Category Archives: Philosophy

goodreads Quotation (mis)Attribution Quiz

The folks at goodreads love to pollute the Internet with dubiously-sourced quotes from various people. I looked into 21 of their top quotes to see if the person the quote is ascribed to actually said it or was the first to say it. Click below to see if you know who said what and when.


Continue reading goodreads Quotation (mis)Attribution Quiz

Best Scriptures for Academic Study

Judeo-Christian Bible


  • Recommended by Given of Missouri State University.*
  • Called the “best translation available” by Ehrman.*

  • Recommended by Ward in his History of Islam course syllabus.*
  • Assigned by Ostebo in his Introduction to Islam course at the University of Florida.*

  • The most popular, highly-rated version on Amazon on March 7, 2015.

Discussion Concerning The Interview and Racism

Friendly reminder that responding with racism isn’t suddenly justified if the person is a bad person (even if they’re, say, a genocidal dictator). The Interview is probably racist as hell. Team America was racist as hell.
Get over it, nerds.

Even if it was, it wouldn’t justify or excuse the bully or threats of violence to prevent it from being shown. The decision of pulling it makes sense but people have a problem with the use of threats from an outside group to try to force others in deciding what should or shouldn’t be released or seen. Even if it is a stupid movie.

There’s been other movies affected by the fear these threats have caused that you probably wouldn’t label as racist, so I don’t see how this movie being “probably” racist has anything to do with this.

Continue reading Discussion Concerning The Interview and Racism

Life Itself

Thanks to a helpful Facebook post by Chaz Ebert, I learned that the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself is now playing in Scottsdale (Shea).

Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed the documentary enormously and I hope that other people see it. I think it may be worth noting, though, that, aside from being equal parts funny and moving, the film also takes an unflinching look at the illness that took Ebert’s life.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why it was so important to Ebert that he not hide his illness, not because I find it difficult to see him in such discomfort (I do, of course), but because of one review of his I have long found frustrating.

That would be his critical review of The Elephant Man (a movie that reduces me to a blubbering mound of flesh and mucus every time I watch it): “The film’s philosophy is this shallow: (1)Wow, the Elephant Man sure looked hideous, and (2)gosh, isn’t it wonderful how he kept on in spite of everything? This last is in spite of a real possibility that John Merrick’s death at twenty-seven might have been suicide.”*
Continue reading Life Itself


“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”
–Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World

“The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”
–Carl Sagan, Broca’s Brain

“If your mother says she loves you, check it out.”
–Journalism axiom

“It is always better to have no ideas than false ones; to believe nothing, than to believe what is wrong.”
–Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Rev. James Madison (cousin of President James Madison)*

“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”
–Unknown origin

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then why is there evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
–Unknown origin (though often — and possibly falsely — attributed to Epicurus)

Google Books shows the exact quote in an issue of the The Glacialists’ Magazine from 1895

Recent Dream

I recently engaged in sexual congress with Shirley MacLaine and woke up mid-climax. This is not something I would normally share so publicly, but it’s something that I found too fascinating to keep to myself. I subsequently engaged in some googling with my computer regarding wet dreams and found out little except that they seem to be common in both men and women. One source I read claimed that there’s friction involved: you’re dreaming of a sex act while also stimulating yourself, unconsciously, out there in real-life.

But, hold on a second: is it not the case that our most dream-filled sleep occurs during the REM phase? And, is it not also the case that during REM sleep our bodies produce chemicals that paralyze us?

Now, I can’t be sure but I don’t think that there was any real-world friction involved in my tryst with Ms. MacLaine. This idea has prompted me to keep revisiting the experience and to wonder if it’s possible, generally, to achieve orgasm without external stimulation.

Now, consider a scene in the recently-released movie Her in which the main character, Theodore, has sex with Samantha (aka OS1), a manufactured, disembodied consciousness. Staring at the giant, black rectangle in the theater, fully engrossed in the story, I found this love scene perfectly convincing, especially in light of my recent dream. Save for skin-on-skin contact, the relationship between Theodore and Samantha is, of course, fully realized before the movie ends.

Skin-on-skin contact. Skin. Do we need either? I’ve read some comments on-line suggesting that at least some people were disturbed by Her’s unorthodox relationship. Among other things, they found Theodore pathetic for apparently being unable to connect deeply with flesh-and-blood people, echoing the sentiments of his ex-wife. I’m inclined to think that connecting with another consciousness is probably more important than connecting with another flesh-person. Theodore seems to genuinely do this. Because I bought their relationship (allowed myself to buy it?), I found myself both jealous of Theodore and of Samantha. Both the chance to fall in love in a new way and the chance to experience existence in a new way (and perhaps extend my life) are very appealing prospects to me.

I’ve read that Steven Soderbergh gave Her’s director, Spike Jonze, important editing suggestions which ultimately helped Jonze whittle his initially three-hour movie down to two. I’m not surprised that Jonze would turn to Soderbergh given the latter’s work on Solaris, a story that legendary Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky felt needed a nearly three-hour run-time to tell and that Soderbergh felt needed only about an hour and a half.

Actually, Her’s story and Solaris’s have at least one other connection: both deal with humans who, in some way, ultimately choose fantasy over reality. Theodore, I would argue, imagines a physical relationship with Samantha in Her; Chris imagines an entire reality in which his ex-wife is alive and healthy in Solaris. (Incidentally, I do heretically prefer Soderbergh’s version of Solaris to Tarkovsky’s coma-inducing version.)

To some extent, Theodore and Chris are both in love with aspects of their own respective conscious or unconscious minds.

This brings me back to Ms. MacLaine. Research exists — thanks primarily, it seems, to the work of Stephen LaBerge — suggesting that lucid, controllable dreaming is possible. So far, it doesn’t seem that many people have been successful in exploring the possibilities suggested by LaBerge’s research.

An interesting question might be, though, what would happen if it were easy for the average person to act out really convincing fantasies within the safety of his or her own mind? Has somebody out there gotten good enough at lucid dreaming to conjure up Dreamy MacLaine on a regular basis? If so, have they ever felt in danger of falling in love with her? I would guess that such unbridled access to one’s unconscious would be selected against. After all, what need would someone have of, for example, procreating if they could just dream, convincingly, satisfyingly, that they were doing these things?

And, what need would someone have of procreating if they had a devoted consciousness (such as OS1) to provide convincing, satisfying companionship?


* * *

“We like to be in love because it allows us to feel idealistic about ourselves. The other person ennobles, inspires, redeems. Our lover deserves the most wonderful person alive, and that person is ourselves.”
–Roger Ebert, from his review of All the Real Girls

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Thought

Clifton  A fact you might find it worthwhile to ponder today: had all early Americans adopted a vegan lifestyle, human slavery would never have existed in this country.
Erika  Yeah, slaves are too gamy for me. Last I checked, cotton is still considered vegan safe.
Lori  Wait … we ate slaves?
Clifton  Well, these days, cotton is harvested by machines. No serious vegan or vegetarian would purchase cotton products where the cotton was harvested by slaves. (Incidentally, I highly recommend the Planet Money series on the origin of t-shirts for anyone really interested in exploring the human labor involved in modern clothing production.)

Veganism and vegetarianism aren’t just about what you eat, but more about not causing living things to suffer or die unnecessarily.

When might it be necessary for a living thing to suffer or die? Perhaps when we’re trying to find cures to devastating illnesses as were Banting/Best and Pasteur to name a few.

Clifton I’d like to add that I would support any variety of eating less meat, including this
Jon  Is the vegan included in the lifestyle of not causing living things to suffer? 😉
Clifton  Yeah, Jon, I imagine a lot of people find any talk of changing their behavior insufferable. Any direct mention of the possible merits of not eating meat could ultimately be a terrible PR move. I hope not, of course.

In my defense, I think it’s been quite a while since I posted some pro-vegan/vegetarian propaganda.

Also, as usual, I was hoping that someone would uncover the fault(s) in my reasoning. I do freely admit that I might have it all wrong. I believe my agnosticism is quite pathological at this point.

Rachel  Haha my agnosticism as well there are so many times where I say I believe this but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we’re all right, maybe we’re all wrong?
Clifton  Agnosticism: withholding certainty to grant that knowing all facts is probably impossible in some circumstances. I still do this with anthropogenic climate change. Ultimately, I feel I must acknowledge that I probably won’t live long enough to learn everything (regarding climate change or anything else) and must therefore rely on experts to some extent. The best survey of experts I know of found a 97-98% consensus among preeminent scientists actively publishing on climate science. So, that’s what I go with and act on.

Similarly, all large studies I know of conclude that eating little or no meat is healthier than eating greater quantities of meat: the Loma Linda studies, the Seven Countries Study, the Framingham Heart Study, the Cornell-Oxford-China Health Project, and the Lifestyle Heart Trial. I don’t think I’m cherry-picking here. These are the only major studies of human nutrition I know of and they all have similar things to say about meat: less (or none) is better.

And, this seems to me to nicely sum up the environmental impact of meat consumption:

Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer Discuss Animal Suffering

Richard Dawkins (to Peter Singer):

I think you have a very, very strong point when you say that anybody who eats meat has a very, very strong obligation to think seriously about it. And, I don’t find any very good defense. I find myself in exactly the same position as … I might’ve been 200 years ago — or perhaps a bit longer ago than that — talking about slavery….

[T]here was a time when it was simply the norm. Everybody did it — some people did it with gusto and relish; other people, like Jefferson, did it reluctantly. I would’ve probably done it reluctantly — I’d’ve just gone along with what society does…. It was hard to defend then … and that’s the sort of position I find myself in now.