Philosophy
I’m Wasting My Young Years: Simone Weil Tackles FOMO

I’m Wasting My Young Years: Simone Weil Tackles FOMO

To many students like myself, mid-July feels like this: “I can’t believe school starts in only a month—I haven’t done enough summery things yet.” There’s a nagging sense of regret even in the present that maybe we could do more to optimize our time. Maybe it’s FOMO, the fear of missing out, or, perhaps, the fear of wasting time. Summer is a long-anticipated golden calf in my head, carved deep with endless vacations and immediate suntans and condensating glasses of Kool-Aid. Not a moment of this empyrean season should go to waste.

And so waste becomes the object of frenzied anxiety….

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Myths of Progress and Hopeful Defeatism

Myths of Progress and Hopeful Defeatism

For those interested in human folly and hard truths, look no further than John Gray, a political philosopher whose work On Progress and Other Modern Myths (The Silence of the Animals) debunks many of our species’ self-flattering stories about where we came from and where we’re going. An agnostic himself, Gray realizes the decline of Christianity won’t issue in quite the same unproblematic post-religious paradise that some of his contemporaries might think:

For humanists, denying that humanity can live without myths can only be a type of pessimism. They take for granted that if human beings came to be more like the rational…

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A Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to American Christians

A Reading from St. Paul’s Letter to American Christians

Excerpted from Martin Luther King Jr.’s book, Strength to Love:

“I would like to share with you an imaginary letter from the pen of the Apostle Paul. The postmark reveals that it comes from the port city of Troas. On opening the letter I discovered that it was written in Greek rather than in English. After working assiduously with the translation for several weeks, I think I have now deciphered its true meaning. If the content of this epistle sounds strangely Kingian instead of Paulinian, attribute it to my lack of complete objectivity rather than Paul’s lack of clarity. Here is…

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PZ’s Podcast: Wooden Ships

PZ’s Podcast: Wooden Ships

EPISODE 169: Wooden Ships

What is a person’s duty toward the world? Do we “owe” the world our efforts and our action? If not exactly, then how are we supposed to relate to the world? “How shall we then live?”

This cast talks about Meister Eckhart, who for my money was never wrong about anything. I just never find myself disagreeing with anything he ever said. Or maybe just one thing.

Eckhart preached a sermon in which he said, “What is reaped in contemplation is sown in action.” Gosh, that sounds good.

Yet it’s the only statement he ever made that I can’t get…

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Ruts, Expectation, and the Word from Beyond: Thoughts on Christian Time

Ruts, Expectation, and the Word from Beyond: Thoughts on Christian Time

We all know the feeling of being in a rut: repetition temporarily dominates variation, and we’re going in circles, with routine and mundanity showing no signs of breaking. Most recently, Rust Cohle on True Detective comes to mind. His quote that “time is a flat circle” emphasizes repetitiveness, lack of progress, everything repeating and repeating – “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow / Creeps in this petty pace”, as Shakespeare’s Macbeth puts it. What lent the air of futility to Macbeth’s time? He had a goal, a telos, or end, earlier: to become king. Once his ambition is fulfilled, there is no more movement toward…

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Doubtful Motives and Religious Allurement

Doubtful Motives and Religious Allurement

In general, attention is a tending of the ego toward an intentional object, toward a unity which “appears” continually in the change of the modes of its givenness and which belongs to the essential structure of a specific act of the ego… it is a tending-toward in realization. The realization which is brought into being with the turning-toward, the starting point of the realization of the act, is the beginning of a continuing realizing directedness of the ego toward the object…

The original tendency of the process, along with what has accrued to it from what has been realized hitherto, is…

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“All This an Illusion”: A Reflection on Determinism and Free Choice

“All This an Illusion”: A Reflection on Determinism and Free Choice

This humdinger comes from Jim McNeely:

I recently listened to episode 93 of the Partially Examined Life podcast (you can listen to it or read about it here). It is a fascinating listen; these are not rabid militant “New Atheism” people, just fun and thoughtful agnostic/atheists who love philosophy. I have found that it is where I go to get the current conversation “on the street” about important philosophical issues. In this particular episode they grapple with a problem that we have been looking at from a theological perspective for millennia — free will vs. predestination (in some ways similar to…

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Wheeling and Dealing with the Devil: Kierkegaard on the Intolerable Self

Wheeling and Dealing with the Devil: Kierkegaard on the Intolerable Self

If there is a band that has been a bit overplayed lately, Bastille would be it. But while you’ve probably heard their song “Pompeii”, you probably haven’t heard “Icarus”. The song, of course, is based on that famous Greek myth about a man named Daedalus who makes wings out of wax for his son, Icarus. Tragically, though Daedalus warned Icarus to avoid flying near the sun, Icarus just couldn’t help himself; so his wings melted, and he fell to the sea where he drowned. The story is a little on the not-so-happily-ever-after side, as the chorus reminds us: “Icarus is…

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Jean-Luc Marion Needs Assurance

In the wonderful French philosopher’s reflections on The Erotic Phenomenon, he points out the poverty of a Cartesian ego which operates by certainty – certitude of objects and of itself. Why does Descartes undertake his project of doubt and demonstration in the first place? We desire to know, and this word – “desire” – indicates an intention toward something far greater than knowledge or certainty: an assurance beyond the self. This happens in his “erotic reduction”, in which we are “led back” to the human as lover:

trapped

(via XKCD)

Thus in the erotic reduction, nothing and no one assures me – the lover that I have become under the erotic reduction – except myself, who by definition cannot do so. By agreeing to hear the question “Does anyone love me?” it is as if I have opened beneath my feet an abyss that I can neither fill, nor cross, nor perhaps even sound – an abyss that I risk enlarging even more by developing the logic of the question “Does anyone out there love me?” For the question “Does anyone love me?” will in effect only be able to receive a response (if it ever could) by coming upon me from elsewhere than myself; it thus assigns me an irreversible dependency upon that which I can neither master, nor provoke, nor even envisage – an other than myself, eventually someone other for me (alter ego), in any case a foreign instance, coming from I know not where – in any case, not from me. So, while the search for certainty (“Of what am I certain?”) may still hope to lead me back to myself, by certifying to me that at the least I am, even if I am still deceived, the request for an assurance (“Does anyone out there love me?”) exiles me definitively outside of myself: even if it eventually winds up reassuring me against the threat of vanity (“What’s the use?”) by assuring me that someone loves me, it would assign me all the more to this “someone” (whosoever he or she may be) that I will never be, and whose foreignness nevertheless will always remain more inward to me than my most inward part. The very one who could assure me must estrange me. In short, certainty can lead me back to myself, because I acquire it by subtraction, like a poor phenomenon, while assurance separates me from myself, because it opens within me the separation of an elsewhere. Whether it remains an empty request or, instead, fills me with its excess, it always marks me with a lack that is my own. By opening the very question of assurance, I become a lack to myself.

What’s Oppressive about My Opinion? Millennial Paralysis in the Post-Critical Age

What’s Oppressive about My Opinion? Millennial Paralysis in the Post-Critical Age

Over at the New York Times‘ Opinionator, Zachary Fine ponders the millennial predicament of pluralism, and the pressure all 20- and 30-somethings face to inherit opinions that can most easily fit into the “new orthodoxy of multiculturalism.” Fine notes that pluralism is often gracefully self-described as ” faithfully disinterested” or “energetically engaged with diversity,” but that its impact has created a kind of analysis paralysis. What can one say, we wonder, without wakening the beehive of multicultural non-violence? How can one have an opinion, when having one means being a bigot? The generosity of pluralism, in theory, seems to create…

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Another Week Ends: Secret Auden, Eagleton Deicide, Remembering Wes, Method Acting, True Detective, and Russian Tourist Tips

Another Week Ends: Secret Auden, Eagleton Deicide, Remembering Wes, Method Acting, True Detective, and Russian Tourist Tips

1. Holy smokes! Have you read Edward Mendelson’s “The Secret Auden” in the NY Review of Books?! If not, run don’t walk. It’s a jaw-dropping, incredibly inspiring catalog of the clandestine episodes of grace initiated by our all-time favorite Wystan–about as honest a Matthew 6:5 vibe as I’ve come across in ages. Lest these remarkable stories be dismissed as mere hagiography, Mendelson (author of the indispensable Later Auden) doesn’t lionize the great poet, instead tracing the ‘good works’ back to their root–which is not a sense of earning or credit (clearly) but of genuine humility brought on by piercing self-knowledge….

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Ferrari Buyers in Search of Love: from The Philosopher’s Mail

Ferrari Buyers in Search of Love: from The Philosopher’s Mail

If you haven’t yet found it, I highly recommend the new UK site The Philosopher’s Mail. It’s a news site, much like the tabloid-heave Daily Mail, but it’s written entirely by philosophers. Think celebrity gossip and pop culture news with a reflective and entertaining twist, with stories like: “Love shortage drives Shia LaBeouf nuts” or “Larry Page, Google CEO, tortures us with his jeans“. Brilliant, but funny stuff right?

Today’s article, “200mph Ferrari California launched. Buyers not greedy show offs, just vulnerable fragile big infants in need of affection” struck me as particularly Mockingbird worthy.

We know, because we hear it so…

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Everybody’s Guilty on True Detective

Everybody’s Guilty on True Detective

Raise your hand if you’re currently obsessed with HBO’s True Detective. Okay, hands down – you’re all suspects. I’ve been telling myself to hold off on writing about the series until it finishes, that it’s far too elegant to take apart before we have all the pieces. And it is. HBO has given us an exquisitely crafted drama, as gripping as it is rigorous, something that not only invites but rewards reflection and, yes, investigation (in one of the show’s many meta-gestures, writer/creator Nic Pizzolatto is making detectives of us all). It’s also a show that is clearly much smarter…

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Another Week Ends: Self-Making Atheists, Structural Dating, Indiscriminate Addiction, Christian Metal, Guilty Pleasures, and Failed Figure Skaters

Another Week Ends: Self-Making Atheists, Structural Dating, Indiscriminate Addiction, Christian Metal, Guilty Pleasures, and Failed Figure Skaters

1. In The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik took the release of two new books about the history of atheism to issue one of his periodic ‘state of modern belief” pieces. Most of the word count is devoted to the question of when the burden of proof definitively shifted from atheists to believers (The Onion weighs in here), and while there are certainly some interesting tidbits, one can’t help but be distracted by: first, wasn’t the exact opposite thing was being said five years ago?, and second, the dichotomy he embraces from one of the books is downright weird, at least…

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John Milbank’s Beyond Secular Order (or: Why I Can’t Sleep at Night: A Theo-Political Inquiry)

John Milbank’s Beyond Secular Order (or: Why I Can’t Sleep at Night: A Theo-Political Inquiry)

My Learn to Play Bridge program talks to me. Upon entry, “Welcome to Bridge Baron 23.” Upon exit, “Hope to see you again soon.” Mere visuals don’t work because, well, the voice is extraneous, but it’s hard to play a social game in solitude. I’m probably playing it alone, at any given time, only because I can’t find people to play with. The voice acts as an assurance, a psuedo-human element in an enterprise in which the human element could not be more glaringly absent.

The idea of depersonalization occupies us more and more: social media in particular serves as a…

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