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Is Santa Claus Philosophical?

What is the story behind "Santa Claus"; who is the modern-day "Santa Claus"; and what does it have to do with Philosophy? With "The Holidays" and the season of giving quickly approaching, and in a world of increasing demands that others finance (via government mandates) a person's every whim and desire, is Santa Claus (i.e., the idea of getting something for nothing at another's expense) philosophical?  Is it better to give than receive? And who ought determine who does the giving/receiving?

Should all giving to others be voluntary? Or, do people have a right to make others be their keepers, in perpetuity, for every want and desire imaginable? Or ought the claim on others' property be limited to certain desires, such as universal health care?  Where ought that line be drawn, if at all? Do people have a right to things they have not earned merely because others have the wherewithal to (involuntarily) provide them? What right do people have on fruits of others' labor? 

Ought taxpayers continue finance lavish benefits and sometimes enormous pension packages for public employees? Is justice served when some public employees retire 15-20 years prior to private sector employees, and then live off pension plans largely financed by those working in the private sector? Is some, or all of this, philosophical (i.e., rational, logical, ethical, etc.)?

What wealthy person, such as the famous, very wealthy filmmaker and excoriate-and-blame-the-rich Michael Moore, has ever gladly given away much of the fruits of his labor during the prime of his working life, and/or not charge people full market value for his work, and/or not take full advantage of every imaginable tax break out there (ala Senator John Kerry docking his yacht in a tax-friendly state)? Is it easier to ask people to play Santa Claus than it is to actually practice it?   

Is Santa Claus philosophical?

 

 

 

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  • Jonathan

    Reference: "Heidegger and the Nazis" by Thomas Sheehan, Ph.D. Department of Religious Studies Stanford University, & former Professor Emeritus Department of Philosophy Loyola University Chicago. http://www.stanford.edu/dept/relstud/Sheehan/pdf/34%201988%20HEIDEGGER%20AND%20THE%20NAZIS%20Best.pdf

    December 10, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Fascism is given life when good people refuse to identify it. This is all that I ask of you, and for this reason according to you *I* am the fascist.

    December 10, 2011

  • Jonathan

    "The spiritual strength of the West fails, its structure crumbles, this moribund semblance of a culture caves in and drags allpowers into confusion, suffocating them in madness.." - Heidegger

    December 10, 2011

  • Jonathan

    "Heidegger ... most profound thinkers, perhaps in all of western thought " - Brian


    "For me it is clear that putting aside all personal motives, I must decide to accomplish the task that will allow me to best serve the work of Adolf Hitler." -Heidegger

    December 10, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sounds fascist. I'd be happy to remove myself so that you don't have to make the tough decision to limit my free speech. Wes--if you ever wanna talk existentialism, I'd be all for it. Find me on facebook or the Denver Philosophy meet up.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Brian - As you are an intellectual and educatior, if you do not morally condemn Heidegger I will ban you from this group.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Brian - Philosophically, I judge Heidegger by his metaphysics, I personally classify him as just another determinist. His Nazi involvement was not a pragmatic attempt to survive an insane government. In my view, judging by his word and deed, he wanted that government. His ideas sanctioned and fed them spiritually. The Nazis didn't make him head of the university because he was intellectually opposed to Nazism.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Heidegger never attempted to repair the damage he helped cause (neither in matter or spirit). To my knowledge, Heidegger never denounced Nazism (not that it would matter much). Heidegger is in the Top 10, just as Hitler is the Top 10 among influential world leaders. A study of Heidegger is fine in of itself, but morally in action he is not good.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Na, gib ihnen scho zu fressen.

    Heidegger actions as an intellectual are morally inexcusable. Heidegger did not willingly "break" from the Nazi party, the party was destroyed around him and banned.

