Y indeed: the penultimate post (in this series)

When I'm painting houses I think a lot. That's not really a hazard of the profession, but it is a hazard for the philosopher stuck painting houses. Lately I've been thinking about the problem with hard-line economic positions.

Let me start with Marxism. I sometimes identify as a Marxist - sometimes to irritate others, but I really do find Marx's critique of capitalism right on target. He peers into the machinery which makes it all tick, and finds it wanting. He could not have been expected to imagine, for instance, the reduction of the university to yet another capitalist machine in which underpaid, overspecialized and imminently replaceable drones (the adjuncts who teach the majority - yes, majority - of introductory level classes in the US) who asked to work harder for less money (e.g., online teaching), and churn out a sub-par product that people keep consuming anyway (because we've been raised to think that a college diploma is the ticket to a better job and therefore lifestyle than our parents, even if that's not true anymore - the actually goal of education lost amid short-sighted economic interest). And yet, look how well his analysis works for the current state of higher education. It's not just for textile mills anymore!

But Marx was naïve about human nature. The workers may grumble about their state of affairs, but are happy enough with a 40 hour work week, some sort of a pension plan, maybe health insurance... hm, we may be due for another revolution. In any case, the workers have not risen up to overthrow Rich Uncle Pennybags, establishing a state which eventually whithers away. The so-called communist states have merely re-established the same sort of societal structures that they were suppose to replace: (I really hate to quote the Who here, but), "meet the new boss, same as the old boss." But that's not because Marx failed to properly critique capitalism, it's because he had an overly optimistic view of human nature. (Kant demonstrates that you can have a view of human nature as containing the seeds of "radical evil" without resorting to theology, i.e., original sin, but that's a topic for another post.)

So, let me be clear in conclusion: I reject a hard-line Marxism which says that a workers paradise is just around the world-historical corner. But I do think he has something important to say about the failures of our current economic system, and, let's face it, the benefits of thinking collectively at least some of the time, as opposed to being relentlessly individualistic.


Twenty fourth in a series, soon to be complete

It has occurred to me that, not only have I slowed down on this series, but I'm thinking more about a larger project lately. And I'm also thinking about moving. So, I need to wrap this up.

I feel as though I ought to add some edifying thought, but I'm not really thinking of anything right at the moment. Perhaps later.


Twenty third in a series

John Lennon sang, "the Walrus was Paul," but that may only have been because when he wrote, "I am the Walrus," he was thinking of Lewis Carroll's poem, "The Walrus and the Carpenter." Except he hadn't read the poem in a while, and forgot that the Walrus is a pretty bad fellow.

I remember reading somewhere that the poem is an allegory about Kantian and Utilitarian ethics - perhaps here - but it seems unlikely that was what John was thinking about.

Twenty second in a series

Reminded of a Simpsons quote:
"Marge, I've got to get out of this rut and back into the groove!"

Twenty first in a series

Sorry for the delay - it's been a busy month, with a surprising amount of travel.

I keep wanting these to be cartoons, and I try to resist the urge; in this one, for instance, I was thinking I might add the Tyrannosaurus Wrench in the background, yelling, "THAT'S LATIN FOR 'BEAR'!"
But I didn't.