Philosophy as a bunch of jibjab

A commentator at my site objects to my discussion of Existentialism and the meaning of life:

“In all honesty this is just a bunch of JibJab with really no actual true meaning funny how people waste years and thousands studying this irrelevant b***** go out side be outdoors live a little bit”

The Urban Dictionary defines “jib jab” as “a language usually used when a person is intoxocated, talkin trash, or just has no idea what he or she is talking about. 80% of the time jib jab is followed by an ass whoppin.”

My commentator’s eloquence and the dictionary’s warning remind me of William Wordsworth’s similar sentiments from two centuries ago:

The Tables Turned

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you’ll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain’s head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! ’tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There’s more of wisdom in it.wordsworth

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.


So on this fine spring day I am conflicted. Both nature and several unread books call sweetly to me. Decisions, decisions …

John Enright’s “Kant”


kant-silhouetteI really want
To understand Kant
And all of his vaunted system.
But somehow my brain resists him.

I’d like to take up the helm
On a trip through his noumenal realm
And soak up all the glories
Of his cognitive categories.

But somehow my mind cries: “No!
It’s no place you want to go.
It’s just a Jurassic Park
Where monstrous thing lurk in the dark.”

Source: John Enright, More Fire and Other Poems, 2006, p. 24.
More Kant-related posts.

Spanish translation of “What Business Ethics Can Learn from Entrepreneurship”

“Lo que la Ética Empresarial Puede Aprender del Emprendimiento.”

idezineThe Spanish translation of my essay is by Walter Jerusalinsky and published online at Idóneos e-magazine.

The essay was first published in English as “What Business Ethics Can Learn from Entrepreneurship” [pdf] in the Journal of Private Enterprise. It’s also available at the Social Science Research Network (where it was for awhile on SSRN’s “Top Ten” list of papers in the Entrepreneurship Research & Policy Network), in an e-book edition at Amazon, and in Serbo-Croatian [pdf] translation.

A PDF of the Spanish translation can also be downloaded here: “Lo que la Ética Empresarial Puede Aprender del Emprendimiento.”

Many thanks to Walter Jerusalinsky for his efforts.

Obedience in education in 1700s Germany

In Britain and America in the 1700s, the most influential philosopher of education was John Locke, with his Some Thoughts Concerning Education. In France, it was Jean-Jacques Rousseau with his Emile.

But in the German states, it was Johann Georg Sulzer, with his 1748 An Essay on the Education and Instruction of Children. Sulzer’s fundamental thesis:

“Obedience is so important that all education is actually nothing other than learning how to obey.”

He elaborates: “It is not very easy, however, to implant obedience in children. It is quite natural for the child’s soulsulzer to want to have a will of its own, and things that are not done correctly in the first two years will be difficult to rectify thereafter. One of the advantages of these early years is that then force and compulsion can be used. Over the years, children forget everything that happened to them in early childhood. If their wills can be broken at this time, they will never remember afterwards that they had a will, and for this very reason the severity that is required will not have any serious consequences.”[1]

Horrifying: they will never remember afterwards that they had a will.

To which I add from Immanuel Kant’s lectures on education, first delivered in 1776/77: “Above all things, obedience is an essential feature in the character of a child, especially of a school boy or girl.”[2] Much of Kant on education reads like a gloss on Sulzer, with its emphasis on obedience, duty, discipline, and punishment.

When we think of ethnic stereotypes — the English gentleman, the French romantic, the ramrod-straight Prussian — to what extent are those stereotypes grounded in explicit educational philosophies generated by a culture’s most influential philosophers?

[1] Johann Georg Sulzer, Versuch von der Erziehung und Unterweisung der Kinder (An Essay on the Education and Instruction of Children), 1748. Quoted in Alice Miller, For Your Own Good.
[2] Immanuel Kant, On Education. Translated by Annette Churton. University of Michigan Press, 1960. In Ozmon and Craver’s Philosophical Foundations of Education, 7th ed.

