On Ebonics, Politics and Wittgenstein...


I began thinking, philosophically, about language in 2008 when I first recognized that I was a writer. Looking back on the past five years of navigating inter-subjectivity in pedagogy and in my personal life has brought me back to a piece I attempted to write three years ago. It's a piece that explores the complex relationship between race, education, language and communication.

In this post, I’ll discuss the background to the 1996 Oakland School Board Resolution on Ebonics (The Resolution, hereafter) and it’s relation to Wittgenstein’s account of meaning and language. I will explore the reasoning behind treating Ebonics, or as linguist would call it African American Vernacular English (AAVE) as an independent language. Though this argument was the most controversial topic in The Resolution, I will attempt to show that Wittgenstein’s account of meaning via the notions of language games, forms of life, family resemblances, and interpretation, support the reasoning behind The Resolution. 


The Resolution stemmed from rising concern over the poor academic performance of African American Students living in California's Oakland School District (which at the time compromised 53% of students in the various Oakland schools.) Poor standardized test scores revealed that these students had difficulty performing across the curriculum [1]. Frustrated with the media attention and parental distrust, the school board launched an investigation into the teaching practices and other potential indicators of poor student performance. Following an observational period it was determined that student performance was directly correlated to the lack of proficiency in Standard English. Rendering reading, written assignments and tests incredibly difficult. 

The majority of African-American students within the Oakland School District spoke AAVE at home and were raised using the dialect. AAVE was the language through which they lived life. It became obvious that the language spoken at home (and outside of school) drastically differed from the language spoken in school; resulting in a dialectical quandary for students. Furthermore, teachers found that apart from homework assignments, students had little to no outside reinforcement of the reading comprehension and written communication lessons. As a result of these findings, the Oakland School District considered expanding an existing program, called the Standard English Proficiency (SEP) program to students who considered AAVE their primary language. SEP uses the methodology of English as a Second Language (ESL) pedagogy to bridge students from nonstandard to standard English. Stressing contrastive analysis, teachers ask AAVE students to ‘translate’ nonstandard English into standard English.

 The school board, with the help of the socio-linguist Dr. John Rickford and other local linguists, collected evidence from studies spanning over three decades that indicated that the use of vernacular to teach a standard was an effective strategy. Including a study by Simpkins and Simpkins in 1981 that concluded that teaching students first how to read in their vernacular and then transitioning to the standard had resulted in vastly better reading comprehension. As well as, evidence from the Bidialectal program in 5th and 6th grades in DeKalb county, Georgia and at Aurora University outside Chicago, show that contrastive analysis similar to that employed in the SEP and in Oakland yields greater progress in reading and writing for AAVE speakers than conventional methods.

 On December 18, 1996 the Oakland School Board decided to enact The Resolution, which would allow (among other things) AAVE (which was being treated as an independent dialect/language) to be used as a tool to aid students in learning of standard English. A lot of media attention manifested out of this Resolution because of the idea that Ebonics was being treated as a separate language. Their misguided criticism of this stems from this clause of The Resolution:

‘’WHEREAS, these studies have also demonstrated that African Language Systems are genetically based and not a dialect of English.’’

The idea of treating AAVE as an independent language aroused a lot of incendiary discussion amongst the politico’s and the media mostly because doing so implies a number of positive and negative situations. ‘’The notion that African-Americans speak an underdeveloped form of the speech of Southern whites who emigrated from England connotes racial condescension; the notion that they speak an independent dialect connotes racial pride; and the notion that they speak a distinct language connotes cultural separateness.’’ All of these connotations contributed to the fervor over recognizing AAVE as an independent language.

As a result of the excess of media attention, on January 13, 1997, the task force  made proposed changes to The Resolution. Removing the verbiage that suggested the concept that AAVE is genetically based and demoting AAVE as a separate language. Although the changes helped in quieting media attention, the politics of the entire resolution proposal became too ineffective to help students. The Resolution as a whole was withdrawn. 


Based upon Wittgenstein’s theory of language, I think he would support the measure. In later-Wittgenstein, he asserts that language is not merely a picture of the world, but that language is a tool. So long as communication between two parties exists, the form for which they use it is irrelevant.

Let's assert that AAVE is a language game related through family resemblances to English. Not in the primitive model, that Wittgenstein asks us to study in the PhiIosophical Investigations (Sections 2 and 7). But on a more complex level, that involves and prompts familiar communication. Just as in ‘’Standard English,’’ AAVE has a numerous amount of language games within the language as a whole. There are specific words and sentences that are used for commands, questioning, etc that differ in meaning and use from Standard English.

English and AAVE resemble each other in many facets but also differ greatly as well. Some of the similarities include: written and oral alphabet, some uses of grammar, and some phonetic pronunciation. But they differ in use of verb tenses, the meaning of some words and the intent of certain phrases.

What Wittgenstein wants to do with family resemblances is to move away from boundaries and looking for exactness (as was popular with the Positivists), and instead look for resemblances throughout language. I use this to argue the idea that Standard English need not be restricted in its use and meaning. The rise of AAVE, or even any other sub-dialect of a language, is a suitable example of how irrelevant the ancient use of forms are in relation to language. It seems that there is not any exactness or boundaries in language, because language is fluid. Even in Standard English, there is a clear evolution from the language of Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales to the language used in the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. Yet they are still both termed English and both communicate effectively to their readers.

 It would seem to me that the idea of family resemblances allow for AAVE speakers to be able to learn Standard English, because language has the ability to evolve dependent on forms of life. According to the definition linguists use of AAVE, it is a language that has evolved from multiple sources (the West Indies, Central America, etc); but, it has largely evolved from English. And just as how Chaucer and Meyer play different language games within an even larger language game (to which both are related) so does English and AAVE.

Wittgenstein’s Forms of Life is a concept which suggests that everything is ‘’given ’’ in culture, or rather culture dependent. The very idea that language has meaning has bases in an agreed form of life. Relating back to The Resolution, Wittgenstein might say that AAVE is a language that has meaning through a given form of life. The students in Oakland, were raised in a given culture (that involved living in Oakland, being black, coming from a working class family and participating in any activities or tradition that were particular to their circumstance) that gave meaning to the words/ sentences they used for communication. Through this lens, forms of life gives validity to the idea that AAVE, commonly known as Ebonics, is it’s ‘’own’’ language.

 A bigger question arises when we establish, with consensus, the possibility that AAVE could be considered a child's primary language. How do the School administrators and educators take one form of life and relate it to another, in a way where students can effectively inter-change between the two? The object for the Oakland School Board was to bring standardized test scores up, but does this mean that students who speak AAVE must assimilate to Standard English?  A dissenter might say that by positing this question it could be implied that there should be boundaries placed on these two languages in order for their to be inter-changeability. However, I would rebut by noting the family resemblances between the two .

Through all the different technicalities surrounding Wittgenstein’s principles on language, the idea that language is a tool for communication should not be lost. It is this prevailing concept that leads me to the conclusion that Wittgenstein would be in support of The Resolution and its effort to help students communicate more effectively to a wider audience.

In all of the sensationalism that the media perpetuated, the whole purpose of The Resolution vanished. This situation can be linked with what Wittgenstein did in his later works, where he wanted philosophy to move away from scrutinizing the essence of language and instead look at its’ use and meaning. From this perspective, I based my conclusion that Wittgenstein would be in support of The Resolution. It seems to me that his focus is more on the ability to communicate in society rather than the criteria or other particulars of whether or not a language is independent.

My own opinion through the Wittgenstein framework is similar. If these students have a form of communication, why not use that as a vehicle for them to learn the standard necessities they need to excel in school? 


[1] Rickford, J. "Linguistics, education, and the Ebonics Firestorm," 2000 Georgetown University Roundtable on Languages and Linguistics. Georgetown University Press: 2000.




You Can't Sit With Cafe Girls if....


 1. Ayn Rand has qualitatively improved your life.

2. You've ever used a racially, sexually or LGBT derogatory term in a "joking" way and thought it was "cool".

3. You treat people as a means to an end and not as an ends in themselves.

4. If you don't "get" Jazz music. C'mon it's a national treasure!

5. You consider Nicki Minaj as some nouveau feminist.  

5. If you don't "get" Nick Cave. Okay, okay this isn't a staunch rule, but if you suck at life and still don't get Nick Cave, then you're definitely not sitting with us.

6. You watch too much television and think real life works that way.

7. You think women's reproductive systems is somehow up for national, local, or global debate. Please step away from my lady parts.

8. You're all ego or all talk.

9. You don't like/care about animals.

10. You need to be told what to do.

11. You think a philosopher's personal life and choices shouldn't be up for criticism just because they wrote a brilliant book or something.

12. You have no cause. If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. #AmIright?

13. You're über "agro". Go away you feisty human, you.  

On The Value of Friendship....


Remember what you said, about being a friend?

