Showing posts from February, 2023

How to Do Philosophy

When I read Marx, or Hegel, or Nietzsche, or Plato, or Hobbes, or Confucius, or a hundred other writings, how do I read them?  Why do I read them? First, let me tell you how I'm not reading them.  I'm not reading them looking for The Answer.  I'm not looking for The Truth.  I'm not looking for something that is correct.  Any of the above may very well be correct, but that's not why I'm reading them.   Let me break this down.  Here are two options for how to read a text: Option 1) Be a Seeker.  Read a text seeking the truth, looking for something that will tell you the correct answer to all of your deepest questions.  A text that will tell you what your ultimate purpose is, and how to achieve it, and why you should achieve it.  Something that will give your life a goal, a meaning, perhaps even a sense of destiny.  A text that will tell you right from wrong, and give you a body of dogma - answers that you can carry around in your head that are as emotionally sati
  I love reading and watching and listening to people who disagree with me, especially if they disagree with me in interesting ways.  I love thinking about how I would argue against what they are saying, point by point.  It's not even necessary for me actually to do this, out loud - I get just as much enjoyment out of holding the argument inwardly, in my own mind, without saying it out loud.  It's excellent training, but more than that, it is an intrinsic pleasure, desirable for its own sake, not as preparation for any future debate.  This is one of the primary pleasures of life. On the other hand, there's nothing I hate more than hearing the opinions of people I agree with.  It's like hearing an echo of my own mind, out there in reality.  It's so boring.  If I wanted to listen to my own thoughts, I would just think to myself.  If I'm listening to someone else, I want to hear something different from me.  I just want people who agree with me to go a

The Myth of Belief

Here's an awkward way of putting it (we'll fix it later) - a kind of story, or folktale (folk-science): First, people ascribed beliefs to each other . At that time, if I ascribed a belief to you, that meant that I was modeling you as acting as if x is true.  That is to say, person A would act in a manner consistent with a model of [a world that includes] person B acting in a manner consistent with a model of [the world in which] x.  We can call this "The Golden Age."  [See also: my essay, " A Defense of the Ego ," in which I briefly discuss the problem of other minds and Frans de Waal and Josep Call's experiments involving chimps that seem to demonstrate an awareness of each others' perceptions and mental models of their environments.] Then people started to ascribe beliefs to themselves .  At that point, if I believed something, that meant I was modeling myself as acting the way I would act if x were true.  Just as you might notice someone else acti

How to Interpret a Text

    There are several different schools about how to interpret a text.  Here are a few: 1) A text should be interpreted the way the author intended it. 2) A text should be interpreted and reinterpreted endlessly.  We should come up with as many different interpretations as possible, stretching it every which way it can go. 3) A text should be interpreted in such a way that its meaning will benefit society the most. 4) A text should be interpreted as a symptom of a society, by which we can identify how it replicates and re-entrenches mendacious social structures (sexism, racism, heteronormativity, class hierarchy, and so on). 5) A text should be interpreted in such a way that its meaning subverts itself. (By no means are these exhaustive.  We could come up with many more.) Obviously, over the course of the 20th century, (1) went way out of fashion.  But though academics again and again argued against (1), they rarely distinguished between (2), (3), (4), and (5) - which is awfully odd, t

Desire-Chains: A dialogue on desire (and economics, and love, and subjectivity, and objectivity, and psychoanalysis, and quasars...)

A: What determines economic demand? B: What do you mean? A: Well, consumers want goods and services.  Thus, there is demand for those goods and services.  We can draw a demand curve, and we can draw a supply curve, and where they cross, that will be the optimal price of the good or service.  If the price is higher, that will cause a surplus, because people who want it won't be able to afford it, and so unsold overstock will remain on the shelves which could have been bought.  If the price is lower, this will create a shortage, because people will buy up so many of the items that the sellers won't be able to keep their shelves sufficiently stocked to serve all their potential customers. B: Yes, that sounds right. A: Okay.  Well, we can see what determines supply.  We can analyze the supply chain.  We can look at the raw materials necessary, the labor, the machinery and other technology, the transportation of the goods and so on.   B: Yes.... A: So what determines demand? B: Well