« Sometimes the World Sucks | Main | Blog Whodunits »

July 20, 2006

Comments

note to Chris Muir:

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

you really *are* that dumb! Who would have thought it?

Standing around with your hands down your pants, spouting names you know nothing about--and now this is all you have to say when you're busted?

Someone up thread said you were never funny--well, with this lame little post of yours, that can no longer be said of you.

Don't let'em get you down, Chris--your asses are bouncy!

y'all need a life.

Heaven forbid people comment on a cartoon aimed for a broad audience (it is hoped). How gauche*.

Hah!

Life-get a life!

Note to hilzoy: Don't believe the philosopher in the mirror.

Ummm...you got a better one?

Speaking as a guy who finds you funny more times than not, Chris, you might just want to do a little homework before hacking at your critics. Sometimes, they're smarter than you.

Posted by: chris Muir | July 20, 2006 at 11:00 PM

lol

way to prove you're not a loser

The fact that he is bitter (and sometimes really childishly nasty) is, for me, good because it can make things interesting

Better, than, is Adorno's Jargon of Authenticity. As far as I could tell, it was one long, bitter hit piece on Heidegger and Jaspers.

http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2006/07/21/>ahahaha

p.s. omg gay people have butt sex!!!!!!!!

How cool is this: Chris Muir has been reading enough to be able to create a sort of minor Kantian word salad -- with added alleged "jokes" about teh gay!!

Heh heh. He said A posteriori! Heh.

Adorno's Jargon of Authenticity

So I hear, but Heidegger is kind of one of my guys so I may just resent it. Though I have a friend who's big into Adorno who says there's substance behind the polemic.

Chris Muir seems to be going around to all the blogs that have made fun of him.

No, just the ones I find teh amusing.

I really don't have a dog in this fight (honestly, I don't), but I think this is not as simple of a discussion as you might think. Try checking out Wikipedia's definition of nihilism, which includes this:

Though the term nihilism was first popularized by Ivan Turgenev (see below), it was first introduced into philosophical discourse by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743–1819), who used the term to characterize rationalism, and in particular Immanuel Kant's "critical" philosophy in order to carry out a reductio ad absurdum according to which all rationalism (philosophy as criticism) reduces to nihilism, and thus it should be avoided and replaced with a return to some type of faith and revelation. (See also fideism.)

It seems from that paragraph that Chris Muir and Ayn Rand are not the only folks who believe that Kant == nihilism.

And Bruce Wilshire has a book called "Fashionable Nihilism" about:

** Analytic Philosophy**!!

It seems from that paragraph that Chris Muir and Ayn Rand are not the only folks who believe that Kant == nihilism.

Right, obscurantist reactionaries also believe that. And you point is?

(Had you read the thread, you would've seen that Jacobi was bruited about way upstream.)

The point is that, for normal people, a guy who thinks a universal moral law is implanted within each of us by virtue of our being rational beings ... is not a nihilist.

P.S. to Glenn Greenwald's Brazilian squeeze: Please quit posting comments here using Chris Muir's name and IP address. You're making Chris look even dumber than he already did, and Glenn will get jealous.

I love the way morons like Anderson immediately assume I believe in a universal moral law.

Way to miss the entire point, cretin.

All you see is black & white. So much for 'nuance'. Sheesh.

So I guess the charitable read on that last comment is that Chris Muir is a master of self-referential irony.

I love the way morons like Anderson immediately assume I believe in a universal moral law.

self-ownership

Ouch. This is getting to be like watching a cat toying with a still-living mouse.

Gromit: no, it's like watching a still-living mouse pretend to be a cat and kill itself.

Oblivius, Jacobi was briefly touched upon by Joshua and Hil upthread. And I'm just going by a quick walk through some links here, but if you look a little further afield than Wikipedia (try the stanford link for example), it's pretty clear that Jacobi's attachment of 'nihilism' to Kant was basically, uh, reactionary. The stuff I looked at was enough to make me willing to take Hil's word for it that Jacobi's reading of Kant is "eccentric" and conclude that Muir's reference is one of those "dog whistle politics" things.

BTW I'd like to share what has been both funny and terrifying about this little exposure to the philosophical underpinnings of modern thought (other than the fact that in my formerly professional opinion this really does look like a condom ad that is). It's been the reminder that people like Chris Muir seriously, genuinely, no kidding and quite literally, want to undo the foundations of science.

Of course Muir's 12:22 is hysterically funny too. In order to avoid violating posting rules like Toadmonster did I think I'll just make an "L" sign with my hand and hold it up to the screen...

I can't help noticing that in the "a posteriori" cartoon Muir is still using the same picture of the man. One might almost think that he's afraid directing his gaze toward the male form might make him too much like . . . Andrew Sullivan. Or Leonardo.

Of course, he re-uses a panel with the woman, too, so he might just be lazy. But when you put these all together it's really hard to tell if this series if strips is about philosophy, or if, like Nancy, it's really more a form of soft-core porn.

Thanks for the entertainment,

C!

guys we're playing right into his hands

the awesome thing about chris Muir's comments is what they reveal about his cartoons. his cartoons are glib not because of the limitations of the form. more likely it's the limitations of their artist. the following post, in particular, needs only the accompaniment of a buff man (preferably with a mullet and his hands down his pants), and it's next week's day by day:

I love the way morons like Anderson immediately assume I believe in a universal moral law.

Way to miss the entire point, cretin.

All you see is black & white. So much for 'nuance'. Sheesh.

too funny.

guys we're playing right into his hands

What, by giving him more rope?

Hilzoy said:

Slarti: if you manage to read Heidegger, you're a better man than I.

I did a semester pounding Being and Time in Aberdeen and by the end of it, I actually found myself rather enamoured of the work. It really did affect how I approached certain concepts as while as some philosophy of mind and epistimology.

However, the first 2 months of that class I spent in a panic because not one sentence of the text made a lick of sense to me. Thankfully I had a teacher who was not only an expert, but a patient expert.

No, just the ones I find teh amusing.

Ow. Owowowowow. Don't get me wrong. I love things that are teh c001. Or teh roXXor. Or even, as some of my friends often say "teh sex" (it means really really good, as it often does for college kids). The idea here is that they set off an irony meter. It isn't something one just throws into an otherwise normal sentence and expects to fly because at that point it is, well, serious... or some such. Mostly just jarring and odd.

Not exactly substantive, but I liked you better when I just read your comics. You wrote better. And that isn't meant to be entirely snarky. I found your comics funny if they have the right audience (which is not me). Kinda like Ann Coulter only without the viciousness.

six people in all of history who have actually read Schopenhauer?

And one of those was Ira Gershwin.

I was wondering if chris Muir the commenter was some kind of fake poster trying to discredit the real Chris Muir, like all those fake Als at Kevin Drum's site. He isn't talking like someone who can analyze things for Kantishness.

Within Schopenhauer's vision of the world as will, there is no God to be comprehended, and the world is conceived of as being utterly meaningless. When anthropomorphically considered, the world is represented as being in a condition of eternal frustration, as it endlessly strives for nothing in particular, and as it goes essentially nowhere.

Since I always try to analyze philosophy through the lens of the Dungeons and Dragons "Planescape" campaign setting, I am grateful that the above excerpt appeared, as I now have a more specific association for the Bleak Cabal faction. They're Schopenhauer... ists.

lol mds

I wish comment etiquette allowed mere notes of gratitude. You know, something along the lines of, "hey, I just happened across this thread and you've made my boring cubicle life that much brigher" or "damn, this is the funniest thing i've read in ages."

Since it isn't, I'll take a moment to speculate on the female figure in the cartoon. The one where she's holding the spangly blanket.

First appearance - oblivious of her right hand trying to strangle her with it

Second appearance - bewildered by its continued presence at her ear

Third appearance - hopeful that this time it will succeed and she will finally be free

I love the way morons like Anderson immediately assume I believe in a universal moral law.

Far from it, sir, far from it.

But we weren't talking about "Muirian nihilism," were we? Perhaps we should?

Now that Chris Muir's managed to combine both offensively stupid Kant jokes and simply offensive gay-bashing humor, I feel compelled to sink to his level...

Given his copious recycling of the same images, it seems obvious that when Kant writes about the synthetic a prior Muir thought he was calling for synthetic cartoonionis?

(chirp, chirp, chirp).

FTB--
agreed. But the best--the BEST--exchange was this:


Ouch. This is getting to be like watching a cat toying with a still-living mouse.

