Wittgenstein-Dependence Gene Identified

A team of geneticists from Berlin have shown that Wittgensteinianism - a common academic addiction to the writings of the philosopher Wittgenstein, which in its late stages becomes a life-consuming obsession – is actually associated with a certain gene. Even though this does not mean that all people carrying this genetic disorder will inevitably develop the ailment, they need much less exposure to the work of Wittgenstein than normal people to become fascinated by it and, from that point on, hopelessly addicted.

Clinical trials performed with genetically mutated mice demonstrated beyond a doubt that this is so. Whereas mice from the control group, when exposed to a paperback print of The Philosophical Investigations, behaved in the same manner as would be considered completely normal in humans (simply ignoring the book  or, at times, releasing a few droppings on top of it), the mutated mice would quickly become obsessed with it, leafing through its pages with their little noses, going back and forth over and over again, and staring at individual words sometimes for minutes, displaying the unhealthy attention to detail well known to occur in humans suffering from this affliction. Additionally, all of the mutated mice became extremely gay.

Although this dependence remains unknown to the general public, it afflicts a great number of families around the world. Todd Marshal, a grocery store manager from Indiana, told us about his experience as a parent: “One day my son got home after school and told me that a friend of his had let him browse through a copy of the Blue and Brown Books. I became nervous of course, as any father would, and even more so when he told me he had enjoyed the experience and that he thought that Wittgenstein had a point. I never wanted to be one of those parents who overprotects their children so I let him experiment. What was the big deal, right? I tried a little Nietzsche myself when I was about his age so I thought the same thing that had happened to me would happen to him: he would simply grow out of all that nonsense. But it wasn’t long before I started seeing changes in his behavior. He would stay locked in his room for hours on end and was constantly asking me for money ‘to buy porn’, as he would say. But one day, while he was away, I entered his room, opened up his nightstand drawer and underneath a few empty vials of Vaseline I saw a worn-out copy of the Tractactus, filled with little notes and highlighted passages. And I knew then that my son was an addict. I tried everything to get him to quit and I kept asking myself what I had done wrong. For a while I truly believed I could change him but one day he arrived home saying he had finished his PhD and that he had been offered a position at a faculty teaching Wittgenstein and working with a Wittgenstein research group. A bright academic career was now ahead of him, and I knew I had lost my son.”

Dramatic as it is, the discovery of the Wittgenstein gene brings parents like these a small measure of solace. Now they know that regardless of their best efforts, in the end there was really nothing they could do after the exposure had happened. All they can do is try to get their children to admit they have a disease and convince them to seek professional help because although a cure really doesn’t exist, treatment is possible. Addicts can slowly be weaned off Wittgenstein by means of a lighter Logical Positivist succedaneum, which produces similar intellectual effects but isn’t as dangerous. The idea is to completely rid the patient of the addiction by administering high doses of Quine at a later stage, but most relapse into Wittgenstein within 3 months of treatment.

Not all is bad news, though. As it turns out, genetically afflicted Wittgenstein scholars aren’t similar to cockroaches simply in the sense that both are parasitical biological automatons that excel at surviving in extremely competitive environments despite the fact that they lack the intelligence and creativity of higher organisms. They are also both incredibly resilient to radiation. In fact, scientists believe that in case a nuclear holocaust happens, cockroaches and Wittgensteinians will be the only living things left o Earth. Governmental authorities in UN countries have been trying to put this genetic advantage to use by sending Wittgensteinians to Fukushima to help solve the radiation leakage problem. However, all Wittgensteinians so far have refused to go there, claiming that the word “radiation” makes no sense outside its ordinary use within the context of the nuclear power plant, and that they are therefore certain that the radiation problem will eventually dissolve itself rather than be solved. 


NASA says Empirical Metaphysics will become reality later this year

For some time now, philosophers everywhere have been concerned that the mind-boggling exuberance of contemporary science and its ever-growing flow of fascinating theoretical discoveries and subsequent practical applications will eventually give pause to taxpayers in free nations everywhere and make them start wondering how come a nontrivial amount of their hard earned money is being channeled to research in metaphysics. This dreaded scenario has long been foreseen by philosophers, who have for a few decades now received the kind of welcoming at interdisciplinary conferences that one would expect a bunch of crazy old hippies to get if they crashed a Wall Street young stockbroker party: everyone finds them loud and obnoxious but since they are pretty much harmless and, moreover, remind everyone of their parents when they spoke nostalgically about their crazy idealistic youth and about “how much you kids owe us for what we did back then”, they have no choice but to respect them and let the poor old sods ramble on about their golden age for a while before getting down to discussing serious business again. Still, as long as people not working in research never knew about this, all would be well.

