Archive for January, 2009

Non Arguments

I’ve realized time and time again that I’m not much of a fan of bad argumentation. There are good arguments, where opposing people take opposing viewpoints on a subject. Then there are non arguments where it’s not so much the subject that is debated, it’s a personal attack or an attack on an issue completely unrelated to the round. It reminds me of Thank You For Smoking – specifically the scene with character Nick Naylor debating with his son about chocolate vs vanilla ice cream. The scene is a prime example of how superior debating can be used to defeat someone, without actually defeating their argument. The reason I say “non” as opposed to “bad” argument is that the argument doesn’t pertain to the issue. It’s not a bad argument relating to an issue, it’s an argument that doesn’t relate to the issue at all. This is one of the reason’s I’ve started to be turned off philosophy.

After reading through countless articles in my philosophy textbook for and against certain sides of issues, I’ve come to realize that so much of philosophy is proving how you’re better than someone as opposed to proving why your argument is better. I have a new professor this semester, he’s really good, but through his teaching I’ve come to find that what’s superior about him is his debating skills and not much more. In philosophy there are no answers. Were answers to an issue found, the issue-in-question would be removed from the realm of philosophy and cast into science, fact, or the like. This leaves philosophers with nothing else but to oppose each other in endless, useless, strife.

I much prefer a discipline where it’s the issue itself that is important, where concrete answers are found, and where it’s not about proving how you’re better.

The Road


Awarded the Pulitzer prize in 2006, The Road has been accepted as a strong literary accomplishment. I decided to give it a read and evaluate it for myself. The most striking feature of the novel is the manner in which it is written, the style and syntax. As it is set in a post-apocalyptic world, Cormac McCarthy writes with punctuation mirroring the setting itself. Quotation marks are noticably absent, as are apostraphes and consistent “proper” sentences. The effect of this was to constantly alert the reader that the world of the story was completely different from the world the audience is accustomed to, irreversibly so. The key lessons that may be gleaned from the novel may be either pessimistic or optimistic. Cynically, one may come out with the dull reality that the only end is death, that humans are instinctively evil and human kindness is a fascade, and that the Earth along with humankind and all life is transient. On the other hand, an optimistic outlook would be that the spark of hope can exist even in the darkest of times, that toil and hardship are worth it (through the father’s swim to the ship, through the endurance of agony and starvation to reach the ocean), and that although some people may be inherently selfish, there are some who can hold onto goodness, onto the fire, even when nothing exists but darkness.