četvrtak, 17. siječnja 2013.


'What's this rather queer looking contraption?', we might ask ourselves. Twitter and philosophy? No way!

Yes way! said the whole tweetosophers community, and there's quite bunch of us. I've noticed there are some people who follow just over one thousand philosophers on Twitter. And with each new day i follow or get followed by more and more philosophers, engage with them in discussions, comments or questioning every possible philosophical field or problem. 

Of course, by discussion i mean exchange of ideas formed within a tweet, which is quite different than what some philosophers are used to. Discussing philosophical issues has mostly been done in wide form of essays where each point of view could be dissected and presented as complicated or difficult to express. Philosophers would approach every problem with variety of arguments, examples, thought experiments and the like, just as we are used to read philosophical books usually written in more than two hundred pages. But what if someone asked you to express your arguments in 140 characters? How could philosophers deal with that? Quite recently @ATBollands  and i argued on solipsism and he stated that "Twitter is so useful (if a little frustrating) for philosophical debate. It forces you to be concise in the arguments you give" on which i replied that "Maybe every philosophical debate should be as concise in argumentation as a tweet". And i really meant that! What @ATBollands brilliantly stated means that Twitter forces you to think how can you state your arguments in best possible way in order to fit them in only 140 characters. This means that Twitter forces you to think - and not just when engaged in philosophical, but also in any other discussion. 

I wrote about this in one of my previous posts - Philosopher of Post PC era - where i stated that Twitter can be understood as sequel of Short Message Service, or text messages, used on mobile phones, where we had the same restriction in messages we wanted to send to others. But what does this restriction achieve? Why force someone into this limited form of communication? I think it was Einstein who said 'If you can't explain it simply, then you don't understand it at all'. Twitter makes it simple and it makes you wonder about the essence of communication, for it is really just an exchange of messages. Also, one of basic linguistic theories argues in favour of linguistic economy, which roughly states that we should spend less energy in production of better communication. Transleted into tweetosophy, this means that philosopher, or any other, should practice the ways of communicating simpler statements with same or even better results in interlocutor's understanding. By mastering this communication skill we will never again feel incomplete in argumentation. In fact, our argumentation skills can only become better, because we learn how to construct simple and crystal clear arguments. Unless, of course, you want to be more like Hegel...eventually ending up not understanding yourself what you wanted to say. As much as we may admire Hegel's incredible work, there aren't many philosophers who can understand him entirely. But, one might also ask, is this the purpose of philosophy, not to be understood, or the be understood by only a few who have enough time and energy to waste on continuous reading of one man's worldviews and imaginations? I really wouldn't call that love for wisdom. I prefer to be understood by others and then also agreed with or refuted by their reasoning on same matter, but from a different perspective. I want to...
- ...benefit from philosophy!
- But you can't benefit from philosophy. It has a purpose in itself.
- What? What the fuck does that even mean?
- Well, it can be understood as...
- No, i asked what does it mean?
- Well, according to Plato...
- Im not interested in Plato. I want to hear what you have to say!
- Well, i base my opinion on previous...
- I'm not interested in hearing the history of ideas! I don't have time for that! I want to live! Tell me what it means!
- What it means?
- Uggggghhh!!!

So, other than above stated, there is one more reason for you to become a tweetosopher. Simply put, Twitter is where all the philosophical action is. Facebook is more of a place for friends, family and silly Youtube cat videos. LinkedIn is a place for your professional connections and where you pretend to be serious, academic and stuffy. Which leaves you with Twitter as place where you can relax, meet new people from around the world and philosophize in any way you like. So, if you have your Home - Facebook, you have your Work - LinkedIn, then you have your Going Out - Twitter! Twitter is the new Agora for philosophers! Only this time nobody will make us drink poison...i hope!

Zoran Kojcic

ponedjeljak, 14. siječnja 2013.

Philosopher on Mars

Since last night i am intrigued by Mars One Mission. "Mars One is a not-for-profit organisation that will take humanity to Mars in 2023, to establish the foundation of a permanent settlement from which we will prosper, learn and grow", says their website. I started exploring what is it all about, and as i found out that there will be internet connection up there, i actually thought of applying to be among first astronauts to set foot on Mars, but later i figured that i probably couldn't give up smoking nor would i pass the medical exams.

