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I, our generation, am not OK.

Hello, I’m a twenty-something living in 2020. At the start of the year, I had lots of I wanted to accomplish. Perhaps I was just about to graduate from university, excited to see what life had in store for me. Perhaps I was in love, excited to see where they and I might go. Perhaps I was just about to become a parent, or a spouse, or a homeowner, or an employee at my dream company, or a founder of a small business working out of my garage, or a recipient of vital healthcare I’d been on a waiting list about for months. Perhaps I’d saved up for years working a job I’d hated to spend a year travelling the world, anxious to leave a country that I never liked to find a person I might in myself. …


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How can we guarantee we would know what this means?

What’s really out there? Are we alone in the universe? Do aliens exist? I gamble that no person ever to live has not thought at least once of these questions. In our lifetimes, who hasn’t looked up at the stars and wondered ‘what’s up there?’. Many still must have imagined how we might communicate with such forms of life were we to be given the opportunity. Might they have the capacity for language? How could we ever know what their communicative efforts meant? Contemporaneous technological advances in space travel demand these questions to have an answer. In this essay, I shall attempt to address them and to propose a solution to a final question: ‘could we talk to aliens?’. …


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What is the experience of having thoughts like?

As you’re reading this, what are you thinking of? Stop. Think about something else. What did you think about? That’s interesting. How did that thought come to you? Did an image appear in your mind’s eye? Did a concept float by the window of your consciousness? OK, here’s another question: how did that thought feel? Was it visual? Did you smell it? Or, was it abstract? Could it not be perceptible? In this essay, the issue of how thinking feels, or, what might be called the phenomenology of cognition, shall be broached. I shall attempt to decipher precisely how it feels to think, or indeed, to determine whether such an academic endeavour should even be possible. …


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The people’s anger is building.

These are some of the most tumultuous times in living memory.

Hundreds of thousands of people are dying to COVID-19. The economy is currently being decimated by the virus’ fallout. Dissatisfaction with those in power is high. The world’s wealthiest business owners seem the enemy of the people, forming what appears a conspiratorial oligopoly over our everyday needs and wants. They hoard the riches their workers produce for a pittance. Their possession of immeasurable means leaves a sour taste, and they seem just as gluttonous as everyone else seems envious. …


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Your life is happening.

It’s very easy to turn to nihilism in times of despair. One response is to exclaim ‘carpe diem!’. I believe there is a philosophical significance to this sentiment, and one that I argue is enough to challenge classic nihilistic views, of the type ‘everything I do means nothing’. I will attempt to unravel the importance of carpe diem, or equivalents (e.g. YOLO, for my younger readers) in this short essay.

At our lowest points in life, where we feel powerless to our surroundings, or spectators in our own lives, questioning what the point is to all our toils and troubles is commonplace. If it is true that I can never make the person I love return my affections, why should I even bother trying to love in the first place? If it is the case that my becoming vegan will have no sizeable impact on environmental or ethical issues, should I not just keep eating my burgers and bolognese? …


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Facebook sells your data. Is that OK?

Recently, Facebook has come under fire for selling users’ data to companies. Many people are angry about this; I am not. Rather, I want a share of the money they’ve made from me. In this essay, I shall not be discussing the intimate details of cases such as the involvement of Cambridge Analytica in election management, including in the 2016 US presidential election. Instead, a treatment of the ethical practices at play here is given — and an argument is presented as to why I believe the scope of problems present is more limited than others might think.

When you visit the Facebook desktop site, that old starting page looking back at you (which I imagine has been so unchanged over the years to make people feel more comfortable), what is the first thing you tend to see? If you’ve selected various pages that you ‘want to see first’, as I have, you might be treated to a selection of your most favourite content. In my case, this ranges from BBC breaking news to memes about historical linguistics. But as you scroll, and of course, you will scroll (as I just did for 20 minutes in the middle of writing this paragraph), you’ll see items looking exactly like those to which you have overtly expressed interest in seeing but with a little ‘Suggested for you’ tab at the top. You might also see smaller ads on the right of your page, although I personally don’t. …


There is an emptiness to life. We don’t know why we’re here. We also don’t know how to deal with this. In this essay, I will try to give a logical analysis of the process behind dealing with existential problems.

Given the unavoidably subjective nature of human existence, each person’s process in dealing with the problems of life will of course vary significantly. It could not be said by the writer exactly in which ways such variance occurs, only that it must do. It could not be possible, for instance, to say that some people do step 15 but type X of person never does. To avoid confusion with such manners of speaking, the sections given in this essay have not been numbered — the analysis here does not wish to represent a checklist per se, but only wishes to resemble one loosely. As can be seen, the heading for each section has been given a subheading of sorts; this was done to provide an easy way to access the content of this essay without the need to delve into specifics broached here. …


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When can we be said to die?

Death is a peculiar thing. Most are scared of it, few embrace it, some tragically induce it. None know what it entails. All face it. In this essay, I would like to advocate for an alternate view on when exactly death happens, when it does not, what causes it and why.

Death is quite possibly the only thing we might be said truly to know. In fact, some often see this matter as the only matter for which there is indeed a definite answer to be found; the universal and unavoidable truth of the end of existence is that there is death. That things die is the most commonly held viewpoint on a single issue shared by the whole of humankind. I would like to propose the following: that death only occurs for the forgotten; that you only die when you are forgotten. This view is not a wholly novel one for which I can take credit, but it most certainly is a polemical one and thus one that I shall have to defend vigorously. …

About

T. R. Williamson

linguist and philosopher | MPhil Cambridge | “digestible philosophy”

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