Dewey and Husserl on the Western Crisis

In the early twentieth century, academics sensed a crisis in Western (European and American) thought. A profound skepticism and melancholy seemed to grip Western culture. People lost faith in traditional academic disciplines, like philosophy, to address social problems and provide a sense of purpose and direction. American philosopher John Dewey (1859-1952) and German philosopher Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) had different responses to this crisis. Dewey argued that philosophy must become practical, while Husserl believed philosophy must continually find new areas for science to investigate. That way, philosophy could be saved from the intellectual trash bin.

John Dewey

John Dewey

Dewey believed the crisis in Western thought, a crisis which leads to anxiousness and pessimistic uncertainty, originated in Platonic dualism―the separation of concepts like Truth, Being, and Value from the changing physical world, and their removal from empirical study. The growing complexity of such thought led it further and further away from practical application, and the brightest minds spent their time studying algorithms and abstractions instead of applying their knowledge to the practical world.

As a pragmatist, Dewey called for a reconstruction in philosophy along pragmatic grounds, which would eventually bring abstract thought back to a realm of usefulness. We should take our beliefs in concepts like truth and value and put them to the test just as we do with other considerations. If it turns out those concepts have some practical use, we should keep them. If they don’t, we shouldn’t waste any more time or resources theorizing about them. There is no longer any scientific support, Dewey claimed, for morality standing outside the natural processes of change. Nor can science deny morality is a realm open to scientific inquiry.

If the crisis is to be solved, science and philosophy must be reunited. Dewey’s reconstruction in philosophy: “can be nothing less than the work of developing, of forming, of producing… the intellectual instrumentalities which will progressively direct inquiry into the deeply and exclusively human.” In other words, philosophy should be aimed at the natural, not the ‘supra’ natural of Plato’s forms, or the abstract spirit-driven historical method of Hegel.

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The Phantom Keepers of Pensacola Lighthouse

Since Ghost Hunters came to the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum in 2009, there have been no shortage of articles about its legends. I finally had the opportunity to visit this historic site shortly before Halloween in 2014. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the lighthouse and former keeper’s house was decorated for the holiday. Fake spiderwebs and cheesy Halloween decorations were everywhere–making for some interesting photos.

Pensacola Bay has long been a strategic harbor, and  even today, it is used for military purposes. The lighthouse sits on the grounds of the Naval Air Station, home of the Blue Angels. Ships have long needed safe passage into the harbor. The first lighthouse was built in 1824/25 for $6,000 on the south entrance of the bay. It was 40-feet tall. The current lighthouse, located at the north side of the bay, was built in 1858 and lit in 1859. It is made of brick and stands 150-feet tall. In 1861, an artillery duel between Union and Confederate forces lightly damaged the tower.

The legends of Pensacola Lighthouse revolve around its keepers. According to the lighthouse museum, there were eleven different keepers between 1863 and 1886. Nine were removed for being drunkards or shirking their duties. The keeper’s quarters was completed in 1869. In 1965, the lighthouse became fully automated and the keeper’s quarters fell out of use. It slowly deteriorated and was in danger of being torn down in the 1980s (it was rehabilitated in the 1990s).

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Hearts of Iron IV Minor Nation Strategies: Hungary

screenshot-179Welcome to the latest in a series of posts looking at minor countries in the game Hearts of Iron IV by Paradox Entertainment. Hearts of Iron IV is an epic historical simulator that allows you to experience the Second World War as any country, and perhaps, change history. These articles examine the benefits and drawbacks of playing as any of dozens of minor countries in HOI IV. This week I’ll be looking at Hungary.

Historically, Hungary was a close ally of Nazi Germany and joined the Axis in 1940. It participated in the invasions of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, however, its army was virtually destroyed at Stalingrad and Voronezh. Miklós Horthy, acting as regent for King Charles IV (in exile), engaged in backdoor negotiations with the Allies and eventually the Soviet Union, leading to a German coup in 1944. Can you steer Hungary toward a different fate?

Hungary starts the game in 1936 as a fascist kingdom with 70% national unity. It has a volunteer army, export trade focus, and civilian economy. The fascist party, led by Miklos Horthy, has 54% popularity, the democratic party, led by Arpad Szakasits, has 43%, the communist party, led by Matyas Kakosi, has 3% support, and the nonaligned party has zero support. The next election will be held in March 1939.

Hungary is divided into three states: Transdanubia, Northern Hungary, and Alfold, with mixed clear and forest terrain. Its resources are concentrated in Northern Hungary. In terms of industry, it has 6 military and 10 civilian factories, plus 4 additional open slots, 1 oil, 4 steel, and 194 aluminum. With all industrial techs and National Focuses researched, Hungary will have a maximum of 46 unlocked building slots in its three core states, 57 if you include Southern Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia.

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CNN’s Trump Twitter Obsession

There’s no question Donald Trump has used controversial statements to build a powerful social media following. His Twitter account in particular has attracted much consternation and hang-wringing, particularly among media outlets like CNN and the New York Times. Reporters love Twitter because it allows them to write news stories without ever leaving the office. Water cooler controversy over the latest tweet fuels link clicks and website visits, attracting coveted web traffic that drives advertising sales.

It started during the presidential primary, when CNN in particular salivated over now-President Trump’s social media faux pas. I imagined a CNN reporter exclusively monitoring @realDonaldTrump, waiting to pounce on any misspelling or provocative statement. Within minutes of a controversial tweet, an article popped up at CNN.com. “Ah HAH! THIS is the tweet that will finally undo Trump’s candidacy!” the reporter shouts, rubbing his hands. I wondered how much this guy got paid.

Fast forward to February 2017. Trump won the election and is now in the White House. The outrage continues. Admittedly, I follow both @realDonaldTrump and @CNN, and I’m amused when I see a tweet from Trump immediately followed by a tweet from CNN telling me what he just said. For people who are so outraged by his public pronouncements, they sure love spreading them far and wide.

TrumpTweets

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All-American Diner Tour: Doo-Wah Ditty’s in Kimball, South Dakota

At the tail end of March 2014, a friend and I decided to drive out to the Badlands, Mount Rushmore, and Devil’s Tower. It was springtime in the Midwest, and thoughts of winter storms were long behind us. About ninety minutes west of Sioux Falls along Interstate 90, however, the temperature began to drop, the wind picked up, and dark clouds formed ominously on the horizon.

Apparently we had driven into “Winter Storm Xenia,” which hit parts of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and northeast Wyoming. There were 5-6 foot snow drifts in Roseau, Minn and wind gusts of up to 64 mph in Rapid City.

We decided to stop for gas and check the weather at the Conoco gas station off Highway 16 near the tiny town of Kimball, South Dakota. “Real Food,” a large sign announced as we pulled off the interstate. The sign referred to Doo-Wah Ditty’s Diner, located inside the gas station.

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Is Starship Troopers a Satire of Fascism?

starship_troopers_-_movie_posterThe terms fascist and fascism get thrown around a lot, but rarely with accuracy. The science fiction novel Starship Troopers (1959) by Robert A. Heinlein, and the 1997 movie of the same name, are alternatively accused of promoting or lampooning fascism. Starship Troopers isn’t my favorite film, but I think it’s entertaining and original enough to rewatch every now and then. I just watched it last week, when to my surprise, RedLetterMedia featured it over the weekend in an episode of “re:View.” Watch the full episode here.

In their review, Mike and Jay take the position that Starship Troopers is a satire of fascism, and that audiences largely missed the point when the movie was released in 1997. There’s some evidence for this. The director, Paul Verhoeven, definitely interpreted Heinlein’s novel in this way. At one point, characters are wearing uniforms obviously inspired by the Nazi Gestapo. Violence is shown as the only solution, and militarism and war are at the center of this futuristic society. Characters consider the alien arachnids to be ugly, mindless, and inferior to humans. They are confined to a “Quarantine Zone,” like the Nazi ghettos.

Mike and Jay argue Starship Troopers inverts a common character arch in which a character living in an oppressive society comes to rebel against that society. Instead, in Starship Troopers, characters who originally question the social order, or who are at least indifferent to it, end up embracing it. Characters become less human as the film progresses, until, at the end, they cheer when it’s revealed a captured arachnid feels fear, an emotion that typically elicits sympathy.

starshiptroopersVerhoeven himself said his movie adaptation is “playing with fascism or fascist imagery to point out certain aspects of American society… of course, the movie is about ‘Let’s all go to war and let’s all die.'” He copied some propaganda scenes directly from Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935).

But is the Terran Federation depicted in Starship Troopers a fascist society? Despite the fascist ascetic in the film, it just doesn’t measure up. Benito Mussolini defined fascism as a merger of corporations and the state. Fascism is more generally characterized by a cult of personality, extreme nationalism, veneration of past glory, militarism, racial superiority, and authoritarianism.

Well, Starship Troopers certainly portrays a militaristic society, but that is where the comparison ends.

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