The value of friendship in Aristotle’s Ethics has long been connected with his interpretation of virtue, largely because to maintain a good friendship, both parties have to be virtuous. Aristotle believed that, people by nature are social and seek philia (which roughly translates from Ancient Greek to mean friendship, though Aristotle often uses this in its most broad sense), the relation Aristotle examines in friendship, includes any impetus a person has toward associating with others. The Aristotelian conception of friendship is interpreted through three different forms: Pleasure, Utility and Goodness. Where the first two are friendships of accident and tend to deteriorate easily, the last form Goodness is the only form of friendship that is virtuous and thereby worthy of virtuous man/woman. According to Aristotle, friends want to spend time together, share similar tastes, and desire to share in each other joys and sorrows as if they were their own.

Though Aristotle’s conception of friendship has been thoroughly examined, the value of friendship has been left open for criticisms. I believe the Aristotelian value of friendship does not address questions of Intersubjectivity[1] and Misanthropy. Finally, though I believe Aristotle provides a good analysis of the essential properties of friendship[2], I will, briefly, argue that there is an inherent utility function to all forms of friendships.  

“Another disputed question is whether a happy [person] needs friends or not. It is said that those who are blessed and self-sufficient have no need of friends; for they are already supplied with good things: as self-sufficient, then they need nothing more, while a friend is an alter ego who procures for you what you cannot procure yourself; whence the saying—When the god favors you, what need of friends? But it seems strange, while endowing the happy man with all good things, to deny him friends, which are though to be the greatest of all external goods. ” (N.E. IX 1169b) Here, Aristotle questions the value of friendship, believing friendship to be an external Good and, thus, highly sought by virtuous people. Following this logic, this suggests that if one is a virtuous person, then one will seek friendship because it is one of the highest Good and all virtuous people seek that which is Good. This raises the question, among many: If one does not seek friendship (i.e. misanthropic individuals), can one still be considered virtuous?

Aristotle goes on to say that “the good [individual] will need friends to receive benefits from [the other]” (N.E. IX 1169b). This interaction serves as the second self; the relation of a person and her friend is very similar to the relation a good woman as to herself. Aristotle emphasizes that friends pursue the same ends for their own sake, and would not alter any aspect of their friend or friendship. Here, the self is extended beyond one’s own body, and so the happiness or misery of another becomes one’s own. Friendship acts as a bridge between two lands that remain separate but connected.[3] This concept can be, palatably, understood through contemporary sayings like “you are the company you keep” and “tell me about a man’s friends and I will tell you about the man.”

Friends share and magnify the value of virtuous activity (friendship).  “Each admires the virtue of the other, and because this is virtuous also, it adds value.  Each also admires the other’s admiring of his virtue.  And so on.  The indefinitely ramifying love of virtuous activity adds a mutually resonating value as each reflects back the value of the other and is, in turn, the object of resonating valuable attitudes.”[4] Aristotle emphasizes the intersubjectivity between friends. At one polarity, this can be thought of in terms of the Hegelian “Struggle for Recognition” (via Fichte). Where the value of friendship reverts back to a utility function.

 Interesting paradoxes arise from Aristotle’s logic of the value of friendship. “If [her] existence is desirable in itself to the good [woman], being naturally good and pleasant, and if [her] friend’s existence is also desirable to [her] in nearly the same way, it follows that a friend is a desirable thing for her.”(N.E. IX, 1170b) Aristotle reasons that desiring companionship is an extension of desiring the self. However, this reasoning begets the question/paradox of the Misanthrop (understood in Ancient Greek as, mīsánthrōpos.) Though Aristotle insinuates that desiring friendship is a quality natural of a virtuous person, he does not fully articulate the nature of a virtuous person who does not desire companionship. “Now, if he is solitary, life is hard for him; for it is very difficult to be continuously active by one’s self, but not so difficult along with others and in relation to others.” (N.E. IX 1170b) Again, there is a level of truth to this statement, but it can also be said that there exists people who do not wish you interact with others. Meaning, that some people consider solitude a virtue. Aristotle may have chosen not to delve deeper into this criticism because, misanthropic individuals were, and still are, considered outcasts of society (both out of their own will and through the “othering” of society). Consider contemporary, infamous misanthropes: Ted Kaczynski, Timothy McVeigh, and even Moliere’s Alceste. Society is deeply skeptical and abhorrent of misanthrops as much as misanthrops are skeptical and abhorrent of Society and human interactions.

 If we are “naturally” social beings, then can we truly expect to enter into friendships selflessly? Could not this be considered self-refuting? I iterate these questions, not because I wish to impose judgment should it be the case that all friendships have a utility function; but rather, to assess Aristotle’s belief that social interactions are inherent to the human condition. It seems to me, a utility function is required of authentic intersubjectivity. Furthermore, I do not consider this utility function to be necessarily intentional. It may be the case, that the subject is unaware that there is utility function to their friendship, but it is so. “But that which is desirable for [her, she] ought to have, or in that respect [she] will be incomplete…[she] who is to be happy must have good friends.”[5] Here again, Aristotle purports an innate happiness that is tied to ‘having’ friends, believing one to be incomplete otherwise; however, as asserted in the previous section, it seems as if this sort of intersubjectivity allows for a Fichtean definition where self-consciousness is dependent on the resistance of something outside the self. Should this be the case, we can say with certainty that utility is the foundation of human interactions.

 Aristotle offers a good account of the value of friendship. One that logically fits within his framework of ethics; however, through my critique of Aristotle’s analysis of the value of friendship it is unclear whether or not he, truly, completes his task of analysis or if he is, merely, giving a descriptivist theory of the value of friendship. Which leads me to conclude that I might have erred in my analysis or that Aristotle’s character virtue of friendship leads to the discrepancies detailed earlier in this paper.

[1] In the Fichtean sense.

[2] In the Descriptivist sense.

[3] Aristotle. “Nicomachean Ethics”. Barnes & Noble edition: New York, 2004.

[4] Aristotle. “Nicomachean Ethics”. Barnes & Noble edition: New York, 2004.

[5] Aristotle. “Nicomachean Ethics”. Barnes & Noble edition: New York, 2004.

On Why Staying in on a Saturday Night is Rad...


1. You get to save money. Going out with your friends is expensive and let's face facts you're a broke college student/artist/barista. Stop trying to live the champagne lifestyle , your checking account and landlord will thank you Monday morning.

2. Don't have to worry about some random chick/bro spilling their drink on you. OMG hell is other people, so just don't deal with them tonight. Stay in, wrap yourself in a blanket and stuff your face.

3. You get to catch up on blogging or HW or something. Clearly this is the route I choose, going out/ boys would only distract me. I'm totally using this time to finish my two take home exams. I'm not at all stuffing my face with stir-fry broccoli and re-watching season one of Sons of Anarchy.

4. Um hello, it's November and it's cold outside. Why would I tax my nerves with the frigid gusts of wind. Plus, how am I supposed to get validation and show off my new dress if I have to wear a coat. 

5. QT with your pets. Little Fifo, has stood by your side after many Saturday nights of you coming home drunk and throwing up in your toilet. He's even done you the favor helping you clean up some of the vomit that didn't make it into the toilet. Now that you're home, Fifo can rest easy on your lap while you eat a bowl of ice cream.

6. You can listen to 10:15 Saturday Night by the The Cure at exactly 10:15pm. I'm such a music nerd that I have tried to do this on at least 4 different occasions. Tonight, will be the night.

7. No dressing up. Your pet/roomate will accept you, pajamas and all.

8. Online Shopping. Satisfy your consumerist catharsis and buy some shoes, or if you're ultra, nerd girl like me, you'll buy shoes, but then buy at least 5 books out of guilt.

On What is a Poet?


In one of my favorite books, Either/or, Kierkegaard questions the nature of the poet, "What is a poet? An unhappy man who hides deep anguish in his heart, but whose lips are so formed that when the sigh and cry pass through them, it sounds like lovely music.... And people flock around the poet and say: 'Sing again soon' - that is, 'May new sufferings torment your soul but your lips be fashioned as before, for the cry would only frighten us, but the music, that is blissful" Basically, poets are those people who experience pain or despair on a deep level, however given their creative abilities, when they write it comes out so beautifully that you don't really understand the anguish of the author. 

Super emo right? But even Kierkegaard believed himself to fall under the category of a poet. If you know anything about his convoluted message and layered authorship in his book Either/Or , then you'll know that Kierkegaard totally suffered hard re: despair, birthing Existentialism, being a seducer, etc. "People understand me so poorly that they don't even understand my complaint about them not understanding me." Dude, we get it you're super deep. Whatever, take a number bro. Seriously though, it begets the question: what is a poet?

Kierkegaard's statement goes along with my deep belief that Theories Cover Up Being (I'd trademark this but then I would be an uber hypocrite). Meaning, with regards to poetry, as a poet your ability to create beauty from pain actually covers up your authentic being (Dasein, if you will). This is probably a sad/existentially prone person.  I think a more contemporary translation of Kierkegaard's statement could be found in self-destructive musicians. Consider Ian Curtis, lead vocalist of the former band Joy Division, who, seemingly, wrote and sang some beautiful and socially poignant songs, but was deeply depressed, disturbed and isolated. His writings often focused on subjects of death, urban decay, alienation and isolation. Now, I don't believe that you, necessarily,  have to be riding a super bumwave to be a poet, but it helps. #PessimisticOptimist. 

