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

Homage to the cosmic perspective

All of our ancestors down through the eons of time have lived here on a small seemingly insignificant planet drifting aimlessly in the void of space, each of them living out their lives briefly on the surface of this planet, underneath the radiant sun for but a glimpse of cosmic time; totally devoid of realization to the true size of themselves in the universe. Through the eons, slowly but surely creating for themselves from the tools they had available, with the resources they had; cultures of grandiose sizes and eloquence, languages of sparse diversity, religions and myths to explain their origin, philosophy to contemplate their place among the cosmos, science to understand the world around them, art to capture their imagination, and all the things that now make our species what they are, slowly progressing as the planet they stood on slowly drifted aimlessly in the void. We were trapped in a long slumber to the rest of the universe we were. Waking only in recent decades with those same but more advanced tools of our origins, breaking the hold of the planet’s surface, boldly with courage verging into the unknown, into space; we found ourselves staring back at the small spec. It was in this awakening, that we found our true size, being much smaller than we had imagined; many gave a sigh to this realization. The anthropocentrism that long gripped our ancestors, the notion that all of life is for humanity and that he is the be-all-to-end-all; finally was challenged by the realization of the real size of our planet in the universe. Others averted their eyes from the places where they hung their heads and gazed upwards to new heights, to new distances, to new dreams. We have finally done it, finally we have broken free from the cage that has long held us stationary on this drifting planet and have opened the way into the heavens. With space travel and the notion of travelling into the unknown, it has given us humanity hope for the future, we have unleashed the imagination, and it is from the stars we make our dreams fully realised. Stars that had long been the fuel for our ancestor’s imagination, now give us insight as to our real origins, our real place in the cosmos. 

Many individuals have emphasised the importance of a cosmic perspective; in 1980 Carl Sagan released to the world his “Cosmos: A personal Voyage” astronomy television series, that captivated individuals into the imagination of space and the future of human exploration. In it was emphasised the choice of life or destruction, many have through the eons chosen life over destruction; and thus we are still here. In our different lands, across our many oceans, we all are in some way apart of this choice. What we did and what we do is important. Valuing each opportunity to do it, takes time and effort, the road may be long and the path rough, but the voyage is not meaningless for it serves a greater purpose to our species, and to the way the future will span out. Whatever the road for you, or for your fellow man, one thing can be said for certain that the universe is a part of you and you apart of it. It sounds surreal, even overwhelming, but when you understand that the atoms in your body can be traced (as a prodgie of carl Sagan’s put it) “To the crucibles that were once the centres of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life.” Then one can realise that when looking out at the night time sky, or looking at the passing worker ants, what they do is as much of importance to life as we do. In our own ways we shine each and every day with unique qualities, we are able to do great things when we put our minds to it; and we may stuff up, we have stuffed up quite a lot, but yet we stand here together, only across separated boundaries made by ourselves. The fault is in our stars, as well as the glory is in our stars (Stephen fry); whatever we make of the life we have, is of us and when it is done our bodies will be broken down and recycled, with the memories of us being left within the people we have touched. Yet before that point we live within the moment, experiencing every good and bad thing that makes life worthwhile. That is what it means to live within reality. The cosmos is open to us as it has always been, but now we are just a little bit closer to reaching what lay beyond our solar system, what may lay beyond our galaxy, and dare one says the universe! 

Enjoy the journey of life for what it is; a privilege.