Posted by: Gromit | July 21, 2006 at 12:37 AM

Gromit: no, it's like watching a still-living mouse pretend to be a cat and kill itself.

Posted by: hilzoy | July 21, 2006 at 12:39 AM

Well I, for one, am grateful that Muir didn't bring his A-game. Thus far his contributions in this thread seem to be semantically equivalent to "Neener, neener". If he'd brought the intellectual powerhouse that came up with Kantian Nihilism, we might be in trouble.

Hmm. It must be lack of sleep but some reason I could see the lyrics and music of Sir Mix A Lot's "Baby Got Back" set to the images of this strip. ;)

I thought of a remix in that the man's stomach keeps arguing with him which is why he keeps his hand over it. (Shutup Kuato!) But that is probably too vague or weird of a reference. ;) Punchline ? "Get your ass to Mars".

Procrastinating_Revolutionary,

For a very similar effect, google a bit and you will find an anime montage cut to "Baby Got Back" that is absolutely hysterical.

I have been reading through Day by Day since this thread started and there are some real doozies in there, especially in the runup to the Iraq war. So far, March 25, 2003 has been the best for predictions that were horribly horribly wrong. Ironically, the character being mocked was spot on.

"Ironically, the character being mocked was spot on."

Irony's one thing. What's interesting is that the same character would still be mocked now, for the crime of having been right back then.

Like Muir, mocking the commenters here precisely because they know enough about philosophy to know he doeesn't know what he's talking about.

I don't know if it's a new wrinkle in the RW "death, lies and obfuscations" tactics, or it's been there all along, but the Right now mocks people for being accurate and knowledgeable, as if only a moron would think being accurate and knowledgeable were virtues. The pose, the posturing, is all that matters.

I don't know if it's a new wrinkle in the RW "death, lies and obfuscations" tactics, or it's been there all along, but the Right now mocks people for being accurate and knowledgeable

My suspicion is that this is a result of the anti-intellectual and anti-science aspects of the religious right rubbing off on other factions within the party. Alternatively, it could just be that this is the only possible reaction for someone intellectually inflexible who believes something counterfactual when confronted with reality: attack the credibility of those who know what they're talking about.

It doesn't make the anti-intellectual less wrong. But it throws enough chaff and uncertainty into the air that they can sustain the level of self-deception necessary to avoid changing their minds.

Even though I think Kant is, more or less, right, I think I can see where Muir gets "Kantian nihilism." Kant often talks about people's legislating the moral law, and some people might take this in a fairly straightforward way, as meaning: morality is whatever people want it to be. Now, that would be a horrible reading of Kant, but it once was a fairly common misreading, no?

hm. what? how's that?

It's interesting to note that this blatant anti-intellectualism is spouted from the mouths of young, pseudo-intellectual characters. The comment about Chick tracts was bang-on. These arent comix, they're agitprop. And like Chick tracts, they are funny in ways their creators can't even begin to understand (and of this, we have evidence, right here in the comments!)

As for "The one that begins with an 'S'", I love the guy, but he always gets a bad rap, even from the 'intellectual' left... John Ralston Saul smears him as "Hitler's favorite philosopher", and this, above all else, points to the explaination for the hubristic cartoonist's blundering reference to both him and Kant. Panel two's incredulous "Old German philosophy as a guide?", is surely meant to (not-so-subtly) imply a connection between the NYT and Nazi Germany, skirting the letter of Godwin's law.

This discussion hooked me from the start, not because of the cartoon (a trivial jumping off point), but because of the larger matter of the popular contemporary denial of objective reality. You see it in political conservatism, of course, and religious fundamentalism, naturally, but you also see it on the left of the social spectrum, for example, in the contemporary visual art world, particularly.

Clement Greenberg, modernist art critic generally agreed to be the greatest art critic of the 20th C., fell from fashion coincident with the rise 'postmodernism'. Greenberg's thought was heavily influenced by the objective philosophy of Kant; yet, today, those "in the know" reject him out of hand for his "rigid, dogmatic" views, but generally do so in a manner which tells anyone personally familiar with Greenberg's writings that they, quite simply, aren't.

Oh, and if "funny" can't be objectively determined, then how is it so obvious to us that some people have better senses of humor than others... and why do most intelligent people tend to have a better sense of humor than, say, Chris Muir?

