RSS

Tag Archives: philosophy

Let’s not cut off our nose to spite our face

a3d07eb45c1e9938550314c8076c86b6I’m not the most vocal ‘Yes’ voter in Scotland, to be honest I’m one of those people who would have voted for devo max if had been an option (what Westminster offered in the final weeks was laughable, unbelievable, and didn’t sway me for a second). That said, I did come to see the merits of our country standing apart and answering to itself for it’s own failings and celebrating its own achievements. There was a positivity in this country that I had never seen in my three decades here.

Once the dust had settled I was sad to see the slightly pouty nature of some of the ‘yes’ camp in the weeks after (some are even now still pouting). Though I should point out that a bit of pouting is nowhere near as bad as the disgusting unionist display in Glasgow, described as a ‘celebration’ (though this was clearly a very noisy minority of ‘no’ voters). That said some of the ‘no’ camp have developed a general smugness which doesn’t seem in keeping with the ‘togetherness’ they claimed to represent. The bit that bugs me is that neither camp seems able to remember what their side represented.

On one side we have the ‘Yes’ supporters, a group which made a clear effort to mark themselves out as people who were ready to muck in and help build a whole new country together if the vote went their way (no small task). These people caught me, the positive attitude, their willingness to take off the blinkers and see that something, anything, needed to be done to change a system that has left most modest-sized towns in this country with a food bank.

On the other we have the unionists, (calling them the ‘no’s seems a little negative to me). If we take them at their word, these were people who didn’t want to see a collection of nations torn asunder. They saw the yes campaign as pure nationalism and worried that it would go too far, that English, Welsh, and Irish people might be made to feel unwelcome in a post-devolution Scotland. Personally I don’t think that would have happened but to be fair we can’t know.

So here’s the problem, we have unionists who are demonstrating something that’s a long cry away from the togetherness of ‘better together’ by laughing at their fellow citizens’ plans to make a change, to try and help build a fairer country.

On the other side we have yes voters who have lost their spark, the worst of them seem to relish in any problems our country has post-no with a slightly anarchistic ‘I told you so’ in the way they address them.

It’s not fair to this country and it’s not fair to the ideals of the campaigns that either of these kinds of people decided to follow. On one side we have a cry for togetherness and understanding, underneath which there was often a recognition that things are bad just now, but that we could work through that ‘together’. On the other is a group who once saw themselves as nation builders. Admittedly the new task ahead may be less grand sounding but it’s still important.

Our country is in trouble, we need new industry, we need new jobs but most off all we need the energy and cohesiveness of our people to pull ourselves up after our bit of self-discovery, to be a nation again. Not a nation ‘who fought and died for..’ but instead one who lives for the future, who lives for each other and wants to see the people (any people) who call Scotland their home do well for themselves. We should not relish in our neighbours’ misery because their misery is our misery. For better or worse, for the time being, we are in this together, we all had so much energy in September, the winter will be over soon and I think it’s about time we all got back to work at improving our lot.

Thanks for reading, as always comments are more than welcome in the section below and you can catch up with me over on Twitter, All the best, John

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 16 January, 2015 in Philosophy

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Lofty ideals are beautifull yet deadly

Snow_Leopard_RelaxedWhy do people do genuinely, shockingly, terrible things? I’d say it’s down to values. At some point in our lives we tie ourselves to principles and beliefs that matter to us (this is far from being a bad thing, at its heart it’s what makes human beings so incredible). We might not sacrifice our lives for these ideals but the vast majority of us will still happily sacrifice some of our own personal freedom/liberty in favour of promoting this ideal or belief. This can be as simple as giving up time to a religion, to a career, to the arts, or it could be a larger sacrifice where one steps away from the ‘average’ life path of others in one’s community entirely, instead choosing to dedicate oneself to something that feels greater than ordinary human existence.

The problem comes when some people start to value this ‘thing’ over the lives and liberties of others. When this happens other people become a means to an end, we will infringe on their liberty because we feel we are promoting an ideal that is greater then ourselves and these others, we might even say things like ‘it’s for their own good’. This can become so extreme as to offer an individual in this position a way of rationalising their belief structure, making it easy to use their own beliefs and ideals to permit disgraceful and possibly even inhuman acts.

It is possibly our greatest strength as a species that we can aspire to be more than meat bags on a rock in space, we can aim for the stars and appreciate the wonder that is inherent in human identity. We can hitch our wagon to something transcendent that could survive far beyond our life-span. However, alongside this beautiful feature of the human condition comes the possibility that some of us may pay such close attention to these lofty ideals and concepts that we neglect to see our brothers and sisters passing us by on their own journey, hitched to their own wagons.

Sometimes we simply disrespect their choice in ideology and, if someone is strong in their beliefs, this disrespect should have no effect on them whatsoever. Sadly sometimes we go beyond this, we think that our ideology is worth more than the life and aspirations of our neighbour, when this happens human beings demonstrate their capacity to be worse than animals. In these moments we can allow ourselves to destroy (or even take) the lives of our neighbours. All in one moment someone can display their capacity to rise above their animal nature, holding tight to hefty ideals, yet at the same time they drop so low in the way they treat their neighbours as to become more abhorrent than the lowliest pond scum. At it’s core acts like this remind us that we are far more complex than anything else we have seen, we can access this degree of barbarism but so too can we aspire to be more than that.

At least that’s how I try to get my head around moments like this. People are beautiful and terrible, we sometimes forget that we are the most dangerous and dominant land predator on the planet, we need to treat each other with respect but so too are we intelligent enough not to allow offence to be misinterpreted as a physical threat and we don’t have to fall foul of our baser reactions. This is the heart of being a liberal, we can accept differences in people but we don’t have to accept mistreatment and brutality as parts of those differences. We can, and should, be better than that. All the best to anyone reading this, feel free to add your own take on this in the comments below, Cheers, John

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 10 January, 2015 in Philosophy

 

Tags: , , ,

Small town philosophy

1236837_914517181911287_1936006581401853506_nWe might expect perspectives to be very different relative to where people live, but the truth can be much more subtle. I’ll admit that living in the countryside can mean that things like solitude can be taken for granted but, as a fellow member of Crieff Philosophy Society pointed out, someone in a bustling city could feel more alone than a country bumpkin out on an empty hillside. It’s all relative.

So what is different about small-town philosophy? To be honest I think the lack of higher learning institutions and the more sparse population can add more potential diversity. In a city it’s (relatively) easy to find like-minded individuals, whereas in an area with a smaller population you often have to be happy with similar-minded individuals. Though this might sound like a negative thing it can actually be a more rewarding experience than just meeting with people who agree with everything you have to say (more or less).

In a city I would probably be socialising with a very similar demographic to myself. That’s not to say a wider, more diverse, circle of friends couldn’t be had in a city, I’m just noting that it would be easier to find like-minded people in a city given the population density. In the countryside you’re kind of forced into a broader circle and it can be extremely rewarding.

The philosophy society has been meeting for around two years and I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the conversations, the differences of opinions, and the alternative attitudes I’ve encountered in our wee group.

Our numbers look set to swell a little in the next few weeks/months, at least if social media is anything to go by. I recently set up a Twitter page for the group to run alongside our newly arranged monthly get-togethers which will be informal nights out, focussed around a chosen topic, on the first Thursday of each month. All these initiatives seem to be exposing the society to a larger portion of the local community and I’m hearing a lot of positive feedback.

Our next get-together is on 6th November and the chosen topic is identity. So expect more posts on gender, nationality, nature vs nurture etc. through the course of October.

If you’re lucky enough to be part of a philosophy group, either in a town or city, what have your experiences been like? Is it equally as easy to find diversity in the city? What kind of events work best for your group? I welcome any comments or suggestions you have in the comments section below and, as always, thanks for reading, Cheers, John

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 5 October, 2014 in Philosophy

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Philosophy of Play

image

Play is commonly regarded as the stuff of childhood, with adults who play seen as belonging to unusual fringe groups and sub-cultures. However if we’re really honest with ourselves the situation is actually quite different. Play keeps life interesting, whether you get sucked into any sport show going,  or if you are more drawn into the world of fashion, or even if you simply enjoy the odd game of Tetris you’re enjoying forms of play.

Watching or participating in team sports is one of many socially acceptable ways to appreciate play. The same could be said of the enjoyment of playing with identity and expression which are common to fashion. There is no doubt in my mind that a great majority of the more diverting activities which we participate in on a daily basis can and should be understood as forms of play.

I’ve been blogging about ‘toys, life and people’ over at johnthetoyshopguy for over a year now and I recently decided to write a book about the philosophy of toys/play. There’s such a rich mixture of sub-topics within this basic idea; does what we played with as children fix certain aspects of our personality/world-view? Why does society contrast ‘toy’ with ‘real’? Do we ever stop playing? And if we don’t does it help to be conscious of the fact that many activities which we take seriously can also be recognised as forms of play? What role do toys play in shaping cultural notions like gender?

I’m in the very early stages of planning my book so I’d welcome any feedback/advice you might have. It would also be great to hear what you think of my book ‘Living the Good Life in a Modern World‘ now available at the kindle store (first chapter available as a free sample). Thanks for reading, Cheers, John

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 27 September, 2013 in Philosophy

 

Tags: , , , ,

Finally completed something

Eudaimonia and disability Aristotle and human capacitiesOK it’s not what I expected to be popping up for my first kindle publication but here it is ‘How to Live The Good Life in a Modern World’. I’m not even sure if I can count a non-fiction book as the same sort of thing as what I’ve been talking about so far on this blog. As you may or may not know my background is in Philosophy so I went for the old adage and ‘wrote what I know’. I have to say even though it’s a completely different kind of animal than what I thought of when I started this blog completing it has definitely spurred me on to write more. Last year I completes my MPhil thesis and I thought that my writing habits would instantly translate into time spent writing fiction but I was wrong.

With the deadlines gone and the ‘honest’ reason for time spent away from other things it wasn’t as easy to set aside the needed hours each weak to get my work done. That’s probably the key word that changed things and got my book written: ‘work’. Until I started writing this one I didn’t think of writing as ‘work’, I thought of it as ‘writing’, it currently doesn’t pay and it does feel like a hobby so I kind of treated it like that. Things changed when I decided to write this book up and I started to set time aside for ‘work’. Loads of people do unpaid work every day from volunteers to interns so i decided to class this as a writing ‘internship’ where I’m my own boss and it seems to have worked. Now that this book is done I’ve even started delving back into writing fiction again. (Excerpts from chapters are to follow).

OK so for those of you who might be interested here’s a brief description of what my book is about. First off, it isn’t a mammoth read, I tried to keep things as neat and concise as I could. It would work as either an introduction to philosophy (it looks at both ancient and very modern positions in philosophy, providing people with a breadth of philosophical history) or as a more specific guide to the idea of what counts as a ‘good life’.

It doesn’t address every important philosophical question ever posed, but it does cover one or two of the ‘big questions’ as it takes the reader through it’s main topic. The book is about what it is to have a good life, and what kind of activities we might have to participate in in order to achieve this. When I started writing this book I wanted to make sure that the vast array of human capacities and capabilities are at least acknowledged, if not addressed head on. Because of this topics including the nature of mental disability and how it impacts on notions of merit and blame grew to become a steady thread throughout the book.

I like to think that it addresses these issues in the lightest possible manner whilst taking them seriously but I’ll leave it up to readers to decide. It’s available (in English only) in the UK, the USA, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Japan, India, Canada and Brazil. If you choose to get yourself a copy (or even just read a sample) I hope you enjoy it and I hope you take the time to tell me what you think.

So my final little bit of advice about getting a book written is to stop ‘writing’ and start ‘working’. Hope that helps you, thanks for reading, Cheers, John

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on 22 August, 2013 in Philosophy

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: