Being ‘Extra’ and Mental Illness

Today I had a discussion in which I learned a new term: Extra. As in, “My mom is being so extra today!”

This term came up as I was discussing the Cognitive View of things like paranoia. On this view, almost everyone experiences slight paranoia at times. But for some people, such as those diagnosed with psychosis, paranoia is more pervasive and outstanding.

My interlocutor said it’s like being extra.

When I looked up the term ‘extra’, I noticed it has some negative connotations in some definitions. Set those aside for a moment and consider: Having a psychotic disorder is just falling in the 3% mark on the bell curve. One is not an alien. One is not a monster. One is not a different species. Paranoia is a normally occurring thing in the human species but happens, in a small percentage, to be severe and pervasive in only some.

It’s like having a little extra. Or being a little extra.

So, next time you think of someone with a mental illness, think of them as having the same qualities and experiences as you–but just a little extra.


Stoic Meditation: Being Among the Masses and Finding Oneself Among the Insane

Here’s a quote by Marcus Aurelius that I have gone back and forth about over the years. At times, I have thought he was correct. At times, I thought he was wrong.

I have looked into the context of this quote in the past, but today I have forgotten it. So I’m going to go with my own interpretation.

From a Stoic viewpoint, people are pushed and pulled by problematic emotions. Thing like fear, anxiety–and much more–are caused by a faulty interpretation of what are known as externals. Externals are, in general, things one cannot control and are beyond a person, but which people often think they can, in fact, control.

In modern terms, think of a person who experiences symptoms of OCD. They may have what are known as intrusive thoughts. Thoughts, as the Pearl Jam song says, arrive like butterflies. We often do not, on the modern understanding of such things, control many of our thoughts. However, a person who experiences intrusive thoughts may be disturbed by even having a thought and try to push the thought away. On the Cognitive Behavioral Model, this is why such an intrusive thought will come back stronger, more powerful and the individual will become increasingly disturbed.

That’s an extreme case of how things like externals that we cannot control cause things like fear and anxiety.

On the Stoic view, most people experience things like this, to a lesser extent, much of the time. The goal, for a Stoic, is to reach something like Stoic Calm–becoming a Sage and not bothered or disturbed by externals beyond one’s control.

When one does this, one is probably not going to find oneself among the masses, so Aurelius may be correct on this count. However, I do not know that one will find oneself among the insane, as currently understood, either. So the latter part of the quote may, in fact, be incorrect in clinical terms. One may, when one reaches Stoic Calm, seem odd or different to others, but that is not necessarily diagnosable.

What is clear is that reaching Stoic Calm is a lifelong process. Aurelius practiced every day for many, many years. That is why Stoicism is considered a philosophy that one practices rather than a mere esoteric intellectual exercise.

Will one, when one reaches the point where externals do not bother one anymore, find oneself among that ranks of the insane? I do not know. But what is clear is that one will no longer be among the masses.


Happy Belated Birthday Immanuel Kant

Yesterday was Kant’s birthday. I noticed, but didn’t mention it. I had nothing in particular to say, really.

Today is a different day. I have something to say.

I’m no Kant specialist, but over the years Kant has grown on me. When I was young and new to philosophy, I can admit I absolutely detested him. I was in favor of virtue ethics and saw, along with some others in that time period and earlier, Kantian ethics as antithetical to virtue ethics. (Setting aside pluralism about ethics, in which one or more theory can be correct and/or applied.)

These days, however, I’m settling down. I can appreciate Kant in all his glory. I can also appreciate the slogan Act according to the maxim you could will to be a universal law.

I see Kant as a super-important philosopher these days. In the past, I entertained him to, as I liked to say, “Keep me honest.” (Whether that actually kept me honest is a different story.) Today, however, even though I can’t say I know everything about Kant and I have only distilled him into a slogan here, I appreciate his, well, greatness. Particularly in ethics. (Don’t know tons about his other works, tbh.)

So, Happy Birthday, Immanuel Kant. These days, I appreciate you.


Philosophy and “The Good Place”: Hell Is Other People

It’s been a while since I watched Season One of The Good Place. I also put the whole series aside for a while. If others have mentioned this elsewhere or in the film, I offer my apologies.

I had been considering re-watching Season One today when I reflected upon themes in the show. It occurred to me that the philosophical notion not mentioned in Season One was at play.

That phrase?

Hell is other people.

In No Exit, which I confess to have read only once about 20 years ago, the characters in the play come to realize, like those in The Good Place Season One, that there is no torturer, no excruciating pain, in eternal damnation. Instead, Hell is other people.

In The Good Place, people grate on each other’s nerves, cause a ruckus and more. This is, for lack of a better term, crazy-making. Being put in the same environment with just the wrong sorts of people is Hell in itself.

There’s been a lot of philosophy talk surrounding The Good Place, but so far I haven’t seen anyone make this connection. Were I to teach Existentialism (which I’m not), I would most certainly make the connection to students because the concept Hell is other people is often misunderstood.


Real Life Logic: The Hasty Generalization

I thought I’d switch gears and talk a little bit about informal logic. Logic has never been my Area of Specialization, but it came to mind today and I did happen to teach sessions on informal logic to undergraduates and, when I graded those thousands of essays, I checked for informal fallacies.

Don’t anyone get their feathers rumpled! These reflections are based on a conversation I had several–and I mean, several–days ago. I wanted to write, however, about the hasty generalization.

Now, in philosophy, they try to help you reason clearly. In CBT, too, they try to eliminate fallacies and biases. So, this post does fit with my current theme of philosophy and mental health posts.

The hasty generalization is a fallacy in which one draws a conclusion that is not supported by the evidence or by unbiased evidence.

We don’t expect everyone to be a scientist, but scientists try to gather enough and the right sorts of evidence and draw the proper conclusions from such evidence. This is what makes science great and a great source of knowledge gathering.

In our everyday, lives, however, we often–and I mean, often–draw conclusions about things and people based on very limited and often biased evidence.

For example, people post certain things on social media. Quite often, they filter their lives, intentionally or not. When one does not have evidence beyond what is on social media, one may get the wrong impression of a person. So, your quirky uncle that you haven’t seen in eons may actually be a pretty normal guy who happens to post quirky memes.

We draw conclusions like this all the time.

There’s ramifications to this, however. You may decide your uncle is just too quirky for you and never see him. Worse, you may think all Black people are violent based on media portrayals and call the cops on an innocent Black person.

In short, there’s real life consequences to biased and fallacious thinking. That is why we try–emphasis on try–to avoid it.

As with any fallacy, critical thinking is key. One must look for evidence that does not support an already-held belief. One must look for unbiased sources in the media–or gather media information from several different sources. One must also gather enough evidence to even draw a conclusion.

Now, I’m certainly not the most perfect thinker, but I can appreciate, most of the time, clear and reasoned thinking. I hope you can, too, and, together, that we can try (as much as that is possible) to avoid fallacies like the hasty generalization.


The Ethics of Care

Conversations around the internet made me look up and read a little bit about Care Ethics. Even though most of my schooling focused on ethics, Care Ethics is not something I know a whole lot about. However, I thought it would be good to post it here. Here is a snippet from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

The moral theory known as “ the ethics of care” implies that there is moral significance in the fundamental elements of relationships and dependencies in human life. Normatively, care ethics seeks to maintain relationships by contextualizing and promoting the well-being of care-givers and care-receivers in a network of social relations. Most often defined as a practice or virtue rather than a theory as such, “care” involves maintaining the world of, and meeting the needs of, ourself and others. It builds on the motivation to care for those who are dependent and vulnerable, and it is inspired by both memories of being cared for and the idealizations of self. Following in the sentimentalist tradition of moral theory, care ethics affirms the importance of caring motivation, emotion and the body in moral deliberation, as well as reasoning from particulars.

As you can see, Care Ethics is especially useful when one has a child or other dependent, such as an elder parent.

I encourage you to read more about it!


Parents of Children With Anxiety Learn to Let Them Face Their Fears

Here’s a good story at NPR on parent training which helps children learn how to cope with anxiety.

A lot of times, a parent can unintentionally make symptoms worse. With training and understanding things like a different theoretical model of anxiety, parents can help to make things better for their child.

I have learned that with young children, it’s better to get this kind of support and face fears early in life and have kind, loving and supportive parents. This can sometimes mean the difference between a mild case of anxiety and a severe case as one gets older.

It turns out, on the Cognitive Behavioral Model, that facing fears step by step is the best way to cope with anxiety. What many parents tend to do, however, is over-coddle a child and accommodate their anxiety. When this is done, a child never learns how to deal with signs and symptoms and the anxiety may, in fact, get worse.


There Is No Shame In Seeking Support

Anyone who lives with certain diagnoses–cancer, a mental health condition, or some other chronic and/or severe illness–has challenges to face every day. I don’t know a whole lot about these issues. I simply haven’t read enough to comment. However, I do know that I have come across therapists who work with cancer patients, support groups for cancer, as well as other chronic and/or severe illnesses.

Yesterday, I looked up NAMI and found an article on CBT and psychosis and what families can do. I thought a large organization promoting CBT for psychosis was outstanding.

I have never been to a NAMI support group even though I have a history of being diagnosed with a mental illness because these closest ones to me are fairly far away. However, I have indeed wanted to go in the past.

This post is about what friends and families can do. I was reminded, when I went to the NAMI site yesterday, that they have support groups for friends and families of those with mental illness.

Living with someone–or even knowing someone–with a chronic and/or severe condition can be rough, taxing or challenging. It’s good not to go it alone. There are many support groups available for any number of chronic and/or severe conditions.

Sometimes people think they can and should indeed go it alone. They think they do not need a support group, or that going to one signifies that one has some defect. This is not that case. Seeking support–whether it is counseling, a support group, or some other kind of support–is a sign of strength and courage.

Don’t let the stigma of seeking help or support get in the way of your health or strategies you can use or friends you can find in a support group or therapist.

If you are a friend, family member, coworker, community associate–or just happen to know someone with a mental health condition–here is where you can begin to find support.

Coping with these issues is very important. Each chronic and/or severe condition has its own challenges. I happen to know more about counseling and support for mental health conditions, but I know there are groups for diabetes, different forms of cancer, intellectual disability and more.

If you feel stressed, at a loss, or feel like giving up, do seek support in some way.


Stoicism and Living in the Present

I have been blogging a lot recently about CBT. CBT is modeled, to a large extent, on Ancient Stoicism. I wanted to write about living in the present today.

