Arthur Schopenhauer thought of music as the greatest of the art forms because it and it alone; rather than being merely a copy of the Platonic Ideas, was a copy of the will itself, the metaphysical foundation of the world. Kierkegaard also saw music as the highest art form, but this was because he thought it was the only medium capable of representing the most abstract idea (the sensual) which in turn meant that the musical composition was unlikely to be repeated since it had already acquired its perfect expression.
Uncertainty, in common parlance, is a state in which an individual is unsure whether some proposition is true or not. It ultimately, therefore, arises from a lack of information. If we knew everything, like God, if he existed, or had access to a super-AI, like that some technophiles dream about, we would never find ourselves in a position of uncertainty. Moreover, if we could make decisions from a position of absolute certainty, we would be able to eliminate the suffering and/or anxiety that sometimes accompanies our decision-making.
In this article I want to look at what exactly the 19th century philosopher and political theorist Karl Marx had in mind when he talked about alienation, and then examine how this concept might make sense within an existentialist framework (drawing specifically on Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Sartre).
As we use it in everyday speech, ‘alienation’ means to be isolated or separated from a group or activity. While this isn’t completely removed from the way Marx uses it, we do need to get a little more specific than this. For Marx, alienation describes the situation in which workers become separated from their humanity through forced participation in a capitalistic mode of production and that humanity then appears before the individual as something alien in nature, something barely even recognisable anymore.
This article was inspired by Sam Harris’ Waking Up podcast #120 in which he talks with philosopher Rebecca Goldstein (whom I’d never heard speak before but who was very impressive) and physicist Max Tegmark about the different ways science and philosophy approach reality. While I obviously recommend the podcast itself and although I constantly refer to Goldstein and Tegmark throughout, if you don’t have the time or inclination, it isn’t necessary to have listened to the podcast in order to follow what I discuss in the article.
This is a follow-on article from an earlier one I wrote entitled A Case Study in Personal Identity: Altered Carbon, where I argued that a person’s mind/consciousness could not be ‘stored’ in a digital medium, and even if it could, transferring that stored information into another body wouldn’t grant the original mind/consciousness immortality. After writing this, I came across an Australian RN Radio podcast (on a program called The Philosopher’s Zone) called Mind Upload. In it, the host, David Rutledge, discusses with Max Cappuccio, a philosophy professor from the United Arab Emirates University, whether it will ever be possible to upload the mind into some type of digital environment. Cappuccio turns out to be as sceptical as I am about this and while his argument was similar to the one I originally put forward, it was different enough that I felt compelled to spell it out in this separate article.
When you think about your life, does it take the form of a narrative, a tale told with you as the protagonist? Is there an arc to your life, an account that makes some overall sense of the things you have done and the things that have happened to you? Philosopher Galen Strawson doesn’t see his life in this way and neither do I.
The idea of the narrative self is the claim that “we constitute ourselves as selves by understanding our lives as narrative in form and living accordingly” (Schechtman, 2011), although there is not necessarily a need to explicitly formulate that narrative. The position I will be arguing against in this article is the one that claims that all ‘selves’ are narrative in form and everyone is therefore constantly narrating their lives in order to construct their ‘selves’. Indeed, if you didn’t narrate your life in this way, the claim goes, you wouldn’t even have, or be, a self.
This article summarises a part of the Philosophy Bites podcast in which British philosopher Janet Radcliffe Richards discusses the 19th Century disagreement between John Stuart Mill and James Fitzjames Stephen over the respective natures of men and women and what this should mean, particularly for the latter, in society.
Contemporary wisdom in the 19th Century was that women were naturally unsuited for intellectual pursuits and girls therefore ought to be educated differently. Moreover, laws were necessary to prevent women from trying to overstep the bounds of their nature. John Stuart Mill questioned this, in what seems to be an airtight argument, when he noted that if it were true that women were naturally incapable of working in government or becoming a scientist, for example, laws preventing them from pursuing such interests would be redundant, because they couldn’t succeed in them, and moreover, it being against their nature, they wouldn’t want to do such things in the first place.