    December 9, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Ugh, Wes, do you see what we're dealing with here? For someone "not familiar" with existential philosophy, you sure have done enough wikipedia reading to learn about them in the past few hours. Real thorough I'm sure. Heidegger is written about more in western philosophy than any other thinker. He is constantly listed as a top 10 philosopher of the 20th century. I agree he is controversial; he was a brilliant mind who was *temporarily* part of the Nazi movement. He also break away from it.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Brian - I will not allow an endorsement of any Nazi intellectual on my site. As an philosopher, Heidegger conducted the gravest sin possible, he deliberately provided intellectual ammunition to brutally murderous ideology and sanctioned their actions.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    The Nazis had a deliberately irrational ideology. Heidegger gave his intellectual support to the Nazi movement. Heidegger denounced and demoted professors whom were not sufficiently supportive of the Nazi movement.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    "I also agree that Heidegger ... most profound thinkers, perhaps in all of western thought " a member of the Nazi party. Under his watch, permitted the burning of books on his campus. Held that the most important thing was "nothing", because nothing must preceded existence (Sartre held a similar view) which is bizarrely illogical. Heidegger was a Nazi intellectual who help formulate the Nazi philosophy of "Blood and Soil", a type a determinism.

    December 9, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sartre, as I'm sure you know, believed that human beings had no nature other than being "pure subjectivity". Any event (or text) is only given meaning in so far as it is *interpreted* by us (this is also a major point for the Hermeneutics of Gadamer). So, (a) do you think my (incredibly brief) representations of Sartre on interpretation are fair to Sartre's work, and (b) if they are, do you think there is any chance that Jonathan would be on board with any of the existentialists?

    December 9, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Wes--I completely agree that this discussion has been skewed toward analytic philosophy. I also agree that Heidegger and Sartre of of the most profound thinkers, perhaps in all of western thought (I do not know much at all about Foucault or Derrida, other than that they were largely influenced by Heidegger). My claim that humans are "interpretive beings", which sparked this whole interpretation discussion, is straight out of Heidegger and Sartre.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Wes - I am not familiar with "existential philosophy". Possibly I know its essential by some other term. You are welcome to tell me about in-person some time.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    At the point we could regress into, "What does a definition identify?". But maybe some other day. Epistemology is my specialty, and favorite subject. But that is not the purpose of this group. For the average person on the street, there are more important things to talk about. I would like to close this discussion. Start a new one if you would like. Thank you for your time Brian.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Brian - I do not take a word (and the concept it represents) "however [I] want". If I am unsure what a word means, it is not too much trouble. I identify the given context, check the Oxford dictionary or SUEoP, and identify the correct definition. I assume the writer does the same (if not, then he is a poor writer).

    December 9, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Many of those remarks were meant to be ironic, sarcastic or humorous (not a defense). But, since you are not open to the idea that words need to be interpreted, you see them at "face value" (i.e., however you want to see them). I am trying to be amicable here, but apparently you just want to continue on. But, you continue on, not "answering my questions" as I have tried to answer yours, but by uncharitably interpreting my frustrated moments. I suppose I deserve it, eh?

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    "Philosophers are modest" So you have demonstrated.

    December 9, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Jonathan, you're right. I have said some rather cocky and childish things at time when I was pretty tired or frustrated with the way this conversation was going (though I do think some of those quotes, in context, aren't as childish as they seem here). In any case, there's no excuse for that. We aren't always at our best, I suppose. I apologize if I've offended you.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Brian, I have taken you at your word, no need for a resume.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    *Cockiness is often hiding a lack of sensitivity for the issues at hand.* I agree with you.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    "Finally, you've tried to use some evidence to support some of your claims!"

    "PhD program that I'm enrolled in" "I would love to show you how inept you [are]"

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Brian - "Cockiness is often hiding a lack of sensitivity"

    "what credentials, and what experience, do you have[?]" "I question whether you've ever stepped into a philosophy course or know its purpose." "I refuse to talk to you about politics. I can't imagine the kind of unverified nonsense that you'd emit."