I have alluded to living too much in the past or too much in the future in previous posts, but I didn’t go into detail about it. Living in the present moment can be traced back, indeed, to Ancient Stoics:

In this quote, Stoic Marcus Aurelius tells us not to concern ourselves too much with the future. We will meet the future with whatever “weapons of reason” we have in the present.

Many times, concerning ourselves with the future brings about anxiety, fear, and worry. That is why many therapists will suggest to you and practice with you living in the present moment.

It occurs to me that failing to live in the present moment can make one miss out on important and valuable times. If you are always concerned with the future, for example, you may miss out on enjoying your daughter’s birthday party, a special holiday, or even savoring the small moments in life.

It can be difficult to learn how to practice living in the present moment, but it is very much worth it. For my own part, I have tried to learn how to live “just enough” in the past and “just enough” in the future so that I can reflect a bit (on the past) or prepare (for the future). But I frequently live in the present moment. This takes enormous burdens off a person.

If you are having trouble focusing too much on the past or future, I am not suggesting anything from myself. One must see a professional about these things, after all. I simply thought today I would start the day with a Stoic meditation on living in the present.


Bring Change 2 Mind’s Hope is an Action Week 2019

I’m late posting this, but I did note it when I received the email about it. And it’s better late than never. Bring Change 2 Mind is an organization founded by Glenn Close. A couple of weeks ago, they had ‘Hope’ week.

Following from the post today about NAMI’s CBT article for psychosis, I wanted to address Hope when it comes to mental illness.

Bring Change 2 Mind’s Hope Calendar

It is important–for those diagnosed and for friends, family and associates–to have hope when it comes to a mental illness. After I posted the NAMI post, I thought, in general: Why do you think they have medications and therapy for mental illness? It may not be obvious, but I think these things spring from Hope for the betterment of people with mental illness.

Thus, when I say CBT may be a very good therapy for all sorts of things, that is not based on something like mere faith. It is based on evidence. The evidence is that therapies like CBT work.

It is also, I think, a statement of Hope because it presumes that one can, if not fully recover, at least get better and have symptoms diminish. Hope and evidence do not, then, seem to be at odds with one another.

It’s easy for people to think that a situation is so dire it will never get better. It is also easy for people to assume that when one has a mental illness, one will continually get worse and worse.

But that’s not the evidence. The evidence is that, with proper treatments and support, one can get better.

That’s the evidence. And that’s hope.


CBT Approaches to Psychosis

I was browsing the NAMI website and came across this article on using CBT for psychosis and things families can do.

I have mentioned CBT in the past as an effective therapy for diagnoses like schizophrenia. At the time I fist read about this approach, there were friends who were skeptical. However, after reading books like Cognitive Therapy of Schizophrenia, I have become convinced that this therapy is probably the best one to seek for any number of things.

As I mentioned in a previous post, on the Cognitive Model, things like paranoia fall on a spectrum or bell curve. People without a clinical diagnosis can experience paranoia in many forms. Hearing voices, too, appears to fall on a bell curve–with people with no clinical diagnosis hearing things at times.

With all this in mind, it’s good to see NAMI, perhaps the largest mental health nonprofit in the United States, espousing CBT for psychosis and letting families know what they can do to help.


The Problem of Induction and My Personal Health

I mentioned the Problem of Induction the other day on Facebook. I don’t expect people to know what I was talking about. However, it had to do with my personal health.

I can’t help but mention my personal health since everybody brings it up. So, let me explain the Problem of Induction and how it relates to how people have been thinking about my health.

For those unfamiliar with the Problem of Induction, it goes basically like this: The future may not and/or does not always resemble the past. This is a problem for general informal logic and reasoning.

When it comes to my own health–without going into too much detail–there’s new evidence at play. I had a surgery, among other things. This means one cannot state that my future behavior, actions and mental states will resemble the past. There are just too many new variables at play.

Some people have stated I have a pattern of behavior. Each person, so far, has their own theory about this pattern and none of them line up! In any case, if there was a pattern, this may not be the case anymore because, as I said, there are just too many new variables.

I think of this as a fresh start. As I heal from surgery, I feel less sore every day, among other things. I am not precisely sure why other people cannot see these new variables as they are and treat as if I may have had a change or start their day fresh with me. Whatever the reason, I wanted to address this.

Perhaps there is a pattern to my behavior. Perhaps any one of these people’s theories is correct.

But because of new evidence, we should at least consider that any pattern I may have had has now stopped.

It’s true, I could now have some other bad and abnormal pattern of behavior. I would hope this is unlikely. After all, I just had surgery to remove a tumor, at the very least, and this ought to make my health even better.

That’s the Problem of Induction and my personal health. Using inductive reasoning is a skill and a highly valuable one. Let’s make sure we use it well.


On Epistemic Injustice

Back in 2009, I was a graduate student. At that time, I was also a philosophy blogger. So it was a pleasure to have reported on the concept ‘epistemic injustice’, coined by Miranda Fricker,back then.

Fast forward 10 years and I have the strange inclination to remind everyone about that concept.

Elsewhere, I defined epistemic injustice as “any case where a knower’s knowledge and knowledge claims are devalued for some, shall I say, stupid reason.”

This happens quite a bit in many aspects of life.

Take, for example, a case where even documented evidence is discounted because of a knower’s diagnosis. I know I wasn’t going to get personal on here, but this, in fact, has happened to me. In my case, there is a medical record with doctor’s order (unrelated to the diagnosis at hand). Yet, I was told I did something the doctor didn’t order when, in fact, I did and there’s a record of it. I was told this by someone who wouldn’t even know but just assumed and/or told an outright lie.

