Solipsism

Can we know whether anybody else exists? Are we the only conscious being that exists? Is everything else a projection? Some say so. Solipsism is the belief that everything external to our mind is unsure, and that it is impossible to know whether anything outside ourselves is real.

Gorgias the Sophist was the first philosopher to entertain solipsism and scepticism, and Descartes, in his meditations, wrote that we can only know that we ourselves exist. Solipsism can lead to depersonalization disorders and indifference to the world-if it doesn’t exist, why care for it? However, a solipsistic world view is bound to crumble when surrounded with other people, otherwise permanent detachment, and maybe even madness, will ensue.

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Consciousness

The rise of human consciousness can be interpreted in different ways. Some hold that human consciousness is a huge development in evolution and is greatly beneficial, being a fundamentally good thing, but others hold that consciousness causes suffering and that we would be better off without it.

Thomas Ligotti, like Arthur Schopenhauer, believes that consciousness is a dangerous and pain-inducing part of human existence. Consciousness causes us to be aware of what we are-creatures that are slowly dying, born for nothing, and destined to die, ultimately, for nothing. He says that ‘most people learn to save themselves by artificially limiting the content of consciousness’, and this is rather obvious today-the phone is the most common way of achieving a state of non-thinking, and people are straight on them as soon as they are awake, throughout the day until before they go to sleep, every day. The phone allows us to limit our consciousness, since a phone user ceases to think. One of the biggest reasons why phones and technology are so widely used is because they are a means which can be used to stop thinking.

Consciousness no doubt has its benefits as well as its flaws, yet perhaps the greatest use of consciousness is to create comedy. Comedy is the use of our reason to create absurdity, and comedy allows us to use our consciousness to laugh at the very thing we are using. Again Ligotti speaks:

‘To my mind, a well-developed sense of humour is the surest indication of a person’s humanity, no matter how black and bitter that humour may be.’

 

Art

What is art for? Is it to reflect reality or to create something different from it? Is art a way of appreciating what exists, or is it a means of escape, a way out from the real world?

Nietzsche was hugely appreciative of art, particularly music, being a composer himself, and said that without music, ‘life would be nothing’. This idea of the power and importance of art comes from Schopenhauer, and stems originally from Kant, although Kant thought music was a low form of art, opposing Nietzsche who held music in high esteem. It is not clear why we make art, though it seems a necessary part of life, something that most people cannot avoid doing. In some ways it is a form of self-expression. Yet what has occurred to me is that art portrays one thing: a desire for liberation. In this it seems that art is frequently used as a way of escaping reality and taking oneself elsewhere, not as a distraction as such, but more as a will to be someplace else which is, ultimately, purer. Music offers at least a moment of some kind of perfection, even if that perfection is temporary and man-made. And how, then, does one go about the creation of art? Again, Nietzsche must be quoted:

‘For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication.’

 

What is morality?

This is a question which has been asked for centuries, but is there any definitive answer even now? The most common debate is that of relativism and absolutism, whether there are things which are universally right and wrong at all times for all peoples, making morality objective, or whether everything is relative, either culturally or individually, and therefore subjective.

Morality presupposes freedom. If we are not free, then there is no actual morality, just an idea of what it should be like. There is no doubt that societies cannot function without this idea of freedom, otherwise the judicial system would collapse, since nobody could be blamed for anything, since no actions are made freely. However, just because societies would not be orderly without the concept of freedom and objective morality, this does not necessarily mean that freedom and objective morality are actualities. Free will may just be an illusion, and merely provides a basis for responsibility and a system of justice, as well as our brains tricking ourselves into thinking that we are making choices when really we aren’t.

Again, the objectivity of morality seems somewhat absurd. How does one know what is actually right and actually wrong? The general claim is that morality comes from God, thereby making it objective, but what kind of morality is it that comes from God and how do we find this out? There are so many different interpretations of scripture, and religions differ and oppose each other constantly in moral beliefs, all claiming that their own morality is the divine one. It seems to me impossible to reach past our subjective nature to any objective truth about morality. Even if there was a right answer as to what to do, how would we attain this answer without the trouble of subjective interpretation arising?

