Why Philosophy Cares More Than You Do About.[*]

An edgy Essay by Robert Whyte and Z

1. Introduction by Z

Most philosophers, and especially most professional academic philosophers, are not laugh-riots; indeed, most of them are not even risible animals, even though that notorious laugh-riot, Aristotle, offered up “being a risible animal” as a working definition of–or at least as a co-extensive predicate with–“being human”; and above all, most philosophers, and especially most professional academic philosophers, absolutely hate having the piss taken out of them.

But sadly for them, the following edgy essay does just that.

2. Robert Whyte, Why Philosophy Cares More Than You Do About[*]

I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a good story, featuring me being only slightly annoyed at the world, and only marginally resentful about not being Russell Brand.

You’ll like it, really you will. But before the story, I want to ask you some questions. I want to ask them now because if I left them to the end there is no way you would read them and even less think about them, so I’m going to make you read them now, or you won’t ever get to the nice story.

The questions are in a numbered list. If you know the answers, good on you. Don’t crow about it, just gloat quietly. If you don’t know the answers, don’t come running to me, I’m just getting them out of the way so I can tell you my story.

  1. If you happen to be trapped in a lift in a burning building with a philosopher, who’s the other guy?
  2. Do you understand what influences your thoughts and behaviours?
  3. How can you be honest?
  4. Why do you insist on privacy?
  5. Why is it hard to explain shit?
  6. Do you have a boss?
  7. Can you sharpen a knife without sharpening a knife?
  8. Are ducklings more human than humans and other ducklings?
  9. What is your comfort zone and why do you like it there?
  10. Who cares anyway?
  11. Was Kant really consciously cognitive in the sense we mean when we say who gives a fuck?
  12. Bonus question: Can something intrinsically boring be interesting and vital?

Now here’s my story. I hope you like it. If you don’t, just wait till it’s over. It won’t be long.

My mouse died. It wasn’t a horrible, violent death, he just faded away. He? I know he’s a he because his name is Algernon, like all mice. This is because of the mouse in the short story Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes.[**]

As I was saying, Algernon just faded away. Admittedly I might have known something bad was going to happen. Just before this happened, a message appeared on the screen saying: “Algernon is running out of energy”.

I ignored the warning, of course. I ignore all notifications which appear on my computer screen. Doesn’t everyone?

Anyway, not long after, Algernon died. It was only then that I thought the warning might’ve been fair dinkum. Oops. No problem. Just plug him in. Or insert a plug into his socket, to be precise.

Algernon’s power cable is one of those Lightning plugs which previously used to power iPhones. Apparently, there is a new cable now. Better? Who knows? All I know is that I don’t have one. I would have to get an adapter, if I did. Fortunately I don’t have new iPhone either, so no damage done. I still have my house, which I would have had to re-mortgage to buy a new iPhone, so while I might not be keeping up with the latest technology, at least I’m not homeless.

To return to the charging matter at hand, I found the appropriate cable and plugged it in. Simple solution? You would have thought so. But no. Those design geniuses at Apple couldn’t manage to put the socket in a place where it didn’t interfere with actually using the appliance. D’oh! This has to be a first. An electrical appliance which doesn’t work when supplied with electricity.

Of course, Algernon is a wireless mouse, which is great, because he can do all the stuff he is supposed to do without being all tied up with cables and stuff. Until he runs out of power.

Remember when you had the old Algernons, with power cables? They were cool. They had this wire out the arse you can plug into a USB slot to supply power. This let you use the mouse. In fact, unless you plugged it in, it didn’t work at all. This is pretty much what you expect from an electrical appliance. The cable also used to transmit messages, to the computer and no doubt to aliens if they happened to take off the silver foil hats. Genius! Messages and power in one cable!

The great advantage of wireless appliances of course is the way they work without having to be plugged in. They can work anywhere you like. On the wall, on the hall, on the swiss ball, even on your face, if your face is smooth enough. Or your leg. You might have to shave first. Try the forehead, it’s not usually hairy.

The trap for young players occurs when the wireless mouse runs out of power and you have to plug in a cable to charge it. But who would have thought — when you plug power into a wireless mouse, the cable sticks out at right angles to the underneath of the thing so it can’t actually slide over your cheek or your forehead or your mousepad because you’ve got this fucking power cable sticking out at fucking right angles to the functional surface supposed to be sliding over some other surface! Exclamation marks are rarely justified in prose, but that one was.

Okay. Let’s summarise the situation for the late arrivals. You want to use your mouse but it’s being stopped from working by a honking big obstruction sticking out at right angles from the underneath surface which is supposed to be free of obstructions, smooth, like a baby’s bum or the back of a canvas by Modigliani’s sister. Brilliant! Aren’t you glad we’re making progress?

The short version? You can’t use your computer until the fucking mouse is charged up. Now what do you do?

Being Panglossian by nature, I can candidly say I consider such setbacks hidden opportunities. When given the gift of a broken computer, I read a book. Normally there is no time.

I am a wannabe, so I read philosophy. Not Socrates. He was not a man you could easily please. So I read Playdough, or Des Carthorse or one of those other guys.

Lately I have been reading inspiring essays about the parlous state philosophy is in because it cheers me up and really gives Pangloss a run for his budget. It’s also a way of, kind of, getting up to speed with philosophy now; and then; and into the future; and forever; until the end of time; and later this afternoon, if necessary.

My second favourite philosophically inclined essayist of all time, is in the Show-me-how school of making a living without a care in the world.

I can’t remember his name right now, but this bloke’s argument is simple. He says these days, and by that I mean in the late teens of the 21st century, there are more professors teaching philosophy than ever before.

Sorry, I nodded off for a minute there. What was I saying? Oh yes. Philosophy.

For the best philosophy, the really good shit, I reckon you need to go to the philosophy tent at the Shaman workshop in Mullumbimby. If you’re brave. I prefer to go to the hocus-pocus tent, myself. It’s more fun and the rabbits are fluffier.

Fluffy rabbits are cool, because they think philosophy is irrelevant and the real shit is Physics and Cognitive Psychology. Apparently if you can do both Physics and Cognitive Psychology together and make it to your bedroom without laughing or falling down, you qualify to be Guru of the year or Russell Brand.

Before we go any further I would like to add my perspective as a non-philosopher and say the problem with Physics and Cognitive Psychology being Philosophy is not so much the irrelevance as the impertinence. It’s not as if being good at maths means your farts suddenly smell of almonds and orange peel. Everybody knows that even if you are Steven McQueen or the Queen of Holland your farts smell just as bad as everybody else’s.

So fuck those Physics and Cognitive Psychology dudes, they’re just a fad, like the internal combustion engine, or western democracy.

Philosophers who might be working in a philosophy Department at University for the sole purpose of making a salary which is code for being paid to make babies or buy large screen televisions know all this. And they know how to make you feel stupid, the only solution to which is going on the honours track, tutoring, and ultimately teaching yourself. But tenure? You can forget that antiquated shit. That’s out of here. You’ll be lucky to get holidays. What? You don’t like working casual? The alternative is top hat and tails, with starched collars that slaughterate your Adam’s apple. Count yourself lucky.


[*] There is nothing missing from this title, it’s just hard to understand.

[**] It makes you wonder about female mice and how they feel about being males called Algernon but that’s a different story.


W, X, Y, & Z, Thursday 20 September 2018

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Mr Nemo

Mr Nemo

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.