The Great Debate: Arguing for the sake of it

Argument is the product of displaced conversation; it is the product of two or more ideals coming into collision with one another. The collision of these ideals sets in motion a conflict of interests, one at which can only be resolved with the surrender of one ideal to another. The over praised version of argumentation – this is to say the version of arguing that expects praise – is debate; debate is argument masquerading as civilised dissension. Whereas normal argumentation may have periods of cease fire, debates act like informing performances for audiences. The purpose of debate is to convince, not the opponent of one’s position, but the audience who happens to be the spectators of the performance. Debates take many forms, with each form employing rhetoric, persuasion and various other tactics to give prominence towards a specific case. In each debate there are opponents who take positions, and these positions vary for each discourse. One of these discourses is philosophy, which differs in style to other discourses, because of its emphasis on the burden of proof. The burden of proof is an epistemic tool used in epistemology, the branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of knowledge, to assign a party with a necessary requirement to justify the case they put forward. This justification is necessary in debate to establish the validity of a certain position. If a claimant –a person who puts forward a claim – puts forwards a claim like, “Pink pixies exist” it is the duty of the claimant in question to justify their reasoning for asserting such a claim. The claimant may justify their claim through evidence, which can be taken in the form of observational recorded data of the claim they posit, or through reasoned argument that would warrant a belief in the claim. If a claimant wishes to posit a negative claim like, “Pink pixies do not exist” they will need to provide negative justification for their claim. The method, by which they can provide warrant for their position, is through appeals to the impossibility of the claim’s positivity in question (i. e. provides evidence why a positive claim is impossible), and the appeal to the notion: “The absence of evidence equals the evidence of absence”. The claimant’s duty, in this sense, will be to provide warrant for why the positive proposition is invalid. In both the positive, and the negative claimants’ cases, they both will have an obligation to meet their onus, which is their ‘burden of proof’.

The assessor for each claim has no obligation to provide a counter onus; and if the claimant attempts to shift their burden of proof upon the assessor then the assessor has no obligation to assess the claim, as the claimant at that point would have committed a logical fallacy known as, “Shifting the burden of proof”. If no justification has been brought forward for a claim then the default assumption towards that claim is that the claim is ‘not-true’, and thus a suspension of acceptance in it by the assessor is to be made (this is out of principle); the onus is on the claim barer to validate their claim, not on the assessor of the claim to make a counter onus. Furthermore, the default position towards any claim, especially a claim that wishes to establish a relationship between two separate phenomena, is that there is no relationship between those phenomena – this is what is known as maintaining the ‘null hypothesis’. In order to establish a relationship between two phenomena, the claimant in question will have to disprove the null hypothesis and establish an ‘alternative hypothesis’, through the providing of evidence for the relationship. In the philosophy of religion, which deals primarily in argumentation over the existence/non-existence of a supreme supernatural being, known as a “God”, the onus is a primary consideration in the debate.

The ‘Great Debate’, as it has become to be known as, is essentially a debate that has been waged between theists and atheists over the existence of a God, for almost two millennia. Theists prepose arguments for believing in the existence of a God, well atheists provide arguments for rejecting a belief in a god’s existence, and anti-theists prepose arguments for believing in the non-existence of a god– now, this is not strict of all theists, atheists or anti-theists, it only refers to those individuals who are inclined to engage in debate over this matter. Regardless of who is providing the arguments, the same principle is at play that was at play for those claimants, claiming the existence/non-existence of pink fairies; there is still a requirement for parties to provide reasons for their case. Furthermore, for individuals who do believe in a God’s existence (theists), and for individuals who do not believe in a God’s existence (atheists), this debate is important to understand in order for one not to be hoodwinked by faulty logic, sophistry or dishonest argumentation.

If you do not believe in a God’s existence, meaning that you are an ‘atheist’, there is no obligation for you to provide an onus for your non-belief (only reasons for it, but that is not the same as the onus, as the onus deals with justifications being met for a claim), as you have not made any claim; if you believe in a god’s existence, meaning that you are a ‘theist’, there is equally no obligation for you to provide an onus (only reasons, but that is not the same as the onus), as you have not made a claim. However, if you are a theist and have stated that a “God exists” you will have the burden put solely on your shoulders, and will be thus obligated to provide justification for your claim; if you are an atheist, who has made an anti-theistic claim like, “God does not exist” then you will have the burden put solely on your shoulders, and will thus be obligated to provide justification for your claim. Both atheists and theists alike are not required to provide an onus unless they have made a claim; if they have not made a claim the only obligation on them is to provide their reasoning for why they believe/don’t believe in a proposition. Furthermore, in the great debate the line of positions may be expressed as so:

Theist: A belief in a God’s existence is warranted.
Atheist: A rejection of a belief in a God’s existence is warranted.
Anti-theist: A belief in a God’s non-existence is warranted.

For every claim made an assessment of it must be made in isolation to other claims i.e. you can’t assess two claims at the same time, especially claims in opposition to one another. One must assess an individual prong in isolation to from other prongs, to assess for its ‘truth value’. A ‘truth value’ in logic, is the value assigned to a proposition on the basis of its ability to be true (valid): The proposition “pigs can fly” is assigned the value of “true”, if and only if (iff), it is able to be substantiated. The proposition will be assigned the value of “untrue”, if and only if (iff), it is unable to be substantiated. In relationship to the great debate, truth values are important to understand when assessing each proposition, both the negative and the positive. Take the below as an expression of two different prongs:

First prong: God’s existence.
Person A proposes that a ‘God exists’.
Person B assesses Person A’s proposition.
Person B asks Person A to substantiate their proposition. Person A substantiates their proposition through the form of evidence to its favour.
Person B assesses Person A’s proposition, and assigns it the truth value of “true”.

Second prong: God’s non-existence.
Person A proposes that a ‘God does not exist’.
Person B assesses Person A’s proposition.
Person B asks Person A to substantiate their proposition through the form of negative evidence to its favour.
Person A is unable to substantiate their proposition through the form of negative evidence to its favour.
Person B assesses Person A’s proposition, and assigns it the truth value of “untrue”.

In both the aforementioned cases the assessor, person B, is only making an assessment of the truth value of the proposition, and is not advocating for the counter proposition i.e. they are not advocating for the falseness of the proposition, only assessing its truth value. A person may find no substantiation for a claim, and thus reject it on that basis, but they are not advocating for the counter claim. Despite this clarity, there will be those who will unintentionally argue for the counter proposition to a proposition; rather than assess a proposition in isolation, they will bring a negative proposition, and will thus become a claimant instead of a mere assessor. One needs to be careful not to fall in the trap of changing their position, from an assessor to a claimant, as it is especially important to maintain a middle ground – a place where one can be objective in their assessment. This middle ground is called the ‘default position’.

In the God debate the default position is atheism. Atheism, in its most inclusive definition, is the“lack of belief in a God’s existence”; well in its most exclusive definition, which is the definition we will discuss in detail, it is the “rejection of belief in a God’s existence”. The theist posits the claim of a God’s existence, and the atheist rejects its validity on the grounds that there is insufficient clause to believe it; atheists are not always anti-theists, they do not all advocate for the case of a God’s non-existence, they simply reject a belief in a god’s existence. However, when they make a claim they will be asked to bring forth evidence for their claim. The reason why atheism is the default position on the God question – the reason why the presumption of atheism is to be made – is because without theism atheism would not exist, as atheism rejects theism as a basis; the word is adds the prefix ‘a’ to the word ‘theism’, to form a new word ‘atheism’, which is the literal rejection of the word ‘theism’. Furthermore, if we consider the fact that every individual born on this planet is born without a specific belief in a god’s existence – this is to say they are born implicitly atheist – and is introduced to a belief in a specific God after they are born, then it is necessary to assume that the default position is atheism.

It is at this point that one must shift the conversation for a moment, and lend time to explanation; this explanation will purely be made for the sake of agnostics, or those who are still puzzled by this default position of atheism. Those who solely identify themselves as agnostics, and who would like to think of themselves as a third party in this debate, one would just wish to shed light as to why agnosticism is, and will never be, a third party option. Agnosticism strictly deals with knowledge, and what one can claim to know about matters that regard existence. Well the positions of atheism and theism deal with a belief and lack of belief (respectively) in a God’s existence, agnosticism and Gnosticism, on the other hand, deal with absolute knowledge and a lack of absolute knowledge (respectively) in a subject’s existence; agnosticism and Gnosticism deal in the factual account of a subject. Knowledge is a subset of belief; before one can know something one must believe in that something. Furthermore, agnosticism is not mutually exclusive to atheism and theism; it is instead compatible with them. If one does not believe in a God’s existence, but does not claim to know that a God does not exist, then they can be said to be agnostic atheists. If one does believe in a God’s existence, but does not claim to know that a God exists, then they can be said to be agnostic theists[1].

The debate over God’s existence seems clear cut, but this is not entirely the case. Ignostics – or those who find the concept of “God” troublesome – have sought to negate the debate all-together. They argue that the concept is meaningless, because of its inability to be able to be verified. Ludwig Wittgenstein, A.J Ayer and other logical positivists argued that the concept of a “God’s existence” was nonsensical as it did not pertain to factors within reality; all mentions of God were based off of metaphysical suppositions, which were in themselves incoherent and illogical. Furthermore, ignostics argue that the concept has no literal significance, and does not have properties that can be found referred to in existence, thus making it incomprehensible; properties like “transcendent being” does not refer to anything which can be comprehended. The concept is as literally insignificant as is the word “fez”, which has no meaning and had no value. A.J Ayer expressed the ignostic view succinctly in his book, Language, Truth and Logic (1936):

What is not so generally recognized is that there can be no way of proving that the existence of a god, such as the God of Christianity, is even probable. Yet this also is easily shown. For if the existence of such a god were probable, then the proposition that he existed would be an empirical hypothesis. And in that case it would be possible to deduce from it, and other empirical hypotheses, certain experiential propositions which were not deducible from those other hypotheses alone. But in fact this is not possible. It is sometimes claimed, indeed, that the existence of a certain sort of regularity in nature constitutes sufficient evidence for the existence of a god. But if the sentence “God exists” entails no more than that certain types of phenomena occur in certain sequences, then to assert the existence of a god will be simply equivalent to asserting that there is the requisite regularity in nature; and no religious man would admit that this was all he intended to assert in asserting the existence of a god. He would say that in talking about God, he was talking about a transcendent being that might be known through certain empirical manifestations, but certainly could not be defined in terms of those manifestations. But in that case the term “god” is a metaphysical term. And if “god” is a metaphysical term, then it cannot be even probable that a god exists. For to say that “God exists” is to make a metaphysical utterance which cannot be either true or false. And by the same criterion, no sentence which purports to describe the nature of a transcendent god can possess any literal significance. (A.J Ayer, Language, Truth and Logic, p.73, 1936)

As one can tell by the aforementioned extract, Ayer has applied rigorous analysis to the concept, and has come to the conclusion that the concept is meaningless. This rigorous analysis was common place in Ayer’s time, which was at the height of logical positivism. Ayer has since died, but this analytical thought line has run continuously in modern day logic and philosophy.

Although ignostics wish to adhere to the notion that they are of a different clad than atheists, agnostics and theists, they are – to their misfortune – still in this debate. If one cannot comprehend a concept, then one does not believe in that concept. It is for this reason that Ayer, and others who are ignostics, are in fact atheists. If one does not accept a claim’s validity on the grounds of that claim being nonsensical, then they are inadvertently withholding their belief in the claim. In other words, if ignostics view the claim of a God’s existence as nonsensical, then they are involuntarily suspending their confidence in the claim’s validity, and hence are in that instance enacting atheism. The ignostic is not let off the hook that easily.

The God question, though it may bring a plethora of criticism and great debate, can be said to be a very interesting question. It is really a question that addresses the origins of the cosmos, the nature of the cosmos and humanity’s place within it. How one answers it will determine the way they perceive the world. Though there are plenty of individuals who like to argue over the question, posing arguments for or against it, the question still manages to create a vibrant amount of discussion and interest. For one like myself, who loves arguing for the sake of it, the question has another meaning than the popular perception of it. The concept forces one to assess the philosophical model of thought they have; and forces one to assess one’s ideas of cosmology, ontology, morality and so forth. For me the question is not meant to be answered more than it is meant to be reflected upon; though I may be an atheist, the question still resonates with me. It is for this reason that individuals should assess the question more closely, and seek to gain a deeper understanding of the question rather than reject it outright.

 [1] For more information about agnosticism, please refer to a my piece “Agnostic thought”

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

The Woe Of A Dreamer

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

Knowledge Blast: Agnostic Thought

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.

-Example: Agnosticism

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? [1952]”. ‘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)

Letter to a Concerned Free-Thinker, Letter#12: Idealistic wars:

Dear Thinker.

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

Letter to a Concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #11: Piercing the barrier:

Dear Thinker.

The power to convey ourselves in writing can be an arduous task, for words have only power in projecting just one mode of expression. Language is a philosophy of its own, it has the power to shape the human imagination; it allows individuals who otherwise could not express themselves in mode of speech, a platform by which to espouse their ideals and emotions onto others. As language is complex in its means to express a particular thought, there are always many ways and many problems that come with the expression of a particular idea. For one, with writing there are many words that can be used to express an idea, and in some cases the words that are used to express that idea, can impact on its effect in the world. Words are the foundation of our world, the way we use them will impact upon the way the world will act in response; provocative words will evoke invocative responses, some of which can be harmful in the understanding of the idea expressed, as no one enjoys subjecting themselves to violence.

When this mode of expression [language] is under the threat of censorship, whether it by the thought police or the politically correct ones-who find pleasure in the manipulation of language and the censorship of ideas-it is then that language becomes most powerful; for in times of silence, the power to utter a dissenting opinion, can mean the difference between the freedom or slavery of thought.  Writers, speakers, poets and artists should realise the power they have in shaping the reality they situate themselves in; for one, they have the power to change the way individuals view the world, this can come at a great benefit or cost depending on the way this power is exercised.  The current generation of writers, speakers and so forth, will have an impact on the next generation through how they project their thoughts. Past writers have influenced the minds of current readers; those readers have then gone on to influence the world of today. With such power and influence, having the education to understand the impact gives an extra ‘oomph’ to its affect:  a punch necessary to knock sense into others.

Jotting down anything one can on paper or through all the other means available for projecting oneself, frees up that much needed space in the mind, which can then be used to store more information. And from where should one get this storage? Well, from reading books and engaging in conversation of course-the best conversation being that of heated argumentation. Making sure to keep in conflict with one’s own position on matters concerning understanding, is a necessity. Our brains have been shown, by neuroscience, to have a tendency towards favouring pre-conceived biases that are in the interest of self-preservation; having these biases challenged once-in-awhile ensures an open-mind, as minds need reminding of the possibility of their fault.  Alison knows this; she may only be just over eighteen, but she understands that our minds are limited in their capacity to understand the world. “Knowing this capacity [she re-iterates to me], allows us the capability to adjust to a better understanding of our own condition in the cosmos.” As one can see, Alison has been practising with the formulation of language; the younger you start, the more likely you are to pierce the barrier that exists between the formulation of thought, and that of written and spoken word.

The important thing to know about the construction of language is that it adapts to the environment in which it happens to be situated in. Depending on the context, the language that is used will vary in its power to affect those that are engaged in communication.  Thoughts will be altered when they come into contact with other thoughts; like projectiles being nudged off course, thoughts can lose their intended meaning and circum-to that of another’s. This is especially problematic when one considers the environment in which those thoughts are meant to act upon, if one cannot successfully convey a thought in the public sphere, what hope do they have in impacting the world?

There is one thing that can be assured with language, and that is the construction of worlds yet visible to human experience; worlds that are the products of the imagination, and the future we have yet to visit. Alison’s journal (a small white book she carries with her wherever she travels, often used for writing down her thoughts) has, on its cover, seventeen words of inspiration…they are as follows:

“Give me a pen and I shall write the dreams of tomorrow, with the words of today.”

These words, she tells me, gives her the strength when she feels unable to write; I hope they might give you some strength as well.

There is a lot to think about in this letter, better to give one time then to overwhelm one with thought; as liberated thinkers navigating through this world, we must find time to stop and drop anchor….

Knowledge is power, as long as one can use it right.

Experientia docet, est ultimum.

This letter I write to you now.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Liberty and Responsibility: two sides of the same coin

The liberty to speak one’s mind does not make them immune from the criticism of others; if one is willing to open their mouth and be heard, they should realise that they are responsible for what they say and how they say it. For liberty does not just mean the freedom to speak or act in a manner one chooses, but it also means the responsibility of the individual to stand by what they say and do. A person should never be afraid to express the liberties they have, they just need to have the mindfulness to know the consequences that those liberties bring on others. The liberty of expression comes in unison with the responsibility of expression; when we express ourselves to others, we are doing so with them in mind. It is thus for this reason that an equilibrium between the liberty to express and the responsibility of that expression, be made. All people are granted liberties, but with these liberties come the burden of responsibility. 

It is with such liberties that we are made aware of our responsibilities. When citizens of liberal democracies have the liberty to speak openly and honestly, they are to be weary of the words they use; being aware of the affects that words have on others, can be the difference between free speech and hate speech. With words we can create discussion and inform individuals about the thoughts that captivate our minds; we can introduce them to new perspectives that allow their inner spirit to transcend the bounds of flesh that shackle them. This leads to healthy prosperity in society. Yet, when we abuse this liberty by hurling insults against others; when we seek to only fuel the flames of wrath that so to easily burn away the fabric of society, we leave nothing but the charred remains of what could have been. 

In the words of Voltaire, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”; George Orwell would later retort this by saying, “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.” This is to be our attitude to expression.

It is with such a liberty, that it is imperative we conduct ourselves in a manner appropriate with one another. If the liberty of conduct is brought with it-like that of speech-a responsibility, that responsibility will be up to the individual to ensure that their liberties do not encroach on the wills of others. As a general rule, we should not seek to impose our liberties on others if it is against their will; this is a crime of moral proportions, as it will go to the denigration of the well-being of our fellow Human. A large part of society consists of ensuring equality, and equality means taking others liberties into account besides one’s own. If a person intends to maintain their state, it is in their best interests to ensure the prosperity of all individuals within it; for one stick alone is easily breakable, but a bundle of sticks tied together, creates strength (Aesop’s famous, “The Bundle of sticks”, expresses this thought perfectly.).

Every Ying has a Yang, as expression of liberty and the acknowledgement of responsibility; we express but two sides of the same coin. In French, the expression of such thought is beautifully summed up in the following line:

“La liberté et la responsabilité,sont les deux faces, d’une même médaille.”…. “’Liberty and responsibility are but two sides of the same coin.”.

If one wishes to have liberty, they must remember the responsibilities that come with it. We are susceptible to biases all the time, and it is remembering that we have these biases that are important. Many of us wish to think of ourselves as competent in our abilities of speech, action and so forth. Yet, do we forget to realise that we have emotions? Do we forget to remember, that when we see our people be shouted at by viperous-a-tongue, and we see the morsel of eyes glitter with the waters of sorrow; do we not see that people have been hurt by the carelessness of one’s liberty of speech? Was it not the responsibility of he who utters a word, to keep in defence of their words and mindfulness of others’ thoughts? Is not the role of responsibility to ensure that one’s liberties do not impose on others? Many questions will be raised, and as long as society is open to discussion, questions like these will be continued to be raised. 

Congregations gather in churches and exercise their liberty to worship; those who do not, are exercising their liberty to be free from worship. Attached to these liberties there are words of caution:

Do not impose your beliefs on those who wish to be independent of them; for if you do impose your beliefs on them, you will be stepping on their toes and impeding on their liberties. As one who does not believe in any gods, I can say that in my nation [Australia], the role of religion is not entirely prominent; though churches may unfairly remain exempt from tax, and parliament remain bias towards the Christian religion when they open parliament in prayers, I still feel no direct imposition. If however, the state had to be ruled by an establishment of religion; this is to say, if it had to be ruled like say a, ‘theocracy’ or an, ‘eccliosocracy’ then I would have my liberty imposed upon. Yet, as I live (as do so many others) in a secular nation, where the church and the state are separate entities, I can be entitled to enjoy the liberty to be free from religious imposition; for the freedom to worship also inclines the freedom from worship. 

As more and more nation states begin to embrace democracy, and throw off the shackles of tyrannical rule imposed by those who would seek to abuse the equilibrium that must exist between liberty and responsibility; it is in this time, more than ever, that individuals need to be reminded about the principle of fairness, and be reminded how easily it is to lose this equilibrium between liberty and responsibility. Where so easily it has been said before, that one should ‘render their liberties for a bit more security’; these words uttered so many a times before by corrupted individuals; from every fascist ruler to every corrupt king. As global citizens, it is our active duty to point out corruption when we see it, and actively criticise those who would seek to take away liberty and replace it with tyranny. As we close to the point of thought, and we allow our cognitive faculties to interpret what has been expressed; we should leave with one final warning:

Language expresses ideas, and it is these ideas that mould society; if we do not keep wary of this, and instead allow language to be censored or regulated under the guise of pitiless excuses, we only seek to plant the seeds to the destruction of civil rights.

Acknowledgements for Art-work as well as Artist and Writers’ comments on the piece:

Art-work created by: Rainer Jacob (17/10/2014)

Rainer Jacob is the artist responsible for the sketch attached to this written piece; it is the third art-work out of his ‘Metamorphosis’ sketch album. The specs and art-work details, along with purchase place for his works are located below:

Metamorphosis · Tinte · Ink· 210 mm x 297 mm ·
Original 300,- Euro · Print Edition 30/30: 50,- Euro

Rainer Jacob’s comments about the Art-work and the written piece: “The thing that inspired me to draw the art-work was the line, 

“With words we can create discussion and inform individuals about the thoughts that captivate our minds; we can introduce them to new perspectives that allow their inner spirit to transcend the bounds of flesh that shackle them.” I took the crystal block instead of shackles; a block where we sculpture ourselves and our character, and I developed it…. Words are like wind; just molecules in motion, but it changes our thinking and our perspective. Intentionally, I was reversing the old patriarchal dualism: the whole “man= spiritual, woman=earth” thing…..We are much more…there is a third way, and above us is only sky; that turns us into humans with empathy. Neo-idealism is for me, to give up old symbolism and create our own vision; from idea to action. With responsibility for nature, because we are a part of it, and not the crown of it; we have to earn a soul, it is not given to us by higher beings, we alone have to behave respectfully towards all creation.”

Anthony Avice Du Buisson’s comments about the Art-work and the written piece: “The word, ‘liberty’, today has acquired an anarchistic undertone; no longer does it seem to carry the cultural significance it once had. Too much has it been used as an excuse for individuals to do whatever they like; instead of a responsible ‘liberty’, it has become a ‘YOLO (even that has lost its meaning); do whatever one wills etc.’. With this piece, I thought I might express the old meaning of the word; along with Rainer’s art-work, I felt that his expression of the sculptured man, carried the message across…we all are mere mortals given only a short bit of life to live out; better to live it together, than live it alone…”

Postulations: Ideological idealism

The future’s foundation is formed on the basis of the ideals manifested in today’s reality; that are passed onwards by generations who seek to make those set of ideals, tomorrow’s reality. The dreams of tomorrow’s world rest upon the ideals we lay down today, it is because of this, that the ideals we form today need to be anchored in a correct ideology like no other; an ideology anchored in reality, but still having the capacity to influence the formation of that reality; with the use of a methodology practical to all peoples within it.

It is thus for this reason, that the formation of such an ideology needs to rest upon an adequate form of idealism; not idealism in the immaterialist sense, but idealism in the colloquial sense, being that of a visionary pursuit to a progressive reality. This idealism, which will be known as, ‘ideological idealism’ basis itself chiefly on the reality by which it is created in; this is to say, that for any set of ideals to be progressive in altering the state of reality, it must follow logically, that those same ideals first conform to reality; thus conforming to the laws of nature, the social context and environmental pressures that influence reality, as well as the mode and function of it. Once those ideals have embraced reality, then comes the second task; seeking to establish a practical methodology that allows the ideology to achieve its goals and alter reality.

Finding a method that basis itself within reality, well seeking at the same time to alter it, requires a method that is both practical as it is intelligent; that can be utilised by both poor man and rich man alike, without class, gender, race or age discrimination. The methodology must be sound that it can work for labourer and businessman, rich and poor alike; altering the framework of society through what means it has available. It is through the barriers of reality that the ideals become strongest, as the ideals themselves utilise their surroundings in favour of slowly progressing its aims until it has successfully met them, regardless to how long or how hard it takes it.

Once the second task has been completed, the ideology produced will have the ability to alter the state of reality; a ‘progressive reality’ will be the product of this ideological idealism. However, for this idealism to meet its ends it must base its entire sequence on two principles that have been aforementioned already; ‘realism’ (again in the colloquial sense of the word, as that which conforms to reality.) and ‘pragmatism’ have been successfully incorporated as a foundation.

It is only through this sequence that idealists, visionaries, and dreamers can reach their progressive realities; yet, a warning needs to be expressed: Never go beyond what is necessary; for when one goes beyond what is necessary they shall find themselves having to increase efforts; this results in their ideology being at risk of collapse.

It has been too long that visionaries have had to see their dreams tarnished by ill-conceived notions that escaped reality; the reason for the failure of Marx, and other dreamers like him were that their ideology did not seek to escape the confines of theory and attach to the reality they were addressing. It is when an ideology meets with reality, and has a practical methodology to achieve its ends, does it alter reality; change only comes from within. It is because of the fact, that none of the most challenging and thoughtful ideologies that could change the world for good have never escaped theory, which they remain in their cages; it is time to free the bird from its cage, it is time to plant the seeds of idealism in the soil of reality.

It is time to change reality for the better.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Knowledge blast: Epistemology

The branch of Epistemology is one concerned with the examination of knowledge i.e. how we come about knowledge and understanding from the world around us, and the nature of this process. Knowledge can be defined in the Greek Philosopher Plato’s words as, “Justified true belief”, epistemology deals with the analyses of how we achieve this justification. Epistemology has many different branches pertaining to it, these branches are called “epistemic theories” (another term to denote ways of acquiring knowledge i.e. practical methodologies of finding justification.) and they are various in number; fideism, rationalism, empiricism, just being a few examples of the many epistemic theories that exist. Epistemology is important to know, as the ways in which everyone conducts their lives is based upon at least one epistemic theory; it is with this epistemic theory that we base our understanding of the world upon. There are distinctions to be made within epistemology between monism and pluralism; the former, Monism, refers to a unified or “mono” theory of acquiring knowledge about an object, this is to say it refers to one method of acquiring knowledge about a thing. The latter, Pluralism, refers to multiple or “plural” means of acquiring knowledge about an object, this is to say that there may be more than one way of finding out about something rather than a single unified observation. Through the understanding of just a few of the many epistemic theories and their histories, we can provide a path for further enquiry and enlightenment. 

In epistemology, multiple methodologies have been attributed to finding knowledge in the world, with the limitations of time one has; I hope to provide at least some explanation of these epistemic theories and their formulations. Let us focus on just four aspects of epistemology, these being expressed as; Rationalism, empiricism, fideism and foundationalism. All these aspects try to vindicate Plato’s definition of Knowledge; epistemic philosophers spend their time studying these theories and there relation to the world and how we achieve what we consider being knowledge from the world around us. It is important then, to note that some of these theories go on a scale from epistemological monism to pluralism (dependant on intensity, as we shall see in the following paragraphs.). 

Rationalism is an epistemic theory that states the basis for knowledge as being contingent upon reason alone; this is to say, knowledge is acquired solely on the basis of mental thought (intellect) without relying upon the senses. A concept to remember is ‘a prior’ which is to mean arm chair reasoning, reasoning that does not require one to vindicate with evidence (eg. Things like, “all cats have four legs”…and it’s just obvious). The father of Rationalism, Rene Descartes (French philosopher who lived in the 16th century and came up with the phrase “I think, therefore I am”, cogito ergo sum), introduced the theory which based on the assumption that the mind alone could come about knowledge about the world. Rationalism is in opposition to the next theory we shall look at, which is empiricism. Epistemological monism occupied the extremes of Rationalism, this is to say that those who promoted it loudly (Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza) relied upon metaphysics (the field of philosophy dealing with the fundamentals of reality) as a foundation to achieve knowledge about reality, and reasoned that existence was a formulation solely of the mind. 

Empiricism, unlike rationalism, is an epistemic theory that states that knowledge can only be acquired through the experience of the senses. This introduces us to another important concept ‘a posteriori’ which is justification through experience (eg. Instead of just saying all cats have four legs from your arm chair, you get up and look at a cat and you conclude based upon that experience.). Empiricism is the basis for modern science; “empirical method’, is a method that incorporates the collection of data through experimentation, and the accumulation of evidence to base theories, and draw conclusions in natural philosophy (aka Science). John Locke and David Hume, both 17th century Philosophers, are responsible for this epistemic theory; they argued that knowledge is only acquired through the computation of sensory information (the collection of information), which is the best means of acquiring knowledge. They were also epistemological monists and argued against rationalism; this conflict that was being brewed was as a result of the 17th century enlightenment values, which rejected prior forms of tradition and authority as being the means for knowledge. Since rationalism and empiricism broke away from the traditional forms of knowledge seeking, they both sought to get the better of one another…how could this war be ended?

This combining of rationalism and empiricism with the synthesis of the two epistemological monist theories into a dual (or pluralistic theory), came about with the talented 18th century philosopher Immanuel Kant. Kant argued that ‘a prior’ reasoning formulates concepts that are then vindicated through ‘a posteriori’ means; ultimately formulating understanding of the world we perceive. In other words, it is through reason and evidence that we come about knowledge; we can neither understand reality without the synthesis of ‘a prior’ and ‘a posteriori’. This is how science works today (small criticism; ultimately, without the computation of sensory information, all notions of reality crumble, as our body works based upon the ordering of collected information and the processing of that information via the mind through body synapses. Ultimately meaning that sensory experience is the only means of acquiring knowledge…this view is also known as radical empiricism.).

Fideism is an epistemic theory that is unlike the prior ones we have been discussing. Fideism states that knowledge can only be acquired through faith alone, anything other than faith is considered hostile and misleading. This epistemic theory values faith (belief without evidence) over reason, as a means of coming to knowledge, the best way being through divine revelation from God. Tertullian (3rd century theologian) can be credited for the first use of fideism with the quote, “the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd.” (Credo quia absurdum); later individuals, most notable, Blaise Pascal and Soren Kierkegaard, later re-developed fideism to express how all epistemic theories relied of faith, because of this faith in God is of higher importance to gain knowledge. This is another example of an epistemological monist theory. 

Foundationalism is the final term we will look at, it is not as much an epistemic theory more than it is a foundation for epistemic theories. Foundationalism concerns itself with proper basic beliefs or “PBB”, these “axioms” are self-evident beliefs that help an individual function in the world around them, beliefs such as; I exist, other minds exist. That anchors all our other beliefs and allows us to progress in the world, without basic beliefs we risk slipping into the realm of scepticism; the negative solipsism which makes us question our beliefs and whether they are true or not. It is because of the limitations of the human body that we need to have our beliefs grounded on a proper system by which we can come about understanding about the world. 

It is through epistemology that we seek out the means of understanding and acquiring knowledge, learning the means by which to come about truth and the relative theories pertaining to it; one can set a good foundation for their beliefs and thus create a means of acquiring future knowledge of the world. For tomorrows world is based on the foundation we lay today, and it a proper foundation that will ensure the prosperity of tomorrow’s world.

Dandelion a Drift

As the light from the moon peers in through the lattice of my cell, as it always has and most undoubtedly will continue to do so. It is time once more to return from the corner where my head has rested, to the glitter of the moonlight. As I slowly crawl, weak as never before, to the cell bars that have long confided me; I grip one bar, then the next and the next, slowly bringing myself up from the floor. The moonlight captures my attention as it caresses my face with its glow, it is another beautiful night with little sign of travesty, the breeze that follows my thoughts, is as calm as nature itself and as nature seems to relief once again, the feeling of the breeze eludes me.  Temperance captures my soul. The wish to capture this small period of relief from the long agonizing day sets in, making me once again drop my head in sadness. Tears rush from my face, small droplets of life, draining from the windows of my soul. It is much to live as one is in happiness and security, but as the tides change and moments shift to his retraction, then life reveals its true head. Another thought passes me, like the breeze itself, another follows it; All of it is temporary, the thoughts in my mind repeat themselves, ever more getting louder with each repetition, All of it is temporary, from the stars above to marble below, all must come to an end sometime or another…never is anything eternal, never is anything immortal. Overwhelming myself with tears, ever more increasing, I drop to the ground. The light, very much still on my face now finds accompanied with it, drops of life; which drip from the windows of a long aching and heartfelt soul.  As the moonlight twinkles in the droplets of the dead and cold, I feel the breeze caress my face once more.

