Letters to a Concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #9: Drunk with Happiness:

Dear Thinker.

It is now time to discuss matters to do with morality, Alison has told me much of her past history to with religion and her path to enlightenment, I thought it might help you understand the importance of forming one’s morality based upon empathy and reason; and not on the basis of some divine warrant or relative cultural clash.

Left on the porch to an old abandoned chapel, which lay not too far a distance away from the local town church, whose size was double that of the chapel’s; Alison, deep in thought, begins her postulating. She is concerned with the state of the old building, though this may seem strange given that she spent most of her life running from an establishment of this sort, so why would now she wish to lay concern on it? She reasons to herself that the old building, though it may represent that which she detests, she still wishes that it would be ordained with some vestige of life. The church seemed to garter much more life then the chapel, and the precarious thing about it was the church was much younger then the chapel. Yet, how is it that the church is much livelier than that of the chapel? The reason for it (she thought) must come from the fact that the church is much more modern then the chapel. The church’s architecture is post-modern (ironically enough), with the roof bending in the shape of a dome, with the walls being made from a combination of glass, marble and steel. The doors are made entirely of glass; the roof has a huge sphere with a steel cross imbedded on it. The rest of the building is made up of abstract shapes, such as squares forming into ovals and so on; it does not represent anything on the lines of traditional church architecture and instead resembles the embrace of the modern era. Compared to the chapel, which architecture is pre-modern, classic architecture, rigid and so on; the chapel is made from wood, and resembles closely to that of missionary chapels that you would expect to fine in the Bible belt of the USA. The chapel is pathetic in comparison to the church, yet has the odd sent of death around it. The graveyard at the back of the chapel tells a story that dates back to the late 18th century. How could a building like this be abandoned? Then another thought crosses her mind, one that had not yet crossed it before. What if the reason for this abandonment is the realization, that the traditional simply was not needed anymore? Yes, there are a good deal of people coming into the church, but look at its structure, look at its tenants, do they resemble exactly that of old traditional teaching, or has cultural relativism shown itself?

Her story will be revisited later, as it is quite an interesting thing to discuss, but for now we need to embark on a different path; one of morality and nihilism.

Here we are, from the moment of our conception to the moment of our last goodbyes; we are here. Well we are here; we make the most of it with others, which is the reality. We create systems by which we can co-exist and thrive, that take the rights of the many, as well as the rights of the few. These systems allow us to function together, that allow people the ability to take charge of their own lives and not harper on the whims of others who have equal responsibility. We develop systems that have principles that discern right and wrong actions, good and bad deeds; we call these systems, systems of “Morality.” Within these systems there are principles that discern between harmful and helpful behaviour amongst others, these principles are what we call “ethics”, and they are the philosophy of morality. These systems of morality may derive from ethical codes, laws, books and so on. Others may seek to derive their morality from the world around them; others may seek a universal morality that applies objectively to the world. What is deemed moral has been a major debate amongst philosophers, ever since its amalgamation in the infancy of our species. That is why we discuss it here, in this letter, as one needs to grow in understanding of such concepts and understanding of the roles these concepts play on society and on the individual. So when discussing morality and ethics we must ask the following three questions.

1.  “What ethical principles do we use to discern between right and wrong behaviour?”

2. “What system of morality is ideal in discerning moral from immoral?”

3. “By what authority or reasoning is that system of Morality ideal?”

Another method of framing these three questions is done so like this…

“What ethical principles do we use to discern between right and wrong behaviour, and what system of morality is right in terms of discerning between what is moral from what is immoral and finally how do we know that, that system of morality is correct?”

Since we have given a framework by which to begin our topic of morality, we shall discuss each question and the relative views and discernments between them. Though it must be noted, that to consider anything to be “moral” (at least in my view), it must go to the benefit of the well-being of conscious creatures; physically, mentally or socially. What we consider to be “immoral” goes towards the denigration of the well-being of conscious creatures, either physically, mentally or socially (overall social standard of the group, which is).

The first question has to do with normative ethics, which is the branch of ethics concerned with ethical action, and how one should act and behave. The major branches associated with normative ethics are; deontology, consequentialism, pragmatic ethics and virtue ethics.

-Deontology; is the branch of normative ethics concerned with the motives behind actions, rather than the outcomes of those actions. Deontologists’ reason, that you need laws and rules in society in order for it to function effectively, and thus it is one’s obligation to follow those rules as it is their duty. Deontologists say there is a “Moral law” that is absolutely right and it is this law that must be upheld and respected regardless of personal prohibitions otherwise. Immanuel Kant (German philosopher from the 18th century), came up with the “categorical imperative” where by which one acts on the will of maxims (actions, laws or memorable guidelines for living eg. “Do not eat spaghetti with bird droppings for it will cause dysentery in the bowels.”) that can be willed to become universal laws. And the individual should live by their maxims in a“universal kingdom of ends” (Kantianism).

–Moral absolutism; is another form of deontology, which seeks to discern absolute rights from wrongs. Moral absolutists take ideal ethical behaviour from often holy texts that have laws that are believed to be from an ultimate authority. Divine command theory goes hand in hand with moral absolutism, as the “supernatural” agent, behind the formation of these texts is believed to have ultimate authority, and thus all actions and anything that is deemed ethical must be accordance with a God of some sort. Thus, if the moral law says “do not kill” then it must be upheld despite the circumstance. This plays as well, that morality and ethics are entirely up to the deity and that humans have no say in what is ethical an action and what is not, as the supreme entity is the ultimate scalar for deciding actions that are right or wrong.

-Consequentialism is the opposite of deontology, and judges’ ethical behaviour by the consequences of one’s conduct, and identifies that the consequences permitted by an action are what matters most. Consequentialism in normative ethics, can be divided into many sub-theories; State consequentialism, utilitarianism, ethical egoism, altruism and so on. We shall discuss one of these and that is utilitarianism.

–Utilitarianism simply put, is; for any action to be deemed proper it must go towards the maximization of utility (benefit) and the reduction of suffering (negativity).  What is interesting about utilitarianism is its practicality with the social structures, if we take a look at two-level utilitarianism, which synthesis act utilitarianism (a moral action is decided upon, based on its relative delivery of happiness it delivers to a subject at a given time; happiness being defined as pleasure and absence of pain. The consequences of an action are judged alone.) With rule utilitarianism (an action is deemed right by the most effective rule that it follows that delivers optimum goodness; goodness being defined as optimum positivity towards human life. Rules are judged rather than individual actions.) to create a theory by which instead of purely going on the basis of pleasure to measure ethical actions (hedonist utilitarianism); ethical actions are instead based upon on ‘intuitive’ moral rules (which employ, empathy and so on), except in the instance where critical reasoning is involved by which the individual then must use his deduction and reasoning to engage in a ‘critical level’ of moral reasoning. Now the reason why this is an effective way of distinguishing ethical behaviour, is it takes in the wider realm of society and co-opts the most effective way of living, which is in accordance to reality. A small note, on the difference between hedonism and two-sided utilitarianism, hedonism seeks for pleasure’s sake; well the other seeks for aesthetic and progressive features, as well as pleasure.

-Pragmatic ethics; embodies the already mentioned ways of discerning ethical behaviour, and applies it on a practical level; taking various elements of deontology and consequentialism and applying it in a pragmatist sense (practising various other forms of normative ethics with full knowledge that social order needs to progress and innovate). What must be noted is that ethical pragmatists are not moral relativists (who believe morality is relative and thus subjective); they will revise their position, just like scientists may revise their theories, to achieve an objective understanding; pragmatists revise their ethical standards to achieve an objective higher goal.

-Virtue ethics; is the classical sense of discerning ethical behaviour, it combines deontology and consequentialism in order to live a “virtuous life” or the “Ideal character” (“dikaiosune”, in greek).

The second question has to do with the discernment of moral from immoral; in doing so we need to consider the various views on this discernment, by various different cultures, individuals and we should discern what should be the ideal morality based on its weighing on reality. Comparing and contrasting various systems of morality should help us to do so; in regards to this, we shall have to thus discuss; moral relativism, realism, universalism and absolutism.