Like Muir, mocking the commenters here precisely because they know enough about philosophy to know he doeesn't know what he's talking about.

right.

i'm just amazed he'd take the chance on using something as esoteric as philosophy (no offense to the fans here, but most people don't know Kant from Kierkegaard) as the punchline to a comic strip. the group of people who are going to get the joke is going to include those people who know enough philosophy to know that Muir doesn't know what he's talking about.

and then to mix it in with butt jokes! is there a big overlap between philosophiles and homophobes ?

cleek: that's what puzzled me: as I said, I don't see any reason why most people should know about Kant (or at least, no reason more compelling than 'sure would be nice if everyone knew everything about everything'), and in fact, most people don't. Which is fine. But then why pretend to?

(forgot to add...)

it just sounds like he's quoting philosophy he learned third-hand (ex. from a book about Ayn Rand which quotes her on Kant). someone who knows Kant would have to know "Kantian nihilism" is going to be a tough sell to others who know Kant. maybe he just couldn't give up that pun.

but cleek, there's the mystery: there is no pun in the first one. It isn't even funny. And it suggests the immediate parallel: 'Taking an ancient religious text as his guide -- no wonder Bush is behind the times!', which in turn suggests the equally obvious reply: if either the Bible or Kant is right, so what? And then the strip dissolves in pointlessness, and you think: gosh, that was a waste of perfectly good brain cells, working that one out.

Not the response I'd be gunning for if I were a cartoonist, but there we are.

"is there a big overlap between philosophiles and homophobes?"

wow--big topic in itself. Probably better to save it for another thread.

there is no pun in the first one

heh, yeah.

i suppose i shouldn't suggest that maybe he was building up to spring that pun in the second strip - it's a long way to go for such little payoff. then again, none of these strips have much payoff anyway.

that was a waste of perfectly good brain cells, working that one out

whew. and how.

There seem to be a great number of people on the internets who have a desperate need to be seen as smart or intellectual by their readers, and who, having been caught in a gaffe, rather than say "oops, my bad" instead explode in a very public and amusing manner.

The list is long, and Chris Muir just joined it. I won't mention the others, as they seem to spend their days endlessly trolling blogs for mentions of themselves so they can bluster noisily on the comment section.

gosh, that was a waste of perfectly good brain cells, working that one out.

What doesn't kill me, only makes me stronger?

I wouldn't bother adding anything to this, but Muir strikes me as the kind of guy who'll be checking this thread well into 2007, so here goes:

Mr. Muir, I'm a cartoonist, and like all male cartoonists, the bulk of my output in the immediate aftermath of puberty consisted of pictures that gave me a boner.

But like what I assume to be the vast majority of male cartoonists, I moved on.

Now, to be fair, this might not have been the case had not the home-video revolution dovetailed nicely with my sexual awakening, but there it is.

You, sir, have no excuse, given the current media landscape. Y'know how they say you shouldn't go grocery shopping on an empty stomach? Surely you can see where I'm going with this.

Or just stick with the back-arching uberbabes that talk like Cheese Weasel, whichever.

clarke--

so, what you're saying is that he's about as good considered as a cartoonist as he is considered as a Kant scholar?

nah--he can at least draw a line from one point to another.

From Rand's perspective Nihilism is Kantian not because Kant was a nihilist, but because his philosophy was the enabler of nihilism. When Kant wrote, religion was receding to reason and people were looking for logical and rational explanations to everything, including morality. Kant specifically carved out a niche outside the reach of reason "in order to save room for faith". He postulated a "noumenal world" outside the reach of reason as the source for his "categorical imperative" which was to be the basis of all morality. His imperative was restrictive, but his basis arbitrary, since the noumenal world could not be perceived by the senses or understood by reason. My guess was as good as yours as to what the true morality really was. This is the origin of moral relativism, my morality is different to your morality. From there, it is a trivial step to deny the existence of the noumenal world, and by denying the supposed source of morals deny all of morality, thus nihilism. So from Kant to Nihilism the steps are small, but from before Kant to after Kant the step is huge, that is why Nihilism is Kantian, because it is derived from the Kantian tradition, the Kantian school of thought.

