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Beyond "Immanuel Kant was a real pissant."
July 22, 2007 7:45 PM   Subscribe

What can I know? What should I do? For what may I hope?
posted by anotherpanacea (109 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Some background: Hegel on Kant, Deleuze on Kant, Korsgaard on Kant (and some others), Foucault on Kant's theme of Enlightenment, Allison on Kant.
posted by anotherpanacea at 7:45 PM on July 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


The answer to all three is 'Nothing.'

This messgae has been brought to you by the leetr P and the number 5.
posted by jonmc at 7:48 PM on July 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


What Kant I know?

Ah, philosophy. The NSAID pain reliever for those who don't wish to use the Opiate of the Masses. Non-addictive, but there's a lot of pain it cannot kill, and it may hurt your stomach.
posted by wendell at 7:55 PM on July 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


Immanuel Kant was a real pissant. [youtube]
posted by The Esteemed Doctor Bunsen Honeydew at 8:10 PM on July 22, 2007


Good god, I hate Kant. NO, YOU CANNOT HAS NOUMENAL SELF.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:13 PM on July 22, 2007


wendell, what pain can't philosophy kill that religion can?
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:14 PM on July 22, 2007


::: puts cd case on head :::

going to world of forms, brb
posted by fleetmouse at 8:18 PM on July 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


PG, have you tried reading Foundation of The Metaphysics of Morals while depressed? I read it while I was happy and my vision went grey for a week.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:24 PM on July 22, 2007


NO, YOU CANNOT HAS NOUMENAL SELF.

LOLKANTZEN?

god i hate myself.
posted by geos at 8:25 PM on July 22, 2007 [7 favorites]


what pain can't philosophy kill that religion can?

Loneliness?
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:25 PM on July 22, 2007


"Foundations", excuse me...even now, the memories...the pain...
posted by StrikeTheViol at 8:26 PM on July 22, 2007


Philosophical discourse is essentially a consecutive series of fart noises anyway.
posted by chlorus at 8:26 PM on July 22, 2007


I heard you could set your clock to the time Kant took his walks, and after a four year philosophy degree that's all I remember about him.
posted by PHINC at 8:29 PM on July 22, 2007


Oh, crap, I thought I had come up with, like, the Best - Analogy - Ever, and Pope NoloContendere shoots me down... I was thinking of all of the people who have claimed that Religion had cured them of (non-medical) conditions that Philosophy had not (when 'cured' was really 'relieved painful symptoms'), and therefore Religion is seen as more emotionally potent than Philosophy, so let's try this again... Also, please note that I don't quite buy the whole "Opiate of the Masses" thing as actual Opiates have become more affordable for the Masses.

If Religion is the Opiate of the Masses, then Philosophy is the NSAID: not as powerful relieving pain, but it doesn't get you 'high', it's not addictive, and it may hurt your stomach.

I stand by that statement.
posted by wendell at 8:36 PM on July 22, 2007


J. Krishnamurti's talks are much more worthy of your time.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:37 PM on July 22, 2007


Philosophy isn't meant as an end in itself. To do so is masturbation.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:38 PM on July 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Philosophy isn't meant as an end in itself. To do so is masturbation.

And the portrayal of philosophy as a meaningless, masturbatory exercise is a betrayal of humanity.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:43 PM on July 22, 2007


And the portrayal of philosophy as a meaningless, masturbatory exercise is a betrayal of humanity.

Well, I wasn't doing that, but thanks anyways. To flesh out my pithy comment: there are so-called philosophers that like to sit around and write or opine, but they have no substance because it was only words. A philosophy is needed, but some kind of action must follow. The former doesn't necessarily influence the latter so one must be on guard for hypocrisy.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:50 PM on July 22, 2007


i suppose i actually have to READ all this before i comment on this, don't i?

bastard
posted by pyramid termite at 8:52 PM on July 22, 2007


Woah, Burhanistan, I was agreeing with you.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:55 PM on July 22, 2007


The Critique of Pure Reason, the Critique of Practical Reason, and the Critique of Judgment... at 9:45 on a Sunday night?

...Really? This is a joke, right?



(You know, if you're looking to keep yourself up all night, here's The Complete Works of HP Lovecraft. Sweet dreams.)
posted by spiderwire at 8:57 PM on July 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


Woah, Burhanistan, I was agreeing with you.

Ack. My apologies. This macaroni I'm eating might've made me dumber that I usually am.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:03 PM on July 22, 2007


Take it to Fark, asshole.
posted by rhizome23 at 9:04 PM on July 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


So, single links to three of the most inaccessible works in philosophy, and the more inside features an additional tremendously inaccessible work by Hegel, an excellent Korsgaard work that isn't interpretive of the source work (it isn't really "on" anything) like the other links but an attempt to understand the nature of normativity in a broadly "neo-"Kantian way, and an Allison piece for which you have to pay-I think?

The Critiques are incredibly influential and incredibly obscure. You need to understand the Cartesian and the Humean projects before you can understand why Kant is such a big deal, and he's just not a very good writer--it is my understanding that native German speakers often read the English translations because the original German is so dense--and as we can see, the English is hardly breezy. It's not the sort of thing that's going to be rewarding through your favorite web browser.

I think there's a cool Metafilter post to be made about Kant. Here's an idea. When Kant released the Critique of Pure Reason, it was recieved with a collective "what the fuck are you on about there, brother?" by his contemporaries. In response Kant 1) released a second edition of the Critique, which was supposed to clarify certain ambiguities, though it is far from clear that it actually does, and more importantly 2) released the Prolegomena, which is Kant's "textbook" version of the ideas presented in the Critique. I think any MeFite could get something worthwhile out of the Prolegomena with just a little time investment, and the story about the relationship between Kant, the editions, the Prolegomena, and the contemporary critics could be framed in a compelling way.

Or, focus a post on the Metaphysics of Morals, which is orders of magnitude more accessible than the Critiques, and is probably more influential on the Korsgaard Krew of contemporary neo-Kantians than them anyway.

Um. Sorry to go all EB on the thread. And I really like that Foucault link, but it is my understanding that my place in the analytic/synthetic philosophical divide obligates me not to admit that.

Whoops.
posted by Kwine at 9:06 PM on July 22, 2007 [6 favorites]


So, Krishnamurti sat around talking about masturbation, then did it? Or he was silent on the matter, but wanked vigorously? I'm confused. Burhanistan, could you make your own FPP about this jerkoff?

Funny story about Kant: he's said to have asked his butler to tuck him in at night tightly enough to prevent his accidentally or through hypnagogic bad judgment touching himself, since to do so is always to use oneself for pleasure and not to treat oneself as an end-in-oneself, but only a means to sexual gratification.

He was a funny man, but smarter than all of us combined, and truly concerned about answering the questions from the FPP. I think he does a good job, all told. It's not like Adam Smith or David Hume were publicly celebrating the act of self-love.

Now Rousseau, there's a guy who couldn't stop talking about autoeroticism. Big influence on Kant, actually, despite their departure on the whole manhandling issue. Derrida's essay on the topic was required reading when I was in College: the idea that a man could become famous by talking about the way he checked his own oil inspired me! If these pocket-pool jockeys can do it, I can certainly make a name for myself in that field.

Sadly, I'm too embarrassed to talk about the way I trim my own sails. There's something too personal about the act of pushing the broom, you know? I rather suspect that you all feel the same way about your own processes of polishing the pearl or mutilating the lifestock or however you do it. I rather doubt that metafilter's own have much to say on the matter. It's like they say: if I could lick my own balls, I'd never leave the house. Since I can't, I teach philosophy.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:10 PM on July 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


Burhanistan: Or as Marx said: "Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it."

I always knew that intro philosophy class would pay off.

and at the bargain price of $38000 a year.
posted by dismas at 9:12 PM on July 22, 2007


Kant's "ok" until he gets into the dualism bs - I wonder what he might have come up with if he wasn't religious (or perhaps he wouldn't have ended up philosophising and writing it down if he wasn't)?


Philosophy isn't meant as an end in itself. To do so is masturbation.


Hume made a nice statement regarding being able to leave philsophy in the salon room/parlour at the end of the day. I guess the fat guy liked fucking without a lot of talking.

ooooh, *thanks* spiderwire; I have them all on dead-tree books, but now I'll be able to get them on my PDA (when it gets to me next week sincei I dropped and broke mine.
posted by porpoise at 9:12 PM on July 22, 2007


For some reason, I'm recalling my dreadful Philopsophy 101 course as a freshman. The whole class was nothing more than regurgitating (bonus points for verbatim) what various philosophers purportedly espoused. No debate, no verbal banter. Just this guy said this and this guy thought that. Test Thursday. There has to be a better way of subtly introducing some of the questions that ate at these people we learn about without it becoming its own brand of dogma.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:15 PM on July 22, 2007


What can I know? What should I do? For what may I hope?

I know I'd like a beer. I'm going to drink some beer. I hope there's more beer in the fridge.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:22 PM on July 22, 2007 [5 favorites]


I think any MeFite could get something worthwhile out of the Prolegomena with just a little time investment, and the story about the relationship between Kant, the editions, the Prolegomena, and the contemporary critics could be framed in a compelling way.

People use metafilter in different ways: that could be a truly excellent FPP, and I'd be happy to read it if you posted it. I prefer to link to mammoth bits of text I find personally compelling because the best thing about the internet is that you can find nearly everything worthwhile for free here, and interested parties can download it and read it at their leisure. (Except the Allison book. Dunno why, but I was sure I had a direct link to it. Sorry, all.) A good place to find other full text philosophy resources is Farhang Erfani's Continental Philosophy Blog.
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:26 PM on July 22, 2007


Divine Wino cleared up the whole 'joy' thing for me. YMMV.
posted by maryh at 9:29 PM on July 22, 2007


Kant, as an FPP? Really? In a graduate seminar on Kant we just barely made it to the refutation of idealism (pg. 244). For those of you keep score we made it through 1/3 of one of these works, in a seminar populated by experts and dedicated to nothing but Kant.

Methinks this post is a tad too ambitious.
posted by oddman at 9:36 PM on July 22, 2007


Anotherpanacea, the problem isn't necessarily with your aim here. But one wonders whether many/any Mefites (myself included) will get very much from the works you posted. People spend entire careers studying Kant and transcendental philosophy in general.

IMHO, this is exactly the kind of material that is not read at one's leisure. It's so dense that anything except careful, methodical, exhaustive analysis is the only way to gain anything of worth. Kant is not Plato or Descartes (both of whom wrote so well that they can indeed be read at one's leisure and still transmit much of the original meaning).
posted by oddman at 9:41 PM on July 22, 2007



Philosophy isn't meant as an end in itself. To do so is masturbation.


You know, you can always spot the fool with statements like this. The pride in ignorance, the childish dismissal of what he doesn't understand, and the all too willingness to open his mouth and spout total nonsense.

As for Kant there's something to be said for thinking big. Makes no sense to risk it all on a gas station or a street corner. It's the sheer magnitude of his crimes that is so inspiring and which gave us, well, pretty much all of continental philosophy.

For those of you keep score we made it through 1/3 of one of these works, in a seminar populated by experts and dedicated to nothing but Kant.

Must have been a merry time. But the fetishization of Kant's complexity is largely unnecessary and not something to be brag about. There's just something about all the categories and terminology and diagrams that brings out the German in everybody.
posted by nixerman at 9:43 PM on July 22, 2007


There's just something about the Germans that brings out all the categories and terminology and diagrams in everybody.

FTFY.

Or rather, fixendatführü
posted by spiderwire at 9:46 PM on July 22, 2007


Burhanistan, I don't think that's just Philosophy 101. If you read various commentary on philosophy posts here, you'll notice that a lot of people will say that one cannot comment on some philosophical stance until you have read up on what all of the thinking is on it afterwards. They have roundabout ways of saying it, but it all boils down to "you aren't qualified to talk about it until you read twenty-five centuries worth of commentary." You're ignorant and a fool until you devote, say, a couple of decades to philosophical immersion.

Argumentation and thought isn't encouraged because, outside of basic logic courses, none of it is really provable - it's just debate tricks and sophistry. Who is the most clever at stating his point? After a couple of millenia, there doesn't seem to be any agreement. However, you are dissuaded from looking at that because you haven't bought into the Glass Bead Game enough to be initiated into the mysteries. Even if you ignore the navel-gazing stuff, you can't find agreement on real social issues like the death penalty. I find a lot in life to be ultimately purposeless, but this stuff seems like a "get out of real life free" card.

