Misconceptions on philosophy II

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In my previous post, I tried to clarify some of the misconceptions on philosophy in general by defining philosophy, concept (as the philosophical tool) and the difference between philosophy and psychology. To me, definitions are fundamental to understand and elaborate.

You can check my post here Misconceptions on philosophy I

Moving to more fun parts of the misconceptions, a distinction must be made with politics. The latter is responsible for creating some damages in the name of philosophy by imposing ideologies.

Ideology:

Ideology is a body of doctrine, myth, belief, etc., that guides an individual, social movement, institution, class, or large group with reference to some political and social plan, as that of fascism, along with the devices for putting it into operation.  Ideology is always to be linked with politics in both large and strict sense, to religion and to society. It shapes up citizens political behaviour and way of thinking, alongside an economic plan to back it up.

An ideology is not solely the specialty of totalitarian States. Globalization for example is an ideology without being a totalitarian regime, although it has some facets of it as in forming the way of being and thinking.

The tricky part is that some ideologies, in there headlines and big titles, were in a way inspired by philosophy but with major twists. Here is the typical example of the perversion made to philosophy by politics.

Marxism, communism and Leninism:

Karl Marx had earned a bad reputation mainly because of Lenin. Let’s start by saying that Marx’ ultimate goal is the disappearance of the State, replaced by the communist society based on equality among people. He wanted this because he pointed out the exploitation of workers by the state through capitalism. So he aimed for a more liberal form of capitalism.

Lenin, who read Marx very well, did all the opposite. He implemented a gigantic State, the USSR, with a guided economy. Apart from the apparatchik or the members of the Soviet State apparatus, the rest of the people lived equally on less than average compared to the West.

Forever the name of Marx will be linked to the poorly applied communism which was spread on half of the planet. It must be noted that Marxism as in Marx’ works was never applied. The Marxist world is a utopia.

This is one example among many others were ideology and philosophy get confused. Same goes for Nazism and Nietzsche, Consumerism and the concept of freedom, the Cartesian definition of a man and nature’s exploitation and the list goes on.

Misconceptions on philosophy I

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This post is inspired by many questions I am asked daily on philosophy in general and on philosophers in particular. As a philosophy teacher, it is my duty to address misconceptions about this field and to untangle philosophy from other disciplines that falsely want to use it for higher purposes.

What are the main encountered confusions?

Let’s start with definitions since philosophy is the science of definitions and it always starts with defining and describing the object of study.

Philosophy:

You might hear people say: “My philosophy of a workout/life/career/love etc. is this and this”. The right word to be used in this is “perspective” which is an interpretation based upon one’s experience. While philosophy will create representations and perspectives, it is not per se a perspective. Philosophy is the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline. In other words, philosophy creates concepts. After figuring out what is the fundamental nature of all the aforementioned, then we can have a perspective on life, on fitness, on love, on career etc.

Concept:

Design, architecture, advertising etc. use the word concept as an idea about their product. This is misuse of the word concept. A concept is not a simple theoretical idea to be concretely realized in a tangible product. For Deleuze, concepts are not identity conditions or propositions, but metaphysical constructions that define a range of thinking, such as Plato’s ideas, Descartes’s cogito, or Kant’s doctrine of the faculties. A philosophical concept “posits itself and its object at the same time as it is created.” So there is a concept of an idea, as the basis and the structure of the idea, the ontology of it. To go back to the confusion mentioned before, there is a concept of the idea which will be realized in a product. A concept is a meta-idea.

Philosophy vs. psychology:

While philosophy was the first to study consciousness and human’s mind, and was and still a type of therapy as I explained it shortly on this post: Therapy through philosophy. a short explanation. However, philosophy and psychology can’t be swapped. Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior, according to the American Psychological Association. It is the study of the mind, how it works, and how it affects behavior. Psychologists and psychiatrists work together to help people with mental health conditions, but they are not quite the same. Psychology and philosophy in its practical branch are both therapies focusing on a patient; philosophy in its broader branches doesn’t deal with individuals but with concepts.

I hope I cleared out some confusions around philosophy as an academic discipline. More posts will be written about this subject, because misconceptions like these drive me nuts!

Random crucial truths vs. the tragic of life

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Pablo Picasso : The Tragedy

2020 is definitely a weird but interesting year, a year like no other years before. I firmly believe it is a doorway to a different decade, therefore to a different way of life. Every morning, while having my strong black unsweetened filtered coffee, I stumble upon many small truths; most of the times I choose to go on as if nothing happened with an eager desire that things will go back to what they used to be before. Being aware of the useless nostalgia, I am trying to process the present which is, just like the German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz describes it:

The present is saturated with the past and pregnant with the future.

The truths I encountered are clichés but practically crucial. Some of them are repeated daily, almost mechanically. Some others are theoretically true but difficult to execute. The beauty of them is their simplicity. The simplicity to face the ultimate inevitable truth: the tragic of life. Death is what makes life tragic and what gives meaning to it. So, what are these “truths” to handle tragedy?