A similar example is the use of the word "Liberal" when describing welfare state proposals such as socialized medicine. The original liberals were for the free market, but today, because of the historical context, the advocates of socialized medicine come from a liberal tradition so they call themselves liberals. In a similar vein, Kant was not a Nihilist, but because of the historical context the advocates of nihilism come from a Kantian tradition so they are Kantian on that sense.

Francisco G, that is a truly righteous summation. I can't claim that my opinion is in any way well-informed or anything like that, but that's my opinion, for whatever it's worth. Kudos.

My guess was as good as yours as to what the true morality really was.

That's not in any way correct as a description of Kant's moral philosophy.

You're also confused about the connection between his metaphysics and his ethics. He surely did think moral truths were accessible, they were just only accessible by reason.

Francisco G: what washerdreyer said.

Basically, Kant thought (for quite good reasons) that if you hold that a judgment about an ordinary object like, oh, a table has to reflect the nature of that object as it is in itself, then it would follow that we had no certain knowledge, and reason would be unable to do much of anything beyond pure logic, and statements like: if this is a table, then it is a table. In order to secure the possibility of knowledge both of ordinary objects like tables and of claims about things like causality, he basically said: for a judgment about an object to be true, it must reflect the nature of that object considered as an object of experience. But the point was to secure knowledge, and also to save reason from various real problems that it got into otherwise.

His moral philosophy is different, because (according to Kant, and I think he's right here) we do not know about morality in the same way that we know about e.g. tables. We do not, that is, perceive moral objects or properties and then form judgments based on those perceptions. Instead, we derive moral truths using pure reason. The inaccessibility of things in themselves has nothing to do with it. (In fact, one of Kant's problems was that it's tempting to say that when we're talking about morality, reason does give us knowledge of some facts about some things in themselves, e.g. that we are free moral agents.)

"My guess is as good as yours as to what the true morality was" is not just false as a description of Kant, as washerdreyer said; it's about as far from the truth as it would be possible to get. It really is like saying that Hayek was a Marxist, or that Mao was a libertarian, or that the really striking feature of Jackson Pollock's painting is its unflinching realism.

Francisco's error is similar, if not parallel, to the common caricature of Protestantism during the Reformation: sin now, be forgiven later, repeat as necessary.

All credit for (correct) statements made by me about Kant to Paul/ine Klein/geld.

All blame for forgetting things she taught me is my own.

Well, but couldn't you say it does in practice lead to "my guess is as good as yours" even if that's not at all what Kant argued, because we can each make 'purely rational' opposite arguments about the morality of, e.g., suicide? In practice.

I really can't think of a tenable explanation for Rand's phrase, though. More commonly you see Nietzsche get attacked, since that's where you get the death of the subject and the thing-in-itself, and the genealogical criticism of morality. So I guess Kant is responsible because he paved the way for the rejection of Kant...?

"reason does give us knowledge of some facts about some things in themselves, e.g. that we are free moral agents.)"

Umm, ya know I see Kant as more systematic and unitary than that, and that free will is a postulate is as important to Kant as it is to Kierkeggaard. The seven "necessary postulates" in order of importance:rational universe, just(pleasing) universe, God,
immortality, free will,space,time.

Kant's purpose, IMO, was that Aquinas's separation of faith and science was breaking down under assaults by Berkeley & Hume et al, and he was trying to save faith by making science dependent on it.

I think the "nihilism" comes about when serious thinkers try to save some of the postulates while discarding others that make them uncomfortable. Not "Kantian nihilism" but "Kant or nihilism."

"Instead, we derive moral truths using pure reason. The inaccessibility of things in themselves has nothing to do with it."

Nihilist. :) The inaccessibility make the derivation possible.

You Are All Going to Hell

An Unfogged thread, as usual the interesting stuff is in the comments, supposing God revealed Himself, and said like thunder: "Gays must burn or thou shalt burn."

Some said, hey like hell is forever, so gonna do what gotta do. Some said, ta heck with God and hell, my categorical imperative don't let me burn teh gay.

Now pure and practical reason may in some sense allow to figure out the Right, but without the certainty of reward and an unjust universe, there is no way you call acting morally "justified and rational."

It moves into the aesthetic, maybe a high aesthetic, but still simply cause you like it and makes you feel good. Utilitarianism and consequentialism runs into this problem often.

I can only add, minutely, to this brilliant thread, a pun: Y Kant Muir Draw?

Chris Muir needs to be informed that, despite a political slant, a cartoon should amuse. Are we to credit him only because he espouces rightwing ideas in cartoon form. I suggest he study Tom Tomorrow, to learn how to do that, and throw himself in a three week booze and drug binge after.

I can only add, minutely, to this brilliant thread, a pun: Y Kant Muir Draw?

Welllll

Muir hires out the graphics. The characters are a palette of computer-drawn pieces that he can assemble into a strip and print, and he contracts out for more characters or more poses of existing characters as required. He only originates the dialogue. Such as it is.

I'm afraid you've put Descartes before the horse.

So wait, not only is the "dialogue" nothing but agitprop disguised as conversations, but he didn't even do any of the art?

I feel soiled for ever being under the misapprehension that there was a shred of talent involved in these tracts.

Well, that explains why I keep seeing that guy standing in that position, over and over and over again. I was wondering why he was frozen...

Maybe we should pass the hat so that Muir can buy some more poses?

Speaking of both Kant and things that make heads explode:

we do not know about morality in the same way that we know about e.g. tables. We do not, that is, perceive moral objects or properties and then form judgments based on those perceptions. Instead, we derive moral truths using pure reason.

This is the kind of philosophical statement that makes me go "bzwuh?", because it seems obvious to me that humans form moral judgements based on neither perception (as of a table) NOR pure reason, but on emotion.
As a descriptive statement, the above is what we non-philosophers call "wrong".

Are you (and Kant) being prescriptive, instead? When you say "we", do you mean "we philosophers"? When you say "we derive moral truths using pure reason" do you mean "we philosophers *should* derive moral truths using pure reason"? And what then happens to the role of emotion, which is what our moral sense looks like in the first place? How can Kant (& co) call something "morality" when it does not have the content of human moral experience, which is the strong emotional reaction of rightness or wrongness?

I've just always wanted to know.

So the philosophical use of the term "nihilism" was first coined to describe... Emmanuel Kant? How embarrassing.

I must say, most people who diss Rand are embarrassingly ignorant of Rand, even while bemoaning the supposedly ignorant name-dropping of other philosophers -- she's radioactive, don't ya know.

Doctor Science asks,

"Are you (and Kant) being prescriptive, instead?"

No.

"When you say 'we', do you mean "we philosophers"?"

No, Kant means every rational agent (though perhaps not God; I don't know if God _derives_ moral truths from pure reason, as God's reason doesn't proceed discursively (i.e., via concepts) but rather intuitively (i.e., via intuitions)).

"When you say 'we derive moral truths using pure reason' do you mean 'we philosophers *should* derive moral truths using pure reason'?

No, Kant means that, when we get at moral truths, we derive those moral truths with pure reason.

"And what then happens to the role of emotion, which is what our moral sense looks like in the first place?"

That's a good question, and not an easy one to answer. Professor Hilzoy would probably be better placed to answer this than I, but for Kant, emotion plays a supplementary role; it can help to motivate people to follow the dictates of pure reason (although it can also make it more difficult for people to follow those dictates), and to some extent it can help (or hurt) not just with *following* reason's dictates, but also with *identifying* them; someone under the influence of what Kant calls an "affect" (a powerful emotion that interferes with the working of reason) might be briefly unable to see what her moral duty in a particular situation is.

"How can Kant (& co) call something 'morality' when it does not have the content of human moral experience, which is the strong emotional reaction of rightness or wrongness?"

Well, rightness or wrongness, Kant would say, is not an emotional reaction, but a property of actions or maxims. Kant never says that we can't have emotions reactions to actions or maxims, though.

What Bobcat said.

About emotion: Kant thinks that it is not itself a guide to action, except as informed by reason. This is (it seems to me) right: consider the ways in which kids' emotions are not just impeded, but actually changed, through socialization, so that (for instance) most of us don't have to repress a desire to take other people's stuff whenever it appeals to us, even though the desirability of some of that stuff is perfectly clear to us.

(I, for instance, love the Jag that belongs to my department chair. But he could leave me in charge of the keys without having to worry that I'd take it. And that's not because i'd have to suppress an urge to take it, nor because the fear of punishment would outweigh that desire, or anything. I just don't have to suppress such desires anymore, since I don't regard stuff that belongs to other people as take-able, though perhaps in extreme circumstances -- starvation, someone else's food, etc. -- that might change.)

