The UM Philosophy Society Blog

Monday, August 30, 2004


If you are in love, you will find a way to see her.
The same is true of wisdom--for true philosophers.
This is to be read in light of my struggle to pursue philosophy.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

I quit drinking. At least until I regain control over my use.


Friday, August 27, 2004

I Get It Too... Sort of.

A bit on how my understanding of philosophy and life has developed, especially since emerging from philosophical studies - by Justin Whitaker

It has amazed me a bit that now that I'm done (sort of) with my Philosophy degree, things seem to be making more sense on a global level. I also have a feeling that I will need to come back to Philosophy (I'm taking a 10 month hiatus for an MA in Buddhist Studies and maybe on to a Ph.D. to follow that) if this new sense is to be made into anything concrete in the world of Philosophy.

It reminds me of the scene in the movie Pi where Max visits his older friend, telling him that he's on the brink of something. His friend sees his manic gestures and tells him to relax - He told him the story of Archimedes, the great Greek mathematician. In the story Archimedes is asked by King Hiero II to determine whether a crown he has is real gold. Archimedes trys everything he can think of, for hours, days he examines the crown and assorted metals - he simply cannot find a definitive difference. Finally, his wife sees him and orders him to relax and draws him a bath. As Archimedes sank into the water he noticed that his body caused displacement, sending the water over the edges. This was the insight Archimedes needed to see that the crown should not only weigh its worth in gold but also displace the same volume as equal weight of gold would. He was so exited he ran through the streets naked the King's palace naked screaming "Eureka" which means "I've found it." He needed perspective!

So, too, we philosophers need perspective. After being face to face with this theory and that, this great philosopher and that one - stepping back we see the connections. Too often we choose one theory, one philosopher and say, "ahh.. this is correct, the others are all wrong." Then we can stare, cheek to cheek with other admirers, and revel in the greatness of some thought. But to those with perspective we are nit-wits, as idiotic as the next group of narrow-visioned zealots.

Of course it doesn't help to simply say, "I have perspective" as a way to avoid looking closely, either! A murky understanding of it all is no better than a great understanding of but a little. Like the Gestalt image of two faces/a vase (or goblet). .

We must see each image (within/close up), and see the Truth of the whole image. Perhaps a piece on the Zen Koan is in order... another day. - Justin

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Rebelling Against Soundbytes with Soundbytes

I am not a word.
I am not a sentence.
I Am Not a Soundbyte.
Not even a paragraph, I am a book, a library.
May you read me.

I Get It...

I am starting to understand the titles of some great books of philosophy. Phenomenology of Spirit, of Perception, of this, of that. Hegel was obsessed with human interactions and hence history. Ponty dug deeper. Others have gone in other directions of existence...


One of these days I will figure out how to make this site sign my name at the bottom of a posting. Justin you should do the same.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Looking Inside

So I look inside and I see a secret.
I look inside and I feel the crest of a wave.
The wave crashes onto the secret and washes it into the see.
Later I find myself in the ebb with the secret.

Why Philosophia?

Just some initial thoughts on the wonder and beauty of Philosophy, the love of wisdom, by Justin Whitaker.

How big are you? How big is your world? Professor David Sherman begins his existentialism course by drawing a line all the way across a 40 foot marker-board. If this line represents the history of the planet, where are you? He points to the far end, "a speck." Not even a pinhead, smaller than that - a fraction of a pinhead. This is your life, this is how big you are.

But you know that you are bigger than that. You have freedom. You have power OVER history; you are not just a speck within it. The question you will hopefully ask is, "what does this power, this freedom, mean?" and "How do I best use it?" Those who do not are overcome by history, forgotten soon after or even before their death. Those who make this question the axis around which their life revolves never succumb to the will of history.

Of course Hegel and Marx, two of our greatest Philosophers, would disagree with this. They held that we are born in the throws of historical circumstances and can never truly break free. Maybe they are right. Even if they are though, this is no excuse for mediocrity; as each of these men themselves personify the power which one man may yield over historical circumstances. Even if they did not break free, surely they rose to the very crest of the historical wave, something I urge you to do as well.

The water is thick, I am heavy. How can I rise? Surely no great man or woman has been given a free pass to the top of the wave. Each must overcome great obstacles: material accumulation, flattery, jealousy, enemies, sensual pleasures, and more. Nietzsche said, "Socrates was ugly," noting that his (Socrates') philosophy represented the demise of the beautiful Athenian culture. Socrates didn't have to worry so much about the sensual pleasures (in his day that amounted to wooing young boys). While the handsomer men were off in the woods with the lads, Socrates was contemplating knowledge, politics, religion, and ultimately his own eventual death.

Perhaps he was lucky to be ugly. To die peacefully, to accept it, to welcome it; these are perhaps the ultimate goals of philosophy. Too often death seizes us, we fight, and with agony we lose. From the top of the wave, however, death is seen and understood for what it is, a moment in the process which began at our birth. No great man or woman fears death. To fear death is to deny life, and our life is too precious to be denied even for a second.

So rise up! Ask the questions, ask them every moment you can until they become central to your existence. In Buddhism there is the constant analogy of looking in vs. looking out. A big problem is that people spend their lives looking out while they have a big mess they need to look at within. New neuroscientific evidence (and the whole of phenomenological philosophy) shows that our perceptions (looking out) are always influenced by what is going on inside (our imagination). If we never get clear on the inside, we never see things correctly on the outside.

So you ask these simple questions and you think about them, as a way to look inside. Every time you look outside afterward, the world becomes a little clearer (you're moving up in the wave). Eventually, and this takes extraordinary concentration and practice, you see that what is inside is nothing other than history itself. You see that you are not a speck on the end of that long line, but the entirety of whole line! In Freudian terms, your ego-clinging is overcome; in Sartrian terms you have perfect freedom; in Buddhist terms you have seen your own emptiness; in Christian or Hindu terms you have realized your oneness with God; in Hegelian terms you have reached the crest of history's wave. It's all the same - now think about it.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004


My new friend Brandon Shimoda helped me create the blog for the Philosophy Society. You will surely hear more soon.