Lost in an echo long since uttered…in a place long since forgotten.
We have time to be; and pick out the hollowed reminisce of an echo.
Dreams come so quickly before leaving.
The mind seems to be at a miss to their origins;
only having time to remember glimpses of past experiences.
Playing those treasured moments back in a reel,
like a film which never ends.
The long to return to some distant dream;
to some distant corner of paradise… seems impossible.
The moments that haunt can never be replayed as they once were originally.
Those moments of revelation, that draw the mind to explain the mystery of the day,
are only realised in those passing lights.
Beauty is exaggerated; hurtful pains hit home to gripping moments.
Knees are dropped to engage for but-a-fraction, before entirely disappearing….
Why cannot the moment remain for longer?
Why must it flee with the recoiling of darkness?
Why must the dream end?
The dream of the world to be as it was,
(the dream for it to return to a state of innocence)
can be heart aching.
It is human desire to become a child once more;
echoing the longest of woes.
The human mind’s desire to be a child once more;
to be innocent, care-free, calm and secure.
The shift from childhood to adult can (and is) the most turbulent of mental storms.
For if winds be too much, those sails that carry across ocean waves…
lead to rocky shores….
And so was the woe of the dreamer.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
We are, for a better use of the word, ‘limited’ in our ability to fully conceive of our place in the grand scheme of the universe…if there is a ‘scheme’ to begin with at all. What does one mean by this? Well, for one, think of the limitations of the human body in matters regarding understanding. Neuroscience has given us insight into the nervous system, which allows us the ability to compute sensory information collected from-what we believe to be- reality; it has shown this system, thus far, to be at fault. Instead of revealing a perfect system that would allow for us the ability to fully perceive the world around us, without the tendency to align perceptions of reality, with biases favouring self-interest and self-preservation. We are instead evolved with a pattern recognition system that favours matters that regard self-interest, and self-preservation; pattern seeking mammals who have developed systems of ‘order’, with a-some-what, ‘disordered’ nervous system. The irony alone should make us stop to think about just how much we claim to know about the world around us. In philosophy, specifically that of epistemology- which deals with the nature of what we claim to know- there is an epistemological position known as ‘agnosticism’, and it deals with knowledge…especially that of its limitations.
Before we can lay the ground work for agnosticism, we need to first understand a couple key words and their definitions. Firstly: the word ‘belief’ refers to an ‘act of confidence in a proposition’; to hold a ‘belief’ is to have confidence that, one’s idea of reality conforms to the way reality functions. The belief in the proposition ‘pigs fly’, for example, is to say that one has confidence that pigs-for all intended purposes-can, in fact, fly. Beliefs can either be justified (this being in the sense that those beliefs have evidence to support them, in the form of an account of a causal linkage- linking ideas and reality together), or they can be unjustified (this being in the sense that those beliefs have little evidence to support them). When a belief is justified it is constituted as being ‘knowledge’; when a belief is held but is not justified it is constituted as being ‘faith’. Secondly: the word ‘knowledge’ refers to a ‘well-justified true belief’; as mentioned before, if a belief has been substantiated well enough with evidence that the belief aligns with reality, and thus is constituted as being ‘true’, then that belief constitutes as being ‘knowledge’. Semantics aside: onto agnosticism.
