The Ultimate Stage of Empty Philosophy

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Sometimes I’m surprised by the people around me. I attended Plzensky Barcamp last week, and it was amazing. People were showing their skills, talking about a bunch of stuff that interested them, and were really amazing in many other ways. Yet I felt the presence of despair.  The reason was that I could not reach out to them – their worlds were as separated as possible from mine. When thinking about it, I realized that it is the outcome of the never-ending process of specialization. We are driven by our careers so much we don’t even have time to build a common ground in our society. In this sense, it is difficult to believe that some kind of understanding is possible on a broader level. I attended a workshop where programmers were talking about building an application to create laws. They were convinced that it would work perfectly, without any mistakes or emotions. Yeah, let’s do it, I thought. What else can we replace? What will remain?

My friend told me that he bought a new camera for his wife. He was a little bit upset about it. Now, he said, we travel to take photos, not to enjoy our day. I totally know what he means. When something is not posted on the Internet, it practically does not exist. Our lives revolve around it. We are unprepared for a real social interaction without any technological involvement. I can see it myself. This is why I established a strategy for my own photo-video documentation. I delete everything every now and then. I don’t hesitate. The best moments will always be remembered, and fuck the rest.  Why shall I care?

Living should be effortless, unfocused, independent. I don’t get why someone believes that happiness is what is needed in our lives. I do not advocate disasters, deaths of family members or anything like that. But why the hell should I be happy? Happiness is like the ultimate weapon of discontent. You can still reach for more, still focus on a new goal. But why? I’m at home right now, I do not have an ordinary work, or purpose. And sometimes it makes me happy and sometimes unhappy. We are trapped here, our bodies are our prisons, we cannot escape. So why pretend that life is something more than this?


People, beautiful people,

Stop being assholes,

That’s the only thing that I know is right.

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On Moral Arguments and Why They (Almost) Never Work

I try to be active in public debate and openly question any given social assumptions, be it in front of my friends, family or students.

But almost every time I try to reason with someone, I fail to convince that person, even if I have won the argument (and I do, believe me!). One of the latest examples would be my exchange of emails with my friend, who claims to be a feminist. It went as follows. As a convinced vegan, I challenged her in her meat and milk consumption, which I ultimately claimed as the same form of oppression of the society, as was before applied to women. I also claimed that my understanding of Veganism is that it continues the struggle, which was started by feminism and other progressive liberal ideologies before. For that reason, I wrote to her, I could not accept that a true feminist would consume meat and dairy products. In her answer, she told me that I was wrong in the assumption that feminism and veganism are the same manifestations of a continuous social struggle. She refused to continue the debate with me, and was apparently offended by my suggestions.

But why did it happen? Did I commit an error in my chain of arguments? Or was it her inability to understand them? The answer to this rather difficult question was already provided by the field of moral psychology. The main problem was that I was not aware of how the moral judgment process is created.

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As you can see on the picture, we tend to first judge and only after they start ad hoc reasoning. This is also displayed in the following scheme which shows the discussion between person A and B. Person A deliberately uses his intuition, and then states his judgement about certain events. Only after, person A tries to reason and explain his previous judgments. Person B listens to the reasoning of person A, but uses the same chain – intuition, judgment and reasoning – to answer to the judgments person A had made. Where is the problem? Basically, it is in the fact that by reasoning, we never really appeal to another person’s rational thinking, but rather to his instincts. And this is why no logical argument can be used to effectively convince those, who do not share the same intuitive (or instinctive) judgments.

