The art of my left arm pt. 2 …

Blinded by great music ... The inside of my left arm is based on a newer KMFDM album cover — KMFDM vs. Skold (2009), and you do see a bit of it in my “about me” picture. I not only love the music on this album, but the artwork reminded me of my roots in philosophy … so a bit of nostalgia you could say. When i began my philosophy education, I looked very much like that girl — I had died black hair (I did wear pigtails occasionally) and I smoked (as all philosophers seem to at one time, it goes so well with the cup of coffee, the cafe chair, and the existentialism). But instead of just copying the artwork exactly, I asked Wayne to make her hair blonde, purple and black … all three colours of hair I had during my university education (the varying lengths and styles was too insane really, too demanding), and the blindfold I had him change the lettering to say “Ontology”. This of course lead to a conversation of what ontology was. Since I started studying ontology what seems like a long time ago, I have been captivated by it … as if blindfolded by it. The unanswered questions, the puzzles and mysteries … the tons of attempts at answering them. The same can be said for Philosophy in general for me: I see it everywhere and in all things, and I love its mysteries and puzzles, the grey areas we can dwell in, and I love the dialogue between philosophers. So yes, I am blinded by philosophy …. not science as Thomas Dolby would want me to be.

Blinded by Ontology


The art of my left ….

My left arm has already been featured here for the Lewis Carroll quote that resides on my forearm, and the upper part of that arm is a mix of philosophy and music. I have been a fan of KMFDM since I was about 12 years old, and I continue to be because I find their music stimulating both philosophically and rhythmically. I love the mix of industrial, some punk, and some good old grinding metal (creating that ultra heavy beat!), and I especially adore the thought provoking lyrics. I have even had a chance to met and talk philosophy with the lead singer, Sascha “Kapt’n K” Konietzko when they played in Toronto a few years back. So, my upper left is a tribute to both these loves.

KMFDM Godlike Single (1990, Wax Trax Records)

A very Nietzsche-like picture. Der Übermensch ....

Wayne from Tora did both of these tattoos, so kudos to him. My outside left arm design comes from KMFDM’s Godlike single. The picture reminds me of Nietzsche’s Übermensch, one who controls their life and takes on the world (so to speak), but it also for me speaks to what it means to be a philosopher, and an ontologist at that: to take the world in your hand almost like an object of study in the hopes of unlocking its secrets, gaining wisdom and enlightenment.
My Übermensch

My tribute to KMFDM & Nietzsche.

P.S., Artie ….

Schopenhauer almost cracking a smile ....

I felt since this is a blog about tattoos and philosophy that I should mention more about Schopenhauer’s philosophy, since it does have a fitting application to tattooing. Artie probably wouldn’t like me doing this with his philosophy, but if i told him Hegel hated tattoos then I bet he’d be game.

In his masterpiece, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (commonly translated as The World as Will and Representation), the central argument is that we experience the world as both a subject and as object: “That which knows all things and is known by none is the subject; and for this subject all exists. But the world as idea consists of two essential and inseparable halves. One half is the object, whose form consists of time and space, and, through these, of multiplicity; but the other half is the subject, lying not in space and time, for it subsists whole and undivided in every reflecting being.” I won’t get into the translation fun of the German word ‘Vorstellung’, just know it can be translated as ‘representation’, ‘presentation’, or ‘idea’ depending on the context. As an embodied subject, call it an ego or a conscious being, you experience the world through the senses and through emotions — you can never put your finger on this ego, it never stops and starts, but you know what it does by the results given to you (i.e., a unified world perception). Your brain is naturally an organizer, and while you are not conscious of exactly how it works, you are aware of the end result of an organized world before you. The subjective side is outside of space and time, and feels like a continuum. Now, since the physical world lays outside your mind, the “not me” that is qualitatively different from the subject, it is an object for you and you perceive everything outside yourself as an object … even people. The best example of what he is talking about is to look at the body — your body is something of a vehicle for your consciousness, and yet you can look at your arm, or your foot, or your reflection in the mirror and turn that body you inseparably reside in into an object. (A.K.A. You feel embodied and yet that body is a physical, material thing you can observe in many ways.) Your body is also considered by ol’ Artie to be the highest and immediate object of your will: “it may be called the objectivity of will. Every true act of will is also instantly a visible act of the body, and every impression on the body is also at once an impression on the will. When it is opposed to the will it is called pain, and when consonant with the will, pleasure.” So, not only do you have a consciousness but you have drives: a will that wants things. Hopefully this is clear …