Knowledge blast: Anarchist thought

In its most basic and simplest definition anarchism means “without rulers”, the common association of communities free of hierarchy or state rule. Through mutual arrangement (mutualism) and absence of central power, all men have autonomy of their own individual state and over their own interests, in which they exist as a part of a group of individual states working socially together without the need to invoke external overarching central power. Thoughts on anarchism are wide spread but generally Anarchism is divided into two philosophical camps and it is these camps that will later be revisited; the individual and the social. The Individual camp of anarchism known as individual anarchism focuses solely on the liberties, for the interest of the individual against state and social control of others; anti-statism and individualism are two main factors of this camp. Social anarchism focuses instead on the social or “collective state’s” liberties, everyone is to have an obligation to the interest of the community against the state; anti-statism and collectivism are two main factors of these camps. These are the main dividing blocks of anarchist thought and this is where the main contention line will be drawn, as these camps are important in understanding anarchism as a political philosophy. Equally as important when discussing philosophy and politics is the economic elements associated with anarchism which is to be noted, such economic systems that explain how the state will run once achieved and the theory has been put into practice; economic systems of anarcho syndicalism, examples of which are anarcho-communism and anarcho-capitalism. It is these economic systems that when added with the political philosophy, leads to what we understand anarchism to be. It is good to remember that words such as ‘Anarchy’ are misunderstood, generally considered to mean a temporary state of disorder; in popular television anarchy has been long portrayed as “disorder” or “chaos” this bastardization of the word has been at the forefront of people’s interpretation (to the honesty of myself, this generally had long been my understanding) yet what they do not realise is the word has been butchered by pop-culture and by the misuse of it by naive socialists and pseudo-intellectuals. In some respects the word has “poisoned” people’s perceptions towards anarchism; which means people will write off anarchy as simply disorder, this is why the writer of this paper is going to expressively explain the word in the full hope that people may be enlightened and get a better understanding of what can be called “Anarchist thought’.
Now it has been said Anarchism is the political philosophy that holds to the contention of the state as being immoral, corrupt and contemptible towards its own people. However let it be explained and expressed it promotes the notion that people are better without state control, and thus are better without rulers. At the heart of its philosophy is anti-statism which means that people are generally better off without state intervention or intervention by the government. The state is the organized entity overarching the people, it is the “shackles” that bind the people from reaching their true potential; Mikhail Bakunin (Russian philosopher and collectivist anarchist during the late 19th century) emphasises this sentiment, remarking in his book “Statism and anarchy”(1872) that “If there is a State, there must be domination of one class by another and, as a result, slavery; the State without slavery is unthinkable – and this is why we are the enemies of the State.”. This lovely quote can almost sum up the opinion of anarchists (not all) to the government. All this can be described as the base for anarchism, now is time to establish its supports.
A “state of anarchy” (a state that is built on the political philosophy of anarchism) before 19th century had only been in the minds of thinkers in the 15th-19th centuries. The first sign of Communities un-officiated by governments and external forces such as rural communities or better known followings (Christian anarchism emphasises the abolishment of human governments as being iconoclastic in nature, corrupt, instead favouring social gatherings and cooperation for theological reasons) had when the state did interfere and impose power on the subjugated people, the natural response was to revolt in violent disorderly means (this is possibly where anarchy comes from in popular thought) was in the sixth century. However only in France did this system of thought be truly introduced and added philosophical merit in the later 18th century, William Godwin (a thinker and French academic) noticed that the people of France during the French revolution used violent means instead of their own common sense and reason to change the system; he noticed that the system was made up of rules and it was these rules that society was based around. People followed these rules, and when the rules did not fit, they rebelled and made their own rules; thus allowing for this vicious cycle of statism to continue. Instead of violent means and more rules, Godwin proposed the abolition of rules for the interest of reason and common cooperation (hence “without rulers”), instead of using violent methods, the people could instead evolve the state in a peaceful manner. He went on to evolve this thought, and can be credited as one of the first modern anarchist thinkers. Proudon (a contemporary of Godwin) is however responsible for creating an element of anarchism; spontaneous order, the notion that organization can come about without the need of a central power orchestrating it “liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order” (Pierre-Joseph Proudon) the individual has the right to protect his own interests. It is this element that created the steardy support in the theory of anarchism. It is in this theory that there occurred a divide between the extent of the individual’s interests and the extent of his mannerism towards the social order he was in.
