The end feeds the beginning

The goal, the purpose, the ending. This is what drives us. What our actions will bring influences how and why we act. Any motivation is based on the final end, and without it there is little reason to do anything. This is why goals are so necessary for purposeful action-because without them there would be no purposeful action to begin with. Instead it would be only chaotic movements randomly striving for something. Anything. There is a time when a decision has to be made, a decision about what your goal is. The time, and the only time, is now. Without a ‘why’, how will there be a ‘how’? It isn’t difficult to fall into passive nihilism and to actively do nothing. Doing nothing and achieving nothing becomes the goal. It may seem like an inevitability at some point in time, but that time isn’t now. Passive nihilism oversees the present time, not realising that even if our efforts will not last for much time, they will last for at least some time.

It is the end, the ‘why’, that gives life to the ‘how’. The first step, always, is to know why.

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Keep things in perspective

It’s easy to perceive things in the wrong way. Our perspective can change very drastically, very quickly. A lot of life is just about how we see things. As Epictetus said, life is just a set of impressions. If we take this at face value, then how we live is how we use impressions-change your perspective, change your life, that kind of thing.

The big question, then, is what the right perspective is. Fundamentally, all of our perspectives differ somewhat, but it is possible for perspectives to be focused on the same things. A huge focus is the universe around us. It has existed for millions of years. We exist for 80 years. Sub specie aeternitatis, life seems a little less serious. Again, we die. Death makes life seem less troublesome. Yes the troubles may hurt now, but soon enough they’ll be gone. Forever. In fact, everything will be gone. Yes, I agree that life can be shit at times, that it is a pain, frustrating and completely pointless, but I also think that since we’re here, and given that the chances of us being here are close to none, we should probably make the most of it. Looking at death and the universe may change our perspective on things, making them seem less grave. Beginning with the end in mind (the end being death) may certainly be helpful, easing the heaviness of life off of one’s shoulders, bringing a touch of humour and slight irony (Nagel) to one’s existence. Keeping things in perspective is utterly, utterly crucial. It affects how we act, and provides the reasons as to why we act, and as long as we do keep things in perspective, it will help us in how we act.

Everything changes

A simple fact of life. Something easily forgotten, however. We are sometimes prone to thinking that the situation as it is now will never change or get better, but it’s just not true. But whether it gets better or worse, well that’s a great deal up to ourselves. Although conflict and trouble and things going wrong are not always pleasant or enjoyable, they are a necessary part of the adventure that is life. Moreover, they are part of a fulfilling life-a life that does not present problems is not a life at all. This is the nature of existence. Yes, it will suck at times, but pain does not come without its benefits. It’s just about how we use the problems that come our way, how we react to them. Some problems are unsolvable, whilst others can be dealt with and even manipulated. Yet keeping this somewhat objective viewpoint that everything changes may help immensely, making everything lighter and more bearable.

Many a time do we find ourselves apathetic, and we can’t be bothered to do things which, when looking at the bigger picture, w should really do. Having the end product or goal as a reminder is a great way to maintain motivation and fight our way through obstacles.

Back with a bang

It’s been a while. I have certainly been very busy. But, business passes, as it always does, and once again I am ready to start writing (relatively) regularly. From here onwards, posts will, at most times, be longer than previously, and, hopefully, more interesting and invigorating. I’ve always believed in the importance of philosophy pervading daily life, and writing is one way of achieving this pervasiveness. I do hope you get at least something out of my future posts.

Self-improvement as masturbation

The title is from Fight Club, and is pointing to inherent pointlessness of improving oneself, particularly in the context of a consumerist society. Moreover, it critiques the ideas of individuality in consumerism. Tyler Durden goes on to say ‘Now self-destruction…’ suggesting that self-destruction is the way forward. Rather than focusing on our own improvement through meaningless consumerism and so-called achievement, Tyler Durden seems to be suggesting that we should look outside of ourselves and sacrifice ourselves for the greater good of others. Of course there is the contrast between masturbation and sex-masturbation is lonely and fundamentally pointless, whereas sex is an act with another person. If we spend our time merely improving ourselves, we will become lonely and partaking in acts that are meaningless, yet if we turn away from this we can really live as we should, and we can begin to accept ourselves as we are, and embrace our dissatisfaction, rather than trying to quell it with self-improvement, which eventually does not change anything. It’s about removing that part of yourself which relies on the recognition of others, which only wants to impress others, and then pursuing what you want to do without the pressures of the opinions of other. It’s about destroying the self that society gives us, and creating something new from the ashes. The things thrown at us by society don’t make us better human beings, but they do make us feel like we are better human beings, thereby deluding us. From this we must break free.

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.2

Kant’s philosophy of mind is situated in-between that of Newton and Leibniz. Newton believed that space and time are absolute and objective, separate from our mind and wholly deterministic. This determinist outlook did not appeal to Kant, since with this view Kant believed he could not argue in favour of freedom, morality, or God. At the opposite end is Leibniz, who believed that everything has a soul with a ‘set of God-given perceptions’. The universe is essentially many enclosed and isolated souls. Kant sat between these two viewpoints, and argued that time and space are wholes composed of parts, and that time and space are faculties inside our minds, like containers, and are empty, needing to be filled with sensory experience. To have any experience, time and space must exist.

As seen before in part 1, Kant was heavily influenced by Aristotle, and took from him the concept of the nature of humans as well as Aristotelian logic. Kant, like Aristotle, held that humans are by nature rational. The faculties of sensibility (responsible for ‘intuitions’) and understanding (responsible for ‘concepts’) work together to create reality. Kant relies on truth being stable, and creates categories, or pure concepts, which correspond to forms of logical judgement.

Wake up

Many of us are asleep. This isn’t stating the obvious, this is stating that even when ‘awake’, many of us are still asleep, not really aware of where we are or what we are doing. We are the products of millions of years of evolution. Millions of years of toil and suffering has produced you and me. Not only that, but our lifespan is completely negligible compared to the time spent evolving before our existence began. If you’re not careful, life will pass you by without you realising, you’ll have wasted years of time, filled with regret, and you’ll be old, near to death. The cessation of life is a reality we all have to face, and it is perhaps the most important of all realities, and perhaps the only one. Yet in spite of all this, we remain where we are, asleep and half-conscious, dazing through life like a zombie-doing, but not really living. Nietzsche had this idea, that life is usually rejected, and rather than striving for greatness, we settle with mediocrity. His idea was to create an Ubermensch, an overman. This target is a target of greatness and of evolution-to make something better of ourselves, parting from ‘herd instinct morality’, and simultaneously becoming life-affirming, in essence-waking up. And once we do wake up, asleep will never appeal again. We just have to fight ourselves if waking up is what we really want.

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?