What does Sartre have to do with cinnamon buns?

Dr. William Irwin is a Professor of Philosophy at King’s College.


William Irwin, Editor of The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series, recently wrote an article for The Conversation on “How existentialism can shield us from the free market’s dark side.

Using existentialist themes of personal freedom and responsibility, Irwin makes the claim that government regulation and social agencies do not need to shield people from the darker lures of products like “diet-killing Cinnabons.”

Irwin’s article for The Conversation is based on his new book, The Free Market Existentialist: Capitalism without Consumerism in which he proposes a new philosophy that is a synthesis of existentialism, amoralism, and libertarianism.

Irwin BookIrwin begins an essential conversation for the 21st century for students, scholars, and armchair philosophers alike with clear, accessible discussions of a range of topics across philosophy including atheism, evolutionary theory, and ethics

Humorous and poignant, Irwin’s article and book, are both must-reads!

blackwell philosphy and pop cultureClick here for more on The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series.

Are We Turning into Commodities?

Slavoj Žižek, in a recent London Review of Books article, alleges that the capitalist mode of generating wealth has changed. Money can still be made through the production of material goods – but the big bucks are now being made by privatizing everyday life and leasing it back to consumers.  So, for example,

“…Microsoft has imposed itself as an almost universal standard, practically monopolising the field [of computational technology], as one embodiment of what Marx called the ‘general intellect’, by which he meant collective knowledge in all its forms”

This example evinces what we can usefully think of as the capitalization in part of Wittgensteinian ‘forms of life’.  A ‘form of life’ is a useful heuristic for capturing a community’s shared biological and cultural background, in terms of traditional and entrenched patterns of behaviour, in a single phrase.  Žižek’s point is that these patterns of behaviour, which form the ‘general intellect’, are being exapted: parts are being adopted, built upon, and changed to create a new pattern of behaviour, which are then rented out or sold to consumers.

Continue reading “Are We Turning into Commodities?”

Time is Money!

Einstein's Clock

To me, the first of January is always a write-off.  Nothing productive ever happens.  It exists among the days of hangovers and jetlag.  But now it is the day after the first, and it is now (as it was yesterday) 2012, and that means it is the perfect time to discuss, well, time.  And there have been quite a few timely stories lately, from Samoa and Tokelau going back to the future, to the growing schism between international time and astronomical time.  Even the Royal Society has some choice words on tricky temporal travails. And, resolutions aside, I’m going to attempt to be timely myself, and make this a rather short post.  I want to share a few thoughts and links about the commercialization of time.

Of course, time is involved in many non-trivial ways in our daily life: the flow and change of seasons that signalled times of growth and harvest; the rotations of the sun that marked out the day’s working hours; the shivers of tide that allow for the gathering of molluscs, and so on.  There is a strain of philosophy, particular the early Phenomenologists, that assert that such relationships to time are primordial, originary.  These initial demarcations of time and change are what allow our mind to grasp a hold on the concept, to bring it to the rarefied reaches of reason, and to gain a measure of control over it.  This is a rich field of thought, but I want to make just a few remarks about one aspect of this control: when time becomes part of – a tool, even – of our commercial and economic spheres.

Continue reading “Time is Money!”

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