Philosophical Fighting

Philosophy is fascinating. I think deep down most people understand that, yet the way it is expressed often is not so accessible. That is why philosophy has the reputation of being boring, too complex or pointless and fanciful daydreaming. Most European philosophers write in a overly verbose and technical way. They really don’t have to.

Last winter I started reading Heidegger’s Being and Time (Sein und Zeit), since I’ve heard a lot of good things about him and wanted to know more, but… The book is just full of dancing around the issue without getting to the point. Sort of like so much foreplay the girl falls asleep since you don’t get down to business fast enough. It wasn’t even too complicated for me. The book just disappeared from my conscious thoughts after a while and I didn’t even make it halfway through. I didn’t make a conscious decision to give up. Merely lost interest. I’ll probably finish it some day…

A few weeks ago I started reading Thomas Nagel’s Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. It’s quite interesting and I intend to finish it. It’s certainly not too complicated, but still there’s too much faffing about. Too much of the old philosophical gonna-wipe-my-own-ass-before-someone-else-does-it stuff. What I mean by that is philosophers aim to be as precise as possible in order not to be misunderstood and that no-one can twist your words against you. That’s a good thing, except when 2/3 of your book is simply covering your ass against assault (getting ASSsaulted is no laughing matter) you can get into the ‘people who trade freedom for security deserves neither’ -territory. Rather than making your words a philosophy tanks with spikes and explosives, I’d have some mutual respect and attempt to understand what the meaning is behind someone’s words. Everyone understands most words differently. Even something as common place as “cat”. People have very different associations with it. I like cats very much, but someone might hate/ fear them very much whereas most people are somewhat neutral in the matter, viewing it as a furry animal. Instead of trying to project your own preconceptions onto someone’s words, you should try to understand what the other person means by those words.

Philosophy, and science, should be accessible to everybody. Not hidden behind volumes of special jargon and obscure concepts. In fact, I don’t believe this verbose philosophical tradition is only due to striving to be precise, but it is also a form of intellectual battling. See hundreds and thousands of years ago they didn’t have computers and internet (shocking, I know) so the geeks couldn’t duel with each other on discussion forums or Counterstrike. Rather they had to use books and letters to do that. “Ha! My logic is stronger and more piercing than yours. Thou art a noob.” I believe this macho desire of one-upmanship and competition is one major factor why both philosophy and science have such a specialized jargon. Each field requires an initiation process that takes years before you can really get into it, just like the most popular competitive online games.

That’s my two cents anyway. I’m probably gonna take some flak for it, but meh.


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