The End of Philosophy

I haven’t written anything in a week. And truthfully, there hasn’t been much to say.

I know that there are studies out there that discuss pornography’s ill-effect on the human mind (not that I have anything against pornography, by the way). But I wonder if there’s a study that discusses frequent reading/watching of cheap political punditry. Wouldn’t that have some damaging effect on reasoning and creativity? To me, that shit is just as toxic as pornography.

And I went on a bender, where I was listening to politically-charged podcasts ranging from Chapo Trap House to the Glenn Beck Program. And it ended up zapping away any sort of creative or critical thinking. In my opinion, cheap punditry is worse than pornography, and even DRUGS. It causes us to view the world in a narrow light, and instead of getting a better insight into the issues, we become LESS informed. So the next time a friend asks if you read or watch Breitbart, Huffington Post, Salon, Fox News, etc. JUST SAY NO.

It makes me sad really….that the way most of us become informed about events in the world is through cheap outlets. I know that it’s difficult to construct a thorough and unbiased piece about an event. After all, the media has to keep the people’s attention somehow. But you know what? I don’t give a shit. That’s just a lazy excuse. We should be more concerned with the TRUTH rather than reading any sort of agenda-conforming puff piece. Have higher standards for yourself!

But anyways, as I’ve discussed before, this shit literally makes me ill. Mentally and physically. So after that bender, I needed to clear my mind.

And honestly, as stupid as this sounds, at one point I though that I said everything that needed to be said about philosophy. Between My Life With Kant and this blog, I believed, shit you not, that I laid out my philosophical framework and that there was nothing more that I could deliver. So we might as well pack up our bags and close up shop because there is nothing left for philosophy to do….like I was Ludwig fucking Wittgenstein.

Clearly I ran into a wall. I believed that philosophy would reveal something to me….unlock a hidden side of myself and this universe…help me come to peace with the order of nature….SOMETHING….ANYTHING.

Instead it revealed the nothing that lies behind everything. Even myself. Behind the exterior, past my personality, all the way down into the darkest corners of my psyche….there lies nothing. All the things you see are facades, because the reality of nothing is far too terrifying to face.

Which brings us to a tragic question….is this the end of philosophy?

If not here, then where? When?

Now clearly this is just me being dramatic. Yet if we accept nothing, like it’s the gold at the end of the rainbow, what then are we chasing?

Perhaps this is a better description of what I’m going through: burn-out. I stated before that I’ve been attempting to write a post about Edmund Husserl for weeks now, but what’s the fucking point? There’s an academic sterility to many philosophers, particularly those in the 20th Century, I find. And this dryness nearly kills my interest.

Personally, I think philosophy should be struggled with. It’s best when it’s an art. Which is why it’s unfortunately true…the best artists and thinkers are CRAZY. And we just don’t have that sort of thing in modern times. There’s a few standouts, Slavoj Zizek being one, but has society progressed to the point where it’s too…..SAFE!

Now you might think that I’m a terrible person, but I include myself as one the people that I’m bitching about….so it’s okay….because I’m medicated for severe chronic depression. And many people that suffer this problem are medicated as well, particularly in our safe first-world society. We have access to therapy, doctors, support groups, and all kinds of shit that help us deal with these problems. And that’s great! Life has certainly gotten a lot better for those suffering mental ailments…..

…but it wasn’t always that way.

Nietzsche, Hemingway, and my personal favorite Charles Bukowski, all had demons that they wrestled with. If they have lived today, with all the advancements in medicine, would they have produced the same great works? Would they have traded in those demons for a shot at the ‘normal life’? I don’t know. But we have their works today, and it all came at a great price.

And our safe society too is coming at a price….at the cost of individual and artistic genius. Few, and even fewer in academia, are willing to rock the boat. No one wants to be labeled a ‘contrarian’. So we take to social media, because we want to conform to our friends, and become accepted into the mainstream…because it’s OTHER PEOPLE that determine our worth. So we don’t explore our own ideas, we just regurgitate what great thinkers before us said, never engaging with our own genius.

There are few independent thinkers left.

Philosophy has been a casualty in this new group-think. The social sciences are no longer discovering. The act of engaging philosophy has been relegated to arguing about how Kant, Plato, and others might argue about certain topics. Philosophy now only plays second-fiddle to other areas of study, no longer the behemoth it once was.