In itself anarchism is usually divided into two camps, the first being the individual camp and the second being the social camp. Both camps have one thing in common anti-statism, they both are opposed to the government. Yet where they really differ is in attitudes of the individual to the post-state, this is to say his attitudes after the government has been rid of (which will be later expressed). When the individual is his own autonomous state, then generally anything according to his interests are considered by him to be his. Individual anarchism can vary in attitudes to post-state; some may say that their interests can be achieved through their own means; this can mean seizure of others property, resolving issues by means of violence and so on (illegalism and individual reclamation). Other individuals may take mends of prescribing philosophies that do not necessarily go towards the social order, more then it goes to the interests and values of the individual; such as the free expression of love, property, and a form of sharing willingly, however this differs from ideology to ideology. Individual anarchism attracts largely to intellectuals, as it expresses highly the value of using one’s own cognitive faculties, being able to freely express the liberties of the individual both mentally and physically; and in this respects democracy’s only difference is it has an element of statism, one could dare say it be different otherwise. Social anarchism involves the need for the individual to pertain to the collective state; this means in other words the means of production are controlled mutual common ownership within a community, without the interference of centralised power or state warranty. Many social libertarians may hold to such an ideology and the element of capitalism (the means of production in the hands of private companies) is absent, which many anarchists would argue is a good thing (not anarcho-capitalists, more social anarchists). Marxism in some respects plays along the same line of social anarchism, yet in itself it wishes to create classless societies, which in some respects are the intentions of anarchism.
Yet there is a debate between the two, this can be shown with the debate between marx and Bakunin, between Marxism and anarchism; to cut the long story short, both anarchism and Marxism have both themselves means of wishing to attain the perfect socialist utopia. The methods they use are why there was such a debate between the two men in The First International (a hot spot for intellectual discussion in the early to late 19th century). Bakunin differed with Marx, in that he promoted the idea of “revolutionary socialism” the idea that the means of production and private ownership is abolished and instead collective ownership of the means of production be established. Marx wanted to have a proletariat dictatorship, whereas Bakunin instead advocated collective rule through revolution to establish a socialist utopia. At the end of this dispute Bakunin went his separate ways with Marx; this is why Marxism and anarchism have salient similarities because of their thought processes and the means by which they achieve them is the only thing that really differs. This dispute touches on economics, which can be described as the nails used to strengthen the supports.
Anarchism by itself is not sustainable in the long run, achieving a society without order is simply impossible; this is why a system based on ideology and economy is established to order and structure the system (anarchism + Ideology). Now some may critique that such structured systems of community cooperation inevitably lead to government, in some respects that is understandable, as if we were to look through and scower the pages of history we can see that small tribal communities if left to their basic cooperation and mutual cooperation, inevitably organize themselves, eventually leading to some form of organized government. So in what regards does anarchist economics have to give that is different from other forms of economy? Well there is a number of anarchist economic doctrines such as anarcho-communism and anarcho-capitalism. Which come as a result of anarcho syndicalism, each has their own means of pertaining either an alternative form of economics to an existing form, or establishing new existing ones separate of state. So taking a look at each is well worth the interest.
Anarcho syndicalism is the method of achieving an alternative system of economy, which wishes to replace an existing capitalist system of economy through the means of the active revolutionary acts of organized trade unions; when organized unions seize industrial centres they can hold a lot of power, and can use this power to influence the economy towards a socialist syndication and can protect itself from the state. In laments words anarcho syndicalism means “industrial takeover”. A good example of anarcho-syndicalism can be seen in 1936 in the region of Catalonia in northern Spain, the industrial heart of Spain. During this time there was a lot of tension between socialist and trade union groups with the national party (the party who had control of the government) in that area; the C.N.T (national confederation of labour) and the F.A.I (Iberian Federation of anarchists) were the main socialist and trade union groups, along with the POUM (General Workers union) they captured the industrial area of Catalonia in what has been called “Revolutionary Catalonia” and created an anarcho-syndicalist state. This meant they cut themselves off from the rest of the country; as a result it started a civil war lasting three years between militia socialist workers from the C.N.T and F.A.I and the catholic nationalist federation that ruled Spain. However the C.N.T and F.A.I were up against great odds as the Spanish National party requested aid from countries such as Italy Germany and even Russia, which only escalated the country into more tension and conflict; well they fought with the nationalist troops in the hill side they also were fighting other socialist groups primarily the POUM within the anarchist state itself. This double front inevitably led to the downfall of the anarchist state, as it was taken over by nationalist troops (primarily because of the heavy munitions from Italian and German suppliers) who themselves were led by General Francisco Franco in 1939. The system of economy that was syndicated for the Catalonian anarchist state was that of Anarcho which called for the common ownership of the means of production and with the people working people. In fact if one had to push the envelope further on this similarity you could say that to achieve an anarcho communist system, you have to use anarcho syndicalism (revolutionary unionism) to achieve this method. The C.N.T and F.A.I can be seen as both an anarcho syndicalist state as well as an anarcho communist state, with this being said it must be noted that anarcho communism focuses very much on the community factor of anarchism, and wishes to synthesis individual anarchism with that of social anarchism. Karl Marx explains the common idea of a anarcho communist state in his “Critique of Gotha Program” (1875)
“In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life but life’s prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!”
Even though Marx was writing about Communism, anarcho communist proponents works on the line “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” the economic system is grounded on this idea and it is this principle that they believe allows the individual to thrive. If this can be the one end of the extreme economic systems of anarchism, then anarcho capitalism would be the other extreme.
Anarcho capitalism is very different from other forms of traditional anarchism; traditionally anarchists are against capitalism as system of economy and instead focus more on social economic doctrines; some argue that anarcho capitalism is not anarchism at all but instead a mere right wing libertarian economic system (this is the criticisms of others, not the contention of this writer but it has been brought up). However anarcho capitalism is much different in this regard, if one could say its camp of philosophy it would be very much in the individual anarchism camp, as instead of a system made up of the means of production being commonly owned, it instead focuses on the individual’s sovereignty over his own private property, in an open market. This is to say that state would be absent and when the state is absent people will naturally barter with one another to attain goods and services in a voluntary system. This system can be highlighted in the example of a car crash; individuals would usually have to have one another’s insurance companies argue about costs (the middle man) however in an anarcho capitalist system the middle man is cut out instead resolving issues through direct resolution (pay me, I pay you, don’t pay me I break you). It is the synthesis between liberal economics and individual anarchism.
In conclusion what can be said about anarchism? As a system pertaining to the contention that society is better off without government interference; anarchism seeks to dislodge the system by which a state is a part of. The main thought behind anarchism is distinct between that of the individual and that of the social order, and it is among these differences that anarchism truly is realised as a political philosophy. With the supports of economic doctrines such as anarcho communism through anarcho syndicalism and anarcho capitalism to name a few, anarchism seeks to create a society for the people. Governments to anarchists may seem immoral, but not entirely to some such as me. Sure the government can be corrupt at times, even idiotic but what must be remembered is that the government is made up of the people, and the people are not always free of fault. When we take into account the vast times humanity has sought to gain a system that works, it has always in some way gone to fault, and this is entirely because we are evolved mammals with prefrontal lobes too small and adrenal glands too big. We have developed more cognitively meaning that we find better and more efficient ways of organization and centralization. A society without rulers is simply impossible for this reason, but it must not be blown off what anarchism has the potential power to do. Its notions of individual liberties and the individual’s right to pursue his interests are very modest, and something this writer can agree upon, but the long standing of an anarchist state has yet to be realised, and probably for the better, people still need to instead focus on how to make the state better rather than simply removing it from the picture all together. Liberal Democracy may be a crap shoot, but it’s the best crap shoot we have thus far and it would seem to have lasted quite some time already, capitalism is also the best economic system that we have come up with. It is because of democracy that individuals have the rights they do now, and it is indeed the people’s job to maintain what the government can do, if the government should abuse the people; it is the people’s job to remove the powers that be.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson