Philosophy Hurts Your Head

The blog of a cranky Philosophy PhD Student from Newcastle, Australia.

Archive for January, 2005


Posted by Sam D on January 27, 2005

Lentin’s work on racism got me thinking about paternalism in the left of politics. Much as they might deny it, it is an attitude that I have personally witnessed in many involved in this side of activism in Newcastle. Many politcal movements are plausibly paternalistic, but what if anything, can we or should we do about this?
I mean, it is certainly uncontroversial to suggest that many people do not know what is good for them. We can think that we know better, and we might. But does this give us the right to impose our will, our views, or even our suggestions on them? In not letting somone be self-determing, and protecting them from making horrible, painful and fatal mistakes, are we doing more damage to them than if we let them have their way? Obviously we don’t want them to harm other people, but that aside, the left seems to be leaning away from individual choce, towards ‘educating’ people, so that they know what is good for them (which by coincidence is what the party says is good). I am personally happy to tell other people what to do, because most people are idiouts, I do think I know better. But I don’t want someone else to do that to me. Maybe I give up the right to be paternalistic, in order to be protected from the will of those who think they know better than me. Kind of like Hobbes, but for libertines. I suspect that it s more to do with power. Those with it will inevitably get those wh do not have it to follow certain rules, not matter how much they believe in self-determination.


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Posted by Sam D on January 21, 2005

Faced with this and such accounts as that put forward by our own Dr Hooker, it seems that in terms of what persons are, there is not much we can depend upon except awareness. That is capability to expereince pleasure/happiness (positive feedback) or pain/suffering (negative feedback). If we rejecect solipsim, and I do most days, the we agree that it is plausible to suggest that it is not just ourselves that expereince these states.
What I was wondering as I was at work last night, is this: Why should I care if someone else suffers? Why should it matter to me?
I tried, in our supposedly post-modern context, to come up with some answers.

1. Because it matters to them.
This does not really answer the question.

2. No one wants to suffer. The desire to avoid suffering does not need any justification.
This might well be the case. I certainly don’t feel the need to justify my desire to avoid suffering (though I may have to justify actual avoidance, like not going to the dentist often enough). But once again, this is not enough by itself to answer the question.
To say “It matters to me if I suffer, therefore it matters to me if someone else suffers” is a highly questionable piece of reasoning, and is not valid, as it stands. But it might come in handy later, I suspect.

3. It would matter to them if you suffered, so it should matter to you if they suffer.
This might not be the case. At least some people would not care either way if you suffered or did not.
Furthermore, for this to work, i’d actually have to care about what they thought, which is unlikely, since I don’t even care at this point about their suffering. In all seriousness, the implicit principle of reciprocity at work here does itself need justification of some sort.

4. From a differnt angle, I thought: It does effect me. Maybe witnessing or having knowledge of, suffering, causes me to suffer. Therefore I should care, and should act, in order to limit my suffering (not unlike the opinion expressed in a certain song being played on JJJ at the moment).
This idea has more problems than you can poke a stick at. What if you do witness suffering, but don’t care? Can it effect you at a sub-concious level, so that you’re miserable due to your inaction without knowing it? Is the gaining of something a good reason to be concerned with the suffering of others? This is a good question to ask, as the idea of reciprocity touched on above is predicated on a return of this kind. And an answer of sorts, can be gained from Cliff Hooker’s model, where all interaction with the environment (which includes other living things) ranging from breathing to delivering a lecture on the philsophy of mind, function to maintain some internal norm or norms (all of which are contined within our metabolism). Something goes out so we can get something back that we need/want. Charitble eh? You might be just maintaining your serotonin levels. Or setting things up so that people will help you if a disaster flattens your country.
Unfortunately (or not depending on how you look at it) this does not tell us why I should care(other than self-interest), only what happens if I do, why I did care, and basically that I either did or I didn’t due to the movement of particles governed by the laws of physics. Bloody determinism.

So far, so good. Or not….

If all that post-modern morality rests on is so called enlightened self-interest, then we might be in trouble.

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Telemarketing hurts your head.

Posted by Sam D on January 19, 2005

I was reading through some othe notes I had made in between calls at my satanic night job this morning. I’m not sure that I’m coping with telesales very well. For example there is this:

Rip tear hurt shred
Crush briuse slice rend
Hate puncture rupture shake
Grill gut smack hit
Slap punch pinch slit
Poison break dislocate
Shatter burn

Not nice, and not very good either eh? I prefer this:

“Yeah I’m not intersted at the moment”
Yeah right. Like you have a choice.
Cause and effect have redered us spectators
as we beep and bleep,
Like lame middle class flesh-modems.
“Do you like pointless crap?” I send.
“I’m addicted to it” you reply.
The trasaction ensues.
Power, like hospital grade laxative
has worked “through” us
And greased my palm along the way.
Empty and uncomfortable
But not starving.
So what the fuck am I complaining about?
Beep Beep Beep Beep
The universe regrets to inform you that your life could not be conneted.
Please check the number and try again.

Ugh. That poerty is worse than bad, it’s goth. Mental note: NO MORE POETRY FOR SAM. On the up side I’m quitting this job very soon, as my other job is finally looking like giving me a decent number of hours.

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Posted by Sam D on January 17, 2005

It’s early. And wet. And not in a good way.
On a happier note, I have stopped obsessing over determinism today. I might just be a pile of protein and fat wandering about the universe in some bizzare permutation of the laws of physics, but today, I don’t give a rats arse. So what if my decisions might be the outward effect of charged particles floating across synapses, in patterns set according to my previous interactions with my environment? I am comforted to think that when I’m accused of being indecisive, it simply means that my brain has not in the past recived enough positive feedback either way to form a solid loop. Not that I would advise using this line of reasoning with someone accusing you of being indecisive, especially a spouse/partner. They will most likely tell you that you are full of crap.
I’m still fretting over causality again.

In true Vogon style, I will punish the universe later with some poetry.

Smile, and then enjoy the delusion that you actually made the decision to do that just now.

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First Post. Yay?

Posted by Sam D on January 14, 2005

Hi all

These are my more personal, and disreputable rantings. Slightly more serious academic work of mine will be found in the future the Newcastle Uni Philosophy Club (of which I’m the president) blogg, or in an actual journal or maybe even a book.
Or not. I’m trying to not get over-excited yet. But having been accepted to do honours this year it’s hard not to be.
Have to go and be useful, will return soon.


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