For the Love of Philosophy ( What have you read, watched, or listened to that caused you to grow as a thinker/artist?)


#1

(The title was meant to be read/ mentally heard in the sound of Bone Thug’s - Foe the Love of Money. If you’re not familiar with that song check it out. You’ll likely not regret it ) - Song

I just wanted to make a new space for people to freely share their Philosophical and Artistic inspirations. Also if you have a world view that’s grounded in some kind of literary tradition or History, that you would like to share that would be Awesome.

I myself am quite fond of German Idealism, and cant get enough of the Philosophers related to that realm of thought. ( People like Schopenhauer and Hegel, but also Kant and Nietzsche, and even Marx)

There’s always so much more to learn! What makes you tick, or what makes you tickled Philosophically or Artistically.


#2

Most of my understanding of philosophy comes from a few classes, but just nailing down basic definitions. Outside that…

The World Ends With You - Probably the game that influenced me the most, got me to think about relationships and how we communicate as people. My first major steps to gaining a critical eye. It’s probably a major reason why I never became a hard nihilist and settled in positive nihilism (where the focus is on creation and doing meaningful things with your life, no matter how small).

Renegade Cut - This web series has been super influential on me. Leon Thomas, the narrator in the videos, basically turned the show into a primer on philosophy by using films as examples. His best work so far is a movie length piece dissecting the broken philosophies of evangelical circles by using the Left Behind franchise. The show can be found here.

The Venture Bros - I watched this in my teenage years and it introduced me to the concept of an existential crisis, because every single character goes through one or is suffering through their own. I initially just liked it for the humor, but as I grew older, I started to pick up on what it was doing as a show about failure. It helped me figure out my own lingering insecurities as my chances to continue with my life dried up due to a sudden economic crisis that basically screwed over my family.


#3

Wow I appreciate this so much because I’m really unfamiliar with all three things you mentioned, and I’ll certainly be looking them up today.

“The World Ends With You”- I love that title. I used to be a hardcore nihilist, and lived functionally solipsistic (The world existed in my mind, and when i ended the world ended.) Honestly I havent really shaken these core thoughts, but I don’t really live my life in such a way today. I like your idea of positive nihilism.

Renegade Cut sounds extremely interesting. I’m really into film, especially ones with philosophical touches, whether they exist purposefully or accidentally. The great joy of philosophy is often making Mountains out of molehills. Film provides a expansive playgound to find or create meaning. I went to chistian schools all the way up to HighSchool and was made to watch many videos on the Rapture. I literally grew up with a fear of being Left behind so I bet the work you mentioned will be quite interesting to me.


#4

I’m a huge sociology nerd, and a lot of my philosophical interests directly stem from that. I could go on about existentialist or Marxist schools of thought and the level of impact they had on me, but as of late I’ve mainly been interested in post-structuralism and Queer Theory. In no particular order, some of my favorite books out of there would be:

Mythologies - Roland Barthes – I really like anthologies of short essays, and this one was huge for me. Not only did it – weirdly enough – get me into professional wrestling, but it also introduced me to entirely new styles of criticism. I learned that I could look outside of what a text or event itself presents, and incorporate new interpretations informed from my own worldview. Barthes’s other seminal work, Image Music Text is often hailed as his most groundbreaking work (and I wouldn’t disagree), but Mythologies was my “first” foray into new criticism, and I’ll always cherish my time with it.

Discipline & Punish - Michel Foucault – It took me years to finally wrap my mind around what Foucault talks about. That was largely due to my hubris in thinking I could just pick it up and understand his prose without any prior understanding of Nietzsche, Durkheim, or Weber – but it was also because I just wasn’t “ready” for it. I came back to it last year when I was taking a sociological theory course, and suddenly I could easily parse the logic and rationale behind it all. I could understand what distinguished a disciplinary society from a spectacular one, and I saw how much these 18th Century executions Foucault speaks of matter today. Now I joke about how everything is a panopticon – which while I say in jest, I also cannot help but think of this book whenever issues of surveillance or immigration enforcement or policing are brought up.

Gender Trouble - Judith Butler – Especially as of late, I’m really into queer theory. I desperately need to pick up Foucault’s The History of Sexuality again, but this book here is probably one of the most impactful works I’ve ever read. Butler deconstructs not only the very concept of gender, but the embodiment of gender. She makes a logical evolution on previous ideas of social constructionism and suggests that not only is gender a totally arbitrary and societal phenomenon, but our methods for understanding it are based in those same failings. As with Foucault, despite my interest in her work at an earlier point in time, it took me a long while to finally get her philosophy. Like Foucault, also, her prose is near-impenetrable and demands that you learn how to read it. Now I can (though my own writing now makes extreme use of em-dashes, semi-colons, and sentences made up of a dozen fragments) and I’m left with a far deeper understanding of how gender affects individuals at phenomenological and interactional levels.

How to Travel with a Salmon - Umberto Eco – As dry as it tends be, I’m firmly of the belief that social theory can also be entertaining and humorous while retaining its insight. If you’re like me and enjoy jokes about Max Weber. you’ll probably find this book hilarious. There’s lighter fare like “How to Use the Coffee Pot from Hell” and the eponymous essay, but there’s also seemingly lighthearted pieces like “How to Eat Ice Cream,” which also speak of deeper issues in addition to being outright comedic (e.g. in the case of this one: the moral dubiousness of opulent consumerism and self-presentation in that image…by eating two ice cream cones at the same time). It’s a very light and fun read if you’re into philosophy or critical theory, and I can’t recommend it enough.


#5

OMG! Mythologies seems awesome. I did a quick little google search, and I’m completely sold. I must check this out.
I’ll definitely be referring back to your post for some time to come, there’s so many gems.

I feel like Foucault is one of those authors you cant avoid contending with eventually if your going to be looking into sociological matters, so many people these days are influenced or inspired by his work… I’ve only dipped into the History of Madness briefly before I had to sell my book.

Do you think your interest in existentialism and Marx fertilized your recent venture into post-structuralism and Queer Theory? I used to be a pretty hardcore materialist/determinist and can’t help but see life as caused and effected domino collisions. The Journey to me is usually more fun and interesting than the destination. (Now that I think about it I think i got that from Kierkegaard) Do you see your life as leading somewhere, or do you just like to take it as it comes? I guess those two aren’t really mutually exclusive, but perhaps you understand the spirit of the question.
(Also if you get the urge to go on and on about Existentialism or Marxist School feel free to do so, i can promise you’ll have at least one very happy audience member. The applause at the end of your performance may not be very loud, but it’ll be filled with plenty gratitude and appreciation for sure.)


#6

Great question! I think existentialism definitely played a role in that (Marx less so, since I never really dug into that school of thought until after my first failed attempt at reading Foucault). Like a lot of disaffected 20-somethings, I derived a lot of inspiration from novels like The Stranger and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, as well as plays such as No Exit and The Homecoming– all of which got me to start thinking about the enormity of the world and my (relatively insignificant) place within it. From there I began reading Camus’s and Sartre’s more strictly philosophical works and began using their metaphors in my day-to-day life (e.g. “We must imagine Sisyphus happy”). A lot of people seem to think of these texts as depressing, but for me they had the opposite effect: they were liberating. Camus especially got me to start questioning structural institutions and whether or not they are worthy of the traditionalist respect so many give them. So, in that sense, I can definitely see a through-line between me at 21 reading about existential thought to me at 26 learning everything I can about contemporary schools of criticism.

I do, yeah. I think I would say that it’s a mix of both for me. I don’t really think of specific life destinations per se, but moreso I view such things in terms of trajectories. Like, I know what I would like to accomplish and thus I act accordingly, but at the same time I try not to bog myself down with worrying about specifics or assuming that unexpected complications won’t arise. So I guess you could say that my worldview is mostly absurdist, in that I recognize I possess a certain amount of agency to seek the life I want, but am ultimately at the mercy of a deterministic world I will never fully comprehend. Mostly I live my life according to a passage from The Unbearable Lightness of Being where Kundera speaks of the novelty of coincidences: where even if you are determined to see the world as lacking any sort of divine orchestration, if you don’t allow yourself to appreciate the absurdities and ironies presented to you in life (the novelty of existence, if you will), you’re not allowing yourself to fully enjoy life itself. (It makes a lot more sense in the context of the book, but it’s been a while, and I can’t remember all the specifics).

Also: Barthes is a great intro to critical theory! His prose can be obtuse at times (though he’s nowhere near as bad as Foucault and Butler), but Mythologies especially is a great, digestible body of criticism that challenges its reader without overwhelming them too much.


#7

The text that really got me into philosophy was Trotsky’s In Defense of Marxism. It’s actually first and foremost a text dealing with the question of what the hell happened to the USSR in the 1930s, but it uses that background to explore and expound historical and dialectical materialism. I’ve always found this part, explaining the limits of Aristotelian Logic, particularly salient:

The most relevant excerpt, which includes this part of the argument, can be found in The ABC of Materialist Dialectics,


#8

I have both academic and artistic answers for this, insofar as much as they can be separated from each other, which is to say they really can’t but I’m more drawing the distinction between theory that’s really gotten to me and pieces of fiction that have influenced me. (Also, I’m still pretty new into academia, so my answers might be a bit superficial.)

For the first, I’m an undergrad in English (for another two months at least, and then I’ll either be a grad student in creative writing or unemployed). Over the course of writing my thesis (on games and trauma, which I talked about in another thread last week), I’ve gotten very invested in trauma theory, all the way back from Freud through things being written today. Freud is such a pop-cultural punchline that I never expected to find much in his work, and to be fair it has all the bumps and oddness that any initiating point for a certain field of theory will have, but the first time I started reading about drives and repetition in Beyond the Pleasure Principle and then the corpus of modern work that’s based on that book, I was stunned. It completely changed the way I think about games, and helped contextualize my feelings for them in something very psychological and different. Additionally, though I’m not nearly as well-versed in them, I also have particular soft spots for Foucault and Derrida, and for post-structuralist thought in general.

On the total flip-side, I grew up reading and loving a lot of Stephen King, and even at this point his work is tremendously influential on my fiction writing. IT has been my favorite book since 8th grade when I first read it, and I think more than anything else that book opened my eyes to what horror can do as a genre. I don’t necessarily write a lot of horror (genre-wise, I’m all over the place, and generally never stay in one place for all that long), but what I write often has some of his aesthetic packed inside, and his work has this unique ability to make me feel like I’m falling in love with reading all over again. As I’ve gotten older, a couple of other writers have also gained that status with my writing—Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, a bit of Murakami.

And also, there are a couple of games that have largely changed the way I look at games. I don’t think I really noticed level design a whole lot until I played Shovel Knight, and then replayed it, and then replayed it about thirty more times. It looks like this cute retro platformer, and it is, but that game is also an absolute master class on so many aspects of design. And Zelda: Majora’s Mask was more or less where my thesis on trauma first came from; I found its time loop fascinating and wrote a kind of free-write-y paper on it for a freshman year class, and over the past three years that’s all grown into something that influences the way I think about and play every game I come across.


#9

Yo man, You’re the Real MVP for comprehending Sartre. I finished in philosophy undergrad last year, and Sartre still gives me a actual headache. The only Existentialist Ive really dug into yet is Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. I really should step my Camus game up. You’ve definitely inspired me to look into structuralism, as of now it appears foreign to me. I’m familiar with Chomsky and Wittgenstein , but not really with where their ideas fit in relation to other thinkers and movements. I kind of just know their work in a bubble.

I like your take on living in a determined universe. My ideas on that are like a rushing river; antithetical ideas bounce around in my brain that never really settle. Worth and value is so so subjective that, its hard for me to ever feel comfortable making statements about them. Yet I make those kinds of judgements all the time subconsciously and naturally when not in philosophical thought mode. Haha the most I can ever utter is " Life is" after that I run into a wall of uncertainty.

I have so much to look up! This is Great.


#10

If you’re looking for more to check out from the myriad schools of critical thought, there’s a great reading list from critical-theory.com I’ve been using for years. I’m sure a lot of the books from the first few categories will be nothing new to you, but overall it’s a really comprehensive collection of recommendations (including everything from the likes of German Idealism and Marxism, to critical race theory and post-colonial studies).

Edit: My bad. There actually there doesn’t seem to be a category for Crit. Race Theory on that list (which is really odd), however the comments rectify this with some really good recommendations if that sounds like it would be something you’d want to check out.


#11

In terms of what makes me tick philosophically, I would probably just stick to being fairly broad for now, but there are two key things:

One, is that I feel like the longer I studied philosophy, the more I began to adopt a sort of Bruce Lee-like approach of “taking whatever works.” I (perhaps strangely?) generally credit Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World with starting me down the path to a philosophy degree. Sagan once rattled off an old science dig towards philosophy, that “the difference between a physicist and a metaphysicist is that the metaphysicist has no laboratory.” While true, I don’t think it ends up being especially derogatory. On one hand, no, you cannot empirically test/prove something like ethical or metaphysical theories. While this doesn’t undermine the identical-to-science logical legwork it takes to get to that point, the other side of the coin is that no theory ends up being demonstrably perfect, and therefore no theorist ends up escaping without problems. There are limits to empiricism; doesn’t matter, read some Hume or look at some Buddhism. There are limits to virtue ethics; doesn’t matter, read some Aristotle. Hegel… well, I dunno, maybe just read some Plotinus, actually.

Two, is that actually relativism and egoism are bad. I’ve legitimately never seen anybody outside of entirely contrarian assholes take either of these things seriously. Any longevity they’ve managed to have is counter to any aforementioned logical legwork philosophy is built on.

In terms of any recommendations, something that I’ve re-read recently that I think a lot of people here would probably enjoy is Josef Pieper’s Leisure, the Basis of Culture. You may need to have alcohol present by the end. It was written in the aftermath of WWII and has only become more depressing in the interim.


#12

Wow thats really Dope. I’ll have to check out Trotsky’s work out in its entirety for sure. I would have definitely gave the sophist’s argument, but he definitely covered all basis.
I really appreciate you sharing that excerpt. It was fun to read and has stirred my brain a bit. Thanks!
Even before I could drag the mouse cursor to the Reply button and press click my mind won’t let the questions raised by your expert go.

I feel like its getting at the core of Idealism vs Materialism, but I havent really organized my thoughts around just what I’m trying to grasp.
What I mean is The Idea of A is equal to the Idea of A, but as the excerpt says, practically and pragmatically what good does that do for us. I feel like maybe this exemplifies Marx’s clash with Hegel who saw the world driven by ideas, while Marx saw it driven by Material.

haha once again thanks! I’ll actually hurry and click Reply this time


#13

Anything by Kunihiko Ikuhara:

Revolutionary Girl Utena
By far my favorite animated series. Utena resonates so hard with me because it paints high school conflicts and the repression of our problems during our teenage years the way we FEEL them - as otherworldly events.
I feel like everyone should give Utena a shot it’s so good.

Yurikuma Arashi
While at first it may seem like a lewd lesbian anime made to cater towards men, Yurikuma Arashi not only deals with how relationships that deviate from the social norm (gay relationships) are seen and widely believed to be dangerous and immoral while they’re really not, it also tackles intersectionality if that makes any sense. Not only is the main characters relationship already seen as devious but it’s only worsened by the fact that they’re from two different species that both hate each other.

Nana and Hibike Euphonium
These two aren’t really made with a deconstructive/philosophical purpose but they detail the complex and mind-boggling relationships we human beings have with each other. Definitely give these two a watch

As for video games:

Silent Hill 2 has influenced me and my thinking in such ways it’s impossible for me to deny it. It’s more than a fantastic horror game - It’s an allegory,a tragedy and a masterpiece.


#14

I’m interested to hear your take on why relativism is bad. Its my current understanding that large portions of philosophy are relativistic by nature. I’m not sure if you can have much of existentialism without a relativist framework. It’s really hard to ground ethics or morality objectively. Even when people do create an object framework for morality there is soon after splintering and segmenting done whenever a new person is set to interpret the framework. Its why pretty much no religion is free from having sects or denominations, also why laws in the legal context need judges and arbiters. Even simple rules require interpretation, so something as complex as ethics and morality has to be subjective. At least I believe. lol


#15

Thanks!!! Immediately Bookmarked.


#16

My training wheels was 8-bit philosophy by the WiseCrack crew.


#17

Kropotkin’s “The Conquest of Bread” is nothing short of a must read.

Most everything by Murray Bookchin. And his self-identified ideological student Abdullah Ocalan.

The Mar’s Trilogy is extremely underrated SciFI.

And [NSFW Warning] here’s what I’m reading right now.


#18

not really a contribution, but thank u for this thread! i’ve had an itch to try reading philosophy again. i took a quarter of philosophy a year ago, and even though the professor was really insightful and started a lot of good discussions, there was still only so much material we could cover into in 12 weeks. definitely going to save this thread and make my way through these recommendations.


#19

As an artist who’s kind of a newbie in philosophy: Walter Benjamin is a pretty big influence on my thoughts on aesthetics, political response and activism in art. He was specifically speaking out against the Futurists, who in their process of developing a “machine aesthetic”, supported Italian fascists, thought that war was beautiful, and were all in all kind of assholes. Benjamin calls for Socialists and Marxists to politicize their art in response to the aesthetisization of war and death through use of machines. I actually think Austin mentioned Benjamin in his NYU Game Center talk, and he’s probably more elegant (and accurate) in describing Benjamin’s core belief system.

In terms of stuff I’ve watched/read/whatever that’s made me look at things differently: FLCL was key for me growing up. Naota’s shift from intense cynicism and nihilism to realizing that he’s kind of forcing himself to close doors for the sake of “being an adult” is something that resonated with me pretty early and forced me to think about how I carried myself through High School. I’m probably still pretty cynical, but I like to think that cynicism is more directed now rather than just being cynical about everything all the time.


#20

Yo these are some dope links. Conquest of Bread sounds awesome. I need to check that out ASAP
You have quite a bit of information packed in this post. I appreciate you