Philosophy: what’s the point anyway?

Sat, Aug 3, 2013 - 7:35am

One of my more interesting days in school occurred in what should have been my final year, when we had returned to Canada after a year in England, during which I miraculously passed 5 ‘O’ levels (which gives one a Grade 12 equivalency for people who know how to count linearly).

Returning to my old alma mater for what they called Level 4 (because they also could not count linearly - I think they are trying to hide from you just how incredibly long you have been on the receiving end) one of the courses I had to take was Philosophy. And in that short first, and only, week of Level 4, we discussed whether or not the desk in front of me was really there. In London, at Parliament Hill School for Girls, a nice word for the inmates, on my first day someone set one of the bathrooms on fire, and a ‘girl’ told a teacher to fuck off when she asked her to take her feet off her desk.

Such youthful promise. This photo is from 1983, 5 years later, when the economy and outlook had clearly improved greatly:

So my attitude, having been somewhat expanded by this experience, was basically of course the desk is ^&*%#@* there, and I feel like putting my ^&*%#@* feet on it to prove it. But I have always been too polite to tell anyone to ‘f’ off though, even at my worst. I think I argued for a bit about how it didn’t matter, because I could use it whether it existed or not, and then I left, never to return. The desk’s existence might have been in question, but at least the door appeared to be real. (I might add, had I not walked out that door, I would not have re-met my hubby, or had my wonderful kids ... what looks like a screw-up can be the best thing that you do.)

That was when I was 16. Now I am 50. It still drives me crazy discussing whether or not the desk is real, and while I now understand the question a little better, being somewhat wiser between my years, much philosophy can be relegated to the intellectual stratosphere to fester with the simple question, “Does it make any difference to my behaviour.?”

Take the popular and hard to destroy concept that everything is a figment of your imagination. Then a) your imagination really sucks; and b) does it actually change any of your actions? Or any of mine? Can I still punch you? Yes. So stop worrying about it.

Perhaps philosophy is sort of like comedy. Much is terrible, but it is worth suffering through for the occasional brilliant gem. Plato’s Cave analogy. The Socratic method. Zen. But wade one must, and through brackish waters. My middle child and I were (this actually happened) discussing Camus’ L’Etranger in the kitchen and it turned out we both thought that Camus approved of everything that happened - why would they make you read that book in high school? - when we first were reading it.

What is my point? I don’t have one! And here’s why.

We have some good old friends with whom we, for some reason, were unable to have dinner without ending up going to bed at 4:00 a.m. (because we were discussing philosophy of course, not playing pool, visiting the garage, or strangely gyrating in the living-room to popular, if dated, beats). This resulted in us giving up any thought of getting home when we visited, and I was never much of one for baby-sitters, so we accepted our character flaws and stuffed all the kids in the basement for sleep-overs, bribed them not to emerge, and got down to business. But they would emerge, at dawn. This was always problematic, and the strongest of us would try to answer any question with, “You can do anything safe within the confines of the property that does not involve adult supervision.” This, however, being much too difficult to say early in the morning when one is ‘tired’, my girlfriend invented the concept of a “free day”. Words we could utter without much motion, and that were clearly understood. Eat what you can scrounge, watch what we would let you watch (or stretch the limits because we are weak), don’t be too loud, and don’t fight. It was tough, as there were 8 of them and only 6 of us, but they were mostly well trained.

Now it is me getting up at dawn, and the youths sleep ‘till noon unless provoked. But it is still a Saturday, and everyone should have a ‘free day’ now and then (and no one ever can stick to a topic anyhow, so I am virtue-ing out of necessity, don’t tell anyone).

On top of which, there have been some heavy hitters posting, and I am still digesting a few key points. The dichotomizing of argument and my woefully under-thought out investing strategies, being chief amongst them. Not to mention checking the temperature of the warm water I seem to be gently simmering in.

So it seems like a good day for a ‘free day’. Just don’t fight or be too loud.

BTW, I think this Hobbes might be right.

About the Author


Aug 3, 2013 - 7:39am



Aug 3, 2013 - 7:40am



Aug 3, 2013 - 8:20am

Socrates himself is particularly missed ...

Bruce's Philosophers Song by Monty Python.

Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable,
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy begger
Who could think you under the table,
David Hume could out-consume,
Wilhelm Freidrich Hegel.
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.
There's nothing Nietzche couldn't teach ya
'Bout the raising of the wrist.
Socrates himself was permanently pissed.
John Stuart Mill, of his own free will
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say could stick it away,
Half a crate of whiskey everyday.
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
Hobbes was fond of his dram,
And René DesCartes was a drunken fart
"I drink, therefore I am."
Yes, Socrates himself is particularly missed,
A lovely little thinker but a bugger when he's pissed.

Eric Idle Sings Monty Python--Part 6

Aug 3, 2013 - 8:22am

Aaaah ... philosophy ... so

Aaaah ... philosophy ... so apt to modern everyday life. Like for instance: if a client's money was in his allocated clients account ... and it "vaporizes" ... was a crime committed? The jail sentences awarded say "no". But I do not follow their Corzine-Obama-funds-raiser school of "philosophy".

sierra skier
Aug 3, 2013 - 8:27am

Philosophy is fun

Though I don't really do much with philosophy now days when I do, mostly with my son we have a good time sharing ideas and why these ideas may or may not be valid.

Aug 3, 2013 - 8:36am
maravich44 George Clooney
Aug 3, 2013 - 9:03am

love that dude So crates...

youtoob went goof on me...and drones are hovering. yikes..scratch.. gonna reboot.

Aug 3, 2013 - 9:06am

The video links aren't playing right, but I have a weird

solution. Edit your comment, and hit preview. Copy the written url that appears beside the picture of the video, and paste that into the comment field. Then the link seems to work. Does this work?

Video unavailable

edit: no. But it did work for me. Hmnnn.

Ugly, but there is M44's song!

Urban Roman
Aug 3, 2013 - 9:40am

Saturday, in the park, I think it was the 3rd of August

Mitt: "I have binders of women..."
Ariel: "I know, right? I have basements full of 'em!"

badump-bump, pssssh.

Reposting this here because it belongs here.

Aug 3, 2013 - 9:41am

thank you..

ok maybe..let's see. nope. back to the Speak. where i belong.

Aug 3, 2013 - 9:57am

Aug 3, 2013 - 10:04am

Yes, child, that's why they all went mad.

Douglas Adams, from an article entitled How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet:

[T]he reason we suddenly need such a word [interactivity] is that during this century we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television. Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theatre, music, sport – the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for. We didn’t need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don’t (yet) need a special word for people with only one head.

I expect that history will show ‘normal’ mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this.

‘Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn’t do anything? Didn’t everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?’

‘Yes, child, that’s why they all went mad. Before the Restoration.’

‘What was the Restoration again, please, miss?’

‘The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back.’

Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is...

Aug 3, 2013 - 10:05am

This seems like a big deal (because it is) but will it matter?

US regulators 'find evidence' of banks fixing derivative rates

US regulators have reportedly been handed evidence that traders at some of the world’s biggest banks manipulated a key rate for derivatives, pocketing millions at the expense of pension funds in the process.

Senior bankers privately admit it is easy for banks to fix Libor at rates that are favourable to their own interests as the task of setting the rate is often undertaken by relatively junior employees

15 banks are being investigated by the CFTC

Aug 3, 2013 - 10:07am


The First Law of Philosophy: For every philosopher, there exists an equal and opposite philosopher.

The Second Law of Philosophy: They're both wrong.

Loved the post Xty- I really wish we had friends with whom we could have a great night/"free day" like you guys, just let the kids free-range in the basement... all our "dear friends since forever" friends are 3000 miles away on the other coast, and nobody we know here would roll like that. Definitely our loss.

And I am with you- the desk is there, and exists independent from the mind of the 'philosopher'. Of course I nearly failed Philosophy and the D grade I was given put me on academic probation for a term... my professor would have said I didn't understand the material, but I would have said it was because he didn't like his nonsense being refuted in class. A dual reality if ever there was one!

maravich44 George Clooney
Aug 3, 2013 - 10:16am


are you lurkin? main not liking videos anymore. another try.oh well. something is f up.