The problem is that word of philosophers’ metaphysical silliness started leaking from the academic realm into the outside world where all the funding comes from, and at some point, inevitably, Governments from all around the world will begin wondering just what the hell are these guys using their money for. Since the answer would itself have to be metaphysical (which wouldn’t really help much), philosophers started becoming desperate to solve this predicament before having to actually face the question. And so they asked themselves: “Where did it all go wrong? When did people stop listening to our carefully thought-out metaphysical propositions as valuable information about how the world really is”? The problem was soon identified. Their downfall had been Kant and his cursed distinction between phenomenon and noumenon. Obviously, when Kant said that the noumenon is the world as it really is while simultaneously putting it outside the philosophers’ grasp, people started turning their eyes to science, which may have its flaws but at least doesn’t make up stupid progress-hindering dichotomies like that. Kant, the Virgin, had truly f*cked them over. “How’s that for an antinomy?”, angry metaphysicians hypothesized.

Throwing the towel was not an option since most metaphysicians had very physical kids to feed, and so, quite against their nature, they turned to action and devised a plan to return their field of expertise to the place where it rightfully belongs, which is behind science, backing it up as it goes on explaining stuff. Knowing that competing against science was impossible, they used the old “can’t beat them, join them” strategy.  

And so, it is our privilege to bring to you the extraordinary news that an international team of metaphysicians has been secretly working alongside NASA for the past five years and have now come forth to announce that the United States will be the first to put a man on the noumenon. NASA spokesperson Alan Cross provided us with a brief but enlightening description of the technology that will make this possible: “In layman’s terms, what we did was create a special suit that extracts information directly from the noumenon by means of a series of special sensors, and then channels it straight to the noumenaut’s brain through a bunch of little wires attached to his head. This allows the experience which would otherwise be phenomenical to entirely bypass the faculty of sensibility. Consequently, the experienced object is not filtered through the innate categories of understanding and so it is presented as it really is. In short, we block out the transcendental to access the transcendent, and thus can actually do what Kant said we could never do, which is to experience the noumenon. It wasn’t that hard to do, really. Kant just made it look that way because, you know, he was German.”

We were also able to get a few words from Herbert Williams, one of the metaphysicians working on the project, whose real name is coincidentally also Alan Cross but who asked us to remain heteronymous in print so as to preserve his numerical identity: “Putting on the suit for noumenal travelling is pretty much like putting on the One Ring. You disappear from everyone’s sight immediately after attaching the helmet and from your perspective everything starts looking really different and cool. By the way, we already own the movie rights to this whole thing so don’t get any ideas.” A ridiculous pig-like laugh followed this statement, very typical of metaphysicians who no longer have friends to warn them against the social consequences of laughing like that.

The invention of Noumenal travel means the beginning of exciting times indeed for metaphysics, which by becoming empirical has ensured at least another 200 more years of much needed Government funding. Still, there is the very real possibility for abuse of this technology, and the U.S. Military has already shown interest in acquiring it. Noumenal travelling suits could very well be used as cloaking devices for spies, for instance, and the noumenon can easily become the ground for mercilessly torturing suspected terrorists with impunity, away from the media's reach. Nevertheless, no one working on the project seems too worried about this possibility. NASA scientists have said that international law and the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to the noumenon and so it’s not their problem. The metaphysicians have said pretty much the same thing regarding the categorical imperative.

So who will be the first to walk on the noumenon? NASA has stated that the first mission was supposed to have already taken place late last year, but the individual chosen to be the first noumenaut, when asked in a final psychological exam what he felt about his upcoming “trip”, stated that he was “very excited” and that he “was sure it was going to be a phenomenal experience”. In the face of such a gross philosophical faux pas they had no choice but to fire him. Reportedly, he is now working with a competing agency in the new field of Theoforensics, which aims at using a cutting-edge Spinozian-spectroscopy technique to analyze the remains of the dead immanent God in matter, perform and autopsy and hopefully prove Nietzsche’s innocence.

The next mission is supposed to take place sometime this year. This event is naturally being anticipated with much rejoicing by metaphysicians, which have finally been given the chance to prove their work is not pointless and outright silly. However, Russia has expressed some uneasiness about the aforementioned military potential of this technology. Could we be on the brink of a Philosophical Cold War? The truth is that the Russian Federal Space Agency has already announced that it is working with a team of modal logicians so as to be the first to put a man on a possible world. Still, a spokesperson for the Agency has come forth to calm people down, assuring that “this is not in any way intended to be a display of power. We wish to cause no diplomatic turmoil whatsoever. Our goal is the same as it has ever been: to broaden Humanity’s scientific knowledge. In doing so, why should we restrict ourselves to our universe if we can travel to others? The only difference now is that if we luck out and end up travelling to a possible world in which neither Kant nor NASA ever existed, we may consider moving there”. 


Archaeologists announce discovery of Ockham's Razor

British archaeologists working in Ockham, a small village located in the Surrey county in South East England, have announced a remarkable discovery which is already garnering consensus amidst the scientific community as constituting one of the greatest historical finds of the last few decades.

Most everyone has heard of “Ockham’s Razor”, also known as the law of parsimony, which in the most common of its many possible formulations states that when pressed to choose between two equivalent explanations, all other things being equal, one should pick the simplest as it will probably be the correct one. Recently, the aforementioned group of archaeologists have confirmed that the object they uncovered from a medieval ruin buried under the mossy ground of southern England is exactly what they suspected it was right from the beginning: the original Ockham’s razor, that is, the actual razor used by William of Ockham himself - the Franciscan friar who invented the law of parsimony - to shave every morning, and which inspired him to come up with the idea. Extracted from the dig site along with the razor were Ockham’s toothbrush, Ockham’s dental floss, Ockham’s nail clipper and a collection of strange moon-shaped objects that at first fooled the archaeologists into believing they had fortuitously stumbled upon the remains of some ancient bivalve from the Cambric, but which turned out to be Ockham’s toenail clippings. However, for obvious reasons, the semi-mythical razor is the one making headlines everywhere.

Although the full implications of this astonishing discovery are yet to be assessed, it is already sparking an enormous amount of commotion among a very special group of people: atheists. Since they have been using the principle of Ockham’s Razor for ages as an argument against the existence of God, the finding of the actual razor represents the opportunity to finally have something close to an atheistic relic. As such, ever since the discovery was announced, atheist believers numbering in the thousands have pilgrimaged to Ockham in an attempt to touch or at least get a glimpse of the revered object, which is already being said to have the power to cure existentialism. Among them is the famous biologist and delusional pseudo-philosopher Richard Dawkins, who upon hearing the news immediately flew over to Britain from the Maldives, where he was enjoying a relaxing vacation with his life-partner and fellow atheist Daniel Dennett. The latter couldn’t join him in the trip due to an unexplained medical condition which causes him to experience tremendous pain when sitting down, so we didn't manage to ask him his opinion on all this, but The Philosophical Times did get to interview Dawkins as he was leaving the improvised exhibition room in Ockham where the razor is currently under display. 

Still wet-cheeked and dewy-eyed, Dawkins stated in a profoundly peaceful voice: “It is difficult to put into words what it feels like to be in the presence of Ockham’s razor, the actual one that inspired the principle which I have exploited so much in my work bringing the news of Atheism to common people. I can only say that this has been the most materialistic experience of my life. I mean, for a moment there, it was as if I could actually feel the absence of God within me”.

A Vatican spokesperson has already come forth to downgrade the importance of the finding, stating that “it has been sufficiently demonstrated by Kierkegaard, among others, that the principle of Ockham’s Razor cannot be applied to theological matters”, and that “the Lord Himself has given us a sign that this is so through the image imprinted upon the holy Shroud of Turin, which clearly shows that the Messiah had the bushy beard of a man who never shaved, and one does not have to be the Pope to realize that this was God’s way of warning future generations against Ockham’s Razor”.

This statement, however, has done little or nothing to defuse the enthusiasm of the atheists from all over the world who continue flocking in increasingly greater numbers to the small village of Ockham, despite the best efforts of the local administration officials to get them to flock off. It therefore seems clear that the pilgrimage will continue for some time, particularly since all this is happening in the aftermath of the astonishing news of the team of Mexican atheist scientists who only last month discovered that the E. Coli culture growing in one of their Petri dishes looked exactly like Darwin. 


Stephen Hawking Revolutionizes Philosophy

Professor Stephen Hawking’s famous claim that “philosophy is dead”, brutally forced into the reader without any form of foreplay whatsoever right from the first page of his 2010 book “The Grand Design” (co-written with Leonard Mlodinow), is still causing philosophers to moan in pain in academic boudoirs all over the world. This generalized disgruntlement among philosophers, which found themselves so suddenly confronted with the very real possibility of losing their cozy grants and thus having to step into the untold dangers lurking outside their faculties to hunt for a real job, has overshadowed the true service that Professor Hawking has paid Philosophy. Far from killing it, what he in fact did was revolutionize it. And we at The Philosophical Times would be grossely remiss if we let such a revolution slip unnoticed.

One must begin by putting Hawking’s earth-shattering claim in context. For while it is true that he did claim that philosophy is dead, it is also true that he immediately sprang (the only way he can, of course, which is metaphorically) into all-out philosophical speculation immediatly after doing it. Just to skim over this issue very briefly, let us remember that his “model-dependent realism” theory, unoriginal and common-place among philosophers and physicists as it is, is still nothing more than epistemology, which last time we checked remained strongly embedded in that particular field of thought which should by now, according to Hawking’s view, be just another corpse rotting in the common grave of Humanity's most embarrassing mistakes, such as alchemy, heliocentrism and disco.

Moreover, it must be noted that Hawking spends quite a bit of time in his book arguing that M-theory is the most likely candidate for becoming a viable “theory of everything”. The thing is, while Hawking admits that it is unclear what the “M” in “M-theory” stands for, it is quite obvious that it must stand for “Metaphysical”. This is a fair assumption since all that Hawking does in proposing it is to take good old-fashioned metaphysics, dress it up in drag and call it “elegant theoretical physics”. The problem with this attempt - heroic as it undoubtedly is - is that metaphysics is far too old to fool anyone just because somebody managed to fit it into a sparkling mathematical mini-skirt. Quite simply put, it may impress gullible physicists drooling over it and frantically trying to make it dance a little more boldly by stuffing peer-reviewed papers in its bra, but for anyone with a minimal amount of philosophical training, well… we can see its balls hanging.

What this means is that instead of losing their tempers and raising their feeble fists in anger against Hawking, what every philosopher in the world should be doing is praise the man endlessly. For in effect, what he did was not “kill” philosophy as he leads the unnatentive reader to believe, but rather to gracefully unite it with physics and, in doing so, bring a priori philosophical contemplation into the XXI century. Now, thanks to Hawking, the time of the old armchair philosophy is finally over and a new era has dawned: the era of the electronic wheelchair philosophy. Well done, sir. Well done.


Ned Block Uncovers Truth about Damasio's Core-Self

 In his most recent book, “Self Comes to Mind”, the Portuguese neurologist and neuroscientist Antonio Damasio argues for a theory of consciousness based on the notion of self-consciousness. Specifically, Damasio proposes a “hierarchization of selves”, the first and lowest level being the proto-self, after which comes the core-self and finally, the autobiographical self. According to this view, it is only at the level of the core-self that consciousness truly begins to emerge. Without a core-self (paraphrasing Damasio), the mind remains nothing more than a wholly unconscious stream of images.

 Among the many thinkers who have raised their voices against this theory is most notably the philosopher Ned Block. According to Block, Damasio’s idea of a consciousness based upon a core-self is overly “sophisticated”, as it fails to take into account the phenomenal experience which humans “share with many animals”.

 In an attempt to prove his point, Ned Block and a a group of his fellow scientists from New York University, upon analysis of a few MRI's of Damasio's brain, managed to isolate and visualize Damasio's actual core-self, of which the picture above is a 3D computer generated rendering. “This image”, Block stated in a recent press release, “allows us to finally understand why Professor Damasio consistently misconstrues the nature of phenomenal experience in his books. As we can plainly see, his own core-self, far from being the smooth and diaphanous bubble growing around the autonomous phenomenal consciousness as is the case in normal people, has developed this gruesome shell with creepy little tumors all around, no doubt due to years of unrestrained neuroscience abuse. Thus, the qualia which are naturally experienced by regular individuals are trapped underneath Damasio’s crusty core-self, which explains why he has absolutely no idea they exist independently of any sense of selfhood”.

 With this empirical study Block has effectively demonstrated that while Damasio's theory of consciousness is utterly false as a description of consciousness in normal human beings, it is actually accurate as a description of Damasio's own consciousness and therefore, in a fascinating turn of events, Damasio's theory which aimed at being an objective description of subjective phenomenal conscious experience turns out to be objective only insofar at it is subjective to Damasio himself. When confronted with this evidence, Damasio is quoted as having only answered: "how the hell did you get MRI's of my brain?!", thus evading the real issue completely and focusing only on his own self, in agreement with Block's findings.