Sunday, October 15, 2017

Harvard with My Daughter: Richard III


What a privilege to take a Shakespeare at Harvard with my daughter. For a family that adores the classes as much as we, and who spent the better part of our lives traipsing through the world in search of global cultural edification, studying Shakespeare at Harvard speaks to our shared desire to have the experience and the willingness to accommodate the undertaking into our family culture. It is but one course today, but it speaks to our Bardolatry and taste in entertainment. If we are not enjoying what we are doing, there are many other roads beckoning us to take them. But this is our road, and on this particular stop, we have Richard III, that revengeful, plotting, deformed Machiavellian tyrant we love to hate. 

ENGL E-124
Shakespeare’s Early Plays
Fall 2017

1. The first thirteen lines in Richard III’s opening soliloquy are about the improved state of affairs for his family after the ascendency of his brother King Edward IV to the English Crown. “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York” (1.1.1-1.1.2). Using winter and summer as metaphors for sadness and celebration, Richard III reminds the audience that his family suffered during the civil wars and the wars of the Roses, when “clouds … loured” (1.1.3) upon their house (of York). But in line fourteen, the monologue shifts from a relieved Duke of Gloucester for his family’s “victorious wreaths” (1.1.5) to the revengeful, plotting, deformed tyrant, known as Richard III: “I, that am rudely stamped (1.1.16) / Cheated of feature by dissembling nature (1.1.19) / Deformed, unfinished (1.1.20) ... villain” (1.1.30). Here, we discover that the kingdom may be at peace: “Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings” (1.1.7) under the sunny reign of his brother Edward IV, but the spell of the long winter: “In the deep bosom of the ocean buried” (1.1.4) remains with our vibrantly melodramatic hero-villain who has “no delight to pass away the time” (1.1.25). His determination to become the villain speaks to the real-life political scheming – made ever more popular by the Tudors - of a tyrant’s ascent to political power. Richard III laments that he “hate[s] the idle pleasures of these days” (1.1.31), then declares “And if King Edward be as true and just / As I am subtle, false and treacherous / This day should Clarence closely be mewed up” (1.1.37 – 1.1.38). Here, Richard IIIs plotting and promulgation of the false prophesy “which says that ‘G’ / Of Edward’s heirs the murderer shall be” (1.1.39 – 1.1.40) stops with the poignantly abrupt: “Dive, thoughts, down to my soul: here Clarence comes” (1.1.41). At the surface, it is as if he is silencing the mechanisms of his own tyrannical thoughts in order to falsely greet Clarence with the mild smile and gracious air tyrants put on when rallying support for power. No strenuous effort is required on behalf of the audience/Reader to recognize Richard III as the rationalist tyrant. In Book VIII of Plato’s Republic, the regime of the tyrant is examined, explaining that in the early days he has a smile and a greeting for everyone he meets (such as how Richard III greets Clarence); he disclaims absolute power (Buckingham convinces the people that Richard III is the true ruler; then Richard III feigns modesty: (3.7.204) “I am unfit for state and majesty.”); essentially scheming (spreads lies, slanders others, generates conflicts between others to promote his plot) his way to the throne. Richard IIIs deceitful machinations are transparent and ironic, bringing an Elizabethan/modern audience to delight in the notion that the unflinching, unsparing villainous Richard III lost more than his life in the process - he lost his soul.