Now, if we relate all of this to tattoos it becomes rather interesting. A tattoo is an object in the world: it is an ink design applied to the body that can be objectified (i.e., rate its technique, its colours, etc). A tattoo is something created: it has a beginning and an end in time. But, a tattoo is also an idea or representation of the subject whose body it appears on, and I’d even dare add that part of that representation belongs to the artist as well. A tattoo often provides insight into the personality of the person as well as how they view the world — a display of personal philosophy. A tattoo is wearing something that is often very uniquely personal on the outside of our body, in a sense its being more than naked. And while a tattoo isn’t a complete symbol of the elusive ‘self’, it is a sign of essential attributes belonging to that self. A tattoo also further plays into that relationship we have with our body: a tattoo is something you feel or experience as an embodied subject, as well as something you observe on your body as object. The process of getting a tattoo is something you often have to ‘will’ yourself through, depending on the spot it can be pretty painful or uncomfortable, and the healing process can also be something unpleasant. But anyone with tattoos will say “it was worth the pain”, meaning it was worth using our will to triumph over the biological urge to run away or fight their attacker. Some people have even developed a love for the pain of a tattoo needle, meaning the will finds it pleasant and agreeable.

Okay, that is enough with ol’ Artie for now.

I can only see the eternal optimist here.

Love ya, Artie!!

Yeah, definitely NOT an Artie.

I doubt anyone ever called Schopenhauer “Artie” to his face, or even ‘Art’ for that matter. I just like calling him that because I can feel how inappropriate it is when I look upon that severe, scowling, chop-lined face … and let’s not forget the “I’ve just been electrocuted” hair. But I digress….. The Rogers’ Cup began this past weekend in Toronto, and the decorated Serbian Janko Tipsarevic won’t be there (retired early from injury). I say decorated because not only is he a great young player, but he’s got a fair bit of ink … very interesting tattoos. Two of which interest me most: he has a quote by Dostoyevsky on his left arm and a quote on his back from Schopenhauer. I found quite a few sites mentioning this fact about Tipsarevic, but one blog in particular caught my eye for saying “Oh, and about those tattoos. According to Wikipedia, they reflect his love of classic literature (rather unusual for a pro athlete) …. Word has it that he reads Goethe and Nietzsche – for fun.” Okay, while I will admit it is rare to hear of pro-athletes reading literature such as those stated, I get the feeling the emphasis on ‘fun’ shows some mockery. As if those things are not fun to read … like somehow on the fun scale they rate lower than reading Twilight novels or a grocery store gossip rag. Has this blogger tried reading Nietzsche? If not, he is missing out on a good time. Let me say out loud that I am impressed by this 23 year old’s reading list, and I wish there were more like him in this world. And since I find those things ‘fun’ too, he just became even sexier. *sigh*

That being said, I could not find a single website with details as to what this Schopenhauer tattoo says. I found not one single picture or note on which wise quote Tipsarevic chose to tattoo on his body. For those of you unfamiliar with the wisdom of ol’ Artie, in a nutshell he was an 18th/19th-Century (1788 – 1860) German philosopher who was greatly inspired by Plato, Kant and Leibniz. His work is considered rather pessimistic, even though I disagree for reasons I won’t state here, since he believed that the world was filled with endless strife. His masterpiece was a work titled The World as Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung), a book about the double aspect of the world and is considered his solution to the Kantian problem of Noumena-Phenomena. I consider him to be one of the most misunderstood philosophers, right there beside Nietzsche, and one who ought to be read, especially with Kant. I also think Artie offered a solution Kant wouldn’t have minded too terribly. I almost want to call him a Neo-Kantian, (but the Neo-Kantians from the 19th-Century have a reputation …. nevermind) but he isn’t. He was inspired by Kant, but didn’t agree with him all the time — nuff said. Schopenhauer was an odd fellow, rather curmudgeonly at times, but never dull. He lost a lawsuit to a woman whom he alleged assaulted (he pushed her). He came close to marrying at least once but backed out because he felt “Marrying means, to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find out an eel out of an assembly of snakes.” The only companions he had long term were two standard poodles, Atma and Butz. Funny thing was with each new set of dogs he named them the same names. And then there was the dislike he had for Hegel, absolutely legendary (he called him a clumsy charlatan). Yeah, ol’ Artie was quite the character.

