Monday, February 11, 2008

The PersonalPhilosophyTrainer (PPT)

Always looking for more applications of philosophy to life, I have come up with a sure-fire winner: the PhilosophyPersonalTrainer (or PPT). Personal trainers developed out of the fitness trends of the last three decades. We pay and defer to experts to size up our (generally unacceptable) bodies and propose solutions (or at least ameliorations).

Now: enter the PPT. Poor thinking is a perennial problem, as least since the fall introduced intellectual torpor, stupefaction, and dereliction. Things really got dumber east of Eden. Poor thinking, which leads to bogus worldviews and ruined lives, needs to be corrected. As C.S. Lewis opined, good philosophy need to exist if for no other reason than to counteract bad philosophy. Yet many never take a philosophy class, never read a philosophical book, and don’t even know what modus ponens is! (Hint: it is neither a snow mobile nor a skin rash.)

The PPT will access your intellectual life (or lack thereof). First he or she access your library. Since most do not have a library (of books at least), the trainer will recommend starting one, even if this means talking money always from (gasp) cable TV and Netflix. Then, one must actually read these rather archaic objects in book form (not on line). One must learn to love the text, to indwell it, and have it indwell oneself. This, of course, takes work. No pain; no gain. Withdrawal symptoms include: twitches in the direction of the nearest remote control, urges to check one's cell phone and email, boredom because the book's text does not move or blink, and so on. The trainer can provide practical help by regaling the client with stories of those who used to intoxicate at play station who now are hopeless book addicts who cannot let a logical fallacy pass unnoticed. Support groups are available as well.

Second, the PPT audits your vocabulary and knowledge of the history of ideas. This is not done through a routine test but through conversations. The PPT sometimes uses personal restraints on the more hyperactive clients who tend to lunge toward whatever electronic medium is in sight. After several conversations, the PPT accesses the client's knowledge (and ignorance) and makes general recommendations. Here is an excerpt from one recommendation made to Ivan Ignoramus:

Ivan, you know everything about "The Matrix," but nothing about Plato. So, you really cannot understand "The Matrix," since it trades on Plato's cave allegory. You are terrific at video games but no knowing of Wittgensteinian "language games." You are swimming in data about sports, but know nothing about theories of human nature or why humans even care about sports. Your vocabulary is miniscule, pathetic. You rely on a few emotive terms to do all the work of analysis (if I can call it that). Things you like are "cool" or "awesome," but there is no clear sense what you mean by these terms. Things you don't like "suck," but you show no understanding of where this expression came from (the gutter) or just why you dislike the things that "suck." You say, "Oh my God," all the time, but have never considered whether there are any sound arguments for God's existence. And you don't know what a "sound argument" is.

Of course, there is much more to the discipline of being a PPT. But this is enough to start a new movement, a movement of the mind in the making. All you need is a car, philosophical knowledge, and a lot of patience and clients. But what should the hourly rate be? As Proverbs says, "Buy the truth and do not sell it."


havoc said...

Okay, Dr. Smartguy, FEED ME!

I need a list of books. I'll even pay you for a list of books. Paying you for the list of books will give me additional incentive to read them after I've purchased them. is waiting.

Doug Groothuis said...

1. Francis A. Schaeffer, Collected Works. But especially, The God Who is There, True Spirituality, He is There, He is Not Silent, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?
2. All of Os Guinness's books. But especially The Dust of Death, The American Hour, The Case for Civility.
3. Blaise Pascal, Pensees.
4. Soren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will One thing and The Sickness Unto Death
5. JP Moreland, The Secular City and Love Your God with All Your Mind and The Kingdom Triangle
6. Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, Women Caught in the Conflict, Good News for Women.
7. Doug Groothuis (if I may), Truth Decay, On Jesus.
8. CS Lewis, Mere Christianity< Miracles, The Screwtape Letters, The Abolition of Man.
9. Augustine, The Confessions.

See also the annotated bibliography (by me) in The Apologetics Study Bible.

You may pay me by buying Herbie Hancock, "The River: The Joni Letters," and sending it to Denver Seminary!

Mason said...



I have withdrawal when I have not been to Borders Books or in some time. I've read all the books you list plus all of Harry Blamires and still I must have just one more book. Maybe I will break down and buy Mrs. Groothuis' book: my wife would probably think better of me for it.

Mason (a fan).

ps: Truth Decay by some guy named Doug some-thing-or-other, I recommend to my Sunday School class.

Doug Groothuis said...

Yes, The Christian Mind by Harry Blamires--a modern classic.

Jim Pemberton said...

If one can construct a conditional syllogism correctly then one likely knows what a modus ponens is.

I am my kid's PPT.

Jon said...

If you start a PPT firm (would it be a firm?), I will definitely come interview for a position.

Kyl Schalk said...

Great post!!