The Dying Murderer

XIR24990One of my students in Greek Philosophy, discussing the Stoic ideal of accepting fate, said that when she was growing up she heard a story about a boy whose entire family was murdered.  After spending his life searching for the murderer, the boy, now a man, found the murderer was about to die.

The murderer begged the man to kill him and end his suffering, but the man refused to punish the murderer.  Now the man wondered why he had spent his life trying to kill his family’s murderer when time was already going to do it for him.

The Groundless Grounds of Wittgenstein & Heidegger

Groundless Gounds A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger Lee BraverA friend of mine recently brought Lee Braver’s book Groundless Grounds: A Study of Wittgenstein and Heidegger (2012) to my attention, and I must say, it is so far an incredible book.  In the introduction, Braver sets out the overall frame of the book, which should be of some interest to anyone concerned with the similarities of the early work of Heidegger and the later work of Wittgenstein:

Both Heidegger and Wittgenstein argue that philosophy that suspends our activity in the world, taking a disengaged theoretical stance, is a problem (Ch 1).  Both argue that this problematic view comes about by conceiving of things as changeless, self-contained objects (Ch 2).  For Heidegger, this is the “present-at-hand”.  For W, it is atomism and private language.  Such bare inert objects do not give us a proper and full view of human life and meaning.  Both argue that we need to see things as holistic and interdependent (Ch 3).  While reality has been primarily understood in terms of knowledge, thought rests on non-rational and unjustified socialization, which includes our spontaneous and responsive activity (Ch 4).  This new conception of thought has particular ramifications, calling into question the Law of Non-Contradiction (Wittgenstein) and the Principle of Reason (Heidegger) (Ch 5).  Our lack of justification in thought does not make thinking worthless.  Rather, it shows us what we take as “groundless grounds”, what we rely upon even if it is always somewhat and in some ways unreliable.

Racism & Protest

ferguson missouriAs the news was unfolding about protests in Ferguson, Missouri yesterday, I was reading my Ethics students’ papers about social issues, including racism.  One of my students shared a personal story that was powerful, and I asked her if I could share it with future classes.  I am going to share it with you all as well.

civil rights imageAs a student in college years ago, she took a job at the college gym.  Her supervisor told her that if anyone came into the gym who looked like they did not belong there, she should walk over and offer them a tour, as this often discouraged trouble makers. As a black woman, this troubled her, as she had many experiences feeling unwelcome and suspect, and she asked her supervisor what qualified people as “not-belonging”.  Her supervisor told her that she would just know.  Feeling uncomfortable with this task, she opted out of the job.

protest ferguson hands up don't shootWeeks later, she returned to the gym to exercise, and a student-worker stopped her and asked her if she wanted a tour.  When she became angry, and demanded to know why she was being stopped, the worker called the campus police, and she was barred from the gym.

Her protest was seen as proof that she did not belong.