That’s a blatant case of epistemic injustice.

Back in 2009, when I first noted this concept, I took it to be grossly wrong. These days, when I have experienced it myself, I can tell you: It’s exasperating.

That’s my personal thought of the day.

Epistemic injustice: Don’t do it.


Meeting the Clinical Benchmark for Psychiatric Diagnosis: Easter Edition

I have been interested, of course, in the very best research on things like schizophrenia. I have admittedly been sympathetic to the Cognitive Behavioral Model simply because I think the evidence is strong in that direction.

Today is Easter and I am not a church.

This morning, I explained to someone that there are tons of things one can be diagnosed for and one of them is religiosity. Now, that’s not to say no one should attend church today or that of one goes to church every Sunday, one meets a clinical benchmark for religiosity. It’s simply to say that there are simply numerous things one can be diagnosed for and one of them is being overly or abnormally religious.

As I understand it, on the Cognitive Behavioral Model, there is typically bell curve of thoughts and behaviors. In the past, I have read the Cognitive Model of things like paranoia. One example that has been used in the literature is this: Imagine when you walk into a room and everyone becomes silent and have the thought: Were they just talking about me?

In this example, this is usually a normal, non-clinically diagnosable instance of paranoia. Things like paranoia exist, on the Cognitive Model, on a spectrum. Someone who has this thought, in all likelihood, does not meet the clinical benchmark for diagnosis.

When one gets Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, one tries to learn and apply the maxim nothing to excess.’

Onetries to live in the moment–not looking too much at the past and not gazing too much into the future. This is because people often worry a lot about both/either the past and future and this can cause anxiety, fear, worry and more.

Because of these things–and simply trying to be a normal, healthy adult–I decided to celebrate Easter today but not attend church. I will eat an Easter dinner with my family and that’s probably the extent I will celebrate. If you celebrate more than this, that’s totally fine. After all, I cannot and do not diagnose. This is simply the habit I fell into over the years.

However and whether you celebrate–and whether you meet the clinical benchmark for diagnosis or not–I hope you have a wonderful day.


“How Are You Feeling?” Being Overly Concerned With Someone Else’s Health.

It’s true that recently I’ve had my fair share of medical issues. I’m not going to discuss those today. Instead, I’m going to discuss being overly concerned with someone else’s health.

I’ve been in hospitals. I’ve been in hospitals where I was checked on every 15 minutes as well as hospitals where I was checked on every 30 minutes.

I don’t expect everyone to be an outstanding medical professional. After all, not everyone can even be a medical professional. However, when one’s health is checked on in these situations, they are typically minimally intrusive–except in cases where, say, a saline bag needed to be replaced or a medication needed to be given. To me, this is normal checking.

It occurred to me, after my post yesterday, that one can be overly concerned with someone else’s health. This isn’t to say I have experienced this. It’s simply to note that this can happen.

I’m not sure why regular checks are minimally intrusive in the way I described, but in my experience, they are. This, in my past experiences, had given me the ability to heal, recover and get medical treatments done in a way that also allowed me to have my own life and activities. I suppose, without doing the research right now, this is why these kind of checks are done.

It would be interesting to know the effects of more intrusive medical checks. Assuming the current practice is a good one, there must be an effect on a person that has been documented. (Note: This is just an assumption. I haven’t done the research.)

I assume that one is monitored and checked on with the severity of the reason for hospitalization. Even then, these checks appear to be as objective as possible with a nurse or doctor noting signs and symptoms of wellness and recovery and that’s typically that.

I understand that it’s difficult to be objective in totality with these cases, but the medical field seems to try.


Being Invested in a Diagnosis

Last week, there was a lot of things going on in my life. I didn’t know whether I had cancer, I was doing follow-up appointments, healing, resting and more.

Perhaps because of this I came off wrong to people. I truly did try to phrase things carefully when speaking and writing. People often take things the wrong way and I am aware of that.

When I taught at the High School level last year, the school had a policy, which was this: No one, including teachers, were told of any diagnosis a student may have until the teacher noticed things and brought that up with the administration. This is because when one knows of a diagnosis, there is evidence that, at this point in history, people discriminate, show favoritism, treat people differently, think they are experts on the subject, among other things.

I have told people of different health issues I have had partly because I have a passion for writing , partly because I have been an advocate, and have been open about many aspects of my life.

Sometimes I wonder if that has been a mistake.

For the past few days, I haven’t been on the internet very much. I have been doing other things. I haven’t updated people on new evidence, medical discussions I have had, and so forth. And I think that I will remain this way.

What I have found is that some people distort what I have said or written, have not been charitable, and, oddly, have been overly invested in my diagnoses. It’s as if other people, some of whom barely know me, are more concerned with aspects of my health than I am–and I’m the one who is living it!

So this is a note stating that (1) that I have been on the internet a whole lot less the past few days and (2) I am no longer updating people about my medical issues.


The Long Process of Getting Better

Today, it occurred to me that, as with any chronic illness, it can take years to recover from something like schizophrenia.

I thought of this because a famous person diagnosed with schizophrenia, John Nash, came up in conversation.

Nash was admitted McLean Hospital in 1959. Yet, it took around 15 to 20 years for him to decide to live a “quiet life” and for his symptoms to become manageable and to even somewhat dissipate.

