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  1.  (5365.1)
    @Redwynd and Stygmata, here's Peter Singer failing to get a word in against Stephen Colbert. Poor guy.

    Singer is one of the many philosophers I studied at university whose work I no longer remember anything about. All that was left after three years of study was a calmer mind but no memory of the details. I'm glad I did it, but I wish I had absorbed more. The last serious works I have read were Society of the Spectacle and Simulation and Simulacra, but that was more about getting really obsessed with The Matrix and The Invisibles a while back (yes, yes, everyone hates The Matrix for dumbing down those ideas, but as a primer I think the movies work well. Without them I wouldn't have sought out more serious stuff, and I doubt I'm the only one).
  2.  (5365.2)
    Nietzsche: Espouse optimism, blanch at populism.

    He's nature's first hipster.
  3.  (5365.3)
    My problem with eugenics is you never see a proponent of it who puts himself on the list. For... you know, obvious logical reasons, right. But still. It sets off my "you seem a little dodgy" meter. On the other hand, I agree that we have too many people but am unwilling to do anything to help aside from not giving birth (what a sacrifice lol), so it's not like I have high ground on the matter from a practical standpoint.
  4.  (5365.4)
    I tried some Derrida on the recommendation of a friend (I should point out I'm no philosophiser (sic) ) seemed more like a Sophist to me. I'll stick to Mad Germans and Posh Britons.
    • CommentTimeMar 25th 2009
    @oga, i'm starting to feel the same way, but am struggling violently against my own ambivalence. my biggest problem is still slotting writers into categories and pitting them against each other - i might just be impressionable, but they all seem to be saying essentially the same agreeable things in their own dense and convoluted ways. and it just makes me want to put their books down and work in a bakery. i am concerned that philosophy might be simply an admirable but misguided effort by many very intelligent but deluded people who would've been better off homesteading and communing with nature.
    it especially bothers me reading people who say directly that (Rousseau, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, pretty much anyone writing about modern capitalism) but offer no evidence in their own lives that they took themselves seriously or even made an effort to give a real, honest, self-sufficient, society-free lifestyle a chance. i mean, most were bogged down in depression or mania, and most came from strange aristocratic backgrounds that meant their only chances to work involved rich patrons... mostly it makes me conclude that these people aren't philosophers, they're just writers, and they didn't believe anything they say, they just wanted to write. the urge to write was stronger than the urge to live a morally just, quiet, and happy life. that's what stops me in my tracks these days.
    • CommentAuthorRedwynd
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009

    I humbly beg to disagree; I'd put people like myself second on the list (right after trailer trash). While my main thrust is the need to prevent the reproduction of the lowest, say, 60% of humanity in terms of physical capability, mental capability, vulnerability to disease and will (I am a firm believer that the will to achieve is rooted in genetics), there are certainly those in the remaining quotient of society that need to be culled.

    Take myself, for example. I am, respectfully, highly intelligent, moderately good looking, physically capable and quite resistant to disease and infection (I work in retail and pay no attention to vitamin supplements yet never get sick), as well as attending university while maintaining full-time employment. However, my genetics contain predispositions towards all sorts of addiction, from gambling to drug abuse, schizophrenia, high rates of heart and liver disease, cancer, and a statistically improbably number of birth defects. Simply put, no matter what I may become, genetics puts me before the eugenic firing line.

    But, more to the point, I do have the courage of my convictions. I am barely into my twenties, have not reproduced, and have had that possibility surgically taken care of.

    I've not taken offense, though; most of the people who agree with me tend to be self-righteous jackasses. Its sad, in a way. I consider eugenics to be far more forward thinking than, say, egalitarianism, but its rarely three posts between me and a Holocaust reference... (thanks, BTW, Whitechapel, for not jumping down my throat on that).
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009
    there are certainly those in the remaining quotient of society that need to be culled.


    this is the thing with philosophy huh? in abstract terms this sort of thing is very easy to consider. The concrete reality of it is somewhat more unpalatable, for me anyway. Besides, we can see what corruption, malice and incompetence characterises most government operations around the world. I'm not sure I'd trust any power structure with the legal right to determine the survival of an individual's genetic code.
    • CommentAuthorRedwynd
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009
    I would certainly agree with you on the general tendency of bureaucracies to mismanage issues that require a delicate touch, particularly in populist governments such as have become the norm in the West. I'm thinking of issues such as street narcotics and law enforcement. As far as power structures are concerned, I would propose a system of enlightened anarchy, reverting to a tribe-like state, but there are a few issues, both on the positive and negative. I'll get to legality in a moment.

    The positives are quite easy. Tribes are, typically speaking, a group of like minded or genetically related individuals, who work together in small groups to ensure one another's survival. For the purpose of this discussion, I am emphasizing small. This would create a large number of groups in direct competition for limited resources, using whatever means necessary. Those with the best abilities, and hence genetics, take the resources, and prosper. Those who don't, dwindle. Somewhat counter-intuitively, this would actually promote the survival of our species, forcing individual tribes to adapt to their local environment and competition, through both a survival-of-the-fittest mechanism, and though social and technological innovation (I'm not just throwing technology out the window, after all). You could think of this as crowd-sourcing social structures, perhaps.

    The negatives to this sort of proposal, discounting the implementation of such a system for now, are trickier. Tribes have a habit of joining with other tribes, or subjugating them, and eventually forming nations. This would bring us back to the situation we're in now, as it would be something of a social arms race, one group having to forcibly grow because one of its neighbors had. Once a nation reaches a certain size, the need for each individual to contribute something up to a certain standard diminishes, and the nation is capable of carrying on simply due to its sheer size. If you want an example of this, you need only look to the U.S.A.; they've been hemorrhaging resources at an ever-increasing rate for the last thirty years, and it still hasn't caught up with them (they're current troubles are based on a purely financial matter, not a physical one). No offense intended to any Americans in the room; I doubt any of you were involved in the trade and development policies currently in practice, so you can hardly be considered at fault.

    I could imagine some kind of pure meritocracy here, but I'm only beginning to grapple with the problem myself. Perhaps married with the idea of Philosopher Kings, though that seems a little arrogant considering the title of this thread, but its an idea I've been considering.

    Now, for legalities. To my mind, and admittedly limited knowledge in the area, most modern legal systems, when dealing with lives, are based on two principles: the fundamental right to life, and the essential equality of said lives. Now, by very definition, the latter must be discarded in order for any eugenically-inspired system to work. At its core, eugenics is based on the idea that some lives, or genetic codes, are simply more valuable than others. A mind capable of high-order physics is necessarily more valuable than one barely capable of operating a cash register, after all. As for the former, the fundamental right to life, this is not sustainable. The number of humans on Earth has been increasing exponentially in the last thousand years, with no indication of slowing down. I have seen estimates that the population will reach 9 billion by 2050, and 20 billion by 2100, and I would consider these to be conservative estimates. The resources do not exist to support this many people indefinitely, let alone the numbers we might see afterward.

    Eventually, we will see a situation where large-scale wars are fought over scare resources, inciting nationalism, racism, xenophobia, and many other social maladies. Even if such wars were to be averted, the pain and suffering of the global population, due to malnourishment and the diseases that crop up in over-crowded situations, would be incalculable. Such problems could be addressed by actions such as China's One Child Policy, but this simply perpetuates the current social order among other issues, and in most Western countries a policy such as this simply would not stand.

    If people are going to die anyway, do we not owe it to those who came before us to ensure that, at the very least, the best that humanity has to offer survives? I've been accused of a logical fallacy in this last bit, but to me it seems quite clear. We, as a whole, can either allow luck to draw straws for who lives and who dies, or we can use the incredible brains that have brought us to the heights we now enjoy, and attempt to avoid the depths we face. I've no idea how to get from here to there, but I can't see how we can expect to face our future generations with a shred of dignity if we don't.
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009
    I think you're attributing too much significance to genetics. Behaviours and sets of behaviours which can be understood, emulated and improvised on by what you might refer to as "lesser" brains could produce results that are more effective than those achieved through raw and untrammelled genetic superiority. Whatever that's meant to look like. It is our cultural DNA that would benefit most from a little well-intentioned tinkering, not our genome.

    At its core, eugenics is based on the idea that some lives, or genetic codes, are simply more valuable than others.

    so who decides the relative values?
    or perhaps they are self-evident?
    • CommentAuthorSolario
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009
    I just picked Philosophy as my major and minoring in Communication. Please tell me I've not destroyed the rest of my life.
    • CommentAuthoroga
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009