Aug 3, 2013 - 10:32am

Symbolism: The Trampled Part

Inspired by Pamplona, Great Bull Run coming to US; organizers say events will be safe

By Associated Press, Updated: Saturday, August 3, 10:00 AM

ATLANTA — Organizers of a new event planned for several U.S. cities plan to unleash bulls to sprint through fenced-in courses as daredevils try to avoid being trampled.

The Great Bull Run is inspired by the annual running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain. It’s set to kick off Aug. 24 at a drag-racing strip south of Richmond, Va. A second event is planned for Oct. 19 at an Atlanta-area horse park that hosted events for the 1996 Olympics. More events are planned later for Texas, Florida, California, Minnesota, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Bull runs — when the animals are released to run alongside participants as spectators cheer — are common in Spain and can drum up controversy. Injuries often occur, as do deaths, though they are much rarer. Some groups attack the treatment of the bulls used in the runs.

About 5,000 people have signed up to participate in the Virginia event, and the number grows by about 50 each day, said Rob Dickens, co-founder and chief operating officer of The Great Bull Run. And with 2,000 signed up for the Conyers, Ga., event, Dickens expects 5,000 to 7,000 to run there in October.

The U.S. events will last one day each, unlike the annual weeklong festival in Pamplona, when bull runs are held every morning. Author Ernest Hemingway wrote about the festival in his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises,” which helped it gain worldwide notoriety and attract spectators from around the globe.

Organizers acknowledge that the Great Bull Run is likely to start out on a smaller scale than its Spanish counterpart. But they note that other physically challenging activities such as extreme off-road runs and obstacle races have become increasingly popular in the U.S., and they see bull running as a natural follow-up.

“I think it’s just a progression where we are becoming more and more active as a society,” Dickens said. “There’s this fitness craze that started with running. I think this is just an extension of all that, but making it more interesting to the general public.” (DPH: Huh?)

Dozens of people are injured each year in the San Fermin festival at Pamplona, most by tripping and falling. Bulls have killed 15 people since record-keeping began in 1924.

Last month in Spain, a University of Utah college student and an Australian woman were gored by bulls. During one run, participants and spectators screamed as a bull tossed a Spaniard to the ground and attacked him, with fellow runners trying to pull the animal away by its tail. The man was eventually dragged to safety.

Organizers of the U.S. events plan to include several safety features, making them “quite different than the running of the bulls in Spain,” Dickens said.

Unlike the narrow, cobblestone streets of the Spanish runs, the U.S. events will use fencing that will include coves, or notches, so participants can get out of the way quickly.

And Dickens said organizers are partnering with ranches who will supply the bulls, and veterinarians will monitor their health. “We’re not using the Spanish fighting bulls that are bred to be very aggressive for the entertaining aspect of bullfighting,” Dickens said.

Bulls will be released in waves of six at a time, giving the animals and people a “better opportunity to complete the course safely,” Dickens said.

Before running, participants will be required to sign waivers....(cont.)

Aug 3, 2013 - 10:32am

Out of hiding

This thread has drawn me out of hiding. How can I resits talking philosophy. Everyone has seen the soccer game, right?

Germany vs Greece - Monty Python Philosophers Football Match

Hmmm --that video link doesn't seem to work. click here for a new window

But one of my favorite philosophers is John Henry Newman, a disciple of Mill who provided a rational foundation for trusting your intuitions. And that gives me comfort that I am not crazy, that PM investing is safe and I don't have to fully understand GOFO and SIFO to be assured that my labor has been converted into something that preserves it for when I am older and need it back.

Aug 3, 2013 - 10:37am

A disciple of Mill ... right up my alley

Trusting intuition is also my take-away from Adam Smith. The 'invisible hand' is powerful in many areas. We have way too much 'visible hand' right now, one might add.

Pining: the other thing I remember about Philosophy class was that Doc Monty (as we called Professor Montgomery) could draw a huge perfect circle on the chalk board, a mark he was quite willing to give out.

Urban Roman
Aug 3, 2013 - 11:10am

Here, Xty

Stick this one in your mind instead:

Video unavailable

Come Saturday Morning by The Sandpipers

Aug 3, 2013 - 11:17am

Hobbes and Calvin

Given that Thomas Hobbes has become known for his [taken out of context] quotation: 

and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short..;

and Calvin himself was not one for enjoying life much, I think it is safe to say that Bill Watterson was trying to tell us something.

Modern Calvin certainly knows the answer to whether a table exists or not:

Aug 3, 2013 - 11:46am

Trick question!

That's fabulous.

Aug 3, 2013 - 11:55am


Speaking of intuition, here's a great article and on metals too! The first paragraph alone is worth a visit.

Aug 3, 2013 - 12:09pm

Difference between moderate and modest

CNBC- Where Brain Cells Go to Die Fed Statement Word Change “Dictionary Entry” Heard ‘Round The World Washington – It started moments after the release of the Federal Reserve’s latest decision on interest rates. Even though officially they announced maintaining the same policies of low rates and Quantitative Easing, it was a single word change in the official text of their press release from the prior month that sent shockwaves around the world and changed everything forever. First on the story was CNBC, whose always erudite and deep-thinking Steve Leisman pointed out the startling revelation. In analyzing the current state of the economy, the Federal Reserve had changed the word “Moderate” to “Modest” Given the importance of such a change on the global economy and the billions of people that work, invest and live within it, other media outlets jumped on the news immediately, and it was reported in everywhere from the Arkansas Business magazine to Channel News Asian. By the next morning, the Wall Street Journal had posted a detailed quantitative analysis of past word usage by the Fed. But far more important than the reporting of the word-change was the way it impacted the lives of ordinary people. George Lagolla was sitting inside his Woodstown, New Jersey pizza shop when he heard the news on the radio. With the success of his new garlic infused tomato sauce, Lagolla was busy filling out a bank application for a loan to open up a second location. Upon hearing the news, he tore up the application. “Sure I take into account demand, labor costs and the availability of rental space” Lagolla told us, “but none of that stuff matters when the Federal Reserve changes one word out of 500 in its latest statement. Part of being a smart businessman is knowing what really matters.”..........

lnardozi ¤
Aug 3, 2013 - 12:28pm

re :Symbolism: The Trampled Part

I suppose I should have expected this. Take something that is the defining event of the life of an adventurous courageous person and dumb it down, make it completely safe. Rip away every shred of pride in participation in the event, both for the new "running the bulls" and the old. Make everyone believe they can't be special because EVERYONE is. You've really hurt my Saturday, DPH though I'm sure you didn't mean it. I could just vomit. All those people, they were SOMEBODY and now that's all being ripped away and tossed on the shit pile so some dilettante can pretend they're 'special'. That being said, running with the bulls is a stupid idea. But I admire the courage of someone who'd do it, if not their intellect. It's like fighting - I mean, I'm perfectly OK with hurting someone but the idea they might possibly hurt me back sounds like poor planning on my part .

Aug 3, 2013 - 12:34pm

@murphy - LINK with NORTON issue?

@murphy - I just tried your link to theburningplatform. But, Norton alarmed and blocked the page from loading due to a web intrusion attack alarm. Just saying and posting in case others see the same alert.

Aug 3, 2013 - 12:43pm


Not sure where your coming from with that and you might be reading into it too much.

It's basically a stupid idea imho and a play on words. That's all.

Look at the size of that animal!