Education: Locke versus Kant on motivation and discipline.
My video lecture on Kant’s educational views.
My video lecture on Locke’s educational views.

Update: A colleague reminds me that Kant mentions Sulzer in a footnote in Chapter Two of The Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.

Nietzsche’s poem “From High Mountains”

Friedrich Nietzsche
“From High Mountains: Aftersong”

O noon of life! O time to celebrate!
O summer garden!
Restlessly happy and expectant, standing,
Watching all day and night, for friends I wait: Where are you, friends? Come! It is time! It’s late!

The glacier’s gray adorned itself for you
Today with roses,
The brook seeks you, and full of longing rises
The wind, the cloud, into the vaulting blue
To look for you from dizzy bird’s-eye view.

Higher than mine no table has been set:
Who lives so near
The stars or dread abysses half as sheer?
My realm, like none, is almost infinite,
And my sweet honey—who has tasted it?—

—There you are, friends! —Alas, the man you sought
You do not find here?
You hesitate, amazed? Anger were kinder!
I—changed so much? A different face and gait?
And what I am—for you, friends, I am not?

Am I another? Self-estranged? From me—
Did I elude?
A wrestler who too oft himself subdued?
Straining against his strength too frequently,
Wounded and stopped by his own victory?

I sought where cutting winds are at their worst?
I learned to dwell
Where no one lives, in bleakest polar hell,
Unlearned mankind and god, prayer and curse?
Became a ghost that wanders over glaciers?

—My ancient friends! Alas! You show the shock
Of love and fear!
No, leave! Do not be wroth! You—can’t live here—
Here, among distant fields of ice and rock—
Here one must be a hunter, chamois-like.

A wicked archer I’ve become. —The ends
Of my bow kiss;
Only the strongest bends his bow like this.
No arrow strikes like that which my bow sends:
Away from here—for your own good, my friends!—

You leave?—My heart: no heart has borne worse hunger,-
Your hope stayed strong:
Don’t shut your gates; new friends may come along.
Let old ones go. Don’t be a memory-monger!
Once you were young—now you are even younger.

What once tied us together, one hope’s bond—
Who reads the signs
Love once inscribed on it, the pallid lines?
To parchment I compare it that the hand
Is loath to touch—discolored, dark, and burnt.

No longer friends—there is no word for those
It is a wraith
That knocks at night and tries to rouse my faith,
And looks at me and says: “Once friendship was—”
—O wilted word, once fragrant as the rose.
Youth’s longing misconceived inconstancy.

Those whom I deemed
Changed to my kin, the friends of whom I dreamed,
Have aged and lost our old affinity:
One has to change to stay akin to me.
O noon of life! Our second youthful state!

O summer garden!
Restlessly happy and expectant, standing,

Looking all day and night, for friends I wait:
For new friends! Come! It’s time! It’s late!

* *

This song is over-longing’s dulcet cry
Died in my mouth:
A wizard did it, friend in time of drought,
The friend of noon—no, do not ask me who—
At noon it was that one turned into two—

Sure of our victory, we celebrate
The least of feasts:
Friend Zarathustra came, the guest of guests!
The world now laughs, rent are the drapes of fright,
The wedding is at hand of dark and light—

* * *

[More of Nietzsche’s poetry here.]

The worst love poem ever?

Our Love is Like a Bowling Ball

Our love is like a bowling ball
Like a brand new Brunswick Red Zone,
bowling-ballIt rolls and rolls down the alley of desire
And rolls and rolls and rolls.

I will keep you out of the gutters, my love
And put my fingers in your holes
Every kiss a strike or at least a spare,
Our future a perfect game.

Our love is like a bowling ball,
Our scores will rise and rise
I shall never step beyond the foul line,
And I will rent your shoes.

* * *

[Source: Slate‘s Bad Poetry Contest, 2007.]