Morality keeps society orderly and maintains a system or justice, but this system of justice seems based on a set of subjective principles which are then proposed as objective from a standpoint of power. A moral statement seems to be a preference or opinion put forward as a fact. Yet this solves nothing, and the question of what is right and what is wrong may go forever.

Dealing with pain, trouble and anxiety

There is one specific idea which I have found to be incredibly useful when confronting and accepting various forms of pain, specifically the pains and anxieties of everyday life: the concept of sub specie aeternatis. This is the idea of viewing humanity, and more specifically your very own life, in the time period of all history and of the future as well. The span of our own lives is utterly negligible if we look at the big picture-that the universe has existed for millions and millions of years, and will probably continue to do so for a long time. Looking at life like this, all the pettiness is removed. When we are reminded of our own insignificance and the perhaps completely meaningless nature of our troubles, w may be able to detach ourselves from our own trouble, thereby gaining power and control over them, rather than the other way around. It is a matter of recognising how arbitrary everything can seem, merely by looking at the bigger picture. It may seem simple, but its effect may be astounding.

The Philosophy of Kant Pt.1

Immanuel Kant was born in Honisberg in 1724, and was brought up in a Pietistic family. His earliest influences were Newtonian physics and his philosophy professor, Professor Knutzen. He is know to have first formulated the nebular hypothesis (that the universe was at one time a primitive cloud), but it is debated that it was in fact Emanuel Swedenborg who first proposed this. Kant was a believer in the natural law, an idea he took from Aristotle, and used the idea that humans are logical and rational by nature in his philosophy. To the questions he thought were out of reach and unanswerable, he called this the use of ‘speculative’ reason, a part of our reason which desires to know that which is not knowable, so speculates about answers without any real rational argument to support them. Kant described his Critique of Pure Reason as the ‘Copernican Revolution’, since he set out to show that the mind is like a solar system.

Kant rested upon the assumption that truth is stable, and that logic is perfect and complete. He took the Platonic idea that concepts are greater than what is physical and built on it. A lot of his work rests on the concept S is P. S is the subject, and P is the predicate or quality (e.g. the sky is blue). This will be developed later.

Kant rejected empiricism, a philosophy made famous by David Hume, which proposed that causality does not exist, and that it is our own subjective minds which make the mistake of assuming cause and effect: aRb where R is psychological and subjective, and represents the idea of causality. Kant rejected this, as well as Locke’s idea of a ‘tabula rasa’, arguing that logic and rationality are imprinted into us before we are born. This too will be developed later.

Kant is perhaps most famous for his development on Hume’s ‘relations of ideas and matters of fact’. Kant formulated the idea of analytic and synthetic judgements. Analytic judgements don’t tell us anything new (e.g. a bachelor is an unmarried man)-they are true but uninformative. All analytic judgements are a priori. Synthetic judgements are informative and can be either a priori (universal, necessary, and before experience-7+5=12) or a posteriori (after examination-sky is blue). Kant’s idea of S is P is resurrected here. S=intuitions, and are experienced through the faculty of sensibility. P=concepts, and the faculty of understanding is responsible for concepts.

 

 

A thought on life

Life has never been straightforward. In some ways life has become easier, yet it feels as if we, humanity, as a species, are coming to a standstill. Yes, we are still developing economically, technologically and scientifically, but it seems to be, for the most part, that society is not really going anywhere. We’re advancing, yes, but achieving? Questionable. It has come to a point where it is extremely difficult to determine where society is headed next. Obsessions with social media, gender complications, and popular culture do not appear to be enhancing the human race. The increase in smart-phones, televisions and technology that ultimately dulls the mind and is binge-consumed passively does not seem to be supporting any evolutionary progress. Perhaps we have made things too easy for ourselves that we have become so idle and lazy that little genuine progress in subjects such as philosophy, music and literature. Our societies seem to be founded on repetition, but is all this repetition good for progress that requires intense creativity? Maybe. Maybe not. Is our world hindering creativity?

Fight Yourself

We are programmed to find comfort. It’s natural. We seek pleasure and avoid pain because that’s what our brain is trained to do, through years and years of evolution. Putting ourselves through exhaustive or exertive circumstances is a fight against ourselves. Everything our brain has been programmed to search for savagely is at hand-food, water and (potentially) sex. It’s easy to sink into a state of doing nothing, since all our needs, says our brain, are fulfilled, and so we don’t need to do anything else. Our brains are right, but they’re also wrong. All our survival needs are met, but that does not mean we, as people, are satisfied. The things which we want to achieve are usually hard work to attain, and this involves a battle between your will and what your brain wants. Your brain wants comfort and pleasure, but you want to push yourself, to experience hardship now for the sake of gain later. This is what you must do then-fight yourself. Battle against your brain’s instincts and if your will is strong enough, you will win.

Stop caring what others think

The opinion of others is something that is usually heralded as crucially important to any sane person, and what others think about us has become the reason for acting in certain ways-for getting that job, for posting that photo on Instagram, for buying that car, or for keeping quiet when we should speak up. We value others’ opinions highly, and what other people will think about us influences our decisions heavily. It’s not that other people’s opinions do not matter (they do), but it may be the case that we value what other people think too highly. It is a problem when we do not act in the way we should or the way we truly want because we fear what other people will think. It is a problem when we act solely so that people will think good of us, regardless of what we genuinely want to do. We make the mistake that if people have a good opinion of us, our power will increase, as will our satisfaction. This kind of deluded thinking has the opposite effect, since relying on the external for power and satisfaction usually means the opposite occurs, since most people do not care what you think or do. With this kind of thinking, whether we are satisfied is up to other people-we are completely powerless. Acting how you think you should, and realising true power comes only from within will result in more control, and, most likely, more satisfaction. We need to stop caring about what other people think. It makes us powerless and weak, stopping us from speaking when we should, doing what we truly want, and being the person we want to be. Ceasing to care what others think will result in liberation-liberation from anxiety, as well as liberation from the mask that we all wear around each other, a mask that prevents us from being ourselves. Take off the mask, and be free.

The Ancient Greek Philosophers: Aristotle

Aristotle was a pupil of Plato, the teacher of Alexander the Great, and he wrote extensively on many various subjects, including logic, biology, music and rhetoric. Aristotle’s work on logic was a great foundation for human logic, and the work he recorded was the work used by philosophers who lived thousands of years on, such as Immanuel Kant. Aristotle’s logic is based on the syllogism, which is, at its simplest, one conclusion from two premises:

P1 All men are mortal.

P2 Socrates is a man.

C Socrates is mortal.

This is deductive logic, and if one accepts both the premises, then one must accept the conclusion that follows. To therefore attack the conclusion, one must attack the premises. There is so much that one could potentially say about Aristotle, so I will mention only a couple of his key ideas.

Aristotle believed that everything has a nature and a ‘telos‘ (end or goal) to fulfil. His idea was that ‘essence precedes existence’-something’s nature is defined before it exists. He argued that, like all other beings, humans also have a nature and a telos. For Aristotle this was eudaimonia, or flourishing, and this is attained by using all one’s talents and becoming balanced through the golden mean, avoiding excess and deficiency. To attain this, we should enhance our practical reasoning as well as our intellect. ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Aristotle asked himself, to which he answered, ‘To do good and serve others.’

Aristotle had a certain idea of excellence, and it was that it is attained through training and habituation. Like all virtues, Aristotle believed that to become excellent took time, and required consistency and balance-we cannot hope to be something if we only act in that way rarely. Rather, we should act that way as much as we can, and through this repetition we will train ourselves to become what that virtue is.

The influence of Aristotle is magnanimous. He influenced many, including Thomas Aquinas, Martin Heidegger and Immanuel Kant. To the foundations of logic and to the influential ethical and political theory we owe Aristotle a great deal.