-Moral relativism is the moral system that expresses that every culture has a different standard of morality; and thus it would be wrong to assume that an objective moral standard existed as every historical and contextual setting is different from another. And thus good or bad are entirely subjective to the case and culture in question, and thus it is our job to treat each cultures morality equal without giving bias to one another. The problem with moral relativism is it seeks no objective standard of morality, and thus if for example one society favoured child molestation and another culture detested child molestation; then according to moral relativism each side is equal in opinion and waiting. Thus contradiction appears in this moral framework, as there is no weighting on reality or objective standards of morals and thus every action is relative. This is different to situational ethics, as situational ethics seeks to provide an objective standard, whereas moral relativism does not seek to do so and only settle on subjective standards.

-Moral realism takes a different tact from moral relativism, as it is interested in objectivity of morality, rather than subjectivity. Moral realism proposes that ethical statements/sentences have propositions that can be analysed to be right or wrong from the basis of objective features in the real world, and thus are indifferent to subjective opinion. Moral realism, takes elements of utilitarianism, cognitivism (Meta-ethical standard which states statements express propositions and those can be expressed as being true or false) and realism (what is in the world and what nature is made up of material and physical substance); and creates a system of morality, moral actions are those that employ utilitarianism and realism, and immoral actions are those that deplore utilitarianism and realism. Moral universalism is similar to moral realism, as it seeks to provide an objective morality that can be attributed universally to all cultures and civilizations. It uses the same formula (Utilitarianism, cognitivism and realism) but adds universal perspectivism which takes the tact that ethical statements have imperatives that are universal, so if one commits moral judgement he is subject to that same moral judgement despite the action (however this is not to be confused, dear thinker, with absolutism; this applies in certain areas more so then others).

-Moral absolutism is different to moral objectivism; moral absolutism states that its principals are not to be violated despite any sense by which it would otherwise detest to do so, the principals are absolute and unalterable and cannot be revised. Objectivism seeks to have an ideal sense of moral actions being permissible or impermissible, and will adjust to optimise the given standards. Moral absolutism is often associated with a religious framework that employs (Kantianism, and divine command theory) a celestial being who has revealed himself in a form of some sort, whether it be through others; who then dictate God’s will. Anything that is against God’s will is considered to be immoral, and everything that contributes to God’s will is moral; and thus this sense only puts God as the ultimate source of morality. This moral system can be quite extreme, for if we are to take the bible or Quran; who both do not deplore slavery or child rape, then what are we to make of those actions? If they are not immoral, then they are moral, and thus if God commanded the subjects to do something that may go against their emotions then they have no choice but to do so, if they are to be “moral” in God’s eyes. This system of morality is simply in-consistent with what the world actually is and how societies function and thus this system is wrong by those standards.

The third and final question now comes to the discernment of these systems and identifying the morality that is most ideal, and by what reasoning it becomes ideal. Now for a system of morality to be correct it must way into the real world, which is the fact. It must be objective to our understanding of the world, we have created morality and it applies to us and our functioning within this existence. So that immediately gets rid of moral absolutism and moral relativism, as through science which asses the natural world we can quantify actions and their effects. The science of morality is an interesting look into how science can discern between moral and immoral actions based upon elements of utilitarianism, realism, neuro-science and psychology and correlation of cases. Dear thinker you must understand that views and actions come from neurological sequences in the brain. Thus for anything to be deemed “moral” it must go towards the “Flourishing of conscientious creatures” (Sam Harris, Moral landscape). We can plot various ethical systems across an average gradient and we can identify “moral peaks” (this comes from Moral landscape) on a “moral landscape” and we can identify societies throughout histories that had optimum levels of morality, and they would thus be on a higher peak then those who had poorer ones. In discussing morality my dear thinker, remember to ask the three questions listed above, this will give you a good method by which to build knowledge on the subject. As morality for any sensible person, should be instinct, empathy, altruism and reason alone are enough to distinguish right from wrong; yet there will always be those who will deny the reality, and that is what you need to watch out for.

On the voyage through life, one has to settle on a moral system; that is why it has been mentioned in this letter. If one understands what morality and what ethics are, there use in society and in one’s life; then they can effectively create a moral system that is consistent, objective and true with reality. Yet, people have a growing disproportion between what they want to value (need), and how the world operates. A German philosopher witnessed this growing process in western culture and called it “nihilism” (nothingness), this philosopher’s name was Friedrich Nietzsche; for most of his life he opposed the thought of nihilism. Yet, to understand how this opposition came about we must look at the life of this philosopher, as we have done with that of Socrates; so I give you the second great philosopher to appear in our discussions, “Friedrich Nietzsche”.

Friedrich Nietzsche was born in the year 1844 in the small town of Rocken in Germany, to a religious family; his father was a famous Lutheran pastor and would preach daily to congregations in the church that Nietzsche grew up in. He had a younger brother and an older sister, who he is known to have loved and cherished. His father suffered from a mental ailment and as a result would abuse Nietzsche, at the age of four his Father died and with it Nietzsche’s belief in God; “God is dead” (“The gay science”; “The Parable of a madman.”). A year later his brother (which he was very fond of and loved dearly) died; Nietzsche’s life can be seen as a series of hardships and broken moments from then on. He attended school in Naumberg and is still one of the youngest people to become a professor (age 24), his chosen field was that of philology (science of language), but he longed to be a proper philosopher; taking inspiration from Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy. Yet, his hardships would only truly begin during his time at school. Nietzsche, throughout his writings, describes each hardship he was given as an obstacle to be overcome; expressing this in the line from ‘Human, all too human” (1878), “triumph of the will”; being his motto towards suffering. At the age of 26, well fighting in the Franco-Prussian war, Friedrich attended a brothel in Genoa (Italy), where he developed syphilis, which would impede him through his entire life. At the age of 35, sick from all the abuse and his growing decline in health, he left Basel, and took up a journey of self-discovery. Nietzsche ventured to Switzerland, in Sils-maria where he would remain for the rest of his life (except of course the occasional venturing out to traverse the Italian country). A philosopher to Nietzsche did not only mean tackling that of the mind, but that of the essence of human being. Nietzsche embraced a philosophy during his time in Sils-maria, any worthwhile achievement comes out of struggle and suffering; Nietzsche revolutionised a philosophy of hardship. Rising ever morning to write till noon, then traversing the nearby mountain. This ideal environment for Nietzsche gave him the means at which to write some of his best works (“Ecce homo”, “Beyond Good and Evil” and so on); “That which does not kill me, surely make me stronger”; was a line he embellished. Nietzsche developed his philosophy from observation; observing western Christianity, which offered (according to Nietzsche) ‘a weak man’s philosophy’, that played down suffering and embellished “Good according to God”.

Nietzsche observed that in western culture the ill proportion of values over-shining what is true, was remarkably high. “Nihilism”, was the word he used to describe this phenomena; he described people who embraced this phenomena as “drowning in self-pity” (“Human, all too Human”). Nietzsche held to the ideal of  resisting  nihilism and to do such a thing first one needs to embrace suffering and cultivate it, finding meaning in the suffering in order to survive; this is to say, that for one to find ideal meaning he needs to cultivate the pain he is suffering and find, that within the reality of the world there are things that will enhance pain and suffering, for one to survive this reality they need to embrace it and not be drunk with happiness, as in a nihilistic framework; brushing off suffering in the hopes it will go away. For if one continues to brush away a mound of rocks; it is inevitable for him to one day not be able to brush away those rocks, instead having created a heap that is now impossible to sweep away. For us to understand that we will have pain, we will have hardships, but it is not in the hopes of drinking away our problems, we need to face them and conquer them seeing meaning in the suffering; instead of deluding ourselves in too much of value and little of reality for that is when we embrace nihilism, to conquer this phenomena we need to embrace it and face it full on, living a life in reality for that is the only way we are to survive. As opposed to the dulling of pain, which was what Nietzsche believed Christianity was doing “Dulling the pain, like a drunken man dulls his sorrows by drinking.” Nietzsche believed with the death of Christianity, nihilism would be widely embraced (The parable of a madman, is a brilliant poem by the philosopher describing the death of Christianity and loose timid naivety of morality).

