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Thread: More Things That Won't Get You Laid...Philosophy

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    Leia-Jakita-Arendt OnMyLunchBreak's Avatar
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    More Things That Won't Get You Laid...Philosophy

    So, thought I'd dangle this thread out there and see if I get any nibbles. (Think I may know at least one person who will participate ).

    Does anyone read philosophy for school or fun? I do for both, but always find that the more people I can talk to it about it, the deeper my understanding of any treatise becomes.

    So, my five favorite philosophy books of all time (in no particular order):

    1. Lectures on the History of Philosophy - GWF Hegel.

    Examines Geist's, or Spirit's influence on world history. Begins with prehistoric man, through Greece, Rome, Medieval Europe...all the way to Hegel's own time (mid-19th Century Germany). The purpose of Geist's journey? To reveal history and give men more and more freedom. The catalyst of history? World Historical Individuals (those who see historical epoch change coming and run to meet it) and philosophers (who describe a historical epoch and bring understanding). Hegel, IMHO, is wonderful entirely, but this is my favorite Hegelian book.

    2. Contingency, Irony and Solidarity - Richard Rorty

    When I first read this book I was committed to an absoute world view and a human's ability to conform to it. Yet, I read this book (it is both a philosophical text and a literature analysis) and my world started to change. Rorty, being the neo-Prgamatist he is, has both alarming and awakening things to say about morality and the nature of the world. He asks us to give up our childish notions of "truth" in order to have a dialogue about the way the world 'ought' to be. Interesting read even if you don't agree with him.

    3. The Theory of Moral Sentiments - Adam Smith

    Twenty years before Smith's much more well-known book, The Wealth of Nation's came out, Smith was a professor of ethics in Scotland. Perhaps one of the most vilified men in our time (the first espouser of capitalism as we know it, gasp!), Smith's moral treatise tries to prove that sympathy is the fundamental and correct moral attitude. Was he carrying this line of thinking farther in Wealth of Nations? I don't know, still writing my honors thesis on it.

    4. Philosophical Investigations - Ludwig Wittgenstein

    Wittgenstein got caught up in the Analytic tradition prevalent in English universities at the beginning of the 20th Century. He wrote his Tractatus while a soldier in WWI and determined that he had found the answer to life, the universe and everything through logical investigation (and no, the answer was not 42 ). But, then he began to rexamine some of his positions and found out that life is not always good at conforming to logical principles. His Investigations bring out a varied life experience, procedures for investigating our world that might not bring answers but will bring hope and, at the very least, is a fascinating glimpse into a truly brilliant mind.

    5. Beyond Good & Evil - Frederich Nietzsche

    Okay, so I know it's "cool" to like Nietzsche. Will to Power baby, yeah! God is Dead! But in reality, Nietzsche has so much to say beyond his catch taglines. He takes on the Christian church not because he's trying to be controversial, but because he sees them as a worthy opponent who got the human life wrong and are causing suffering. He loves the Greeks, but he hates some of their idealism. He sees why morality is good for some, but asks us, if we can, to rise above it and create the true human life. His writings are both literary and shocking. They are also soulful and contemplative. Nietzsche is hard too, he demands that we take responsibility for ourselves and who we have become. Perhaps this is philosophy's greatest assignment.

    Agree disagree with my choices or reasons for liking one of the above? Have some of your own you would like to share? Want to hash out proposisition #13 in the Tractatus? I'm game!
    ____

    I'm currently reading Spinoza's Ethics in a summer reading group and if anyone, anyone, has anything they would like to share with me about it, please do so. I am having some trouble getting my mind wrapped around it.
    Mostly the whole substance/attributes as essence of substance issue.
    Last edited by phat32; 05-30-2005 at 02:00 PM.

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    Come Along, Pond phat32's Avatar
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    My two favorite books considered to be "classical"(?) philosophy are:

    The Prince by Machiavelli and The Republic by Plato.
    "...Every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things donít always soften the bad things, but...the bad things donít always spoil the good things." - The Doctor

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    Leia-Jakita-Arendt OnMyLunchBreak's Avatar
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    Really!?! The Prince? A little more info please, what do you like about it? Does it conform to human nature, seem like an expedient philosophy, contain similar accounts of how your butter your toast?

    The Republic is a classic, and a must read for all, I believe. But the structure of government that Plato sets out is too stringent to the populace in my book and has the same epistemological limitations that came to harm planned economies all over the world. I would be happy to discuss further if you are interested.

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    Come Along, Pond phat32's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OnMyLunchBreak
    Really!?! The Prince? A little more info please, what do you like about it? Does it conform to human nature, seem like an expedient philosophy, contain similar accounts of how your butter your toast?
    , OnMyLunchBreak

    First of all, I wouldn't want to live my life according to Machiavelli in The Prince. (And I certainly hope I don't. )

    (But then, a Machiavellian wouldn't admit to being a Machiavellian, would he/she? )

    I believe that like all great and revolutionary thinking, The Prince is fundamentally more true than not, and is hard to accept because Nici Mack's views are unpopular and "bad."

    However, I think of The Prince more as a reflection, an unbiased observation, about human nature and power rather than as an instruction manual, a how-to.

    You have piqued my interest in Rorty. I think I'm making a trip to the library this weekend.
    "...Every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things donít always soften the bad things, but...the bad things donít always spoil the good things." - The Doctor

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    Leia-Jakita-Arendt OnMyLunchBreak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phat32
    First of all, I wouldn't want to live my life according to Machiavelli in The Prince. (And I certainly hope I don't. )
    (But then, a Machiavellian wouldn't admit to being a Machiavellian, would he/she? ) [/quote]

    Ah, yes, perhaps I cannot trust anything you say?

    I agree with you. While living in accordance with Machiavellian principles may give you great power, it will also make you a lonely and hated despot. I think there are better ways to strive for power.

    Quote Originally Posted by phat32
    However, I think of The Prince more as a reflection, an unbiased observation, about human nature and power rather than as an instruction manual, a how-to.
    What I too like about Machiavelli, and what I think you may be saying about how his works in the quote above, is that his ideas seem to align with human nature (if there is any such thing). Like Hobbes later, Machiavelli seems to have realized that we are all independent entities that can be dastardly to one another and might just take the opportunity to cause harm if we think it would better our own situation.

    While Machiavelli takes the "screw them before they scew you approach," Hobbes asks us all to give up some of our independence in order to gain security. In this way, I see Hobbes' society as being more sustainable than Mach's. This is not to say that Hobbes does not have problems of his own (absloute authority given to the monarch, and such).

    Quote Originally Posted by phat32
    You have piqued my interest in Rorty. I think I'm making a trip to the library this weekend.
    I am forever grateful and happy that you are considering taking such an uncomfortable plunge. Just to give you a taste of the blasphemies you may encounter in his work:

    "The world does not speak. Only we do. The world can, once we have programmed ourselves with a language, cause us to hold beliefs. But it cannot propose a language for us to speak. Only other human beings can do that."

    "A lot of people now find belief in God immature, and eventually a lot of people may find realism immature." (<---- I love this one!)

    "One of the benefits of getting rid of the notion of the intrinsic nature of reality is that you get rid of the notion that quarks and human rights differ in 'ontological status.' This, in turn, helps you reject the suggestion that natural science should serve as a paradigm for the rest of culture, and in particular that philosophical progress consists in philosophers getting more scientific."

    And finally, the one that truly blew my mind:

    "Truth is, to be sure, an absolute notion, in the following sense: 'true for me but not for you' and 'true in my culture but not in yours' are weird, pointless locutions. So is 'true then but not now.'"

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    Ready? haejin's Avatar
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    I picked up Sir Thomas More's Utopia last summer to try to do some light reading...it didn't work out too well, sadly. I completely forgot to read it. I should actually try reading it soon, because now I am older and hopefully wiser. Last year, we read bits of Plato's Republic for social studies. I wish we got to spend more time in class discussing it.
    Gustav Holst was right!

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    Come Along, Pond phat32's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by haejin
    I picked up Sir Thomas More's Utopia last summer to try to do some light reading...it didn't work out too well, sadly. I completely forgot to read it. I should actually try reading it soon, because now I am older and hopefully wiser.
    Right, haej. When I approached Huckleberry Finn the first time in junior high and later again in high school, I was much more affected by Twain's novel when I was in high school.

    As an old teacher/mentor of mine said, "There are three things about time you ought to consider when reading any piece of work: 1. when it was written, 2. what time period is being written about and 3. when you're reading it."

    Last year, we read bits of Plato's Republic for social studies. I wish we got to spend more time in class discussing it.
    The Republic? In high school? That's not exactly light reading.

    We read bits and pieces of The Communist Manifesto in high school. I learned why Communism failed: the book was even worse than the movie, if that's possible.
    "...Every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things donít always soften the bad things, but...the bad things donít always spoil the good things." - The Doctor

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    Come Along, Pond phat32's Avatar
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    Ah, yes, perhaps I cannot trust anything you say?
    +

    I agree with you. While living in accordance with Machiavellian principles may give you great power, it will also make you a lonely and hated despot. I think there are better ways to strive for power.
    Right. It brings the conversation around to one of the best known, I think, and perhaps one of the most important philosophical conundrums that exists: Do the ends justify the means?

    (My answer, by the way, would be yes...and no. )


    What I too like about Machiavelli, and what I think you may be saying about how his works in the quote above, is that his ideas seem to align with human nature (if there is any such thing). Like Hobbes later, Machiavelli seems to have realized that we are all independent entities that can be dastardly to one another and might just take the opportunity to cause harm if we think it would better our own situation.
    It's probably no surprise that I like Hobbes...in small doses.

    Right. It's the law of the "jungle." If given the opportunity to be nasty to one another, we will be. That's simply human nature. I hope not, though.

    While Machiavelli takes the "screw them before they scew you approach," Hobbes asks us all to give up some of our independence in order to gain security. In this way, I see Hobbes' society as being more sustainable than Mach's. This is not to say that Hobbes does not have problems of his own (absloute authority given to the monarch, and such).
    Machiavelli's model is the one for the monarch. Hobbes' model is the one for modern democratic society...I think. If my understanding of Hobbes and Machiavelli is even halfway proficient.

    "The world does not speak. Only we do. The world can, once we have programmed ourselves with a language, cause us to hold beliefs. But it cannot propose a language for us to speak. Only other human beings can do that."
    Very interesting. In one of my favorite novels, Snow Crash, Stephenson seems to make the point that humans are merely complex computers and are capable of being "programmed" like any other machine. Language, emotion, life experiences--all these are simply input to complex machines (namely, humans).

    "A lot of people now find belief in God immature, and eventually a lot of people may find realism immature." (<---- I love this one!)
    Hm. I'll have to think about that one, actually. My knee-jerk reaction is how you would define "realism."

    "Truth is, to be sure, an absolute notion, in the following sense: 'true for me but not for you' and 'true in my culture but not in yours' are weird, pointless locutions. So is 'true then but not now.'"
    Reminds me of an incident in the one and only philosophy class I took in college. The prof asked us, "How is a truth a truth? What is the test?"

    My answer: "It's timeless."

    Some wannabe muttered, "There's no such thing as 'timeless'."

    Professor nodded at me and said, "You're right."

    Did I "get" what you were saying with that last Rorty quote, OnMyLunchBreak?
    "...Every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things donít always soften the bad things, but...the bad things donít always spoil the good things." - The Doctor

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    Lah
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    Machiavelli's model is the one for the monarch. Hobbes' model is the one for modern democratic society...I think. If my understanding of Hobbes and Machiavelli is even halfway proficient.
    Yes to the first, no to the second. The Hobbesian commonwealth is much more autocratic than democratic. Hence, the idea of the leviathan.

    1. Lectures on the History of Philosophy - GWF Hegel.

    Examines Geist's, or Spirit's influence on world history. Begins with prehistoric man, through Greece, Rome, Medieval Europe...all the way to Hegel's own time (mid-19th Century Germany). The purpose of Geist's journey? To reveal history and give men more and more freedom. The catalyst of history? World Historical Individuals (those who see historical epoch change coming and run to meet it) and philosophers (who describe a historical epoch and bring understanding). Hegel, IMHO, is wonderful entirely, but this is my favorite Hegelian book.
    Hegel's rather out of vogue among philosophers nowadays, isn't he?

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    Leia-Jakita-Arendt OnMyLunchBreak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lah
    Hegel's rather out of vogue among philosophers nowadays, isn't he?
    Interesting, I never thought of a philosopher 'going out of style,' just having to wait until historical sensibilities came back in line with their views.

    But, to answer your question, no, I don't think he is out of vogue today, depending on who you talk to.

    Certainly, in America and Britain, where the Analytic tradition (analysis of language and logic) has taken a strong, firm grip, his more 'spiritual' ideas get him in trouble. (This could lead me on a long diatribe of the problem with modern philosophy, but I digress...)

    In America, especially, Hegel has trouble. Marx, of course, famously "turned Hegel on his head" to create his Material Dialectic. Since Marx is the intellectual foundation of Communism, and since Americans, for the most part hate Communism (commonly for irrational reasons), usually an inevitable misology creeps in when discussing Hegel in conservative company.

    However, in some American schools and on the Europoean continent, Hegel is alive and well. Phenomenology, which is where Hegel is most commonly pigeon-holed, has a strong following today and can even be used by some pragmatists to shore up their philosophy (this happens to be a pet project of mine). At many phenomenology conferences papers are often given on the links between Dewey and Hegel or James and Hegel.

    Finally, I truly believe, that as long as history marches on, there will always be something of value to find in Hegel.
    Last edited by OnMyLunchBreak; 06-10-2005 at 07:04 PM.

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