By Jon Cogburn
Somewhere Nietzsche says something like this: the person who hates himself for being a bad person doesn't really think he's a bad person, because at least he has the discernment to differentiate bad from good and the appropriate moral revulsion at the former. One can* push this kind of thought in a Hegelian direction, where finite creatures like us never really attain self-knowledge because the self that is knowing is always different from the self that is known.
[*Which doesn't mean that one should, though I'd buy tickets!]
Part of what make the lyrics so striking is how relentlessly he literalizes metaphorical talk about losing one's mind. With the Andrew Jackson Jihad song it's a little bit funny because there is some sense in which you are your mind. Johnston pushes this to extreme levels of impossibility, with the narrator going to a lost and found to try to retrieve his own brain, which he keeps losing.
The songs are only funny because there is some sense in which we are our minds, when "mind" is understood as the causal basis for beliefs, desires, actions, and such. But they are only possible because there is some sense in which we are not. Coping with mental illness (Johnston) is one extreme end of learning to be alienated from one's own Central Processing Unit. But certain kinds of general moral reflection (Jackson Jihad) also require alienation from whatever it is in oneself that makes one do the rationally evaluable things one would rather not be doing.
It's easy to dismiss this kind of thing as not worthy of serious metaphysical investigation. Since everything is what it is, it's not even logically possible for one to be estranged from oneself. This is actually trades on a fairly new set of philosophical prejudices. And consider Helen De Cruz' comments numbers 2 and 4 on this post by James Rocha:
I enjoyed the first few episodes of Dark Matter as well, and they made me think of this recent paper by Nina Strohminger and Shaun Nichols about essentialism and moral properties what they found was that people found moral properties more constitutive of personal identity than personal memories. A similar finding in Kevin Tobia's recent paper on the Phinneas Gage effect: when people morally improve as a result of brain damage (the opposite of what happened to Gage) they find that this is less identity-disrupting than when they take a moral turn for the worse. So maybe in the case of Dark Matter, one could speculate that the protagonists were basically morally decent people, driven to the things they did by circumstance.
Perhaps the above songs as well as the results De Cruz is pointing towards all suggest the same thing, that (at least with respect to the manifest image) something like the naturalistic fallacy visits the metaphysics of the self. Maybe the self just is inextricably normative in the sense that we are more ourselves when we are treating ourselves and others in praiseworthy ways and less ourselves when not. This fits both Nietzsche's quip, the X-Phi stuff about Gage, and the Andrew Jackson Jihad Song.
Richard Rorty (this his reading of Sellars on the myth of the given and Heidegger on ontotheology) notoriously argued that philosophy itself was an instance of the naturalistic fallacy. Philosophers are playing the mugs game of trying to say what reality is in a way that would somehow ground normative phenomena such as correct reasoning, rational beliefs, and just societies. But since (as the reasoning goes) we cannot derive "ought"s from "is"es we need to replace philosophy with something else, which ended up being an odd combination of cultural relativism, quietism, and bloviation in the trajectory from late Rorty to Stanley Fish at least.
There's a Hegelian/Aristotelian alternative, which agrees with Rorty but instead takes this to show that reality itself is normative. If you believe this, then either the naturalistic fallacy isn't a fallacy or metaphysics isn't committing it anyhow, since metaphysical descriptions themselves will contain "ought"s. Unfortunately, most American Hegelians seem doomed to misread Hegel as an anti-metaphysician (and so the end is either Rorty or social practice neo-Kantianism), but people like Robert Stern have pushed back vigorously. I would be very interested if anyone were biting the bullet on the X-Phi stuff that De Cruz linked to, using them to develop a normative metaphysics of the self.
In metaphysics it's an old saw that one must either take Platonist type explanation seriously or primitive forms of modality seriously (consider David Lewis' use of existing possible worlds to develop Humeanism about causation; the price of not taking causation seriously is positing new stuff). But alethic modality is usually the target here. Perhaps something homologous applies to deontic modalities.
- [Punkrockmonday #1] The White Stripes - Jack the Ripper (orig. Screaming Lord Sutch), Black Math, and the Big Three Killed My Baby
- [Punkrockmonday #2] Roy Cook - Saint Paul Cathedral, Minneapolis Capitol Building, Aayla Secura Mosaic, and Firefly Class Spaceship
- [Punkrockmonday #3] El Général- Rais Le Bled (President, Your Country)
- [Punkrockmonday #4] Charlie Patton -High Water Everywhere, Part 2
- [Punkrockmonday #5] Henry Rollins- What Am I Doing Here; Willie Nelson- Me and Paul; Rainbow Connection (orig. Kermit the Frog)
- [Punkrockmonday #6] Philip Larkin - Church Going
- [Punkrockmonday #7] David Bowie - Time
- [Punkrockmonday #8] P.J. Harvey - When Under Ether; White Chalk; Broken Harp
- [Punkrockmonday #9] Allison Kraus and Robert Plant - When the Levee Breaks (orig. Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie)
- [Punkrockmonday #10] Doog - Famous Blue Raincoat (orig. Leonard Cohen); sElf - Back in Black (orig. AC/DC); Johnny Cash- Down There By the Train (orig. Tom Waits)
- [Punkrockmonday #11] John Lee Hooker - Hobo Blues; Weird Al Yankovic - My Sharona; Edgar Cruz - Bohemian Rhapsody
- [punkrockmonday #12] Pixar Studios - Cars 2; The Bang Bang - Sitting in a Car; Angry Samoans - Hot Cars; Black Flag - Drinking and Driving; Gary Numan - Cars; Queen - Bicycle Race
- [punkrockmonday #13] Betty Bowers - Betty Bowers Explains Traditional Marriage to Everyone Else
- [punkrockmonday #14] Sesame Street - Sure Shot (orig. Beastie Boys)
- [punkrockmonday #15] Neil Degrasse Tyson - Stupid Design
- [punkrockmonday # 16] C.M. Punk - run up to Money in the Bank victory
- [punkrockmonday #17] Dead Kennedys - Riot
- [punkrockmonday # 18] Cookie Monster - God's Away on Business (orig. Tom Waits)
- [punkrockmonday # 19] The Legendary K.O.- George Bush Don’t Like Black People
- [punkrockmonday #20] Mance Lipscomb- Ella Speed
- [punkrockmonday #21] Iggy Pop - Lust for Life; Iggy Pop - The Passenger; Iggy Pop - I'm Bored; Iggy Pop (orig. The Stooges)- I Wanna Be Your Dog; Iggy and the Stooges - Search and Destroy
- [punkrockmonday #22] Iris Dement - Easy's Gettin' Harder Every Day
- [punkrockmonday #23] Louis C.K. - Are You a Lizard?; U2 - Maggie's Farm; Pink Floyd - The Post War Dream; Morrissey - Maggie on the Guillotine; Newtown Neurotics - Kick out the Tories
- [punkrockmonday #24] The Maria Bamford Show 01 - Dropout; The Maria Bamford Show 02 - Maria Gets a Job
- [punkrockmonday #25] Blind Willie Johnson
- [punkrockmonday #26] Some songs about Death
- [punkrockmonday #27] Gillian Welch - Look at Miss Ohio; Iris Dement - Easy's Gettin' Harder Every Day; Fiona Apple - Oh Sailor
- [punkrockmonday #28] Nirvana/Terry Jacks/Jacques Brell, and Beck/Them/Bob Dylan
- [punkrockmonday #29] Kommunizm (Egor Litov) - Stop the Rolling Stones; Yanka Dyagileva - On a Rainy Day; Dean Reed - Elizabeth; Alina Simone - My Love is a Mountain