Nietzsche sought to say that pain and suffering are what make life worth living, they are with which we find meaning; by adopting a philosophy that seeks to reduce pain and suffering in embrace of a lifestyle of total need or value, rather than reality. We seek to embrace nihilism, he who embraces the simple life of valuing above his self, is embracing nihilism the most dangerous poison to develop out of the death of Christianity. And the only cure for this poison is to embrace every hardship one is given, cultivate it and seek to utilise it to its maximum potential and “Triumph over it, and become the superman”. There is a famous tale, in 1889 Well Nietzsche was visiting Turin in Italy; he came across his usual walking path, a horse who was being flogged by its owner. The tale goes that Nietzsche pushed the flogger away and embraced the horse and collapsed well doing so. His mental breakdown would halt him in his writings for the rest of his life, up until his death in 1900; Friedrich Nietzsche lived his life with his sister and aunt. The tale of Friedrich Nietzsche is one of hardship and triumph, Nietzsche always wished his friends the worst suffering; for what he meant by that, is the best potential to harvest success and happiness. And this is what you must remember, hardship is no way should be seen as something to be deplored and drowned away, but something to be cultivated, like the roots of a plant being cultivated by the gardener.

Alison Locke, now totally dumb-founded at the reason for the chapel’s abandonment; looks toward the church; Jolly and happy people, and even more coming out. As if drunken from happiness, they exit, those in the local town who aren’t at church whisk a bottle, and drown themselves in the taste of it. As if an orchestra of madness, they stroll candidly from one side of the street to another, well on looker-look by. Those coming into the church and those going out seem to be very different individuals, She noticed as people went in their faces would lighten up; but not in the way you would expect. As if turning their crosses from upside down to right side up, it seemed that those entering were going for their weekly drinking session. The church seemed only to have new drinks as opposed to the chapel, whose stock ran out long time ago. This is the reason; not because of architecture but because of stock, people are getting drunk with happiness to drown out their own problems. Those who have had hard times, deaths and such, may eventually find themselves drinking happiness from their local church. The church, the synagogue, the mosque are just different buildings for men to get drunk with happiness and drown away their problems. As for the free-thinker, after realising this, he begins his track back home; for unlike the rest of them, she is sober. She is free. This I write to you

Knowledge is Power, Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

Letters to a Concerned Free-Thinker, Letter # 8: The Natural Identity

Dear Thinker.

Humanity ponders its existence when it gazes at the stars, for it knows deep inside that it longs to return home; lost children of the stars crying out for love. From the small ant to the large supernova, all inhabit a universe filled with the most beautiful array of different and exciting phenomena. Homo sapiens, like other mammals, are offered an opportunity of life for a short glimpse of cosmic time. This life that has been offered (the life that the universe and all of nature has luckily spared through billions of years of evolution) is to be cherished. We are but the products of vast eons of time. For this reason – and for the sake that many of our past ancestors have been wiped away by nature – it should propel us to do our best, for the short amount of time offered to us is fleeting constantly. Truly is it magnificent to look around at nature and relish in the sunshine of the day, looking upon the stars at night – all of this should fill every mammal with joy and inspiration. Yet, humanity confines itself to quarrels over tribal matters – which fraction of the world belongs to whom, which God gave us this and that, etc. All these quarrels have halted humanity’s progress towards greater heights and new distances, and have kept humanity wallowing in its infancy. These tribal disputes have threatened to erase the last four centuries of real progress that has been made in the way of human rights, knowledge – and have threatened to undo historical advancements. It was the enlightenment values that brought the fall of monarchs, and it was the values of mental autonomy that brought an end to tyrannical regimes. With the removal of tradition, and the removal of the need for divine warrant, humanity has spared itself from an eternity of slavery and torment; finally beginning to awake from its long slumber. Appeals to the heavens have been heavily reduced with the ever growing knowledge of the cosmos. The need for the numinous has died within humanity; the need for humanism has replaced the left over void. If one such God existed, then it is most surely dead to humanity. 

Humanity’s origins lay in nature itself; what it does in nature ultimately determines its prospective meaning. What we wish to do with our lives is but our own choice, we can squander it on trivial matters or we can use it to further enhance our perception of the world. The feeling of smallness coupled with the feeling of no objective purpose, may cloud the minds of some, but to them they must realise that meaning comes with interactions with nature itself; and the things one does with the situation they are given, determines the life they will lead. Thinking individuals, those who look at the stars and look at humanity in the light of discovery, set themselves up as pioneers – pioneers who are on the horizon’s edge of knowledge. Every thought about nature is a thought about the possibilities that can come from understanding it, and in order to understand it one need to find themselves in the cosmos; one needs to forge their own ‘natural identity’.

Everything that is matter, matter which can be computed and quantified, can be said to be a part of the ‘natural paradigm’ of existence. This natural paradigm is the only paradigm that is open to humanity; the world that exists to humanity is the world found in the senses. Everything that the senses take in is an aspect of material. There is no independence between creature and material; creatures are formed from material substances. Everything in the universe– every small insect, large mammal, celestial object – is made up of these substances.  The substances that make up one’s hand are the same substances that make up stars. The atoms that make up the fabric of nature play a great part in our understanding of the universe. In light of this fact, we base our thinking within the world around us – interpreting, via our senses, objects and organisms around us. The understanding that humanity is but one piece of a grand puzzle can stir the imagination, as it puts into perspective the identity of the individual. The natural identity is humanity’s identity in the cosmos; it is how it views itself in light of the findings of science, and how it orientates its knowledge.  

Consciousness arises from the brain, and is the product of mental computation – nothing more. Consciousness, or what philosophers try to explain as consciousness, exists as something – or mustexist as something – formed from matter, as matter is all there is. When a person has their frontal lobe blasted by a shotgun, having bits of their brain forced violently from their skull, the essence of their being – the essence of their existence within the realm of nature, and anything that was perceived as being conscious within them – is dead and gone; if one destroys the neurons of the brain, then one destroys consciousness. If they should live from the event, however, then they most surely will be different in thought than they once were, as the mind’s state has been altered. When a person like this is in the condition they are in, or is found in this condition by others, the emotions that will come from the sight of such a grotesque scene, are but the products of material processes.   The empathy that was exerted, the heart felt emotions and the genuine tears shed for the scene, are but by-products of the material world that they live in, and the elements that they are comprised of. This may appear to be a very reductionist way of assessing the scene, given the violence involved, but it is a real picture of the event. Some may find my description a tad bit cold (even a little naïve), however I try to look at the situation for what it is, not for what I want it to be. Yet, should they really feel cold? Why is it that people reject such descriptions? Can they not handle the reality of the world? Despite such questions, there is an underlining silver lining to this. Instead of feeling cold about reality, we should instead feel awe struck and amazed by such understandings of the complexity of the world, and the history behind its formation – that it should lead us to truly cherish it. The child does not relish in the fact that it is but a mammal, it relishes at the moments of life it manages to get, and the wonders of existence it finds itself in. Should this feeling die amongst adults, or should this feeling of enjoyment be fostered? It is up to the individual to judge for themselves.

Meaning comes from the individual; as all of humanity is forced into existence, and is forced to lead their own path. This ‘creation’ of meaning is the essence of the free individual, who has taken control over their identity in nature – and forged from it – a brighter world for themselves. As Jean-Paul Sartre once put it, “Man is condemned to be free, because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”(Existentialism is a humanism, 1945). The condition of humanity is comparable to that of an abandoned child; once made orphan by mother, it now must find its own path…regardless of the struggle.  This existential perspective can be hard to swallow, but it is just one perceptive that offers the individual hope. Existentialism provides the individual a philosophy of freedom, some might find this freedom too overbearing, and others might find it right, but it is a freedom none-the-less. Philosophies like existentialism help give solace to the individual, and help build upon what it means to be human in existence. However, though such a philosophy is popular to continental individuals, it is not the only philosophy that is useful. In science especially, the dominant form of philosophy is that of naturalism. 