Continue on with having a good day :-)

Aug 3, 2013 - 12:44pm

@ SSJ - From Quinn's site

He's been having issues with DOS attacks and has been blocked from the US Defense Dept. Computers ever since he published some articles about Snowden... according to him. Norton and Symantec software have been telling people that TBP has malicious malware that is attacking their computers. It is a false warning. You can check your website using a Google diagnostic. Below is the result for TBP. If you go to the Norton Safe page and type in my website, you get the safe message below. I need to contact Norton/Symantec to get white listed. No, that isn’t racist. Safe Browsing Diagnostic page for What is the current listing status for This site is not currently listed as suspicious. What happened when Google visited this site? Of the 279 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 0 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 2013-08-01, and suspicious content was never found on this site within the past 90 days. Has this site acted as an intermediary resulting in further distribution of malware? Over the past 90 days, did not appear to function as an intermediary for the infection of any sites. Has this site hosted malware? No, this site has not hosted malicious software over the past 90 days. Safe Web Report for: Web Site Location United States of America SAFE Norton Safe Web has analyzed for safety and security problems. Summary Norton Safe Web found no issues with this site. Computer Threats: 0 Identity Threats: 0 Annoyance factors: 0 Total threats on this site: 0 The Norton rating is a result of Symantec’s automated analysis system. Learn more. The opinions of our users are reflected separately in the community rating on the right.

Aug 3, 2013 - 12:54pm
Aug 3, 2013 - 1:11pm

Saturday News: Markets

A Period of Wild Speculation That Will End Badly - Bill Fleckenstein, MSN
Old Family Scion Piles Into Run Down Equities - Robert Milburn, Barron's
What To Do When Friend Pitches an Investment Idea - Paul Sullivan, NYT
Best and Brightest Turn Away From Wall Street - Charles Gasparino, Fox
Trading On Beltway Knowledge: That's the Problem - Danielle Douglas, WP
The $7 Trillion Problem That Could Sink Asia - William Pesek, Bloomberg
Summers Is the Right Leader For the Fed - Steven Rattner, New York Times
Paul Krugman Won't Acknowledge Dollar's Drop - Editorial, New York Sun
Youth Being Left Behind By Obama's Jobs' Recovery - Editorial, Investor's
What Obama Can Do To Restore Middle Class - Reuven Brenner, Asia Times
Interview w/Kevyn Orr: How Detroit Can Rise Again - Alyssia Finley, WSJ
Texas Leads Low Tax Pack but New Mexico Wants In - Travis Brown, Forbes
Tax Neither Credit Unions, Nor Community Banks - R.J. Lehmann, RCP
Did Ayn Rand Envision Writing For No Pay? - Maura Pennington, Forbes
Mercedes Aims for the Super-Rich with Super S-Class - Sam Grobart, BBW

The Case for Larry Summers - Robert Lawrence, The New Republic
In Defending Larry Summers, Obama Buried Him - Larry Kudlow, NRO
A Sexist Campaign Against Janet Yellen - Paul Krugman, New York Times
Six of Janet Yellen, Half Dozen of Larry Summers - Ezra Klein, Bloomberg
The Fed Is Opaque Because It's Flying Blind - Jeff Snider, RealClearMarkets
Is Poverty in the Very Rich U.S. Simply Bad Luck? - John Goodman, Forbes
What's the Opposite of 'Libertarian Populism'? - Robert Tracinski, RCM
Why Hipsters Will Buy ObamaCare (Probably) - Jonathan Cohn, TNR
The Fabrice Tourre Case: Banks as Bookies - Floyd Norris, New York Times
Old School Stocks Still Going Strong - Sarah Langs, The Daily Beast
Remember Dow 36K? It's Making a Comeback - Brett Arends, MarketWatch
More Bankruptcies Won't Solve Cities' Crises - Stephen Eide, Bloomberg
Black America Needs a FairTax, Not Repeal of 'SYG' - Louis Woodhill, RCM
Are Chinese Beginning to Invest in the U.S.? - Peter Coy, Bloomberg BW
Greece Should Defy Gunboat Creditors - Evans-Pritchard, Daily Telegraph
European Austerity Didn't Fail, It Was Never Tried - Jeff Dorfman, Forbes

John Galt
Aug 3, 2013 - 1:35pm

Philosophizing the Existence of Gold

If Gold is stacked in Ft. Knox, but no one is there to audit, does it really exist? Annnnddd, it's gone.

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