So we have seemingly ventured into a new era. An era where we must ask ourselves: “what more can philosophy present to us?”

Clearly I have a flair for the dramatics, as I really didn’t intend on discussing “the end of philosophy”. But as of recently, I have found it unsatisfying or incapable of engaging my imagination.

Perhaps I just don’t care about logic, or phenomenology, or epistemology, or “things-in-themselves” anymore. Yet I still ponder the…unponderable? Is that a word? Am I making sense?

Of course, if it were “ponderable” it wouldn’t be “unponderable”, but my intention is to stretch the limits of the mind. And I’m increasingly finding it difficult to explore that within typical philosophical literature.

I guess that would explain the “new theology” that I was writing about. In order to find this so-called “unponderable”, I have to reach into theology and religion. Not that I would call myself a “religious” person, I still consider myself a hardcore agnostic. BUT the only place I can find inspiration LATELY is through Gnosticism, Judaism, and early Christianity in general.

Why?

I haven’t figured that out yet.

But this nothing that I feel predicatbly leaves a void. I didn’t know where else to go with it. Perhaps this spiritual path will lead nowhere, but that’s where I’ll be going anyway.

‘Taxi Driver’, Travis Bickle, and the “Satanic Ritual Abuse” Conspiracy Theory

Some things are best forgotten. But like a turd that just won’t flush, fears about “satanic ritual abuse” being conducted by a secret, yet elite echelon of society just won’t go away.

Conspiracy theories litter the internet nowadays, that’s no surprise. But, for me, the most notable one is the SRA, or the “satanic ritual abuse” conspiracy that first swept across the nation in the early 80s. Notable examples were the publishing of the book Michelle Remembers and the McMartin preschool trial. This paranoia also popularized the study of Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as “multiple personality disorder”.

Thankfully, this paranoia went dormant in the public eye, but resurfaced again last year with “pizzagate”.

Okay, first off, many of these controversies probably involved actual child abuse. HOWEVER, because of the absurdity of many of the accusations (as manipulated by the parents and investigators of each case), that fact gets sort of overshadowed. So because of the paranoia generated from such ridiculous claims, the SRA conspiracy theories likely set back (or at least partially tainted) child advocacy and ruined many careers, AND made children themselves a pawn in adulthood fantasy.

THAT fact should be noted.

Now a lot has been made recently about the psychology behind conspiracy theories. But this one particularly is quite perverse.

One of the greatest movies of all time, Taxi Driver, provides a peek behind the curtain with this form of psychological phenomenon. Travis Bickle lives alone in his New York City apartment and only experiences the world outside through his occupation (being a taxi driver), which usually sends him into the worst parts of the city. Because of his limited contact with others, Bickle begins to view the world as “scum”, and slowly begins to see himself as a vigilante force for good. This, of course, has an infamously violent conclusion.

Bickle saw the world through the windshield of his taxi. When he made attempts to interact with others, it always had disastrous results. This only furthered his isolation and delusion.

Taxi Driver was released in 1976, long before the internet. But Bickle’s taxi could be a stand in for our use of the internet today. If the film could be remade for modern audiences, it should be properly titled Internet User. The only information that Bickle received about how the outer world functioned was by driving a taxi. Bickle only saw the disgusting and overcrowded streets. He only saw violence, pimps, hookers, and other “scum”, which slowly began to pollute his mind.

Modern conspiracy theories work in a similar fashion. Many that believe these things may not be as socially secluded as Bickle was, nevertheless they only receive information from particular sources, which in turn forms their perception of the world. Suddenly there’s a conspiracy around every corner. And some may take things to violent extremes as evident by the many shootings that happen at alarming consistency.

This is how normal conspiracy theories work. But the SRA paranoia seems to have a sexual twist. Believers of wide spread SRA are succombed by images of sex abuse of children, bestiality, and other atrocities. This would likely explain the potency of such paranoia. Even if there is little evidence to support such claims, such imagery is too difficult to shake from the mind.  This prompts the believer to cling onto ANY evidence, no matter how absurd. And such findings and absurdities become supported by networking groups. Thus reinforcing the validity of the conspiracy.