Casey: only if one considers Jacobi's arguments at all persuasive. Muir only made himself look worse as he built to his first pun-ish punch line and his second gay-baiting one. I suppose there is an underlying irony here: Muir's strips probably make more sense to reactionaries who reject the Enlightenment....

Dr. Science,

I think the declaration that morality is just emotional reactions of right or wrong is pretty powerfully undersupported. One of the things that many discover as they delve into philosophy is that our moral intuition is often inconsistent, incomplete, and outright wrong.

Morever, using emotional response as a basis for moral evaluations robs morality of any proscriptive power. At the very least, it turns moral decrees as matters of taste and emotional reflex, which calls into question why on earth we should be guided by them (especially when the response only occurs in others). That is, why should I consider any moral emotions other than my own in determining correct behavior?

One of the most pressing problems of morality is how to justify any moral system using reason, perceptual abilities, etc. However, one thing that has come clear over the years is that supposing an emotional basis for morality robs the word of much that we consider integral to its definition.

I think what Dr. Science is saying is that "morality" *as practiced* by most people doesn't seem to have much to do with reason. Rather, the average person gets his/her moral rules from family and culture, and enforces it on him/herself and others based on emotions such as guilt and outrage. This seems obviously true regardless of whether one can come up with a rational basis for the rules themselves.

What kenB said.

Reason-based morality *must* be prescriptive, because it sure ain't descriptive. The observable fact that not even philosophers change their minds on moral issues very often proves that even for them reason is only invited to the morality party to support the principles emotion (heritage, psychology, culture) has already chosen.

Just in case it's not self-evident, I am not the "Casey" at 1:18 who just dropped a delicate sneer on behalf of Ayn Rand.

(FTR, I haven't bothered reading Rand since high-school. She has nothing to say that matters to me - and neither do her adherents.)

Could hil start a new thread on this? I find it interesting, but I think a step away from the Randian version would be useful.

I'm actually not impressed with the rhetorical skill in the cartoon. It's clumsy, obviously.

Jacobi's argument, which apparently introduced the term "nihilism" into philosophical discourse as he used it to describe the end product of Kantian absolutism, would probably be agreed upon by Rand, as it seems to have been a prevalant Russian interpretation of Kant when she attended college with some of the most impressive scholars in St. Petersberg. I can see her seeing nihilism in any fragment of mysticism in a philosophic system, easily, and for very compelling reasons within her valuable definitions -- absolutism she would have regarded as equally unreal as subjectivism, and a form of nihilism.

Yeah, Kant pretty much concedes that the Categorical Imperative is a useful myth. (Compare Socrates's "noble lie" in Plato's Republic.) That is, we can't know what it is, but only suppose that it exists because it's a way for accounting for the notion of moral laws which are in no way contingent.

To someone who rejects the possibility or significance of the purely a priori, a categorical imperative amounts to "because I say so," and implicitly relativism. The difficulty is, of course, that not everyone need share the moral intuitions and common notions he builds on to reach the categorical imperative, expecially the notion that morality must be completely non-contingent.

It's not enough to dismiss exception-making as weakness, when all we have to start with are common notions in the first place.

Ben H: "Yeah, Kant pretty much concedes that the Categorical Imperative is a useful myth. (Compare Socrates's "noble lie" in Plato's Republic.) That is, we can't know what it is, but only suppose that it exists because it's a way for accounting for the notion of moral laws which are in no way contingent."

What is your basis for saying this? I don't think it's true. For one thing, Kant provides three quite explicit versions of the CI (which he says are equivalent), so I'm puzzled by the idea that "we don't know what it is."

The point I am trying to establish, and which many philosophers try to draw out early in their attempts to spread the love of wisdom, is that outrage and guilt are not enough to motivate the framework and enforcement of moral codes. My outrage does not provide a reason to justify your moral code.

Thus, if we honestly believe one ought not do certain things, we must justify with more substantial reasons than "it makes me feel outraged". While many persons are non-reflective about the justification of moral claims (unfortunately), once they begin to reflect on morality, they often accept that emotion is not a reasonable basis for morality.

