Author: Emily Kluge

Week 20 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Fear

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This week’s journal topic: Fear You’ve undoubtedly received all kinds of contradictory information about fear.  As a child, nauseous with nerves before stepping onstage in the school play, you probably heard your parents or teacher tell you that “there’s nothing to fear but fear itself” (FDR, former American president). If you’re a child of the 80’s or 90’s, you might remember the brand No Fear, whose edgy (at the time) T-shirts mocked fear. Fear: False Evidence Appearing Real These quotes tell us that fear is some kind of illusion; moreover, it’s an illusion that loses its power when we laugh at it and clearly see the illusion.  Fear is like a rubber snake dropped into your lap.  It’s impossible not to react, but when you see that it’s rubber, it’s funny. What is fear? Fear is really made up of two aspects: physiological and emotional.  In an environment in which our bodies perceive fear, the body reacts …

The Problem of Role Models: You’re Probably Doing It Wrong

In a confusing world that forces us to curb our natural behaviors, we often look to exemplars (i.e. role models) to facilitate and accelerate the decision making process. Those exemplars aren’t participants in the process  (obviously, we don’t have Warren Buffet, Jack Ma, or Mother Theresa on speed dial) but they influence our decisions in an indirect way. We reflect on our beliefs about these exemplars, asking questions such as What Would ____ Do? and allowing ourselves to be guided by the imagined response to a similar scenario.  There are different kinds of exemplars, and here are a few examples: Role model: A person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others. Idol: (colloquial usage) an image of a person with an ethereal, god-like, or transcendent status to which worship is addressed. Prophet: e.g.  Jesus, Mohammad, Abraham, Krishna, Buddha, Lao Zu, Confucius, etc. Moral saint: a moral philosophy term coined by Susan Wolf who says, “By moral saint I mean a person whose every action is as morally good as possible, …

Week 19 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Names

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!)  This week the questions are a break from the previous week’s heavy questions!  You can even use these questions as conversation starters. Enjoy! This Week’s Journal Topic: Names Romeo doesn’t care the Juliet’s surname is his enemy’s surname; to Romeo she’ll always be the same enchanting woman, even if her name was something else.  A name, in other words, means nothing.  But is a name really just an arbitrary thing, or does it affect our personality and future?  If names are unimportant, why do parents agonize over choosing the perfect name? Parents name their children’s given names with various purposes in mind. Unique reference. Some parents are concerned about originality of the name and want the name and spelling, in combination with the last name, to be a one-of-a-kind feature. E.g. Abcde, Mykenzee, J-a (Jadasha), etc. Meaning.  Some parents want a name to carry meaning and/or give the child a certain strength or quality.  Biblical and religious names remind …

Money Mindset Makeover: Assess and Take Action to Improve your Relationship with Money

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post on Marx. Several readers contacted me directly about this post with worries about whether or not I support communism.  Sorry to disappoint your curiosity, but the post itself was not written as a piece for or against communism.  Rather it was first an exercise in understanding Marx’s philosophical foundation for his attitude towards capitalism, and second an attempt to make Marx’s philosophy useful, relatable and memorable to lay-philosophers – many of whom naturally have little patience for abstract theories, irrelevant in the modern economic world. If you didn’t read the post, the TL:DR of Marx’s “Estranged Labor” is that Marx thought – for philosophical reasons – that the labor market as an exchange of work for pay is inherently exploitative and inhumane. In case you were confused by that post, I’ll reassure you that’s not what I think, and I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. Perhaps, after reading Marx, money has left a sour taste in your mouth.  Fear not: this week, let’s re-think money in …

Week 18 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Mind-Body Dualism

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here! I hope you’re enjoying the topics so far.  Now that we’re approximately a third of the year in, the concepts are getting a little more abstract!  Hang on tight – we’re about to get metaphysical!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Substance Dualism Substance dualism is a fancy term for the belief that the mind and physical body are two different kinds of “stuff” in the universe. Think of the brain and mind.  The brain is physical substance, whose properties we can detect through scientific study.  For example, we can measure electrical impulses, chemicals, and understand the connections between cells.  The mind, however, seems to be a substance that really exists but is undetectable by scientific methods. The reference to the mind as a substance is controversial because although we have intimate subjective experience with it (we feel it), we cannot scientifically test its properties.  So how do we know the mind exists and how can we even …

Week 17 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Happiness

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Happiness Do you want to be happy? For all humans, the answer is an unambiguous Yes.  To be human is to seek happiness, wouldn’t you agree? The desire for happiness simultaneously brings humanity together and tears us apart. Sure, we are all united in our desire to be happy. However, happiness means different things to different people and therefore, we’re divided in how we go about getting it! Concepts of Happiness Happiness as Pleasure: The Greek school for “happiness as pleasure” is called Hedonism.  Hedonism thought that pleasure was the ultimate human good. There were higher pleasures and lower pleasures.  A lower pleasure is a physical pleasure such as eating or sex. Higher pleasures were intellectual goods and virtues which had the effect on the possessor of increasing her other pleasures.  For example, the virtue of moderation allows a person to receive the most pleasure from her body – if you drink …

Understand Marx’s “Estranged Labor” to Create A Personal Revolution

Marx was a German philosopher of the 19th century who is most famous for his economic views.  Marx observed laborers and the economy and his observations led him to come to the conclusion that revolution was necessary and inevitable. Why would Marx write that revolution is necessary and inevitable? Many of us would look at the world, and upon viewing the many erroneous and bloody revolutions would take revolution to be abhorrent, unnecessary and to be avoided at all costs.  Marx disagreed, for he was a Hegelian in his reflections that history is a series of progressions that take the form of: Thesis – a particular state of order; a beginning proposition Out of which arises the: Antithesis – a radical move against that thesis; a contradiction arises And finally: Synthesis – a reconciliation that creates a brand new state; a progression of history For Marx, revolution was necessary and inevitable because the way that people lived under the current economic system had become a contradiction of what human beings ought to be. The Problem …

Week 16 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Human Activity

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Human Activity Human Being = Human Doing Humans are a busy species. Human life is synonymous with willful activity. Each person is always moving, chasing objects or ideas, procuring and utilizing things – whether that’s food, money, knowledge, feelings, or relationships. Even the laziest person isn’t “doing nothing”; although his activity may be categorized as “unproductive” by other people, it cannot be strictly categorized as “nothing”, for it’s always purposeful in some way or other. The desire to move and act is so strong that the thought of being paralyzed – even if one is perfectly safe and cared for, surrounded by loved ones – is alarming and abhorrent! That some people sign assisted-suicide documents in case they are paralyzed is proof that as a species we’d rather die than be incapacitated, cut off from activity.  We have a deep desire to “do”.  Human beings are humans-doing.   Frameworks for Understanding Activity …

A Brief Analysis of Rousseau’s Ethics of Compassion in “Discourse on Inequality” and Relation to Buddhist Teachings

Last week, I read Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Discourse on Inequality.”  It’s a fascinating work of political philosophy written in 1754 by Rousseau as an entry for an essay contest that challenged authors to address the question: What is the origin of inequality among men, and is it authorized by natural law?  In order to thoroughly answer this question, Rousseau expounds a philosophy  of man, discussing who and what man is as an individual, what is freedom, what are man’s essential and accidental qualities, what is the effect of society on man and the ideal political situation.  As someone who is interested in Buddhism’s answers to these same questions, I was curious if there was any similarity between Rousseau’s answers and Buddhist views. I think there are at least two similarities.  The first similarity concerns Rousseau’s account of man’s natural morality of compassion; this corresponds with the Buddhist view of compassion as constitutive of morality.  The second similarity arises out of Rousseau’s lamenting about the detriments of rational thinking to man’s mental constitution; likewise, Buddhism teaches that …

Week 15 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Uncertainty & Risk

(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project.  Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Uncertainty & Risk Spring is a hopeful time of year. In spring, we witness the energy of nature as fauna busily attend their young and flora burst forth with an array of spectacular shapes and colors.  Human activity picks up pace for we begin making summer plans and thinking of love. In nature, we can count on things like the seasons to happen regularly. In philosophy, what’s known as the principle of the uniformity of nature (PUN) dictates the rationality of assuming that the future will be like the past. In spite of the PUN, the future is always uncertain – it can never be predicted with 100% accuracy. The recognition of life’s unpredictability causes distress and insecurity for many people.  At some point, each of us must decide on a way to deal with an unpredictable future: Try to control it – the “control freak” Avoid thinking about it – the …