Practical Philosophy

The Bliss of Blamelessness and the Golden Rule

If we cede all moral theory, any notion of spiritual or religious rewards or justifications, or any through-going vision of philosophy, is there a rational case to be made for something like the Golden Rule, most often rendered in English as: “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you”?

The obvious answer is, no. I’ve ceded the fact that religions preach it, philosophers have pieced together complex arguments to justify it, and that it may just make you feel better because of your sense of right and wrong. But I think I’ve found, hidden in a less-explored bit of Buddhism, a practical case for the Golden Rule.

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Review: Philosophy Bites (Podcast)

Helder da Rocha (CC)Philosophy Books

I’ve alway fancied philosophy, but never was able to find the time to appreciate it’s affinity for semantics and over-thought fictional scenarios. And though I don’t mind reading philosophy, but I’m not exactly able to find the time to do it often.

It is there that I see the excellent Philosophy Bites filling the gap. The podcast, by David Edmunds and Nigel Warburton, is a weekly conversation with a philosopher that are between 10 and 20 minutes long. They run the gamut from classic to contemporary, from analytical to highly practical. Some episodes will tackle the likes of Socrates or Plato, Emmanuel Kant or David Hume, while others deftly handle topics like philosophy in a film like Blade Runner.

All of this is probably be interesting to those with doctorates in philosophy, but it’s also surprisingly accessible to people, like myself, who don’t have such credentials.

The most recent episode that seemed a little esoteric was a discussion of free riding. But though the idea’s not well known, it is very easy to grasp. Free riding is, as the name so ably suggests, taking advantage of the positive actions of others while not participating yourself. The example of being environmentally careless while others conserve is the obvious example that Mr. Edmunds quickly explains within the first 90 seconds of the podcast.

And this problem, like most tackled by Philosophy Bites, are incredibly interesting and very rarely discussed in daily life (at least my daily life). To it’s discredit, one could rightly argue that this podcast, like all philosophy, is more concerned with idle discussion of impractical ideas.

And indeed, the recent discussion of the concepts of past, present, and future could feel to some like a purely academic endeavor. Surely it’s an interesting point, you could argue, that events are the same regardless of whether or not they’ve happened yet. But that’s not exactly something that can or should change the way I live my life.

It’s a completely reasonable argument, but the problems with philosophy itself aren’t problems peculiar to this podcast. And though I might offer one, I’ll leave a full-throated defense of philosophy to other people or times.

I certainly enjoy philosophy for itself, but never find the time to tackle complex texts by authors I probably haven’t heard of. But I can–and gladly do–spend 15 minutes per week listening to a friendly and accessible discussion of those books and ideas that I don’t read. If such a thing seems remotely interesting to you I’d strongly recommend that you give Philosophy Bites a try.

metablogging, personal, ruminations

But What Is a Blog? & My Answer

Source: topgoldA Blog is a placeā€¦

Aside from having been described by Jerry Seinfeld as a terribly ugly word (which it is), “blog” is a hard concept to pin down. Of course the word’s evolution from the original meaning of “web log” would suggest that they’re necessarily linear expressions of a set of idea, thoughts, and goals. A diary almost. But I’d hope that this “blog” doesn’t feel like a diary, or have substance very similar a teenager’s secret journal.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the difference between a “writer” and a “blogger” but came to little more than my frustration with, and inability to parse, the distinction. I wrote a few months ago about the different types of blogs I see on the internet. But neither of those seemed to answer the question of “what is a blog?” and more specifically “what is a blog to me?”

I think the easiest analogy–and it’s not really a surprising one–is that like a “book” or a “magazine,” it really varies. Like both of those forms, there’s a certain idea that people usually associate with the word “blog.” Where for books they probably tend to think of a novel, or for magazines, a news weekly (about politics, “news,” celebrities, what have you), with a blog the default assumption is roughly that it is a place for a person to write irrelevant blather to make themselves feel important.

But a “book” also includes the notions of long non-fiction, short fiction with illustrations (picture books!), short story collections, or diatribes about politics, gods, or “man.” So too can a magazine be a heterodox collection of fiction, nonfiction, short bits and long blather. It can be exceptionally experimental or staid and boring. It can be exceptionally timely or exceptionally timeless.

Of those two, my description of a “magazine” is closer to my understanding of what a blog is. But neither fits exactly. The point is perhaps as simple as this: a blog, like a book or magazine, is what it’s made into.

This is no revelations, even to me, but for some reason I can and frequently do lose sight of it’s truth. Too much time online regularly convinces me that all blogs (mine included) are the same. That it’s all inane blather that does little more than serve to create circles of people patting each other on the back and never realizing that they’re producing drivel.

Nor does it help that finding blogs I like which update regularly often feels impossible. Much of what passes for political discussion in the blogosphere feels like arguments about inane topics that no one but the most nerdy cares about (see: Kos, Daily). Most of what passes for discussions about life is journaling about the events of your day (see: dooce). When what I want–as Leslie said accurately–is “a new breed of philosopher” (see: my blogroll?).

The difficulty faced in finding what I want in the “blogosphere” is enough to make me despair and desire to run away from the medium. But I’m also pretty certain that flight and despair are choices built for fools.

The type of blog I’m making here is the kind of blog I’d like to read. Even if they sometimes feel few and far between–among a vast wasteland of seething and wasteful punditry, savaging of celebrities, and “get rich from blogging” sites–I persist. If only because of my own stubborn and insolent insistence that what I’m looking for, what I’m making, is worthwhile.

Perhaps I’m a quixotic fool. The artist who dies destitute and sad. Whose brilliance–whether real or imagined–is discovered only after death. Or not at all.

Whatever the reality, I must again thank those who read this. Whatever it is or is not.