Naturalism is the poetry of science, for with it science has its basis in reality. Science works from methodological naturalism, which takes the view that components in existence can be assessed through the scientific method. The scientific method uses the natural sciences, conjoined with induction, to assess reality and build models of reality to draw provisional conclusions, and to make future predictions about it. Methodological naturalism is what scientists use to investigate the hidden mysteries of the universe. By constructing hypotheses and testing those hypotheses through experimentation, seeing if those hypotheses stand the test of reality and scrapping them if they do not, the scientist constructs models of reality. These models are falsifiable and allow for the scientist the ability to make predictions about reality. If these hypotheses stand up to the scientific method, then they are regarded as theories and are incorporated into science. A model has to be simple in its language, but rich in its explanation; following evidence where it leads, and taking simple explanations over complex ones. Methodological naturalism is at the heart of science; however it is the child of ontological naturalism, which is another aspect that needs explanation.

Science is natural philosophy, as it explores nature and structures thoughts around it. Through the unweaving of the fabric of reality and ultimately understanding its complexity, humans both enrich their prospect of knowledge and enrich their sense of meaning. Ontological naturalism takes the findings of methodological naturalism, and expands upon those findings to create a metanarrative. This narrative accounts for the story of the universe. Ontological naturalism seeks to weave the findings of methodological naturalism into a model of thought. This model helps frame the scientist’s understanding of reality, and helps give credence to phenomena within nature. Both methodological naturalism and ontological naturalism go hand in hand, and create the philosophy of naturalism. Nothing exists outside the natural, as the natural is existence (as aforementioned); anything that seeks to go beyond nature goes beyond existence. This would mean that the supernatural does not exist, as the supernatural seeks to establish a paradigm outside the natural paradigm of existence. 

Supernaturalism, the opposite of philosophical naturalism, would place another realm of existence above the natural paradigm of existence – and thus go beyond natural explanations of reality.Supernaturalists would posit the existence of supernatural agents that are responsible for nature, positing that these beings gave life to humanity and all of existence. Some would even go so far as to posit the existence of a spirit, or an inner being that exists within humanity. And by what basis do they have to make such claims? Well, that would depend upon who you asked. Supernaturalists are as varied as nations, with each supernaturalist having their own branch of nonsensicalness. To cut the roots of this tree of irrationality, the basis of which entirely rest upon speculations, let one consider what supernaturalism is. Simply put, supernaturalism is a bad parody of naturalism; the idea that something exists outside the realm of the natural is a paradox in itself. For if supernatural beings existed, then they would occupy a greater realm of the natural, and hence be considered natural beings! Anything that is said to go beyond the descriptive laws of nature, and seeks to escape the knowledge of humanity, is considered to be a part of the ‘unknown’, not the ‘supernatural’. When humanity develops the tools to investigate the unknown, then the findings will be considered natural, not ‘supernatural’. In other words, there is no methodology by which to distinguish the supernatural from non-existence. Until the supernaturalist posits a methodology to prove their claims, their claims will have no basis to rest upon. I mean, how do they expect the rest of humanity to interpret the supernatural, when the supernatural goes beyond what the senses can perceive, which is the natural? The fact of the matter is that the supernatural can be negated a priori, as the term itself is nonsensical. Whether it is claims of entities such as gods, ghosts, goblins it must not be forgotten that these things need to manifest themselves in reality, in order for them to exist.

One may criticise the natural paradigm of existence by referring to the multi-verse theory. This theory posits that there exist multiple universes, with each that may operate on different physical and epistemic rules and laws. One could ask, “Wouldn’t any universe, whose laws are different to our own, be considered ‘not-natural?” The response to this question can be expressed through an analogy: Imagine the natural paradigm of existence, as being a huge jewellery box; a meta-jewellery box. In it there are various different compartments, with each compartment being dedicated to a particular set of objects – one compartment may contain earrings, another may contain rings, etc. All these compartments are different in contents to one another, but they all are still a part of the Jewellery box. Objects that exist in one compartment will not be able to occupy another compartment, because each compartment is separated by limitations. An object that wishes to occupy another compartment, needs to get pass the limitations of its compartment. 

The natural paradigm of existence is the meta-jewellery box, and each universe will occupy it as a compartment. Though one cannot be sure of whether they will get pass the limitations of their compartment, one can at least attempt to get as much as possible from their own compartment. The natural identity is the identity found when the individual dares to understand the compartment they are in, and dares to understand the set of circumstances that they have been given. The more that one understands their place, and denies themselves the delusion of ultimate attention, the more the individual will be able to start to make progress. We have come too far in the last 4.5 billion years of evolution to give ourselves to anthropocentrism. Whatever is in our power, we need to deny ourselves the obnoxious delusion of our supremacy; that everything ends with us. However, we must also not forget the value of life the cosmos has allowed us, and the obligation to fulfil what time we have with exploration to the stars. We are children of the stars longing to return home. How awesome it is to be alive, and to be living right now. As the great astronomer Carl Sagan once said,“Somewhere, Something incredible is waiting to be known.”

Knowledge is power.
Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


The heart of an Idealist

Idealists, writers, dreamers and visionaries; thinkers in their various forms. Postulate thoughts about the world on a day-to-day basis; as the world they see around them is viewed as the first in a long stage of progression. When we, (those who are willing to think outside the box, but not seek to act arrogant about it) think. What we are doing, is reacting to the environment we have been placed in. The ideas we come up with are in nature, ‘progressive’, to the reality we are in; as it is our own visions we wish to seek become the reality. A child abused at home; retreats to visions of grandeur, happiness and security. The nature of those visions are progressive to him; as they are the reality he wishes to see, and to him it is more progressive then the one he is in.

This ‘progressive reality’ that is birthed from circumstance, is at the heart of all ideas. It is the most crucial element of idealism; the wish to seek a progressive reality by placing ideas into theoretical applications, with the intent of making them practical applications. It is peculiar how apathetic people can become when they give up on their dreams, taking the honest days living as satisfactory and taking all the obstacles in their path as ‘normal’, taking misery as ‘normal’, poverty as ‘normal’, taking their long hard job as ‘normal’. Why become apathetic to your situation if you don’t like it? Apathy should be something that deplores us, yet so many of us are too use to the hard lives we live, that we imprison ourselves. And for what purpose? So we can simply ‘survive’? But pardon my French when I say ‘fuck that’.

The comedian George Carlin, remarked once on stage…
“In every cynical person, there is a disappointed idealist” And one could not agree more! The reason why so many people are apathetic to their situation, is because the ‘progressive reality’ never became apparent to them. This ‘failure’ (a subjective word) to meet that ‘progressive reality’ allowed for the dedication to apathy. They gave up on their dreams. This should not be the default, to ‘give up’. As a young individual, or even an elderly individual you are never too late to conquer your dreams and make that ‘progressive reality’ you just mustn’t give up. When you give up, you lose; it really is that simple. You want your dreams to be accomplished, start now, and spend as much time as possible chasing your dreams. Too many people say ‘I can’t do it” when they realize that ‘can’t’ is a combination of too many words, and that it is best to drop off the ‘not’ part, they will realize that you are never too old, nor too young to be an idealist. To be a thinker, to be a visionary; call it cocky, call it arrogant, call it naive, call it what you want. Never give up on the ‘progressive reality’, for if you dedicate yourself, that ‘progressive reality’, that ‘theoretical application’ will become a practical one.

