A Broken Hall of Mirrors

I left my apartment that evening; filled with the utmost dread and sadness—all too familiar to me by now. Collecting my thoughts and my pen, I made my way down stairs. Before I could, however, a flurry gripped my mind; it gave rise to deeper more prudent thoughts that had been lurking in my mind from days before. The rush and tingle of such thoughts—ones of which espoused such vehement hatred towards my mother—gave me a brief dose of adrenaline; the kind I needed in that moment. Intending to take the car, I instead decided to walk from my apartment to her place, just to tell her how I felt.

Walking past that all too familiar spot near my apartment entranceway, I found myself confused as to which road to go on. In my mind was a conflict of interests. On the one side lay the thought of how to communicate my grievances; on the other side lay the consequences of such communication. Heartbeat increasing in intensity with each step, I found myself grabbing at air trying to resolve such dispute of mind. It was in that instance—in such terrifying a moment—that a voice came from me; out from me came a voice of the deepest of furiosity. It was as if I was possessed, which I then began to muddle to myself, saying:

‘How can someone be so cruel, so obnoxious and so arrogant? Have I not been there for them in their anger and dispensation? Have I not aided them in their request for love and dedication? Well…to them I can only respond with the bitterest of tongue, but will I say what my mind demands but my heart does not? I love my mother, but can I really feed her most bitterest of demands all the time? Am I not human like she is—who has a heart like she is supposed to have? Where is my love and respect?’

It was then that a force pushed me forward.

I rushed up to her apartment—I just could not take the anguish of my mind any longer. I grabbed at the door handle, fidgeting with it—trying to get it open as fast as I could. Before I could go any further, before I could open the door and let my thoughts reap, there she was in her khaki dress. I hesitated and looked down; closing my eyes for a brief moment to regain composure. It was in that moment that I curled my tongue and told her how I felt, but before I could go any further she pulled that line from her lips—that line that she always uses. She responded by saying:

“Have I not provided you with food, love and generosity? Have I not raised you well enough, so that you know that such polemic predisposition is unacceptable in my presence? How dare you try to scold me? How dare…”

Before she went on, I stopped her and grabbed her by the arms. With a steady voice, I told her, “Are you blind? Do you not see what I mean by my words? Do you not listen to yourself?” She stopped, as if possessed by force, and it was over. She asked me to leave the apartment; she asked me to take my things and never see her again—I was heartbroken.

It was midnight and I feared the worst. How could I have approached her with such furiosity? How could I have come to her first and bared it all to her, do I have no shame? But before I could think any longer, there she stood right in front of me with eyes that were set a blasé. It was at that moment —at that punitive stage—did I realise that my words were justified. She came at me with fire underneath her tongue, her eyes as red as the sun. We went on at each other for forty minutes, and it was in those minutes that many emotions were expressed—as the fighting slowly devolved into tears. My voice became weaker and my heart oozed with sorrow. It was then that I extended my arms, and with slow angelic movement, I gave her a passionate hug; a desperate acknowledgement of surrender. It was a hug of love to show her that despite her hatred I still loved her as a mother.

However, despite my heartfelt surrender, she pushed me from her; she did not wish to acknowledge my surrender. I could not speak any longer—I ended the conversation at that instant and left her to her own devices in her own ‘egotism’.

It was at that moment, I decided to make my way back to my apartment with tearful eye and heavy heart. ‘How could I do such a thing? How could I have been so foolish as to give love to a person who obviously did not deserve it?’ My mind began to swirl in schizophrenic wiz, as I was again torn in two. One side still loved her as a mother and still wished to show affection; the other side hated her with a passion and wanted to dispense with her for the dog that she was. “I am in the deepest of dilemmas”, words that regurgitated outwards, well I gripped my heart and cried to the moon:

“How can I resolve the anguish that has gripped me? How can I make amend the broken relationship – sawed at with greatest of hatreds? Can anyone answer me? Please, somebody just answer me!”

My back slid down against the wall opposite of my apartment door, I began to cry with such heart ache, ‘the mind cannot help but give into emotion’ I remarked in my mind, as tears dribbled down. I cried for an hour at best; nothing could stop the pain in my mind, as it continued to increase with each minute. ‘Why can’t mother just love me? Why can’t she love her daughter, who has provided her with so much?’ I continued in my anguish…the pain was too much to hold. As I collected my thoughts, I began to write out my plan. Whether she liked it or not, I was going to make her pay for the pain, she had exhausted upon me, all those years ago.

I collected my gear and began to make my way to the apartment complex where I had only been just a couple of hours ago. Armed with nothing but my trusty writing instrument, I began to climb those stairs to her door. Pushing my way through the door into her apartment, rage over came me and I found her…lying in her bed. I rushed at her, my heart palpating at the sight of her body—forward and forward I went, with pen in hand and heart in throat. I grabbed the white sheet that lay over the mass—lifting it with the greatest of fury. What I found struck… There on that bed, lay not my mother…but something else.

I tried to contain my horror—darting my eyes back to the door leading to the main entrance— I quickly thought about an exit strategy. Before my thought could turn into action, there it rose: the disembodied mass of deteriorating memories that had been long forgotten. I cannot describe it, but what I can say is that it was like my mother…but not. It was like her in look and feel, but what it did not have was a soul that she use to have—it had something more distant; something from the past that pushed me into fright. I took my gear and ran from the apartment; I just could not stop myself I needed to get as far away as humanly possible. I ran back to my apartment – locking and bolting the door. It was in the remaining silence that I hid in my room, underneath the white linen sheets that I had slept with hours before. It was there, cold and alone, that I began to cry for her once more; remembering the thoughts that had dwelled from the days before:

‘Where is she?’
‘Where has my mother gone?’
‘Where have you taken her?’

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Artwork: Hannah Hoch’s ‘Cut with the Kitchen Knife Through the Beer Belly of the Weimar Republic’ (1919)

Truth Evolves (Book Review)

Dustin Arand is an American lawyer and a Philosopher with an apt for rigorous philosophical enquiry and formulation. This is no more evident than in the book ‘Truth Evolves’- a book like no other in its field.

Dustin’s book delves into epistemology, ethics and the nature of ‘truth’ with startling detail and insight. ‘Truth Evolves’ takes the reader on an intellectual journey through the various philosophies of knowledge, mind, biology and ethics in the attempt of engaging with the reader on an intellectual landscape. (Dustin opens each chapter with a brilliant quote.) In ‘Truth Evolves’, Dustin applies evolutionary theory to epistemology and accounts for the constant adaptation of truth, and the helpfulness of this adaptation to humanity’s development. This helpfulness is reiterated in the concept of ‘corrigibility’; “corrigibility refers to a property of any institution, be it political, academic, professional, or otherwise, and to the language (or languages) prevailing within and between such institutions, such that they are capable of adapting themselves to the changing demands of the environmental conditions that constitute their raison d’être [a property’s purpose]”. This concept weaves itself throughout the book and is an important element in the understanding of the author’s thesis. Furthermore, the author emphasises the need for individuals to adjust their mentality towards a deeper understanding of reality, and expresses the consequences of intellects that depart from this deeper understanding.The means by which Dustin expresses this is through modern day examples such as the civil rights debate.

Now, the book does have to be read more than once – once for feeling and the second for analysis – and it can be hard to read at certain places. However, like Immanuel Kant’s ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ the book is not meant to be read in one’s leisure, it is instead meant to be analysed and thoroughly assessed. Overall, the book is a good read for anyone interested in epistemology, ethics, morality, truth or evolution.

Read From: May 26th-June 15th, 2015

Rating: 4.5/5—I definitely recommend it for those interested in Evolution and its relationship to epistemology.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Link to Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1320419632?book_show_action=false

Islam and The Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue (Book Review)

Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz’s ‘Islam and the future of Tolerance: A Dialogue’ is an informative and hopeful dialogue on a number of pressing issues of today, ranging from islamism to Islamic reform. With wit, intelligence and scrutiny all rolled into a short and succinct book, Sam and Maajid effectively take head on these issues and come up with effective strategies to answer them. Easily read in an afternoon, this book is meant to be read in conjunction to the growing political, philosophical and cultural issues occurring in the world today—such as the culture war over Islam, the conflicts against ISIS in the Middle East, the growing rise of neo-Nazism in Europe and the intellectual debates centred around reform in Islam. In addition to this, the book provides a list of helpful sources easily verifiable, as well as provides a further reading information list for all those interested in the topics discussed. (It may not be very helpful to me, since I have read most of the books listed, but I am sure it will be helpful for new individuals entering the discussion.) There is very few things to criticise, as the book is very well written and its contents are discussed in a manner that provides little room for arguing.

It is a dialogue that needed to happen, as both individuals have been engaged in trying to provide discourse on Islam. However, both have been labelled as ‘bigots’, ‘Islamophobes’ and ‘Racists’ by those of the left (regressive leftists) for criticising Islam. Sam Harris himself has been for the last year and a half trying to combat these baseless accusations; hence is why I am glad that he addressed them in this book, as well as pushed past them in informing individuals about what really needs to be discussed. Maajid Nawaz was brilliant in this book, as his writing was more on point and his counter-points to Sam did provide room for further discussion and thought. In addition to this, Maajid has improved on his writing, as his last book ‘Radical’ was rather a disappointment in terms of writing.

As for the ideas being discussed, Islamism and regressivism are by far the most pressing concerns of today. Islamism is the political imposition of Islamic fundamentalism upon society, as manifested by groups such as the Islamic State. Maajid’s informative identifying of sub-branches within Islamism, such as jihadism and political islamism, was by far the most informative aspect of his part of the dialogue on this topic. Sam Harris’ critiques of Islamism, and by highlighting the fact that beliefs do matter, were also enlightening but I do feel that both could have done a more in-depth explanation of Islamism than they ended up doing. (Maajid’s distinction between traditional and conservative Muslims does appear to be misleading, but I trust that he is onto something when he distinguishes between them.)

Regressivism (Coined by Maajid Nawaz) is the political philosophy that has emerged from progressive politics and post-modern ‘Identity politics’, as of late. It is identified by individuals defying classical liberal principles, such as free-speech, freethought and individual autonomy and responsibility, all in the ideal of equality. This has resulted in ‘regressives’ (to use a term from Sam Harris) protecting Islam from criticism and has also resulted in the silencing of critics by regressives. This is truly evident in the west, because regressivism—especially in reference to Islam—is a by-product of Islamist apologetics and Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Maajid Nawaz and many others have been victims of this regressivism. This is further expressed in the book.

Maajid Nawaz makes reference to Dr. Hasan, who is a Islamic scholar and Quilliam, throughout the book. However, I do think that he needs to not fall prey to the false belief in trusting an authority figure too much, because even they can be wrong. This leads into another thought as well, and this is in regards to Maajid’s ‘relativist’ interpretation of the Quran and hadiths. If there is no ultimate interpretation of a text, then there is no right or wrong interpretation of a text. This is problematic for obvious reasons, as it creates stagnation and creates misinformation where there need not be any.

The above-mentioned paragraphs are just some of my thoughts on the ideas discussed in the book, as there are plenty more ideas that were discussed in the book, but I will allow individuals to explore those ideas for themselves.

Read from: October 19th-November 7th, 2015

Rating: 5/5 stars—This is definitely my book of the year so far.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Link to Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1387295946?book_show_action=false

Cutting the head off of the serpent: the threat of islamism

We need to wake up against the threat of Islamic fundamentalism, as expressed by ISIS and other Islamist organisations. By not naming the threat of islamism, we are allowing more and more chaos to come on our door step. The reason why so many neo-nazi groups are rising again in Europe is because of the lack of action by governments to stop islamism.

I do not support neo-nazi groups of any distinction, as I find them just as toxic as the Islamic state is. However, if we want to not bring on another neo-nazi regime and not bring on more bloodshed by islamists, then we need to wake up and start actively naming the threat, addressing religious ideology and radicalism, and begin fighting jihadists – both physically and ideologically.

For all those who need reminding: Islamism is the political imposition of Islamic fundamentalism upon society, as manifested by the Islamic State, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Qaeda and the Muslim brotherhood, to name a few. Political islamists are those who wish to achieve a caliphate through politics and military coup, well jihadists are those who wish to achieve a caliphate through violence. Islamism is the greatest threat of our time, because it is influential in every western nation.

However, until we wake up to the threat of islamism, we will continue to see more deaths like we did in France in January and now again in France today. I just hope action is taken against the ideology of the jihadists who killed many in France, but until that happens I shall show my support with the people of France. If I  could say one thing to those French readers, it would have to be this:

Vive la liberté: Je suis Français

“La liberté d’expression est le fondement de la démocratie.”-Alison Locke

Je témoigne ma solidarité à mes frères et soeurs sur tout l’océan. Je suis avec eux et aujourd’hui je suis francais. Aujourd’hui, je suis avec eux, épaule contre épaule, afin de respecter les innocents qui ont perdu leur vie. Aujourd’hui, je suis avec eux contre le barbarisme et les conflits, contre la terreur. Pour les francais, y compris tous les citoyens qui sont pour une société libre et ouverte, ne s’inclineront pas devant ceux qui leur ont fait du mal. Vive la France et Vive la liberté.




[English: Praise Liberty: Today I am French

“Free speech is the bed rock of democracy.”-Alison Locke

I stand in solidarity with my brothers and sisters across the ocean. I stand with them, for today I am french. Today I stand with them, shoulder to shoulder, to pay my respects to the dead. Today I stand with them against barbarism and strife; against terror. For the French people, including all citizens of open society, will not bow to those who have done them wrong. Glory to France and glory to all those who honour liberty!]

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

In The Keyhole of Despair:

You found yourself looking in
to see what you could find within.
You cloaked yourself in the light
never to see your own vile sight.
You met the mirror with a stare
but could not find a self to repair,
for horrid sight left you bare.

In a daze you fell right through
abolishing all trace of that veil of light you once knew;
a veil of light that made you who?
In spite of the vile sight you denied at night,
despite the shadows mirroring your every sight,
you fell back into darkness again and cast out the light;
denying what was known to be right.

Through the keyhole of Life’s despair,
you found only emptiness, heartache and disrepair;
slowly loosing self in tainted air.
Reaching for a worn out razor blade
and stumbling to the mirror exhausted and dismayed,
you caught a sight of yourself in the shade;
weeping angels were even afraid.

Despair’s joyless light began to flicker
in the face of an emerging and joyous snicker.
In the presence of your own sight
you found what you hoped was right,
staring at your sight in the dark and deadened night;
Reaching out towards mirror’s edge
where reality becomes broken by a wedge.

Through the looking glass,
nothing is what it seems.
Life can be insightful, delightful and bliss
but so can illusions and dreams.
Nothing is what it seems,
trapped behind the mirror of twisted dreams;
the self is lost in the Adriatic Sea.

Through the keyhole, I see.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Artwork Name: “The False Mirror” (1928)
Artwork by: René Magritte

Letters to a concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #13: The Principles of Freethought

Dear Thinker.

If I were to set out the principles of freethought, principles that represented the ideals of the freethinker, would others who called themselves such agree with me? It would appear that freethought by its very essence cannot be represented by any one collection of principles, or ‘doctrines’ for that matter. Freethought is by its nature free. However, to take freethought to literally mean, “To be free from all external influences” is to misunderstand the concept entirely. Freethought does not advocate for the literal separation from all external factors, but rather it casts a sceptical eye on all external factors that wish to lay claim to truth, or which wish to advocate authority and tradition over individual inquiry. It is not the mere advocacy for an anarchist mindset; rather it is the advocacy for a mindset that uses logical analysis, reasoned argumentation and critical thought when assessing reality. Freethought may not adhere to doctrines, but it can be said that freethought is represented by certain principles. It is these basic principles that underline the philosophy behind freethought, and establish what it means to be a freethinker. It is because of the existence of this philosophy that the principles of freethought can be laid out. It is for this reason that I now attempt to do just that: to lay out the principles by which most, if not all, freethinkers align themselves to.

The following six principles create the foundation for freethought. They are listed below in numerical order; after each of these principles has been listed, they will then be expressed separately in the subsequent paragraphs that follow. Without further ado, here are the principles:

1. Question anything that relies upon authority, novelty or tradition for its foundation; for humanity is a fallible species.

2. Base all conclusions upon logic, reason and evidence; all conclusions that depart from this process, depart from reality.

3. Never fall prey to self-conceit or assumptive reasoning, for both lead to confirmation bias; one must assess thought constantly.

4. Seek out knowledge for its own sake; learning is an ongoing process, act accordingly.

5. Reject all forms of totalitarianism; for totalitarianism is thought control.

6. Beliefs motivate actions; unjustified beliefs lead to negative actions.

In regards to the first Principle:

Positions that rely upon their mere longevity, power or novelty have at their basis a superficial foundation that is easily replaced when the razor of doubt is applied to them. Authorities of any sort acquire their authority through public grant; for without support of any kind there would be no acknowledgement of their positions, hence no acknowledgement of their power. Public opinion is susceptible, most times, to error; for consensus is no guarantee of validity. Humanity is a fallible species that is capable of making mistakes in its own judgement – which it rarely admits to before damage can be done. There have been many instances in history where these mistakes in judgement have kept humanity ignorant, but one example will suffice for this piece. This example is of course the shift from geocentrism to heliocentrism:

The public consensus in western civilisations for nearly two millennia held that the Earth was the centre of the universe. This belief is known as ‘Geocentrism’: the belief that the celestial bodies orbit the Earth. Though the ancient Greeks originally held this belief, it was only given its status by the works of the Egyptian scientist Ptolemy.  Ptolemy’s model had, for centuries prior to the Copernican model, dominated western thought about the place of humanity in the universe. For centuries, establishments centred education, ideologies and other systems of thought on the notion that Earth is a privileged planet amongst the stars, hence humanity is somehow privileged because of this. It was not until this system, for its length of time, was finally challenged by individuals such as Nicolaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler and Galileo Galilei that the reformation of thought could finally take place. The synthesis of Copernicus’ model of ‘Heliocentrism’ and Kepler’s ‘laws of planetary motion’, gave rise to a new understanding of the universe. Galileo’s additions to the synthesis, and his support for the theorem, gave rise to a flurry of dissenters who wished to hold onto Ptolemy’s model.  The Roman Catholic Church denied the Copernican model of the universe on religious grounds, but it was only until the trial of Galileo by the inquisition that this changed. This trial represented a turning point in humanity, as it would only be decades after this trial that humanity would realise its mistake in judgement.

The message that can be taken from this example should be obvious and is as follows:

What is considered valid today can be considered invalid tomorrow and as a precaution it is always imperative that the acknowledgement of this fact be recognised; for it is only when the recognition of fallibility is understood that real honest investigation can begin. In the debate over facts, no amount of individual acknowledgement ensures the validity of a proposition; only the evidence in support of that proposition ensures its validity. And though change comes gradually with the chipping away of past ideas, it is only with the persistence of new ideas and the alignment of those ideas with reality, that reformation is possible. Reformation is fuelled by questioning, which is at the heart of scepticism. For the foundation of freethought rests upon scepticism and the only way to exercise this scepticism is through constant questioning; questioning that is interested in truth.

In regards to the second Principle:

A house that is built upon mud will not withstand the mightiest of storms; for the rains that come will wash the foundations away, leaving nothing but the remains of a house that attempted to flee its own destruction. A house, however, that is built upon concrete foundations and is supported by strong materials, is able to resist any storm that is thrown at it; for its foundations will pass nature’s tests. The analogy of the two houses should be evident in meaning: the first house represents an unjustified conclusion; well the second house represents a justified conclusion. In addition to this, the storms represent reality and the challenge it poses to conclusions. If a conclusion is unable to meet with reality and treat reality as its master, then that conclusion is ultimately debased. A conclusion, for it to be considered one, needs to have its components justified. Justification for a proposition must come in the form of evidence, which is simply a means of recording the connection a proposition has with the world around it; the state of the world a proposition claims, must align with the actual state of the world. If a proposition is not justified (in other words is ‘unjustified’), then that means the proposition is unable to find a means of linking its main components with reality, thus making it false.

The role of reason, logic and evidence are the means by which the rational mind makes sense of reality. The process of understanding the world can only come through its analysis, and it is only through the analysis of reality that humanity knows itself. Logic is a means of mapping out the functions of objects, propositions, ideas and so forth within reality; it is the blueprint that allows humanity to make sense of reality and the processes and functions that occur within it. Reason is a thought process that is applied to the relationships of functions within reality, hence is the means of demonstrating how these relationships and functions work. When one is able to demonstrate these relationships and functions with logical principles, then they are reasoning their way through reality. Both logic and reason are means of understanding and analysing reality; and with their aid has come the development of societies.

The rational mind uses reason to dictate what conclusions it draws, as reason is the foundation that gives rise to the alignment of one’s thoughts with the world around them. Reason is a means by which humanity makes sense of the world and the recognition of it as a guiding force in one’s life is something that cannot be ignored; for when one engages in a discussion, they are unwittingly surrendering their faculties to the presumption that reason is useful. Reason is a huge step forward in the cognitive evolution of Homo sapiens, as it distinguishes humanity from the rest of the animal kingdom. It gives humanity the cognitive ability to think and act in a manner that is beneficial, as opposed to a manner that leads to the negation of survival. The adoption of reason has led to the development of society and it continues to remain an important element in the evolution of humanity. Without the ability to reason, there would be no humanity. Freethought owes its existence to logic, reason and the process of justification for beliefs, as these tools have forged the identity of what it means to be a freethinker.

In regards to the third Principle:

Confidence is not a bad attribute to have, especially in circumstances that require it, but overconfidence can be detrimental to intellectual integrity. When one is overconfident of their ability to think, they are likely to overlook their own faults in their assessment of others. This overconfidence leads to self-conceit, which elevates the individual to a status that is non-existent to their peers. The intellectual landscape positions everyone as equals, all have to play by the same rules of logic and reason; the only way an individual proves himself or herself on this landscape is through their own merit and thought. Self-conceit is a handicap to the individual on this landscape, as it makes the individual feel superior to these rules. When individuals feel cocksure of themselves, they will find their method of thought superior to others, hence will favour all lines of thought that confirm to their own. In this respect, self-conceit leads to confirmation bias: where the individual seeks out information that is preferable to their preconceptions, rather than assessing multiple sources of information that may be counter to their preconceptions.

For one to be wise they need to have intellectual humility and integrity, both are quintessential elements of a healthy intellectual mind. In order to have these elements one must be constantly vigilant of their own thought processes and constantly assess their thoughts through reflection. The acknowledgement of one’s own failings and the regard to judge oneself by the standards they put on others, is the characteristic of a freethinker; and if these characteristics are not evident in one who labels himself or herself as a ‘freethinker’, then what are they but pretenders? Be critical of every position, whether the majority or the minority supports that position, because – and you will realise this in time – the mere fact that one person raises their hand and vouches for a position, does not in any way strengthen the validity of that position. Yes, the position may have more support, but even that support can be misplaced. In all circumstances, take the position on its own merit and see if that position agrees with reason, the facts and so forth. Whether there be a crowd of a thousand or just one overbearing individual, never be intimidated by numbers. If the forces of the entire world stand against the truth and link hands to raise flags in error, then it would be one’s obligation – regardless of the opposition – to see that the truth is upheld.

In regards to the fourth Principle:

The acquisition of knowledge brings humanity closer to itself, as every instance of newfound knowledge allows humanity to see itself in the mirror of life. There is never a moment when one is done learning something new; everyone is constantly learning something different every day. Learning is a never-ending process, with rewards that are as varied as the very things being learned. To deny this fact is to deny what it is to be a human with the capability of thought: an individual who values knowledge for its own sake. Being able to know how to think as opposed to what to think, is the deciding factor that separates an autonomous mind from an enslaved one. An autonomous mind that knows how to think will not require the need for an ‘arbiter of knowledge’, as it will be instead independent on its own ability to identify problems and solve them, whereas an enslaved mind will be constantly dependent on an arbiter for its knowledge.

Freethought is the epitome of an autonomous mind – it is what education seeks to deliver. The result of education, in the sense of learning how to think, is to grant the individual freethought. A freethinker owe their position to the education they received, either taught to them or learned independently. Freethinkers agree unanimously on the value of education and the role that the acquisition of knowledge has in the emancipation of the mind. It is for this reason that it is included as a principle.

In regards to the fifth Principle:

The enemy of freethought is and has always been totalitarianism. Totalitarianism is the boot that wishes to stamp the white dove of liberty. Totalitarianism is characterised by the need of an entity, or an individual, to pursue absolute control of the mental state of an individual, and/or a group. (Thought control is what characterises totalitarianism; it is the desire of each totalitarian.) A totalitarian is the polar opposite of a freethinker in every single intellectual respect. What a totalitarian desires is in direct conflict to what a freethinker desires; well the latter pursues the autonomy of mind, it is the former that pursues the control of it. Every single totalitarian state that has ever existed has attempted to achieve control of the mental faculties of the population it governs. However, every time the attempt has been made to fully align the populace’s beliefs with the totalitarian’s beliefs, it has always been met with resistance. This resistance comes as a result of independent minds grouping together to resist forces that are against their own interests; every independent mind wishes to keep their own banner of mental autonomy. These independent minds reap the benefits of freethought and will likely fight tooth and nail to ensure its survival.

If a democratic society wishes to keep its democracy and ensure the prosperity of its future generations, then the population of that democracy needs to speak out against tyranny when it pokes out its ugly head. Freethought needs a democratic environment to flourish, because the liberties ensured by a democracy allow for the free expression of ideas between thinking individuals. Freethought depends upon this steady flow of ideas – it is the ‘part and parcel’ of freethought. Therefore, all freethinkers – in order to protect this steady flow of ideas – have to be enemies of totalitarianism (they have to be enemies of the totalitarian).

In regards to the final Principle:

Beliefs are what motivate actions; no action is made without a belief guiding it. With this said, beliefs that do not align with the way the world is (i.e. that is to say that are ‘unjustified in nature’), are likely to lead to negative effects on the subject holding the belief and to others around them as well. Take a simple example: If Alison believes in the proposition ‘Humans can fly’ and attempts to act upon this belief by jumping off a  skyscraper, then Alison will have to suffer the repercussions of her actions – this can come in the form of severe injuries or even death. In this example (though cliché), Alison was motivated by her belief in the proposition, however the belief was not justified which meant that the belief led to a negative action. If humans could indeed fly, then her belief would be justified and there would be no negative actions acting upon the belief alone. What is important to realise is that beliefs dictate the actions of the individual; what one believes will determine the life they lead. At first glance, this may not appear to be an important principle to note, however one could argue that this principle is the most important of all. If beliefs do indeed motivate actions and certain beliefs lead to negative actions, then it would follow that one should be cautious of what beliefs one holds to. To emphasise this, well at the same time using a more modern example of the negative effects of unjustified beliefs, let us take the most recent threat that has managed to emerge out of the Middle East: The Islamic State Of Iraq and Syria (aka ‘ISIS’).

Islamic state leaders announced in June of 2014, the desire for a global Islamic state (caliphate). The running of this caliphate will be done through sharia law – where the fusion of Wahhabi Islam and government is maintained. The purpose of this caliphate, as it is believed to be by those who wish to establish it, is to bring about judgement day, where the Monotheistic God of Islam will finally judge the people of the Earth. This belief is held by many Wahhabi Islamists, and has been one of the main driving forces behind the recruitment of ISIS fighters. These fighters will do anything to achieve that belief and anything to adhere to the edicts of their ideology, such as killing innocent civilians for the purpose of fear and the flexing of muscle. However, this belief supposes a number of assumptions, primarily being the assumption that a ‘Righteous God exists’. This belief has not been justified, because of the fact that it is a belief that relies on faith. Faith is one of the most dangerous components to a bad idea, as faith allows a belief to align with an idealistic reality as opposed to actual reality. The results of this poison cocktail have been overwhelming. The most recent of the horrors of ISIS has been the brutal shootings at a Tunisian beach and the beheading of a French factory worker. These are just some examples of the many atrocities that have happened in the wake of ISIS.

Freethought depends upon the healthy flow of ideas and the constant reassessment of beliefs to match with reality. It is for this very reason that freethinkers, those who wish to call themselves such, are unanimous on this very principle; for beliefs do motivate actions and it is what beliefs one has that will determine their course. Having a world of individuals who base their beliefs on reality and who help individuals align their beliefs, is a world that benefits all people. It is a principle that is the only thing separating a freethinker from a blind zealot, as a zealot dies for unjustified beliefs.

With all this said, these principles form the basic ‘definers’ of freethought. They may be broad and general in their scope, but they allow truly inquisitive minds to hone in their critical thinking skills. One may not have an authority on such principles, but one does have a mind that is capable of exercising thought. The only thing that remains for me to reiterate, is the question that I originally began with: If I were to set out the principles of freethought, principles that represented the ideals of the freethinker, would others who called themselves such agree with me? Only the freethinker can decide.

Knowledge is power.

Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

The Sleep of Reason: Homage to Goya

Eyes begin to wonder, as mind’s eye begins to fade.
Sleep now, please reason do;
Sleep now, and let unreason pass through.
Open thy gates, and lower thy defences.
Stop thy blockade, and let in thy monsters.

The veil of night comes yonder, as mind is slowly left in shade.
Sleep now, please reason do;
Sleep now, and let unreason pass through.
Helpless to fate’s accursed prophecy;
Stuck now condemned of apostasy.

With no reason for cover, the darkness can begin to persuade.
Sleep now, please reason do;
Sleep now, and let unreason corrupt you.
Trapped in a sombre spell;
Striking forth all that is not well.

Now the reign of reason is over, as mind is fully dismayed.
Sleep now, reason will do;
Sleep now, as unreason reigns true.
Now the reign of unreason is here;
Scared is the world for it will surely disappear.

What lesson can be learned here?
What wisdom can be gained?
The lesson to be learned here,
The lesson to be gained…

Is the haunting reminder of Goya’s words, which ring true:
The sleep of reason brings forth monsters.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Artwork: Francisco Goya’s
The Sleep of Reason produces Monsters, 1799.

The Great Emancipator: Education

It can be said that the role of education in the 21st century has shifted dramatically since the birth of the technological revolution. No longer is education the benefit of the wealthy, or a benefit of the privileged few of a society, it is now a global enterprise that all individuals can access. Education transcends the boundaries of printed paper, and takes new form in the cybernetic pathways of the internet. The spread of resources has meant that more and more people have access to learning material; no longer is it necessary for a tutor or a teacher to present the individual with knowledge, knowledge has become the modern opium. Education has become the great emancipator.

Education, emancipates the mind from the shackles of ignorance and empowers the individual towards enlightenment. Education is not bound by structural institutions; education is not bound by the structure of authority. Education is the process that one uses to free them from authority, and free themselves from the need for an external arbiter of knowledge. Through the learning of critical thinking skills the individual is to achieve mental autonomy, which is the major purpose of education. In this respect education is more than just a process of memorisation – it is more than a process of mere robotic programming – it is the process by which humanity frees themselves from the shackles that ignorance brings.

Ignorance, though it may be the natural state of humanity, is a state in which humanity must deplore; for ignorance begets suffering. When one is ignorant of the world they are ignorant to the solutions to problems within the world. It is for these reasons that for a human to be separated from suffering they need to pursue mental autonomy, which is only achieved through the analysis of themselves in the cosmos. Through the learning of skills to better their condition within the cosmos, they are able to achieve enlightenment. Enlightenment not in the mystic sense, but in the intellectual sense: a state by which the individual is at the highest end an independent thinker. Thus, the ultimate goal of education is free-thought.

A free-thinker is not an individual entirely independent in mental faculty; rather a free-thinker is an individual who is independent from the need for authority and arbitrary knowledge. The free-thinker is not the independent spectator of the world; they are the analyst within existence who assesses the ideological structures around them. They are the modelers of reality, and the builders of the future. However, the only way they could become free-thinkers was through education.

It is for the aforementioned reasons that education is the greatest thing that humanity has ever created. It is for these reasons that one should wish to be able to bestow upon individuals knowledge, for its own sake. And it is for these reasons that one’s only duty should be to equip the future generations with a means to better them, and a means with which to reform prior generations’ mistakes.

Written by: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

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