2. When in Act I, Scene III, it is proclaimed that King Edward IV wants to make peace between his wife Queen Elizabeth and Richard III, and their respective kinsmen, Richard III takes the offense, accusing Queen Elizabeth of wishing her husband dead and imprisoning Clarence and Lord Hastings: “Meantime, God grants that I have need of you: / Our brother is imprison’d by your means” (1.3.76-77) and “You may deny that you were not the mean / Of my Lord Hastings’ late imprisonment” (1.3.89-90).  Naturally, Queen Elizabeth is forced into defensive posturing: “Brother of Gloucester, you mistake the matter / The king, on his own royal disposition, / And not provoked by any suitor else / Aiming, belike, at your interior hatred / That in your outward action shows itself / Against my children, brothers, and myself / Makes him to send, that he may learn the ground” (1.3.62).  Entering the scene, at first unnoticed, Queen Margaret, widow of Henry VI, upon overhearing Richard III and Queen Elizabeth’s discord, laments for her lost husband, son, and title: “I was, but I do find more pain in banishment / Than death can yield me here by my abode / A husband and a son thou ow’st to me / And thou a kingdom; all of you allegiance / The sorry that I have, by right is yours / And all the pleasures you usurp are mine” (1.3.166-171).  Queen Margaret further curses Richard III: “And leave out thee? Stay, dog, for thou shalt hear me / If heaven have any grievous plague in store / Exceeding those that I can wish upon thee / O, let them keep it till thy sins be ripe” (1.3.214-217) and then curses Elizabeth: “Poor painted queen, vain flourish of my fortune / Why strew’st thou sugar on that bottled spider / Whose deadly web ensnareth thee about? / Fool, fool, thou whet’st a knife to kill thyself / The day will come that thou shalt wish for me / To help thee curse this poisonous bunch-backed toad” (1.3.242-247). Essentially, Queen Margaret is portrayed as bitter about the assignation of her husband and son and her loss of power: “I was, but I do find more pain in banishment / Than death can yield me here by my abode” (1.3.166-167). Out of pain and grief, she curses Queen Elizabeth to the same fate: “Thyself a queen, for me that was a queen / Outlive thy glory, like my wretched self! / Long mayst thou live to wail thy children's death / And see another, as I see thee now / Decked in thy rights, as thou art stalled in mine / Long die thy happy days before thy death / And, after many lengthened hours of grief / Die neither mother, wife, nor England’s queen” (1.3.200-207), and with these poignant words she foreshadows the play’s plot. When Queen Margaret returns in Act 4 Scene 4 she admits how her curses come to fruition: “... prosperity begins to mellow / And drop into the rotten mouth of death” (4.4.1-2). Margaret further warns the Duchess of York, Mother to King Edward IV, Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, that she is: “hungry for revenge” (4.4.60) and that of Richard III she aspires to declare: “The dog is dead!” (4.4.77). It is here when Queen Elizabeth recites Queen Margaret’s curse: “O, thou didst prophesy the time would come / That I should wish for thee to help me curse / That bottled spider, that foul bunch-backed toad!” (4.4.78-80). Again we see the use of a toad as a metaphor. In the Book of Exodus, the Second Plague brings frogs and Richard III is being likened to one. Aesop wrote a fable about an old frog who died after trying to inflate herself to become as big and powerful as the ox that crushed a young frog into the mud (perhaps a metaphor for Richard III’s involvement in the demise of the essentially helpless Edward V, King of England and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York – the two young brothers and only sons of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville). Here we see an almost woeful prophet of God, Queen Margaret, acknowledging how she had cursed Queen Elizabeth: “I called thee then vain flourish of my fortune” (4.4.81) but now, seeing it come to fruition, acquiesces to Queen Elizabeth’s request to “quicken” (4.4.123) her words so that they will “pierce” (4.4.124) like her own. Here she comes to the aid of Queen Elizabeth. After bestowing a gift in recompense, Queen Margaret exits, but her wrath continues in Queen Elizabeth’s Margaretian-like curses of Richard III. Without Queen Margaret the play would lose the ‘eye-for-an-eye’ logic derived from the Bible (“Vengence is mine.” Deuteronomy 32.35), though Queen Margaret’s willingness to help Queen Elizabeth find the words to curse Richard III almost implies a ‘turn the other cheek’ (Matthew 5:39) attitude. While the divine right of kings, or God’s mandate, the political and religious doctrine of royal and political legitimacy asserting that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God, did not come to the fore until under the reign of James I of England (1603-1625), the Christian notion of a divine right can be traced back to 1 Samuel (24:6-7) when “[David] said to his men, ‘The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the LORD’s anointed, or lift my hand against him; for he is the anointed of the LORD.” In this way, Queen Margaret could not vow to harm Richard III, only curse him, for it would be against the word of God to do otherwise. This keeps the play in check with the Protestant Rule of Faith: “ALL Protestants agree in teaching that “the word of God, as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only infallible rule of faith and practice.” (Archibald Alexander Hodge). Under Queen Elizabeth I, the scriptures were infallible, and given in inspiration by God. This aspect speaks to the divine authority of the Tudor monarchy, attesting that it is by the will of God that the monarchs reign on Earth.

