Philosophy can be an intimidating subject, especially since everything we know at its highest level is a philosophy. For instance, a Ph.D. is short for Doctor of Philosophy. With an overwhelming number of disciplines and subjects to choose from, not to mention building philosophy's context by understanding its history which stretches way back to the ancients, beginners can be left with analysis paralysis. Greek philosophy set the stage of thought for western civilization; Heraclitus, Parmenides, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle—and nearly 3000 years later we’re still arguing about the same topics. And, truthfully, even with all of the techological innovation, very little has been solved.
So, fast forward to now. Perhaps you're just dipping your toe. With all of human history behind us, what do we now know? What have we learned? From the moment single celled bacteria started a chain reaction of life on this planet, all the way to the complex being and genius mind of Johann Sebastian Bach, in From Bacteria To Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds Daniel Dennett explains how comprehension bootstrapped itself from mindless bottom-up natural selection. Praised by contemporary academics but written in such a way that a normal person can understand—without specialized training or years of philosophy—Dennett’s key theory breaks down the idea of competence without comprehension. How thinking minds can be very good at doing a variety of tasks, but never truly understand, nor need to understand, why they are doing them.
I’m going to try to make this as pithy as I can—an almost insurmountable task as I spent a great deal of the 474 pages of my novel, The Final Book: Gods, covering the subject—and it’s only the first book of the trilogy.
I was raised loosely under the notion of dualism. I am a product of American society, American education, and the little bit of values our culture has are continually shaping my past. However, I’m not sure I ever “believed” any of it. I’ve always been curious of why, and constantly receiving inadequate answers—whether it be from priests, scientists, or professors—has made me skeptical. That is why I have taken up philosophy—and while the trade has given me many tools, it is still difficult to find answers.
In keeping with my theme of researching the Justness of odd and absurd wars, the Anglo-Zanzibar War makes the list as it is regarded as the shortest war in history. Fierce debates have risen over the actual length of the war; Zanzibar sympathizers insisting that the conflict lasted for at least 45 minutes, while British historians claim it was a mere 38 minutes. Let’s just call it an even 40.
Like most dumb wars, Great Britain was a belligerent and its main cause was ensuring that the sun never sets on the British flag. Zanzibar, on the other hand, simply didn’t believe that Great Britain had the stones to fire on them. They were wrong. With a scene straight out of The Simpsons—Bart playing the role of Zanzibar and Lisa playing the role of Great Britain—ultimatums were levied with the attitude that if Zanzibar didn’t comply, it would be their own fault. What more justification for war could O’Brien need?
Friedrich Nietzsche sees the self as a multiplicity of social structure, perception, and the nature of being. One’s perception is not a simple perspective but a complex construct of physiological, psychological, and intellectual functions (Cox, 1). Sensations one experiences is not a direct reflection of the world but an interpretation of phenomena combined with dispositions, value judgements, and personal history that affect conclusions and rational. There is no single phenomena that is universally interpreted the same way; each individual’s understanding can be unique and equally as “good” or “correct” as another’s.
I particularly found Nietzsche’s perspective of knowledge interesting; it is “not an edifice built upon a foundation of indubitable facts, but an interpretative web of mutually supporting beliefs and desires being rewoven. Interpretation is the essence of life and each interpretation opens up a horizon of meaning and value” (Cox, 1, 2). I have put this same sentiment in my own words many times as explaining knowledge as glass ceilings; there is no complete knowledge of particular or universal objects or subjects, only levels of perspective. The more perspectives understood, i.e. ceilings shattered, the richer one’s understanding becomes—to the point of superb functionalism—however, complete knowledge or truth is unobtainable. For instance, a Christian may believe he fully knows God—and he’s not wrong from that standpoint; however, until he understands God from a Hindu, Muslim, Atheist, Buddhist, Jewish, (etc. etc.) perspective, he has a very narrow and incomplete conception of the Almighty.
There are five qualifications Just War Theorists use to evaluate wars, in this article I'll break down the Pastry War between France and Mexico in 1838.
In full disclosure, I chose the Pastry War because of its superficial absurdity. I wanted to find the dumbest full-fledged conflict that I could, put it through the grinders of Justice, and see what our war ethicist buddy O’Brien comes up with. Let me tell you, there’s plenty of dumb wars out there, but I needed something with more substance than, say, the folklore surrounding the War of the Bucket (Bologna and Modena, 1325). According to historians, the Pastry War has enough significance to be somewhat documented and made just about everyone’s list of dumb—and so began my investigation.