Note: The proper Danish pronunciation of his name is “sorn KEER-ke-go.”

“The highest and most beautiful things in life are not to be heard about, nor read about, nor seen but, if one will, are to be lived.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

July is graduation time at my university and our department honored our 63 BA, 11 MA, and 4 PhD graduates. In classic British tradition, the ceremony was formal and scripted with pomp and circumstance. The officials processed in (led by the university mace). Speeches were made. Names were announced one by one and graduands walked across the stage to…


“We must, therefore, pursue the things that make for happiness, seeing that when happiness is present, we have everything; but when it is absent, we do everything to possess it.” – Epicurus

Epicurus (341–270 BCE) is one of the major philosophers in the Hellenistic period, the three centuries following the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C.E. The philosophy of Epicurus was a complete and interdependent system, involving a view of the goal of human life (happiness, resulting from absence of physical pain and mental disturbance), an empiricist theory of knowledge (sensations, together with the perception of pleasure and…


Slouching toward mediocrity?

Behold The Memeocene. Dialogue and politics are dead and we killed them.

As human population and technology grows, there is increasing talk that we have entered a new epoch — the anthropocene or epoch of humans. The idea behind the appellation is that the Earth–its biology and geology–is being altered by human activity. There is merit to such an idea. True, humans are altering the planet geologically and ecologically, but humanity itself is being altered by another factor, and there should be a name for this new epoch of humanity: the Memeocene.

In the 16th century, the…


Philosophy Is a Quest

Many people, because they’ve been allowed so little experience with philosophy, have a negative view of it. They see philosophy as the obscure arcane thoughts of odd reclusive men from bygone times. They see the study of philosophy as dusting off moldy ideas that have little relevance to their daily lives.

Literally, the word “philosophy” comes from the Greek words philo (“love”) and sophia (“wisdom”). Thus, the label philosophy means “the love of wisdom.” Clearly though, the act of philosophy is much more than simply loving wisdom. It is something deeper, broader, and more involved. Many…


Ever since Descartes published his book Meditations he has been accused of committing a fallacy of circular reasoning with his argument that God is the guarantor of the truth of our belief in an external world. Descartes’ argument has ever since been derided as the “Cartesian Circle.” The problem is that the so-called “Cartesian Circle” is a misrepresentation of what Descartes is actually arguing.

The accusation against Descartes is that he asserts that the existence of God verifies that clear and distinct ideas must be true. …


Social recognition among individuals and groups is what keeps together communities. Without it, struggles for justice and freedom are impossible. All of those struggles include the struggle for the authority and power to claim recognition.

Excerpt from the book, Rethinking Misrecognition and Struggles for Recognition: Critical Theory Beyond Honneth. Used with the permission of the publisher.

Because recognition is a specific response to how a specific individual is, the question arises as to who has the authority to recognize another, and what is the authority that sets the standards for recognition norms? The temptation is to say that social institutions…


What are they trying to gain?

Dying one’s hair is changing one’s appearance. Why would someone do that? Is it as simple a matter as changing one’s shirt? What is really going on when people dye their hair?

When we consider what clothing to wear, we consider practical matters and appearance. On the one hand, we wear more or less clothing depending on the temperature and perhaps a raincoat if it is raining. That’s being practical. On the other hand, we wear particular styles and colors of clothing because we want to appear a certain way, even if it is only to please ourselves. …


How to best teach philosophy so students can understand and appreciate its importance.

One of the biggest challenges for philosophy professors is reaching students who have little to no background or interest in philosophy. In the US, philosophy is seldom taught in high school and many students see a college Intro to Philosophy course as nothing but a general distribution requirement to get out of the way as quickly and painlessly as possible. Knowing this, most intro textbooks approach students with a dumbed-down, jazzed up, collection of “hey kids, look at this wild idea.” …


Units of Time Are Arbitrary

In the Gregorian calendar, 1 January marks the new year. It is not the new year in the dozens of other calendars that exist. This is not insignificant. Although the “new year” is celebrated with fanfare and increased alcohol consumption, aside from hangovers absolutely nothing changes between 31 December and 1 January. Nature does not know that it is a new year, nor does it care. Even if we humans care about delineating a new year there is nothing that indicates that 1 January should be the first day of a new year. Why not on August 1? Why not…


This is a very interesting and profound question that speaks to morality and human nature. As with all good philosophical questions, answering it requires challenging our preconceptions.

Did Hitler know that he was bad? Well, do we know he was bad? Do we know anyone is good or bad? Great philosophical questions, but let’s avoid getting bogged down in wondering whether we have knowledge of moral truths. Let’s agree that Hitler was a very bad man. When I took ethics at university, the professor said that if your ethical system doesn’t condemn Hitler, you need a new one. I’ve long…

Douglas Giles, PhD

Philosophy professor reaching out beyond the ivory tower. elmhurst.academia.edu/DouglasGiles. I also run WorldFusionRadio.com and InsertPhilosophyHere.com.

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