Now Bickle isn’t typically thought of as being sexually motivated to commit his rampage. But such subtleties can be interpreted in the film. There might be a sexual subtext between Travis Bickle and the character that Jodie Foster portrayed, Iris. In fact, we can argue that John Hinckley picked up on these subtleties which (might have) partially motivated him in his assassination attempt. Although Bickle was a socially isolated character, he never crossed the line into pedophilia by taking an advantage of Foster’s character. HOWEVER, if such tensions did exist, that would provide an even greater motivation for him to shoot up an entire apartment building.

Why is that?

Any sexual relationship between Bickle and Iris would have meant that Bickle would have fully descended into the “scum” he despised. Bickle saw himself as a “hero”, and could never permit himself to indulge in any deviant behavior. Nevertheless, because he couldn’t successfully form a successful and healthy sexual relationship with Cybill Shepherd’s character, that energy had to be channeled elsewhere. An easy target that could have corroborated Bickle’s delusion would have been the naive child prostitute, Iris. But knowing that he could never be “intimate” with her, that energy got redirected into violent behavior, where he would have been deemed a “hero” and, in this line of thinking, could have possibly made Iris sexually attracted to him.

Such perverse logic could be underlying the SRA paranoia. This “hero” complex, of feigning disgust at outrageously impossible abuses, might successfully disguise underlying sexual urges. The disgusting images that are conjured up in the mind when such abuses are alleged might be so sexually motivating, that the individual will believe anything about the case, no matter how crazy. This allows the believer to feel like a “hero” when acting disgusted and becoming obsessed by the abuses.

(As a side note, the author of Michelle Remembers, psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder, would later leave his wife and marry the subject of the book, Michelle Smith)

Now this might sound insane. But in the second chapter of Slavoj Zizek’s book Less Than Nothing, when discussing those that showed up to Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, Zizek asks:

is there not always a moment of lust…in witnessing a traumatic event like a crucifixion? And does not the claim that we come to watch out of compassion and respect make it even (hypocritically) worse?”

Zizek is referencing our moral attitude towards such events, and how we claim to be disgusted, when in fact we are lustfully attracted to them.

You may disagree with Zizek’s analysis, but there is a darker part of the human psyche that we’re ignoring here. Particularly those who seek out such atrocities. We like to claim that we are repulsed by such behavior, yet some keep seeking it, claiming to be outraged that such events persist. But could the reality be, that they are in fact attracted to it?

I posted two videos to this blog. The first is a Taxi Driver trailer. The video below is an actual SRA propaganda piece that provides an interesting insight into how this conspiracy thinks of itself. The Pentagon, the Royal Family, the DuPont family…they’re all engaged in this so-called “conspiracy”. So have fun with that one.

An Ode to the ‘Slacker’

As the late, great Prince once said: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life”. Why? Because life sucks. It unbelievably sucks. If you think it doesn’t suck, then you’re in denial. Unless you get woken up every morning by fellatio (or cunnilingus) and get to watch reruns of Frasier all day, then your life sucks.

How did it get to be this way?

We marvel at the achievements of humanity. We want to think that we have it so much better than our ancestors. Sure, dying at the age 17 by being strangled by a cobra isn’t much of a problem these days. But we’ve exchanged those problems out for even WORSE problems. Instead of getting to live a brief life full of near total freedom, we now have to live DECADES worth of self-imposed imprisonment. Instead of letting our genitals hang free, we have to go to work, raise shitty children for (at least!) 18 years, have mortgage payments, and watch others live their lives through television and internet.

Scientists and philosophers often ponder the ancients. They romanticize the early explorers and philosophers, who first looked up to skies with bewilderment and awe. And this sense of wonder permitted them to ask the first intellectual questions: what lies on the other side of the heavens? Who are the Gods, and how can we be more like them? What is the meaning of life? So we ponder the origins of such questions, and think: who were these ancient peoples whom we owe so much to?

But here’s what I think: the first person to ever ask such questions was a piece of shit. He (or she) fucked everything up. Why question such a good thing?

Of course, we only know in hindsight that they fucked up. But then again, many people will accuse me of glorifying the ancient (or pre-historic) peoples, who were undoubtedly savage assholes. But so what? There was no one to tell them that they were being dicks. They were just being. 

And again, many MORE people would probably question my reasoning, claiming that such questions might be “hardwired” into the nature of human beings. Therefore these questions were inevitably going to be asked! But you know what? Stop thinking for awhile, and let me do the talking.

And by the way, where the hell am I going with all of this?

If you’ve been reading this blog (and no one is, so you don’t have to lie to me), have you ever wondered: who is this asshole that I’m reading? Well to answer that question, that’s none of your business. BUT, an important fact to know at this point is that my professional career is DEAD. I mean DEAD DEAD. I made a series of costly career decisions that didn’t pay off (plus I drank a lot). It left me unemployed to the point where I had to start over completely. It was like the prior 15 years never happened (did I mention I was a drunk?). Or to put it another way…I have a graduate degree, yet I’m now doing labor that kids out of high school are doing.

I’ll give you a moment to wipe away your tear.

Anyways! I pushed myself through college, and even a brief stint in the military, because I thought that’s what people should be doing: taking steps to better themselves and their society…even though I hated every minute of it. But that didn’t matter. Everyone has to do things that they don’t like if they want to achieve greatness.

I hated the guy (or gal) who coasted through life. I mean, how was that even possible? Didn’t they have any pride? Isn’t there SOMETHING they want to achieve during their time on this earth?

Yet even while I was having those thoughts, I was deeply unhappy. I put all kinds of pressure on myself. And to what purpose? So that I could have some fucking diploma hanging on the wall? Who gives a shit?

But of course, this is a philosophy blog. And even if you can’t tell yet, this is a philosophical post.

I usually talk about epistemology and ontology or some bullshit like that. But those aren’t the real problems that most people face. Unless you’re a nerd like me, Kantian metaphysics probably never keep you up at night. The problems that most people face are things like angst, fear, sadness, happiness and being. It’s actual human experience that most people care about…or the realm of existentialism.

Most people don’t realize that everywhere, mankind remains shackled (I’m pretty sure that’s a quote from some philosopher). We perceive ourselves to be free, but we do not act accordingly. We’re shackled to our jobs, to our houses, even to our own sense of being. You are who you are, and you will always remain SHACKLED to that identity.

How can we be happy, knowing that we are imprisoned in every direction?

Like I said, I hated those that coasted through life. I hated the SLACKER. And we all do. We want to hate the person that sits by while everyone does all the work. We want to hate the loser that lives an apparently meaningless life.

But I want to reassess this attitude. Sure, you hate them because they don’t carry their own weight. They leave YOU with all of the chores. But perhaps we need to appreciate them a little more. Why? Because they make you look good. That is unless they take credit for your work. In that case, fuck them, they are pieces of shit and are worthy of our judgements. But sometimes they can make you look like a mother fucking genius because they make you feel better about yourself.

But I think more importantly…they know something we don’t. Or maybe that something is nothing at all. But either way, they possess a quality that we don’t appreciate (mostly because it pisses us off).

They’re happier.

You know that bullshit that you submit yourself to everyday? Yeah, they don’t give a fuck about that. You might make more money. You might even be extraordinarily successful. But so what? How much crap did you have to go through to get that house or promotion? Tell me, how deep does that sense of ‘pride’ really go? Have you ever wondered what kind of decisions you might have made IF you didn’t give a shit? All the shackles of modern man are meaningless to the Slacker.

How much time did I waste going to college? If I have to be honest with myself, I wish I hadn’t of done it. It ruined me. I stress out about everything. College made me an unhappy, cynical, and entitled human being. Just being honest.

In my new job, I work with such a slacker. He’s in his early 20s. While giving advice to a girl that just started with this company (on how to get away with doing nothing), the girl snapped back: “This job’s only temporary! I’m a full-time student! Don’t you know what that’s like?” . To which his reply was “PSH! No!”.

That guy is cool as fuck.

You may hate him. But guess what? He doesn’t know it, and even if he did…he wouldn’t care.

So you have two choices in life: You can go along and play the rules. Maybe you might find some success. Maybe you won’t. But your philosophy can remain “at least you gotta try”…. OR, you don’t have to live by the rules. You still have to casually observe them, but we all know they’re horseshit. So you don’t have to pursuit happiness….you just have to be happy.

PS: My intention was to dig a little deeper into existentialism and bring up the works of Jose Ortega y Gasset. Sadly that did not work out, but at least I TRIED to make this post somewhat philosophical.

PS. PS: I posted a video of Slavoj Zizek because he at least provide the illusion that he’s a slacker-type. I don’t know if that’s intentional, and I don’t even know if he’s ever talked about any slaker-ish tendencies (he says a lot of things). He just embodies what I believe we should all strive towards.

F**K Reality!

Every day, I ask myself: am I asking the right questions? And is THAT question the correct question?

And then I get pissed off at reality because I can’t break out of my own sense perception. Or (as the video above explains) we’re trapped within the phenomenological field which dictates to us what reality is.

I’d love to pretend that we can find these answers in the words of Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Hilary Putnam (who was about to be the focus of this post). But these are just reinforced notions that the authorities of society want us to think are important. They’re great because all the intellectual authorities tell us they’re great. So even the great wordsmiths of history have no deeper insights into existence. You have the same rational capabilities that they have (or had). And this is partly why I’m pissed that the world still remains a mother fucking mystery to me. But a more alarming fact is that there have been those that have lived and died…who might’ve cracked the mysteries of the universe…and yet are buried and forgotten within the sands of time.

But anyways, my point is that inspiration can be found anywhere. We just have to be willing to let ourselves go places, perhaps strange places, in order to find truth (for a lack of a better word). Yesterday, I felt that no philosopher anywhere had the answers to the questions I was seeking. Perhaps I wasn’t asking the right questions. OR, perhaps I didn’t understand the terminology. Thankfully, I came across the term ‘naive realism’. Basically meaning that we perceive actual properties of objects, the world is physical, and we can know things about it (I guess). Its specifics aren’t important, but we do intuitively act in this manner.

Now, there are videos and articles that I could have used to further my personal philosophy. But fuck that.

The gentleman in the video above is angry, ANGRY, that we are confined to our phenomenological understanding. Not enough people are like that. Personally, I thought I struck gold when I found this video. But then I got angry at it because this guy accurately captured in ONE video what took me 8 months to explain in My Life With Kant. So don’t waste your time with My Life With Kant, just watch this video.

Now there are problems with this overall conception of understanding. If you listen to me or the guy in the video, you’d probably come to the conclusion that we don’t believe in reality outside of the mind. That objects have to be perceived in order to exist. I know that that sounds crazy. And the discipline of philosophy would almost uniformly reject this conclusion. But it’s also just plain WRONG. The continuity of reality and objects in it would suggest that there’s a tangible world that can be known.

But let’s not split hairs here. Throwing out words like ‘idealism’ only takes away from your own responsibility to come to an understanding. Which is why I’ve been a big critic of academia. And even academics themselves seem to mock their own highly specialized terminology. The logic seems to be: “If enough big words are used, then that will only confuse the audience and we would be able to deflect criticism of our own theories“. And I’m not going to lie. I like to play this game as well. But getting buried down in the meaning of words is only a creative way to escape responsibility. It buries the lead in regards to the true problems within philosophy, namely our own responsibility to meaning.

But this gentleman also points out a hardwired problem within human logic: that existence must have an underlying mechanistic cause. The story that he brings up is a familiar one: a mythological account of the existence of the universe. That the world is a dome-shaped structure that’s being upheld by an elephant, and beneath the elephant is a turtle, and beneath THAT turtle is another turtle. Then on and on this goes, all the way down. We just keep discovering one turtle after another. We think that we have escaped this ancient logic, that our scientific methods can discover empirical truths. But that’s only an illusion. Instead of turtles, we find one mechanistic cause underneath another mechanistic cause…never getting any closer to the ULTIMATE mechanistic cause. It’s turtles all the way down!

Now it’s popular for thinkers like me to invoke quantum mechanics at this point. It’s a cliche, really. The more I think about it, it seems strange to throw into question the validity of human perception and understanding, and then bring up something that was discovered by human perception and understanding to positively prove your point. I’m not immune to this. So I’m not sure how much water this argument holds, unless we want to believe Zizek’s joke that God didn’t plan on humans going past the atomic level. But these scientifically mechanical processes exist to justify our own “phenomenological understanding of the world”. Making their purposes virtually no different from the ancient myths of creation.

So the proper way out of this is to undo prior assumptions of the world. Both atheism and the religiously zealous are essentially explaining the same thing from two different ends. They’re explaining that there’s an underlying cause of all reality, and that the mind plays no cause in the creation of our perceptions. And so the whole objective of science and contemporary philosophy is to get around the mind. But under this argument, that’s a road to nowhere.

