Ep 32: Popular Tragedy; Do Celebrities Ever Really Die?

Welcome one and all to Professor Metal’s Irate Debate and Calamitous Commentary with the Philosophical Chain Gang

Today’s Episode is Popular Tragedy: Do Celebrities Ever Really Die?

The Philosophers discuss what we mean when we talk about popular tragedy

Sean brings up a situation in which a group of people seem to revel in a tragic event

Ryver questions why we care about tragic events in the lives of people we have never met

Bruce and Sean present a possibility as to why we react to events in celebrities lives

Ryver explains how these ideas pertain to celebrity culture

The Philosophers talk about how our minds react to celebrities and how that affects us

Sean and Bruce elaborate on how this creates a slightly awkward dynamic in interactions between celebrities and their fans

Ryver discusses how this relates to our obsession with tragic events in celebrity’s lives

Sean compares the way we treat death of celebrities and the historical deaths of monarchs

Ryver and Sean talk about the saturation of the media when it comes to popular tragedy

The Philosophers compare the cult of personality of deceased celebrities to the idea of deification surrounding certain historical figures

Sean brings up the negative reputations that can be left behind by these figures

The Philosophers speak extensively about the different legacies that celebrities leave behind, as well as the legacy of figures that refuse to fit the mould, such as Kurt Cobain

Ryver talks about depression and suicide and how this relates to the topics discussed thus far

Sean and Bruce expand on how this can bring to the forefront in the popular perception things that people may otherwise not be inclined to put thought into

Ryver and Sean debate whether or not this has to do with what we are comfortable looking at in our day to day lives

Bruce explains what he refers to as concern fatigue

Sean talks about how some of these ideas apply to the literary concept of tragedy

The Philosophers discuss the problems and appeal of tabloid magazines

Bruce points out the hypocrisy in our treatment of celebrities

Ryver talks about appeal of the positive events in our interactions with celebrity culture

Sean explain the concept of exceptionalism

 

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Ep 31: Aesthetics of Despair; What’s Good About Feeling Bad?

Welcome one and all to Professor Metal’s Irate Debate and Calamitous Commentary with the Philosophical Chain Gang

Today’s Episode Aesthetics of Despair: What’s Good About Feeling Bad?

The Philosophers talk about why we seek out negative emotions

Bruce posits the idea that if there is a great deal of bleakness in one’s emotional environment, then a little of something bright does a great deal more than it otherwise might

Ryver expresses that perhaps there is something to this idea found in the Horror genre of media

Sean and Bruce discuss this in terms of a modern form of asceticism

Ryver talks about the idea of bleakness enhancing the enjoyment of brightness in terms of catharsis

Bruce asks if perhaps when we revel in negative emotions is preparing ourselves for when we might not have much of a choice about feeling them

Sean questions this, stating that perhaps doing this takes away from other aspects of our lives

Ryver talks about this in relation to subcultures and how this can create a sense of belonging

Sean compares this to the culture surrounding the French Existentialists

The Philosophers discuss the French Existentialist

Ryver and Bruce talk about the Romantic movement and how it pertains to certain groups within the Goth culture

Ryver brings up despair-focused culture in terms of early hip-hop

Sean and Bruce counter with other possibilities they believe to be a more thematically accurate depiction of the music

Sean talks about a certain subset of country music that falls into the category of culture that revels in negative emotions

Ryver and Sean discuss Art as a means of expressing negative emotions

The Philosophers move to discussing the negative emotions found in the Horror genre of media

The Philosophers talk about the uncanny valley and the unknown, as well how inverting expectations can create a sense of fear all its own

Bruce posits that experiencing a variety of negative emotions through various types of media can give us a broader emotional experience without needing to necessarily go through negative events

Sean talks about how outer space is an amplification of the metaphors concerning the darkness of a woodland night or a dark closet

Sean proposes a theory as to why we seek out negative emotions drawn from the Doctrine of Hardship: we are seeking the ugly truth beneath the beautiful illusion

Ryver and Bruce discuss how this might pertain to the culture of both the French Existentialists and modern Goth culture

Sean explains that we need to find balance between seeking these truths and illusions, but that human beings are not ultimately wired for effectively finding that balance

Bruce and Sean talk about how this relates to the ideas of moderation proposed by Epicurus.

Ryver takes the last word to talk about optimism in Goth culture and the movement of the culture from Nihilism to Camus’ Absurdism. He also relates these things to the movie Pan’s Labyrinth.

 

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Thank you: Bunny for your patronage…

 

volva

 

Professor Metal wishes to acknowledge the loyal listenership, dutiful patronage, and general Good standing of citizen Bunny. Your tireless endeavor to promote the cause of his glorious rule has not gone unnoticed. Today we celebrate the part you play in keeping the podcast free for all citizens and the treasonous dogs at bay. Thank you!

(Don’t you wish it was your name being venerated as a hero of the cause? Then step up and support the show on our patreon page.)

The Celebrant

 

Firework streaks in night sky, celebration background

 

By Sean Kehr

As many of you may already be aware February has been our little podcast’s anniversary. This has caused me to be a bit introspective about the nature of what we’re doing and my involvement with philosophy as a whole. While philosophy has been a rich and engaging field of study for me it isn’t always an easy path to follow. It seems in our modern world of productivity and technology the philosopher is seen as one part anachronism and one part court jester. The philosophical community is viewed as a relic of a bygone era and the practitioners within it as foolish or lazy. Despite this I have found no greater joy than the satisfaction after a hard-won debate with those fellow seekers willing to truly lay their beliefs on the line. It is not the satisfaction of winning that’s so rewards me but instead the satisfaction at overcoming the struggle. I have won arguments and lost them, I have been taught and taught others, but what is universal is that when we are fully engaged in the deeply harrowing work of puzzling out the mysteries of some problem or another the moment of understanding comes as a blaze of wonder leaving me awestruck at the beauty hidden within the intricacies of my world. It’s not unlike an explorer who sees for the first time a new land filled with strange features to explore. To me this experience and the breadth of its effect on my view of the world has been more richly rewarding than any other path I could have followed. And as I have said to be introspective on such a profound part of one’s life is to wonder how one has come to that place.

All of my life I have been an inquisitive person wondering about the world around me and so perhaps on some level I was always headed toward philosophy but the turning point of most note was most likely when at the age of 15 I received a copy of Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” from a well-intentioned neighbor. I considered Jim Morrison a bit of a personal hero and in an attempt to counter that the neighbor gave me a copy of a book of poems from Morrison and mentioned that he had been into Nietzsche’s work so along with it he offered the copy of Beyond Good and Evil. I had no idea what it was but the title was ominous enough and the publisher had clearly gone to no effort whatsoever to avoid that feeling in the chosen cover design. The way he talked about it this book it may as well have been the Necronomicon. I have thought back to this event many times and wondered if he was merely naive or actively trying to bait a trap perfectly aligned to snare a teenage boys interest but in either case it had worked. If he was truly that naive his plan to spook me with the dark and foreboding tone of Nietzsche’s work had backfired and I was hooked.

This brings me to the real point I wish to discuss which is Nietzsche and the way he is seen in our time. Much like that neighbor it seems most people view this man as a kind of nihilistic, anti-social, madman reserved for only the most depressed and angry readers. This sense of his place is the zeitgeist is only reinforced by the associations he receives both historically and by the malcontents who love to quote him. And who could blame them he is infinitely quotable, a wordsmith of the highest caliber capable of packing in more mystery and truth per word than most would ever manage in whole volumes, but this is not the Nietzsche I know. The philosopher, philologist, psychologist, and wandering sage I have come to know over the many years of our interaction is no figure of ill repute but in fact the Celebrant.

It’s hard to see Nietzsche as a celebrant if we focus only on the quotable Nietzsche of popular fame. With such fine examples as “That which does not kill us makes us stronger” and “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” and the masterstroke “God is Dead” its nearly inevitable that most people would view him as a pessimist at best. It is however a very different man who I have found so inspirational a man who wanted us to live life and not let the moments that make us who we are and can be slip away. I see the man I admire so in a different set of quotes, some nearly as famous as the preceding set are infamous. I would like to share some of them and my interpretations of them with you.

“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once. And we should call every truth false which was not accompanied by at least one laugh.”

Here we see the spirit of celebration that for me is true of the works in question. Live your life and do not let the weight of it keep you from enjoying it instead take joy in the struggle and make what you do a part of your joy. This is perhaps one of the most powerful messages I can think of from this great mans work and also perhaps one of the hardest to do because Nietzsche is not asking us to celebrate when it is easy and we are happy but when we are lowest and most in need of the celebratory spirit. If your burdens can not be carried with joy in our hearts then we may as well lay them down because no doing in all the world is worth sacrificing joy for.

“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.’”

Here we are asked to imagine that our lives are to be lived again to this moment in eternal recurrence and asked if we would be overjoyed at the prospect or despair at the pain we must endure again. The point of this is to remind us that if we do not live in joy as a means to overcome hardship we are merely subjecting ourselves to hardship not growing in spite of it. Again we are counseled to celebrate even in the most painful of circumstance the very fact of our existence.

“I tell you: one must still have chaos within oneself, to give birth to a dancing star.”

This is probably the finest moment I can think of to highlight the celebrant in Nietzsche. We are living beings and as such we can not be stagnate but instead must always be growing or wilting and it is in our living essence that we find the inspiration to create. Without it we can not be great and it exists in the places we most often shun the darkness, the pain, the unexpected, and the unknown. This is most likely the reason why so few people ever really get to know Nietzsche. On the surface many of his sayings are dark, or gloomy, or angry, or judging, but it is these dark places where beauty can flourish and have its greatest impact. Imagine a garden where many beautiful flowers have been grown and yet there remain shaded areas filled with weeds. It is not the flowerbed we must attend to improve the garden and yet without the chaos of the world outside the garden we will never discover any new flowers there. In knowing and becoming comfortable dealing with our dark places and chaos we learn new and wonderful things and can turn that darkness into something beautiful.

I wont go on as there are too many moments from his work to handle in this format but I encourage anyone reading this to take a second look at this figure of some controversy with new eyes. I have been moved by the power of what Nietzsche has had to say and believe he has more to teach us in our modern world than any other philosopher. I should be careful to note however than while I hold his work in the greatest of esteem that doesn’t mean he’s infallible. There are many areas I disagree with Nietzsche on but they pale in comparison to what he can teach us about living the good life. But perhaps I might leave you with one more quote to ponder as it relates to what we have discussed and the endeavor we at the Philosophical Chain Gang are engaged in

“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”

~Friedrich Nietzsche

Thanks for a great first year everyone

Ep 30: Misinformation in the Information Age; Are You Caught in a World Wide Web of Lies?

Welcome one and all to Professor Metal’s Irate Debate and Calamitous Commentary with the Philosophical Chain Gang

Today’s Episode is Misinformation in the Information Age: Are You Caught in a World Wide Web of Lies?

The Philosophers talk about how we determine our willingness to believe information

The Philosophers work together to find a working definition for the term Critical Thinking

Ryver explains confirmation bias

Sean and Ryver discuss the problems found in the massive amounts of information media in modern culture, as well as a few possible ways of verifying some of these sources

Bruce expands on some of the means of source verification

Sean explains the philosophical position of skepticism and epistemic goals

Bruce talks about how extreme skepticism can lead to relatively implausible conclusions

Ryver and Bruce break down this concept in terms of the JFK assassination and stress the importance of being willing to admit and/or accept ignorance as to the facts of the matter

Sean explains conspiracy theories in terms of memetics

Bruce posits that part of the draw of conspiracy theories is that there is some comfort in having someone to blame for major tragedies rather than them having no clear villain save for, at best, incompetence

Sean expands on these ideas

The Philosophers talk about the draw of conspiracy theories on a psychological level

Sean and Ryver talks about how all the ideas presented thus far pertain to Marketing

Bruce and Sean talk about the industries that get away with outright falsehood in advertising, such as “supplements” and homeopathic treatments

The Philosophers talk about how the “As Seen on TV” products prey on our natural tendencies toward believing things

Bruce explains the signal-to-noise ratio and how this pertains to the fact that all opinions, no matter how outlandish or thoroughly falsified, can be found somewhere on the internet

The Philosophers talk about the pitfalls of information homogeneity and whether or not having the gatekeepers of old were better than what we have now

Bruce expands on the epistemic goals that Sean raised earlier

Sean explains the idea and benefits of lateral media transmission

Bruce talks about the importance of set goal posts for skepticism and looking in to our own bias

Bruce takes the last word to explain the Illuminati. Bruce also explains that if the Illuminati existed, which they do not, they would be the good guys, as well as the history of the Bavarian Illuminati, which did exist.

And as always please give us your honest review on iTunes and Stitcher. It helps us make the show better with every one we get to read.

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