Friday, September 30, 2016

The BS Election

It's an election year, after all - a time when BS is generally at its height. That foundation would be sufficient to let imaginations run free, but the flaws in analyses for having done so seem staggering. The "hold on a minute" crescendo of the intellectual elite is rising, but it is in fact confused, vague, and murky. 

New and clearer interpretations of the candidates and their aims would be of value to those who find themselves astonished by the sheer indifference to truth and falsity, and its hidden interest in manipulating belief and behavior, and in one way the senses. 

These are in fact what one would call "troubled times". 


When Trump claims to "tell it as it is", he is operating under the guise of "truth-telling" and while the issues upon which he argues are of great concern to the public given their ramifications, he is in fact abusing logic. 

Philosophers recognize five categories of fallacy: 
  1. formal 
  2. informal (linguistic) 
  3. informal (relevance - omission) 
  4. informal (relevance - intrusion) 
  5. informal (relevance - presumption) 
Let us first examine an informal fallacy of relevance (presumption): abusive analogy. The fallacy of abusive analogy is a highly specialized version of the ad hominen argument. Instead of the arguerer being insulted directly, an analogy is drawn which is calculated to bring someone into scorn or disrepute. The opponent or her behavior is compared with something which will elicit an unfavorable response toward her from the audience. 

Trump compares Clinton's legal luck with her email scandal to illegal-immigrant criminals as he says both 'have evaded justice'
It may be time to deport Hillary Clinton, a half-joking (calculating) Donald Trump told a teeming mass of Arizonans,
Trump then pledged to create 'a special deportation task force'  
(Perhaps Hillary has technophobia, and who wouldn't given the pressures of public service? Still, the documents, technically known as Form 302s, depict less a sinister and carefully calculated effort to avoid transparency than a busy and uninterested executive who shows little comfort with even the basics of technology, working with a small, harried inner circle of aides inside a bureaucracy where the IT and classification systems haven't caught up with how business is conducted in the digital age. Reading the FBI's interviews, some 250 pages of interview notes and reports, including interviews with former Secretary of State Colin Powell to CIA officers, one can liken the "scandal" to your parents asking for tech help with their phone or computer.) 

The analogy may be a valid one, from the point of view of the comparison being made or the fact that politicians in today's age should be tech savvy. These arguments make the blown-out-of-proportion scandal more effective, but no less fallacious, since the purpose is to introduce additional, unargued and in some cases, completely absurd material to influence a judgement. 

When Trump speaks I hear: "Your call is important to us" followed immediately thereafter by hold music, in which a slanderous, ill-informed paid-for commentary on the state of a nation, of which Trump is grossly misinformed and misinterpreting to support his personal aims. 

Classical Logic 

Classical Logic is a formal language, with a rigorous syntax and grammar. The meaning of its formulas is given by the deductive system and semantics. In logic we define an argument to be a non-empty collection of formulas in the formal language, one of which is designated to be the conclusion. The relationships in logic's deductive system and its semantics can be shown between derivability and validity. We show that an argument is derivable if it is valid. 

This pleasant feature is called soundness. A sound argument means that no valid deduction can take a true premise to a false conclusion. Deductions preserve truth. Completeness, on the other hand, is an argument that is valid only if it is derivable. This establishes the deductive system as encompassing in that a deduction for every valid argument can be made. 

There's nothing new in the appeal to BS by individuals, corporations, or governments seeking to legitimate and advance their specific interests and plans. What is new is the depths to which society has allowed this campaign to travel. Fortunately Hillary is not following Trump down his murky gopher hole - for it is clear to those of sound mind that whatever legitimate knowledge he claims to have is hyped through an effective public relations campaign of "let's throw it against the wall and see what sticks".

While most academics shun the vulgarity of Trump's Marching Campaign Circus, that politeness has not stopped the establishment of new academic journals and commentary dedicated to analyzing and better understanding all such varieties of fraud and misrepresentation throughout modern culture. 

Others, if less polite, are more direct. 

This election year is a theatrical defense of truth, with scandals and fiction and nonfiction commentary running side by side. But for many the curiosity is connected to deeper worries about what lay ahead for a culture so knee-deep in it. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

1,000,000 Visitors

Anyone else wake up in a grass skirt and coconut bra?

Just kidding, but what a fun way to announce 
1,000,000 unique visitors to Happy Thoughts Travel Fast !!!