I suggest everyone who is more interested in the topic to read a book written by a psychologist David Haidt called The Righteous Mind – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

On the Irrational Rationality

In today’s discussion on Facebook, I realized what is the problem that has been puzzling me for a long time. It was the ability of people to analyze content in its full range, and not just take separated events to form one’s opinion. It was in the discussion about “Islamic culture” and its possible impact on the so called “European culture“. Once more the commenters engaged in the discussion about the dangers of the former, and its possible negative impact on the latter, despite the fact that both of them are highly abstract and metaphorical constructs. I felt unsettled once more, and thought hard how to convince them there is no such thing as an imminent threat of Islam in Czech republic or even Europe. But I was wrong to persuade them into a discussion that was based on a wide range of empirical evidence and historical and social facts. No, they would not listen. Instead, they posted links to a CNN video about the Sharia Law patrols in East London or started posting photos of armed children from Arab countries. These educated individuals were using a very limited information to support their claim that Europe should deny to provide immigrants from Islamic countries right to settle in.

Girls With Skateboards, Afghanistan

If I omit the fact that it is common to base an opinion on a social media hearsay, there is one big problem that can be potentially more dangerous. While every hoax, propaganda or just unreliable information can be finally reversed, it is the way of thinking that ultimately remains the same. The problem is that there is a strong tendency for our social values to be drawn from singular events. Instead of thinking about the events as a whole, it is easier to decide whether to support or not certain thing based on one piece of information. In our example with Islam, this means to take 9/11, Taliban, or attacks with acid, or Sharia Law, and extrapolate the evidence against all Muslims. Somehow we know that it would not apply to all one billion persons, but who cares?

Nazi Demonstration, Location Unknown

This ignorance-based reduction is now in its heyday, and media are serving it well by bringing as much separated events as possible without providing background information about the context in which they are happening. This means that we are constantly forced to take stances just by following the media, and in a seemingly random pattern. One day, viral video about China appears and everyone seems terrified that they will take us over. Then the cameras turn to Palestine. Then to North Africa, and so on ad infinitum. We are forced to make our opinion in the yes/no fashion about events we don’t understand so that it feels almost as a reality show. With the difference that this reality is real, and can have a very real consequences for someone, who happens to be on the losing side.

Society of Conflict?

We have passed the limit of nuclear weapons that can completely wipe us from the planet, yet we are still driven by the conflict paradigm with its only possible outcome being our utter destruction.

In my previous post, I wrote about the deep rooted conflict that is present in our society.  I have received some interesting comments and I would like to address this topic more seriously in my today’s post.

I stated that we are currently living in the era of deep conflict. One of the arguments against my perception of the current state of things was that every generation of thinkers probably thought the very same about their time. But what did I really mean by the conflict itself.

I assume that conflict is an ontological concept that projects itself differently and thus cannot be captured by mere observation of our reality. Conflict happens when we feel that our interests are being threatened or intervened by someone/something else. It can arise in the individual as well as the societal level, and they are inseparable one from another.

Conflicts are deeply rooted in our society, which leads me to think that our society could be denominated as conflicting in a matter that is unprecedented in the history. I list just a few manifestations of conflict that have direct impact on our everyday life.

1. Our political systems are designed to resolve social conflicts, but instead perpetuate it by calling for elections.
2. Economies compete (which is just another expression of conflict) with other economies, whose interests are often in direct juxtaposition to them.
3. And we all compete individually with others to get a better job, nicer hotel room, or whatever is believed necessary.

Conflict is inherent in our world view so much, we cannot even imagine living without it. Instead, we are still trapped in our perception of conflict as natural and inseparable from our nature. We reinterpret and reinvent categories of it, but do not think about the solutions. But what is the purpose of the science, if it does not have an ultimate aim in the resolution of the conflict itself or directly thinks that conflict can be even useful? This can be often read on many blogs or news articles, where a variety of “experts” claim that conflicts would benefit this or that side, while completely ignoring the destruction, unfairness, injustice, or other outcomes that are often considered rather as necessary collateral damage. This type of thinking is dangerous.

So let me state this; conflict is not natural and we should not think about it in this way. On the contrary, it is the cooperation we should take into account. It is important to stop thinking about conflict as if it was beneficial to someone, especially if it means destruction, exploitation or other type of harm on other animals.