Now I'm pretty sure the hermeneutic divide between poet and audience is one of the most prevalent example of Theories Covering Up Being. Like, how are you supposed to bear open your "being" to others if it's all muddled by your subjective language. Of course, the audience is going to think you're super deep or whatever. They have no idea what you're saying!!! You're literally speaking in Czech (Ph.D students will have, by now, become very angry with my misuse of 'literally', go back to your boozing and dissertation writing you sad, sad people.) By the way, if you think that Ian Curtis, Curt Cobain, Amy Whinehouse or Janis Joplin totally "get" you, then you should probably seek psychiatric assistance (re: depression prognosis.)

As someone who has struggled with major depression for years, one of the ways I was taught to cope with the intensity of my emotions is to find an outlet (be it creative or otherwise). A way of catharsis. Some people, like Ian Curits, wrote music, sang and made use of their artistic capabilities to synthesize and articulate the intensity of their suffering. Interestingly enough, those who use songwriting, writing, or poetry for the purpose of emotional catharsis generally don't do so for their audience or following. Thereby, not only, creating a hermeneutic divide between the author and the audience, but also, further isolating the author from the Others. Addressing the hermeneutic divide, if the author is writing poetry for herself, her internal language for describing her thoughts/feelings will be, truly, comprehensible only to her. Only she knows her own pain. Therefore, when other minds enter the hermeneutic divide, their interpretation of the content of the author's poetry will be isolated from the true meaning. Which might explain Kierkegaard's description of the poet. 

However, I believe by saying this Kierkegaard is describing himself, or maybe he's describing those who ascribe to the aesthetic mode of being. What says the audience?

Anyways, I was prone to this question because if you've ever checked out my poetry, you'll know it has been an on going effort and one of the foundations for Cafe Girls. So what is a poet? On some level I agree with Kierkegaard. There's an inherent hermeneutic divide that exists and alienates the author from the audience. But, IRL my poetry has a three-fold utility function: personal emotional catharsis, exploration and dissemination of philosophical and scientific concepts as related to my personal life, and intersubjective connection (i.e. do you feel me?) 

AmIrite? If not, what is a poet?

Playlist for Your 3am Insomnia Episode...


Here's a list of 8 songs that seem to make existential sense when you're an insomniac.

1. "Two Weeks in Hawaii" by Hellogoodbye. Okay, I heard this song in high school and was like, this is how I feel about all the dudes I crush on. It's all about realizing the finiteness of human connection and how the end of the relationship sets up conditions for the possibility of some platonic form of raw emo perfection. 

2. "The Slow Drug" by PJ Harvey. Okay, again about dudes and relationships. But, I mean it's like chalked full of metaphors, the tempo is super depressing, and she gets super raw about being slaves to intersubjectivity. 

3. "Idiot Prayer" by Nick Cave. OMG, this needs no explanation. It's all about death, determinism and morals. Which is always rad to think about at 3 am.  

4. "North Ebony" by Portraits. Beautiful piece, it goes from gentle and melodic to hardcore post punk screamo. It doesn't get any better than "what do you mean when you say you dont know which way you love me." I mean I'm having an existential crisis just looking at that statement. What does it say about the nature of love (romantic or otherwise) or something.

 5. "I Know it's Over" by The Smiths. Seriously this needs no description, the proof is in the pie.

6. "Weak Foundations" by Still Life. "is sanity far away? Do we want to kill ourselves, from the path we've strayed. But we move on with more dying day to day....the world is dying." How more emo existentialist can you get. A touch nihilistic, yes but hell authentic. I get pain just listening to this song and I have to sit through it for like five minutes (I don't meant this in a negative way), which means I have to find a way to face all the pain I'm feeling for that long. And, if I can deal with finiteness of my mortality through music, then I think I can address it IRL too. Whatevs, it's a super fun song to listen to in the wee hours of the morning, just be sure not to have a razor blade close by.

7. "Changes" by 2pac. This entire song is an existential crisis empitomized in rap. He's analyzing his condition, facing his death, and realizing that changes need to be made to rise to ubermensch 2pac. This too needs no explanation. 

8. "If I Could" by Mineral. Honestly, I just tend to lie on the floor and think about my facticity while listening to this song on blast. 

7 Satirical Reasons Why You Might Not Want to Date Me...


I realize that this isn't a comprehensive list. However, I think it's important to look at the pro's and con's about the person you're dating/thinking about dating. As a veteran 23 year old, it's easy to get caught up with preliminary information about someone and form ideals about who they are. This year, in an attempt to guard my heart, I'm learning to be more realistic about what I want and when I want it. In hopes of being satirical and honest, I did some of the same work for you homeboy.

1. I'll be super honest with my self and you. Meaning I'm one intense mofo. No holding back bro', I'm a very direct individual (justification: YOLO) and you won't gain any respect from me being reserved. One thing I always say is that theories cover up being. Meaning the our external environment/influences have covered some of our most profound fears or creativity. I understand it's a little scary to be vulnerable and honest, especially early on in a relationship, but I value these qualities the most. Furthermore, how can you expect me to get naked for you, if you can't get naked for me?

2. You'll have to protect me, sometimes from myself. Most of the time I'm pretty graceful, but I have my share of clumsy moments (like falling off a curb into bustling traffic, running into light posts, crossing the street while texting kind of clumsy ), so it'd be awesome if you could do me a solid and make sure I don't get killed walking down the street. I get a lil' manic sometimes too. Like, I think I can do everything in the world at once and I won't get hurt. You'll have to give me a little shake and tell me to get a grip. Or not date me, whichever.


3. You'll have to love my teacup Chihuahua, or at least pretend you do. In Grinderman's, relatively, recent single "No Pussy Blues", Nick Cave complains about how he's been trying to get into this chick's pants and he's done everything possible to impress her, including "petting her revolting little chihuahua", and still she just doesn't want to get down. Similarily, I don't care if you don't like small dogs, if you want to date me, you'll have to find a way to like small dogs. Although, any man who can't fall victim to THAT face, is a cold-hearted philistine.

4. I'm ultra analytic and observant, which means I can see through B.S., lies, false arguments etc. I don't mean just little lies or covered up deception. I mean I can see through all the layered, cultural and social self-conscious skeletons you have (don't be timid, it takes one to know one), unless you're one damn good liar (in which case, I don't wanna date you). Meaning, it's easy for me to identify habitual character/personality flaws. There will be some I can deal with and some which I'll be ardently against. But whatevs, ya know? It's up to you to decide whether or not you want some chick peering into your soul all the time.

5. You might need a minor in Communication Studies. Re: #1, I expect the same from you, honesty. Which means if you suck at communicating, you're gonna suck at dating me. It's okay, I'm patient. You'll soon learn my needs as I learn yours. Or you could not date me, whatevs.

6. I'm kind of a badass nerd who, occasionally, argues for sport. Super smart, super strong, and kind of funny. I'm a triple threat bro (I can't even keep a straight face while writing this one.) One minute I'll be reading Godel while getting my back piece tatted, another minute I'll be making art with my own blood, jk whatevs. I'll also get really bored and pick a fight with you about ordinary language or pleasure as a "natural" state. I'll win the argument and probs annoy you a little bit (Note: I might have ulterior motives for getting you heated) .

7. I'll write about you. The good news is I don't air out dirty laundry, so I'll probably just gush about you (without mentioning you by name). Basically, it'll be me telling the whole  internet world compliments about you, except no one will know it's you. 

On The Ethics of YOLO and Hedonic Calculus…


There are a lot of things people should stop doing, but one in particular is hating on YOLO*. Just because you decided to YOLO it out and, consequently, became pregnant doesn't mean YOLO is bad/immoral, it means you're a bad utilitarian. Get some ethics bro'! Ask yourself, why should I YOLO? What is keeping me from YOLO?

 For this I'll turn briefly to Bentham, a utilitarian philosopher  who believed the moral validity of an action was a function of how much pleasure or pain arised. His hedonic calculus focuses on intensity, duration, feasibility, timing, fecundity, purity and extent. These are the criterion for judging the ethics of an act/experience.

A couple of  weekends ago I went to SF for Honey BB's birthday and to visit the other half of Cafe Girls. I assure you, we all got our YOLO on. There was dancing, singing, uncontrollable laughter, pumpkin thieving, and other dionysistic activities. When Cafe Girls unite, we know how to throw down and have a good time, but we also know we have to check ourselves before we wreck ourselves. We love to play hard, but we're well known to work hard too. That's the challenge of our twenties, how do we work hard and play hard without becoming completely bored and routine?

Enter Modern Utilitarian and all around hedonist, Jeremy Bentham who determined that we should base our actions dependent on the consequences. ** Bentham proposed the following criteria for determining the motivation behind certain actions:

Intensity: How strong is the pleasure?

Duration: How long will the pleasure last?

Certainty or uncertainty: How likely or unlikely is it that the pleasure will occur?

Propinquity or remoteness: How soon will the pleasure occur?

Fecundity: The probability that the action will be followed by sensations of the same kind.

Purity: The probability that it will not be followed by sensations of the opposite kind.

Extent: How many people will be affected?

All of these criteria embody YOLO. When Cafe Girls gets together to handle some serious fun, fun, fun business, we turn to hedonic calculus to decide how it all goes down. Ultimately, we usually end up getting fed up with the outside world, retreating to either of our homes and start producing music or dancing to the 80s/90s R&B. So, before you start hating on the existential truth bomb, that is YOLO think about the criterion and qualifications for what you're about to do. EXAMPLE: Keg stands. Think to yourself, How intense will the pleasure of this keg stand be? How long will the pleasure last? Am I seriously about get all excited about doing a keg stand? When will this keg stand start to feel cool? Is the pleasure of the keg stand going to beget other pleasurable feelings (via sex stuff?) Am I going to feel all awesome because I just did a keg stand and then all crappy and barf? Will my keg stand bring others pleasure?

If the answer is no to most of these, then maybe you should check yourself before you wreck yourself and get some new ethics homegirl. Because seriously, nobody wants to chill with someone who can't control the ethics of their YOLO. 

*For those of you living under a rock, in a cave, underwater or otherwise YOLO is a acronym coined by a famous Canadian rap/pop-star that means You Only Live Once. Through the popularization of YOLO, the statement you only live once has gone from passive to active. The sentiments elicited by YOLO have a carpe diem quality.  This is why I will use YOLO as a verb in this post.

**So many problems with this direction of philosophy, but fits for now. So ya know, deal.

On The Philo$ophy $wag and The Stockholm Syndrome…


Truth Bomb: Philosophers have a unique brand of $wag.

It's completely unintentional, but effective and perhaps even true via  the verification principle. Haha, jk. What's disconcerting though is  that most people really think philosophy is some sort of cool thing (or their laughing at me re: unemployability.) Like a new pair of sneakers or something. As I've said in previous posts, philosophy sux hard. Ontology, Existentialism, Phenomenology, Modal Logic, Rationalism, Temporal Logic, Epistemology, etc are all dealing with some real shit, k? The implications of the arguments being made in each of these sub-fields influences how we construct our experiences in the world. They influence how we construct our being and even our death. That's why Wittgenstein famously once told one of his students at Cambridge to give up his study of philosophy and go work as a mechanic. Why? Because the angst and frustration that accompanies philosophy is overwhelming and if you're looking for something tangible and accessible to produce for the rest of your life; philosophy cannot and will not fill that gap. So when random bro's banalize my profession by trying to get me to be their therapist, it's a huge turn off (i.e. "Dude, I'm so bummed about Syria, you know really makes me wonder what it all means or something.")

Don't believe me, I'll present you with a scenario of how it all goes down BB...

Go into your local Philosophy department, walk the hallways, peek into random professor’s office. Notice something? Oh yeah you do. Hot nerds of all shapes and sizes typing away at their computers, noses shrouded by thick books, frienzied writing on yellow notepads, a glimmer of sweat on their upper lip from the laborious quest of knowledge. Yeah, simmer in that.

Maybe you’ll strike up a conversation with one of them. They’ll be shy and awkward at first and then you’ll mention something about Kant (because that dude’s famous and the only philosopher you know). They look up at you astonished and flustered by your obvious and careless name dropping. Before you can excuse yourself out of shame, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly, they’re running through all these arguments about intuition and they said something that sounded vaguely similar to Latin. But still, you remain interested because you’ve obviously touched a nerve. You’ve crossed the threshold into an unintended realm.

A bottle of whiskey and two glasses appears on the table. Scotch? You’ve never even broached the hard stuff. Then again, the rando philosophy lesson you're getting is giving you some hard stuff.....to think about. Hesitant, you take the first sip while your new philosophy friend leans back and gives you a cheers with a smirk and subtle raise of her left eyebrow.

“So you think you want to know something about Kant?” she says.

“I’m just generally curious.” You're scared and feel the need to piss you pants. That's how terrifying this academic bay of pigs is going down.

“Aren’t we all? Go beyond the general, tell me something specific.” She squints her eyes and raises just one eyebrow.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about my perception of time and how it relates to extesntialism." You're totally bullshitting, you know nothing of either,  but you're cute and so is she so you're rolling with the convo.

She continues to explore your definition of time, name dropping philosophers like McTaggart, Heidegger, and Reichenbach. Her sultry use of the socratic method has uncovered the conventionality of your conception of something so fundamental as temporality. ‘Well how do I know?’ is the first question that comes to your mind. You become angry with her as she flips her hair, looks vaguely around the room and sips her whiskey. Unbeknownest to you she has kidnapped and raped your conception of time. Like seriously, how are you supposed to get to your job on time if it doesn’t exist? Do you participate within the convention? Like the Nietzschean heard? No, of course, you want to be different, like her. She knows no time but her own, her finiteness.

This is your third glass of whiskey, and on the brink of tears you ask “well if you’re so knowledgeable, tell me what’s the ontology of time? What can I expect? What can be certain?” You hide your face in your hand as if it can really conceal your thoughts from her and tears.

Before you know it, they’ve told you everything about their philosophical dispositions but nothing about themselves. It’s captivating and you remain inquisitive. ‘Do you have any identity outside of philosophy?’ ‘When is the last time you showered?’ are some of the questions you have about your new philosophy friend. You continue to ask questions and they continue to talk. Soon, you too, have a glimmer of sweat above your upper lip. You’re in unchartered territory. They are so incredibly intellectual, logical, and passionate. Your own intellect is being challenged but will you reveal this to your philosopher? If you’re smart you’ll be humble and won’t try to pretend you know more than you really do about philosophy. If not, you’ll continue this esoteric conversation in a haughty and/or hipster manner.

At some point you’ll tune out their rant on Hegelian dialectic and begin to focus on their physical attributes. You’ll see that he has really well toned arms or a well groomed beard. Or you’ll notice how her eyes sparkle when she tells you of the antithesis. Thirty minutes later, you’re totally into it. Who is this rapture of intellect and cuteness? Why are you overwhelmed? Your formally held beliefs on life have been questioned and you’re not sure what’s going on in your life anymore.

This is what I believe to be Philo$ophy $wag. When you fall for someone who kidnaps your beliefs and then cuddles you with logical arguments. They’ve torn down your former conceptions of morality/ontology/identity/ethics and given you a new option set. It’s somewhat of a Stockholm Syndrome. Amirite? Because let’s face it, you just randomly walked into a philosophy department and chatted some chick/bro up (most likely a bro though, given statistics). So why are you all into them? Because you’re naked now, not physically but mentally; you just got mentally taken advantage of. Total bummer bro. You’re confused and befuddled, but you’re captor has given you a new set arguments to rest your head upon. Will it be enough for you to wake up and look at yourself in the mirror though? Never worry, be strong, they’ve only shaken your fundamental beliefs . You have several options: Be strong and stand by your convictions, argue with them endlessly until you feel like crap, give up and retreat into your own insecurities, agree with everything they say until you too adopt their beliefs, or agree with everything they say until they get hungry and walk away. 

To my philosopher's out there, remember your Moral Issues class. You have to pick and choose your battles. Not everybody is emotionally ready to change  their philosophy. It's a scary to have everything you once believed to be true be fundamentally shaken by an unshaven and unkempt random  philosophy student (let's not even broach what kind of ego you'd have to have for this hypothetical situation to go down). As someone who know's better, you should know better. Furthermore, the Philo$ophy $wag isn't immune on other philosophers. I know first hand. And second hand via Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre et al. So to my studied philosophers, tone it down or at least get a ethical system for your $wag, you fox you. 


On 50 Things I Care Deeply About....


1. My lil dog pal.

2. Other people’s animal friendz.

3. My parents.

4. Hockey.

5. My grandparents.

6. Carl Sagan.

7. Political and economic conspiracies, or are they? Either way their a great outlet for my self-pertaining and perpetuating anxiety.

8. My hair.

9. Dasein.

10. Your manners.

11. Poetry.

12. Girl Code.

13. Happiness.

14. Juxtaposition.

15. Democracy Now!

16. Existentialism.

17. A belief that you have a moral obligation not to be a huge dumbass waste of space.

18. Artists, the progenitors of culture.

19. The health and happiness of every single contact in my phone.

20. San Jose, California.

21. Alone time.

22. Nick Cave.

23. The Colbert/Daily Show.

24. Satisfying my hunger.

25. The importance of your perspective.

26. Feminist philosophy.

27. Analytic philosophy.

28. J.M.E McTaggart.

29. Time.

30. The film Wings of Desire.

31. The people my close friends date.

32. My mint plant.

33. That there aren’t enough things you can share or conversations you can have.

34. Café Girls.

35. My iPhone battery life.

36. The weather

37. Treating people as ends in themselves

38. Integrity.

39. Marxism.

40. The Julio-Claudio dynasty.

41. Self deprecation.

42. Vulnerability.

43. Whether you like Neil Diamond.

44. Fun.

45. Being treated with respect.

46. The healing benefits of The Smiths.

47. Anything that feels cathartic.

48. That people who say “that’s just the way it is” need to be dumped out of your life immediately.

49. Collective Responsibility.

50. Children.

*adapted from