What Does it Mean to be American?

With the presidential election seeping into every normal day-to-day conversation, the idea of ‘American’ is tossed around as a given. The candidates appeal to the fact that they stand for American values, which is supposed to somehow be a persuading argument. But as with most things the term ‘American’ is so ambiguous that it requires further analysis into its true meaning.

The first source in understanding the question better was to read other essays that people had written on the subject, and to be quite honest I don’t think that I’ve ever enjoyed research more. The answers that people give to the question stated above range from humorous to infuriating. For instance one of my favorites comes from the always fair and scholarly New York Times. Mr. Damien Cave writes that after completing his travels he feels that: Read More »

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Art as a Form of Escape

The classic problem of people hiding from their lives and retreating to art has fundamentally changed within the last few years. The typical portrayal was some slightly disillusioned child preferring to read their stories or paint a picture than go to class. This concept is littered throughout popular literature and film, but hardly ever captures the real situation that we are facing. I don’t think any reasonable person would object to a child that wants to spend the majority of their time reading or painting, mostly because we think of this as classical art. The major art forms we see today are radically different and therefore require a different analysis.

To any common observer there are two depictions of modern art. There is the contemporary abstract form of art that we all love making jokes about, where there is always some deep meaning to jumbled up colors and tin sculptures that nobody understands, and there is the online culture of art production. The latter is the more baffling, because it is a phenomenon that is almost entirely unique to online culture but has been seeping into the public frame lately. Read More »

On Mysticism and Logic

Bertrand Russell’s famous essay “Mysticism and Logic” can seem striking to readers at first glance. The first reason being that Russell actually seems to admire some mystic’s line of reasoning. Bertrand Russell, the philosopher that redefined mathematics and logic, giving praise to mystic’s wondrous and deep intuition. Despite being written in a period where Russell was redefining his own beliefs, that is especially odd for a man of his convictions. The second most striking thing is that, for being a man so adamant about logic and reason, he really doesn’t know much about mysticism.

The essay’s main focus is analyzing what Russell believes to be universal traits of mysticism. In contrast he often analyzes these traits along with their opposite beliefs in the realm of logic, these issues being:

  • Intuition
  • Unity
  • Time
  • Good and Evil

These are definitely core issues of mysticism, intuition and unity being the most common. The basic claims with these two are that mystics reach their conclusions merely through insight or intuition, as opposed to logic and reason. This is a slight generality, but works for our purpose. Even Hegel, whom Russell claims is a more mystic philosopher, can undoubtedly be attributed high functions of reason in his philosophy. The second issue, unity, is something so central to much of Eastern philosophy. Here Russell sights the sayings of Heraclitus, such as “good and ill are one,” and “the way up and the way down is one and the same.” Even someone only familiar with philosophy on a satirical level understands the commonality of these sayings.Read More »

Notes on Enjoyment

It was sometime in the evening Thursday night, just as the noises of the toads gathering outside my window began to emerge, that I couldn’t help but shatter. On my nightstand next to me books I hadn’t even begun reading: Plato, Lucretius, Shelley, Kant, and so on. A little earlier in the month I created a chart of all the books I was going to read this year, a whole product line of philosophy from Spinoza all the way up until Wittgenstein and Zizek, only stopping along the way for some light reading of Adam Smith, Ricardo, Marx, Malthus, and Keynes, and the whole nine yards of economics to go along with it. In fact, in the moment I was reading a book on the history of economic theory, only about halfway through, when I took the bookmark out closed the book and put it back on the shelf. I don’t plan to return to it.

I shredded the reading schedule I made and trashed the bastard in the cans outside my house, I don’t think I’ll need it. There is a sudden moment people are faced with when they come to terms with their own boredom that they can’t help but laugh. I made the grave mistake of aspiring to be some kind of academic, and therefore thinking that one should only shroud himself with the most sophisticated and mind fucking texts to make himself feel smarter, so that’s exactly what I tried to do. A person can only take some much time reading about history, god, and everything inbetween before going bonkers and running through downtown nude. Read More »

The Value of Comedy

Comedy is often in our lives for reasons we don’t stop to think about. There’s comedic movies, stand up comedians,  television shows, and then there’s just those funny people we like to be around. It feels good to laugh, that’s no secret. In fact there’s actually many health benefits to laughing, but comedy itself also signifies a deeper meaning to the viewer.

Much of the comedy we watch is absurd, wacky, unrealistic, and yet we still love it. Think of some of the popular comedies on T.V. like Family Guy, South Park, Archer, The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, ect. These are all cartoons, having little basis in reality. Other popular shows like The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, The Middle, Parks and Recreation, are sitcoms that have at least some basis in reality. This first group of shows, the cartoons, are in a sense meaningless. That being that they are sporadic, subject to change, don’t follow to concrete story line, and aren’t purposefully set up to teach a message. There are some exceptions to these, but in general these shows are there to make the viewer laugh and forget about reality. The second group of shows, the sitcoms, allows the viewer to enjoy the show as they make jokes about things that are meaningful to them. Things that have basis in reality like jobs, politics, relationships, ect. Read More »