Agnosticism is a position on knowledge… nothing else. It is specifically the position on epistemology that states, absolute knowledge and certainty-on matters concerning human understanding-to be unknowable; in other words, it is the position that says, ‘we cannot claim to know absolute knowledge and certainty on any matter regarding truth’ (From the Greek word, ‘agnōsis’, which literally translates into ‘without knowledge’). It is the rejection of absolute knowledge claims. Originally coined by the British biologist, Thomas Henry Huxley, in 1869-in which he clarified that:
“Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle. That principle is of great antiquity; it is as old as Socrates; as old as the writer who said, ‘Try all things, hold fast by that which is good’; it is the foundation of the Reformation, which simply illustrated the axiom that every man should be able to give a reason for the faith that is in him, it is the great principle of Descartes; it is the fundamental axiom of modern science. Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect, do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable. That I take to be the agnostic faith, which if a man keep whole and undefiled, he shall not be ashamed to look the universe in the face, whatever the future may have in store for him.”(‘Agnosticism’, 1889, Thomas Huxley)
What Huxley means by this, is that agnosticism makes no claims beyond which reason permits it can. It is not arrogant in stating absolute certainty on a matter that has yet to be ascertained; it simply states that we are limited in our capacity to know. Furthermore, Huxley expresses that the role of agnosticism is ‘not’ meant to be taken as a position of mindless ignorance towards the truth of a proposition; it is simply meant to be taken as a position of scepticism towards claims made in absolute certainty and knowledge. Huxley’s reasoning follows from the fact that the methods in which we come to knowledge are inherently at fault. This is due to the limitations of the human mind in fully conceiving the world around it. For instance: we have yet to traverse the whole of the cosmos, and reveal everything within it, to make claims of absolute knowledge about it. Those who are certain in their convictions, over the truth of a proposition’s validity, cannot be so; to claim absolute knowledge on a proposition, they need to possess all available knowledge in the cosmos, including the past, present and future. This is just not possible given our mental limitations.
Huxley’s use of the word ‘agnosticism’ differs tremendously on how the public uses the word today. For instance: it is wrongly assumed that agnosticism is a position between, ‘atheism’ and ‘theism’, or otherwise portrayed as a ‘non-compatible term’ that cannot be reconciled with either ‘theism’ or ‘atheism’. This false understanding of agnosticism is not merely a manifestation of the misconceptions aimed at those who are ignorant about the term’s meaning; it is also held with such vehemency, by those who are reluctant to want to be associated with ‘theism’ or ‘atheism’, for cultural reasons. In understanding agnosticism, to be merely a position on knowledge that neither affirms the claim of absolute knowledge about a proposition of truth, nor makes any comment on the nature of believing in said proposition, the ‘agnostic’ is humbling themselves with acknowledging their limitations. It should be noted that agnosticism does not deal with belief; it only deals with knowledge. Whereas theism and atheism deal respectively with belief or non-belief in a deity’s existence, agnosticism and Gnosticism deal respectively with what we claim to know about that deity’s existence or non-existence. Agnosticism takes the position that absolute knowledge and certainty about the non-existence or existence of a deity is unknowable, and Gnosticism takes the position that absolute knowledge and certainty about the non-existence or existence of a deity is knowable. Therefore, the word ‘agnostic’ is compatible with the word ‘atheist’ or ‘theist’, as is the word ‘gnostic’.
This compatibility can be expressed as so:
-Agnostic atheism: Does not believe in a deity’s existence, but does not claim to know that a deity does not exist.
-Gnostic atheism: Does not believe in a deity’s existence, but does claim to know that a deity does not exist.
-Agnostic theism: Does believe in a deity’s existence, but does not claim to know that a deity does exist.
-Gnostic theism: Does believe in a deity’s existence, but does claim to know that a deity does exist.
Agnosticism can be further expressed in terms of the strength one is willing to put in this scepticism towards claims made in absolute knowledge. ‘Temporal agnosticism’, is the position most often taken by those who identify as ‘agnostic’; it expresses that the data for a deity’s existence or non-existence is inconclusive, and thus one should withhold their judgement in either proposition. However, this does not mean that the data will remain inconclusive; it just means that until such time when the data becomes conclusive to a proposition’s validity, judgement should be withheld. ‘Permanent agnosticism’, takes a much more hard line position than temporal agnosticism; it states that due to our limitations as evolved primates, we cannot make absolute knowledge claims about the non-existence or existence of a deity. Therefore, strong agnostics state that judgement cannot be made about either proposition’s validity. Agnosticism’s sceptical approach towards claims made in absolute knowledge and certainty is the cornerstone of inquiry, in both science and philosophy; it is for this reason that many in both the scientific and philosophical disciplines will state-when they are uncertain about the truth of a proposition-that they are ‘agnostic’ towards it. This is both an honest and humble thing to do, when one does not know.