Someone give me a ring when they come up with something lab-testable.
posted by adipocere at 9:53 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


I swear, if English let me make up compound words like German does, I'd be rewriting our entire dialect like a Lisper on meth.

Spider-of-wire-being-in-the-bed -- Private object! Has methods: Sleep! Wake! Compose-inline-electro-communication, transmit to "MetaFilter" community-web-log-response-inlet! Make-favorite-of-community-web-log-response! Access-private-memory:Kant! NO-DATA. Theory? CORRUPTED-BY-UNDERGRADUATE-STUDIES. Access-public-memory: WikiPedia.

Heidegger had it good, being-in-the-world.
posted by spiderwire at 9:54 PM on July 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


Someone give me a ring when they come up with something lab-testable.

Fine Structure Constant. Why?
posted by spiderwire at 9:55 PM on July 22, 2007


That's my way of saying: you physicists may experiment more, but that doesn't mean you've found anything more definitive, so get off your high horse and get back to your lab. You figure out the FSC, why it exists, and whether it changes over time, and then come back and we'll talk about some of the cool stuff we've been doing with Kant and Foucault and McLuhan and Arendt and the like in the last 50 years, and we'll compare notes, OK? OK. 'Til then, you can drop the pretense of acting like you've got EVERYTHING even remotely figured out.
posted by spiderwire at 9:59 PM on July 22, 2007 [4 favorites]


After all that effort, can you defend the categories?

IMHO, this is exactly the kind of material that is not read at one's leisure

Leisure, of course, is not the same thing to everyone: I mean only the scholia that is typical of restless internet junkies. Your problem, like mine, is that you can no longer read Kant or any other philosopher in that way, but must instead engage with the texts as a part of your occupation. Sadly, ascholia is no attitude for wisdom's true friends.

Hannah Arendt read Kant as a teenager, as did I and several other philosophers I know. Maybe Arendt got it all on the first pass, but the rest of us didn't. I'm sticking by the claim that I learned more from not understanding the first Critique than I've learned from most other things since. For one thing, I realized that there was something out there that was this hard, and yet still accessible through effort alone, and worthy of attention. Plus, Kant isn't a complete failure at prose:

HUMAN reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as pre- scribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer. [...] Metaphysics has accordingly lapsed back into the ancient time-worn dogmatism, and so again suffers that depreciation from which it was to have been rescued. And now, after all methods, so it is believed, have been tried and found wanting, the prevailing mood is that of weariness and complete indifferentism -- the mother, in all sciences, of chaos and night, but happily in this case the source, or at least the prelude, of their approaching reform and restoration. For it at least puts an end to that ill-applied industry which has rendered them thus dark, confused, and unserviceable.

But it is idle to feign indifference to such enquiries, the object of which can never be indifferent to our human nature. Indeed these pretended indifferentists, however they may try to disguise themselves by substituting a popular tone for the language of the Schools, inevitably fall back, in so far as they think at all, into those very metaphysical assertions which they profess so greatly to despise.

posted by anotherpanacea at 10:12 PM on July 22, 2007


And yet I can still do something with physics. You know that computer you're typing on? It's not powered by philosophy.

Physicsists don't act like they have everything figured out. What you will find are confidence intervals and ways that someone can replicate their findings. We've got error bars on that fine structure constant. We can say, "We are now 95% sure that it hasn't changed more than one part in ten million over the history of the Universe" (figure randomly pulled from the aether). And they'll be perfectly clear about the areas of mystery. You'll know because they'll publishing papers on it and trying to test their assertions.

Once upon a time we had the philosophical assertion that heavy objects must fall faster. I believe it was Aristotle. It went unchallenged for centuries because the idea that one could approach the Universe from pure reason held sway. Then, wouldn't you know, someone went and actually tested it and found out that it wasn't true. It turns out that a lot of things philosopher kings said about the world were completely wrong when we went to look at them. Meanwhile, neuroscientists, biologists, and geneticists have figured out more of the why of human behavior in the last fifty years than philosohpy has in the last fifty times that.

So, yeah, if it makes me an ignorant yahoo for saying, "Let's see if that's actually true," so be it.

And, if you've got a why for the fine structure constant that doesn't involve the regurgitation of something with the phrase "anthropic principle" stuck in the middle of it, lemme know.
posted by adipocere at 10:32 PM on July 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


ack. the worst thing about using obscure greek words is the tendency to mistransliterate, misdecline, or otherwise misspell them: the Greek noun for leisure is apparently schole, not scholia. Gah.
posted by anotherpanacea at 10:43 PM on July 22, 2007


They have roundabout ways of saying it, but it all boils down to "you aren't qualified to talk about it until you read twenty-five centuries worth of commentary." You're ignorant and a fool until you devote, say, a couple of decades to philosophical immersion.

It's mostly a matter of those of us who have spent a lot of time on it having heard everything you're going to say before. Unless you're some brilliant prodigy- and you aren't- you're not going to make any arguments that haven't already been made, and very possibly refuted, already. It's like biologists and creationists. It's not that creationists aren't welcome to challenge biologists. It's that biologists have already heard and refuted every single creationist challenge to evolution, and after a century of it, hearing the same arguments over and over again gets really, really tiring.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:54 PM on July 22, 2007


And yet I can still do something with physics. You know that computer you're typing on? It's not powered by philosophy.

Biggest crock of shit on the planet.

You are sitting at a computer in suburban St. Louis.
Suburbia could not have happened without racism; racism in the contemporary form could not have happened without the philosophy of Gobineau.
St. Louis would not have been settled without a) the Western cultural ideal of individualism and having 30 acres to oneself; b)the American Revolution, which could not have happened without English Country Whig political philosophy and Classical moral philosophy; c) the French, who would not have gone so far without Christian theology (impossible without philosophy), mercantilism (again, based on sixteenth-century social philosophy), and contemporary Western ideas of well-defined nation/state borders, property as originally belonging to the king, and so on (ultimately deriving from philosophical ideas about the Heavenly Hierarchy).

Your computer would not have happened without capitalism, which is based on the work of a Scottish moral philosopher. It would not have happened without a) physics, which was made possible by the philosopher Francis Bacon; b) the Scientific Revolution, triggered by "natural philosophers" like Newton and Galileo; c) modern mathematics, made possible
by the philosophers Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, etc.

Nothing in your life--not even your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and ideas--would have happened without philosophy. Ideas have power.
posted by nasreddin at 10:56 PM on July 22, 2007 [16 favorites]


And yet I can still do something with physics. You know that computer you're typing on? It's not powered by philosophy.

adipocere, ever heard of something called the Enlightenment?

This level of ignorance is breathtaking. And, see, this must be true ignorance. Not so much the absence of knowledge but the failure to appreciate knowledge in itself. The total failure of an individual to realize that ideas matter. Confronted with new ideas such a small mind rejects them out of hand insisting that they can't be that useful if they are just being learned now. It is perhaps the failure of the grand experiment: the production of "educated" human beings who simply don't know anything and don't really want to know anything.* Seeing all the proud members of Western civilization like adiopocere who insist on the uselessness of philosophy one begins to appreciate the old doom and gloom.

* Though it's true the priests just had to go.
posted by nixerman at 11:00 PM on July 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


And, if you've got a why for the fine structure constant that doesn't involve the regurgitation of something with the phrase "anthropic principle" stuck in the middle of it, lemme know.

I don't have a "why" for the FSC any more than you do, your error bars notwithstanding. It's quite simple to calculate, but no one know why it is, nor why it can be dimensionless. I believe Feyman called it "the closest thing you'll ever see to magic." My point is you have your unknowable regions in your discipline where you go armed with little but your small human intellect, and are confused -- as do we in ours. but we are not impressed by your chest-puffing and your instruments, though we are annoyed when you come into our rooms and start ranting about behaviorism and other things that simply do not matter to us, and which in fact demonstrate that you have no idea what is going on in here. you scoff, saying that we are engaging in unanswerable questions -- I point you, again, to the Fine Structure Constant. return to wherever you tinker and work on your deep puzzles, and do not deign to understand mine merely because they cannot be easily contained in a gadget or a crude chemical reaction.
posted by spiderwire at 11:01 PM on July 22, 2007


adipocere sez:
they'll be perfectly clear about the areas of mystery

I find a great deal of trouble with this statement. How is it possible do be clear about a mystery. Physics is essentially an unknown. We can talk units and measurements but as Pierce pointed out, measurements ultimately dissolve into the unknown.

Many others have pointed out that the best physics has to offer as far as an explanation for these "areas" of mystery (which is to say, the fabric of reality), amounts to nothing more then a predictive model that can say nothing about what "it" is.

So In some regard, physics has already descended into the philosophical mutterings that you have challenged.
posted by kuatto at 11:02 PM on July 22, 2007


Ack, My writing style is so terse and painful.

Let me rephrase: If it comes down the the deepest, most fundamental questions about the nature of the universe, physics is increasingly indistinguishable with philosophy.

It is possible to limit the scope of discourse to a level that you find relevant to your life, but you must realize that this is a limitation that you place upon yourself.
posted by kuatto at 11:07 PM on July 22, 2007


i kant has cheezburger?
posted by cazoo at 11:13 PM on July 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


I could spend hours, days, weeks, years studying these and other works, and dedicating my life to understanding them. Or I could go outside on a day with a azure blue sky, light breeze, and vivid colors, or lay in bed and read, listening to the rain, or wake up in the morning to my girlfriend's smile, and just know that everything written about experience and perception and metaphysics is utter bollocks.
posted by potch at 11:13 PM on July 22, 2007


What can I know? Never enough.
What should I do? Learn as you can. The rest: wing it.
For what may I hope? That no one notices!


The blue yonder of MeFi's skies look particularly sunny today, don't they boys? All hands to stations! Prep the airship for takeoff! And for the love of God, keep those science boys locked in the back room. First mate, spin up the engines! What are you standing around waiting for -- are you statues or men? TO YOUR POSTS!
posted by spiderwire at 11:13 PM on July 22, 2007


Sergeant Potch! Up off your arse and man the helm!

Cook Cazoo -- we will require cheezburgers for the entire crew, posthaste! Go, man, go!
posted by spiderwire at 11:15 PM on July 22, 2007


Navigator Nasreddin? Are you here? I need someone to plot me a course from New York to the Fabled Pirate Island of Libertatia, just North of Madagascar! Tell the dockmen that the the IAS Immanuel is prepared to cast off! Pull in the moorings! Prepare to make way!
posted by spiderwire at 11:17 PM on July 22, 2007


bah!
posted by kuatto at 11:18 PM on July 22, 2007


nixerman, kuatto, nasreddin, if you won't help run this beast then I'll by golly do it myself, but not until after i've thrown ye freeloaders off my ship! get to work, you scabby rascals!
posted by spiderwire at 11:19 PM on July 22, 2007


no, my boy, it's "yarrrrrrr..."

set our bearing due east into the fog, push us away at 1/4 full until we're clear....
posted by spiderwire at 11:21 PM on July 22, 2007


[is passed out in the hold drunk on kierkegrog]
posted by nasreddin at 11:21 PM on July 22, 2007 [2 favorites]


It went unchallenged for centuries because the idea that one could approach the Universe from pure reason held sway. Then, wouldn't you know, someone went and actually tested it

Funny how reason over experiment is so strong today then.. Like string theory, or the positively inane many worlds stuff.
posted by Chuckles at 11:22 PM on July 22, 2007


are you listening to me, potch? kuatto, take his post if he's too drunk to man the helm. aye, and and once we clear the Empire State Skyport, we'll take a bearing of 30 mark 5 -- let me know when the airship has cleared the city. adventure, boys! we'll show those "physicists" what real science is made of, eh!? ADVENTURE! HEART! VALIANT ACTS OF LUNACY IN THE NAME OF FAIR LADIES AND TREASURE!
posted by spiderwire at 11:24 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


Chuckles! wipe that smile off your face and go find private nasreddin! if he's passed out again, make sure he wakes up in a most sudden fashion and get him up here! i need my navigator if i am to reach the pirate utopias!
posted by spiderwire at 11:25 PM on July 22, 2007


ONWARD!
posted by spiderwire at 11:27 PM on July 22, 2007


Sidebar: By "clear about areas of mystery" I mean that physicists (or biologists, or chemists) will point at some area and say, "We don't know about that. I haven't a clue. We're not there yet." It's the equivalent of a cartographer writing "Here Be Tygers" on the edge of a map. And, if you look at the history of science, we keep filling in those gaps.

Sure, ideas matter. I'm not unaware of the social impact of philosophy or religion or anything else. Skip the implied ad hominem and pretend I actually took some history courses, okay? Every nice little war, social movement, economic development had a philosophy behind it - just a completely different one each time, each claiming to be right. Here's what I'm getting at: I'd just like to hear philosophy prove one thing. Something. Something after all of the argumentation over the years, after the dense writing, after the snootiness, just one thing to build on. C'mon. One thing I can test. From the outside, I haven't seen any kind of progress that doesn't look like the Glass Bead Game to me. All I hear is that one guy has refuted some other guy who refuted some other dead white guy. If you tell me I can't "get it" without serious study, then tell me what I can get out of it. I understand specialization - our civilization's progress is built upon it. But part of the bargain of that specialization is, "If you can't understand it, here's what it has produced for you." So produce something I can test, something I can build upon.

I'll never be a biologist, but I know they can make some medicines for my asthma. I'll never be a steelworker, but I know they can make some rebar for my suburban house. I'll never be a philosopher, but they can make me ... what, exactly? Feel inferior because I haven't read everything written by Kant, and everything everyone has ever said about it?

Meanwhile, you don't think physicists have had it with philosophers showing up or, worse yet, sending awful books to the department, trying to rewrite science to suit their philosophical needs? "We find the lack of FTL awfully inconvenient, and you physicists just need to open your minds. Oh, and I think electrons should be shaped like pyramids."

And, yeah, when it gets down to the uselessness, remember that it's uselessness you extoll. You've just told me that I am incapable of appreciating any of it without a couple decades worth of study. Thank you for arguing my side.

Chuckles: Feel free to ignore string (superstring, M) theory. It's not what composes the bulk of actual physics, just the kind of stuff that gets press. And there's quite a few physicists out there who are advocating abandoning it precisely because you can't test it without trying to convert the entire Milky Way into a particle accelerator. Nice Wired article on just that within the year.

And now I'm off to my nice bed, which is apparently made by philosohpy.
posted by adipocere at 11:28 PM on July 22, 2007 [1 favorite]


/thrashes through the bridge

bearing 32 mark 5 in slow ascent into the east-blowing winds -- we should hit paris in a few days. we can stock up there and then, off to better realms, where thought and imagination still run wild and supreme!
posted by spiderwire at 11:29 PM on July 22, 2007


SEE! I told you they were all lazy desk jockeys!

oh, and we have a government, and all you have is some number close to 137 that you can't even figure out -- oh, and we have this wonderful airship that we're commandeering -- i mean borrowing with the full consent of the owner to plunder pirate treasure from the fabled utopia of libertatia! have fun, four-eyes!!
har har har! AWAY! UP, UP, AWAY!! CAST OFF THESE BONDS, THESE CHAINS OF FETTR'D EARTH, AND CLAIM THESE SKIES AS OUR REALM!

/salutes goodbye
posted by spiderwire at 11:33 PM on July 22, 2007


I'd just like to hear philosophy prove one thing. Something.

P1. All men are mortal.
P2. Socrates is a man.
.: Socrates is mortal. (P1 & P2 by CS)
posted by nasreddin at 11:35 PM on July 22, 2007 [3 favorites]


off to better realms, where thought and imagination still run wild and supreme

France?
posted by nasreddin at 11:35 PM on July 22, 2007


adipocere, I think you misunderstand me. When you speak about the unknown, you cannot point at the edge and say, "aha, there it is". The unknown suffices *everything equally*.

If the very fabric of reality is a mystery, then the mystery confronts you equally, everywhere. The "we're not there yet", that these chemists and biologists etc mutter into their beards presupposes that there is a "there" to get to.

Scientific progress is a remarkable thing, perhaps unique among the animal kingdom, but do not forget that everything that a physicist "knows" is linked tangentially to a body of knowledge that encompasses the totality of the universe, the unknowable.

Keep filling the gaps my friend, keep filling the gaps. I'm right behind you, seeking and striving for myself in the face of it all. It is a worthy occupation.
posted by kuatto at 11:40 PM on July 22, 2007


France? Aye, to plunder! Dipping into the stream of what passes for intellectual "thought" on the Continent nowadays merits you a draught tasting of sugar water, and not much more! I would be worried if we tarried there to long, that our brains might become addled by it. No, our destiny lies to the South....
posted by spiderwire at 11:41 PM on July 22, 2007


suffuses, rather.
posted by kuatto at 11:41 PM on July 22, 2007


WHAT IN GOD'S NAME IS MY FIRST MATE TALKING TO? don't encourage them, son.
posted by spiderwire at 11:41 PM on July 22, 2007


The funny thing about this thread is, the very concerns adipocere is articulating are what inspired Kant in the first place.
posted by nasreddin at 11:42 PM on July 22, 2007


airship piracy inspired Kant!? well it damn well should have! I'm considering taking a detour to Germany just for him. I bet he'd fetch quite the ransom.
posted by spiderwire at 11:44 PM on July 22, 2007


what passes for intellectual "thought" on the Continent nowadays merits you a draught tasting of sugar water
A little Learning is a dangerous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain;
And drinking largely sobers us again.
-Pope.
posted by nasreddin at 11:47 PM on July 22, 2007


Physics is essentially an unknown. We can talk units and measurements but as Pierce pointed out, measurements ultimately dissolve into the unknown.

It sounds like you just can't deal with ambiguity..

The unknown suffices *everything equally*. If the very fabric of reality is a mystery, then the mystery confronts you equally, everywhere.

Oh, I get it, your just screwing around.

I'm reminded of a story about Kurt Vonnegut. Some guy confronts him at a signing, or something, and asks him to reconsider the value (or importance, or usefulness..) of the internet, so Vonnegut shoves him.
posted by Chuckles at 11:50 PM on July 22, 2007


Yes, all the more reason to visit Germany! No shallow Draughts there, I wager! Trim the propellors! Set the mainsail! Make ready the ship for the night's voyage!
posted by spiderwire at 11:50 PM on July 22, 2007


spiderwire, seriously, please stop filling this thread with nonsense. I'm not sure where you got the idea that shitting all over a thread is funny but it's not. If you have a problem with the post take it to Metatalk.
posted by nixerman at 11:53 PM on July 22, 2007


Chuckles,

I'm not particularly sure how anyone should deal with ambiguity. All that I am trying to point out is that the greatest "truths" that physics has revealed are a predictive model painted over the unknown; and that is called the answer.

regards,
posted by kuatto at 11:57 PM on July 22, 2007


kuatto and potch inspired me! i realized that i would rather go on an airship adventure and fight alongside the greatest scientists of the industrial age and her proudest, wisest philosophers -- or at least cast off into the wild blue yonder before sleep....