Drifting aimlessly in the gentle breeze, seemingly going nowhere, well I bore my head in sadness; a small dandelion befalls me with humble a landing as ever I saw. Averting my head from the place where weepiness be my friend, gaze upon the small thing was the task that my eyes had set, and as if paused in time emotions fleeted me and temperance regained its hold over me once more. The small dandelion had seen its share of hard winds, with many of the small florets of its body absent from view; its stem, crooked from sea faring winds that long had besieged it. Yet, regardless of the travesty it had faced, regardless of the many florets that were taken from it; many small bits of its life. It still had managed to have landed somewhere new…somewhere different. In its small state of being it had managed to traverse great distances, through great winds and great travesties, losing much of itself to winds that spur like titans to man. Yet it continuously mounted on through the rain and sun, through the night and day; all of which to get to another place, in another corner of the globe. Only to be picked once more up by the wind; which would take it beyond the heavens and beyond the clouds to a new land once more.

All that has befallen me can be captured in that small dandelion, traversing the unknown reaches of the globe. In the moonlight that is creeping in through the lattice of my cell, to the time where fate will return I back to the corner; Amor fati. All can be shown with the representation of the floating dandelion.  It never knows where it will go and it never knows how it will get there, it just does whatever the moment demands. Turning away for a moment from the dandelion, I once again stare at the moonlight with a different thought in mind, If the dandelion, with all its small essence and its small size can take the winds of any storm, still managing to survive every moment; then most certainly can one such as I, seek to do so as well.  As my eyes ponder the left over moonlight, so too does my soul return to its place. One day. I ponder to myself, just…one day.

As the sun begins to break the dawn and the moonlight fades, the wind picks up once more, this time with it comes gently sailing, the dandelion; dancing on the breeze. As if transfixed by its movements, there I stand, my eyes following it as it waltzes across my cell to the bars that confide me. It knows not of limitations…it would seem. Slowly passing through the bars, its stem gets caught by grit…it is stuck…it is helpless. Raising my hand to the bars, my fingers thin as sticks; manages to get between the bars to the place where the dandelion remains captive. Thoughts that were left pondering now become attentive to the dandelion; whatever had been is no more. The winds become jackals; howling ferociously as the sun continues to rise. Now more than ever my heart begins to race as I try with intensity to dislodge the feeble thing from its captivity. “There we go…come now… just a little more.” Comforting myself with thought, I slowly pull the stem, careful as ever to not break more of the florets off, doing what one can to free what is left.  As the Jackals howl more and more; drawing closer and closer with every gust,  before they can lay harm to the feeble thing there comes, wide stretched and full of glory, the rising sun; glaring over the dawn break. The jackals were not to destroy the dandelion this time!

Through the passage of mere moments, it seemed as if the dandelion was to be injected with life; as it slowly became undone from its captivity, it began once more to waltz in the wind now gentler in passage. It had escaped the cell, and began to venture forward into the glare of the sun. Watching from within the cell and through the bars, I could see it slowly drifting into the glare of the sunlight; a sudden sense of pride overwhelmed me. A slow tear drop crawled down my cheek, as the windows of my soul became fogged with the overwhelming sense of loss and pride; an odd feeling was upon me, one that had only rarely sought to rear its head up. The feeling of accomplishment for the liberty bestowed upon me to liberate the small dandelion from the clutches of the oncoming winds, but also of one of loss for allowing the dandelion to leave me. There it goes…my thoughts now returning, There it goes…to new places; a dandelion a drift in the sea of possibilities. Only titans know what fate has in store for It. Pulling my head away from the sunlight, crawling slowly back to the corner that has long been my home; I whisper softly now, well my eyes begin to close once more…the words “Amor Fati”…“Love of Fate.”

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
Artwork By: Rainer Jacob

Mighty Athens: the free and beautiful city

Opened up to the world as it was in days long past when ships were not made of metal through the hard works of labour, and we had yet to grasp the stars from a new perspective through the eyes of science; Mighty Athens ‘the Free and beautiful city’ (city of all people) be opened to the world in the values attributed to her. For she once be the capital of the ancient world, responsible for rich art and culture, clever and wise philosophers and scientists and the home of all weary a distant traveller. Her city be the birth place of those setting sale to pursue the wisdom of the ancients, being the place by which mighty man, small in stature, came to teach the future generations the value of knowledge. It be the place of sexual freedom, the place where sex be embraced and not discounted. Where begotten lovers cast out for their differences came to call home, where they embrace in the naturalness of their being despite deformities; expressing and exchanging their passions for one another with word, touch and spiritual connection only known to lovers who have had their ships of hope burnt, only to seek repair in the heart of Mighty Athens. For we are beautiful within… the shell of the physical form that surrounds our soul does no way lay vestige claim on the beauty that resides behind the masks we wear. No matter how deep our sense of soul is, no matter how much cuts dealt upon the outer shell, no matter even how much taint we have on our hopes; beauty, no matter how cliché it may be, is true to self; it is this truth that Mighty Athens knows best of all. For Mighty Athens was the place of those seeking to lay claim to it, when their homes and their hopes had been destroyed by war, their banners burnt and their hopes tainted; it was Athens who gave them a new banner and new hope, for Mighty Athens knows all pain.

The Persian wars had given birth to her, though an old and mighty city Athens is, her form as known in culture was birthed by these wars. The mighty hordes led by King Darius of Persia and later his son Xerxes were both defeated by the combined forces and fleets of the Greek state. Under one banner, soldiers from both Ionia and Magna Graecia came together, (despite their differences) uniting to lead a rebellion against their occupiers. Men such as Aeschylus defeated the mighty Persians and liberated themselves from the control of the Persian Empire…. Athens was freed from her dormant state by the power of those willing to liberate themselves from tyranny; truly a value that has since lent itself to the birth of modern nations today. It was out of chaos that the state had been born! Pericles, greatest of statesman (holding leadership of mighty Athens after the 2nd Persian war) was elected by the people out of their free-choice and under him reigned a glorious age. The temples that had once laid on The Acropolis (the place at which mighty temples of the citadel had been) was burnt to the ground by Xerxes’ men at the close of the second Persian war, yet Pericles, in aching heart of this tragedy; erected out of the ashes the Parthenon, and other mighty structures such as the Propylaia and the Erechtheion, as symbols to the world. As if a mighty phoenix rose from the ashes with wings adorned for all to see, she came into being as the city of the people. Her physical form was cut but her beauty within had been true; and it was this beauty that remains to this day, she is truly the ‘universal city’! Representing to us a set of values of the highest order; those of liberty, equality, prosperity and the pursuit of wisdom, all of these values be attributable to the builders of the city, and to the protectors; the vanguards. Vanguards who stand aloft in the early morning hours, of mornings that have and that will be; weather not halting them, strife not weakening them, tragedy not dampening their spirits, they be strong alike, mighty and bold with courage immense; they be Gatekeepers, patrolling the borders of the city state on watch for the hordes that may lay siege. They are the ones keeping fair watch…In their hands Athens resides, in spirit for all of time.

We dream at night of glorious places that escape our world; we sail to distant shores yet to be travelled, we traverse high peaks yet to be climbed, we engage in laughter, embrace in moments yet to be experienced; we go away from the world we are living in to seek a better world. Happy dreams are built upon Athenian values; the values that escape these become our nightmares. When we spend time with those we love we are taking a value that is human, that is Athenian in nature. What makes us human is our ability to emphasise and articulate language that conveys ideas and emotions, to people that may not necessarily have those same ideas or emotions. In this regard children seem to hold highest the values of Athens, they do not see the masks that adults wear, they see what lay behind the mask; what they see is that which transcends the human form. The soul that leaks from an aching heart befallen tragedy and befallen exorbitant ruthlessness; children have no concept of boundaries that adults do, they care not for what banner one stands under, what civilization one comes from, what past one has. What they care about is the soul. In this regard children as young and naive as they maybe of the world, can teach us about ourselves; before the subsequent conditions that might change their views and incorporate them into regimes of iron. Learning from children can be as simple as looking in the mirror, some of us hold values that are childish, this is in no way bad, in fact, it maybe more beneficial if we hold onto these values. For the love and understanding of children, maybe an embodiment of that which we seek to have in our dreams. Athens represents humanity in its best position (it is humanity at its peak!), when it is not twisted to go on the values of tyranny, when it is not twisted to climb the ladder of power or embrace in ideologies that seek to embody a class of individuals rather than all individuals….Is not Athens the city we wish to return to?

The cornerstone by which these values rest upon is universal and holds strongly to a sense of common ownership (commonality) where boundaries are not seen, or divisions made. It is an outside look of the world as it is where nations are indivisible from one another, where anthems dedicated to one group of people against another cannot be heard; where the only thing that can be seen is a spinning globe a drift in the blackness of space. When we seek to erase those boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’, we create a universal state of ‘we’. This is what it means to look to Athens; it is to look to a world where we are one. Allowing people to become aware of this sense of commonality makes a great deal of difference to how we view the world. We all have attributes that are different to one another; we all speak different languages, all belong to different races and ethnicities, we all have different beliefs and ideologies, we all hold to different perceptions of the world we live in. Yet when we focus on what makes us different, conflict is more likely to arise; it is more important for us to focus on what we have in common, rather than seek out the differences between one another. In times of great strife the power to come together can be the only thing stopping two groups from annihilation. In conflicts that rage on between two groups of people, one insisting they have ownership of this land and one insisting that they also have ownership over that same land; the important thing to realise is that the land they fight over is a part of the world, and those two different groups of people both occupy the same world, they therefore share something in common. The more common things that can be found, the more chances of erasing that divide which exists among the two warring groups. Flags are held up by many nations as things to be desired, one might belong to this nation and feel proud of belonging, but is that person not just proud for that sense of commonality? What is a nation but just a group of people who unite around a set of common values? Should we then not focus on what divides, and instead focus on what unites?

Where dreams become foundations of the world of tomorrow, we should dream for each other rather than for neither other. When we seek places beyond that which is, we seek out Athens and all she is. We place down all our dreams in her, for she is us, and we are her; she is what we long to be and in her we see, that which should be. Love should not be concealed especially when we are a part of a world that longs for the richness of universal love and desperate appeal; liberty be not kind but she be fair and we should be inclined to not bind her by chains of tyranny nor chains of apathy, we should instead seek to defend against fiends who would wish to do so. By equality in her wake will give rise to prosperity and in this prosperity all can seek to lay claim to, for she is the dream by which we lay the foundation of tomorrow upon…she is where we long to be.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson