Author Archives: JoB

On “truth and Truth”, in William James

“(..) this command that we shall put a stopper on our heart, instincts and courage, and wait (..) till doomsday, or till such time as our intellect and senses working together may have raked in evidence enough – this command, I say, seems to me the queerest idol ever manufactured in the philosophic cave.” W. James, The Will to Believe, p. 32 (1).

1. Introduction

In his essay “The Will to Believe” (1), William James makes the case that reason does not stand supreme, that being human we always also have some passional skin in our games. James relies on “Pascal’s wager” – where passion and reason are so peculiarly mixed as to yield holy waters that can’t be reduced to the characteristics of hydrogen or oxygen. His paper maybe reads more as an attack on our modern scientific consensus, as establishing its own scientistic holy cows, than as a defence of religion. He challenges a purely rational truth-seeking attitude as committed to a prior passionate and absolutist conception that we ought to constantly suspend judgment to avoid the False. My short piece will not challenge that analysis – mainly because for the most part I pragmatically agree with it –  but analyze whether we can, by James’ own lights, be passionately committed to believe in Truth at all. If not, as I will try to defend, then the whole business of comprehensive doctrines as taken for granted by Rawls (3), and certainly sympathetic to James’ view, becomes problematic – even within a religious or moral philosophical outlook. Believing in truth is not the same as believing in Truth and sceptics get away with not believing in the latter if they’re passionate in practice i.e. willing to act on their moral passions and reflect on their actions.

I proceed as follows: in the next section I explore the link between passion and truth in (1), the section thereafter deals with truth and practice, then I conclude. Continue reading

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Incognito

For famous people it’s refreshing to get out and about without being recognized. At least, so I’m told. Not being famous it’s a feeling I fear I must go without. I feel like an emperor without clothes who – if noticed at all – is noticed for feeling like one despite his clothes. I have no claim to fame nor is it fame that I claim. I do think I have something to say and, I wonder: is there a correlation between having something to say and being famous? It is certainly a matter of fact that many who are thought to have something to say have, first, said something which made them infamous.

The thing is, confused or not, if you wear the heavy garb of an emperor it has to feel light to be able to shed it. Maybe it even feels enlightening. The other thing though is that once enlightened you can go back to your uniform and feel positively sure you’ll impress. That is the way of your subjects, you can rest assured that they’ll bow for your garb. Or maybe hiss at it. Whichever way, your difference will never be met with indifference.

Let’s imagine I’m born an emperor who has never been crowned. Can I be incognito?

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Merrily, merrily, merrily, I go my autistic way

It’s such fun to see how people are ever so busy to make our problems go away. They are so busy to the point of being blind to the many marvels of our ways. How many stop and wonder at the world of wonder lying buried behind our wonkish eyes?

“Oh”, I hear you say, “but you have so many problems, and not only because you cause them too”. And that’s oh so true. We live with our problems from day to sleepless night, in which we wonder what problems – on top of our own – we are causing you.

The thing is though that in between all of our problems – and between all of the problems we cause you – we have a life that sometimes is worth living too. If you’ll just let us live it in the way we oddly do, you may wonder if it doesn’t even have something in it for you.

So if you have the time, stop and wonder at my merry autistic ways. Maybe you would at some time like to do some research on that some time too?

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The Profanities of Hume & Spinoza

Religion is not getting a lot of slack nowadays. Maybe in reading those who were first to be overtly critical of religion we can learn exactly what occasioned the onslaught. This is an exercise in that, FWIW.

1. Introduction

In tracing back the questions raised in the early modern period we may hope to trace back the current secular attitude to religion. To make a start with this analysis, I focus on 2 short texts by Baruch Spinoza, The Metaphysical Moralist (1), and David Hume, On Superstition and Enthusiasm (2), where they explicitly treat of the threats inherent to religions when the imagination goes unchecked by rationality. My analysis tries to bring to light that there is a crucial difference in their treatment: whilst Spinoza sees linear progress in using reason to eliminate ‘uncalled for’ imagination, Hume puts reason as a mediator between two extreme uses of imagination (one leading to docile superstition – the other to fanatic enthusiasm). In my view there is something of fanatic enthusiasm to Spinoza’s view on rationality which, in denying a constructive impetus in imagination, denies something more basic to the human condition than the arbitrary conventions of specific religions. Both Hume and Spinoza utter profanities against religion, but only Spinoza utterly desacralized the human condition. Continue reading

An Autistic History of Philosophy

This book should be written because it would clarify how thinking things through, in the way we autistics do for everyday survival, is both painstaking and necessary for all of us. That is also the reason why the title should not read “The History of Autistic Philosophy” – not because we cannot diagnose dead philosophers but because it would increase the rift between everyman’s everyday struggles and philosophy as thinking things through.

It is not the case that all philosophers are (somewhat) autistic. Still all original philosophy is, in a very practical sense, autistic as it takes mundane, unquestioned facts to be deeply problematical. When Aristotle talks about wonder the metaphor is that of a child picking a toy apart to see how it works. It is such wonder that fuels reaching for the unreachable. Reaching for the unreachable is at the same time exhausting as it makes one retreat into the safe confines of a predictable world where everything can be taken as self-evident: a world of unquestioned repetitive ritual, prejudice and superstition.

I believe that my (I call dibs!) Autistic History of Philosophy will improve understanding of one another as well as of our selves. Let me explain myself:

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I’m a Meltdown Megalomaniac

Heidegger says: “Already the ‘thinking of death’ is publicly considered as the cowards fear.”

I die a thousand deaths each and every day.
They creep up on me like shivers up my crooked spine.
Make me catch my breath into my chronically shrunken lungs.
Slowly swell my prostate as if I was hit – hard – in the fucking groin.

Makes my mind spin into feeling (oh so!) special.
At the end of a life I feel like I am on top of the world,
before it all comes a-crushing crashing down. I melt – down –
to being dead inside. Life springs from that, I mean: for now at least.

‘Bummer!’ being booming business nowadays, I just go for “Mens insana in Corpore non sano.” Is it so strange to want death or is it just a part of life I happen to know better than most? The idea that dying is a once-in-a-lifetime thing at the end of life is entirely strange to me. Which makes me strange but maybe not a stranger to you.

Permit me an accusation in the form of a confession.

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The Longing for Being (longed for)

What’s the point of living forever, if living means your identity does not survive even the briefest of moments? People are trained to see their life and identity as something sacred (sacred enough to trample other people and shit all over their identities) and it is a bogus conditioning. In the West we have replaced God with Truth but our zeal to convert others has stayed essentially the same. The only thing which has changed is that we believe that our life – that we – have become sacred cows giving the divine milk of wisdom. All the life preserving bullshit we inhale constantly invariably leads to seeing life as a struggle – one in which we have to prevail by making our point.

Choosing life has become synonymous with becoming deaf to others. It is ludicrous as we find ourselves complaining nobody wants to listen to us. It makes us feel dead inside. The thing is – and this is why I write – that it’s not life that makes life worth living but longing: the longing for being longed for. If for whatever reason you cannot be longed for then it’s time to throw in the towel and just fade away. People will tend to hear this as negative, in denying the value of life but I consider it a fact that the value in living comes from trying to understand others. Life’s a positive thing, death can’t touch it.

A lot has been said about continental and analytic philosophy. Sometimes it seems like it has been invented just to shoot at each other. Still, good philosophy can’t but come to the same conclusion: that there are no facts except inter-personal ones. Facts are moral. First there was an ought, it is the is that will remain forever imperfect.

Below the fold there is an imperfect exercise in trying to argue just that. Continue reading