Social Issues

“Do Your Own Research”

There has been considerable push-back against “doing your own research” recently, and I’m not entirely happy with that. I’m aware, of course, that the phrase “do your own research” tends to be used by and/or associated with rather delusional people who believe that watching a Youtube video or googling something counts as “research”, but pushing back too hard (or in the wrong way) against such silliness risks ending up with the other extreme: elitism and counterproductive conformism. There are (at least) two aspects of “doing your own research” and the push-back that are worth paying closer attention to. One has...
BuddhismPhilosophy

On Selfish and Selfless Readings of Buddhist Scripture

In Indian religions and philosophy, mokṣa – the escape from the cycle of death and rebirth (saṃsāra) and, thereby, the liberation from suffering (dukkha) – is (typically) the ultimate goal of (one’s/my/your) life. Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and other schools of thought disagree about various details – Buddhists prefer the term nirvāṇa instead of mokṣa, for example – but all accept a version of the doctrine that right (non-) action leads to good karma, which leads to better rebirth, and ultimately to mokṣa. That ultimate goal is a selfish goal, however – the ultimate aim of my right (non-) action (regardless...
Philosophy

Is “Philosophy” Racist?

The term “philosophy” without any adjectives or other qualifications is generally understood to refer to Western philosophy. Introductory philosophy or ethics courses typically don’t pay any attention to non-Western philosophers (or merely drop a name once or twice in an attempt to feign a broader perspective), and one can easily get a philosophy degree without ever seriously engaging with Chinese or Indian philosophy. While there has been some pressure to broaden the scope of “philosophy”, thus far very little progress has been made in this respect. One might (and should) wonder: What explains this resistance to a more inclusive understanding...
Climate Change

The New Denialism

The old denialism denied the reality of climate change. Funded by the fossil fuel industry it spouted disinformation and lies and fostered doubt. It changed climate change from an objectively observable fact into a political “opinion”. The old denialism is dead. Not even the fossil fuel industry denies climate change anymore. A new denialism has replaced it, however. The new denialism doesn’t deny climate change. In the contrary, it emphatically affirms it. The new denialism doesn’t deny that climate change is a serious problem either – it admits that too. What the new denialists deny is how big the crisis...
Climate Change

(Not) Too Late for What?

Some people seem to believe that it is too late to fight climate change. Others seem to believe that this kind of fatalism is as dangerous as climate change denialism (because both effectively advocate not doing anything). It’s hardly a secret that I’m rather pessimistic about climate change and its effects – just have a look at what I’ve written about the topic before – but that doesn’t mean that I think that it is “too late” to fight climate change. Rather, I think that the notion of it being “too late” (or not) in this context is nonsensical. The...
Philosophy

Technological Immortality

Seven years ago I published a paper arguing against afterlife beliefs and various other kinds of “death denial” titled “The Incoherence of Denying My Death”. The denial of death in this sense is not a denial of physical or biological death so much as it is a denial of annihilation. In that paper I distinguished two ways of denying death, which are distinguished essentially by which word in the short proposition “I die” they deny. Strategy 1 denies the dying part – that is, it argues that I somehow (can) survive my physical/​biological/​bodily death. Strategy 2 denies the “I” in...
Philosophy

Dissonant Reality

There is a persistent belief among both scientists and non-scientists that good theories must be somehow beautiful or elegant or something similar, because reality itself is ultimately – in some relevant sense – harmonious; or in other words, that science must be beautiful/​simple/​elegant/​etcera because the laws of nature are beautiful/​simple/​elegant/​etcera. This belief is particularly influential in physics and mainstream economics (which likes to mimic physics or an image thereof as much as possible). Sabine Hossenfelder has written an interesting book about how this belief “leads physics astray” rather than that it provides useful guidance. For an illustration of how deep...
Climate Change

Carbon-neutrality by 2050 (version of December 2020)

(Some corrections were made in this article on March 2, 2022. The most recent version of this article can be found here.) This year several governments announced that their countries will be carbon neutral by 2050. This is a cheap promise, as the target is so far in the future that it doesn’t commit them to do anything significant now, but even if the commitment would be real, one may wonder how probable it is that the target will actually be reached, and whether it will be enough. These are two different questions, of course, and I will try to...
PhilosophySocial Issues

A Right to Hate?

In August, French blogger Pauline Harmange published a booklet titled Moi les hommes, je les déteste (Me, men, I loathe them), which caused quite a stir in France (and a little bit outside France as well). The book – supposedly – is a protest against misogyny (hatred of women), by taking up the opposite point of view of misandry (hatred of men). “Supposedly”, because I’m not sure exactly about the book’s arguments as it is no longer available and I have thus been unable to read it. In any case, it is not this book itself that is the topic...
Philosophy

On the Idea of an Unconditional (Moral) Rule

In his Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals Kant argued that the moral law (assuming there is one) must be unconditional and universal. As part of that argument he made a famous distinction between categorical and hypothetical imperatives. Imperatives are “ought” (or “should”) statements, such as “you ought to tell the truth”. The difference between the two kinds of imperatives is that hypothetical imperatives depend on a specific kind of condition, namely a desire, while categorical imperatives are universal, unconditional, and absolute. Thus, “if you want human civilization to survive the 21st century, you ought to eat the rich” is...
Philosophy

Uchiyama, Marx, and Gramsci on Ideological Superstitions

In 2019 typhoon Hagibis destroyed part of the railroad that leads to Hakone, a small town near a volcanic lake in Japan that has a long history as a resort town. One of the stops on the line that can no longer be reached by train is Ōhiradai. About fifty meter south of the station there is a small and inconspicuous temple named Rinsenji. In 1909, during the railroad’s construction, the police searched that temple. They found dynamite used for building the railroad that was temporarily stored there. They also found an illegal printing press under the main altar. That...
Climate ChangeSocial Issues

Lessons from the Ongoing Disaster (for the Next One)

Presumably, you are aware that we’re in the middle of a disaster. That’s unpleasant – to say the least – but it’s also quite instructive. There is much we can learn from the ongoing disaster and humanity’s responses to it. But whether we can use those lessons to avert the even bigger disaster looming on the horizon is questionable. Rather, it seems that the most important thing that we can learn from the corona crisis is that we as a species may very well be incapable of avoiding catastrophy. ignore and deny For months, the general attitude of most governments...