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Critique of Specific Philosophies

In this chapter we'll examine a few ``famous'' philsophies and try to figure out why they are Bullshit (or as our English friends might say, ``Bollocks''). To some of you, this will feel a sort of like euthanizing old but beloved pets - you don't exactly like having to do it, but you know that it is something that simply has to be done.

A few of you, on the other hand, will be screaming yes, yes, yes, finally, kill the bastards, pour flaming gasoline on the remains and piss on the ashes. I'd suggest out of sheer kindness that you go wipe the foam from your mouth and take your medicine now, then assume a lotus position and say a mantra for an hour or two before returning to read further. Nothing is served by having a stroke or biting somebody when you're in this condition (however much I might sympathize).

To others (especially those who are still hovering over the Existential Pit of Despair) this will feel like I'm sawing through the last threads of the last ropes that sustain your very existence and you'll get very angry. If your Prime Axioms are those of Religion, especially one of the warrior variants with strong and aggressive sociomemetic scriptures, you may may be mouthing Jihad and looking for a belt full of explosives, or warming up the stake in the courtyard.

Or if you're a gentler soul, you'll write me to point out how everything I say is well and good, but Kant's philosophy or Wittgenstein's philosophy or Russell's philosophy or the Catholic Catechism or the Koran or the Gita is actually all right and Not Bullshit. Wrongo, Mary Lou. Show me a conclusion of any sort, however humble or proud, about the Real World without an unprovable axiom behind it (other than the empirical observation of your own existence in real time) and I'll cheerily plant a wet one right on your keister.

Most of them, for example, tacitly assume that the Universe is a causal sort of place with relationships and identity and time-sequential ordering, and that human beings exist (note carefully the plural) so that things such as language and logic are at all relevant or have something to do with the stuff of reality. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me - there is a lot of wisdom in aphorisms, however much they too are bullshit as knowledge.

A very few of you (mostly professional philosophers) may be praying that I leave something untainted, some branch of philosophy that might be viewed as Not Bullshit because you rely on it for a living. Hey, guys, relax. I'm not after your jobs. Besides, the vast public realized that philosophy is Bullshit long, long ago (likely pre-Hume) and likely will never read this simply because it sounds like a work on Philosophy.

Now, observe how I cleverly side-step the trap yawning at my logical feet. Obviously this work is not a work of Philosophy, because if it were, it would be Bullshit!

Hmmm, this work is a work on mathematics. Everybody already knows that mathematics is empty of meaning save in the most abstract of senses, so that your jobs are safe. Just refer any complaints over to the Math department. Or perhaps it is a work on meta-philosophy, the foundations of philosophy itself, where we conclude that nope, sorry, gosh we feel bad about taking your money for a few thousand years, but pure reason (however great and useful it appears to be) cannot forge any necessary connections to an external reality.

OK, let's get serious. Joking over. The real conclusion that a thinking person should draw from this work is that understanding this work in particular may be the most important thing they ever do. Not as knowledge (we are simply doomed to a life of uncertainty as far as non-provisional knowledge goes) but as wisdom. Philosophy may well be Bullshit, but philosophy is important. Philosophy embraces everything we know about the world, which is why it simply won't do to leave that knowledge up on crumbling cinder blocks and termite-ridden pillars carved with the ancient runes and tribal customs of vanished, failed cultures.

If you think about it (and yes, I will continue to hold your hand and try my best to provide some guidance for that thinking) by taking a sledgehammer to those cinder blocks, by setting fire to the pillars and burning them up, termites, runes, and all, I'm bringing the T-bird of knowledge down to earth from where it has been sitting rusting away. Freed from the rubble, the baggage, the smoke and the mirrors that have kept it out of service for so long who knows, maybe it will even soar into the heavens13.1 not as certainty but as faith.

Recall that I've several times stated that my ultimate goal is to set you free, where ``freedom'' can mean nothing more nor less than free to choose what you believe. All that I do in this chapter is my very best to show you that for all the fancy clothes and pseudo-logical language, all philosophies are beliefs as fundamentally silly as belief in fairies. Or if you prefer a more precise and less loaded word than ``silly'', as irrational as belief in fairies. Until one agrees on some particular set of axioms, all philosophies one might discuss are extended loaded answers to loaded questions, liberally mixed with circular reasoning, question begging, self-referential logic, and social memetics that stinks of the culture from which it is drawn and isn't even vaguely logically consistent with any given set of axioms. That is...


next up previous contents
Next: Why Descartes Proof of Up: Philosophy Previous: The Fundamental Axioms of   Contents
Robert G. Brown 2007-12-17