The History of Philosophy by A.C. Grayling (a book review!)

I didn’t merely devour AC Grayling’s The History of Philosophy — I lovingly savored it. I occasionally even re-read sections, taking my time and genuinely enjoying it.

The amount of content covered within these 700 pages is prodigious! Yet Grayling’s writing is accessible and engaging, often with a charming touch of wit. While a more seasoned philosophical student may not be as blown away, I was quite impressed. Although familiar with most of the names in this book, I was not as familiar with their various metaphysical/epistemological ideas.

2500 years of humankind’s most ingenious thinkers and philosophical schools of thought serve as quite a formidable subject to pen within a single volume. Yet the author succeeds in this task brilliantly.

I did think the Analytical Philosophy section got (just a little) dry, but I continued reading, and am certainly glad I did. After having finished this mind-expanding tome while soaking in the sun up at the lake, I can confidently say that The History of Philosophy is now among my very favorite books.

I also high recommend listening to any talk/lecture by AC Grayling (British author, philosopher, and Master of New College of the Humanities in London) that you can find. His wisdom, knowledge, and rationalistic approach to life is of high value, especially in such precarious times as these.

Thanks for reading.

Your friend and fellow book-dragon,

Tylor James.

history

The Phenomenon of Merica

The Phenomenon of Merica: A Critique of Mindless Patriotism

According to the fashion style of the common American citizen, the good ol’ US of A seems to have become an absurd novelty. More than ever, this country has become a big red, white and blue joke — and a rather distasteful one at that. I wonder if other countries manufacture t-shirts and ball-caps with their national emblem donning a pair of aviator sunglasses, sporting an AK in one claw and a New Testament bible in the other, the image complete with the nonsensical abbreviation, MERICA! in bold printed letters arching over the top. What is patriotism really except an exaggerated form of national egotism?

Mindless citizens (whom are probably voting Republican) whom most regularly sport such patriotic merchandise seem to have reached the summit of a fine balance: a nationalistic fundamentalism merged with a vague notion of personal values. I have little doubt that these values, the ones shouted at 4th of July stage shows, Tea Party rallies and sung in contemporary country-pop songs — namely, freedom & liberty — are nothing more than synonymous words attached to hazy, ill-defined conceptual images regurgitated through the mouths of their favorite politicians. The observation I am making here is, how often does the common citizen reflect upon what freedom actually means or implicates? Does freedom have an extent, or a limit? And what of liberty? And what of their intimate connection with one another, if any? Where does government fit into these ideals? Civics is a valuable educational field to explore, yet unexplored this territory remains by minds tethered to preconceived notions handed down to them by a nation-worshiping culture.

The answer to everything lies within the bible and the constitution (which they don’t read) so why ask anymore questions? Land of the Free, Home of the Brave has been a mantra of endless repetition for decades. Because it is a statement as abundant as the air we breathe, it must be infinitely true, no? Of course, we can’t forget the beloved national favorite: The American Dream. It appears as yet another empty phrase echoing in the halls of the unconscious, merely a concept to be utilized by the same advertising companies which manufacture flags, t-shirts, and needless products which any good American should purchase if he truly loves and has pride in his country. But what does it mean — this dream? Is it something to be pursued and uncovered, or does it exist as a natural supplement given to a citizen as his birth right? As George Carlin most aptly stated, “The thing about the American dream is that you have to be asleep to believe it.

I presume the mouth-breathing, red-white-and-blue-clad, beer-soaked alpha-primitives of nationalistic-religious fervor hardly ever attempt to fully define nor question anything at all. Of course, I know that this is only one sample of the American citizen and should not at all reflect the whole of the country. I am indeed discussing a stereotype, but it is a stereotype I have seen all too often in the flesh, which illustrates to me that it is a reality. Admittedly, the sheer amount of this particular unthinking attitude and dogmatic pop culture patriotism frightens me quite a lot. And I know it stems from a greater source, that infinite well inside of all human beings: namely, the well of stupidity. As the brilliant and humble genius, Albert Einstein had said, “There are two things that are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. And I’m not sure about the former.

Moreover, what is evidently missing in these fashion (or lack thereof) style choices is a sense of integrity. The most deranged thing about this is, I think that people whom sport such stupid iconography of nationalism fully believe that they themselves have a great sense of integrity — a word which they are confusing, I believe, with senseless pride. This senseless pride extends beyond mere gift shop t-shirts, hats, and distorted bald-eagle relics however — it extends to bumper stickers, banners, signs, and blindly accepted inner values which promulgate further into the popular culture, like a deadly virus to the thinking mind.

I will end with one aphorism of my own:

In the land of the unconscious, home of ignorant, Freedom is a gas station and Liberty is a jeep!

 

Musings on Time, Death, Nationalism, and Great President Dukkha!

The Great President Dukkha

When someone tells me something I find to be inherently wrong, facetious, or dishonest, I tend to reply to them — “What a unpleasing load of Dukkha!”

Dukkha is the ancient Pali word for ‘suffering’, often used in the context of Buddhist philosophy and teachings. Meanwhile, the free people of the United Corporations of Amnesia have elected the Great, President Dukkha with his flop of yellow hair and blemished face stained by permanent disgrace, selfish pride and ego. President Dukkha wants to make the nation great again through a grand unification of His Dukkha-ness!

Indeed, we are a nation bound and united by our Dukkha.

***

How to Pass the Time

Let’s say you’re at an obligatory social function — a day job, for example — and are very eager for the day to pass so that you may be spending time on the things or people you most enjoy. All you need to remember is that time does not need your attention to pass! Whether you want the clock to move faster or slower, all those minutes and hours will pass irregardless — that is to say, irrespective of your individual wishes and desires.

One cannot control the due motion of the planets, the revolutions of the galaxy, nor the progression of life. Time is among the many things we cannot control. Let it be as such. One should remain unconcerned and detached from these things as far as possible. Let the clock hands move round those twelve numerals completely unmolested by your eagerness. This is to say — we should adopt a Stoic attitude about the passing of time. This perspective is useful not only for just our obligatory social functions, but perhaps for our varying prison and solitary confinement sentences as well…

***

Old Friend Death

The best we can do in this absurd existence is to laugh with joyful, knowing smiles and raise our middle-finger salute to the Gods that are not there; and upon Death’s door, knock as if to greet an old, kind friend. Death will let you in gracefully, with a tender smile on your face and a rebel’s good charm.

***

This Is A Moment

Moments are bits of life that are well known for passing us by very quickly. This is a moment. And now it is read and gone. All of your life is but a moment. Be aware of this preciousness before it is used up and gone.

The cosmic eye blinks and all of humanity rises and falls as if belonging to one unsteady breath. First the cosmos, then chaos and dissipation, then the Nothing.

Moments of wisdom,

moments of knowing.

All fleeting and flowing

just as sure as the wind is blowing. 

***

Not for the Feint of Heart

It takes a certain amount of courage and activated virtue in the attempt to see things as they are and not as how we would wish them to be. This is true for the micro, personal dramas of our lives as well as for the nation state of political objectivity, and the macro, universal scientific and philosophic realities of our existence. To see with clarity, using the scientific method, is the noble pursuit. To see with utmost faith in our wishes, is often poetic — yet cowardly.

It is far too easy and weak minded for us to adopt delusions to suit our preferred realities. Anyone with a care or regard for the truth ought to strip themselves of these comforting delusions as best they can. I once read a disclaimer on the back of a horror film which read, “Not for the feint of heart!” The same, I think, can often be said for the Truth.

***

Nationalism

Nationalism, state-worship, is little more than a form of big egotism pushed to its limits. It is a grand-scale absurdity supported by the mindless masses oppressed by advertising and propaganda machines dedicated to maintaining the power and agenda of the elite.

Unquestioning faith and pride in the state, the myth of singular exceptionalism, the mindless parade of flags and semi-conscious slogans, and other forms of patriotic, national self-worship serve as the mere degradation to individual uniqueness and citizenry ability to critically think on their own terms. Nationalism (Big Egotism) surrenders the positive, creative and intellectual ego of the common man and substitutes it for the negative ego that perpetuates stupidity and pride.

And pride, as we well know, comes before the fall.

***

Nationalism II

Perhaps a nation based on innovation and creativity, on a truly educated and self-realized populace, and on humanism as opposed to merciless self-worship and cruel military imperialism would be a manifestation of a truly positive identity of the citizenry. I can imagine the flag of states being re-organized into a flag of humanity. Every star is a human with infinite potential, and all the thirteen stripes are a different color representative of our human nature with its wide spectrum of good and bad, yin and yang, virtue and sin, etc. I envision a flag that is humble and honest, representative of love, acceptance, and the virtue and strength in the development of human potential…

Meanwhile the oligarchic, plutocratic powers that be are scowling down upon my scrawl; and with their fists clenched tightly ’round their billions of lobbying money and their senator’s and Supreme Court Justice’s necks, they shake their fattened heads and exclaim (not without spittle downed upon their blubbering lips), “Dream on, peace boy, dream on!”