Anyway, this mission got me thinking about lots of things. First of all, what would philosopher do on Mars? Seems to me that exactly philosophers are needed for this mission, as you can see astronauts qualification on this link. This could easily be the first reality show where the winners wouldn't be just beautiful, good looking possible pop stars, singers, actors or the like, but where you would vote for someone who has a deeper sense of meaning, mental and emotional maturity and who has really needed skills for survival in such harsh conditions. As i understood it, Mars One astronauts will be chosen based on the audience votes, so i am really interested to see in which way people will choose the next history textbooks heroes.

Heroes? Yeah, probably, since non of them is going to return to Earth...ever! Mars One Mission is a one way ticket to Red Planet. Out of it comes something philosophically interesting. Stated on this link, Mars One asks the question: Is this ethical? Is it ethical to send people on Mars, never to return? They do state some kind of arguments in order to justify their mission, but all of it seems to me like going to army - we will provide you with all the necessary equipment, training, we will pay you good money and provide your family, but it's up to you whether you live or die. Now, going to war surely is moral - if we take morals as human customs, and whether we like it or not, whether it is good or bad, war is a custom thing for humans - but going to war certainly isn't ethical. Going to Mars can also be interpreted as moral, since traveling is something we do everyday, it is human custom to explore new environments. So, is it ethical - depends on presumptions what is good and what can be bad about it, and which of it prevails. If one presumption is - We, as organisation, will provide you with everything you need in order to live a good life on Mars. - and the other presumption could be - You could die due to technology failure. - then we need to wigh on it. But, since Mars One already decided that it is ethical, everything is up to people who will apply for this mission.

The question here isn't whether it's going to happen or not, the question is when is it going to happen - or even better, when it happens, then what? Try to imagine that you are the first person to set foot on Mars. The whole world is watching you. Everyone is excited. And what are you going to say to them? You can't simply copy Neil, that's not cool. You also can't say that it's rather windy, or that the view is awesome. This is the next big world history textbook event, every living person will know your name and your first sentence as you take your first steps on Mars. In that moment nobody will think of their nation, politics or religion, everyone will experience it as human kind achievement. The question is, how strong will your message to human kind be, since you have the possibility to address the whole world and even influence them in a way.

Furthermore, this mission also rises the question of conditio humana, or the human condition change. Will the human condition really change after we populate the Mars? What will happen with our views of the world, once we are present on two different planets? How can we define the world then? Will our views on religion and philosophy change? Or will we simply go on as if nothing happened? And what if we really see a philosopher crew member up on Mars? Hannah Arendt wrote something about this, she said that most radical change in conditio humana would be human emigration to other planet, where human labour, production, action and thinking wouldn't make any sense. She was also wondering what becomes of humans when they create artificial conditions of living, such as Mars One will make in near future. And indeed, i  also can't wait to find out soon.

"Everyone's life comes to an end eventually", the magnificent truth stated on Mars One webpage regarding the question What if one of the Mars inhabitants passes away? Mars astronauts should be ready for this and well aware that Mars is their final destination. But what happens if Mars One itself comes to an end? Eventually, people will stop watching their live coverage of Mars settlement, because some next big thing will arrive on our screens, and the idea of spending sunday family afternoon watching people on Mars eating or sleeping will become less and less interesting. The Mars Big Brother fades away and the question remains - are we going to witness the most expensive failure in our history or the beginning of the most impressive civilisation so far?

Zoran Kojcic

nedjelja, 13. siječnja 2013.

