April 2005

Earlier Birth and Later Death

Interesting show on Schopenhauer.

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The Only Mattering Worth Caring About

Schopenhauer's view of life certainly seems bleak and pessimistic. Consider the following description of the life of man (and animals): Willing and striving are its whole essence, and can be fully compared to an unquenchable thirst. The basis of all willing, however, is need, lack, and hence pain, and by its very nature and origin it is therefore destined to pain.

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Schopenhauer and Prozac

I admit it: I've been reading a lot of Schopenhauer, especially his Essays on Pessimism. They are fascinating, and extremely beautifully (and of course provocatively) written. Here's a cheery and lovely passage: "Could we foresee it, there are times when children might seem like innocent prisoners, condemned, not to death, but to life, and as yet all unconscious of what their sentence means. Nevertheless, every man desires to reach old age; in other words, a state of life of which it may be siad; 'It is bad to-day, and it will be worse to0morrow; and so on till the worst of all."

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How to be a Relativist

Over at the blog Left2Right,  the philosopher David Velleman  has an interesting post about moral relativism.  Prompted by recent news coverage of moral relativism and then 

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Propaganda and the Human Mind

Some people naively associate propaganda with totalitarian regimes. Certainly, the Nazis, the Soviet and Chinese communists, and brutal dictators like Saddam Hussein have made heavy and sometimes brilliantly effective use of propaganda. But totalitarians may not need to be true masters of propaganda, since they often merely bludgeon people into at least apparent belief and acquiescence.

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Do Genes Make the Person?

Do genes make the person? If you listen to popular press reports of new genetic discoveries coming out at fairly rapid pace, you certainly might think so. Lung Cancer Gene! Gay Gene! Genius Gene! Little wonder that many people believe -- or should I say fear? -- that genes somehow directly and invariably determine who we are.

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Philosophers' Carnival, Number Twelve

You might want to check out the twelfth edition of the recurring Philosophers' Carnival, a compilation of philosophical blog entries from around the blog sphere.    Included in this edition, is Ken Taylor's post on Freedom, Responsibility and Martian Anthropology.

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Naturalism and Value

This is a response to Ken’s fascinating blog on naturalism, Schopenhauer and value. I’m amenable to his naturalism. But I’m not sure I see the problem of value as a matter of getting something out of nothing. It seems to me that values come out of valuing, and that valuing starts with an attitude we might call “caring whether.” As we look to the future, many facts seem unresolved.

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Skin, Deep

There is a website called OnHDTV.tv that claims it “provides show reviews and previews, HDTV-specific viewing recommendations, HDTV news and HDTV shopping tips, among other consumer information.” It’s what the world needs now, I guess.One of the services OnHDTV offered this past month was, of course, a list - and where would the internet be without lists?   - the “ top 10 celebrities who look even better in High-Definition TV,” accompanied by a list of those who look worse.

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Steroids and Baseball

I do not want to distract us from the "heavy" (no pun intended) issues to which we have devoted our attention recently, but, what with the opening of baseball season and all, I thought I'd ask you to think about the following. Steroids (of the sorts used by some players and other athletes) apparently have serious health side-effects. For that reason it certainly seems reaonable to ban their use. But now suppose our wonderful pharmaceutical companies could develop side-effect free steroids--comparable medicines with (by stipulation) no bad health effects.

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Meaning from Meaninglessness

I'm thinking about where values and meaning come from and whether a metaphysics anything like Schopenhauer's has the resources to make room for value and meaning. I think that the answer is yes. And I suspect that Schopenhauer fails to see this, if he does, because he buys into a commonly held, but I think deeply mistaken criticism of naturalism. I'll call it the "you can't get something from nothing" criticism.

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