John Forbes Nash

It wasn’t until 1994 that Nash received the Nobel Prize in Economics.

So, if you happen to be diagnosed with a chronic issue, take someone like John Nash as a sign that, as they say, “It gets better.”


“God Made Me, And I Am A Man.”

The unfortunate history the United States has concerning Native Americans has been becoming more known over the past 20 years. This is great news and a long time coming. It was, after all, way back in 1879 that a major court case ruled Standing Bear, a Ponca chief, was a person under law. These shifts in consciousness are welcome and over 100 years coming.

The significance of someone being identified as a person under law cannot be overstated. These days, when some people are identified as “animals” and “less than animals,” it is important that we include everyone who counts–and be very careful in that counting–as a person under law.

I’m quite sure the following thoughts on this are not original. After all, the significance of being counted as a person under law has more than likely been debated and discussed in journals and other publications. However, it strikingly occurs to me that when one is not considered a person in the eyes of others, many horrific things follow from that, including not being protected in basic ways. 

Consider a case of simple theft. In the eyes of an abuser, when one is not considered a person, what property can one really own? It follows, perhaps, in the mind of such a law-breaker, that one cannot be stolen from because one is simply not human.

There are other things that follow from this, as well. As is well-known, the United States holds much land and assets in a fiduciary role for tribes. But when tribal people are not considered human, we end up with major disasters just like we see with the famous Cobell Case. 

I don’t typically do philosophy of law, but I want to suggest that everything–all other protections–follow from being considered a person under law. Without that basic consideration, one has nothing.

In this day and age, even though the rights of Native Americans have been becoming more pronounced and rightfully fought for, we need to make sure we include everyone–LGBT folks, African-American folks, people with disabilities, women and immigrants–as people under law for this protection is absolutely crucial and, bottom-line, the most essential protection one can have.


General Health Note 4.7.19

As many folks know, I have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. Unfortunately, this diagnosis (as in, the diagnosis itself, not any actual symptoms) has overshadowed things about me for some people.

I also, as is well-known, had a very large mass and part of an ovary removed from my body a week ago.

What folks ought to care about, at this point is that 1. I do not have cancer, 2. I am healing well from a major surgery. Some folks, however, simply see me as “a schizophrenic.”

This is morally wrong on their part and unfortunate all around.

I have a legitimate concern that the mass in my body caused behavioral issues and affected my mental states over a period of time. At this point, I ask that everyone simply acknowledge the fact that I have two doctor appointments this week, during which time I’ll go over the pathology report and review my mental health care. The information from those appointments is crucial. I ask everyone suspend judgement about what they believe “the cause” of my past odd and unusual behaviors is until I can get some professional opinion on the matter myself.

No one who has expressed the above unfortunate opinions is even close to being a professional on these matters.

Let’s leave these things up to them to figure out.


Battle Scars

It’s amazing how such seemingly tiny incisions can cause so much discomfort. I’m a full week out from surgery, yet I still have a week or more to go in recovery. Thought I’d post, for the grotesquely curious, two pictures of my incision sites today.

I had laparoscopic surgery, with three incisions and I’m currently held together with glue.

Incision below belly button.
Incision on left side.

Building Behavioral Credit

As is now known by many, I’ve been apologizing profusely all over the place for previous behavior due to the mass which was removed from my body. A kind friend suggested to me that what it’s mostly going to take is time and that such things are like re-building one’s credit report after having points docked. I thought this was such an interesting thought that I wished to share it. I cannot, of course, take credit for this idea. Yet, I do believe it has worth. Because my mental states were apparently out of whack due to hormonal imbalances, it’s simply going to take time to repair my reputation. Fortunately, I’m not starting from complete scratch. I have at least one friend who suggested this thought to me. So, I’m not completely alone. However, I wanted to write this down for anyone who may have similar circumstances that involve re-building one’s credibility and reputation. It’s going to take time. You can do it. It may take seven years–but you can do it.

Amongst others, I owe a deep apology and will re-earn my reputation to those at Feminist Philosophers, Leiter Reports, and Clayton Littlejohn.


Blessed Are Those Who Forgive. They Are *Very* Brave.

I’ve been trying to work on getting folks to forgive my past behavior–up until a week or so ago. That’s because I’ve felt entirely different since I’ve had the mass removed from my body. But it’s worth being reminded of what such an act of bravery forgiveness is. And, with that, I’ll leave you with this piece from Ghost Parachute entitled “The Thing About Forgiveness.”


The Definition of “Success”

About a year ago, I spoke with a philosopher who was, at the time, at least, very into anti-careerism. She and I spoke about many things, and one of those things was the definition of “success.”

I like to think I have had success in my life. I organized a rally that drew over 100 people. I have been published. I have made A’s in my philosophy courses. Those are ways in which I may have been successful.

With the ruthlessness in grinding competition that paves the way for cheating (think of the recent university fraud scandal) and other terrible behavior, it may be we need a new definition of “success.”

When one goes to a cocktail party, typically one is asked, “What do you do?” This, in a way, is a time when one signals just how “successful” one is. Philosophers I have known have always struggled with this question, since “philosopher” isn’t something one typically aspires to be in contemporary American society and the term itself often conjures Ancient men in togas for those unfamiliar with the area of study. Thus, philosophers–and others so situated–may be in a unique position to offer better definitions of “success” than those which are currently offered.

My inkling is that we need a definition of “success” that entails something like honor, moral pride and, perhaps, the tales of good things one has done in life. Such people often don’t like to boast, so perhaps gauging one’s success in this way ought better be told by others rather than oneself.

But–I’m open to suggestions.

What’s clear is that the cut-throat tendency linked to the current definition of “success” is problematic. And it gives rise, to those with such temptations, to cheat, lie, steal, and more.

What’s a better definition of success? One that bypasses the human inclination to commit such bad acts? Let me know if you have a good one.


Open Note About Past Behavior

To Anyone I Have Affected By Odd Or Unusual Behavior;

By now it is known by many that I’ve had a large mass removed from my abdomen. At the time of this writing, we do not know whether the mass is malignant. However, it was apparently situated in a way that twisted at least one ovary upon itself and possibly affect the other ovary, as well. This, I am coming to believe, made me think and behave in ways totally out of character for me. I don’t exactly recall everything from this time period (and we don’t even know how long the mass had been there) and I intend to discuss these things with my doctors. I ask that anyone on the receiving end of this unusual behavior to please forgive me. I am becoming more healthy by the day and hope to recover fully. Thank you for understanding and for your forgiveness.


On the Evolution of “Work,” UBI and Andrew Yang

There comes times in cultural history when there are major shifts and developments. We are, at this moment, at such a shift when it comes to “work” and there is, so far, only one Presidential Candidate who is taking us in the direction we need to go: Andrew Yang.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation are bringing us to a point when we not only lose jobs, we have re-evaluate what it means to even be human. Take Freud’s definition of the purpose of human life, which he said was, in short, “To work and to love.”

We have come to a point in history when many of us may not have to or need to work paid labor. Each year, automation has taken away jobs. Some have the urge to fight against AI and automation. My hunch is that keeping with the status quo is not the way to go. Instead, we should embrace AI and automation (with care, of course) and move toward a whole new way of looking at ourselves and our goals in life. We may want to keep Freud’s “To love” but not his “To work.” That is, we may be coming to a point when labor as we have known it for millennia may not be necessary for everyone.

The thought that everyone is suited to work is a farce, anyway. There are plenty of people who do well and have happy, productive, healthy lives without paid labor. Consider full-time homemakers. These positions have been considered, at times, either “less than” or “for the privileged.” We are at a moment in history when more of us might opt for something similar, however. This, I think, ought to be welcomed with open arms.

Andrew Yang has proposed solutions for this era. Other candidates do not. Yang proposes a Universal Basic Income (UBI) of $1,000 a month for every American adult over the age of 18.

UBI is a policy which has always had the tendency to span political party lines. That it’s doable and would benefit society on the whole is also a given.

When faced with challenges such as that of AI and automation, we need to be flexible. We need to use creative yet sound judgement. And we ought to make moves that replace the status quo for a better model on how we should live. Yang is the only candidate, so far, to have the gumption to do this.


Solution to Russell’s Paradox

It’s nearly 3:00 A.M. in the morning. I had surgery a couple of days ago. On my way back home from the hospital, my stepfather reminded me of Russell’s Paradox. He stayed with me during my hospital stay and has always been a dear friend to me, so it is in the spirit of friendship that I thought I would propose my solution to Russell’s Paradox for him. I previously typed this solution on Facebook at about 2:30 A.M. today (4/1/2019). And here, for your reading pleasure, is my full solution:

Regarding Russell’s Paradox: I propose the Barber does, in fact, shave himself. Here’s how: Break ^Barber^ into two roles: 1. Customer and 2. Barber. As a Barber, he shaves the Customer’s beard. Voila! (Jennifer Lawson, Facebook, 4/1/2019)

It appears to me, after thinking about the paradox, that Russell actually perplexes us by being vague with the concept of roles a person may have. But imagine this: Let’s call the Barber ‘Joe’. At one point, Joe may have the hands of a Barber and the face of a customer, yet be the very same self. During this time, he is, in fact, shaving himself and participating in two distinct roles in life. This is not an uncommon practice for many. For example, when I prepared food at Woody’s BBQ during college, I prepared food for people who did not prepare food for themselves. I also, many a night, prepared food for myself.

Russell’s Paradox only seems paradoxical when we forget the different roles we may have in our practical experience.

-Jennifer Lawson

Ground-Breaking Work In Psychiatry

It’s been known among those who study such things that being skeptical of the “gene model” or “biological model” of what I’ll refer to as psychiatric illness is, perhaps, very prudent of late. It’s not so much prudent now as the solid way to go with this new research. Read it for yourself, by all means. In what follows, I draw some of my own extra-study conclusions. Keep in mind, I only hold a BA in psychology and have done cursory grad-level research in psychiatry and philosophy of psychiatry. I welcome those whose expertise is beyond mine.

I want to begin by saying this is a day people with a diagnosis of depression should rejoice. Pretty soon, they may not even have that diagnosis anymore, as these findings give rise to potentially new ways of thinking about psychiatry. As a matter of fact, one of the conclusions of this study is that doctors, including psychiatrists, actually stop their current practice of diagnosis and go straight to individual symptoms a patient may experience.

The result of this finding is that drug therapies currently in place for depression may cease to exist as we now know them. Other drugs–say, to treat fatigue or failure to eat–may be applied instead. The reason for this is that drugs currently in place assume some hard, solid thing that exists in the world which is depression. Yet, this major study shows there is no such thing.

We may, additionally, rely more upon psychotherapies when treating symptoms of psychiatric diagnosis instead of drugs. This is because drugs in place assume a bio-based cause of depression.

I can, of course, go further in my extrapolations: Because similar historical research has been done on psychiatric diagnoses other than depression, we may need to revamp the entire industry, giving rise to other newer and better treatments.

In short, if there’s any a day it’s good to have the diagnosis of depression (or any psychiatric diagnosis), it’s today.


The Problem of “Freelance Philosophers”

I was browsing the internet and came across something unusual. Highly unusual. I came across the term ‘freelance philosopher’. Have a look at this Medium article to get a sense of this (new?) trend.

Now, it’s true, one doesn’t need to be certified to be a philosopher. Being a philosopher isn’t regulated by law, really. Still, one would hope that any person ‘doing philosophy’ would have some kind of formal education in the field, keep up with work in the area and, at least, have a BA Degree.

The reason I question whether this is a new trend is because, very simply put, and having glanced over some of these folks, I conclude they are not philosophers but sophists.

Sophistry has been around since Ancient Times, and they are, perhaps, the biggest enemy of philosophers. They are even more an enemy than ignorant people, uneducated people or people who simply do not care about philosophy at all. This is because they frame themselves as philosophers and all they do, basically, is gain notoriety, fame and fortune all while vomiting bullshit at patrons. This is precisely why none of these so-called ‘freelance philosophers’ would ever get a job at a university.

The danger of sophists and bullshit is clear: Unknowing patrons are given bad advice, false knowledge and sometimes apply those things to the daily lives and other areas of practice to much hazard and dismay.

If you are not a philosopher and wish to consult a philosopher, take this advice: seek a real philosopher, not a ‘freelance philosopher.’ The preference is, always, to attend a philosophy course. Anyone, basically, can sign up for a Philosophy 101 course at their local community college. Do that. Do not consult a ‘freelance philosopher’ online.

If you wish to–or need to–consult online, ask your professor for good resources for you. Most professors will happily assist and know the field well. Together, you can broaden your knowledge of philosophy.


The Monetary Value of Philosophy

Many a student wants to know: How much do my professors actually get paid? Can one, as a matter of course, make money as a Professor of Philosophy?

New data from UC Berkeley suggests: ABSOLUTELY!

Check out these numbers.

NOTE: I would most certainly need clarification on what “Lecturer” means here. In many cases I know of, this is a Graduate Teaching Assistant. Looking at mere pay here, then, may not tell the entire story since MOST GTA’s also have stipends, tuition remission, etc. So, there starting pay for a professor of philosophy? Over $100.000 per year.


How to Tell You Are Good at Philosophy

Everyone worries about it: Am I good enough? Am I good at all?

In the following, you can surely tell you are good at philosophy if you do a significant number of the following:

  1. You take the absolute shortest and most direct path from classroom to classroom.
  2. If you pester your family with things you have learned in class.
  3. If Descartes sticks in your skull at least two full semesters after you read “Meditations on First Philosophy.”
  4. If you tell everyone you probably have autism because you just read “The Duty of Genius.”
  5. You perk up anytime there is a worthwhile article about the value of philosophy.
  6. If you think, “Someday, I could be as rich as Bernstein.”
  7. If you spend an inordinate amount of time consuming everything philosophical, particularly if it’s open access.
  8. If you celebrate the numerous types, kinds and styles of philosophy and philosophical “traditions.”
  9. If you made a ‘C’ in Logic, cried about it, and made up for it ever since.
  10. If you pair a food or drink not together but with what you’ve been reading.


Envy: The Real Green-Eyed Monster

You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.

Exodus 34:14

Jealousy. It’s been making the rounds in philosophy as of late. Many people are considering new forms of intimate relationships (such as polyamory). Several of these thinkers argue against jealousy.

Take, for example, this article at Aeon on love without jealousy. The picture painted is one of a terrible emotion that motivates us to do terrible things.

As a highly jealous person, I am actually proud of my jealousy. I hope it never goes away. It does in fact motivate me–for the better. It makes me keep and protect my love. It makes me guard my love. It makes me strive to be better for my love.

When philosophers argue against jealousy, I do believe the proper emotion they should be objecting to is envy for it is envy that is the real green-eyed monster. Envy, as a matter of definition, harbors resentment. This, in turn, moves the envy-holder to bad acts.

If there is an emotion philosophers should do away with, without a doubt it is envy.


The Philosophy of Bodies

Many people have, for quite some time, argued for a more flexible notion of The Body. “The Apollonian Ideal” is simply not the standard by which we should all aim for in our own body.

Before I go further into this, let me make a few distinctions.

First, there is health.

Second, there is beauty.

Third, there is wellness.

Fourth, is there oppressive ideals.

When it comes to health, it is obvious that not all bodies can, should or do look the same. Even Hypocrites knew that. If this was known 2,500 years ago in medicine, imagine what the average doctor knows now.

When it comes to beauty, it;s not merely in the eye of the beholder. Beauty may be objective. However, that does not mean all beauty-instantiations are going to be the same. After all, Plato’s Form of Beauty was one in which a physical object on Earth partakes in the Form of Beauty.

As for wellness, this clearly does not mean the same thing in every body. For example, in my early teens, I was extremely good at high jump, long jump, long distance racing, and relay racing, even though I had the shortest legs of all members of our school.

Oppressive ideals are when we try to apply one single standard of any, each or all of these onto a person.


P.S. In MY house, the FIRST RULE is this: NEVER skimp on food.

Women Philosophers

Back on the previous philosophy blog I was a part of, I sometimes conducted interviews. At the time, one person I interviewed was was working on a website specifically on Women Philosophers. She had been spending, at that time, several years doing research, teaching herself code and kindly took time to tell me a bit about the project.

At this time, I am beyond pleased to announce the unveiling of the site. You can read all about it here.


“Does Studying Ethics Make One More Ethical?”

That’s the question Eric Schwitzgebel and team has been studying for quite some time. I first read his reflections as they came out several years ago. According to Schwitzgebel’s studies, which appear the be quite solid, studying ethics does not make one more ethical. I happen to think he is correct. However, I will present him with some hopeful news: Studying his meta-philosophy studies can, perhaps, make one a better person. Here’s how:

Around 2008, I had a stack of library books on my desk. They weren’t overdue. Yet. (Note: I have a history of long overdue books.) Then, something happened. I read The Splintered Mind. I read famous Library Book Study.

I looked at my stack of books.

I immediately turned them in to the library. I have never been late since.

Virtue may be a habit sometimes, but that habit needs to probably be honed by external motivators that may move us to not tend toward evil.

I owe any goodness I have today to Eric Schwitzgebel. His studies prompted me to move towards The Good. I can only pray that, with help of friends and family, I may stay in that precise direction.


“Socrates in Love”

I cannot think of a better way to top-off a day than by reading this article. Socrates is a founder of western philosophy. But, where did his ideas come from? Perhaps, as recent research suggests, through love.

Where did Socrates, the foundational figure of Western philosophy, get the inspiration for his original ideas about truth, love, justice, courage and knowledge? New research I’ve conducted reveals that as a young man in 5th-century BC Athens, he came into contact with a fiercely intelligent woman, Aspasia of Miletus. I argue that her ideas about love and transcendence inspired him to formulate key aspects of his thought (as transmitted by Plato).


Eastern and Western Traditions–Together, at Last

In searching for someone I attended graduate school with, I came across this wonderful online newsletter. Only recently have western philosophers begun to incorporate eastern philosophy into their classes. This newsletter may interest those whose interests span both. Have a look. It’s about Buddhist Churches of America.


In Which I Take Issue With Cosmopolitanism

It appears, at first glance, to be a dream come true. An idealistic world. One with no such thing as borders. I used to be somewhat attracted to this idea. At least, I toyed around with it.

I’m finished toying around with cosmopolitanism.

Just take a look at this interview. Here’s select snippet:

I live in a society that includes the Amish in Pennsylvania, ultra-orthodox Jews in New York City, liberal academics, and so many other kinds of people living so many kinds of lives. All side by side, mostly at peace with one another. Cosmopolitans among us are glad that the other people are doing their own thing. We don’t want them to be forced to do our own thing.

Seems good, right?


What, you may ask, is wrong with this? I’ll tell you straight-up: It focuses on the precise identities it claims to not care about. In fact, it singles these out in just the way they should never be singled out.

Cosmopolitanism begins, in short, with a concept of same-ness and moves to difference. Whereas, in my book, I show the proper way to broach such things is to do what colonists and Native Americans did; start with difference and move toward similarity.

This is why we have such a great country (the United States) and why Native Americans report they are in a happier state of living than they have been in centuries.

When we meet new people, it’s O.K. to consider them new. It’s O.K. to consider them novel, unique, different. It’s not O.K. to stay there. The conversation, if it falls naturally, will then turn to mutual exploration. This is the real “experiment in living” Mill called for and this is the task we must take up to move humanity forward.


Donald Trump is not a “Self-Made Man”

Many people people believe he is, though. Here’s what happens when you tell them the truth:

As you can see by this Politico graph (see the original article and graph here), impressions of Trump’s character go down for both republicans and democrats alike. However, the more significant downturn is on the republican side.


I Do Not Claim to Always Be “Safe and Supportive”

There are blogs which make that claim, however. The Philosopher’s Cocoon is one such place. I’m not beyond taking on arguments in philosophy for, well, the sake of philosophy. I may not be the most outstanding, but I try.

At any rate, there’s a post over at The Cocoon on whether one should take up marginal topics.

There’s certainly what one may call “trends” in philosophy. One would hope (and, no, I have no evidence on this), that these trends are the result of good original work, which is precisely what we are supposed to be producing in the first place.

If you are not producing good original work, what does your MA or PhD really mean, anyway? The whole point is to become not an expert but a talent.

I have indeed worked on both 1. Hot Topics (Bernard Williams) and 2. Marginalized Topics (Native American Issues). The results? I suppose we will just have to wait and see. My original work may just not be stellar. If not, that’s fine. At least I know I worked hard.

So, should you work on “hot topics” or “marginal work?”

The answer is: Yes.


Are You a Member of a “Traditionally Underrepresented Group in Philosophy?”

If so, check this out. It’s called PISKI.

Each summer, members of the philosophy community welcome, mentor and encourage underrepresented students of philosophy. These meetings? The absolute best experience one could have in the whole of philosophy.

So, if you are such a person (or know of such persons), do not hesitate to apply!