Friday, June 24, 2011

Dante's Inferno Test

I took this test a few years ago. I expected I would be much more sinful now, since I have been a student for a few years and do terrible things like have sex with people who have different last names then I do. Apparently not.

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!

First Level of Hell - Limbo

Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad.

Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante Inferno Hell Test

What better place for a philosophy student? Why would I ever want to go to heaven when I can meet Aristotle instead? And Socrates too. We could corrupt the youth together!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Marxism doesn't taste like philosophy

Neither does feminism**. Neither does capitalism. These -isms are what people call 'a philosophy.' Sam has a Marxist philosophy, which undermines her brothers capitalist philosophy, although they still manage to maintain a coherent feminist philosophy when going fishing on Sunday.

I do not fully understand these things, as I have not studied them. It is a dark area and I think it will come in time. Here are my thoughts on the matter, but I warn that they are strangely formed as the landscape for me is still dark and I cannot quite make it out.

I study in an analytic tradition, bias. Philosophy students today, I have been told, tend toward "eclectic." That is, like an apartment full of bookshelves where some of the furniture is modern, an old couch, an Art Nouveau lamp, an oak dining table. There is art on the walls but it shows no coherent interest. There are many things, and they are all in close proximity and it makes a sort of sense all put together but it cannot be read at a glance. Eclectic philosophy is taking the parts of each philosopher which are appealing and using them to build. I have been told that there are no more Kantians. I've heard that James R. Brown is a Platonist, but that does not mean he follows a school of philosophy which adheres to Plato, rather he himself has studied Plato and chosen to consider himself in line with enough of Plato's views to be called as such.

Maybe this is why Marxism doesn't taste like philosophy, because we have waged war on -isms and everything has to be between the person and the book. Maybe it is simply not what I am used to. People also call such things 'ideologies', which refers to ideas that relate to economy and politics. This seems more accurate. Do I delude myself in believing that philosophy is not ideological? No, it is, but there is a difference here. I suppose it is that, like the apartment full of books, it is not obvious what that ideology is, two different ideologies might exist simultaneously and contradict each other and that does not undermine philosophy because philosophy aims at knowledge, not just system. It isn't just a way of doing things.

That is why Ayn Rand is not philosophy. Ideology does not give you breathing room. It tells you what your values are, instead of asking. It dictates all further choices you make. Novels take you near the truth of things, but sometimes the writer is just as puzzled as to why Sam goes fishing with her brother every Sunday as I am. Ayn Rand does not leave any mysteries. There is nothing secret for her, there is no core that cannot be fathomed.

And that is it. It is not modern analytic philosophy only, but also my belief in mystery that leads me to think Marxism is not philosophy. In philosophy there are questions which may not have answers. Sam's brother, who is a very clever person and has many degrees, could spend his entire life arguing that chairs are chairs because we call them chairs and not because of their essential nature. He could make a very important contribution, and Sam would certainly be very proud to have such a clever brother, but it would not settle the problem. It might settle a new area of scientific study, but it would not prevent some other brother the next day or ten years later from writing something just as certain on the other side of the conversation.

Ideologies seem so certain. You learn the system. You look at the world and see the system in it. The system is confirmed and you proceed to take down the feudal system, cut taxes, divorce your lover. These are useful tools. But I do not quite understand how they are philosophy.

**Feminism, not feminist philosophy.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

25 dollars a week on food

University means debt, grad school means more debt, and I do not have a job at the moment. I joined my partner in thinking that maybe I should keep a tighter hold of my spending, particularly on food because that is the only thing I really buy. I eat quite healthy and rarely go out to restaurants, but nonetheless I have been living a bit beyond my means lately. I like to own various different oils and Asian sauces. Sometimes I want chocolate or rhubarb pie, or cookies with half a cup of butter in them. When I first moved out I would never buy ice cream. Now I buy a 4 l tub when it is on sale at a dollar per litre. This is more sensible then purchasing it at a higher rate, but can I afford it? Am I willing to sacrifice my present happiness knowing that I will be in difficulty in the future when I finish school.

To some degree I am, otherwise I wouldn't be in school. So long as the economy doesn't not fall apart so completely that there is no job for me, I can do okay. I do not have a disposition to suffer unduly. Being poor will not overwhelm me. For one thing I am not willing to risk my health in order to eat more cheaply. That to me is foolish.

So what I will be doing is pulling in my finances, taking a look at what I am buying, and limiting the luxury goods like ice cream. I might up date on this from time to time, but honestly I do not think it is that exciting. I have discovered that various blogs are dedicated entirely to eating cheaply, who report their receipts at the end of the week. Although it is somewhat interesting to know what people are eating it is not something that would keep my attention.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Imagination and logic

There is a particular style of thinking which annoys me. This style of thinking advocates the imagination/logic binary. It often advocates other binaries along with it, such as women=emotional/men=rational. I never accepted this binary. I did accept that some people are simply not suited to logical, rational thinking. I believed this because I did not understand math. It just did not work. Other things came naturally, but not math. It was not easy and I did not trust myself, as I do now, to struggle with it and succeed. This is to say that the imagination/logic binary is something I consider to have done me some personal harm.

There are a few ideas associated with this style of thinking. Firstly, logic is limited. It can only get you so far. It allows you to get you into a rut and it cannot get you out again. People who use logic are close minded and frightened to go beyond it. Second, logic is dangerous. It can shut people down. If I tell someone they are not being logical it puts all that they claim into question. It is a tool of the bad people.

To the first, yes, it is limited. It can only get you so far. For the second, logic is a tool. But it is not a tool of the bad people, those nasty bureaucrats, who ever it is you want to attack. It is a sword. It is a sword because it can be equally used to fight for freedom against an oppressor, or to oppress the oppressed who are fighting for freedom. Today we do not think killing is ever right and I really ought to use a hammer, but I like to use a sword better because using a hammer to do harm is not using it for it's proper purpose and as such the metaphor is weaker.

From what I can understand when people attack logic they really mean to be attacking particular people. They want to attack bureaucracy, the scientists, and suchlike. Sometimes they want to attack the philosophers. With the other attacks I do not have personal experience, but as I have knowledge of philosophy I can see that their attacks are usually quite ill-managed. Philosophy is not easily understood. Sometimes their points are somewhat valid, but for the most part any complaint made about the use of logic has also been made, more cleverly, within the discipline itself.

By saying this I do not mean that people should not keep talking about logic and imagination. What I mean is that it would be better to seek allies then enemies. My mother, being a non-academic poet, would sometimes discuss how the academic poets did not take her seriously because she did not have a university degree. Logic is present everywhere. She saw them as overly logical. They see philosophy as overly logical.

Most of the time I might agree with half of what the person is saying, but as they are making an attack I have yet had the presence of mind to turn the discussion to more fruitful directions, addressing the problems inherent in logic. These are interesting questions. The imperative that we do away with reason and it's ruler ship over the passions is not a discussion, it is an order given by someone who has not bothered to find out if I have any association with either of those things. Being told that I should be less logical is similar to being told I should "batten down the hatches, and levy the tug rope". I'm just not sure what you mean.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"What are you going to do with a philosophy degree?"

It's a question I get asked when I report my degree, and frequently. Sometimes it is asked out of curiosity or interest. They have not heard of philosophy before. They have studied some and enjoyed it. Sometimes it is asked because this is small talk and that is what you ask. Sometimes it is asked because the person thinks a philosophy degree is a fluff degree, that cannot lead to 'success' in the world. Success in their sense is having a job that allows you to purchase a house and a car. For me success could also be the ability to attract someone with a house and a car. My part in the success can be raising a good, sturdy family. These people look down on philosophy, as some snobby academic discipline that can never allow you to 'succeed in the real world.'

I think that these people are less common, but I think there is a touch of it in the question each time it is asked. Even if they do not know why they are asking it, there is a general impression from society that a philosophy degree will get you nowhere.

I used to tell people that I would be in debt and live in a cardboard box because I did something I love. One day a man asked me, 'do you really believe that?' No. I didn't believe it. I just come up with something to tell people when they ask 'what do you plan to do with your life?' and I tell the same story to everyone. I told them about how I would be a biologist. I told them about how I would work as a translator. I'm not certain where my future will lead. Many people interpret this uncertainty as a weakness. It is not. I keep changing my path but that does not mean I am flaky or indecisive. I love a great many things. There are many things I could be passionate about. I select based on talent, opportunity, and lack. It doesn't mean I am flaky. It doesn't even mean I'm keeping my options open. I'm not keeping them open, I'm just making changes in the places that have not closed off yet. At the moment some doors are mostly closed. More changes will be made before the currently open options have disappeared. That is how I create my life.

Now when asked I tell people that I want to be a professor. I tell them that I am going for grad school but might not get in. I don't like doing this because it makes it appear as if philosophy really is a limited discipline, a snobby academic thing.

Sometimes I list the jobs you can do with a philosophy degree: Office work, writing, editing, civil service, military. None of these jobs clearly link to a philosophy degree.

Part of it is that the job market has changed. They might have got a job because they finished high school which I will be lucky to get now with my fancy degree and all. Yes, you used to be able to walk into an office and get a job. Now there is so much competition that you most often need a bunch of school or a bunch of experience in order to get that job.

But what does philosophy really give me in the end? The opportunity to read good books, explore interesting arguments, and learn about the world. The opportunity to have classes with talented scholars who are making contributions to the academic world. The ability to speak my mind clearly, present arguments, to hold to convictions. Other disciplines do this too, but one thing you can certainly say about philosophy is that it makes good citizens.