Giacomo Leopardi is one of the greatest secrets of 19th century poetry. Despite being heralded by luminaries like Schopenhauer1 and Nietzsche, his fame remains scattered in Europe and hardly extends to the American hemisphere. Leopardi’s Zibaldone di pensieri2 was read by every school kid but they barely cracked open his Operette Morali.3 The likely culprit is an irredeemable pessimism that was too difficult for interpreters to connect it to contemporary issues. Leopardi wrote mostly moral essays, parables, fables, and dialogues – painting life as a joke of the gods – a darkly comic view of world and its inhabitants. However, instead of leaving the reader sad and pathetic, they are actually funny. Continue reading Leopardi and pessimism
I first learned of the idea of a psychopath in Thomas Harris’ thriller, the Silence of Lambs. Hannibal Lecter was a deeply fascinating character, and all the more frightening because he didn’t look like a grotesque monster, a violent & bloodthirsty beast. Instead, Lecter was a charming and intelligent character with a doctorate in psychology, but utterly conscience-free. His hypothetical existence forced me to reflect and sound the depths of darkness within. However, psychopaths remained only a curiosity until this quarter, when I came across the idea of psychopaths again in the works of moral philosophers. In this essay, I shall summarize the main arguments of Nichols and Kenneth regarding the danger that psychopaths pose to moral reasoning. Then I shall argue why neither passes muster, for they remain trapped within the tradition of philosophy as a meta-psychology, and why psychopaths are potential harbingers of the future. Continue reading Psychopaths: Moral Deviants or Harbingers?
This semester I’m taking a graduate course in the philosophy of religion. I already took one as an undergraduate, but under a different professor who was a proficient expert on Hegel. This time, the current professor seems far more culturally informed and global, which leads to an entirely different angle to assess religion philosophically. Continue reading The failure of philosophy of religion
After 7 years, I was burned out by philosophy, yet I continued to haunt the philosophy section in search for anything radical and profound. Amidst the expected titles commonly found at any bookstore, sat A Short History of Decay. I pulled it off the shelf in the faint hopes of killing time until the cigar shop opened in 20 minutes. After a couple of hours disappeared savoring the salacious prose, I begrudgingly closed the book and hurried to the checkout counter, cackling in glee in the wonderful fortune of uncovering a new thinker that spoke blasphemous music to my eyes.
At the end of the 1949 film, Sands of Iwo Jima, after the US soldiers survive a battle, Marine Sergeant John Stryker (John Wayne) tells his fellow comrades in the trench that he’s never felt so good in his life. He asks them if they want a cigarette, and then he gets killed immediately by a sniper. Later, the others find a letter on his body that contains many things John Stryker planned to say, but never did. Absurd, I thought, when I first saw this movie. I was expecting a happy ending to the movie because the protagonists always survived the climax. I couldn’t help but be reminded of that scene when I read Albert Camus’ essay on the absurd, The Myth of Sisyphus. In this essay I will break down the concepts of the absurd, eluding, suicide and eluding, and make a few observations of my own. Continue reading Sisyphus Shrugged: An essay on Myth of Sisyphus
In the concluding section of the Two Dogmas of Empiricism, Quine describes our entire knowledge as a “man made fabric,” (Two Dogmas of Empiricism, p. 39) an epistemological system that’s essentially a human construct consisting of statements, but one that’s constrained or limited by the vast accumulation of experience. When new experience that’s not confirmed or compatible with the existing construct occurs, there are repercussions that alters statements within the construct, and in turn, causes a ripple effect that changes other “logically connected” (p. 39) statements. Continue reading A dogmatic view of the Two Dogmas
In the Logische Aufbau der Welt, Rudolf Carnap was concerned with the objectivity of science, and how his rational reconstruction, could successfully explain why science is objective, despite starting with an autopsychological basis. In section 66, Carnap raises the challenge his system must solve: How can science consist of “intersubjective valid assertions,” (Logische, p. 106) when all physical objects are constructed from subjective experience? Continue reading Carnap and objectivity in science
In the Analysis of Sensations, Ernst Mach attempted to categorize elements into three groups: A B C as the independent objects of the world, K L M as one’s own body, and a b c as the contents of one’s own mind. It seemed trivial to extend this chain of relations to other people’s bodies, termed as K’ L’ M’. But once Mach tried to classify other people’s mental contents as well, as a’ b’ c’, he realized that this analogy had taken him far from the comforts of direct perception (one perceives other objects, and is capable of perceiving one’s own body, and one has one’s own thoughts) to inferential assumptions, a much less certain form of knowledge. Mach’s description of “plunging into an abyss” (Sensations, §8, p13) invokes the problem of other minds. Continue reading Mach’s sensations
The paradox Kant raises in the Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, §13, is that two intrinsically alike objects must be interchangeable. However, some objects are exactly intrinsically alike, but they’re not interchangeable. He noted that his right hand is virtually identical to its image in the mirror. However, he could not replace his right hand with its mirror-image. He then proceeded to state that he could not think of any “internal difference” (Prolegomena, p. 37) between his right hand and its image in the mirror. Yet he could sense the difference between them for they were not truly congruent. Continue reading Kant’s paradox