Friday, November 25, 2016

The Art of Creative Bullshitting: A Tongue-in Cheek Look at Philosophy


"Stand-up Philosopher..."

"Oh, a Bullshit Artist"

Science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon penned what came to be known as Sturgeon's Law: "90% of science fiction is bullshit because 90% of everything is bullshit." Concomitantly, seeing how this is a discussion of philosophy, we should factor in Stanislaw Andrzejewski's Law of Nebulous Verbosity: "Verbiage increases to the extent that ambition exceeds knowledge." This is not to say that philosophy lacks knowledge but for our purposes we might also expand on the old adage that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing by adding that a lot of knowledge can prove disastrous.

So, let's begin with the "Fathers of Modern Philosophy," Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. What is it that sets them apart? Well, it could be argued that each of their particular mode of bullshit was "original" although Plato would argue that there is no original thought. Socrates cribbed from Hesiod, Heraclitus, as well as others. Plato cribbed from him and Aristotle from Plato. These lofty thinkers were practicers of as well as victims of sophistry although the proponents of Aristotle would argue against that point. One characteristic of philosophers of every age is their use of excessive verbiage to explain often simple concepts. This leads us to our two types of thinkers: Intellectuals and Practical Thinkers (Practicalists...A term I employ as a convenience not as a philosophical definition related to the school of practicalism)

Intellectuals, for whatever reason, seem to be easily bullshitted, whereas Practicalists seem to possess some innate defense mechanism, probably common sense. For example,by examining the three schools of philosophy, we can observe how each would view them. Metaphysics: asks the question what is it? An intellectual would argue: we can never be truly certain without fully understanding all if "it's" characteristics and would inevitably get lost in a miasma of labyrinthine verbiage (bullshit). A Practicalist would say "it" is what it is and be done with it. Epistemology: How do we know what it is (or anything else, for that matter). This would include the great unanswerable question: "If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?" The Intellectual would undoubtedly posit that it is indeed unanswerable even though it is not necessary for human ears to be present to become excited by sound waves emitted by falling timber. The Practicalist would say, "who cares, if no one is there, what possible difference does it make?" Similarly, if an Intellectual views a cow he/she would ask how can we truly know it's a cow, if "cow" is just a label? The Practicalist would say, "I've got vision, it's got horns and's a fucking cow!" Ethics: What is just? Here is where the sophistry of the Intellectual class really shines through. The Intellectual would attempt to rhetorically obfuscate this simple issue with arguments such as: "right and wrong are subjective concepts." And, "nothing is black & white, only shades of gray." The Practicalist, naturally would say, "right is right, wrong is wrong." And from Ethics we get philosophy's political bastard stepchild, Ideology.

In applying Intellectualism vs. Practicalism to American politics, it must be noted that Ideology is the antithesis of Practicalism. There is nothing whatever practical about Ideology. The Framers of the Constitution were not ideologues, they were, with perhaps one exception, very practical men. George Washington was a surveyor and soldier. Jefferson was a farmer. Franklin was a printer, an inventor and tinkerer. John Hancock was a businessman. Paul Revere, a silversmith. Hamilton was a real estate speculator (con man) and soldier. The one exception perhaps, was Madison whose job it was to write everything down in hard to understand language. That way the concepts would also appeal to Intellectuals. Ideology really took root with the advent of Marxist "thought." The reason I used thought parenthetically is that Marxism's appeal is more emotional than the product of reason. Instead of looking at the world in terms of what is practical, the Marxist ideologue looks at things in terms of emotional desirability. It is based on a Utopian fantasy, nothing more.

It is Ideology that gets us gender politics, race politics, LGBT issues, etc.. No reasonable person can argue that everyone in the country should not be entitled to the same rights and privileges. But the ideologues want more... nothing will ever be enough. Because philosophy is based on the ability to reason (no matter how poorly), Ideology should not even be a philosophical consideration. Given that Ideology is based solely on emotional appeals, there is no argument against the ravings of an ideologue. Therefore, in conclusion, on a philosophical bullshit scale, Ideology (particularly Cultural Marxism and its many offshoots) is off the chart.

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