On the Utility of Labels

 

So, I normally use this blog as a place to put my creative writing. It is primarily a place for my ideas to live. Sometimes though, I feel the need to express my thoughts in a more direct way. For my international readers, it’s worth noting here that I live in the United States. I will be speaking from this vantage point.

In the national discourse here, I have seen things divide into two very distinct in disparate camps of thought: one of which uses labels as a means to demean, oppress, marginalize, and ignore. The other camp thinks that it’s a fantastic idea to abolish the habit of labeling in its entirety because of the problems that the former way of thinking creates. However, in my mind, this is also fallacious thinking. The thinking of the latter group 6 to abolish labeling in order to paint a more human picture of humanity, ironically. I say ironically because you can’t make someone not human who is already human. You can try to use legislative trickery to take away the rights of a certain group, but you cannot take away the fact that the group is comprised of humans. I’m kind of getting a little off topic here. Sorry about that.

The thing about labels is that sometimes they’re useful. They are things that we can often use to refer to certain aspects of ourselves in order to better explain them. For example, I often refer to myself as disabled, or a person with a disability. In my particular case, it isn’t really all that important to me which one you use, as long as you don’t use a derogatory term like retarded or handicapped. The first indicating that I have some kind of mental deficiency… Which I clearly don’t. And the second implies a level of brokenness that needs to be repaired medically. I’m also a Pacific Islander, I’m also a Filipino-American. I’m also of native Hawaiian descent. All of these things are labels that I use to describe myself, terms or phrases of self-reference. I also have depression, and I’m also a trauma survivor. These words and phrases tell you something about me, that’s why I use them in the first place. None of these labels in and of themselves will tell you who I am.

All of this is to say that labels don’t necessarily need to be judged as inherently bad. It’s what we do with them that matters. It’s a lot easier for me to use some of these things to describe things about me than it is for me to tell you the various stories which belie each of them. I can if someone is interested, but sometimes there just isn’t enough time in the day. To be quite honest, there may be days where I don’t even want to. But whether we’re talking about the Myers-Briggs label of me being in ENTP, the descriptor I use for my ethnic identity, my disability or whatever… These things are particularly useful to me as a person. With that, I give you one final thought: it isn’t labels that are necessarily bad, it’s how we use them that determines their worth. When someone uses labels of their choosing to describe themselves, don’t shut down the conversation by insisting on a particular lexicon, instead, listen to what that person is trying to tell you by invoking that usage. Maybe then you’ll be able to see the story behind that term or phrase. In doing so, we will take power away from those who would use such labels to undermine our humanity, and give the power back to the communities who use them as a means of self-reference and identification to form bonds with others in their communities, thereby empowering social change on our own terms.

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“You Can’t Do It.” And Other Negative Things in My Mind — The Armchair of the Socratic Buffoons

What the Depressed Mind Says to You My fellow Socratic Buffoon just talked about his experience with depression, now it is my turn to angle the magnifying glass to my own mind. I have struggled with depression for awhile, I would say for 12 years now. It manifests as a low mood with irritability and […]

via “You Can’t Do It.” And Other Negative Things in My Mind — The Armchair of the Socratic Buffoons

A Little Intro to Stoicism

A Philosophy of Repression?

So, what is Stoicism exactly? Is it the quiet, sullen pessimist who has a cynical perspective of the world and represses all emotional reactions and moods as irrational or rather as unhelpful? Well, not quite.  Antiheroes like Wolverine are commonly described as “stoic,” but this is a stereotype; Logan detaches himself from any sort of feeling for his comrades, the X-Men, because of trauma and his own murderous animal rage, and he copes with heavy drinking and various drugs. Mostly this is out of fear, but this attitude and the word used to describe it, is a far cry from the Ancient Greek philosophical school that bears the name Stoicism. So, again what is Stoicism?

Where Did It Come From?

No it was not founded by a Vulcan, it was founded by Zeno of Citium around 300 BCE, Stoicism was influenced by the legendary philosopher Socrates in the sense that virtue was the chief good in order to live a fulfilling life. Zeno established three things to study in order to live this philosophy which included Physics, Logic and Ethics. Physics in the ancient world meant the natural world, today this would be the findings in modern science, Logic was the study of epistemology and how to use reason to combat automatic judgement of things both external and internal. Ethics was the principle by how you led your life in “accordance with Nature.” What is meant by “Nature” is related to the Stoic’s view of the universe as orderly and rational and that human beings are by nature rational and social creatures.  These three principles are interconnected so accumulation of knowledge, using one’s reason to figure out what is virtue and what is not and formulating a way of life that is beneficial not only to yourself, but to your fellow human beings. The three topics are usually bundled together as an image: Physics is the fertile soil of a plot of land, Logic is the fence or wall that protects that soil and Ethics is the fruit of that soil.   

 

Virtue Ethics

The concept of virtue has existed for millennia, and in Ancient Greece it was hailed as the chief good by which one should live their life. In Stoicism, virtue is held in high esteem and its cultivation necessary to live a eudaimonic life. Since the time of Socrates and Plato, four aspects of virtue called the Cardinal Virtues were identified as components to the good life:

  • Wisdom or Prudence
  • Justice; (includes how parents treat children)
  • Temperance or Moderation
  • Courage or Fortitude

It must be noted that these are translated from Ancient Greek terms and that you should not define these words as they are understood today. For example, according to Don Robertson, Justice is to be understood as one’s relationship to their society, parents or the gods (piety) and has two sub-virtues, kindness and fairness. We won’t delve deeply into the Cardinal Virtues in this post, but stay tuned for more articles on these essential cultivations.

Conclusion

These are the broad strokes of Stoicism as a school of thought, but we hope that this introduction was a good taste of what is to come from these Socratic Buffoons. Our goal with these writings about Stoicism is not to delve into its theories and whether it is the “right path” (as philosophy is not to be taken as religious dogma); our goal is to share personal experience and frame it from the Stoic perspective. In the Ancient days philosophy was used as therapy for the human psyche, not just an attempt to explain the universe or imagine what the perfect society would be, philosophy is a toolkit and we want to show you what you could do with these tools. It is through exposing our own examined pieces of life that we hope to inspire some rational inquiry into your own soul.

Welcome to the Socratic Buffoons!

Hey Guys! I’m retiring Musings of a digital Vagabond.  I’ll be putting that content up on another blog soon.  Nothing will change for you guys, I’ll be posting everything from The Armchair of the Socratic Buffoons right here.  And I’ll be migrating my work with disability to a new site. Hope you guys keep reading

A Blog on Philosophy by Non-Philosophers? Why Are You Doing This?

Photo of bloggers wearing clown noses

The answer to that is a fairly straightforward one, at least for us. We were both introduced into philosophy in a way that caused us to examine our own beliefs, and in a way that made us feel as though philosophy was entirely practical. Especially for me, (Ronald Brady). When I was about 15 years old, I met a homeless man at a shopping mall who noticed that I was reading the dialogues of Plato. I soon found out that he was a retired philosophy professor who fell on hard times for various reasons but even then, he couldn’t give up on philosophy. So we made a deal: he would walk me through Plato’s dialogues, teaching the key philosophical concepts in exchange for a couple of meals a week. Needless to say, I readily agreed. My partner in crime (deviant jester a.k.a. Joey), received much the same treatment of philosophy as I did mostly because it was the only thing I knew how to do. And so here we are! We still think philosophy is a really important way, for us to test what we believe, examine our assumptions, and live fuller lives. We try our very best to bear in mind “the unexamined life is not worth living.” That’s why we’re here doing this.

What Is Philosophy?

Quote from Socrates

That’s a sticky and tricky question. As many philosophers as there are in the world both professional and informal, there are probably an equal or greater number of definitions of what philosophy is. To borrow one of my former philosophy professor’s definitions, “philosophy is that discipline primarily concerned with formulating, asking, and answering fundamental questions insufficiently addressed by either science or religion.” If I may add to that, philosophy is a way of life to both of us, and philosophy is made fully alive when the things we learn from it can be put into practice.

Why Stoicism?

Quote from Marcus Aurelius

Well, I would say because it’s old. But that’s not even close to the reason. Many of the philosophies we learn about are old, or at least older than us. Without explaining too much about what Stoicism is (because that’s coming in the next post), we chose to begin our exploration of practical philosophy with Stoicism because it is probably one of the easiest philosophies to understand with little to no philosophical training, and many of the techniques that the ancients used for modulating one’s more fiery emotions line up quite well with modern cognitive behavioral therapy practices. For that reason, we decided to start there. Later on, we will be talking about other philosophers and other schools of thought like Plato, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill and utilitarianism generally, and probably a lot of others. There are no set plans yet as to who we’ll cover, what topics, or when we will cover which things, but were going to keep plugging away. We hope you enjoy it.

Conclusion

We feel that philosophy matters. For us, it is a fundamental part of the human experience. Whether you know it or not, every time you sit down and wonder about the fundamental parts of something abstract, or you ask the very basic question of why something is the way it is, or you ponder the meaning of life and existence, you are in some sense, engaging in philosophy. So we hope you enjoy the beginning of our own very personal explorations of Stoic philosophy. Just as a treat, I’ll leave you with a Ted talk by that very same philosophy professor whose definition of philosophy I just happened to borrow. Thank you, Dr. Schubert.

A Writer Trapped

escape-it

 

I was mulling this over, playing with palabras. I then saw a friend’s post: “When we are lonely, do we say things that we don’t really mean, or do we speak our deepest truths?” This my confession of the moment

I’m trapped in a maze of words,
Of my own making.
Most people write their own relief,
But I sit behind iron bars, forged of ink.
Composed of all my words, of all the things I think.
Reliving each memory as if it were made whole again,
Brought into the world of the real.
It’s art without the catharsis,
Vocabulary intercourse without the climax.
Why is it that other people seem to know the language of life, when I’ve barely learned the alphabet?
Still learning to use the clunky syllables while others are having fluid conversations.
Expressing their innermost desires, and getting that which they need;
All I get is a syntax error, a misunderstanding.
Most of the time, I bathe in solitude like Bathsheba,
But staring up at the moon I often wonder if love will forever elude me.
Because what’s life without someone to share, without someone to bear the cohabitated mentality of mutual understanding.
These are just some things I think,
When I’m trapped in a maze built of my own words,
And I stand behind iron bars forged of ink,
Composed of my words, and all the things I think.

Glimpses of Spring

Such a sweet sentiment I wish I could experience again

Suddenly Satori

I’ve spent the night sifting through some of my old writings. Peering into our past can tell us so much about ourselves. So much about the things I wrote suggest that they were written by me — from the sensitivity and vulnerability to the reverence for nature that I tried so hard to capture. Yet, I know that the girl who wrote them just doesn’t exist anymore. I can never be her again, even if I wanted to. She was so innocent, so naive. In a way, this piece on springtime has come to encapsulate a spring-like season of my own life. I know that I can never love like that again, and it has nothing to do with being unable to find the right person or anything like that. It’s because I’ve tumbled too far through life. I’ve loved too many. I know too much about humans now. I…

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