Moden Philosphy 101

Hey Matt,

Hope all is well. I just read "A guide to philosophy in six hours and
fifteen minutes." by Witold Gombrowicz. As you know, I am not a big
philosophy guy, but I did really enjoy this book.

It runs through the main modern philosophers Kant, Shopenhauer,
Nietzshe, Sartre, Marx and Hegel. Super quick, to the point and great

I enjoyed Shopenhauer's impression of the will to live as being more
the will to be – the rock, the tree, the person all want to be, not
live. Of course for the living object, the only way to be is to live.
What is living? If complete self-awareness = living, then humans are
almost exclusively the only living things. This seems very dangerous
as it 'allows' us to exploit objects. Or maybe not (if to be is the
same as living, then what right do we have to change the state of the
rock or tree)?

"The hegelian idea: for earlier philosophy man was subject to a moral
law instituted by god, or as in Kant, subject to a moral imperative.
In other words, man functions, but the law already exist. Hegel
promoted the notion that everything moves. In advancing Man creates
his own law. Not only man, but laws are in progress because they are

I liked that as it describes the evolution of the state and society in
general. The analysis was too superficial, but I would image that
there must be some fixed laws, but that the majority are maluable and
evolving. Or perhaps human laws are simply evolving towards
imperatives which we have not yet identified?

The concept of phenomenological method is very interesting. As
proposed by Husserl, this idea of looking at everything as phenomena
and not objects seem very powerful. It can even be tied back the black
swan effect (i.e. just because you see 100000 white swans, it does not
mean that all swans are white – in fact some are black). Also it helps
put limitations on our reality as opposed to the reality of another
being in another dimension (ant vs. human or Newtonian physics vs.
einsteinium relativity vs. quantum mechanics and string theory).

The difference between classical philosophy which was a philosophy of
things vs the moden externalised philosophy which is a philosophy of
being. As such the only things that are conscious are things. Every
object is an object plus being. I have been informed that Sartre has
largely been proven wrong? Is this core correct or not and why? (not
that I think he is right).

I really liked the idea of humans having two states. I am a conscious
being, but everyone else is simply an object with actions and
reactions. This can be linked to basic physics: the theories of
light: both corpuscular and undulatory. So man is divided between the
subjective and the objective.

Practically, look a the way people act towards their own children and
towards children in poor countries. They care more for what they
consider 'real and alive' and what they consider quasi-objects. With
more charity work going on in the world, are we becoming more
subjective thanks to improved communication between peoples?

This can be traced to the way we view other peoples. Athenians viewing
other Greeks as subhuman, then the Persians, the just blacks, then
just women, then we are all equal. Great TED talk by Rober Wright on
non-zero sum dynamics. Comes back to an evolution of laws as proposed
by Hegel.

Man is a moderate being who needs as moderate temperature. He neither
exists in the microcosm (behaviours of cells and molecules) or the
macrocosm (the universal laws, relativity, …). So true. there is s
great TED talk by a astrophysicist on this topic. I mentioned this
concept to my friends, but I was laughed at as one of those kids who
says 'wooooooo look at the shiny stars and how insignificant we are'.

Our reality is between these two worlds (micro and macro), but does
our ability to know about the other two worlds alter our reality?

According to Marx, What comes from the top is inevitably a luxury and
what comes from the bottom is reality. This seems very true, take a
look at the effectiveness of open source software, micro-finance and
other bottom-up initiatives.

Lots of food for thought. Hope your studies are going well. Hit me
back with a reply when you get a chance.

– Jonathan

Published on October 28, 2007