Philosophy Weekend: Sense of Direction

Existential

I'm going to be taking a break here on Litkicks for the month of August, and the blog will be back in a slightly transformed condition by the beginning of September. I'll explain more about my new direction during the next few days, but the basic idea is that I'm tweaking the formula to include more of what works on the site and less of what doesn't.

As for this Philosophy Weekend series, I'm sure my philosophical readers will be happy with the changes, since this is one part of the site that has shown a lot of life, and I certainly plan to continue the weekend series.

Before I step into the redesign cocoon and disappear for a month, I wanted to lay down a few progress markers to reflect the current state of various discussions we've been conducting here on Philosophy Weekend. Here are our main threads, as I see them:

The ethical question

What is the nature of communality in human life? Are we essentially individuals, existentially isolated (as Ayn Rand would have it), living together in order to best satisfy our separate needs? This doesn't seem to fit the evidence. But if this isn't what we are, then what are we, and why is it that various communities we belong to bind us so strongly?

The psychological question

What is a self? Have there been any advancements in our knowledge of the self since Rene Descartes "cogito ergo sum", and if so, what are they?

The political question

Is a peaceful world possible and achievable? Why is the ideal of pacifism in such ill repute today? If pacifism's premises are false and we are fated to an eternity of global and civil war and violence and oppression, how do we best endure this dreadful future?

The historical question

What can we learn by mapping together the history of our civilizations and the history of philosophy? Do our circumstances affect our philosophical beliefs? Do our philosophical beliefs affect our circumstances? (This is an area we've barely touched on so far, but I'd like to explore it more in the future.)

The spiritual question

What is the meaning of our lives? What is the nature of good, and what is the nature of evil? (This last question seems especially pertinent today. But then the question of the nature of evil always seems pertinent, doesn't it?)

The etymological question

How do we know anything about ethics, or politics, or religion? Should we try to prove our ethical arguments through logic and reason, or is this a pointless pursuit?

The procedural question

How should we go about discussing ethical, religious and existential philosophy on this website? Is this a useful activity, or are we just wasting our time? Is it actually possible to have substantial debates about controversial topics on the Internet?

I wanted to lay out these questions in plain form to make sure we keep our sense of direction as Literary Kicks enters its transformational phase. I can't think of a more exciting set of questions to try to answer, and I'm glad that enough of you are willing to engage my questions and allow me to play-act Socrates in our comment-based dialogues. Maybe we'll even produce some results here. See you again at Philosophy Weekend in September!

This article is part of the series Philosophy Weekend. The next post in the series is Philosophy Weekend: Who Can Be a Philosopher?. The previous post in the series is Philosophy Weekend: Will and Desire.
4 Responses to "Philosophy Weekend: Sense of Direction"

by Claudia on

Levi, I think this new direction is perfect for Litkicks since it's actually going back to your strength and your roots: in philosophy, ethics and the history of philosophy. With the number of general literature, art and culture sites proliferating, the best way to remain strong and keep growing is by focusing on what you do best: rendering the big philosophical questions relevant for your readers and for our times.

by Subject Sigma on

Levi, I think this series of questions is very useful to "keep the bearing" of Philosophy Weekends. Great job! Can't wait to see the new ideas in September, and to continue working on those questions!

by panta rhei on

I am really curious to see how you set about answering ethical questions by means of etymological thoughts and arguments - and I really hope the 'etymological' isn't just a typo! There are a lot of aha-effects slumbering out there in the roots of words and language...

"Ginsberg", Julia Vinograd

No blame. Anyone who wrote Howl and Kaddish
earned the right to make any possible mistake
for the rest of his life.
I just wish I hadn’t made this mistake with him.
It was during the Vietnam war
and he was giving a great protest reading
in Washington Square Park
and nobody wanted to leave.
So Ginsberg got the idea, "I'm going to shout
'the war is over' as loud as I can," he said
"and all of you run over the city
in different directions
yelling the war is over, shout it in offices,
shops, everywhere and when enough people
believe the war is over
why, not even the politicians
will be able to keep it going."
I thought it was a great idea at the time
a truly poetic idea.
So when Ginsberg yelled I ran down the street
and leaned in the doorway
of the sort of respectable down on its luck cafeteria
where librarians and minor clerks have lunch
and I yelled "the war is over."
And a little old lady looked up
from her cottage cheese and fruit salad.
She was so ordinary she would have been invisible
except for the terrible light
filling her face as she whispered
"My son. My son is coming home."
I got myself out of there and was sick in some bushes.
That was the first time I believed there was a war.

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