    I think that if these philosophers just discussed had had access to people like Yogananda, Nisargadatta, Ramana, etc, they would have realised that their writing was egotic bullshit. Their work is ergodic to some extent, but doesn't carry the same resonant "spiritual" charge as does, for example, Yogananda's interpretation of the Gospels. These works give me a real heart-buzz, whereas Nietzsche just gives me a mind-buzz that doesn't stay with me. I honestly can't remember anything that I've retained from the so-called Western philosophers from Aristotle onwards (except maybe Aristotle's work on theatre and all the ruminations on what constitutes identity, which has helped me understand the machine ego), but of the Eastern "philosophers" (quote marks because really, they seem to be writing "in-spired" works rather than brain farts) I get much more kick and food for thought now than I did from the 'sophers.
  5.  (5365.12)
    Philosophy Prof here but specialising in philosophy of physics/science in general, so know little of ethics n such. Kinda interested in certain 'continental' philosophers, such as Cassirer and Husserl, before The Big Split but never found anything in Deleuze et al of much interest.Not sure why philosophy can't be 'egotic bullshit'and still be useful, interesting etc!
  6.  (5365.13)
    I've got a little problem with discussing philosophy. Is this thread just for talking about what others have said and how you interpret their words or is it to discuss philosophy of life as we experience it. My friends and I have always discussed life, sex society novels comics politics morals religion torture depravity standards etc..., but none of us have formal training in philosophy. I understand the education of people in such things but is formal education required to discuss philosophical views?
    • CommentAuthorVerissimus
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009 edited
    Monty Python was right, Socrates really could drink everyone under the table.

    Philosophy has a precarious place in our society, bashed from one side by modern science and from the other by religion. The impression I got from what few philosophy lectures I followed in university was that both the students and the teachers got hopelessly stuck in their arguments, which seemed to miss a direction or a purpose.
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009 edited
    @QuidamTulpa -

    I personally would like it if this were Philosophy with a big "P", involving academic-level discussion referencing some sort of primary work or author to at least show you've bothered to do your homework. We don't have mods on here as such aside from the Big Two, though, so you're free to do as you like.

    @Solario -

    Look, @Prof Structure has a job!

    @allana -

    That is something that the French '68 movement was supposed to have addressed, directly. "Under the street - the beach!" and all that. It is an excellent question whether all the blood and treasure spend on ink spilled about it since then has actually advanced the cause of practical human freedom since then. There is a lot of stuff in Foucault that directly raises this as a question with stakes; I'd like to post some later for discussion perhaps.
    • CommentAuthordkostis
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009 edited
    Here’s a philosophy discussion seed offered by my girlfriend, from work in her PhD. dissertation.

    A lot of people think that equality is valuable in and of its self and the dominate theory in political philosophy is based on this idea, the dominate theory being egalitarianism.

    So my question is, is equality inherently valuable? And if so, why do you think it is inherently valuable?

    One reason to think it’s not inherently valuable is that if you think equality is valuable then you should be willing to bring everyone down to the level of the person who is worst off in society in order to achieve it.

    Edited after Angela corrected my grammar.
    • CommentAuthoroga
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009
    There's an interesting theory that has been discussed at some time or another by all thinkers: no one can be equal because qualities are not equally distributed and there is a pyramid-type structure to qualities where there are few saintly humans, or geniuses and a lot of stupid, and malicious humans. I find that discussing egalitarianism with this in mind tends to turn people off the theory and focus on the reality.

    David Hawkins uses reflexology to obtain some remarkable results. I am fully of the belief that this reflexology technique should be used to determine what philosophers should be taught, and whose work should be discarded as the addled ruminations of an addict (to words, drugs, philosophies, etc) . . .
      CommentAuthorcity creed
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009
    David Hawkins uses reflexology to obtain some remarkable results. I am fully of the belief that this reflexology technique should be used to determine what philosophers should be taught, and whose work should be discarded as the addled ruminations of an addict (to words, drugs, philosophies, etc) . . .

    I'm torn between falling foul of Poe's Law and not wanting to be obnoxious but are you sincerely suggesting that we can discard people's ruminations, addled or no, on the basis of a reaction to a reflexology technique?
    • CommentAuthordkostis
    • CommentTimeMar 26th 2009 edited
    To clarify, the previous question is about MORAL equality. Nobody is disputing that we are unequal from a physical standpoint. Some of us are stronger, some are weaker, some are taller ,some shorter, etc.

    The way this relates to political equality is, if there is an unequal distribution of goods and this unequal distribution is not a result of anybody’s efforts, should we redistribute these goods so that everybody is equal even if that means that nobody will have enough?

    We realize that this slightly changes the nature of the original question but the idea is that if we think equality is inherently valuable than we should strive for equality even at great cost.
    • CommentAuthoroga
    • CommentTimeMar 27th 2009

    Ha! You're right, I'm saying that philosophy (as in the "Canon" of western philosophy) may as well be subject to this sort of thing because it means so little to me after digesting a substantial chunk of it over the last 15 years.

    I can't claim to be able to use the reflexology test, but why go on and on about some aspect of this or that as if it is objectively true when it is the subjective opinion of the author?

    Coming back to the subject of moral equality. As long as one person is not equal, no one is equal. Why not give people the "tools to the kingdom" as it were, and teach them to think for themselves instead of reading screed after screed of philosopher after philosopher. All these words, and no one is enlightened!