    "You're childish insistence" "You remind me of an evangelical"

    December 9, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    And you shouldn't be so turned off by philosopher's claiming to "Not know anything". This is a tradition that begins with Socrates (I'm beginning to wonder if you've ever actually read Plato or Aristotle...). Philosophers are modest and cautious in what they affirm. That's anther reason why Rand is rejected. Cockiness is often hiding a lack of sensitivity for the issues at hand.

    December 9, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    If you have a clear understanding of what numbers are, do share. Appealing to our everyday conception (as you've done above) isn't a clear understanding--that doesn't *define* anything (again, Plato teaches us important lessons about defining concepts). Perhaps you can be famous for settling the debates between the Platonists and Logicists about the nature of math objects. You snidely quoting me only displays that you have no sensitivity to what actually goes on in philosophy.

    December 9, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'm not sure what you're quoting me is trying to show. Are you claiming that I'm lying. I'd be happy to post a CV and references (hah!). I value clear thinking over staking my claim in a position. In thinking clearly, one often finds that normal, everyday concepts aren't so easily definable. This is a pretty clear message in some dialogues of Plato (e.g., The Euthyphro, the Republic), something you claim to be familiar with.

    December 9, 2011

  • Jonathan

    "6 years of studying and teaching philosophy" "The mathematics PhD program that I'm enrolled in" "we have a vague understanding of what numbers actually are, metaphysically" Yes, it is really tragic we cannot reduce to the ultimate constituency of the universe. I will concede the discussion to your "vague understanding" of what "one" means. Res ipsa loquitur. Thanks for the conversation.

    December 9, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    The "?? / ??" above were Chinese characters, that, I'm guessing would be uninterpretable to us, assuming you don't read Chinese. If you do, pick another language you don't know. The point is, reading is interpreting symbols. Some are easy, some are hard...

    December 8, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    The same is true of "One", though, I claim that actually, if we really think about it, we have a vague understanding of what numbers actually are, metaphysically (I'm not alone here; read Russell, Frege, Godel, etc.). I'm also claiming that when reading Kant, like anything else (e.g., "Car") we are interpreting; Kant is tricky because he is trying to articulate concepts that are not articulated often. Because of this, we may have trouble grasping them and there is more debate about what is meant

    December 8, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'm trying to answer your questions (though you've evaded mine, about"10"). Perhaps we are not on the same page as to what is meant by interpretation. Here's another way to clarify. I'm guessing you don't know what this means: "?? / ??" (I don't either). It is because we cannot interpret the symbols, right (b/c we don't read Chinese). But we can interpret "Car" because we read English. Our culture has a generally accepted understanding of what "Car" means.

    December 8, 2011

  • Jonathan

    Brian, could you please answer my questions? You have not identified the difference between "interpreting" and "at face value". You identified I am doing something wrong, I really want to know what that is. Thanks.

    December 8, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Yours (Rand's), I claim, as do many others, is not the best interpretation of Kant.

    December 8, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Don't you think that everyone understands each other because we are accustomed to *interpreting* the symbols in the same way? I'm not sure our positions differ here very much. I agree that mathematics is interpreted very widely in a way that makes it a tool for science (though I'm not sure that's the only (or even a) tenable interpretation of mathematics). My point with Kant is that his words are *not* accustomed to the same wide interpretation. Given that, we have to find the best one.

    December 8, 2011

  • Jonathan

    A word references a concept, and as long as we both hold the same concepts everything works great. I can talk to you, you can talk to me, and everybody understands each-other. In math, science and engineering this is taken for granted. With this rigorous adherence to conceptual precision we are given what we see today, an explosion of technological advancement where vast amounts of reliable human knowledge is transmitted from person to person and further into generation to generation.

    December 8, 2011

  • Jonathan

    "I'm reading you, Jonathan, as saying that philosophy, like my layman's understanding of simple mathematics, can be understood without need of interpretation if one understands the concepts. " Yes.

