Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’

When I was young, my dad once told me a joke:

A wolf comes across a rabbit typing away with abandon. The wolf, curious, asks the rabbit what it is typing. “My dissertation,” the rabbit says. “It’s about how rabbits kill wolves.”

“Rabbits don’t kill wolves,” the wolf says. “Wolves eat rabbits.”

“No, rabbits kill wolves. Come in to my den, I’ll show you.”

So they go into the den, the wolf sure he’s about to have a very easy meal.

Inside the den, a lion waits. He kills the wolf and starts eating him. While he’s eating, the rabbit goes back outside and continues work on the dissertation.

The moral of the story: it doesn’t matter what your dissertation is about; all that matters is who your adviser is.

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Today’s post is about the first two parts of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Volume one. I found this work to be very interesting, saying things about sexuality that at first seemed completely backwards, but were eventually explained in such a way that they made perfect sense. It seems like if you replace the word “sexuality” with whatever content he is writing about, that sentence makes a really good explanation of everything Foucault wrote.

One of the things Foucault suggested was that sex has become more repressed, not less, over the past few hundred years. He tells us that the Victorian age confined sexuality to the home, absorbed it into the function of reproduction, and silenced it (3). That is, it became the norm not to talk about that sort of thing. Talking about sex was no longer acceptable, and sex became something that happens behind closed doors; specifically, behind the closed doors of a married couple intending to reproduce. In doing so, sex was no longer something that could be talked about. (more…)

As promised, I have more research to share. Today I will be discussing Judith Butler’s article “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” For those who don’t know, Butler is one of the most important voices in feminist theory, and one of the most cited authors in the humanities (almost more than Marx and Nietzsche put together).

One of the things I like best about this article is how it talks about gender as a performance, as something in flux. Butler tells us early on that “gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceede [sic]; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time – an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts. Further, gender is instituted through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self” (519, emphasis in original). She is saying that the way we act informs our gender identity. That is, we have to act a certain way in order to have a gender. Theoretically, if we acted a different way, if we did not repeat the acts , the gestures, movements, and other enactments, we would lose or change that gender identity. (more…)

I’ve been branching out my reading lately. I figure I need to re-establish my base of knowledge on identity and kinds of minds, so I figured I would start with John Searle, particularly his book Minds, Brains and Science. Within this book, he supposedly solves the mind/body problem, then goes on to talk about why computers can’t be intelligent. He does this with his famous Chinese Room thought experiment.

The idea of the experiment is that if someone who did not understand were in a room, and people put messages in Chinese through a slot on one side of the room, the guy inside could use a sort of ‘code book’ telling him what the proper response was (also in Chinese) and he could then send those messages out of the room, and people outside might be convinced that he understands Chinese.

I’ve got a couple problems with this. I’ll start from the beginning.

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I realized that usually when I write these entries, I have a pattern for length. If it’s a book, it gets its own entry. Articles have to share. But I try to make sure the articles have something in common.

I have not done this today. The articles for today are from very different fields and very different thinkers. They don’t relate to one another, but they DO relate to my larger research. Which creates an interesting pairing, all things considered. See, while the first article, Clay Spinuzzi’s “Guest Editor’s Introduction: Technical Communication in the Age of Distributed Work” is talking about the internet and networks, the second article, Derek Parfit’s “Divided Minds and the Nature of Persons” is talking about personhood and identity. The tie in comes from my earlier research on personal identity. The Only X and Y principle, which basically says that the identity (in the sense of sameness) of any two things (X and Y) is determined only by those two things, and not by anything else.

Why does that matter? Well, each of them (X) are continuous with my research (Y), though not with each other. Well, I thought it was interesting. But you’re right; on to Spinuzzi. (more…)

I am looking at three articles right now. The first two both come from The Revenge of the Liar: New Essays on the Paradox, edited by JC Beall. The third is from an upcoming issue of Studia Logica. I’ll get to that. First, though, I want to talk about “Embracing Revenge: On the Indefinite Extendability of Language” by Roy T. Cook.

All three of these articles about the Liar and the Revenge problems. In case anyone is unclear, the Liar is a famous paradox in semantics. You’ve probably heard it before: “This sentence is false.” If it’s true, then it’s false. But if it’s false, then it’s true. So it’s a contradiction however you look at it; a paradox. The Revenge is a response to an attempt to solve this paradox. Revenge, as Cook writes it, works like this: “Given any account that purports to deal adequately with a particular paradox, that account will rely on concepts… which, if allowed into the object language, generate new paradoxes that cannot be dissolved by the account in question” (33). So basically, whatever you do to solve the Liar, there is another, stronger Liar that your solution can’t defeat. (more…)

I started a philosophy class, and immediately got sick, so I missed the second class. However, in a very interesting attendance policy, I was required to write a paper about the readings we discussed the day I was absent. As I was writing it, I figured it would help to post it here. So here are my thoughts on paradox and self reference: (more…)