3. When Richard III with his train enter, asking: “Who intercepts me in my expedition?” (4.4.135), his mother, the Duchess of York, claims it is “she that might have intercepted thee / By strangling thee in her accursed womb / From all the slaughters, wretch, that thou hast done!” (4.4.136 – 138). Here, his own mother laments his very existence, but he reminds her that he is “... the lord’s anointed” (4.4.150), further attesting to his legitimacy and the fine line upon which even his mother treads. He implores that she: “Either be patient and entreat me fair” (4.4.151) or he will “...with the clamorous report of war / ... drown your exclamations” (4.4.152-153), which he does with the sounding of alarums. His mother demands to speak: “O, let me speak!” (4.4.159) to which he retorts: “Do then, but I’ll not hear” (4.4.160). The Duchess of York softens her tone: “I will be mild and gentle in my words” (4.4.161). “I have stayed for thee / God knows, in torment and in agony” (4.4.163). Here, Richard III reassures his mother, “And came I not at last to comfort you?” (4.4.165). But it is to no avail, for his mother now recounts of the burdens of her pregnancy with him: “A grievous burden was thy birth to me” (4.4.168) and how he, despite in his prime being “daring, bold, and venturous” (4.4.171) only in age to be: “confirmed, proud, subtle, sly and bloody / More mild, but yet more harmful, kind in hatred / What comfortable hour canst though name / That ever graced me with thy company?” (4.4.172-175). Basically, she is giving him the ultimate guilt trip. Richard III reminds her that they had “breakfast once forth” (4.4.177) but that if he “be so disgracious in your eye / Let me march on and not offend you, madam / Strike up the drum” (4.4.178-180).  Here, his mother pleads again: “I prithee hear me speak ... Hear me a word / For I shall never speak to thee again” (4.4.181, 4.4.183-184). Richard III consents, really he has no choice as she words are thunderous over the alarums. Now begins the curse put upon Richard III by his own mother: “Either thou wilt die, by God’s just ordinance / Ere from this war thou turn a conqueror / Or I with grief and extreme age shall perish / And never more behold thy face again / Therefore take with thee my most grievous curse / Which in the day of battle tire thee more / Than all the complete armour that thou wear’st! / My prayers on the adverse party fight / And there the little souls of Edward’s children / Whisper the spirits of thine enemies / And promise them success and victory / Bloody thou art, bloody will be thy end / Shame serves thy life and doth thy death attend” (4.4.186-198). Richard III does not succeed in silencing his mother’s attacks with the sounding of drums (music); thus, he listens. It is almost as if his silence here tells us that he is considering her words, taking them to heart. The next scene, of course, is a discussion on matters of the heart, as if his mother’s curse is not only a prophesy for his ultimate demise, but also as a set-up for the ensuing dialogue between Richard III and Queen Elizabeth on his love for her daughter: “I mean that with my soul I love thy daughter / And do intend to make her Queen of England” (4.4.265-266).   

4. It is difficult to separate Richard Burbage’s original delivery of: “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” (5.3.361, 5.3.367) from the intensity of how the line is remembered, but the line itself returns us full-circle, back to the irony with which the play begins. Richard III was discontent during a time of great peace and celebration. At the beginning of the play his family was victorious, but he was: “Cheated of feature by dissembling nature / Deformed, unfinished, sent before my time / Into this breathing world, scarce half made up / And that so lamely and unfashionable / That dogs bark at me as I halt by them” (1.1.19 - 1.1.23). Here, Richard III’s lament that he was cheated out of his rightful inheritance (good looks, healthy body for wooing women) foreshadows his final lament that he was also cheated out of victory by a horse. In 2 Kings 23:11 it is writ: “He removed from the entrance to the temple of the LORD the horses that the kings of Judah had dedicated to the sun. They were in the court near the room of an official named Nathan-Melek. Josiah then burned the chariots dedicated to the sun.” In this Biblical passage horses and chariots were being used in idolatrous processions, as noticed in regard to the sun. In the opening soliloquy of the play, the Duke of Gloucester states: “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this son of York” (1.1.1-1.1.2). Metaphorically, Richard III destroys his entire family (the chariots) under his brother’s (son of York) sunny reign. He beings with the plural “we” and “our” and ends with the singular “my”, which speaks to his lament: “I shall despair. There is no creature loves me / And if I die, no soul shall pity me” (5.3.204-205). It is as if the play ends on the same ironic thread with which it begins, with false glory in relation the sun of York, King Edward IV.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Philosophy of Technology, Making Better Something We Haven't Yet Invented

Philosophy isn't always looking backwards. Sometimes it is arguing forward, and where better to argue than the subject of shoes; err, I mean, technology. My son just walked into my library took one look at these shoes (above) and said to me: "Men respond to cars the way women respond to shoes." 

And he's right. Well, mostly. But the one thing upon which both genders usually agree is the benefits of technology, or applied science. Technological advancement is what keeps contemporary society connected. Not only is technology a formidable economic force but it is a cultural and philosophical one, as well. 

Science is the concern of what is, whereas technology concerns itself with what is to be. Having worked with engineers for the last 20 years, I have heard it said this way: 

"Scientists want to figure out what's going on and how it works; engineers are busy figuring out how it ought to work, but better."

In other words, technology aims to change the world into what we most desire it to be. Theoretically, a future philosophy of technology will include questions about what drives the innovation process, the importance of brainstorming, the casual relationship between intuitive judgment and scientific methods on the basis of empirical evidence (or, that which is derived from data mining), and shoes, lots of shoes. 

Let us consider design; its process and the artefacts produced. If engineers are focused on problem solving, by design, then each new upgrade should theoretically address a specific problem encountered in daily life. This includes hunger and other aspects of inequality. Apps on how to grow your own food, DIY projects to improve your standard of living, and other life hacks would become piecemeal upgrades, a product of social engineering, as we think about how each component or feature will improve the lives of millions.  

Let us say for example that a team of experts figure out how to extend human life by two or three hundred years. Should they? Who decides? Who pays for the additional load on our planet's resources? A number of ethical themes arise before the design process. Do we design obsolescence into an object? If you own a GE appliance, you may already know the answer to this question. 

Responsibility has long since been a central theme in the ethics of technology. The traditional philosophy of ethics claims we are responsible for the technologies we develop. Is that not akin to saying that the engineer is guilty if his/her technology saves a person's life and that later that same person commits a crime? 

Philosophical questions lead to scientific theories and experiments, which then get developed into the technology upon which we rely. The philosophy of technology is essentially asking how to make better something we haven't yet invented. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Inadequacy of Writing Debunked

What is inadequate about "writing" is hardly that it is not "visual" ... let alone beautiful: most simply, it is not aesthetically inviting. It is not comforting. It is not sexy. It does not fit into our vision of the world. It is a "thing" sent to the "archives" of society, awaiting its Alexandrian executioner. Thus how serious can a doomed fate be?

To writing we bring our everything, but the words illuminate more than what we bring. We enter a new ideology, thrust into an affair of perceptions and sensations. Words bathe us in the experience of sensation, enlarging citizens with consciousness. Even resenters are entertained. 

We are all Pagans in the liberal spaciousness of literacy. Primal ambivalents internalizing the hero-villain. Asking which is pious and patriotic, and whether hypocrisy is as substantive as we imagine it so. 

Inviting kindly modifiers like little goodwill trees, in which our only pleasure is the imagining. We cannot solve the puzzle of our representation, so we delve back in, before atrocity can prevent us through her shrewdness. One would hope that the words we find are persuading enough to lead us to the next abyss.

But this is illusory. Both the writer and the Reader know it. The bond between theme is intimately elusive. No one has sway over the pen. It guides us all. 

Beyond the injured self of ego, we take on the burden of language's mystery. We raise our fists at it in beautiful defiant delight. If the beauty of language is found in our reaction to it, language itself is ugly. Battered and truncated by our fashionable ideologies, caricatures of our own design. 

Not even Shakespeare was a Shakespeare, which explains his adherence to the word "nothing". But cheer up! All is not lost! Literature's characters are unmatched by how real we make them. 


Says the mind of the Reader! 

Who takes an art virtually unlimited, and offers us a second nature - and we "listen" - to the perplexed triad. Heeding mirrors with many voices, who neither act nor speak for nature. Pragmatically there is no difference, though you can hear the sun set between the two. 

But words impart meaning, attributing values to our ideas of self and to other persons. Certainly more or less a Parisian spectator sport, in which Voltaire is judge and jury. 

And therein we find the why of writing.

The Seduction of Richard III

These blandishments do not ensue us
From rhetorical magnificence.
Cold brilliance, complex genius
Serving the Mistress of Intimacy,
with more foreboding paws
than has the king of cats.

Wretched indulgence,
the unhealthiest of fantasies,
die not; it is, a certain relishment
alone that accounts.

Endless exuberant gusto
appeals and delights and terrifies,
and like a page turned vital,
transforms each line into death's dive.

All his audience can do
is rest and recharge
 in long-winded Margaret's exorbitance,
nearly giddy in footing,
stumbling, and falling in
- a soul's respite.

But the empty vast smothers our wandering air,
and the sour ferryman returns us back
to the slimy bottom of the deep, 
in defiant poetic bathos
by which the greedy kingdom of perpetual night
greets us.

Stranger still to be rendered incapable
of resisting his charm.

~Soph Laugh

Monday, September 18, 2017

Socrates, Irony and Soulmates

Socrates (469-399 B.C.E.), the founder of the Socratic sect, the father of Philosophy, fundamentally a Skeptic, did not force his opinions on others. Instead, his method of questioning enabled others to walk through and share their opinions on philosophical constructs. According to Plutarch, Socrates considered the entire world a school of virtue, and therefore appropriate for teaching. He was the first to conceive of the soul existing within the body - prior to which, souls were commonly considered disembodied beings who hung out at the entrance of the otherworld. Recall, in Ancient Greece mythology, the otherworld was where souls went after death and was the Greek idea of an afterlife. At the moment of death, the soul was transported to the entrance of Hades. For all practical purposes, Socrates rescued the world's souls from Hades and gave them a new habitation and a name (cue author of the Shakespearean plays). 

Like other philosophers of his time, Socrates believed in the preexistence of the soul prior to its immersion inside the body. This soul, he felt, was endowed with all knowledge, but upon entering into material form it became confused and stupefied. Fortunately sensible discourse caused it to reawaken and recover its original knowledge. The only true evil in the world, in this sense, is ignorance. 

Socrates used the rhetorical device of irony to subtly and satirically (hilariously, for him) emphasize the contrast between what we think apparent and what we consider incongruous or irrational. It is through the absurd that Socrates' meaning is inferred.

claims to know nothing
demolishes your argument

Irony comes from the Greek comic character Eiron, a clever underdog who by his wit repeatedly triumphs over the boastful character Alazon. In humor studies, irony is often confused with sarcasm, cynicism, skepticism, or wordplay. For this reason many people fail to 'get' irony, or use the term incorrectly. Irony is a satirist's favorite technique, and one that is difficult to master. 

Image result for irony

Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is an excellent example of ironical love. The four young lovers (Helena, Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius) symbolize the arbitrariness of young love, from the perspective of everyone except the lovers. Hippolyta is a captive bride, while Oberon and Titania are so accustomed to mutual romantic betrayal that their conflict has nothing to do with passion, but instead with protocol of who is in charge of the changeling human child. In this sense, irony, as seen in this play, is when one's object of affection is not in love in return, or when the rejected lover returns, evermore, to bid for one's affections. The ironical dynamics are what give the play its charm.

When asked what Socrates thought of his brilliant satirical irony being used to convey the limiting perspectives found in cynicism and skepticism, as promulgated by his disciple, Antisthenes of Athens (444-365), who later founded the Cynics sect, Socrates had this to say: 

"Not to brag, but before me, souls were disembodied beings at the outskirts of Hades. I saved them by brining them into the body. Essentially speaking, the notion of soulmates would be nonexistent without me. You're welcome." 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Aristotle and the Seven Immortals Walk Into A Bar

The Metaphysics of Aristotle opens with these words: 

To satisfy this common urge the unfolding human intellect has explored the extremities of imaginable space outside and the extremities of imaginable space within, searching for a relationship between the one and the all; the grand effect and the cause; the spirit and the substance of the spirit; the illusion and that which we may effectively label as the reality. 

Regarding reality a little closer to home, Plato wrote: "He who has not even a knowledge of common things is a brute among men. He who has an accurate knowledge of human concerns alone is a man among brutes. But he who knows all that can be known by intellectual energy, is a God among men." 

Essentially our role in the natural world is determined by the quality of the thoughts we consider. If our minds are enslaved to bestial instincts we are on par with the brute. Those whose rational faculties ponder domestic human affairs belong to the category of common man or common woman (i.e., ordinary, average); but those whose intellects are elevated to the consideration of higher realities is already a demigod, for this individual's mind is in proximity to the luminosity his or her reason has considered. 

In other words, the grander our thoughts, the closer our minds to the grandeur we call existence. In his encomium of "the science of the sciences" Cicero exclaims: "O philosophy, life's guide! O searcher-out of virtue and expeller of vices! What could we and every age of men have been without thee? Thou has produced cities; thou hast called men scattered about into the social enjoyment of life." 

In other words, we would be lost without the ability to philosophize, organize, categorize, rationalize, consider, and then act in relation to those summations. But unless you're speaking with a professor of philosophy, the word philosophy has little meaning in modern society. Even among philosophers it has little meaning unless accompanied by some other qualifying term. 

Philosophy is the proverbial elephant one must eat one bite at a time. (Creighton William Abrams, Jr.), which means: Start small. 

The whole of philosophy is broken up into numerous isms; each more concerned with disproving each other's fallacies than considering the sublimer issues of cosmic order and humanity's role (or, lack thereof) in it. Ideally philosophy is to serve as the stabilizing influence in human thought. By virtue of its intrinsic nature philosophy should prevent the mind from establishing unreasonable codes of life. 

Genis Carreras

Philosophers and philosophy students delve headfirst into narrow paths which are supposed to illuminate the straight path of rational thinking, but really most just get lost in a Wonderland of their own making, without understanding the overall map and its outstanding systems of philosophic discipline which have kept philosophers questioning since ancient times (some twenty-seven centuries). 

So, Avatar Alice, where do we begin? 

Aristotle &
The Seven Immortals
Walk into a Bar

Or, so the story goes, according to the Greek busybody Diogenes Laertius: 

Feeling parched, Thales, Solon, Chilon, Pittacus, Bias, Cleobulus, and Periander decided to go to a local tavern in Turkey. Wet-blanket Thales wanted a glass of water, served in a tall glass with a little floating boat umbrella: "To replicate the primal principle or element, upon which the earth itself floats like a ship. Look ... If I shake my glass, the little quakes hitting the edges of my glass are the result of this universal sea."  
"Oh, Thales, give it a rest, already!" exclaims Anaximander, the first of the last Ionian philosophers (Anaximenes, Anaxogoras, and Archelaus). That joke was dead in the water when the Ionic school ended. 


The Greek school of philosophy had its inception when upon the seven immortalized thinkers the appellation of Sophos, "the wise" was first conferred. 

"Soph?" asked Avatar Alice, "Are you named after the Sophos?" 

"The Sophos had an empty spot on their bench, I just sat down," said Soph. "I guess you could say that my mind is in proximity to the luminosity their reason has considered." 

And with that, Soph laughed, and is still Laughing. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Avatar Alice & Wittgenstein's Humor Challenge

Plato regarded philosophy as the greatest good ever imparted by Divinity to man. And how could he not? The evolution of philosophy is the evolution of the history of human thought, in all its glory. 

In our last post, we compared the six (6) disciplines of philosophy (metaphysics, logic, ethics, psychology, epistemology, and aesthetics) to Transformers. Why, you ask? 

Just to see if we could, I say. 

Random Explanation:

If we imagine the process of coming into conscious awareness, and start with basic human curiosity, our questioning might land us in the realm of metaphysics, a place where early ruminations on what's actually going on start bubbling forth in our brains. 

We trace these thoughts through their many cycles, all the way from early childhood until middle life, a place where our experiences and relational viewpoints are typically heightened (or dulled), and then we arrive to a few final summations, sometimes remarking: "I better write this down before I die" - a meta-concept if ever there were one, that basically takes into account our most profound or relevant life epiphanies, transcribed with the flavor our lifetimes have afforded them. 

In this sense metaphysics are those first "why" questions we ask; then later on, those devastating "I'm actually going to die" recognitions and, if we're lucky, those "I might not know what's going on, but it doesn't mean I can't have fun" declarations.


It is here where we make a choice: "Steal the Declaration of Independence, or live our our lives wondering." 

This type of cognitive evaluation leads us to the domain of logic. With our THINKING CAPS fully fastened, we ponder about like a Classic Pong, wondering: "What is the right thing to do?" 

This is where our learned values, morals and judgments (ethics) chime in. Our opinions of right and wrong form the basis of our psychological judgments (psychology) of our self in relation to others. The systems and methods we adopt (epistemology) become the ways by which we engage with knowledge and the world. 

The longer we live, the more refined or stagnant our methods and responses become, the more our tastes, judgments, and modes of expression define our unicity. Our creative expression is what the world ultimately sees (aesthetics). 

That which we express can be a thing of beauty, a thing of truth, or a unique blend of authentic expressions packaged up into modernisms that convey a universe of sentiment onto a single apple. 

I imagine both Socrates and Plato would have laughed had they the opportunity to see a painting of this nature. Instead, they laughed at Sophists. Even though philosophy eventually became a ponderous and complicated structure of arbitrary and irreconcilable notions, each was indeed substantiated by almost incontestable logic. The lofty theorems of the old Academy which Iamblichus liked to the nectar and ambrosia of the gods, have been re-molded by Play-Toh resembling opinion - 

which, of course, Heraclitus declared to be a failing sickness of the mind. Convincing evidence of the increasing superficiality of modern scientific and philosophic thought is persistent throughout this blog, as well as in philosophy's formal drift towards materialism. 

When Napoleon called out that great astronomer Laplace for not mentioning God in his Traité de la Méchanique Céleste, the mathematician brilliantly replied: 

"Sire, I had no need for that hypothesis!" 

Brilliant or naïve, 
we may never know.

In his treatise on Atheism, Sir Francis Bacon tersely summarizes the situation thus: "A little philosophy inclineth a man's mind to atheism; but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to religion." 

In 2011, when I conceived: 'The Punchline Theory of Humor', I had no idea that six years later I would return to it, to take up Wittgenstein's humor challenge. Before, I demolished it in sprinkles, unicorns, and rainbows - just because I could. 

Armed with the map of where my own thoughts and experiences on the philosophy of humor have traveled, follow me if you want to take a deeper dive. 

Just for giggles

Alice from the Looking Glass is a charming and fearless girl explorer. The Avatar is an enlightened being that aims to bring unity to opposing thought systems, if only to make clear what seems irreconcilable. Together, Avatar Alice sees Wittgenstein's Humor Challenge and raises him her entire court. 

Avatar Alice