As a young writer. It is my job to spread ideas around, my experience in life may be lacking, but that does not stop me from dreaming, and it should not let you either. Too many get caught up in the doubt of the world, that dreams become rare. Great men and women, started small with their ideas, they were ridiculed for them, criticized for them, rejected for them. But they dedicated themselves to those ideas and became renowned for them, as they changed the world. So why not start now?

I am.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


Letters to a Concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #7: The Pursuit of Epistemology

Dear Thinker.

It is through the lens of scientific discovery that humanity’s knowledge of the cosmos is enriched, as the world beyond the eye is found for the first time; one need only look into a microscope. It is this deeper understanding of the world that has broadened humanity’s view of its place in the cosmos. Humanity’s notion of self-importance – its delusions of grandeur – has been challenged by the discoveries of science, as it now faces the reality of its own insignificance; giving rise to both feelings of loss and sadness, as the value in life – it is believed – has been diminished. However, despite this negative association between value and discovery, there is still a great deal of optimism. Yes, though humanity’s sense of significance has appeared to have diminished in light of the new horizon that has been founded by science, there is still place for the reassessment of value in discovery. Through the lens of philosophical analysis and construction a new model of thought is established, one that seeks to put into perspective the new found role of humanity. For philosophy is in the interest of assessing and constructing models of thought that both aid the individual to understand the world around them, and to aid them in their experience within it. Let us take into consideration the value of philosophy.

Philosophy has never been grounded in the halls of academia, for the ‘love of wisdom’ can never be solely caged by a degree, especially a degree that demands others to respect it; for respect is earned, never demanded. Instead philosophy is a universal endeavour that all people take part in. From the mere contemplation over daily matters to the deepest analysis of thought, philosophy is the means by which discourses are framed. Epistemology, the branch of philosophy concerned in organising knowledge, embellishes the idea of a ‘deeper understanding’ that one can have when postulating thoughts about the world around them. A philosopher is interested in the pursuit and cultivation of wisdom. They are, nor should be, individuals who solely rely on their degree to promote their ego… no. A philosopher, and all those who admire wisdom and the pursuit thereof, must realise that philosophy embellishes the pursuit of a deeper understanding of the world. It wishes to allow individuals the desire to understand the universe around them and their place in it. Everyone who reflects upon their place in the cosmos, and the understanding they gain from that reflection, can consider themselves to be philosophers in their own right; by wishing to learn one is acting in the light of wisdom. Freethinkers a like need to embrace the idea that philosophy is not elitist in nature, and is instead a universal enterprise for all people – for it is all people that do philosophy. Thus, when it comes to the discoveries of science, and how one should apply value to it, there is no better enterprise then philosophy. The reason should be evident: philosophy helps put into perspective the findings of science, and thus the individual’s reaction to science as well. Now that value has been re-established in philosophy, one can now move on to more pressing matters.  

In recent times there has been a growing number of people making and asserting propositions without the relative evidence to support. These ‘suppositions’ are made purely by individuals who hold unfound presuppositions about the world around them; they do not appear to be in the business of aligning their beliefs with reality, but are instead in the business of asserting their version of reality upon others. They are a part of religions, and a part of extreme ideologies who wish to corrupt the well of deeper understanding with distorted ways of viewing the world.  When one implicitly assumes the answer to a question that has not yet been given a substantiated answer, what they are enacting is the renouncement of evidence for their suppositions; providing an answer, before providing support for it, is the essence of presuppositionalism and fideism. Logic, reason and evidence should set the standard that one comes about acquiring knowledge. 

In apologetics, the branch of theology that deals with the defence of faith, there is a branch dedicated solely towards presuppositionalism. Presuppositional apologetics, in Christian theology, assumes that opponents of the faith are aware of a God’s (Christian God) existence, but are denying the reality of it due to their desire to sin. Presuppositional apologetics – unlike other branches of theology that deal with evidence for the existence of a God – serves to undermine evidence, and instead argues that other worldviews use different standards by which to come towards truth; that if they had to appeal to such standards it would only negate their own standards. Fideism is the main epistemological system at play when it comes to presuppositional apologetics. As a freethinker one might have heard of the term, or its much more accurate denotation, “faith over reason”. This epistemological position, birthed as a reaction to the rational movement of the 17th century, has been the standard by which most of Christian theology has been organised. Fideism argues that faith is a much more valuable tool in understanding the world than reason is – and any such argument for the contrary is seen as a hostile reproach to the position of faith. Fideism is the foundation by which all – I repeat – ALL religions are built.  Therefore, it is imperative that this foundation be attacked, and subsequently destroyed.

Fideism is the most pernicious force in the world today, as it is not only a force that is widespread, but it is a force that is hidden in plain sight. People refer to it by another name: faith. Let it be clear that the word faith only refers to the, “belief without evidence” – what the word “fideism” refers to is a kind of faithism, where an ideology is at play. People are not merely believing things without evidence – of course not – what they are doing is holding onto their beliefs in spite of the evidence. Since the major monotheistic religions rely on faith for their foundation, it is thus imperative for them to oppose any form of reformation to the contrary, as they know that any reformation will inevitably lead to the destruction of their religion. In the pursuit of epistemology, and the understanding of the paradigm of existence, one should use reason logic and evidence in their dealings. This may raise the question as to, “why?” with the response being; “Because, if we are to understand the world we inhabit, then would it not be helpful if we use our brains to logically deduce things based upon observations of that world, and posit ideas based on those observations?” The essence of understanding the world – one cannot stress this enough – is reasoning within it; for when we reason within it we can focus on building a better world. However, if we reason outside of it, when we forsake reality, then we forsake our future as a species; when humanity concerns itself with the prospects of another realm it forsakes the realm it occupies, and hence forsakes its actions. Let the foundation of tomorrow’s world be built on top of steady supports, not weak ones. It is for this reason that an empirical foundation be laid. 

Being a sceptic implies taking critical assessment towards claims made in absolute certainty, and claims made in the light of absolute knowledge. The reason as to why scepticism is such an important asset in the accumulation of knowledge is because it demands individuals to question what they know – and in so doing forces them to remodel how they view the world. The sceptic demands evidence for claims, and otherwise will remain unconvinced until sufficient evidence is provided to justify said claims. Being a sceptic would imply that one sets a standard of scrutiny to both their own, and others claims’. To put this into perspective with the conversation on presuppositionalism, one needs to attribute scepticism towards such assumptions if they have little-no evidence. Furthermore, scepticism is closely related to critical thinking. Critical thinking is teaching the individual how to think as opposed to what to think, the distinction is important; the latter referring to answers without explanations, which makes the individual dependant of an arbiter for understanding (this can open an individual up to a lot of external dependency; this is primarily denigrating, when you consider that media outlets, as well as political discourses, harper on public support), whereas the former is referring to explanations that allow for answers. By showing the individual how to analyse the problems and work out solutions, the individual becomes less dependent of an arbiter for understanding; allowing them the autonomy to approach any solution without regress. 

For this is the essence of what it is to be a thinker; the freethinker is living in the ‘second enlightenment’. Though many may disagree on this notion, with the growing relation that ignorance is having on humanity, but they forget that as long as people think, thoughts and visions will never perish. Freethinkers, scientists and philosophers all must keep in the pursuit of epistemology, through logic, reason and evidence. Where they think critically about the world around them, and demand evidence claims are made. Never taking dogma or rhetoric as standard, always doing their own research, and making sure what they read or hear is in line with the facts. Scrutiny is the first step in the great learning process of life, and as a result it is best one use it properly.

Knowledge is power.

Use it.

Written by: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


Letters to a concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #6: Call to Change

Dear Thinker.

There are two guarantees that the acquisition of knowledge brings: empowerment and freedom. It is these rewards that are guaranteed to all those who seek to rid themselves of the greatest enslaver of humanity: Ignorance. As a freethinker, as a person – as a normal individual – it should not be common to simply accept ignorance, especially if it harms you. Therefore, being apathetic to low standards of living – apathetic to ignorance and so on – should be negatively viewed rather than promoted. Ignorance and Apathy are the two most harmful viruses humanity has ever encountered. Both need to be cured with knowledge and progression; for both ignorance and apathy are enemies, and never allies. It is for this reason that I now attempt to rally to the defence of knowledge, and attempt to establish important principles.

The first one of these principles is as follows:
Question everything.

Socrates was right to posit such a strong statement, its power is evident in the way it changed Ancient Greek society and the world; thus the Socratic method (as aforementioned in Socrates’ statement) is a basis by which every human should rest their head. The ability to question authority – question the ‘normal’, the ‘common’ – is a fundamental liberty all of humanity has access to. Those who abuse their power, who attempt to shift the burden of responsibility off of themselves and onto the people, wish to rid themselves from the questioning of the constituency they have power over. In times like these, it is imperative that all subjects renounce the power from their abuser, whether it is by force or by mere scrutiny. Any elected government has its power solely rested on the people, and it is at any time that the people can renounce that power, and elect a new government to represent them. The ability to question authority, and the ability to question anything for that matter, is a liberty that should be exercised whenever the circumstance demands.

The second one of these principles is as follows:
Never be satisfied with rhetoric.

Always seek the merit of an argument, not on the basis of who utters it, but on the basis of that argument’s ability to reason properly. (It should be mentioned, that those who promise the world will speak with poise and grace, yet they have no intention on allowing that which they had promised to come into light. Such people will speak to persuade and deceive.)Take an argument based on its validity, and the ability of the points of that argument to align with reality; if there is no evidence, suspend judgement and do not accept anything on faith. (The minds of the foolish accept the cons of the well-spoken.) It is for this reason that one should seek the evidence of an argument, and reject the argument if the evidence is not sound. For the aforementioned reasons, it should never be satisfactory for a person to accept rhetoric; for rhetoric is a tool used to persuade, not a tool of validation. 

The third one of these principles is as follows:
Never be satisfied with poor living standards.

Apathy is a great virus that has been let loose on society. Should a person in poverty simply accept their poverty? Or should they take it upon themselves, or others take upon themselves, to help the person out of poverty? Why has our society got use to the idea of poverty? Why, when we switch on our televisions, should we get use to images of violence, hatred, death and misery? These things should deplore us, yet we say to ourselves, “There’s another one” and such. This apathetic attitude should be a warning; a warning that society needs to call to change. Humanity is a social species, yet every rotation of the hand we get slowly colder and more apathetic to poor living standards. Every single one of us on this planet should be activists against this apathy; for it simply making us more distort in thinking. We should seek to change the way in which we look at such disgusting things, such as violence, and help others when we can. A writer helps by spreading ideas to others, through written language, in the hopes that one of many who read will learn something about themselves, or the world around them; inspired in some way to do something to change the world, and make it better. Even the softest voice can have a dramatic effect on a person’s life. Never be satisfied with poor living standards.

The fourth one of these principles is as follows:
Oppose injustice.

Do what you can fellow freethinker to oppose wickedness, injustice and intolerance. In free-society, it should be are top priority as people to keep it free and as open as possible, even if we think others around us do not deserve it. As individuals, we should seek to promote the moral high ground: the principle of taking the higher ground to events that would incline us to do otherwise. When we see violence we should not engage with that violence; we should seek to engage instead in discussion and resolve issues not with our fists, but with our words – lest we stoop to a low level. My dear free-thinker, you should always seek to resolve issues and matters peacefully than otherwise. Oppose, as you can, those who seek to take the rights of others away, such as those who oppose the consent of a mother to rid herself of her own appendage (abortion) if she so chooses. One should always oppose injustice; wherever it may be.

The fifth, and final, one of these principles is as follows:
Promote education; plant the seeds of a brighter world.

In order to counter ignorance and apathy, we should seek to promote education, not just the type of formal robotic education that one may receive in the classroom, but the acquisition and willing to garter knowledge and understanding in each case one faces. The role of education is to make the individuals autonomous in their thinking; to be able to know how to think, as opposed to what to think. (Unfortunately many have confused the latter for the former.) To learn willingly, without imposition, should be the goal of any educational establishment; for when one wants to learn about the world around them, they will become adventurers in a brave new world. Wanting to learn about the world in which one lives in – how it operates, by what means it can be better understood and so on – helps one plant the seeds of a brighter world. It is for this reason that every individual, by their very ability to communicate, can teach and should teach. 

I hope my fellow freethinkers take these principles to heart and mind; for when a generation can stand by their principles, regardless of the enemy that opposes them, then they are able to establish tomorrow’s brighter world. With that said I now call upon you, my fellow freethinker, to take what you can from these principles and help build the future world. The only question that you have to ask yourself now is: Will I help build the future?

Knowledge is Power.
Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


Letters to a Concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #4: Unity and Humanistic Thinking

Dear Thinker. 

It is now time to address human thinking; primarily that of its yearning for kingship. Human solidarity is at the heart of our species; we wish to be in unison with one another, despite our differences. A common alliance with our brothers and sisters from across lands is an idea – a dream – which is pervasive in cultures across the globe. Face it; we are better together than in solitude. Together we build empires; torn apart we destroy them. Unity is the means by which humanity expresses the best of itself. Humanity is a social species, and as a social species the structure of the future rests upon a basic underlying idea of human solidarity. However, despite this underlying yearning, we still manage to displace ourselves; we still manage to erect walls, limit immigration and confine ourselves to warring sub-divisions. The idea of global unity, a global human solidarity, has become a concept that is now loosely thrown about by humans; few really take it to heart.  Time and cynicism have corrupted the idea of global unity; these things have moulded its outer structure to the point at which it is scarcely taken with any seriousness. It is portrayed, often at times as a “pipe-dream” a “lost cause”.

Our History is laced with men wanting to bring unity and prosperity, and when given support by the people these same men corrupt the idea with their yearnings for the primal instincts. It is a conflict between a yearning for human solidarity, and a yearning for dominance.  Disgusting it is to witness such men who attach themselves to good intentions, squander them for the desires of such simple dominance over their fellow primate. Examples bare themselves throughout the decadent pages of history; red banners flow from the Bolsheviks; the cults of national-socialists come to mind – adorned with banners symbolising peace and nationalism to hide their true intentions. These groups intentions may have been good, but poisoned they were by their incipient need to be kings of their surroundings. Ideals seem to cloud their thinking. Problems arise when humans fight for unity as a principle, but never maintain the ideal once it is established. As Sun Tzu wrote in the Art of War, those who only plan for battle and never for the aftermath, or the replenishment of their troops, have been careless in their endeavours: “In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good.”(3:1.) By these men who squander the ideal of unity they encase it in a mere lifeless dream; no methods, no motivation to seek a better field vision, nor a respectable doctrine of the sorts. History is thus the story of humanity’s struggle between these two polar yearnings. The resolution between these opposites lay in humanism, specifically that of a “practical humanism”. 

Humanism is a philosophy of human solidarity; it is a philosophy which wishes to impart humanity with a sense of itself in the cosmos. Humanism is a philosophy that departs from the need for an external, overarching and prevalent creator; it is a philosophy for humanity alone. We are born to this world and have but one life to live, how we live it will most certainly impact upon others; thus it is best for one to live in unison with their fellows than to be at war with them. To insure that our families, friends and those who we love, and those we coexist with, flourish as conscious creatures, humanism emphasises the need for unity.  Practical humanism is the means by which one pursues this unity. It emphasises the need for reason, empathy and altruism when dealing with our fellow global citizens.  By finding a commonality amongst us and seeking to build a brighter future based on that fact, and through the deploring of autocracy, totalitarianism – the mean by which humanity is caged – humanity can seek liberation from its hardships, and begin to aid itself.

Yet, there still remains a problem in this endeavour. How are we to achieve such an acknowledgement of our condition? Well, I have sought – in my endeavours – to provide a methodology. Indulge me for a few moments, while I explain this methodology. This methodology is the product of the postulations that have been made in response to problems that I have seen facing societal improvement; such as problems of social acceptance, class, human rights and the quality of life. These come as the result from my observations of history, as well the environment around me. In response to these problems I have come up with three ‘E’s, these are as follows:

Emancipation – that is to say to ‘free’ oneself from the shackles of ignorance or unknowing – is the primary focus of the individual; it is better to be unshackled than captive to one’s own ignorance. Education is the means by which we unshackle the chains of ignorance. Through the acquisition of knowledge we achieve the ability to improve, not only our lifestyle, but our resilience to fear; for fear is the product of ignorance. Education also gives rise to social awareness and the social acceptance of people’s rights, which in turn allows for progression; human progression comes as the result of liberty, and the bestowing of rights upon the individual. Education emancipates the mind from the shackles of ignorance, and empowers the individual towards enlightenment. Empowerment is the end result of this sequence; by giving strength to people through education, one has allowed for them to be self-reliant, self-aware and self-motivated. These things lead to a betterment of the human condition, as it allows individuals to be aware of the problems they face, and allow for them to seek out solutions to those problems. Empowerment leads to enlightenment, which is the final stage of human progression: the state at which humanity is aware of its condition in the cosmos.

As one can see by the aforementioned methodology, unity becomes possible through the acknowledgement of the human condition. If one adheres to practical humanism (the methodology I have expressed above) then one can achieve a better world; the tree of tomorrow’s world grows with the seeds that we plant today. Humanism seeks to plant such seeds, as it believes it is more than just ‘sufficient’ to do so; but that it is in fact a fundamental necessity. Remember that the future is built upon the ideals laid down in today’s world, and it is only when we plant the seeds of a better world today that we will receive one tomorrow. Furthermore, nothing can be said more vehemently than the advocacy of change to the social problems; the youth depend upon it. If we plant the seeds of destruction today, then we will reap the consequences tomorrow. It is for this reason and others that we should seek to better our world; to seek out love for its own sake, and to seek out unity for humanity’s sake. When we do these things we build a brighter world…and a brighter future.

Knowledge is Power.

Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson 


Letters to a concerned Free-thinker, Letter #3: The Great Wager

Dear Thinker.

Across your journey of self-enlightenment, you shall meet many a con-man who offers their version of reality in manners that are palpable to your ears. You will meet men who speak eloquently, look sophisticated, and yet hold irrational beliefs based purely on their situation; the situation that chance allowed them to be born into. I am talking of course to the men in suits who adorn themselves in the relics of conformity and piety – sharp in wit, sly in tongue: Devils of their craft. The tongues of these vipers are curved in manners that appear tantalizingly brilliant, yet are hollow and raw. Wolves in sheep’s clothing, hiding their nature in the words they espouse, hiding their allegiance in the manner of sophistication they appear. You may as well ask who they are. They are the men who use solely arguments, solely rhetoric, solely language to get by in life. Who pass the gates of acceptance, but fail to get in the gates of science. The men and women, who never back up their statements, who never support their claims, who always result to prove themselves by applying a smoke screen to cover up the faults in their arguments: the theologian, the con-man, the liar, the politician, the deceiver of facts, and promoter of an agenda. These men are the ones who hold sway to the irrational…mostly that is. Once in a while slips through the guarded gates of reason a diplomat – an emissary of the irrational; adorned in decadent dress, willing to offer one last fair grace. Blaise Pascal is one of these diplomats. 

A man of the classical tradition, Pascal was a mathematician by day and a theologian by night. He came up with the popular wager known as, “Pascal’s wager” (The great gambit). We can see from what he espoused in Pensees that this argument was not given in jest; it was given as an ultimatum to the side that had yet to give its obedience to a super-natural deity: the atheist. As clothed in sheep’s wear this argument makes itself due. One is offered a heads or tails kind of deal. One is told that there are four options, in each option one is asked to weigh the odds; one is asked to make a cost-benefit analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of not believing in a God’s existence…the Christian God that is. These options can be expressed as so:

1. If you believe and you find out there is no God, when you die, then you lose nothing.
2.     If you don’t believe and you find out there is no God, when you die, you lose nothing.
3.     If you don’t believe and you find out there is a God, when you die, you lose everything.
4.     If you believe and you find out there is a God, when you die, you gain everything.
Therefore a belief in God is more beneficial either way.

When this argument came knocking on my door, on a cold day in the month of July, by a desperate school teacher who wanted me to restore my faith in God, this argument made me chuckle. There are many faults with the gambit that it is scarcely surprising why it is still used as an argument for belief. The structure of the argument is rather tedious when one is exposed to it by the naivest of believers on a monthly basis; it is embarrassing also to see apatheists encounter it for the first time, as they have the faintest idea of how to rebut it. It is used by the most infantile believers on non-believers; and for this reason it has to be rebutted at once, and what better way than in this letter to you.

There are three problems that I have found with this argument, and they can be expressed as so: 

The first and most obvious problem with this argument is the lack of clarity as to which God is being mentioned. Is one to suppose that this is the Christian God? What about the Islamic God? I do not find reason to believe that this argument excludes those options; for each of the variety of gods mentioned will change the variables of the outcome given to the assessor, who will have to weigh the options. Instead of a hell as in the Christian sense, there would be an Islamic Hell, which happens to be given to the infidel who does not believe in Allah’s existence (you are screwed in other words.) The second problem with this argument is that it is not an argument for the existence of a God; it is, instead, an argument for the belief in the existence of a God. This is problematic because of the nature of what warrants a belief. For one to believe in something they must be given justification, one cannot simply will their belief into existence. Though there may appear to be reasons given to believe in a God’s existence, those which can be summed up in the line “save your ass from damnation”, these are not good reasons. I cannot scare someone to my position, and if I do it is purely an act of coercion on my part. The final criticism one has to the argument, and one which should be noted, is the sheer gullibility it assumes of the assessor. Is God so easily tricked by an act of faith? Is God really to take such weak a believer? What about the doctrines of the holy texts? Are they null and void all of a sudden? How weak faith in God must be for such an argument to still hold water. It insults the assessor by assuming them gullible enough to take – what can only be described – as a con of the most dastardly of fashion. In almost a belittling tone it comes to us with the word, “you are so easily fooled, you most certainly will take my wager”. If this is Pascal’s best attempt at convincing the free-thinker, then he has failed in the highest regard. 

As you can see my friend this is the kind of rhetoric we are against; convoluted word games that present premises in structured-a-manner, and in such a diabolical of fashion. It does damage to the mind to see such dissention. It is for this reason that I have brought it upon myself to present its refutation here, in the hopes that at least one more mind may be speared by such hallowing of argumentation. As a young free thinker be aware of whom you meet and what they say – especially how they say it. Do this, and you will always be ready to take on anything.

Knowledge is Power.
use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


Letters to a Concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #2: Socrates and Knowledge:

Dear thinker.

A confident stand on the Limitations of a person’s capability to fully know about their existence is a defining step in the maturity of a human being; as to be self-aware of those limitations gives person grounds, not only to improve in their understanding, but also their perspective as well. Knowledge begins when enquiry begins; to ask leads to finding answers, by which one uses methodologies (ways of finding out the answers to questions they have) to systematically approach the problems they have. These methodologies are often Socratic and scientific in nature. Methods by which one finds answers grows one’s understanding, and further moves those limitations away; moving the boundaries of ignorance away from their position of knowledge. Though ignorance may still be looming just beyond one’s vision, and may still be there, the individual’s knowledge is in its best ability to counter it. However, to expand upon the boundaries of one’s knowledge they need to understand what opposes them: they need to take into account what ignorance is. Ignorance means, “lack of knowledge” or the “absence of knowledge”. Knowledge is defined as: The expansion of enlightenment, achieved through the process of learning and discovering, which seeks to allow or increase one’s ability of thought and understanding.  Long winded in nature, it still gives one prominence to understand the nature of thought, and its enquiry.

Socrates was the first philosopher, who is best known for the development of the ‘ask and seek’ methodology now known as the Socratic Method. Socrates employed this method in response to the sophist leaders of the day – men, often in the high positions in the Greek government, who were trained in rhetorical tactics, such as persuasion and oration. Sophists were religious leaders – the ‘go-to-guys’ – the individuals that were the arbiters of knowledge. They were the individuals that Greek society trusted for leadership, knowledge and power. The Socratic Method was developed in response to these sophists; sophists who withheld knowledge from the general public. Socrates started with the acknowledgements of his un-knowingness – the acceptance of his own ignorance. He loved wisdom, and he sought to ‘question everything’, including that of authority. 

The Socratic Method became popular in the 4th century [B.C.E] among the youth in Athens, who at that time had set lives, either becoming a soldier or a scholar; well females became wives and the cattle of the day. Socrates developed a following, which initially consisted of his pupils Plato and Xenophon, but grew slowly over the following two years; these followers became renowned future philosophers, who would go onto advance upon Socrates’ teachings. However, when the sophists got wind of Socrates’ following, in the high courts of the Greek government, their response was swift and brutal. The sophist leaders outlawed meetings and arrested Socrates. It was in 399 B.C.E, and under the captivity of the Greek authorities, that Socrates was placed on Trial; it was to be the greatest trial in Ancient Greek history.

 Surrounded by his fellow pupils and before the Greek courts, Socrates laid witness to a barrage of accusations against him. In those days Greek courts were performance halls, where spectators would vote upon the guiltiness of the accused. Meletus, one of the accusers, had laid the charge of impiety and the corruption of the youth against Socrates. Socrates, having only sought to promote free-thinking, scepticism and wisdom fought valiantly against the charges laid against him. Socrates had only informed the people of Athens to think critically, and to question their authority figures, who he believed were leading the people of Athens down the path of destruction. Plato records the trial in his book, Apology. The result of the trial, though valiantly defended by Socrates, resulted in 56% of the jury voting against Socrates favour. Socrates was thus given two options: The first was to renounce his teachings and go into hiding; the second was the death Penalty. Socrates chose the latter of the two options.

 The Greek Soldiers took Socrates before the Sophists; in a large imperial like manner, the guards thrust Socrates before the court room floor (Phaedo is a Platonic piece of work outlining all the occurrences that Plato witnessed). The sophists wished for Socrates to renounce his teachings before the court, and go off into exile in the outskirts of Athens as a disgrace. Socrates sought not to allow them to get the final word, and instead said before the court a long speech that highlighted the importance of learning and the future of the state. He said that he would rather “die” then give up what he thought to be right and Just. So the sophists allowed him the option to take his life…and he did. Socrates ate Conium, a flower that caused death upon digestion. Before the court and his followers, he gave up his life: the true sense of strength. After Socrates had given his life, the Greek government began to outlaw his teachings; they cast laws against gatherings and so forth.

The story of Socrates tells us as people the value of what it means to stand up against authority; it tells us as people what it means to die for what one knows to be right and just. Socrates example showed the sheer passion he had for everyone, as he wanted to show the value of wisdom, enquiry, and justice: true justice. He taught that when one expresses their ideas, they should be prepared to defend them; for true character is shown in those that can defend their ideas despite the opposition they are posed. Socrates embodied this to its bitter conclusion; He chose death when he could have had life. Socrates death is a statement to the power of human determination, and to the power of the human condition. Socrates death is also a warning for us to not be contempt in our knowledge; to seek out new-found knowledge through enquiry, all in the betterment of ourselves and the world we choose to live in.

Knowledge is Power

This letter I write to you now.

Written by: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


Letters to a Concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #1: Purpose:

Dear Thinker.

The worst human crime that one can bestow upon another, the crime that one should not seek to spread, is the crime of appropriated purpose; it is a crime to tell someone what their purpose is.

I once was asked by a stranger, well walking past the usual corner store that I pass on my trips home from my department, the question:“What is the purpose of life?” Having been at that time not particularly interested in existential musings – more interested in stock numbers – and not really in the best frame of mind to talk to as well, I responded with a question of my own, “What is the meaning of your life?“- All in the expectation of avoiding conversation. However, what I did not expect was his quick and strange response, “the meaning of my life is subjective: purpose is not”, and the stare that accompanied it. Instead of engaging further, I sought to rush home as soon as possible and get away from the individual. It was during that night that the most peculiar thoughts came to my mind; thoughts at which I now express here.

The question that the stranger has initially asked, well strange, was in fact an objective question. If one is to consider the question, “what is the purpose of life?” and compare it with the question, “what is the meaning of your life?” one will notice an interesting difference. Well the latter is easily recognised as being a subjective question on the basis of the pronoun “your”, the former, however, is not as easily recognisable. The former carries with it an objective property, this being the noun “purpose”, which can be either taken subjectively (depending on the context), or objectively (again, depending on the context).  Depending upon how the individual views the question, the answer to it will shape their mental framework. If one viewed the question in a subjective manner, then the answer would depend upon the person assessing it; the street sweeper might find the purpose to their life in the medial task they do. If, however, one were to view the question in an objective manner, then the answer would not be determined by the person assessing it; the street sweeper might find the purpose to their life as not being in the medial task they do, and in some external factor. Objectivity is not the ideal form of a property; objectivity is rather the maximum potential of a property to be ideal. Instead of purpose being strictly the ideal vision of a system, purpose is instead the maximum potential for that system to be ideal. The biological purpose of a mammal is to reproduce and spread their genes; however the mammal can only get as close to that ideal. I distinctly remember my writings as an adolescent, who was still wondering about my place in this cosmos. Some of the notes have been provided below:

The first time someone tells you what your purpose is, is the moment you know that they are deciding an answer for you. No one can answer the question for you; no one!

It is you who answers it. For that answer you give is one that, not only is one of liberty, but freedom as well. Humans seem to want control over their neighbour’s lives, more so then they should. From religious apologists to concerned passers, everyone seems to want to have a say in each other’s destiny. It is, however, always bad; we all, after all, share a ‘room’ with our neighbour, and what we do in that room affects what our neighbour will do. Yet, purpose and meaning are still our own to decide; our neighbour may share the same room, but in effect we have our own book to write. We keep our own book on a shelf, or a different shelf (dependent what types of shelves you get cheap), the point is there are separate books, one for us and the one for our neighbours. By having the liberty and freedom to the contents in the book with which we write in, it will allow one the greatest of rights. The problem comes when others start writing in our own book.

When your neighbour writes the contents and decides what happens next, directing you in what way they wish you to go, you will have your freedom impeded upon. Putting this into perspective, the people who tell you the answer to a question that only concerns you are the ones threatening your liberty and freedom. People must be aware of their neighbour’s activity, if it concerns their interests. This is not to be taken as ‘peaking over your neighbour’s shoulder, while they write’ (though there will be those that do, to you, and you may do it in-spite of your neighbour), or ‘taking your neighbour’s book and scanning through its contents’, no. It is to say to be aware of your neighbour’s presence. People forget about the company they keep, and it is this forgetfulness that can prove their downfall.

As one can see by my writings, I have since developed in my attitude towards the book one places on their shelf. Though everyone has the liberty to write what they wish, and in that affect live the way they wish, there will always be a collision of ideals. We live in unison to others, we interact with others on a daily basis, some by accident, others not. The stranger that I had met only asked me a question that I should have given a proper answer to, but in my arrogance I left it. In some way I have left a tiny note in their book, but I do not think it is one that I might approve of…but that is how the wind blew that day. Looking back on some of my notes, and recollecting at the nature I wrote them in; I cannot help but mention one last note:

For meaning and purpose may be yours to decide, the answer is not always permanent; it is forever changing as time and circumstance allows it to do so. For the look in the room may grow weary with time, but as long as there is the author to write out the book of their life, the room will always be vibrant, and will always live on. When all the time is up and the last words written, it will join a great library where it will remain as an omen of what once was the author’s words.

This I write to you.
Knowledge is power.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson 19/02/2014
(revised 7/04/2015)