If we are to conceptualise agnosticism in a frame work that will do it justice; we need only look as far as Richard Feynman. Richard Feynman was a theoretical physicist who worked at Cornell University in the mid-20th century; best known for his work in quantum mechanics, specifically that of quantum electrodynamics. An avid speaker and educator, Feynman is known for his intellect and support for the scientific method, as well as the ‘Feynman method’ of learning. The Feynman method of learning involves four key steps; these steps will be applied to agnosticism, but these steps can be applied to any concept one is willing to learn. These steps are as follows:
Step 1: Identify a concept of study.
Step 2: Explain concept, as if to teach others about it.
-Explanation: Agnosticism is a position on knowledge that states that absolute knowledge and certainty are unknowable.
Step 3: If one gets stuck on explanation, refer back to original source material.
-Original Source Material: “Agnosticism, in fact, is not a creed, but a method, the essence of which lies in the rigorous application of a single principle … Positively the principle may be expressed: In matters of the intellect, follow your reason as far as it will take you, without regard to any other consideration. And negatively: In matters of the intellect do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable.” (Huxley, Thomas. ‘Agnosticism’. 1889.)
Step 4: Simplify Concept and use examples, along with analogies to emphasise it.
-Simplification of Concept: I don’t know.
-Example of concept in use: “What is in that unopened box?”, “I don’t know…and neither do you.”
-Analogy of concept: “If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a teapot revolving around the Sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”(Russell, Bertrand. “Is There a God? ”. ‘The Collected Papers of Bertrand Russell, Voll 11: Last Philosophical Testament, 1943-1968’. Routledge. pp. 547-548.)
The Feynman method allows us to understand agnosticism by means of looking at the concept, and identifying with it. From Huxley to Russell, agnostic thought has sought to represent itself in society, through society’s great minds. These minds have sought, in their endeavours to push against the tide of extremism that absolute knowledge brings, to build a society by which inquiry and scepticism are held up as beacons of hope for the world. Furthermore, those who proclaim-with such vehemency-that they know the truth of a matter absolutely, and everyone else who does not know this truth are simply wrong, are deluding themselves in their conclusions. As mentioned at the start of this piece, the human mind is limited in its capacity to know the world around it, and as a result, conclusions that are made today can be wrong tomorrow. This is why scientific hypotheses are tested against reality, and falsified; if the hypothesis succeeds all the tests against it, and is proven empirically, it is ranked up to the level of ‘theory’-which is one of the highest distinctions attainable. However, this theory is ‘not-wrong’ but it is not ‘right’ either, for future experiments could undo the ones done at present. This is why science makes provisional conclusions and not absolute ones.
We live in a time of turbulence and confusion (The most recent example of this has been the death of twelve ‘Charlie Hebdo’ satirical artists, in Paris, at the hands of Muslim extremists. What was their crime? For daring to draw cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, in an ‘unflattering manner’.), where many seem to find themselves speaking out against extremism; the kind brought by those who claim to hold the ‘Truth’…the absolute ‘Truth’-as it were. For these demagogues and proliferators who espouse rhetoric, anyone who scrutinises or expresses doubt towards their claims makes themselves a target for violence and censorship. This is worrying in the 21st century, where science has revealed tremendous things about our limitations; if we wish to continue to live as a species, we need to throw off the shackles of certainty and embrace humble doubt. The first step towards wisdom is to realise how ignorant you are; once you realise that, then acquiring knowledge becomes an act of humility. And, it is for this reason that we have got thus far in our cognitive ability to inquire about the cosmos around us. If we are to continue to do so, it is time we start striking back at those making claims of absolute knowledge and certainty…before it is too late.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson (8/01/2015)
There is a war going on and it is not one that you would expect….
There is a current conflict that resides in all mediums of life, from birth to death. This conflict is waged on multiple platforms from politics to education. Yet, it is hidden in plain sight and found in the most unsuspecting places. It is a war of ideals, and it influences nearly every single individual from the moment they are born. It is an ideological conflict that is being waged-quite literally-over the minds of people, for the domination and control of reality.
Ideologies are networks of ideals, they represent a desired reality; these networks are represented in the world through mediums: media, politics, public relations, news, advertising etc, any place where the network can project its ideals within the world. These networks occupy spaces within reality, with the intent of occupying the whole of reality. The expansion of a network is done through the conversion of people, and the alteration of their current values to that of the propagating system-as by their nature, systems of beliefs need to survive and grow or they will be replaced by competing ones. Within either the ideology’s network or one of its threads, it will take in converts through the expansion and alteration of not just its own ideals, but those of its perceived enemy: resulting in conflict. All this expansion is necessary to secure, not only the survival of a network, but the future prosperity of its ideals. When two opposing systems of beliefs coincide with one another, those systems will fight for domination over a space of reality. One has to submit to the other, or they both need to find common ground; this may result in the birth of new networks, through the combination of components of current ones. The space that is being fought over becomes an ’ideological battleground’: where multiple ideologies attempt to perpetuate their perception of reality. These networks are made up of ideals that are formed on the basis of beliefs, and it is what these systems of beliefs promulgate that ensures the future of a state or, more importantly, the world.
A belief is an act of confidence in a proposition about how reality functions; beliefs are what motivate actions. When a system of beliefs is created through the influence of the environment on an individual, those influences will mould how they see the world i.e. mould their perception of reality. The way an individual views reality will influence the way they interact with reality. If a belief is contrary to the way the world functions, then that belief will drive an adverse effect on the world the person interacts with. This can lead to damaging results on others, for individuals are not isolated in their existence, but instead occupy existence with multiple individuals, with each person having their own belief system. If Socrates Ballister believes in the proposition ‘all races are inferior except my own’ then Socrates will either internalise his belief in the proposition or externalise it. This is to say, that Socrates will either seek to distance himself away from other races [internalise] or might seek to act against them, through shouting or other violent means [externalise]. In either case the belief exhibits an act within reality. Ideologies are projections of externalised beliefs, with each attempting to replace the current perception a person has of the world, with another perception; the result of this ‘alteration’ of an individual’s perception, is that the individual becomes a medium by which the ideology can continue to expand within the world. This person will interact with their friends and attempt to make internalised beliefs, externalised; culminating in the domination of a particular space within reality.
An Ideal is a desired perception of reality a system of beliefs wishes to propagate. Ideals make up ideologies, and they are the ground work by which those ideologies present themselves within reality. Take one example: liberalism is a political ideology; it is built upon ideals of ‘progressiveness’ and ‘individual empowerment’. These two ideals are connected with a thread-which is a related idea linking them together- the relating idea between these two ideals is ‘a better future for all’, and it is this idea that keeps those ideals together. As a network of ideals expands, it comes into contact with other networks: if liberalism comes into contact with conservatism, those opposing networks will attempt to dominate each other. Conservatism has different ideals to liberalism; instead of ‘progressiveness’, it has ‘stability’ as an ideal, and instead of ‘individual empowerment’ it has ‘individual responsibility’; when this network attempts to extend its threads, the conservative thread, ‘return to tradition’, will attempt to override the liberal idea ‘a better future for all’. This results in a battle between these two systems for control.
Ideologies battle to keep relevance, and the places they do battle are in the spaces yet controlled by any system; these spaces become ‘ideological battlegrounds’, and it is here that they do battle with one another for dominance over either the individual’s perception, or the collective perception (Well the former may have the illusion of being an easier target, it is however the latter that becomes an easier target; for-well the individual is able to be bombarded by their culture-it is the nature of that culture and the collective that perpetuates it, that ultimately influences the individual’s ideals. Yet, the culture is made up of individuals, and it is these individuals that alter that culture.). Politics is one main space where variant ideologies attempt to dominate; the mediums by which they wage their ‘crusades’ can be found in news, advertisements and the media. The news delivers the information about current affairs going on within the state or the globe; however, they will not present the facts straight forward, unless it has been placed in a filter. These filters dilute the harsh reality of situations, and perpetuate altered states of reality. The news-especially in the media-have the power to sway public consent in favour of a bias. News organisations will disguise their ideological biases (whether these are socialist, conservative, liberal etc.) and present news stories under this bias perception; instead of conforming to objective reality, the news takes bits of reality and presents those bits-with whatever leaning-as the whole of reality.
Advertisement companies utilise information networks; these networks can be found in any magazine, television, piece of digital technology, or any other medium by which the company can present its perception of reality to the public. Like a spider extending its threads, a company branches as far as it can into a medium and then seeks to garter every last point of contact between individuals and the projected advertisements. They do this in the effort to connect to the individual’s ideals with that of their own: weaving threads between/against polar or related ideals. Whereas, News organisations may utilise a few mediums to do this, and direct those mediums around one particular margin of focus, this being of course Current Affairs, advertisement companies focus themselves in multiple areas: these being primarily the aforementioned information networks. Furthermore, the advertisement companies use these information networks to present altered states of reality, where anything attempting to negate this perceived reality will find itself off the information networks. An example may come when ads do not meet the desired perception promulgated by the company: instead of promoting the perception, ‘Ripped abbs gets you the girls’ (with the adds to show an altered state of reality, with the subliminal message being: ‘sex sells’), the add may diverge to promote another perception like, ‘Generosity breeds social connectivity’-this being counterintuitive to the company’s network of ideals. It is not only the products that stipulate that connective thread between the individual and the ideology, but it is the underlining belief in the perception as a necessity, that gives power to ideology.
Multiple Systems of beliefs can occupy these ideological battlegrounds, however, there will be only a few prevailing systems influencing the perception of a society; this being best represented in the culture. Culture is a hub where these systems can express themselves, and they do so through art, clothing, food and so forth-all under the noses of those who are a part of society. It is astonishing how people do not realise the power ideology has in deciding what they wear, what they follow in trends, how they express themselves and what they should desire to be. Take just one example: where once it was considered the normal place of a woman to be second to their spouse; to marry, to have kids and live subject to their husbands, with their husbands being the bread winners and financial earners of the household this view has since undergone a radical ‘translation’ [shift]. Instead of women being second in ‘command’ [so-to-speak] they have had their roles changed; this is due in part to both a translation in cultural perception, with the recognition of women in society, but also a translation in economy.
As economy grows, so too must the society underneath it; this means that more individuals need to keep the system going, and in order to do this there must be more people working. It may appear ‘good’ that women are treated more equal than they had been, but the motives for why they are treated better are entirely out of necessity-in other words- it is entirely to keep an old ideology going [alteration of its ideals for survival]. This is an important thing to take notice of, for there is a war being waged over people’s minds and their perception of the world around them; advertisement companies implement a network’s ideal perception through the products they sell to their consumers; what they are selling is more than material, it is a desired reality that touches the deep desires of the individual. The news constructs the frame by which that culture can be created, with perceived enemies being projected by one ideology, in the intent of making internalised beliefs become externalised. The final component in this ‘grand scheme’ perpetuated by ideology, is the dominance over communication platforms; these being specifically platforms like the internet, that link subjects together.
Where in the past ideas were relayed through slower forms of communication, like regular speech (which took far longer to transfer ideas), these platforms have slowly evolved to adapt faster means of connecting individuals with each other, at a much efficient and higher rate. From the agrarian revolution to the industrial revolution, to the digital revolution, humanity has been increasing the rate ideas are being able to be accessed, thus speeding up the rate of change in cultural perception. As a result, communication platforms have become the targets for multiple ideologies to perpetuate themselves; systems engage in competition, vying for control over spaces that render themselves susceptible for manipulation. ‘Idealistic wars’ ravage these communication platforms and become ideological battlegrounds for propagating systems; these systems will determine the outlook of the culture that surrounds each platform. Since a person’s social outlook is formed on the basis of culture, and culture has been shown to be susceptible to manipulation by means of advertising, repetition of propagating ideas, and so forth; it follows that a person’s social outlook can, and will, be manipulated to align with a system’s ideals.
Political correctness can be seen as a mechanism that is used by some networks of ideals to maintain their desired perception of reality. Since humans communicate through language-expressing themselves through word of mouth, gesture and so forth-having these modes of expression maintained through a filter of what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ to say or do, gives power to a network; when it has the power can make an Individual reconsider what they say or do, that becomes evidence that the network’s control over a culture is prevalent. Words have no intrinsic meaning, they are vibrations of air, and they only have meaning when applied to a context; words like ‘fuck’, ‘whore’, ‘nigger’ etc. Words themselves have no meaning unless put into contexts; words change their meaning when new contexts are adopted and established. The word ‘fuck’ use to mean sex, now it has become a profanity. Words change their meaning as a culture translates its perception; this translation is due to another system of beliefs over turning the prior. What these networks are doing is ‘hijacking’ words used by a prior prevailing system, and are altering the way the words are used. Take one example: The words ‘poor’ and ‘rich’ have acquired an economic undertone; to call a person ‘poor’ today is to say that they do not have enough money, they are worse off because of it, and as a result they are unhappy because of their lack of wealth. To call a person ‘rich’ is to imply that they are better off, have more money and are much happier as a result of their accumulated wealth.
Where once the word ‘poor’ was used to denote inward poverty (being ‘poor’ meant being ‘unfulfilled’, lacking in inward beauty, aspiration etc.) And the word ‘rich’ denotes inward prosperity (meaning ‘fulfilled’, beautiful, aspiring etc.) these words have undergone a translation in perception; they have been hijacked by a network of ideals that propagated money and wealth as a desired reality (to be rich is to be happy; advertisement companies now promote this element, selling wealth as a commodity.). Furthermore, the prior context that the words were used in has begun to be erased with each passing generation, until that prior reality becomes nothing more than ‘the ways of the past’-which in itself denotes that the past was somehow ‘wrong’; for, as Orwell once wrote,‘ Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past’, taking control over the present’s perception of the past, influences the present’s perception of the future, and…in that lies control.
The final course of action for these networks is in seizing all aspects of the individual’s life; as people go on with their daily business-with work, social life, etc. A network of ideals has weaved its way around their decision processes, from one medium to the next; all these networks create complex ‘spider webs’ to match each individual’s mode of action, and begin to warp one desired perception into another. While these systems do this, the networks manifest themselves in reality, through human form; as if pushing through a brick wall as if it were nothing more than plastic, the ideology seeps through its subjects in reality. Take one example: Nazi Germany.
As the rubble fell from the bombarded settlements of the Reichstag in April of 1945 (due to the Russian bombardment of the area, under the guise of General Zhukov), all fighting males of the Hitler Youth, took the charge of defending Berlin with their lives. A couple months before the assault on Berlin, propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, gave a speech to the Reichstag in where he called for ‘Total war’: calling for a total ideological conflict that required the support of all able bodies, including those of the youth and the elderly. The results of this-and the indoctrination programs that had been set up in Germany from 1933-were a brutal defence of the last reminisce of a dying ideology. The National Socialist regime [Nazi regime] had built a population dependant on the ideals of the state; the youth were born into a regime which meticulously set out their lives. The youth would attend schools that set out the day with long exercise programs, lessons about national pride and Aryanism, ‘how to’ military preparation lessons and so forth. The education system was set up for building soldiers and the perfect citizens; the young males would attend the ‘Hitler Youth’, well the females would attend the ‘League of Young German Girls’. It was the aim of the Ideology to set up a population that would give into its ‘spider web’ of an altered state of reality; so-much-so was this hammered into the population by the Government, that many could not see themselves living without the ideology. This is evident when one looks at the last fleeting days of the regime.
The power Ideology has in overcoming the perception of one’s mind is astonishing to say the least, and is a dangerous prospect to consider. If an ideology is built upon ideals that do not reflect reality (which is most ideologies), and instead wishes to implement an altered reality instead, then that ideology can lead to the death of many. Consider the prospect of a world dominated by such networks of ideals, a world in which the desired reality was one that was promised through a filter of altered prospects of current reality; a world in which these altered prospects would take new form, each time one network was replaced by another; a world in which one could not tell what was reality. What kind of world would that be? One could say…ours.
Experientia Docet, Est Ultimum.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson