Don't worry: despite the title, this is not going to be a post of me complaining about something, or at least that's not how I would construe it (but then I wouldn't, would I?). Instead, I would like to begin with an observation, that observation being that humans are fundamentally lazy. Or, for those who prefer a positive spin to things (so many possible particle physics jokes there), humans are fundamentally efficient. Like nature, we are generally inclined to take the short term path of least resistance.
These arguments look at the published statistics, showing that the virus is apparently under control in Eastern nations, and isn't in Western nations, and suggest that perhaps the supposedly example-setting Western democracies need to take a lesson from these Eastern countries. I have even seen some essays suggesting that the progress of the pandemic in the East and the West demonstrates that the time for Western-style democracy has passed. What is left unspoken in all of these arguments is that these discussions are assuming the primacy of utilitarian morality.
In philosophy, there is a concept called moral relativism. It was particularly popular in the mid-twentieth century, but has fallen out of favor in many circles today. Aristotle's famous question - "is conduct right because the gods demand it, or do the gods demand it because it is right" - is answered in moral relativism with a resounding no, to both alternatives. Instead, moral relativism asserts that conduct is right so long as it is in keeping with the conventions of the culture within that conduct takes place, and conduct should only be judged within that context.
Ayn Rand suggests that we are fundamentally selfish creatures, and that such selfishness is not a bad thing (we touched briefly on this in our Pride post). Her philosophy of objectivism argues that even an act of apparent charity is at its core a selfish act, a moral transaction of sorts - the recompense you receive for your "selfless" act on another's behalf is the sense of satisfaction or boost in reputation which you experience as a result.
Orwell, author of 1984, wrote an essay decrying the decay of the English language. Specifically, he lamented that when most people go to write or converse, they rely on stock phrases which they stich together into different patterns, rather than developing original content.
One of these days, I intend to write an essay on the origin and nature of morality. It is a topic that has fascinated people throughout history, and arguably one that underpins some of the most remarkable accomplishments of this species. Anything with such a lengthy history that has already been tackled by so many other people is full of risk - what peculiar hubris is it to think that I have anything original to contribute to such a supersaturated field? - so for now I continue to think and ponder, without putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard on the broader topic. Yet that does not stop me from occasionally exploring a subset of that larger framework, as I intend to do here.
I am excited to announce that for 2021, IGC Publishing will be hosting a Sententia discussion series. This is something that I've wanted to do for quite some time, and have attempted before in various formats to varying degrees of success, so hopefully this forum will help finally promote the concept. Twice a month, I will post a "Sententia" here on the site, and it will be open for comments and discussion, the idea being to foster original thought and productive conversation about complex, relevant, and interesting topics.
For me, minimalism has always been a complicated topic. On the one hand, I'm drawn to the flexibility inherent to such a lifestyle, and especially to its efficiency. It's probably the engineer in my talking, but I hate to see things go to waste, whether that's food, money, time, or "stuff." Minimalism would, it seem, logically result in a highly efficient lifestyle. On the other hand, that same desire not to see things go to waste means that I am often disinclined to throw things away.
Yes, one statement of Justice as Fairness apparently didn't gather the attention that John Rawls desired, so he wrote a second book in which he presented the same content and spent half of his time referencing his first book. The other half of the time he spent laboriously explaining and redefining basic concepts for the questionable benefit of the reader. My impression while reading this book was that the whole assembly is a sort of Locke wannabe that never actually manages to come up with anything original to say.
Have we written a philosophy book review before? I know that we've talked about philosophy on the site in previous posts, but this might be the first time that I'm actually reviewing a philosophy book here at IGC. That's a little ironic, because this series of essays is probably not the first work of philosophy that comes to mind - I think most people probably would come up with Plato's dialogues as the most popularly known (though not necessarily read) piece of philosophy.