Stories VS Dialogues

One of the most important skills needed for philosophical counselling is active listening. Out of this comes understanding the interlocutor's problem, and the competence to help them solve it.
When thinking of storytelling, first thing that comes to my mind would be Lyotard and his narratives theory. Well, maybe not so much a theory as a description of metanarratives, grand narratives and local narratives.  To put it in an example, global economic crisis would be a grand narrative, media coverage of GEC would be a metanarrative (stories about the story), and local narratives would be individual stories of local folks. Lyotard argued that these three were the cases from which people tend to get knowledge. In opposition to that, he suggested that people should turn to scientific knowledge, because it provides more certainty, it deals with arguments and evidence. Whichever may be the case here, one thing is certain - people love to tell stories!
I can agree with Lyotard, stories shouldn't be the only source of our knowledge, but storytelling, in any form, is a big part of our lives - you can see it in movies, literature, music, politics, economy and in everyday encounters with your family, friends, colleagues...not to mention school teachers. It seems to me that everyone loves to tell stories. Even now, since i became a teacher, i noticed that my students like to exemplify everything with a story. Also, in my short experience in philosophical counselling it seems to me that people are more comfortable with telling a story about any problems they have. Last week i went to literature teachers county meeting, and endured what was supposed to be a school project presentation and what turned into very bad story which, if it was written, would be a terrible record of uncoherent events. I listened to that lady very carefully, as she was giving this supposed presentation, and i couldn't believe the sentences comming out of her mouth. Some might prescribe it to stage fright, but i think we should question ourselves about the way we tell stories in general. I am not talking here about the rhetorical performance, because rhetorics has an aim to persuade us to someone's goals, i am talking about our lack of coherence when it comes to thinking process behind stories we tell.
This is most obivous when engaging in philosophical counselling with clients. People tend to get caught in their own story, they jump from one point to another, they link without any sense so when they finish their story you don't know what they said, they don't really know what they said - and you are both stuck. So this is where platonic battle between mythos and logos comes into play. Mythos is the story, the unreliable source of supposed knowledge of which we can never be sure. Logos, on the other hand, represents the reason, and in this case, the dialectic search for truth, which is found in dialogue. Both for story and for dialogue, at least two people are needed. The difference is that when telling a story, only one person is active, the teller, while the listener is passive. When engaging in dialogue, both parties are active in two processes, speaking and listening, and this requires a great amount of thinking. As counsellor, you have to actively listen to your counselee, process his/her answer and ask a question accordingly. As counselee, you have to listen to the question and then reply to your best knowledge. In this manner there is no wandering around the problem, there are no impediments in your way toward truth. Question/answer logic is very simple and it helps you follow the straigh line toward a solution. This is also reason why philosophical counselling can be very intense. If you, as counselee, are let to tell your story, your mind can easily avoid the key points in your problem. This is something we do unconsciously whenever we tell our problems or some other personal things. We avoid the most important issues. But when engaged in a dialogue, you are 'forced' to answer the question without beating around the bush. In short and instant question/answer process every time you try to avoid the straight answer, will be easily noticed. This is the best way to get to truth about yourself and your problem. This is also where your thinking process works most intensely, because you are torn between the avoidance and the truth. And the thing about truth is, well, as history has shown us many times, it's always scary.  It is easier to avoid the problem or even the solution, but question remains, how long can one endure with it?

Zoran Kojcic

četvrtak, 10. siječnja 2013.


As my tweet may have led you here, this is a short blog post about philosophical counselling/consultations, in order to instruct you how does it work, if you are interested to do it with me.

There are different ways in which philosophical counseling/consultations could be done. I use Oscar Brenifier's method which is quite similar to socratic dialogue. If you studied philosophy and if you read Plato, then you are familiar with this socratic method. If not, counselling/consultations begin with you forming one personal problem as a question - for instance: Why do i have trouble with sleeping, How can I overcome my fear of this or that, Why am i affraid of getting old, Why do i smoke...it can be ANYTHING, any problem you have which you want to deal with. Problems can also be generalized, like Why do people lie/kill - counselling/consultations aim to solve a problem you are dealing with, problem which bothers you for some reason and you are not quite able to solve it on your own. After you state your question (problem), it is time for you to answer the questions untill the end of the session. You should do it in simple sentences, stating arguments or concepts, also with yes/no answers - this is not psychiatrist's sofa where you would lie down, tell your life story while they nod their head, blame your parents and prescribe you drugs. Counselling/consultations are process where you must think and reason with yourself and draw conclusions which will lead you to solve your problem.
Other than your willingness to participate, this venture requires you to have Skype or Facebook account (we can do it in written or spoken form, whichever you prefer) and an hour of your time.
Also, in order to avoid confusion, the term philosophical counselling is widely spread and more often used for this kind of philosophical practice. However, using Oscar Brenifier's method, philosopher doesn't give you counsel or advice what you should or shouldn't do, so Brenifier prefers the term consultations. Likewise, i won't give you any counsel on what to do and what not to do, i will lead you to your own conclusions and let you deceide for yourself.

At the end, if you are wondering how do philosophical consultations work, you can watch this video

If you are interested to do consultations, please contact me on my social network profiles, Facebook or Twitter

četvrtak, 3. siječnja 2013.

Philosopher of post PC era

Or, on people who like to live in present

As some of you may have seen in my previous posts, i tend to write a lot about mixing philosophy and technology, especially the one of newest, post PC era. Using tablets and smartphones has become part of our daily lives and i tend to use them in order to contribute to my work. As i work as teacher, i also like to integrate this new technology in my classes - since my/our students use it anyway during the class, whether we like it or not. Human beings have always managed to do things using technology as tools to survive or communicate, so why would we now reject contemporary tools when we could use them in our advantage?
Sure, i can congratulate to all of our predecessors who lived without the use of such delicate technology, but every one of them used tools available in their own time, so even Plato used tablets to write down his thoughts and dialogues. Even though tablets nowadays are made of different materials, they have the same purpose - they are mainly used so that people can communicate with each other. I don't see any harm in that.
I happen to know some of our colleague philosophers who still didn't get used to PC's, let alone post PC devices, but i really don't see any firm reason for such approach to more available and easier means to achieve some of your goals. Still, i am glad to see many of my colleagues around the world sharing their thoughts, ideas and methods on social networks, and they are really opened to cooperation. Such state of affairs brings hope in future of our calling and shows that, for now atleast, part of us is ready to cope with present world and think of near future in a mature and responsible way.
Those people who still struggle with (post) PC technology, or they refuse to be active in any of social networks, remind me a lot of Woody Allen's main character in Midnight in Paris. Funny thing is that if those people would have watched the movie, they would clearly see how the character is trapped with his desires to live in the past. From this perspective it looks really funny, but i doubt that they would see how they are doing the same thing - their main desires are aimed toward a thing they can not have, and yet they refuse to be involved in a world around them. Today, every philosopher lives in a post PC era, theres only ones who can recognize it and use it, and those who, for whatever reason, ignore it. I am only sorry that i have never heard a solid argument for ignoring it.
Now, to be honest, i dont really like blogs. I almost never read them, because they are mostly boring piles of texts and personal opinions. The only reason i started writing this blog is to share some of personal experiences in my practice and also to try to engage more people in philosophical practice. Sure, i got some positive comments on my social networks, but i dont really think it's working - one of the reasons can be that my writing isn't that good and i can't get people interested, and the other can be that people are also a bit sick of blogs. And i get that. This is where post PC comes - it was more interesting for me to make a fun review of philosophical apps for Android and iOS devices than to read some blogs and texts about same old same old, Kant, Plato, Wittgenstein, whatever of that sort. When i reviewed those apps, i felt i did philosophy, and yet it wasn't hard, boring, disappointing. Same goes with teaching - when i used smatrphones in classroom i made my students DO something, create something on their own. Sure, they could have written a poem using pencil and notebook, but, as i wrote in introduction to this post, it doesn't hurt to live in present sometimes. 
Maybe some of you still have ideological prejudices toward consumerism and material possessions, but i can asure you that your health costs money, that your loved ones cost money, and so on, so buying one other tool which helps you stay informed in fast changing world around you can't hurt. Im not saying that you need to be permanetly attached to your mobile device no matter what, i just want to share my experience and also try to reason with myself why i use it and what does it mean to be a philosopher in post PC era, what could be the benefits of it. As a perfect example, take Twitter. It couldn't be simpler! Twitter is such an useful tool for philosophical thought development. Why? Because, if you can't describe your current endeavors in one simple coherent sentence, you don't even need to bother. This is the heritage of mobile text messages. This approach makes you think! When i was a college freshman, i did a research paper on language used in mobile text messaging and i found out from other resources that in Croatia, where i live, people actually started using archaic past tense in text messages, because of its simpler, shorter form! This past tense is taught in schools, but it is never used in everyday conversations nor in any modern literature - and yet, people had think of a way to say what they want in shorter and simpler terms, because of text message language economy. Wouldn't you call that thinking? Don't you do similar thing when writing on Twitter? I know i do. I do because i know people aren't always interested in hearing my life story or my entire worldviews - i write about it here, and i can distinguish those two spheres of communication. This form, blog, is unlimited and i can go on for ages, but on Twitter i have to think what im going to write in order to be understood as simply and as better possible. 
This is also a place where philosophical practice comes into play. What i lately tend to practice with teaching and with philosophy, i mostly find on post PC devices. Simplicity, conceptualisation, focus, critical thinking, dialogue, all other sorts of things, including different apps, ebooks (oh, the advantage of having every book you could possibly need at the swipe of your fingers!), online tools, everything can be used with mobile devices and integrated in your classroom or everyday philosophical practice. Once you get in, it isn't hard to keep up and use it as it best suits you. There are numerous ways in which you can be creative and make something positive out of it. At the end, people make tools in order to improve their lives. Do you use your vacuum cleaner? Oh, you do? Not a broom? Well...

utorak, 1. siječnja 2013.

Kids react to and Philosophy for Children

TheFineBros is a Youtube channel which features a few interesting React to shows every week: Kids react to, Teens react to and Elders react to. Basically, React to are shows in which kids, teens and elders react to popular Youtube or Tv videos, as suggested by the audience on their Youtube, Facebook or Twitter channels. For instance, whenever a video goes viral on Youtube, people like to react to it in comment section. What TheFineBros did is that they selected a number of kids, teens and elders to watch the videos, recorded their reactions and asked some questions about it, made entirely new video and posted it on Youtube. What makes these videos so interesting to watch isn't just the reaction of participants, but their opinions stated after answering the questions.
Now, philosophy for children suggests that every child can philosophize about certain subject and that we, as adults, should encourage their curiosity by asking them questions or in any other way possible. Philosophy for children has various forms of realisation and it seems to me that what TheFineBros are doing has a lot to do with it.
In Kids react to shows we can see a number of episodes where children (5 - 12, if i am correct) react to quite a number of popular videos dealing with contemporary issues of our culture and they state very mature opinions on the matters. After kids watch the videos, Fine brothers ask them questions, firstly to state the obvious (what did they see, what is the video about) after which they have to state an opinion on what they saw. There are many examples for this, but just to name a few:

- Kids react to Fake Celebrity Pranks New York City - an episode where kids react to a video of a common man pretending to be a celebrity (he had a camera crew follow him around, he was dressed nicely, so people on streets believed that he was famous and asked for his autographs, and so on). In this episode kids are faced with questions like: why do people do such things, why they even want a picture/autograph of a person they don't even know, and so on. Here kids had a chance to answer about the very nature of todays pop culture and what it means to be famous, or to follow famous people.
- Kids react to Kony 2012 - Kony 2012 was one of the most popular videos last year and with a lot of controversies. Again, in Question time part of the video, kids had the chance to express what they felt or thought about Joseph Kony and the whole Kony 2012 campaign. Some of them told that he could be the next Hitler, they called him stupid, or they wanted him dead. They where asked why do people do bad things to other people (power, money, religion, some of the answers), will the idea of making Kony famous bring him to justice and do they think that it's right for America to take action and risk soldier's lives to help others. Also, another interesting thing here is that when asked where they have heard about Kony 2012 video, all the kids answered they saw it on social networks. I think that tells us a lot!
- Kids react to Osama bin Laden's Death - Another more serious episode asks the questions on what the kids felt when they found out about bin Laden's death, is it okay to feel happy when someone dies, was it okay for many Americans to go out on the streets and celebrate bin Laden's death, what will happen in future with new terrorists, why do terrorists want to attack US, what can Americans do to change it and what would kids do if they were president of US.
- Kids react to Honey Boo Boo - This week's episode was about parenting and the perception of beauty. Honey Boo Boo, a TV show about 'weird' family and their craving to make Miss Universe (i guess) out of their 6 year old daughter. The kids were asked what they thought about Honey Boo Boo and her parents, did they learn anything by watching the videos of Honey Boo Boo, whether it's okay to have beauty contests for children and why do people even like to watch shows like Honey Boo Boo.

Philosophy for children can be found exactly in all of those questions that the kids were asked. Videos are mostly fun for them, but after watching the videos, kids have to answer certain number of questions in order to reflect on what they saw, think about it critically and state their views on given matter. This show reminds us that we should question everything we see or hear, that it is okay to ask questions and think about things media presents to us and that any given subject, whether it's serious ones like Kony or bin Laden, or something more absurd like Nyan cat, has certain effet on our thinking process which we should examine.

Im gonna let you watch the videos on your own and see how kids answered to the questions. I hope this will encourage you to ask yourself the same questions and answer them with your own reasoning. Also, i hope this can rise new ideas on Philosophy for children teaching. The link to TheFineBros Youtube channel can be found here TheFineBros

Zoran Kojcic