Somewhere Atop the Ivory Tower 3


“The Pre-Socratic Monists”

(The Pre-Socratics are having a debate over what substance makes up everything in the universe. The master and student, Thales and Anaximander, take center stage in the conversation.)

Anaximander: And there you have it. Everything is made up of apeiron. And that apeiron takes on different forms to make everything. Any questions?

Thales: Are… are you for real, child? You can’t even see apeiron!

Anaximander: Perhaps. But that’s because no one has developed an instrument to measure it. Quick! Let’s build something that can detect the stuff!

Thales: That makes no sense! How can you go ahead and measure something that you don’t even know exists? Even the priests know that there is no proof that suggests something like that is real.

Anaximander: Maybe that’s because the priests are lying to us!

Thales: Really? You would chase a conspiracy theory, all because you believe that the priests are wrong?

Anaximander: You’re one to talk! You think that water makes up everything?

Thales: Well–

Anaximander: Even if there’s proof that not everything consumes the stuff?

Thales: Sure they do! You just can’t tell that it’s made up of it. Water simply takes on a different form to make everything.

Anaximander: And how is that different from my argument then?

Thales: (pause) Because I said water.

Anaximenes: (interrupts) Oh, both of you old-timers just don’t get it. Everything has to be made up of something that is both detectable and not detectable!

Thales: Oh, by the gods, who is this kid?

Anaximander: Sigh… one of my students. Unfortunately.

Thales: Hah! The sandal’s on the other foot!

Anaximander: Anaximenes, what do you mean…

Anaximenes: I’m saying that to account for everything that is both tangible and intangible, there has to be a substance that works as both!

Thales: And you believe that such a thing exists?

Anaximenes: Certainly! It’s air!

Thales and Anaximander: (stare at each other, then at Anaximenes) Seriously?

Anaximenes: Well yeah. We know there’s tangible evidence for it by the rustling of the leaves, and it’s intangible because none of us have ever been able to contain it. The air just takes a different form to make everything.

Thales: And how is that different from our arguments?

Anaximander: Yeah! Wait, we agree on something?

Thales: Not really.

Anaximenes: Oh come on. At least I’m not like that occultist over there that believes that everything is made up of numbers.

Pythagoras: Soon. One day, I will slay all of you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Somewhere Atop the Ivory Tower 2


“Two Hands”

(Descartes had sent out an inquiry, regarding a thought experiment he had about knowledge of the external world. Three philosophers have responded to him during office hours.)

Moore: Mr. Descartes, about your inquiry.

Descartes: The one about the two hands, no?

Moore: Yes, about that. I don’t see the problem. (Descartes glares at him, confused) Look, here’s my hand. And here’s my other hand. They’re apart from each other. This is all the proof I need for the external world to exist!

Descartes: Aye, but HOW do I know that the world exists?

Moore: Because I can see them? Duh.

Descartes: (rubs his temples out of frustration) Don’t bore me with such common claims, without any evidence as to why. Go join the trash below. (Exit Moore. Enter Berkeley.) Ah, old friend. Have you got an answer to my inquiry?

Berkeley: Why of course. See my hands? I know they’re here because I can see them. But once I fall asleep or lose consciousness, I no longer am aware that they exist.

Descartes: Yeah. I know.

Berkeley: So that means that in those moments where I am not aware of them, my two hands don’t exist!

Descartes: Wha– how did you… then how do you explain how your two hands happen to be there once you wake up?

Berkeley: Why that’s simple. Because God can still see them. That means I can be confident that my hands will still be there, even when I’m not conscious of them. After all, a higher being is always watching them.

Descartes: Uh huh… so what would happen if at some point God stops looking, even for a split second?

Berkeley: Look. You’re a man of faith too, right?

Descartes: Well, sure.

Berkeley: Then you would know that it would be impossible for God to stop His gaze upon everything at once. He is omnipotent, after all.

Descartes: Okay, but how do you know that? Wouldn’t saying that something is impossible for God mean that He is no longer omnipotent?

Berkeley: Well…

Descartes: So in the case that God stops looking at your hands, and no one else is around to notice them, how do you know that they’re still there?

Berkeley: Look, they’re not there unless they can be seen, okay? Geez, someone like you should know that God is above any of our concerns!

Descartes: Mr. Berkeley, with all due respect. I believe in God, and I believe that God is good, and above all, omnipotent. But to say that He is incapable of doing something, including something as simple as breaking His gaze on your hands is rather insulting to your vision of God.

Berkeley: You’re just a man of little faith then!

Descartes: . . . . If you’re not going to take this inquiry seriously, get out. (Exit Berkeley. Enter Lehrer) Now who are you?

Lehrer: Oh come on, you didn’t bother asking G E Moore who he is, but you have to ask of me?

Descartes: Who?

Lehrer: Eh, never mind. About those two hands… you see these? I don’t even know that they’re there.

Descartes: . . . Come again?

Lehrer: Yeah. How do I even know that they exist? I’ve never had proof that anything I see is in fact there. I don’t even know that you’re talking to me, or that we’re somehow atop some kind of tower.

Descartes: Are you serious?

Lehrer: Hell, how do I even know that I don’t know any of this? Maybe a demon put all these thoughts in my head, to trick me into navigating an illusion of a universe.

Descartes: But surely you have acted as if you knew that your two hands existed. Only crazy people think that their hands don’t exist even when they can clearly see them.

Lehrer: Yes, but maybe that’s what the demons want you to believe. Isn’t that right?

Descartes: Hmm… (Descartes scribbles a few notes on a piece of paper and hands it to Lehrer) here are the key points to my first and second meditations. Read them again, and study them well.

Lehrer: Okay, but–

Descartes: And if you’re really that committed to skepticism, go ahead and walk off the top ledge of this tower. There is a special place in Philosopher’s Hell, just for you.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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Somewhere Atop the Ivory Tower 1


“Leaving Königsburg”

Somewhere atop the ivory tower…

Kant: …And that, my friends, is why it is impermissible to tell a lie. That is how the universal maxim works. Thoughts?

Hume: (appearing from an image on the wall) Yeah, I have something to say, Manny.

Kant: Will you stop calling me that! How are you even talking to me?

Hume: Video calling. Beautiful, isn’t it? (audience murmurs) I mean… (sarcastically) ooh, so mysterious. It must be the work of magic!

Kant: Whatever, Dave. So tell me, what is wrong with the categorical imperative?

Hume: Well, you may think that you can just make up rules by supposing it as a universal maxim, but…

Kant: But?

Hume: You simply… Ka–

Kant: No.

Hume: n–

Kant: No! You’re not using that on me! That’s not even how you’re supposed to pronounce it!

Hume: . . .

Hume: nt.

Kant: THAT DOES IT! I’m going to get to Edinburgh. I will find you. And you’ll be sorry, Hume!

Hume: Oh really? You’re going to make it all the way to Edinburgh? Parish the thought. (Kant grumbles) Now, if you somehow took a step out of Königsburg, I might be inclined to believe you. That way, I would know that you’re at least capable of doing that.

Kant: Why you…

Hume: After all, all we have to go by… (leers) are impressions.

Kant: . . .

Hume: . . .

Kant: !@#$% !@#$%

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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5 Disturbing Philosophical Arguments


Happy Halloween, my fellow readers.

Believe it or not, my first (unofficial) philosophical editorial was Halloween related, as I discussed the logic behind Trick or Treat. A fun little read, if you’re curious about what we mean when we actually utter that phrase around this holiday, and for the most part, a kid-friendly approach. But this year, I will be doing something a little more for my adult audience.

Like many philosophers, I believe that philosophy can help people think more critically about this complex world we live in, and change the world in a positive way by applying complex theories to pragmatic solutions. However, I do admit that a lot of things that get discussed in philosophy can be too esoteric to the non-philosopher, those arguments that make us sound too weird to be a normal person. The items on this list are just a few examples of these kinds of arguments.

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The Importance of Philosophical Dialogue


This isn’t so much a well, drawn-out thought piece, as it is a reflection on the kind of writing that I do. For starters, I don’t consider myself an analytical philosopher. Sure, my past couple of editorials have focused on that modern style of breaking down logical arguments in the works of Descartes, Peano, or Mill, who were figures of the analytical style. But the lessons they teach are boring to me, frankly because they just don’t feel alive, unless I give them context.

I suppose I would talk a little more about continental philosophy in the future, and give my thoughts on the works of Hegel, Marx, or any and all of the Existentialists. I’ve been told countless times that my life is more like Sartre’s right now, and Lugones is my go-to philosopher/literary critic for a lot of my own worldview at the moment. But there’s always been something that bugged me about this strange differentiation between what is philosophy and what is philosophy proper: why is it that we don’t talk to each other?

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