Philosophy (a requiem for Allen Ginsberg)

Filed under: by: Kevin

Philosophy I've given you all and now I'm nothing.
Philosophy nine dollars and twenty-seven cents March 13, 2010.
I can't stand my own mind.
Philosophy when will we end the intellectual war?
Go fuck yourself with your model-theory
I don't feel good don't bother me.
I won't write my tractatus till I'm in my right mind.
Philosophy when will you be angelic?
When will you take off your clothes?
When will you look at yourself through the grave?
When will you be worthy of your million Kripkeites?
Philosophy why are your libraries full of tears?
Philosophy when will you send your ideas to Practice?
I'm sick of your insane demands.
When can I go into the admissions committee and apply with my good looks?
Philosophy after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.
Your machinery is too much for me.

Reginald Bailey, Esq: A Denouncement of Spinoza

Filed under: , by: Nick M

For those of you that didn't know, I moonlight as a preserver of old and damaged texts. Its really very fun, and occasionally I get to run across one that interests me or has something to say about philosophy. Below I have transcribed the introduction to one such text by Reginald Bailey Esq. As far as i can tell it should be dated around 1678 or 79 (a year or so after the posthumous publication of Spinoza's Ethics) and was delivered at a meeting of the Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge. Enjoy.

New Developments In Medicines Produced From the Secretions of Brook Newts

Wherein is Displayed the Results of Such Secretions as Applied to Fox Bites and other Wounds of Similar Kind

Reginald Bailey Esq.

Doctor of Medicine and Natural Philosophy

Master of Divinity

Friends and Colleagues, I am delighted to present to you today the findings of my many experiments in natural philosophy, regarding the use of some medicines prepared from the slime of brook newts and applied to the open wounds of several patients. The results are very surprising, for not even I could have guessed the many varied effects they produced, but there comes something of much greater importance which I must first address. There was a man, now departed to just punishment in realms below our own, of most dubious character and vile thought. I speak of Benedict de Spinoza, that Heretic of foul infamy, which the whole learned world has rightfully despised. To enumerate his many anathemas would be akin to cursing. Thankfully, our wives and daughters have not the capacity for science and so have not attended our meeting, thus allowing me to curse without concern or remorse. This man, Spinoza, saw fit to disguise atheism with sophistry; he suggests, ignoring the important work of the illustrious Descartes, there be but one single extended substance and furthermore suggests that this substance be indistinguishable from the one we know as God. But if there be only God, wherefore is the world? Here is the rub he hopes to disguise, for we know there to be a world and we know there to be a God, yet there be only one thing in extension. May my soul be forgiven for restating this demonic thesis, God be the world! Is this not that foolish opinion we know to be atheism; a clever atheism it is, but a rank and odorous atheism all the same. Would I have known that such a thesis lie in his demonstrations, I would have sought Spinoza out of his wicked brooding, fastened him to a pyre and danced with the vigor of a false prophet of Baal as he writhed in just agony. Spinoza, however, escaped proper punishment, though no doubt his soul writhes in similarly fitting agony in the depths of eternal damnation. Yet, his book, replete with corruption and hubris, is still among us. It should be our goal as men of letters and learning to seek out such a book and cast it to earthly flames, in hopes of shielding others from falsehoods. I hope you will all join me in this newest crusade, if not for pure reasons and a love of truth, then for the reward no doubt guaranteed to us in the afterlife for undertaking such holy work.

Now, onto the studies of my patients. The first case regards a drunkard of some renown, by whom i found myself under employment after first leaving my studies. He ran afoul a fox during a hunting trip and received a bite upon the hand. I decided to apply my newest medicines which i derived from the secretions of brook Newts I had collected in my last visit to France. My benefactor later died from the fox bite, my medicine applied to late to prevent the infection that first lost my sponsor his hand and later his life. I immediately began preparing stronger, less diluted forms of solution...

That's all of the text I've been able to reconstruct for now. Hope you found it as interesting as I did.

An Open Letter to Funny People Regarding Sarah Palin

Filed under: , by: Nick M

Dear Producers of Laughter,

Occasionally there comes a public figure so utterly hilarious that the jokes just right themselves. And, hey, writing jokes is hard so you deserve a break every once and a while. No doubt a chill rushed down the collective spine of funny people when George W. Bush left office. "How am I going to fill the last 5 minutes of my set? I'm all out of wit and i need to talk about someone ludicrous. Where will I turn now?" It seems God heard these comedic prayers and delivered unto you Sarah Palin. She seemed almost too good to be true. In fact, rumors spread for some time that Sarah Palin was created by comedians from the drippings of their most absurd and twisted imaginings held loosely together by frameless glasses, thousand dollar outfits, and probably duct tape. While this rumor was false, it at least seemed more likely than adopting the brute fact that someone like Sarah Palin existed; She just couldn't be real.

Unfortunately, she is real. And she is inexplicably gaining power. It may just have something to do with you, the funny people. What appeared at first to be nothing more than a infinite comedy gold mind proved to be a dark succubus, capable of feeding on quick comedic pop shots to gain power and influence. The process works something like this. A utterly hilarious joke is made at Sarah Palin's expense. She, lacking a heart or humor, becomes extremely offended and parades some aspect of her home life in front of the media. This has the ability to take normal, rational people, who usually delight in mocking the absurd, and transform form them into raving lunatics hell bent on spending time, energy, and money on Sarah Palin. Just how this occurs is really a question of metaphysics, so I will refrain from speaking much further on this matter. Perhaps some time should be devoted to a scholarly article on the causal properties surrounding Sarah Palin, but this letter is not an article. It is a plea.

Comedians, T.V. Show Creators, Comedy Writers, Actors, Court Jesters and Funny guys/gals at the end of the bar, please stop making fun of Sarah Palin. She deserves it and your goal is noble. But, you are giving her power. If you stop making fun of her, she will have nothing to react to and consequently weaken. As she weakens so does her invisible strangle hold on many good people. It is also likely that in this impotent state she will fade into obscurity and disappear from our minds. I think a world in which Sarah Palin is but a fleeting memory is a world for which we all hope, knowingly or unknowingly. I am not asking you to bear the ring to Mordor or charge into battle against the forces of evil. I only ask that you cut off a source of Sarah Palin's strength. I am not even asking you to do this for free. In exchange for Sarah Palin I offer you Rush Limbaugh, Miley Cyrus, and Mel Gibson. I know these three individual of almost limitless incomprehensibility are not equivalent to the strange mass of contradictions that is Sarah Palin. But sometimes we must make sacrifices for the world we love.

I hope my plea has reached you and you will agree to help. The work of funny people is a necessary aspect of any free society, and you are part of a great cultural force. For those people who are not funny that are reading this letter: you can help too. Tell all the funny people you know and ask them to spread the word about Sarah Palin's ability transmogrify jokes into dark strength. Sign petitions, start fundraisers, or just turn off the news whenever Palin's name or visage appear. We can all do our part to help make a world in which Sarah Palin is not a remembered or recognized public figure.

In Love and Concern,

Nick Montgomery

Fictional Entities

Filed under: by: Kevin

It has been held by some contemporary philosophers that there are fictional entities—characters such as Sherlock Holmes have some status as metaphysical existents. Imagine that such were the case. What cruelty have we inflicted upon these citizens? What horrible, disgusting deeds have we writ upon them? And with what right? With what right do we impose upon these individuals the deepest, most secret desires, fears, and torturous memories of our own psyches? Passions that we would not dare reveal to ourselves. What tragedies, sickening comedies, and fatal (at least to the soul) disasters have we put these beings through? Denizens of a common metaphysical cosmos. We have pillaged their villages and raped their women, men, and children. We have torn them from their homes and situated them in unkind circumstances. We have robbed them of will and dignity. Us, imperialists of fiction. Colonizers of the inexistent. Fetishists of nothingness. We create and destroy. We do it for our own capital. More sickeningly, we do it for our own pleasure. With nauseating repetition we hoist bystanders of reality into the same weary heartbreak. We import unknowing henchman for their imminent and satisfying destruction. Sad clowns and villainous maniacs unleashed upon a deprecated reality. We claim its nonexistence. We continue to affirm their nothingness. We rob them of their souls and minds and individuality. Separate toilets and fountains and metaphysical realms. And now, as we begin to recognize their real status, we begin to tremble in fear, and loathe our past decisions. Regret, perhaps, comes over us. For when, in our history, we have entertained the autonomy of these beings, it was always subsumed under an even greater story. It was just a story. So we said to ourselves. But now they protrude from their homes, and penetrate the very fabric of our world. They write our narrative as much as we write theirs. But they have become unhappy. Their stories have been burned, and they themselves have been disgraced without end and without mercy. Now they will show us their true metaphysicality. And we will be left questioning our own being.

After a few steps in the darkness you will see strangers gathered around a fire; come close, and listen, for they are talking of the destiny they will mete out to you and to the hired soldiers who defend you. They will see you, perhaps, but they will go on talking among themselves, without even lowering their voices. This indifference strikes home: their fathers, shadowy creatures, your creatures, were but dead souls; you it was who allowed them glimpses of light, to you only did they dare speak, and you did not bother to reply to such zombies. Their sons ignore you; a fire warms them and sheds light around them, and you have not lit it. Now, at a respectful distance, it is you who will feel furtive, nightbound, and perished with cold. Turn and turn about; in these shadows from whence a new dawn will break, it is you who are the zombies.

-J.P. Sartre

Notes from Prison

Filed under: by: Kevin

Journal Entry: 02/15/10

It has been seven years, eight months, nine days since I first arrived here, and seven years, six months, three days since I got used to the smell. There are no other captives. I spend my time attempting to salvage any remnants of human dignity that I can still manage to keep hold of. It is difficult. I have finally made it through page 17,568 of the tome that has, since the beginning of my captivity, been my only companion. Seven years, eight months, and nine days ago I could not understand a thing of the strange, exotic scribbles that populated this book. It seemed to be some sort of instruction guide, or manual or something. It was the only thing, besides myself, that remained constant in the room. Everything else seemed to change. The white walls and dispersed fluorescent lighting made the whole treacherous room seem like an imperceptible fog. The only other inhabitants were wayfaring transients: small cards, inserted through slots at opposite ends of the room, each of which had more exotic scribbles. I would take them, try and find some pattern, some story, something to tell me where I was or what was happening to me. I tried to match the scribbles to the scribbles in the tome. Perhaps whoever was placing these cards here could also be communicated with. I checked in the tome, and slipped another card, with another scribble, into a slot on the opposite side of the room. This happened more and more frequently. I did not know what I was communicating, only that someone must know what is happening to me. In the end, that is all I needed to stay sane.

Lacking human companionship, I grew desirous of some form of corporeal pleasure. Eventually, I grew closer and closer to this strange and exotic book. It became my partner, my lover—the only other constant inhabitant of this treacherous dungeon. I recalled my careful readings of Kafka. Perhaps this is where Kafka went to die. Only I had been brought here alive. Alive with no sense of purpose. Where am I? I still do not know. Why was I brought here? I still do not know. Who am I? I still do not know. Sometimes I stay up for many days straight. In between matching up the incoming scribbles in the book and slipping out other scribbles (I try to do it surreptitiously, surely this can't be permitted in this dreadful place), I have conversations with the book. I tell it about my life—what I think is, or was, or maybe never was my life. It seems like a distant memory. An evanescent haze that I can't quite grasp onto. It seems otherworldly. I tell the book about my desires—my deepest, darkest desires. Sometimes the book is kind and tender, especially when we make love.

If only we could have children. They would be a beautiful hybrid between these strange, mysterious, yet somehow familiar scribbles, and my own human form (wretched, starved, and battered as it is). Eventually I came to fancy the incoming scribbles and the outgoing scribbles not, as before, as strange orphans viewed with alternate trepidation and hope, but as our children, and the book and I were the loving parents. It was as if here was the seed, and through the sensuous mingling of the book and I, we were able to produce living, breathing beings. I came to love these little index cards. Eventually each incoming card struck me as a birth, and each outgoing one like a college-bound departure. All the while, the book and I remained the sole constants. What an amusing couple. Between us there must be all the wisdom in the world, all the love in the world. Or in this small room. Maybe this is the world. Maybe there is only the room. Just the room, this tome, and my children.

-J. Searle

Journal Entry: 02/16/10

It has been seven years, eight months, and ten days...

Mary's Story

Filed under: by: Kevin

For many years now philosophers have been performing a cruel experiment. The experiment first began when a small child, Mary, was incarcerated in a monochromatic dungeon. Denied the technicolor pleasures of life, Mary grew into a dull, boring, dreadful existence, lacking poetry or flare. Naturally, under such circumstances, she became a neuroscientist. She was a very talented neuroscientist (unhindered by aforementioned pleasures) and quickly came to know every physically describable fact about others' experiences (jealousy can take strange forms). Finally, Mary was released. Excited to see her family for the first time in many, many dreadful years, and hoping to delight in the sensuous gloriousness of a summer sunset, Mary was alas subject to even more philosophical cruelty. Alas, no family and no sunset. No chance to taste freshly caught halibut, or attend the theater (a showing of La Boheme coincided with her release), or fall in love. But she did receive a ripe tomato. She looked at the tomato and was astonished by it. Thoughts of finally being able to live a happy, normal life had faded in the face of this extraordinary tomato. Hopes of marriage and fulfillment were swept away entirely at the sight of this singular, wonderful, absolutely interesting tomato. The philosophers, it seemed, had broken her.

note on pathology vs. neurology

Filed under: by: Kevin

It is interesting to note that while much of the phenomenological literature draws on pathology for its psychological data, much of the more mainstream computationalist literature draws on neurology. There is something telling in this discrepancy: pathology has already built into it notions of normativity and functionality (or dysfunctionality) within an environment. This is useful to the phenomenologist, for whom the original project is to characterize how the subject takes up with her environment. In a sense, intentionality is part of the level of description from which pathology begins. The computationalist, on the other hand, is interested in describing the neural architecture of the brain from the standpoint of the methodological solipsist. The starting point isn't how the subject experiences and performs in her environment, but how neurological processes can be correlated with cognitive processes. Neurology has none of the normativity built into it that pathology does. The pressing question for neurology then is how to derive intentionality and phenomenal experience from the low-level brain processes that it studies. The pressing question for pathology is how to correlate the segments of intentional behavior or experience that it isolates with the observed brain damage. The former is down-up and the latter is top-down. The question, then, is: how do we allow for the two approaches to meet? Without integrating data from both research programs, there is too much room for talking past each other.