Moral Skepticism and the Foundations of Morality

Like most of my books, my books on meta-ethics are in storage. But was very interested in meta-ethics. In fact, the first iteration of my MA thesis was on meta-ethics. I was thinking about the foundations of morality today. I can’t say I have any answers–for all the searching I’ve done.

But my thesis was originally on value pluralism.

Emotions

I have been thinking about emotions lately. Specifically, whether and what they tell us. Emotions have been given a bad rap among some, but I have come to the conclusion that they are tied to the beliefs we have.

I have said previously that I don’t experience anger. And I don’t. So I don’t know what cognitive content anger has. Most times I have seen anger, I have thought it irrational. There may be such a thing as “justified anger,” but I don’t know.

If I love you, for example, I probably have some knowledge and beliefs about you. I could be incorrect. But these are the beliefs I have. (Note: I’m not an expert on philosophy of love and friendship.)

I see, recently, many people expressing emotions. I think these emotions tell us something. They tell us about the beliefs they have and the knowledge they have.

So, while emotions may have been given a bad rap as something to be quelled if we are to be “rational,” I think emotions are intimately tied to our knowledge and beliefs. I’m open to other suggestions, but that’s where I’m at right now.

Kierkegaard

Anyone who knows me knows I was sort of obsessed with Kierkegaard as an undergraduate. And, after undergrad, I took a year off to study both Kierkegaard and skepticism. I don’t really do philosophy anymore, but Kierkegaard came to mind today.

One of his seminal works is Fear and Trembling. I’m not a Kierkegaard expert, but I do know that this book has been important to me. Others find it perplexing.

I haven’t read Fear and Trembling for several years now and my copy is in storage. But Fear and Trembling tells the story of Issac and Abraham. The book focuses on Abraham and his choice to sacrifice his son–who he loved most in the world–because of God’s command. This choice and the feelings that came with it, along with the ethical dimensions of these choices, are the focus of the book.

The title of the book probably comes from Philippians 2:12:

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Kierkegaard was the father of existentialism. And I took a whole course on existentialism as an undergrad. The reference to Philippians has always been powerful to me. I try to understand it more almost every day.

Kierkegaard was difficult to understand and interpret because he used a method of indirect communication, dedicated his books to ‘that single individual’, and had a deep and abiding, if never consummated, love for Regine.

Once upon a time, I dreamed of going to Copenhagen to study Kierkegaard more in depth.

Our Herb Garden

A while ago–maybe two years now–we and our neighbors collaborated on an herb garden at our house. It’s a nice little place to sit and relax. There’s several herbs there and a bench. Our neighbor (and us) thought it would be nice to make it a community space.

Here you can see our potted herb garden. It’s little worse for wear because of the winter, but there’s plenty of mint, basil and more.

Here’s the bench. People sometimes come and sit for a while because…

…this is the message painted in front of the garden:

I often find inspiration sitting in the herb garden. I always wanted to bring a friend there to chat, but as yet I haven’t.

On Evil

As someone who studied ethics, I was interested in, of course, good and evil. Most people think of ethics as focusing only on good, but that’s not true. The fact is, evil perplexes me. I tried to study it as much as I could. I don’t think I studied as much as some other people I know, however, because I didn’t have the same opportunities.

But I have read about evil. I have studied dark periods of history, read philosophical treatises on evil, and more.

I’m pretty lucky to have not run across too many bad people in my life. All of my friends are good people. So I don’t have knowledge of evil first hand. Thankfully.

One of my favorite books on the topic, however, is a book entitled On Evil. This book lays out a theory of evil that is pretty compelling to me.

On Clothes

I never know what to wear. It’s true. I used to know what to wear, but now I don’t. Ever since I got sick, I don’t know what to wear.

Clothing is more complicated, I guess, than it seems. There’s so many styles. So many colors.

An old friend of mine said that in graduate school he found me attractive in part because I was so put together and dressed well.

It’s all gone down hill from there. I suppose sloppiness of dress is a symptom of schizophrenia and I’ve certainly had that at times.

I thought about this today as I was going through some clothes of mine. It would be nice to find a style that suits me and colors that look good on me once again. I feel like nothing I have fits me. Every time I wear anything, I feel like I’m lying to the world about who I am because there’s nothing that’s really “me.”

Reclaiming ‘Spinster’

The other day, I was with a friend at a coffee shop. I told her, “I’m a spinster.”

She said, “That’s not a feminist word.”

I said flatly, “I’m reclaiming it.”

The fact is, I have never been married and I don’t know if it will happen for me. A couple of people recently proposed to me, but I said no.

All of my friends have gotten married–some also got divorced. Even someone I know who I thought was against the whole concept of marriage recently got engaged.

So, I’m a spinster, I guess. We’ll just have to see whether I stay that way.

Love and Mercy

A while back, I read Brian Wilson’s new memoir, I Am Brian Wilson. I also watched the newest film based on his life, Love and Mercy.

The film could have been better, I thought. It’s difficult to depict mental illness in film. It’s very hard to show what struggling with mental illness is like.

But it was interesting nonetheless.

Counseling is for Everyone

The other day, I was with a friend who said I inspired him/her to go to counseling. This person seems well-adjusted and doesn’t have any mental illness that we know of. But it’s my opinion that everyone should get counseling just as everyone should go to the doctor.

Mental health is often treated differently than “physical” health and so the treatments are seen differently, too. But I think everyone should go to counseling no matter who they are.

So this is a win for me. I convinced someone to go to counseling.

A Year Without Makeup

I stopped wearing makeup about a year ago now. It’s been interesting. Before, I would never leave the house without being completely made up. Now, I leave the house however I feel like. This has been such a relief.

I think when I wore makeup, I had lower self-esteem. I may look less pretty than I used to, and I may have gained some weight, but my self-esteem has improved dramatically.

I stopped wearing makeup because (1) It’s expensive and (2) Because I have sensitive skin, which was irritated by the makeup.

It’s been about a year now and I can’t imagine wearing makeup anymore. It’s so freeing to not have to wear it. I know I’m probably not the most beautiful woman in the world, but covering myself up was symbolic, I think. I think I was ashamed of myself. Now, I go “naked” and I don’t care what people think.

“Still Waters Run Deep”

I’ve always been a quiet person. Sometimes, I’ve been chastised for this from people seeking more “personality.” But I’m actually pretty comfortable with myself. Very comfortable, actually.

I’m a content person most of the time and I don’t have wild emotions. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anger. Truly. I don’t know what it’s like to feel anger.

Having studied emotion, I suppose I could estimate that those emotions are essential to the human condition. But I lack them, I guess. And I’m pretty stoic in the philosophical sense. As in, the Ancient Stoics.

I was talking about these differences with a friend today. This friend has to actively subdue wild emotions so s/he doesn’t do anything irrational. Now, I’ve done irrational things, but that’s when I’ve been psychotic. And I guess most people don’t know what it’s like to become psychotic. So we’re even.

My dad, who I’ve been thinking about a lot recently, was a perceptive person and he noted my calm and stillness from childhood. He always told me, “Still waters run deep.” And my inability to feel anger has actually helped me in many endeavors.

UPDATE: If you are interested in some of the latest philosophical work on emotion–and specifically anger–check out Martha Nussbaum’s new book.

Ex-May on the Olitics-Pay

One of the things I specialized in during my MA program was political philosophy. As such, I’ve been very politically active and have written a bunch of political stuff. I’d be one of those people one could consider as expert–not just a lay-person. My focus during both undergrad and grad school was ethics and political philosophy. I’ve been lucky to work on very good projects in those areas, too.

However, I’ve always been a reluctant participant in politics, both academically and practically. I know, I know: It’s important. If you don’t do politics, it does you. And most of my friends would consider this particular time the prime time to be involved in politics. I don’t disagree with those assessments. It’s just that I currently have a different way of doing things.

Most of my friends–and these would be the real experts, who I defer to–think this is a time to resist the rise of fascism. My resistance is different. I’m going to try to focus on my health and relationships. I’m going to practice corporeal politics by actually meeting people and getting out more. That’s the best thing I can do right now. And I’m going to work on some skills I developed and happen to be good at.

