In my last philosophy class my teacher asked us, “What do we think of when we think of philosophers?” This question always amuses me because I invariably always think of a scene from Mel Brook’s History of The World: Part 1. In it he is playing a “stand-up philosopher” and he goes to collect his welfare check. When he gets to the window the lady working there asks him his name and job. His proud response is “Comicus, stand-up philosopher. I coalesce the vapors of human experience into a viable and meaningful comprehension.” She looks at him and says, “Oh, a bullshit artist.” I feel very much the same way. I find that most philosophers I have encountered fit the adage of “the learned that think they are wise”. Philosophy seems to be 2 parts amazing insights and 8 parts bull spewed from self-absorbed speakers. Any time I really set out to find a gem of thought in philosophy I feel that I have to strap on the hip waders and shift through the crap around me.  Though I will confess that when I do this, I do always seem to find something worth holding on to, pondering over, and absorbing into myself.

In this video I found two that really made me think. The first was Peter Singer’s question of “How are we spending our money?” and the other was Slavoj Zizak’s attack on ecology as a failing ideology.  I was torn between which to write about but ultimately chose Singer. Choosing him I had to narrow down my comments to fit the writing assignment. 600 words are very limiting when there is so much to say about his assumptions of the world.  For example, how does he go about assuming that there actually IS more sorrow than joy in the world? Granted the world’s woes get broadcast more than its simple everyday joys. But just because the news media tends to ignore the simple everyday joys we have in life doesn’t mean they do not exist or are not “more” than the world’s sorrows. And how does one go about weighing personal experiences and emotions in the first place? How do you decide one is “more” than the other? How did he determine that and weigh it to conclude there is more suffering than joy in the world? It seems to me that his whole argument is flawed in this area and based solely on his assumptions about the world. There could easily be more joy than sorrow in the world, which invalidates his whole argument.

That said, the place this assumption leads to, is a place worth exploring.  “How do we spend our money?”  is a powerful moral, religious, and value question. After all, I think very few would disagree that if I were given the choice on the street between giving a homeless beggar $5 for food or buying myself some stickers I don’t really need, then the moral and good choice would be to feed the hungry.  But isn’t this what we don’t do, all the time? Every time I blow my money on a new video game, or on a hot pair of shoes instead of donating it to a worthwhile charity, aren’t I denying someone money that could feed them for a month in a poorer country (for example)?  Does their distance from me somehow make me less of “my brother’s keeper”? Just because I can’t see them doesn’t mean I couldn’t be fundamental in lessening their suffering with my money. And it wouldn’t be any loss to me. The money could easily be replaced, and I can make do without a new video game or shiny shoes.  So I find it morally troubling, and a question worth asking myself over and over.  Am I spending my money the way I should? I fear the answer for me, and most of us in the rich “first world countries” is “No, we are not”.