Now the host of this video is appealing towards the objective of personal development and enlightenment. But he’s using a philosophical argument to make his point. From a purely philosophical perspective, we can’t accept any of this. And we ESPECIALLY can’t accept this from a scientific view. Denying space, time, and matter is basically taboo within modern intellectual discourse. THAT’S the road to Berkeleyism. Or even worse yet…to solipsism. UNLESS we want to take the perspective that space, time, and matter are just manipulations of reality, and are not FACTS. (George Berkeley, anyone?)

I’ve seemed to have made this argument before…that common notions of physical reality are just projections onto a (quantum mechanical?) canvas. The concepts that we use to classify reality, and the objects within it, are both cultural and biological. Therefore, we owe a great deal of thanks to evolutionary psychology. BUT this leaves the question(s): what would reality be WITHOUT minds, and how far down do our conceptions go in regards to our perceptions OF the fabric of reality? And can these inquiries throw into question the validity of science itself? Therefore reality does not consist of FACTS, but of MANIPULATIONS.

For the record, I’m not entirely certain of these arguments, but I’m going to entertain them anyway.

Imagine the irrefutable atom. Did this conception of the atom exist prior to the human mind discovering them? Clearly the mechanical processes that contribute to the conception must exist (I’ll assume), but is the conception a universal necessity, or is it just a manipulation of the human mind?

And why stop there?

Can we ask the same questions for electrons, protons, quarks, and so on? And to what extent does this “phenomenological field” contribute to such conceptions?

Would these ‘things’ be things at all noumenalogically speaking? The intuitive answer is ‘yes’, and this is where we might be stuck in the world of popular and contemporary philosophy. Materialism might be coming up from the seams, and we’re struggling to keep up.

We take comfort in feeling that there’s a constant reality outside of us. So we do everything we can to confirm such notions. This post-materialist phase of science and philosophy might be in its earliest stages, and I know that that sounds pretty stupid now that I say that.

But what would the world be without a materialist foundation? What everyone seems to be avoiding is the possibility that it might be…nothing at all. No one wants to face this possibility because, clearly there’s something. And because there’s something, there must be more something beneath it all. Then on and on we go into our faulty human reasoning (“it’s turtles all the way down”). So without a materialist foundation, we arrive at a dead end.

But how could something also be nothing? Is this nothing noumenologically nothing?

I don’t know.

But correct me if I’m wrong, isn’t matter just energy? And what happens to energy when it stops? Does it go back to nothing? (I’m just spit balling here). So while we might not (at the moment) be able to connect consciousness with the manipulation of reality, nothing itself seems to be underlying the totality of existence. Scientists, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong. Of course, this still lends credibility to materialism because it shows that reality is just matter (or energy) in motion. Therefore, we really don’t escape materialism or physicalism.

So what was the question again?

What Dreams May Come

Most people don’t like nonsense. I’m not one of those people. To the contrary, I find the nonsensical invigorating. Perhaps that’s just a reflection of my own incoherent mind. Yet it’s through the nonsensical musings of Emanuel Swedenborg, Philip K. Dick, Lev Shestov, and Slavoj Zizek that I find some of the most enlightening philosophy. Perhaps it’s just me, but I find structure in the chaos, and chaos in the structure. Continuity in contradiction, and contradiction in continuity.

It’s madness at its finest.

These writers appear to have journeyed to the threshold of insanity. And the results are downright fascinating. Swedenborg and Dick especially appeared to have ventured into some strange spiritual realm. Dick infamously foresaw his son’s illness, believed that some other-worldly entity was communicating with him, and his madness is explored in his Exegesis. Swedenborg also appeared to have engaged in some form of hallucinating illusions of the after-world.

Many would simply brush off these ramblings as nothing but thoughts of madmen, not worthy of actual critical investigation. Of course, the skeptic in me says that these ramblings (especially of Swedenborg and Dick) are nothing but madness exposed. But that would be a failure of appreciation…a peak behind the thin curtain of sanity.

Their madness provides us with an opportunity to explore alternate perceptions of reality. It isn’t an easy thing to achieve. These writers were geniuses. Swedenborg especially is an under appreciated inventor, writer, and theologian of sorts. I suppose that some see the path towards genius as running through the wilderness of madness. They view the world in very different ways. While their thought might not provide a wholly accurate (or coherent) view on philosophy and the universe, it is still important and worthwhile to explore what they saw.

Hallucinations and dreams are usually chalked up as being nothing but random objects of the mind. And it’s true. They are. Swedenborg and Dick didn’t think that their illusions were being generated from within, but were instead divine given. And when they were under possession of their illusions, they would produce page after page of feverish writing. Many would argue that what they were actually experiencing was a brand of mental illness.

Divine or not (although probably not), these images have to be emanating from somewhere. When under the spell of a drug, these images can often appear. However, the drug only exasperates the causes of illusions, but not actually the source of the illusion itself. Those images are already in your brain, that got put in there either through sense experience or some form of a prioric means (if you will). But they are brought front and center when under the spell of a drug, mental illness, or (I suppose) through sleep.

I’m captivated by these accounts because of my own ‘images and experience’ that I find myself engrossed in. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that I do suffer from a mental illness (major depression), and therefore I take a drug that helps me to suppress those feelings. However, a side effect to this drug is vivid dreaming.

The world that is created by this dreaming feels so real, that it often comes as a surprise to wake up. They nearly become indistinguishable from reality. A whole world is created with characters, places, and events. Even a specific location can be determined. Last night, for example, I dreamed that I moved to a town in the southwest corner of Iowa called Cree. It’s not a real place (to my knowledge), but my mind generated a whole world that I experienced.

What generates these worlds?

Now, clearly there’s an empirical answer to this. And it’s an answer that’s likely already known, so I don’t need to invoke a spiritual or metaphysical explanation. But I’m not educated or smart enough to know the answer. So whatever. Just hang with me.

But, from a philosophical perspective, I’m fascinated by how these images remain hidden within the mind and catch us by surprise when they’re brought to attention in the active consciousness. These ideas and images are easily classified and obtained within the brain, and therefore don’t reveal any ‘new’ or ‘alien’ conceptions. Or, in Hume’s sense, we’ve never seen a gold mountain, yet we have a conception of ‘gold’ and ‘mountain’. But it’s the manner in which they are presented that can cause such a violent or alarming reaction.

This is why nightmares are so terrifying. Information is presented in such a way as to cause a visceral reaction. When these dreams occur, we wish to rid them from our sleep. But we often fail to consider that this terror is coming from within YOU. It’s wholly created by the processes of the mind.

Of course, this only applies to dreams. Most of us have never experienced a visual, consciously awake hallucination. Those are perhaps more alarming, considering that when one is awake, it’s assumed that the active conscious is in full control. But then a subconscious reaction reveals a whole new world. A world that is a part of the individual, but was previously left unexplored. This lack of exploration leaves one believing that these images were generated from outside of their body.

But it’s through the madness that one can find something new about themselves. The chaos isn’t just some randomness generated without purpose. These images and internal experiences are the result of a subconscious (for a lack of a better word) process attempting to reach out to the conscious. We usually like to ignore these seemingly pointless experiences, but to me, this is a mistake.

We don’t quite know ourselves as well as we think we do. I think that many of us want to ignore this internal madness because we fear what it might reveal. But it’s through this madness that we might discover our true genius. And possibly even discover the meaning of the universe.

Or maybe I’m just trying to justify my own madness. I’ll leave that to you.

 

An Idiot’s Guide to Ideology and Einstein’s Relativity

Look, I’m not a scientist. Not in any way shape or form. So it’s probably not a good idea to consult with me on scientific matters. And I don’t really side with the empiricists of the pre-Kant era. HOWEVER, I do fall on the side of GOOD philosophy and GOOD science acting in unison. And because science deals with the empirical, I say that that would make it the superior to philosophy (or philosophy is subordinate to science). After all, philosophy requires a degree of empirical evidence in order to find validity.

Does that make me an empiricist? Or even a positivist? Perhaps reluctantly. I guess a soft positivist, if you will.

BUT, what we fail to to appreciate within empirical and scientific investigation (most notably in physics) is the temporary position that a theory holds. Perhaps its truths don’t completely fade. Yet, their significance do in some ways become minimized, or even replaced. Is Isaac Newton’s specific discoveries discussed in physics courses? I don’t know. Perhaps they are, but are they really just explained as stepping stones to larger and contemporary theories? (Scientists, please help me out here)

Former dominating theories either become amended, expanded, or even expelled altogether. They are then replaced by theories compiled by modern theoretical or empirical investigation. This is the basis of Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm shifts, if you will.

Albert Einstein presented such a paradigm shift. I might be showing my scientific ignorance here, but prior to Einstein, Isaac Newton and other outdated or insufficient models probably dominated scientific thought. Then Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was presented, and thus we have the modern era of physics.

Who knows how many Ph.Ds have been minted by the study of relativity. How many scientists have staked their fame on Einstein’s discoveries? But the sad reality is that Einstein’s days are numbered. He even rejected quantum mechanics, which is a field that’s become more difficult to denounce by the hour. It remains only a matter of time before Einstein’s theories become insufficient. Perhaps not obsolete, but it will become usurped by an even greater discovery (if that discovery has not already been made).

I watched a lecture (shown above) where two speakers reject Einstein’s relativity in the name of preserving dialectical materialism. Despite their efforts, how the two are related is confusing if not pointless. No one in the audience seemed to have been sold on their presentation. I’m willing to go to pretty strange places in order to understand certain philosophical positions, but even this was a bit too much. HOWEVER, this lecture did showcase an interesting problem.

The speakers were willing to reject commonly believed physics, which appeared to anger many. Their reasoning may or may not be sound, but there is an infamous disconnect between quantum mechanics and Einstein’s relativity. The two don’t appear to align with one another, yet both seem to be irrefutable aspects of the universe. This is a side note to the lecture, as both speakers seem to also reject quantum mechanics. BUT they also seem to (perhaps inadvertently) embrace this mind-dependent aspect to science and physics. (But I could be wrong)

Once when we look past the atom, down to the subatomic level, things seem to stop making sense. Now, I’m a huge fan of Slavoj Zizek. His ideology seems to extend all the down to the atomic level. The idea of the ‘atom’ is projected on to the bundle of electrons, neutrons, and whatever else that consists the atom. This form of ideology goes all the way up to easily observable objects. Whatever the title that we attach to a bundle of energy, or matter in motion, is just the veil over the nothingness behind it. But it’s the human mind that attaches descriptors to these objects, and everything seems to fall neatly into a taxonomic system that could be easily understood by the mind. Yet, these systems do not exist without the mind to say that they exist. Which could possibly explain why quantum mechanics seemingly makes little sense.

It’s the crack the peeks through into Kant’s previously unknowable thing-in-itself.

Once when we look past what we normally perceive as knowable objects…people, planets, galaxies, etc….we realize that they are basically nothing, or are things that are completely different than what we project on to them. When the title is removed, when we look at the objects for what they really are, we realize that there is nothing behind the veil.

I’ll take a leap of faith here and say that Einstein’s relativity might be a result of this process. The universe appears to be orderly. All laws of physics are obeyed everywhere. That’s how the world is supposed to work. But perhaps relativity is the reflection in the veil…a representation of the mind’s overall outlook on the universe. All laws are consistent because that’s how the mind sees it, not the way how it really is. If the mind were to be removed, it would reveal a highly chaotic world. Perhaps one that would resemble the world of quantum mechanics.

Zizek once joked that God didn’t expect humans to dig any further than the atomic level. Yet somehow we did. Or we think we did. But we have uncovered a highly mysterious realm where previous held beliefs breakdown. Perhaps the day will come when we might realize that relativity is not the dominant model for the functioning of the universe (or something like that(again, scientists, help me out here)). But as the audience suggests in the above lecture, that’s going to piss a great deal of scientists off because SO many staked their claim on its validity. And any evidence or theory that suggests the contrary is to be laughed out of the room.

I don’t know. Call me crazy.

Additionally, the speakers seemed to have engaged in a sort of argument that pisses me off. For example, the first guy stated that one of the weak links in relativity is that Einstein once said something that contradicted the theory. He believed that that was proof that even Einstein didn’t believe his own theory (or something close to that. Just watch the video). I see this argument used a lot, and it really lacks any sense.

Even Bertrand Russell seemed to have fallen into this stupid pitfall. When criticizing Arthur Schopenhauer in the book A History of Western Philosophy, the knock against him was that Schopenhauer never practiced what he preached. Therefore, somehow, Schopenhauer’s philosophy is shallow.

It’s a weak argument. We don’t have to know anything about a writer, philosopher, scientist, etc, in order to appreciate their work. Yet this argument is used when there becomes a lack of valid criticism.

So when someone uses it, the argument is probably full of shit. Plus, I was quite disappointed with A History of Western Philosophy. There’s more on that later.