my calling. I visited a number of universities in the Low Countries and compiled precise reasons for studies like chemistry, architecture or molecular biology. The ones for computer science were the most compelling to my young and inexperienced mind. I would be able to employ my full creativity while making something useful and without the dependency on lengthy, boring, material processes. Obviously, the reason I had fabricated was bad propaganda and I fell out of love with IT soon after. With apologies for the hackneyed phrase, you don’t find an interest, it finds you. If it is a genuine interest, not pursuing it ought to be almost unbearable. This, at least, is what many artists, scholars and scientists alike have always attested.

Back then, in 1998, there were some distractions (notably the television), but nothing like what we have today. It must have been enough to shut down the voice of my subconscious announcing what “I” (what was in the process of becoming that I) ‘really’ wanted.

Here is what I am worried about. If young children are bombarded with information, how can they choose? How can they develop a strong interest for one thing if, as soon as learning about it presents the slightest challenge, a plethora of other things is literally at their fingertips? How can they really learn how to concentrate on something, if distraction is more profitable for the advertisement machine that orchestrates the flow of information they can access?

Children need strong key experiences that are not fragments on a social media timeline they glint at in passing, scanning if it is something their in-group thinks they must know. Experiences that make an impression on their souls because they can’t be scrolled down or swiped out of sight. Experiences that have a sense of inevitability, that don’t have alternatives, command our full attention and seem to give us a glimpse at the true nature of reality.

In the digital era, such strong experiences seem to be as scarce as the simulacra or fake experiences you can purchase online. Because distraction has become the norm, it is more important than ever to realize how lucky we are if we find our real interest.

 

The Luck of Interest was originally published on Meandering home