However, if we take how "most people" justify moral claims as basic and then try to extend the idea of what morality really is based on that basic concept, we discover that the term "morality" becomes greatly impoverished and no longer depicts our vision of what morality ought to mean.

Most philosophers take the definition of morality (that is, what it is and what it should accomplish in terms of providing "ought" statements) as basic and then note that emoitonal responses such as outrage and guilt cannot justify claims on what it means to be moral. Just because many people think that emotions do so, doesn't they actually do. Just like many people believeing the world was flat never made it true either.

Lastly, intractibility on moral issues doesn't justify the claim that outrage and guilt justify morality. In fact, it should suggest the opposite. Emotional responses are easily changeable and tend to flitter all over the place. If people's moral claims are indeed as intractable as you claim (a point I am dubious about), this might rather suggest that we do indeed create moral frameworks which are resistent to change because of their solid grounding in reason.

In point of fact, I think moral opinions waver all over the place for many quite simply because they are not reflective about the implications of their beliefs and therefore (wrongly) tie emotions to morality.

And of course I type all of this with the understanding that hilzoy will correct me if I make some wildly misleading or factually incorrect philosophical claim. As goes with(out) saying, everything here can be read with a giant "As I understand it..." at the front.

Toadmonster: But Schopenhauer, I mean, even aside from the whole "19th century" thing, there are probably, what? six people in all of history who have actually read Schopenhauer? And twenty, tops, who have actually heard of him. I mean, I have only the vaguest second-hand notion of what he wrote, because I'll be damned if I'm reading his 1200 page book just to better contextualize Nietzsche or whatever.

You do not need to read twelve hundred pages of The World as Will and Idea to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy Schopenhauer. His short essays are delightful fun. Start right here!

Or better yet... One hundred and thirty years before Albert Gore invented the Internet, Schopenhauer composed this complete guide on How To Troll, which, despite the march of "progress," has not been surpassed to this day.

If somewhere a conservative(trying to sound informed and intelligent, but instead coming off as being supremely ignorant) criticizes some obscure, over-named philosophical approach supposedly being practiced by liberals, then you can bet that Ayn Rand or her students of "objectivism" are behind it. It's okay if you read and bought into some of her crap back in high school. But really, now that you're an adult, it's time to grow up.

Oh God thank you! Because I consulted Wikipedia and numerous other web resources on Kant in an effort to make heads or tails as to what point Muir was trying to make in that strip. It's clear to me now that his intention was merely to inject some pseudo-intellectual bunkum into gratuitious T and A. Looking forward to perusing socratic_me's link when I get the chance. Ayn Rand....Bleech!

Sounds like Rand thought the problem with Woodstock was that the public health regulations were inadequate. - Bernard Yomtov

No. She was just mad no-one invited her.

Meanwhile, I'm still trying to imagine Kant at Woodstock:

Random Stoned Hippy: man, that's deep, man

Kant: Bot ju jost don't get it, no? Ze categorical fun imperitive ist der vay dat morality verks [...] by der vay -- vair ist der sex? I vas promised der voot be der sex in der mod here, ya? and it vood be very moral sex too, because it would be categorical sex dat everyone vood be doing it, ya? Did someone lie to me? 'Cause lying ist very immoral, no?

Oh ... could "Kant is a nihilist" be one of those "counter-intuitive" things people say to make themselves look smart?

It seems I've blogged on this phenomenon (check out my archives < / blogwhore >).

All right, I'm very late to the party, but I did want to let you know I've linked to this page from my own humble blog, "Pragmatism Refreshed."

As the name of my blog is meant to suggest, I try on the whole to present an updated variant of the world-view of Peirce and James, but mostly I use that pretense as an excuse to write about whatever touches my fancy -- the history of diplomacy, the fate of the auto industry, the passing weirdness one encounters in each daily newspaper, and ... the stupidity of pretentious cartoonists.

Great minds do think alike. Togolosh (above) and I both thought of the Australian philosophers. And the Queen's a good sheila.

You and your readers are welcome to drop by. In the meantime, thanks for the fodder.

I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge, in order to make room for faith. The dogmatism of metaphysics, that is, the preconception that it is possible to make headway in metaphysics without a previous[!] criticism of pure reason, is the source of all that unbelief, always very dogmatic, which wars against [absolutely selfless] morality. [Kant, CPR, Muller, 1966, xxxix]

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad