Why Hate Philosophy
The other day, while having lunch with a friend, I remarked that I was
reading some philosopher, and he interrupted with rolled eyes and
said, "I hate philosophy." That certainly killed a rollicking discussion on
how the enlightened ideas of Plato's Republic kept Europe in the "dark ages"
for more than a millenia.
But it brought up a thought… since every human has a "personal philsophy"
that guides their actions and thoughts, why wouldn't every one be
interested in talking about it? Actually, it appears we do, from how we stand
on issues and vote in elections, to our activities next to the "honor snack
In fact, we all might be better off if we were more tolerant of one another
idea's, and what better way to discuss them than under the brittle umbrella
But why do people hate philosophy? From my culture, philosophy was a tool
of the devil to lull men into trusting their own rational abilities and
leave the religious institutions and absolute laws given by God… Although
you've got to wonder at any establishment that expects you to check in your
"intelligence" at the door.
I suppose there is also a sense of boredom associated with the label… you
know, dead white men and all that stuff. But philosophers argued about the
same issues that we are struggling with … morals, politics,
religion and the human mind. Still worthy discussions now.
So, I've decided on a subtle plan to ask subversive questions at parties
and other gatherings that will get people to discuss philosophy, but not
realize it. Obviously if the questions are too weighty and too general,
people will mistake me for Socrates, and we can't have that. I'm much
So, I am proposing to you, my readership (yes, both of you) to help me come
up with some good, thoughtful zingers.
Let me begin the list. Of course, I can't just walk up to someone out of
the blue with one of these questions. Expect a certain amount of
weather-and-football-talk beforehand. Let's begin, shall we?
While some people may not be up on this, it is a great party question…
Have you heard about the elephants that paint pictures? How much would
you pay for one of these masterpieces?
The owners of retired elephants and zookeepers have been trying to offset
the cost of caring for elephants by having them work for their supper.
You can buy Elephant Pictures and purchase CDs of Elephant Gamelons.
Not a bad idea, and the music is pretty interesting.
This leads into questions like "Is Elephant painting actually art?" and
if so, "Is this sort of art just a gimmick or could it be hung in a museum
of modern art?"
This question has got some good debates:
Is the subtle flavors in a glass of wine (or scotch) actually in the wine,
or is it only the subjective perspective of the drinker?
Obviously, you can dive into the question of objective reality, or keep it light
with the follow-up, "Is drinking wine a skill?"
(see either this interview or this interview with Barry Smith, who
wrote a book on this subject.
This question might be a bit too deep for most of the parties that I go to:
With everything you read about in the newspapers… from the bloody
attrocities to the generous philanthropists, do you think the world
is getting better or worse with time?
I bet this boils down a religious perspective, for most religionists feel
that the "end of times" needs to be particularly nasty in order to prompt
Jesus to leave his thrown and begin the burning of the sinners. However,
it is easy to see both sides.
How about the most famous of all questions:
Are human's inner nature good or bad?
I find this question very important given the news about the
murder of Giuseppina Marineo, an Italian artist known as
Pippa Bacca , who was traveling the world to promote peace and trust.
Her essential message was that people are trustworthy and basically good in
order even attempt such a goal.
What we have with this question are the extreme views of most religionists
that man is inherently evil and "fallen from grace", on one hand. On the
other, we have the extreme of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his "nobel savage".
Another option is Spinoza's view that there is no concept of "good" and "bad"
without a society to dictate those values, for in a state of nature, man's
might is all that is right. This will needs to be tamed or controlled in
order for an individual to function in a society of others, and hence
society's dictate of morality.
This next question may require a bit of background on Quantum Mechanics for
it to be really effective, but at most of the parties I go to, they are full
Albert Einstein once made a comment that "God does not play dice with the
universe." He said this in regard to the world of subatomic particles
essentially are random. Do you think its random, or is something else going
This question is not completely accurate, for subatomic particles do not act
randomly, just not predictably, but this is what people generally think of
when Einstein's comment is brought up. And it may be successful at getting
people to express their perspective on metaphysics.
If I'm feeling particularly safe, and in a reasonably tolerant party,
politically that is, I may ask this loaded question…
Is the American electoral process a good idea or bad?
Plato saw democracy as essentially mob-acracy, with the ability of a
charismatic leader to sway people with rhetoric and passion to work against
the better good. This is why America was set up such that the people actually
don't vote for their president … they just think they do.
The Greeks experimented quite a bit with different kinds of social organizations,
and one of these experiments lead to Athenian democracy. But after they put
Socrates to death, Plato came up with the idea to have the wisest be rulers,
i.e. philosopher kings . His kingship, however, was always open to the next
person who demonstrated his cranial ability.
Continue this discussion with Ms. Miami's post at SuperFrenchie who
has my favorite Bertrand Russell quote:
Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its
questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but
rather for the sake of the questions themselves.
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