Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Thich Nhat Hanh

Against the Stoics, Skeptics, Epicureans, and Buddhists

This is going to be an odd post about Greek philosophy and the contemporary analogues of Greek traditions. Its purpose is threefold. First, I’ll argue that the Stoics, Skeptics, and Epicureans had similar conceptions of the good life, that this conception closely resembles the conception preferred by Buddhists, and that this conception of the good life is mistaken. Second, I’ll argue that the Stoics and Skeptics both make similar–if opposite–errors with respect to meta-ethics, with the Stoics asserting an unrealistically ambitious epistemology and the Skeptics denying that epistemology without acknowledging less ambitious alternatives. Third, I’ll argue that many contemporary political and moral antagonisms are essentially new versions of the Stoic/Skeptic antagonism, and that there is a popular Epicurean response to this antagonism.

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Why It’s Wrong to Vilify Trump and the Folks Who Work for Him

The right believes that people are personally responsible for where they end up in life. If you end up in a bad job or with no job at all, it’s because you did something wrong. If you have immoral beliefs, it’s because you choose to have them. It’s never because of the system or the structure–to the right, that’s just making excuses. The thing that’s cool about the left is that the left understands that we don’t have the freedom to choose to be successful people. There are only so many good jobs. Some people are bound to end up without one. We pick up our beliefs from our education system, from the people around us and from the conditions we find ourselves in. People don’t just choose to have crummy beliefs or to end up poor or homeless. We collectively create people in an imperfect way, and those imperfections produce beliefs and behaviours that are symptoms of our failures. This is why we show compassion to people whose lives have turned out poorly–because we as a society are collectively responsible for their condition and owe them our help. The right doesn’t think it owes marginalised people compassion because the right thinks the marginalised are to blame for their condition. This is a core difference between the left and the right. For the left, it takes a village to raise a child, and every person reflects on the character of the society from which they come. But over the last few decades, the left has increasingly gotten away from this. Today, many on the left only afford this compassion and understanding selectively, to people in designated marginalised groups. They forget that the systems and structures which produce marginalisation also afflict those who do the marginalising. And so increasingly they tell us that the specific individuals who work for the Trump administration–whether in ICE or in any other role–deserve retribution. In recent days, this has ranged from asking Trump employees to leave restaurants to doxxing ICE agents. But we also see it within the left, in its ever-increasing penchant for hurling accusations of individual moral failing at those within the church who sin–and to many left-wing eyes, we are all sinners.

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