    December 8, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I think that mathematics, usually thought of as the paradigm of objectivity, still needs to be interpreted. In fact, there is no consensus in the mathematical community as to what mathematical objects (e.g., numbers) are (There's a Denver meet-up next week to discuss this...come join!). Concepts like "One" need interpreting; some think it is a "platonic" object; others, a logical construction. Without interpretation, no one would think to take a set of axioms and apply them to, say, an atom.

    December 8, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sondra: Sorry for being confusing. I'm so busy lately, but this forum is like a bad addiction. I think you've characterized things pretty well; my position is that texts (I use this term broadly to refer to sentence, and mathematical equations are sentences) must be interpreted. Yes, it is true that some texts are more easily interpreted than others, but symbols, in order to be understood, so I claim, need interpreting.

    December 8, 2011

  • Sondra C.

    ... and would really appreciate you two taking a moment to draw a little more clear a line for my failing mental sight, then please do go back to beating of chests and baring of teeth. It's quite entertaining to watch.

    December 8, 2011

  • Sondra C.

    I'm reading Brian as saying that the mathematical analogy proves philosophy needs to be interpreted - mathematics need interpreting too and refers to a number without the reference to what is being measured. My question is: doesn't this still refer to a concept of what that number will represent and in what way does this refer to the concept of interpretation of philosophy. I fully admit my inability to grasp these connections...

    December 8, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Wow, someone else is reading this! Sondra, please, I bet of you to be impartial. In your view, (a) what do the symbols "10" mean? And (b) what does the concept "One" mean? Not "one year" or "One dollar"; just "One"?

    December 8, 2011

  • Sondra C.

    And then, if you will, please tell me how this is similar to understanding philosophy. What is the formula to be understood here that makes the references or interpretations not necessary? And do you think that the formula applied to philosophy is as apt to create the same level of consistency that the formulas of mathematics seem to be able to?

    December 8, 2011

  • Sondra C.

    As a non-philosophy and non-mathematics major, let me ask you both to break down what you're talking about at the end here for me, as a representative of a layman. I'm reading you, Jonathan, as saying that philosophy, like my layman's understanding of simple mathematics, can be understood without need of interpretation if one understands the concepts. That one of anything still represents the same concept of "oneness". If I'm wrong please correct me.

    December 8, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    I don't know what this is trying to show. If a baby was on front of me and someone answered that question with one, depending how old the baby looked, I could probably decipher between one hour and one day, and certainly between one hour, and say, one year. All that you're showing me is that people are very good at quickly interpreting their surroundings so that they can attach units to numbers. How does this have anything to do with a symbols reference to a concept?

    December 8, 2011

  • Jonathan

    The question assumes context "the average person", or a high school education. Can you please answer my question?

    December 8, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Your example is pretty ironic since I bet close no one without interest in the philosophy of mathematics can give an answer as to what "one" is without a unit after it. So, The answer "one" begs of, "one day", "one month", "one year" etc...

    December 8, 2011

  • Jonathan

    So you are saying when the women answer "One." there is nothing to "interpret". Correct? I know the concept and can take the statement at "face value". Correct?

    December 8, 2011

  • A former member
    A former member

    Yes, I agree. The subject is a word's (a set of symbols's) reference to a particular concept. Here's a set of symbols: "10". If you are claiming it does not need interpreting, I am supposing you're meaning that any single individual can identify it without any discrepancy. So, please, tell me what the universal interpretation of that set of symbols is.

    December 8, 2011

  • Jonathan

    The subject here is a word's reference to a particular concept. "if you'd just realize that texts need to be *interpreted*, and cannot just be understood outright". I am asking you to explain this to me. I am just trying to make this very simple. If I ask someone, "How old is your baby?" And they answer "One", how should this be "interpreted"? This really is a simple question. You identified I am doing something wrong, I really want to know what that is. Thanks.

    December 8, 2011

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