...but. yeah. if no one wants me to indulge my flights of fancy. ...i'll stop.
posted by spiderwire at 12:00 AM on July 23, 2007


...in my defense, i've been reading Against the Day all evening, and the discussion preceding my whimsy just struck a nerve in the part of my brain Thomas Pynchon occupies right now to conduct airship operations.
posted by spiderwire at 12:17 AM on July 23, 2007


It's OK. We all go a little goofy sometimes. And creative goofy is always good, at least in moderation.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:25 AM on July 23, 2007


Thanks for the Deleuze link. Deleuze wrote a surprisingly good book on Kant, a very brief and clear treatment of the three critiques: Kant's Critical Philosophy. Not sure how it compares to the lectures linked here, haven't had time to read them yet.
posted by creasy boy at 12:27 AM on July 23, 2007


This seems to be an online version of Kant's Prolegomena. As mentioned, it's much more accessibly written than the First Critique.
posted by creasy boy at 12:37 AM on July 23, 2007


All of this just makes me glad that the whole Philosopher King thing never made it.

I shudder just to think of the State of the Union addresses:
"What is the State of the Union?" That is an interesting discussion, to which we will be devoting the next 20 years.
Look, I have nothing but admiration for people who can actually understand philosophy, but my understanding from the smartest of them is that they themselves acknowledge that it really is mostly wanking -- as is, by the way, pretty much any academic pursuit.

There is, I'd say, one added complication that people who study philosophy aren't necessarily philosophers, and many of them just become fans of one philosopher, and try to defend that philosopher against fans of another. This is partly because, as everyone has stated above, it seems like it's discouraged to have your own thoughts about philosophy right away since it's too complicated. But life itself isn't really that complicated -- or, if it is, it's complicated in a way that isn't really covered in philosophy anyway. I don't think that philosophy necessarily has to prove some kind of constant or be lab testable, but I wish more philosophy scholars would write books along the lines of, "Okay, this is what Kant said, and here is how you can apply this practically to your life to be happier and a better person." Riffing off of wendell, philosophy may be more rigorous than religion (although as far as I'm concerned, philosophy might as well be a kind of religion) but religion has done a much better job at being immediately relevant.

Ultimately, those who are in philosophy are in it because that is what they do. They aren't fundamentally better or smarter than other people (although, probably, you'd have to be above average in intelligence to make it). But nonetheless there's a real perception that philosophers (and, more generally, students of philosophy) are smarter. Well, I knew this one guy in college, right? He could talk Kant morning and night. Meets this nice girl and charms her with his intelligence. For days, all that they do is talk philosphy. I keep telling him: "at some point, you're going to have to just shut up about philosphy and just kiss her." The philosophy student ultimately lost the woman to a film student who knew enough to shut up every so often.
posted by Deathalicious at 12:56 AM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


I took me three reads over a few years, but I can now say that I actually enjoy the Critique of Pure Reason.

The difficulty many people have with Kant's language is that he is forced to rearticulate our new understanding of the world using a language that expresses the old (mainly Aristotelian) understanding. The unfamiliarity inherent to any such project can be off-putting, admittedly.

There are gaps and there are problems (How do empirical concepts arise? Why are the categories of judgement so arbitrary? Why are sameness and difference not more fundamental intuitions than space and time?) but it's tremendously useful and interesting to take on the insights Kant provides us with rather than remaining naive.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:34 AM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Seems to me that much of the antipathy expressed here towards philosophy results from the unwarranted association of the development of ideas with singular personalities. Ideas grow communally. Some thinkers make it into the history books, but their ideas, as all ideas, are refinements of what is in the air at a given time. The lesser philosophers, or mere thinkers, are contributing too.
And because Kant laid out some ideas surgically back then doesn't mean that those issues come to a halt there. In particular, modern physics, evolutionary theory and neuroscience have all provided substantial information of relevance to the questions Kant (and Hume, and Aristotle.....) mulled over.
For this reason, it appears small-minded to me to see anybody who dares to express a thought in the philosophical domain being beaten up because he or she is not sufficiently immersed in the received canon. Thoughts need exercise. They are not nuggets, but whole mines, and thinking is a collective exercise.
posted by fcummins at 1:37 AM on July 23, 2007


Quite an interesting/bizarre debate here. Speaking as a professional philosopher myself (though just starting out) this idea of science versus philosophy is incomprehensible to me. Every day I use scientific evidence to inform my theoretical analysis. And you know that bit at the end of science papers where they interpret their findings? That's philosophy too. As is all the argument above.

A philosopher appreciates that there are different ways of thinking and different standards of proof. Concerning questions such as the nature of the mind, we are often content with empirically grounded, probabilistic answers. When you start talking about whether numbers exist, you are pretty much confined to a priori reasoning.

Progress in philosophy is definitely achieved. On undergraduate philosophy courses however we tend to present the historical problems as still current. We try not to force our answers on you, but encourage you to figure it out for yourself, because we're teaching you how to think. Now this progress is often a matter of the progress of the questions. Philosophers no longer worry about whether the mind is physical or not. We worry more about whether the mind is entirely fixed by its representational function or not. Of couse philosophers still disagree. Last time I looked, scientists were disagreeing as well. General consensus does emerge though. I've even seen one case in my own field where in the last 10 years what was a philosophical question (concerning how we understand other minds) has largely become a scientific answer, and where the science was very informed by the philosophical debate.
posted by leibniz at 2:50 AM on July 23, 2007


I've only got the RSS link bookmarked, but here's a series of video lectures on Kant's epistemology from a prof at Glasgow that was posted up here a while back.
posted by Abiezer at 3:21 AM on July 23, 2007


There is, I'd say, one added complication that people who study philosophy aren't necessarily philosophers, and many of them just become fans of one philosopher, and try to defend that philosopher against fans of another. This is partly because, as everyone has stated above, it seems like it's discouraged to have your own thoughts about philosophy right away since it's too complicated.

Philosophy is a lot like chess. A lot of the optimal move sequences have already been worked out. But there are a lot of wankers who won't just tell you that you made a good move, or a blunder, no they'll bash you over the head with the name of the move sequence, who used it, and to what effect, often intimidating their opponent and sometimes losing a budding player. Both philosophy and chess can be great for the amateur, because, if all parties involved have the right attitude, it can be tremendous fun to work through the problems yourself, and it's an absolute joy and wonder when you first discover that your musings followed in the footsteps of someone who "mattered" in the field.

But there are still plenty of wankers about, ruining it for everyone.
posted by dreamsign at 3:37 AM on July 23, 2007


Nice point, I'll concede.
posted by oddman at 6:14 AM on July 23, 2007


Unfortunately for most of us Kant had to spend a good bulk of his texts preempting objections: academic, religious, political -- that would never even occur to us now. Wouldn't it have been great if he could have just said what he meant right out?
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:53 AM on July 23, 2007


P1. All men are mortal.

Damn, philosophy is depressing. Screw that!
posted by Foosnark at 8:11 AM on July 23, 2007


Deathalicious,

As far as I can tell, life is really complicated. Or at least expressing a cogent opinion about it is. Those who can express at least a partly convincing understanding have achieved something quite difficult. And without a doubt you have to be significantly above average in intelligence to do any work of note.

If you are interested in the side of philosophy that is a counterpart to religion in its offering of solace, then there haven't been any developments for over 2,000 years. (Let's set aside existentialism.) How could there be? If someone has articulated precepts that alleviate human suffering then those precepts should hold until human nature changes in some substantial way. Among atheists and agnostics there are a number of people who find the Stoics and the Epicureans to be instructive. Philosophy can be more than just opinion about how the world is. If that interests you look at Pierre Hadot's work.

-----

adipocere,

You want results, which is not really what philosophy is about. It's focus tends to be on recognizing presuppositions and sharpening distinctions. Much of it is concerned with values and there are real lessons to be learned about human nature and politics, but that's an area where everyone considers themselves expert. It can be difficult persuading them otherwise. So let's leave that alone. One fairly recent development (and I don't think much of the notion of 'progress' in philosophy) is Wittgenstein's work on language and meaning. For a variety of reasons there was some conceptual confusion in the early 20th century over what 'meaning' consisted of. Through some thought experiments, Wittgenstein showed that there was no essential component in a word's meaning and that meaning was best understood as 'use'. Was this new? Not at all. Nietzsche had somewhat casually made a remark to similar effect in _Beyond Good and Evil_, but the way Wittgenstein proved it and the dialogue he was involved in with other logicians made it significant. He also argued against the image of mind as an individual theater of consciousness with a language that describes our own private phenomena. I don't know enough about the fields to comment further, but reportedly these argument are relevant in fields like anthropology (Geertz), linguistics (critical to Chomsky) and psychology. I will also speculate that his work may have cleared the ground and made it easier for computer scientists working on language recognition to identify the problems they can solve.
posted by BigSky at 8:23 AM on July 23, 2007


Kant, as an FPP? Really?

Yeah, I hate to say it, but this is a disingenuous post that's just as bad as a link to an anti-Bush op-ed. The difference is that the intent of the latter is "hey, let's talk about Bush and the war!" whereas the intent of this is "hey, let's talk about Kant and philosophy!" There's no way anotherpanacea expected MeFites to read the links (normally a prerequisite) and discuss them. You could have made a good Kant post along the lines Kwine suggested, but no, it was simpler to link to three huge text files and say "Hey, let's talk about Kant!" But that's not (in my understanding) what the front page of MeFi is for.
posted by languagehat at 8:36 AM on July 23, 2007


1. Stop throwing the word "wanking" around. That implies that philosophy is somehow "not real" compared to your other pursuits, which are presumably "real." But that's false: asking questions about human existence--or even about, say, what it's like to be a bat--is just as valid as shuffling papers in an office all day. Philosophy is meaningless to the same extent that all of our pursuits are meaningless; which, depending on your philosophical stance, might be a little or a lot.

2. The reason philosophers dislike it when an amateur wanders in and begins screaming about how his ideas are just as valid as Schopenhauer's is that philosophy is a lot like science or history, in that it takes place within a context, and people who do not understand the context are not going to be able to meaningfully contribute to the discussion. No one stumbles into a history department and starts telling everyone he knows the ideological background of Burgundian dynastic succession better than them--because history demands specialized knowledge. So does philosophy! I am reminded of what Ezra Pound wrote about poetry:
Don’t imagine that the art of poetry is any simpler than the art of music, or that you can please the expert before you have spent at least as much effort on the art of verse as the average piano teacher spends on the art of music ... The scientist does not expect to be acclaimed as a great scientist until he has discovered something. He begins by learning what has been discovered already. He goes from that point onward. He does not bank on being a charming fellow personally. He does not expect his friends to applaud the results of his freshman class work. Freshmen in poetry are unfortunately not confined to a definite and recognizable class room. They are “all over the shop.” Is it any wonder “the public is indifferent to poetry?”
3. Philosophers are not inherently better or smarter. But a person who can spot an error in a syllogism from three miles away is a more effective, careful thinker. Which is why everyone should have some philosophical training.
posted by nasreddin at 8:37 AM on July 23, 2007 [3 favorites]


I only had a little Kant from college. What I got out of it was that his major philosophy was built out of using the synthetic a priori as a way of getting around Hume and the problem of induction. This seemed like nonsense to me. Is there any point in reading Kant if you aren't going to buy into the synthetic a priori ?

Derail: I've even seen one case in my own field where in the last 10 years what was a philosophical question (concerning how we understand other minds) has largely become a scientific answer, and where the science was very informed by the philosophical debate.

Really, I was unaware of this. Got any good links? (not snarking/actually interested)
posted by afu at 8:51 AM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, afu, that is just a part of his metaphysics. You could read Kant for the other parts, for example many people find interesting material in the noumenal/phenomenal distinction or in Kant's comments on apperception. But, if you just don't think you can buy any of his metaphysics at all, there is always his ethics to look through. Many find that his ethical theory is the really interesting and important contribution.
posted by oddman at 9:11 AM on July 23, 2007


it was simpler to link to three huge text files and say "Hey, let's talk about Kant!" But that's not (in my understanding) what the front page of MeFi is for.

I respectfully disagree: the point of metafilter's front page is not -just- to spark discussion, though it sometimes does and I enjoy that immensely. Too few commenters read the Supreme Court cases that get posted, or watch the documentaries. These are good, meaty links, and the resources in my first comment are also good and meaty, with the exception of the Allison piece, for which mistake I again apologize. I prefer links that take time to digest, and while I own all these books in better translations, I like having them easily accessible on the internet for a quick search or cite check. If some MeFi readers also find this useful, great! And if some readers want to use the space in the comments to stage epic airship battles or arguments about the role of metaphysics in contemporary scientific inquiry, even better!

How is this not win/win?
posted by anotherpanacea at 9:12 AM on July 23, 2007


And yet I can still do something with physics. You know that computer you're typing on? It's not powered by philosophy.

I hate to pile on, but this seems like the worst example you could possibly have chosen. The design of computers couldn't have happened the way it did without a tremendous amount of work in the systematization of logic. A huge share of this work was done as philosophy by people who are typically thought of as philosophers. (On preview this reflects the noted trend of philosophical ideas diffusing out into science; this is what is ignorantly derided by adipose as "electrons should be shaped like pyramids.") Frege and Russell plausibly had to come before Godel and Turing, without whom much of the digital world we're used to might not exist, or would be very different.

So while computers are not "powered" by philosophy (they're powered by solar energy that was trapped by plants tens of millions of years ago), their design and programming was directly informed by philosophy -- not in the sense that philosophy created the social circumstances for computing (though of course that case can be made, thanks enlightenment thinkers) but in the sense that computing pioneers drew directly on the intellectual groundwork laid by philosophers.
posted by grobstein at 9:14 AM on July 23, 2007


Is it just me, or is there a statistically anomalous number of Philosophy wonks in the MeFi crowd?
posted by generichuman at 9:24 AM on July 23, 2007


there is always his ethics to look through. Many find that his ethical theory is the really interesting and important contribution.

I was under the impression that categorical imperatives were categorical because they were synthetic a priori.
posted by afu at 10:41 AM on July 23, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well it's the fate of angels and all that. You know, what's really needed is a history of ideas. If such a thing were available it would be blindingly clear that there's perhaps no other individual alive who is more responsible for modernity than Kant. I mean the whole 'perception is reality' thing? It's a cliche now but back then it was revolutionary, quite literally revolutionary as his contributions are likened to those of Copernicus, and it was the modern turn that set European thought on its new path towards modernity, cosmopolitanism, and postmodernity. I mean many historical observers locate the beginning of modernity with Kant hence all those cursed 'XXX: from Kant to Marx' classes that litter undergraduate studies all over the world.

It's just terribly ironic.

It makes me wonder if fish have any intellectual understanding of water. Water essentially constitutes their reality, it's the medium by which everything in the fish reality occurs, the vast majority of fish spend their whole lives in it, and there can certainly be no meaningful experience outside of water for those that 'escape' as 'outside water'='death'. Yet one gets the feeling that water must be so fundamental and so pervasive that, even if fish were intelligent, they might never realize it exists and is the very basis of their reality, the thing that shapes and determines every aspect of their being. It may be the same with humans and ideas. Though the latest craze is just to explain away behavior with evolution and genes and thereby remove humanity from the domain of criticism but alas.
posted by nixerman at 11:17 AM on July 23, 2007


You know, what's really needed is a history of ideas

As an intellectual historian (well, eventually) I'll have you know that such a thing has been around for quite a while.
posted by nasreddin at 1:32 PM on July 23, 2007


Metafilter: Like water for fish.
posted by oddman at 1:33 PM on July 23, 2007


History is actually the wrong word. It's so untestable! Perhaps something like a (meta)physics for ideas.
posted by nixerman at 1:47 PM on July 23, 2007


Really, I was unaware of this. Got any good links? (not snarking/actually interested)

Mirror neurons?

/speculating
posted by spiderwire at 2:40 PM on July 23, 2007


Ack, this high-falutin' philosophy stuff is too rough on the hamsters running my brain so I'll just offer a low-rent comment: is no one else bothered by Herr Kant's apparent inability to use whatever passed for spellcheck in 1790? That word "judgment" was spelt wrong about a billion times. Dude couldn't've been all that smart. Sheesh.

yeah, yeah, yeah, I know; I read the Wikipedia entry on "judgment/judgement" Stand down.
posted by fuse theorem at 9:02 PM on July 23, 2007


I don't think spelling standardisation was a big deal at the time.
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:17 PM on July 23, 2007


Metafilter: Like water for fish. Blue.

And wild.

And with plenty of air above it!

spiderwire, thanks. Every society needs occasional doses of guerilla surrealism—the kind of thing where you just wonder if the other person is wholly in the same reality as you—even the society called Metafilter. Yeah, it probably should have gone in MetaTalk after the initial post, as nixerman might have politely mentioned. But I think it was zeppelin time.
posted by eritain at 2:07 AM on July 24, 2007


My gut tells me that Philosophy differs from wanking. Even if we ignore real scientific, mathematical, social, religious and political breakthroughs that have come about through Philosophy -- even if we speak only of the sort of philosophizing one does alone, with a book, or in one's head, the type that doesn't lead to any practical application. Even then, it's not masturbation.

When you masturbate, you feel good while you're doing it, and you feel good when you orgasm, and then it's over. It creates nothing lasting -- even for the person doing it. With wanking, each time you do it, you restart at square one.

This needn't be true with philosophizing. As a solo (or group) non-utilitarian activity, it's like working out. The guy at the gym doesn't lose all his muscle and start scrawny each time he goes. He actually builds something. He betters himself. Even if he doesn't use his new muscles to lift heavy objects around the house, few would accuse him of wanking. He has worked hard and achieved.

One guy's solo activity may bore someone else. I'm bored to tears by football. And I'm tempted to call football players wankers, because what they do seems useless -- it doesn't cure cancer. But if I think about it, I realize that they spend years honing their skill. They work really hard. They achieve. That's worthwhile, if for no other reason than for the feeling of achievement.

Masturbation feels great, but it's not about achievement. Anyone can do it with very little effort.
posted by grumblebee at 5:00 AM on July 24, 2007


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