Philosophy Jerks is a project that has been, incoherently, in the works for almost 10 years. It could be said that this all started the day Brian and I met. We were both philosophy majors in college; so naturally, we ended up in a lot of the same classes. The first in this series was our beginning Logic course. After working together on a class assignment, we quickly realized how much we had in common. As typical when you are in your young 20s, we would often meet up for parties. While drinking our lions’ share of the ‘dirty thirty’ case of beer, we would often find ourselves chain smoking cigarettes and solving the world’s problems, one issue at a time. As our friendship grew, so did our ideas. We both were huge fans of Bill Hick’s comedy work, which drove both our love of reading and ideas, as well as our hate for the common thought process of our culture. From our mutual love of Hick’s philosophy, we had an unwritten vow to do what we could to ‘cure the fevered egos of the world’. This first manifested itself in a group I started in college called ‘Socrates Cafe’, which was my attempt to bring the art of philosophy out of the classroom, and into the hands of average people. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSwiChHWLPM We had one of the largest non-fraternities, on-campus, groups and one of the only groups that had non-college students involved alongside college students. This was an aspect of the cafe that I have remained proud of since my graduation back in 2008. The main goal of Socrates Cafe was to have as diverse population of minds in a conversation as possible. This would provide for a larger perspective than just the typical smug philosopher-in-training responses that I would find in my classes. However, more sinisterly, my bigger goal was to do what I could to raise the bar for common conversations. It was pleasant to see that, after each cafe, 5-10 people would gather around and continue the conversations on their own, and often through the week. In parallel to the Socrates Cafe project, Brian and I devised a dream of creating and running a website that would allow all our friends to gather and discuss bigger ideas, as well as post blogs. Sadly, this project was never brought to fruition, mainly due to funding (who has that kind of quid in college? Especially Philosophy students?!). However, the motivation to create such a place resided in us both, even to this day.
Now, in our early 30s, we have a more calm and collected version of our shared dream. Always eager to work together, Brian invited me to be a part of his podcast show. I had been a fan of his show for the year prior to my joining his team, and it was an honor to be working with him again. Through that project, Brian and I both realized the chemistry we have on the mic, especially when diving into issues and questions. Recalling Socrates Cafe, as well as our dream of building that website, we realized that we now had a vehicle to push our unspoken agreement of elevating people’s minds through conversation forward: podcasting. Podcasting is a natural fit for us. With Brian having a background in radio broadcasting, and my IT skills, we quickly built out the website and show structure. It has been a dream come true, and this project is easily one of my most exciting projects that I have worked on in recent years. I finally feel like I have the means and the content to push my agenda forward; to elevate the collective consciousness with its own momentum of curiosity.
The issue I see in my culture is that the common conversation lacks greatly in both complexity and substance. It has no way of truly driving that innate human curiosity about things; and instead tends to favor gossip and verbal competition. Philosophy Jerks is a project that has the hopes of helping to cure that issue, by posing philosophical questions on everyday topics as well as building a community of people based on the underlying belief that there is more to life then what is apparent and intuitive. One conversational trap that I often see is that people will tend to attach themselves to certain belief structure, an ‘ism’. And when this happens, often, the result is that the belief structure ends up doing the thinking for the person, which, in a way, is the goal. Thinking is hard work, and thinking in-depth about things is even more work, as well as something we as a species were not designed to be ‘great’ at. (Our evolution is structured for survival more so than it is for ‘knowing truth’) Having the ability to think deeply about problems and issues is a luxury that is only provided after all of our basic needs are met, at least, in theory. In our modern culture, the basics are covered for the majority of the population. We really are free to think deeply about topics, yet, we still don’t; at least, not publicly, not with our friends, not in our common everyday conversations. Often, at least from my own personal experience, the following cartoon best represents what passes for ‘deep thought’ in the general population:
While on the surface, and without the context of the proceeding frames, each one of these can be thought of as a complex and interesting argument as to why the two people are riding the donkey incorrectly. However, if all these points of view and criticisms were in the same room, or within the same conversation, then perhaps it would be easier for people to come to a conclusion that is based on more than their initial gut reactions to an issue. Or better yet, perhaps the people may forgo a conclusion in favor of a question! Now with such romantic ideals backing this project, many of you may already be wondering why the name ‘Philosophy Jerks’? And the answer to that is simple; Brian and I were not only fans of Bill Hick’s critiques on society, we were fans of his blind rage against stupidity. We found it funny, and like with anything else, a good joke can not only break the ice but also provide a level of insight that typical linguistic expressions cannot. I am not one to suffer fools or geniuses lightly, and for that conviction, I am often called a jerk. And there is no doubt that I have a rough edge to my belief structures and verbal wit, and that is a kind of energy that I am eager to tap for the show.
Often my two world views will clash; that of bettering the world and that of making fun of it. With that clashing comes a sort of cognitive dissonance with anyone that happens to know me long enough–and this is a good thing; for I am large, and contain multitudes. I am not interested in being right on this show, so much as I am interested in creating something thought provoking and entertaining. I want to make the audience laugh while they change their minds about the world around them. At the end of the day, Philosophy Jerks is a project that is about raising awareness on how we all think about issues and the world around us. It’s not a mission to provide answers to issues, but rather, open the door for these issues to be explored beyond the limits of conventional outlets, such as mainstream news media or text books. Our goal is to elevate the water cooler talk, without taking it too seriously. Welcome to the beginning of something great, and I personally welcome you to the community. I look forward to interacting with everyone and getting to know their stories. One episode at a time, we will find the cure for the common conversation.