  • Health, family and friendship are strong pillars to the monument of life.
  • Joy found in dissonance and disharmony in doing exactly the opposite of what we are told to do and makes us joyful. I can see you smiling while reading this: did it remind you of a teenage silliness? We need to go back to the teenage heart and follow it. LAUGHING OUT LOUD.

I am talking about joy and not empty abstract harmonious happiness.

  • Pleasure in every step of the way. Seek it.
  • Consumption leads to waste.
  • Breathing and moving are the best therapy.

In conclusion, time is wasted by “small truths” of required tasks to survive. “Big truths” are found in silence and stillness, at night when nature wakes up, in tragic scenes and scenarios. Don’t hate them and don’t try to forget them. Tragic is the meaning of life!

Gilles Deleuze and his views on people

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For some, he was a complicated; for others he was an outstanding philosopher for his intertwined rich writings and his beliefs on people as individuals, capable of achieving the impossible. While other leftists prefers the social group over the individual (mostly communists do), Gilles Deleuze prevailed the importance of the individual in a world that is a web with no frontiers with endless domino and butterfly effects (Covid19 anyone?). The concept of the deleuzian space will be presented in a future post.

Consciousness is made of impressions and experiences. It is an ongoing process; one can’t achieve a set consciousness that doesn’t change. So, we go through lives affecting and being affected by the outside world and our strength is to be creators of new possibilities.

Here are some of his quotes that sum up his views on people.

A concept is a brick; it can be used to build a courthouse of reason. Or it can be thrown through the window.

Philosophy, art and science are not the mental objects of an objectified brain but the three aspects under which the brain becomes subject.

A creator is someone who creates their own impossibilities and thereby creates possibilities.

There’s no need to fear or hope, but only to look for new weapons.

The self is only a threshold, a door, a becoming between two possibilities.

Drunkenness as a triumphant of the plant in us.

To affirm is not to bear, carry or harness oneself to that which exists, but on the contrary to unburden, unharness and set free which lives.

To those who say escaping is not courageous, we answer: what is not escape and social investment at the same time? (With Felix Guattari).

 

 

The unbearably human “what if” attitude

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painting by Bertha Wegmann

The word “human” is often referred to as the conscious being and probably so far, the only one. Consciousness, as the French philosopher Henri Bergson defines it, is historicity. It is the capacity of being aware of time. Moreover, humans live consciously in the time and have a special relation to it. This is why, we invented the watch, the calendar and timetables; but also we have deadlines, memories, projections and so on.

Consciousness is memory, a link between the past, the present and the future which allows us to go back and forth and to anticipate the future while looking back at the past. in Bergson’s words:

“In reality, the past is preserved by itself automatically … the pure present is an ungraspable advance of the past devouring the future. In truth, all sensation is already memory”.

Is this ability a heavy weight? Isn’t the cause of constantly saying to ourselves “what if”?

Mainly there are two consequences of this: resentment or pro-activity.

Resentment is the sum of negative feelings like regrets, remorse, jealousy and persecution. What if I did this instead of that? What if people hate me? What if I am fundamentally stupid? What if I will never make it? All are legitimate questions which can become psychologically lethal if one is entangled in this obsessive attitude, feeding all kinds of negative feelings. We can easily desire to be constantly feeling bad.

On the other hand, these questions can become the way to a better living only if there is a desire to change and face the new. Bergson said it better:

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly”.

Søren Kierkegaard, the creator of the philosophical journal

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Søren Kierkegaard (5 May 1813 – 11 November 1855) was a Danish philosopher, theologian, poet, social critic and religious author who is widely considered to be the first existentialist philosopher. Much of his philosophical work deals with the issues of how one lives as a “single individual”, giving priority to concrete human reality over abstract thinking and highlighting the importance of personal choice and commitment.

Kierkegaard invented philosophical journals. He wrote over 7,000 pages in his journals on events, musings, thoughts about his works and everyday remarks. Careful not to reveal too much, Kierkegaard wrote aphorisms in literary style which led to many interpretations of his writings. At that time, the philosopher figure was Hegel.

Hegel followed a big tradition of philosophical writing that can be summed as a long demonstration or thesis in an impersonal objective style. He was considered as the philosopher of the system and his writings are a fusion of abstract thinking and concepts. Being monumental himself, Hegel was the power image of the philosopher who inspired countless philosophy students and readers. So Kierkegaard stood as the anti-Hegel, anti-system philosopher which made him the father of existentialism.

 Knowing that his journals would have a big influence on people, In December 1849, he wrote:

 “Were I to die now the effect of my life would be exceptional; much of what I have simply jotted down carelessly in the Journals would become of great importance and have a great effect; for then people would have grown reconciled to me and would be able to grant me what was, and is, my right.”

Labour day or the modern slavery day

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photo by cute-calendar.com

Happy labour day! It is a controversial title especially for jobless people out there and for grateful workers who still have a job in spite of the lockdown. In fact, digging deeper to the concept of labour, one can tell that the alteration of labour in our understanding had led to an alteration in the concept of freedom. How did we become modern slaves?

The word freedom comes from libertas. In Ancient Rome, a liber meant a free man who is not a slave. So, back then, slavery and freedom were legal statuses. Fast forward many centuries later, with the outcome of the Industrial Revolution (19th century), labour became a social, legal, political and philosophical theme. Therefore, labour is a recent concept, born with the evolution of society. Since then, with the progressive abolition of slavery and monarchies in Europe, everybody was working. Freedom as a concept was understood as financial independence.

Alongside the new concepts of both labour and freedom, capitalism (especially in its industrial form) encouraged ambition conceived as wealth which was not a bad thing. The bad thing happened later, when capitalism turned to become consumerism and a financial capitalism. Simply put, loans and massive production turned the world population into forever indebted to banks and states. Freedom as a concept  both in its old and new understanding, became an illusion. Adding to this, the new virtual surveillance of online work.

Charles Bukowski said it better:

How in the hell, could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 am by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where you essentially made lots of money for somebody else and asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?

in Factotum, 1975

Happy labour day everybody!

 

 

How to face the planetary lockdown? Stoic philosophers answered

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Stoic philosophers are the best choice of coaches to help us get through our long days. Here are some inspirational quotes to get us on perspective.

On external events and the future:

Just keep in mind: the more we value things outside our control, the less control we have. Epictetus

The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately. Seneca

A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials. Seneca

On self-control and will power:

It does not matter what you bear, but how you bear it. Seneca

He has the most who is content with the least. Diogenes

If it’s endurable, then endure it. Stop complaining. Marcus Aurelius

The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are. Marcus Aurelius

The mind that is anxious about future events is miserable. Seneca

You have power over your mind — not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength. Marcus Aurelius

On daily life:

Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn’t matter. Marcus Aurelius

When you arise in the morning think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love. Marcus Aurelius

As each day arises, welcome it as the very best day of all, and make it your own possession. We must seize what flees. Seneca

My life this week in 2020 the year of change

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photo by unsplash.com

The country is shut down due to the corona tsunami and people remain home. For me, it was a new experience as i am teaching online. I hate corona but i am loving this online job experience. However, being locked down, I couldn’t help but wonder about the year 2020.

For those who follow my blog, they know that starting october 2019, we have been on a long revolution against corruption and injustice. So on a shaky land we entered 2020 that hit us with more turmoils and with corona. Horrible as it is, we must look at the bigger picture. 2020 is the year of battles and change; which logically leads to the desire of change or to resistance because of fear. I feel it is a turning point: there is before and after 2020. The decade sounds revolutionary on all levels.

Corona, floods, earthquakes, protests, climate change and more demand responsibility and collective consciousness. It demands awareness and redifinition of oneself, of social structures, of relationships, of politics, of economics. Basically it demands form each one of us a choice and a role. Speaking of Corona: movies, tedtalks, conferences predicted the outbreak of a similar virus. We listened but we didn’t get ready for it. Now that the outbreak is here, what am I going to do? How to deal with others? Who am I and what are my deepest desires? The natural incidents I mentioned indicate the redifinition of the earth itself.

2020 is the year of big lessons in life. Incidents will force us to retrieve into ourselves and connect on a deeper level with our fears and desires. It is the year that must teach us to let go of the past and start fresh new, both on individual and collective levels.

So yes there is fear and loneliness. There is a resistance to change. But do we have a choice other than love and flexibility? I don’t think we do.

 

Why current educational systems will not work for too long

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photo by mybancroftnow.com

At least for the last century, educational systems around the world followed (and still do) a logical structuralist approach in their teaching methods, with little differences from one country to another. However, with the internet and streaming era, I wonder how long the current educational systems in the world would last.

Let’s dig slightly into these two fields.

Structuralism, in it general definition, is the methodology that implies elements of human culture to be understood by way of their relation to a broader, overarching system of structure. It works to undercover the structures that underlie all the things that humans do, think, perceive and feel. The impact of this system of education was and still powerful because it is the direct representative of the the political and economical “overarching system of structure”. In other words, a child is sent to school to become a citizen, a worker and a consumerist. With an efficient logic in its core, the current educational system turned the world population today into indebted clients bingeing on sugar with and increase rate of unemployment; worse as Hannah Arendt said once “a society of workers without work”.

On the other hand, internet is an algorithmic web. An algorithm is a detailed series of instructions for carrying out an operation or sovlving a problem. In a non-technical approach, we use algorithms in everyday tasks. As you can see, since it is non-technical, algorithmic process is different from efficient technical logical one.

Many questions are asked or should be asked: will we write the same way? Do we teach the same disciplines? Don’t we need to change our thinking schemes?