Visitors have found their way to Happy Thoughts Travel Fast for many reasons. Like any subject we encounter, we largely react to humor based on how we are feeling at the moment. To jokes we bring our history, our culture, our tastes and preferences, our sensitivities and our biases; in other words, we bring our unique perspective

When it comes to the examination of humor, scholars often focus on our reaction to it. From here, we each have so-called humor styles, tastes or affinities for a particular mode of mirth and play. 

The humor style reflected herein is affiliative. The header of HTTF reads: 

Humor is infectious. It lightens burdens, inspires hope, connects us to others, increases our insight, keeps us grounded, focused, alert, and happy. Laughter is a universal language that stimulates both sides of the brain. It allows us to get messages quicker and remember them longer. We all learn more when we are having fun. 

Philosophy of Humor 

From a philosopher's perspective, humor theories rely on classifications of: incongruity, superiority, and relief theories. Two sides of the same coin, really. One from a feeling (humor styles) perspective, the other from a thinking (classification). 

Psychology and Philosophy departments are generally located right across the hall from one another, and while operating in the same space, they do so from divergent perspectives.

Philosophy professors will tell you that if you want to "feel" you must leave (the philosophy department) and go across the hall, but if you wish to "think" to remain seated. 

Psychology profs say that if you really want to "understand" what is going on with the glass and its contents you'll have to understand yourself, first. 

Fortunately, I majored in business otherwise I'd never get anything done.

5 Years Ago  

The first humor book I read was 

Exploring the Philosophy of Humor enabled me to approach the subject with a sense of initial categorical understanding. I read the top scholars, studied hieroglyphs for "laugh" and "laughing" (which appeared in 2900 BCE), and poured through thousands of jokes, dating back to the Group of Sixty (In the Athens of Demosthenes, there was a comedians' club which met in the Temple of Heracles to trade wisecracks):
Sir Alan Gardiner, who knew more about ancient Egypt than anyone else, who compiled an Egyptian Grammar, and who had a beautiful hand for these majestic squiggles, said, "Whenever I write that hieroglyph, I find myself laughing." "Why, Sir Alan?" "Oh, I don't know, Old Boy. Thinking of those funny old priests, chipping it into the rock."  

W.C. Fields, who spent sixty years trying to amuse people on stage, in print, on the airways, in silent movies and talkies, put his finger on it: "We know what makes people laugh. We do not know why they laugh."  

Laughter is like dreams. We know as much about it now as we did five thousand years ago. 

In 2011, I published the Punchline Theory of Humor, which highlights the punchline as the climax of a joke.

Psychological triggers serve as part of the joke's exposition and rising action, and philosophical categories part of a joke's falling action or denouement. 

Feel Good Humor

My primary motivation for sharing my exploration of humor is simple: to have fun with others. 

The humor that has been shared in this blog over the last five years is total nonsense, some of which is coherent, some incoherent. Much has been theoretical, quirky or family-oriented, with a smattering of nonsensical ramblings just because. While Harold Bloom searches for wisdom, I searched for the best jokes ... and I have found some pretty good ones.

Humor is not as satisfying when we laugh at misfortunes or poke fun of others, but it is hilarious when we play the role of the priest, the rabbi, and the minister walking into a bar. Doing so we get to appreciate life from all three perspectives, including that of the Bartender (so, I guess that's four).

The Platypus sitting at the end of the bar, he's another story .... I'm still trying to figure him out.

What's Next? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Looking Glass Self: Self-Objectivation in Vajra Dakini

This post concerns Vajra Dakini, an esoteric teaching concerned with self-consciousness held within the human body. I was introduced to the concept for the first time without any intention of formulating a post; but I become motivated to engage in the exploration of it. 

By remaining within the natural attitude, the visitor to the garden of a pure land is unaware of shifts in noetic acts through which noematic correlates of the garden and associated images undergo presentational modifications within the context of the experience. 

One can shift into the aesthetic order of reality, which brackets the pragmatic motive of the paramount province of the everyday in order to savor, for the sake of aisthetikos, the perceptual/sensuous presentation of the image. 

Within the natural attitude this aesthetic province is easily conflated with the cognitive province of knowledge. In the cognitive order, the image is analyzed by applying concepts that serve to increase understanding and to acquire new data in a circumscribed context. 

The images presented in relation to Vajra Dakini, one in particular, can be experienced both aesthetically and as an image of cognitive analysis. A cognitive analysis may either enhance or stifle the aesthetic experience, and vice versa. 

From within the natural attitude, other orders of reality are also naively intended, and the observer usually shifts from one attitudial mode to another without achieving excellence in any one province of meaning-intention. 

The perceiver at times relates the artifact to him or herself personally. It then becomes subjugated to the role of psychological trigger, prompting the observer's thoughts about his or her own life. The Vajra Dakini merely functions as the occasion for introspection in which the self-reflective content only obliquely concerns the image. 

The artifact can also serve sociality, whereby consociates are escorted to the Vajra Dakini for their enjoyment. The value of the artifact in this instance is in its function of providing for a favorable social impression. 

One may focus on the image for its moral edification or as a vehicle for personal propaganda. One may attend to how the image has been produced, or perhaps to the stature of the producer/owner or his or her historical milieu. 

During my first visit to the Vajra Dakini and its associations, I shifted between the natural attitude and the phenomenological attitude, which allowed me to make these preliminary observations concerning attitudinal modifications. 

The problematic could be formulated as such: 

Is it possible to experience the phenomenon of the looking-glass self through an artifact or image that has been owned and expressed by a predecessor? The implications are many. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Exploring Personal Branding Through Play

Oh My !!

I recently changed my profile imagine on FB. Nothing outlandish. Nothing over-the-top, just lighthearted fun. My cover photo ... 

is probably more appealing to a Snapchat audience than to my over 40 FB audience. But I like it and I think it's cool .. and fun. The artist in me wants to draw something like that and the rebel in me is going to keep it up there just because. 

My profile photo ... 

I thought, was rather subdued; in particular given the sort of shocking images one can't help but come across on the Internet (even without trying). It would be a perfect profile photo if instead of the guy tilting his head in a Thales of Miletus sort of way, "Is that ship coming or going?" ... there was a teddy bear in my hand ... because that's more "me" ... but what can you do when you don't even realize someone is taking a photo?

And that's just it ... most of our profile pics are front-based perspectives. But 1/2 of our life experience, like dreaming vs wakeful state - is spent with our greeting people from the front while others experience our backside. 

Most people respond favorably to the front-side greetings, dismissing the backside entirely. When I post front-side profile pics ... the responses are many. 

Since I am not "going for many" but rather multiple opportunities to learn and process the world (so that I can think about it, which I find thoroughly enjoying) posting a rear-facing profile pic has given me a the extraordinary opportunity to "think about" the differences in human response. Sure, there might be a few of the emotional responses like the one that prompted my changing my profile pic in the first place ... (a long-time FB interactor sent me a concerned note about my last profile pic, implying that my image was too sexy and not like my typical smily self ... )

to which at first I found a bit insulting until I thought about my public branding. 

Because I express myself as lighthearted and conservative despite my self-professed playfulness, my images tend toward good, old-fashioned smiles ...

... even though someone recently said one was too "close up" 

The thing of it is ... even though I have played in the space of humor (aesthetic discourse), like everyone, I am interested in many expressions of thought. The common thread that unites the Soph Laugh expression is my experiential approach to life, reflected in my sense of humor ... which is laugh at life (not others). 

As a philosopher, I am not trying to prove anything, which means I might not be a philosopher in the recognized sense of the word. I do not have an overwhelming desire to move people toward "my side of the force" toward my "subjective thoughts on the universe" ... for they are mine. If someone asks me what I think of a subject, depending on the subject, I'm happy to engage ... and while I might not share all my perspectives on a thought, the thoughts I share are sincere with a dash of gratitude and sass for decoration. I truly enjoy interacting with others ... and the enterprise of philosophizing is a way of being for me.  

Naturally I process and try to be attentive to feedback, but I have received feedback from so many points of view that if I were to respond to all of it, I'd be in need of Lucian help. 

Playful Branding 

The concept of Playful Branding deserves deeper consideration, but for now, a shout-out to my many friends, including the two whom I referenced in this note (with good intent) ... 

Remember, we're all just playing here. Some of us are experiencing life from a more serious perspective, some with more gusto behind their "life purpose" .... and some just trying to make it from day to day. 

We can't help placing people into little tiny boxes ...

but doing so means you could miss out on something round or oblong or cone-like

The Real Me

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The War on Plants

The war on drugs was weird enough because it was a war on plants, which I found quite odd. But the whole concept of a war on terror is absurd. How can you declare war on an abstract, on a notion? 

Mark Thomas, comedian

Mark Thomas' potent observation is both political and social. But the war on plants is not just a joke, it is a serious subject. 

Consider the war on drugs. 

The joke concept works because it requires us to imagine an absurd armed struggle in which the enemy is a plant. 

Of course no one who supports the war on drugs thinks they are actually going into battle with plants (at least I hope they don't think that because that would be weird; funny, but weird). In fact, they probably don't think they're engaged in combat in the conventional sense at all. 

The "war on drugs" is a metaphor for a political policy of working to eliminate the supply and use of certain potent, harmful or hallucinogenic plant. 


The Literal Part 

The joke concept "the war on drugs" is deliberately interpreted in an overliteral way. Then, on that interpretation, such a concept, e.g., "war" becomes ridiculous. This is not to say that "war" itself is ridiculous, but rather that the joke concept does not address what the war on drugs is really all about. 

In comedy, jokes and metaphors are transformed into polemic one-liners, gags and clever social commentary that make people laugh. Unlike a careful argument, a joke takes a controversial stance and kicks it square in the frig. 

People laugh because the concept of declaring battle against a flowering plant is literally absurd, though they are not usually thinking about a flowering plant but rather the corruption surrounding its go-to-market strategy. 

Earnest Comedians 

While comedians make us laugh, often times they are earnest about their political objectives and the messages they convey. Making jokes about a topic is a sure sign that the individual has thought about that topic, for whatever their reason. This being said, when a comedian says something that is meaningful to them, they become articulate and persuasive spokespeople for their cause(s). 

Naturally, fans respond to the truth of their words. Even if an individual has interpreted facts divergent from mainstream society, the faith they have in the soundness of their thinking and conclusions is evident ... and audible. In other words, even if they're wrong, they sound kinda "right". 

Taking Plants too Seriously 

This whole post sounds as if the author is taking plants (and comedy) too seriously. But that's just it, jokes hit upon uncomfortable truths. They disturb us by pointing out our struggles, ridiculous or not. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Less is More

Less is more advocates for a minimalist approach to an artistic or aesthetic expression. One might pinpoint the declining number of posts published herein as a minimalist approach to blogging ... 

A philosophy of minimalism is similar to the philosophy of listening in the sense that it is conceptually "empty" but simultaneously "filled in" with thoughts or attributes. 

Speaking (or writing) is only one half of language, in which the power of discourse is highlighted over its necessary compliment: listening or reading. 

In order for one to be 'heard'
another must be listening

Over time society has empowered expressive language with the entire domain of communicating, negating listening.

For some, listening requires a Herculean effort. Most "listen" with the intent of responding. This is based on the idea that one must always know what to say as an expression of self worth. This might be true in certain professional circumstances when one's opinion is being sought, but in interpersonal relationships what we're listening for is the other's intent. 

Individuals with auditory processing challenges do not easily process when someone has asked them a question and is waiting for a response, or when someone has finished speaking and is waiting for them to interject a relevant comment. Over time these individuals end up "second guessing" (because listening intently can be just as exhaustive as speaking non-stop) in order to ease communication. Frequently this can result in "interrupting" the speaker. When an individual is listening so intently that the listener prematurely jumps the gun to speak prior to waiting for speaker's natural pause it can seem as if the individual is disinterested in the subject rather than intensely interested. Knowing your listener helps resolve this potential misunderstanding. 


One does not have to have an auditory processing challenge to accidentally interrupt someone. Some highly charged conversations filled with excitement and fueled by enthusiasm can produce the same interruption effect. 

Similarly, conversations to which little enthusiasm is applied can also result in interrupting. An attempt to "get the conversation over with" so as to move along with one's day indicates a lack of interest in the subject material and results in one person succinctly (sometimes, impatiently) summarizing the other person's premise in order to arrive to the "point" of the matter.  Here, listening has been replaced by processing alone. 


Effective listening starts with concentrated listening combined with knowledge on the subject matter. As such we are selective with whom we share certain information. With strangers, we discuss the weather or non-emotive news headlines. With friends, we discuss our vacations, hobbies and shared interests. With close friends and family, we discuss our lives. With colleagues, we discuss our projects. With ourselves, we discuss all of our discussions prior to having them. 

Just as listening is important to effective communication, so too is knowing what to share with whom and when. Setting the stage for effective communication requires our knowing when to say something and when to remain quiet. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the language experience. 

Relying on the less is more approach can result in a mystery. Others wonder what is being left out and why.