It’s a little impossible to be totally apolitical, I suppose. I’m not aiming for that, anyway. I just decided to tone down my involvement for several personal reasons. We’ll see if that works out. Every time I tell myself I’m going to quit politics, I end up getting very involved in something.

I have given politics a rest ever since the electoral college voted. Let’s see if I can keep it up.

Living Openly with Schizophrenia

In case you haven’t noticed, I live openly with schizophrenia. I came out publicly to all my friends and everyone in my life over a year ago. I was welcomed warmly. I thought I would lose friends, but I didn’t. That just goes to show what great friends I have.

It’s always difficult meeting new people, though, and telling them. One never knows how they will react. There’s a bunch of stereotypes and misconceptions about schizophrenia that people have.

One thing I often worry about is dating with schizophrenia. I read a study that 70% of people would not marry someone with schizophrenia. So far, so good, though.

I know it probably seems like I function pretty well because I can write. But I do live with daily struggles, and have a new treatment plan for this year, which I am planning to follow. I have never had to manage a serious health condition before. Growing up, I was always pretty healthy. But I’m getting a handle on it.

Right now, I don’t work. Every time I have tried to work–eight times, since becoming ill–I have ended up in the hospital. My doctors don’t think I can handle the stress of working.

Coming out publicly about my living with schizophrenia was one of the best things for me. I couldn’t keep such a huge secret and major part of my life from my friends. It was too much of a burden. I know other people keep quiet about their illness, but coming out was the best decision for me.

Coffee Redux

Phew. I went and had coffee with my friend. It took a lot out of me. I’m an introvert, for one thing. For another, I’m ill.* I’m used to spending time with just a few people and other introverts. But it was nice. We already made plans to do a lot of things together.

Fortunately, my friends don’t mind me having budget issues to deal with. The friend I met with yesterday suggested many, many free or cheap things to do together. Plus, my friend says they have fun doing small things. I do, too, honestly. So, stay tuned. I’ll be posting about my adventures as they come.

 

*People with schizophrenia usually have issues with socialization and getting out. I certainly have. That’s one reason why one of my goals this year is to try to get out and socialize more.

Socialization on a Budget

I admit it. I’ve become somewhat of a hermit. This past year was rough for me in several ways and I stayed in a lot.

This year, I’ve decided one of my goals is to get out more. I’ve made several new friends and I want to do things with them. But it’s difficult on the budget I have. I know people who are much more well-off than me and I simply cannot afford to do the things they do. But I am determined to do what I can. So, today I’m having coffee with a friend I made recently. We are going some place close to me because, having no car, I can’t travel very far. But I can get to the place we arranged and I have enough to buy a coffee for myself.

I hope to enjoy a few hours with my friend and have great conversation. Here’s to 2017’s new goals.

Nature Photography

I live with my family in a house on a lake. The back yard is mostly wetlands, and we were told last year (2016) that the lake and wetlands are now a protected environment.

Living in a rustic-type atmosphere is good for me. According to studies, people are more likely to develop psychotic symptoms in urban environments. And, in fact, I had my first psychotic break when I was living in Jacksonville, Florida–a large, urban city.

Because we have been told our lands are protected, we do little to most of it. If you love well-manicured lawns, our house is not for you. We let the majority of it–the protected parts–go back to their original state. This is good for me because one of the my therapeutic hobbies is photography. Now, I’m not saying I’m particularly good at it. I simply enjoy doing it. It relaxes me. It keeps me in a calm, steady state.

Every day, I go outside to look around and see what I can photograph. There’s usually tons of flowers I can shoot. It’s winter now, so the flowers are less than the rest of the year, but there’s still some.

Here’s a picture of the wetlands.

Wetlands are a delicate, essential part of the environment.

Here’s a picture of a flower I took on 1/1/2017:

I’m not sure what kind of flower this is, but I’m pretty sure most people would consider it a weed. If you dislike weeds, you’d dislike our yard. The only real modification we do is get rid of invasive species when we identify them.

New Year’s Day

I had a good New Year’s Eve. But on New Year’s Day, it’s time to spend time with my family. We have a tradition. Maybe you do, too. We always eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day for good luck.

Here’s hoping 2017 is full of great things for us all.

Quote of the Year

I read a lot this year. Probably too much. I also wrote a lot. Writing is therapeutic for me. One quote I came across this year sums up my position this year–and probably for years to come. It’s from Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile:

I am not a great philosopher, and I care little to be one. But I sometimes have good sense, and I always love the truth.

This year, with the release of my book, I said my farewell to philosophy and academia.

 

Last Shot of Abilify for the Year

This morning, I went and got my final shot of Abilify for the year. They always switch between arms. First, the left arm. Then, the right. Today, it was the right arm.

I used to not like getting shots, but I have grown accustomed to it with Abilify. And, anyway, like I told my nurse today, getting a shot is a small price to pay for keeping me healthy.

The Abilify Maintaina shot, which is what I get, can seem scary, though. The injection itself is very large and looks like it would be more of a horse shot. My nurse tells me that the Abilify shot is more effective than the pill, however. I’m glad to take it and glad it has kept me out of the hospital.

New Year, New Dress

To celebrate one year of being out of the hospital–and the new year–I got myself a new dress. It may be hard to tell the texture and shine on this dress in the video, but it’s really a pretty dress.

An End of the Year Thank You

I’ve been on the internet for several years, but have only had my own real estate for a couple of years now. I have brothers in the tech industry. They have helped me with my site.

I enjoy having a blog, and I must say that I’m surprised by how many people show up. Thank you.

Since I started my blog, I have had 19,601 unique visitors. While not many people comment, some of you have contacted me privately. I thank you for that.

The reason I bring up my internet connections is because today a friend I made online who lives in Canada sent me some calendars for the New Year. I appreciate my good connections, and have rarely had bad online experiences.

So, thank you all for showing up and coming back. It makes me happy.

Books, Books, Books

It shouldn’t have surprised my parents that I grew up to be somewhat of an academic. After all, I grew up in a household where both my parents were always reading, learning, and encouraging us kids to do the same. My dad was very bright. So is my mom.

These days, I am surrounded by books. All kinds of books. Some of them are mine, but most of them are my mom’s, as most of my books–and there are many of them–are in storage.

I woke up this morning thinking about books. I have worked on several of them, and have now written a short one of my own.

It used to be that the very best gift a person could get me was a gift card for Barnes and Noble. I just loved reading. I loved books. And I got that from my parents.

However, now that Christmas is over–and having gotten no books or gift cards for books–I have found that I’ve expanded my experiences to doing more than reading. I guess it’s all part of trying to be well-rounded.

Yellow Rose of Texas

Today, I have been thinking about my dad. He died 10 years ago; in 2006. My dad was an interesting man. One time, he wrote the story of his life for me. It was an interesting life. My dad was like a Navy Seal. But that was back before there was such a thing as Navy Seals. He had a bunch of war stories, but never really talked to me about too many of them.

My dad treated me very well. One of the few things I have from him is a coffee cup he got for me a very long time ago. I keep it with all of my special treasures. He used to call me his little, yellow rose because I have blonde hair and always have. The song “The Yellow Rose of Texas” was his song for me because I was born in Texas.

I buried my dad in Dallas-Fort Worth, giving him a full military-style funeral. I think my dad was always very proud of me.

Reflecting on 2016

For many, 2016 was a bad year. In fact, it’s become an internet meme that 2016 was so bad.

For me, at least one good thing happened: I managed to stay out of the hospital for the whole, entire year. That is a feat. I’ve been taking Abilify, and while it has some side effects, like weight gain, it has been much better to me than many of the other drugs I have tried. I managed, this year, through everything, to stay focused on my health and maintain my medical treatment.

That is the good thing, to me, about 2016. And it’s no small thing. One year out of the hospital is a milestone. So, I decided I’m going to celebrate all the way this New Year.

Of course, other good things happened. I got published in several places. I did manage to lose some weight.

Some bad things happened, too. I suffered through a break-up that I’m not completely over yet.

But, all in all, it was a good year for me.

So, Obama Emailed Me

I recently contacted the White House regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline. I asked Obama to oppose it, specifically. Today, I got a letter from him via email. He didn’t come out to oppose the pipeline exactly. Here’s what he had to say:

 

Thank you for writing, and for your thoughtful input. As President, my greatest responsibility is ensuring the safety of the American people, including when it comes to our Nation’s energy infrastructure. My Administration is setting the highest possible standards for oil and gas production and transportation, and each day we are working to make sure our pursuit of energy resources does not put our communities at risk. That work includes steps the Army has committed to taking in light of important issues raised about the Dakota Access pipeline.

I understand the risks associated with the development and transportation of fossil fuels, which is why my Administration has overhauled Federal oversight and raised the bar on safety across the board. As part of our efforts to improve Federal permitting and review processes, we are making safe pipeline infrastructure a priority in order to help ensure the health and security of our communities and the environment.

As new energy infrastructure is developed, the Federal Government will continue working with State, local, and tribal governments—which play a central role in the siting and permitting of pipelines—to address the concerns of local communities. One of my priorities as President is upholding an honest and respectful relationship with Native American tribes, and we have made a lot of progress in restoring ancestral lands, waters, and sacred sites over the past 8 years. My Administration also remains committed to consulting with tribes to ensure meaningful tribal input is factored into infrastructure-related decisions across the Federal Government. In the weeks ahead, Departments and Agencies will meet with tribal leaders across the country in a series of formal consultations on this issue.

Again, thank you for writing. I hear you, and I am optimistic that together, we can grow our economy and create new opportunities while securing a cleaner and safer future for all our people.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

My Prized Possession

I worked on the book Reading Barnard Williams (Routledge Press). I edited the work of Martha Nussbaum and Carol Rovane. The Editor of the whole project, Daniel Callcut, called me “a superb research assistant” in the acknowledgements section of the book. He also gave me a copy of the book, which he inscribed a comment to me on the first page of the book. I keep this page framed along with my prized possessions.

It says, “Jennie, One of my smartest students…ever. Good luck with everything and very fond best wises, Dan”

Meditation on Creativity: National Poetry Day

Recently, I was honored to be told by someone (several times) that I am creative.

I certainly do appreciate the arts and have won awards in poetry and prose.

Today is National Poetry Day and it’s hard for me to list my favorite poems or poets. I love Plath, Ginsberg, Nash, Whitman, and more.

All of these people have shaped my thinking and my creativity.

Today, take the time to read or listen to a poem.

 

Graduate Studies

Sometimes people ask me what I studied in graduate school. I focused primarily on Ethics and Political Philosophy. Here’s what I studied:

GRADUATE COURSES and READING GROUPS:

Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I had a wonderful, relaxing day. In the evening, my family took me out for dinner. We had Chinese.

Fortune Cookie

Activism Skills

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to write down the skills I have gained as an activist and try to incorporate them into my resume. Here’s a short list of skills I have developed from my activism work:

  • Campaign strategy and planning
  • Building a movement and organizing in community
  • Campaign communication: face to face mobilization
  • Media skills and social media
  • Lobbying skills
  • Meeting facilitation and participatory decision-making
  • Fundraising skills
  • Action and event planning

UPDATE: Here‘s an article by Microsoft’s Lisa Brummel on the undervalued skill of social activism.

What I’ve Been Doing

For the past month or so, I have been involved in the movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline. I have done many things with this movement, and wish to incorporate my activities into my professional experiences. As you will see in my previous post, I wrote a Letter to the Editor which was published in the Daytona Beach News Journal.

In addition to fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline, I have also started doing editing work for a Basic Income website. I haven’t done as much work on this as I would have hoped because the Dakota Access Pipeline movement got in the way of that, but I have edited a couple of pieces on Basic Income.

I have been wondering about how to incorporate my volunteer and activism experiences into my resume. I will be doing that soon.

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