Back to the tattoos of Tipsarevic …. I have been thinking about this for many hours and there are so many great things ol’ Artie said that it’s just hard to pick one. He was a well-read, well-educated man who even had a vast knowledge of Eastern Philosophies (Hinduism and Buddhism to name two). However, one cannot neglect that he also said some pretty nasty things about women, and he wasn’t a believer in romance or love. And of course all of this just adds to the mystery of the Schopenhauer quote on Tipsarevic’s back. It makes me wonder more things …. what he likes about Schopenhauer exactly, what works has he read and what drew him to pick up ol’ Artie in the first place. I guess I just might have to ask him.

Changing the past, now ….

1984: Big Brother is in control

“Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,”‘ repeated Winston obediently.

‘”Who controls the present controls the past,”‘ said O’Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. ‘Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real existence?’ ….

O’Brien smiled faintly. ‘You are no metaphysician, Winston,’ he said. ‘Until this moment you had never considered what is meant by existence. I will put it more precisely. Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’


‘Then where does the past exist, if at all?’

‘In records. It is written down.’

‘In records. And –?’

‘In the mind. In human memories.’

— George Orwell, 1984, Part 3, Chapter 2

One of my favorite tattoo shops now offers tattoo removal, and I will admit I often have mixed feelings about that endeavor. I understand if you got a shitty tattoo and you want to cover it, that being you need to lighten it up in order to change it, but what i struggle with is someone who wants to erase their tattoo period. I tend to be the one who says that you should only tattoo things on your body that you will love forever, and that also your mind should be very strongly decided before you tattoo whatever it is on your body (this includes knowing the artist you have picked isn’t terrible at his or her craft). But, that being said, I do know a few people who have put things on their body that they have since regretted. In short, at some point everyone experiences an error in judgment, plus with age our personalities and tastes change, and one should be allowed to do what they can to correct what they feel they need to (e.g., if you tattooed a picture of Vanilla Ice on your forearm, you should have the opportunity to remove it … not that the public shouldn’t shame you for that choice ever onward, but remove it so we don’t have to look at it any more). Every time I see something about tattoo removal, I always end up asking this: Can a tattoo really be erased? A tattoo is more than ink after all: it’s an experience between you and the artist, between your body and the ink filled needle. If you cover up a tattoo, is it ever really gone or truly hidden? Once again, the experience is still there, underneath the new experience and the fresh ink. But what is the experience but the past alive in the memories of you and anyone who witnessed the tattoo? In a way, tattoo removal is like Winston from 1984, in that it provides the gift of control over the past. A tattoo is a concrete example of the past: it is a moment in time sealed in ink on your body, and if you remove/cover it and no one else remembers it was there, then you have successfully changed the past (in a relative way, of course). But can the person with the tattoo actually forget the original application? Does the artist ever forget it as well? That’s a tough question, and baring any head injury or major trauma it is really hard to say.

If you ask Parmenides, the past is a myth … in fact, he writes that change is illusion, a deception of the senses: “[What exists] is now, all at once, one and continuous… Nor is it divisible, since it is all alike; nor is there any more or less of it in one place which might prevent it from holding together, but all is full of what is. (B 8.5-6, 8.22-24)” Sensory perception provides us with illusion, and only Logos can reveal truth — the truth of the One. The One is timeless, changeless, and uniform, this is the truth of the universe. What exists must always exist (something cannot come from nothing), and what underlies some thing (i.e., it’s Substance or it’s soul) never changes or dies. Does a tattoo have some substance or some soul? I want to say yes, I want to say a tattoo has some substance to it beyond ink, but really for Parmenides the answer is most likely No. For Parmenides, it seems, the tattoo would be an illusion since it involves change to your body. So, now worries then about removing it then. (But hey, as far as Pre-Socratics, I always liked Heraclitus better. Everything in flux and originates from fire.)

Lasering away the past ...

%d bloggers like this: