Politics versus Philosophy

July 29, 2007

After watching Boyle’s new film, Sunshine, I found myself wanting to revert back to focusing on philosophical problems. But before I could really convince myself of this regression I had to again question which was more important: politics (or more broadly, society) or philosophy? The comparison is not much different from rationality versus irrationality.

Since my first course in epistemology I asked myself: so what? Let’s say we, as philosophers, figured out what constitutes practical knowledge. Or for sake of simplicity, let’s say the ethicists figured out definitively that murder was, somehow, absolutely “wrong” in all cases. Philosophers would then have go through this arduous process of trekking through the uncommon and rather irrational and dishonest ground of political rhetoric in order to convince the public and the government of philosophy’s latest and greatest moral discovery: murder by one human of another human is always wrong. Which is to say it is true that murder is wrong. Objectively, universally, absolutely, and any other -ly you can think of.

Philosophers would have to convince religious-leaning lobbyists, “think tanks”, and, in America, the 300 million citizens who generally feel that if you step on their land you without asking first you deserve to be shot.

The beast of politics seems like an unbeatable foe to the mild mannered armchair philosopher. So then what is the point of a philosopher’s job? To convince other philosophers? Unlikely. 99% of a philosopher’s job is to disagree with 99% of what everyone else says. How’s a philosopher going to make a living writing long insightful essays of “I agree”?

As such politics becomes this disgusting behemoth that a wanna-be philosopher would want to defeat before he had devoted his life to a pointless profession. I want to be a philosopher. But I don’t want to be a philosopher if I have to face the current state of politics. The one with the public saying one thing, the media saying two things (in contradiction) and the politicians saying nothing of worth.

That’s why I started reading books on social change, social movement culture, and revolution. However, everything about that stuff is for a weaponized middle class – or enfranchised class. And in America there is no weaponized middle class. The lower class is the most oppressed and the most weaponized, and the lower class constitutes the majority of the military but the middle class is always the class that actually revolts. They’ve got shit to lose while the lower class has everything to gain from conformity.

What then of revolutionary days? You know, the days when the 2nd amendment actually had a point to it? Well, those days are over. But let’s say I’m optimistic of revolution. I’d likely think of myself as a patriot. As such I’d likely think that “exercising” my 2nd amendment rights to buy and own a gun would both be a citizen’s duty as well as a revolutionary necessity. And if I bought the largest gun I could possibly find with the largest and most powerful bullets I could legally buy from the private sector it’d still be dwarfed by the US military’s tank division. And if I hijacked a tank, it’d be dwarfed by the USAF. And if I somehow hijacked a F-Raptor or stealth bomber that’s still dwarfed by the US’s nuclear arms repository – you know, the one that could not only kill me but destroy the entire Earth 50 times.

Violent resistance is absolutely futile. But gosh darnit it was originally the American way. Therou taught us otherwise. But the mere breaking of unjust laws seems futile in an unjust and apathetic political time as today.

And now we’re back at square one. Philosophy seems futile under a political regime such as today. And political and social change seem futile in their own right. I can’t reason my way out of this quantifiably (it’s a word now). As in, “which is the less futile of the two?”

I’m choosing philosophy. I hope that in the future any reverting to the political atmosphere would be a vacation at best. Philosophy is perpetually the more interesting of the two disciplines and the most intellectually rewarding. As long as you relieve yourself of the thumped-in concept that problems demand solutions – as opposed to insight – then you’ll be fine as a philosopher. You won’t be worrying if another philosopher disproves your argument. You’ll not only expect it but be anxiously waiting for it.

Philosophy it is, for now.

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