Generally what we deem “natural” is what we have understood in the world around us; from laws, to objects, organisms etc. Anything we find out to be a product of this world, whether it be by human hands, or by nature; is deemed in the “natural plain” (or realm) of existence. Hence Naturalism is the idea that this plain of existence has rules and laws by which it run, and that there is nothing outside this plain of existence by the sheer fact that if something does exist outside of our understanding of this realm, and we find out what it is, it becomes something “natural” as we have observed it in nature. Thus Naturalism, is an ever growing understanding of the world around us, and how it works.
Naturalism encompasses two aspects, Natural philosophy (science) and methodological naturalism (scientific method). These terms are not mutually exclusive as one operates with the other. Generally Science is man’s way of understanding the world around him; by positing ideas and forming hypothesis based on those ideas, then following out that hypothesis with experimentation. Allowing for evidence to be analysed and falsified before finally being concluded upon, based on where the evidence leads and what simple conclusions can be met (Occam’s Razor) from the experimentations. The element of demonstration and discussion is also a key part of the scientific method, for if it is a theory that weighs in the natural plain of existence it must be established in a way that can be related to that plain it is discussing (i.e give proof for your knowledge base idea).This method is also self-correcting, hence the falsification bit that was mentioned. Claims that aren’t falsifiable are not good explanations.
Now there has been much discussion on what then is to be deemed “Un-natural” or “super-natural”. Now there are a couple of problems firstly with these terms. What we consider to be natural is within our understanding of the plain of existence we in-habit. If we find laws by which we have not yet come across, we shall establish those laws as laws, and thus (as you can see) those”un-natural” laws, become “Natural” laws. Anything outside our understanding is often coined as being “un-natural” or in some aspects “super-natural”, however one has to point out that these terms are flawed by means that, if we find out about something; most likely we will establish it as being in the realm of existence i.e the “natural realm”.
The multi-verse and other such theories, posit multiple universes, that may operate on different physical and epistemic rules and laws. One could ask “Wouldn’t any universe, who’s laws are different to our own; be considered ‘not-natural’?” well you see the dilemma in that question. Here is an analogy that explains this sort of thinking. You have a Jewellery box, in it you have various sized boxes; each with its own content. The various smaller boxes represent different universes, with different laws. They all exist in the Larger Jewelry box, and that is what we consider to be natural. You see that discussion happens about what is deemed “un-natural” and “natural”, yet one must realize that what we don’t know is not “un-natural” for when we discover it, it is added in the list of what is natural or what can come about by means of natural laws.
This is why meta-physical claims, such as God and fairies, that posit super-natural explanations can not be falsified and thus are wrong. As they posit different realms that, if existed, would be encompassed in a larger realm that we would call natural. As anything we don’t know, that we find out, we add as something nature posits and creates; if intelligent beings existed outside the realm of space and time, they don’t exist to us. You see, meta-physical claims are flawed by the outset, and are un-scientific, and rely on a premise that is un-falsifiable.
This is why when one calls himself a “naturalist” at times they do not even realize what nature, or what the definition of a “naturalist” is. If you believe this realm of existence is the only existence, and you keep in mind what we discover will increase that plain of existence, then you are a naturalist. One would go a step further and state that all people are naturalists, by the sheer fact that if they believe in the “super-natural” they must realize that the term they are using is in sight of a lack of understanding of a possible realm within our existence, that if discovered, would become something “natural”, even though it was already natural to begin with. By this logic, it can be safely said, that the only realm of existence is the “natural realm”, and anything we do not understand is still “natural” as it occurs within our plain of existence; and when we find out about that thing which we do not understand, it becomes Natural.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
Mortality – whether or not we wish to admit it – is the condition that we are born into; one is born with a limited amount of time to indulge in existence before they are finally, and violently, thrown out of it. This may scare some of us, existence being a temporary thing, but it should not deter us from at least enjoying the experience of it. One cannot do anything about their mortal state – and as a result one should instead live out it to its natural end. Yet, with this fact of our own mortality there are still those who persist that there will be a next life; and who thus live out there life in the hopes of reaching it. Journalist and polemicist, Christopher Hitchens, put it plainly:
You are expelled from your mother’s uterus, as if shot from a cannon towards a barn door studded with old nail files and rusty hooks. It’s a matter of how you use up the intervening time in an intelligent and ironic way… [sic]
Death is the end, it is the figurative “barn door”, and how one chooses to live it is entirely up to them. This brings me to the nature of this letter, and the question I wish to address. It is the question of mortality vs immortality, and whether or not one is willing to consider if immortality is worthy a desire: would you want to live forever? You see, it is easy to give a simple answer with little thought and little dedicated time, but it is another matter to give a full answer with detail. Immortality is most desirable to humanity; the ability to forsake the chains of nature’s justice and escape death, is one which tempts us. It is for this reason that one wishes to dispense with the idea, and argue why immortality is not, as it is portrayed, a good desire to have.
Taken at a second glance and with a more scrupulous analysis, one can see why such an offer would be more harmful than good. Consider this: You have all the time in the world to do anything, how much effort do you exert on the things you do, given that you have all the time to do those activities you so desire? I could imagine the effort would not be as strenuous, given the fact that the time pressure that births the best of works is virtually absent; one of the largest incentives for completing a task becomes non-existent with immortality. Here we see is the first problem, the first “Red flag’” in this offer of immortality, there is no time limit or effort put upon the individual. Care and effort arises from the constraints of time; when there is a limit (in regards to ‘time’ being that limit), we will act accordingly – exerting as much care and effort as possible in completing the most trivial of tasks. The one who chooses immortality has no need to complete a task, for they can come back to it whenever they so choose to do so; why bother doing the task? However, one sees a bigger issue, one at which may be more relevant than the last. The ultimate consequence of immortality is that one’s life becomes Meaningless; nihilistic in nature. One will get to this a little later.
As mortals we know instinctively that what we do has an end to it; and thus, as if a slap to the face, it gives us a reality check at which to gather our intentions and move hastily towards a resolve of the occurrence we are faced. More time needs to go into each activity, and each activity has a unique individual attribute as morals derive meaning from these activities. Immortality takes away the unique individualism in those activities, and draws them to a simple one liner: “what’s next?” To emphasise this let me pose you an example:
Imagine if you will two distinctively different children. One is named Socrates Ballister, and the other is named Alice Locke. Both are given the exact same task, namely that of building a structure out of matchsticks. Socrates is given a limited time of 1 hour to complete the task, well Alison is not given a time; she is given the freedom to do other things. Imagine the state of Alice, how much time and effort she will exert as opposed to Socrates. Daily activities will become more predominant then the activity first given to her. Who knows, she could not even complete the task, or she could hold up the completion of the task for years to come. And suppose she eventually got to it, would she really exert as much effort? Socrates is different. He is limited in his task; meaning that he must use his intuition, the viable resources, dexterity and speed to hand in the structure before the hour is up. Socrates must place purpose into what he does, and dedicate his time and effort to his work. The reward given to Socrates is the acknowledgement of his own creation, which is what is sufficient. However, as for Alice she had no incentives – no burden placed on her shoulders to complete the task before her, and thus no reward.
The above example only highlights the value of time, and we all must not forget that time may be a great factor in the running of our activities in life; however, it is not the most predominant reason for life itself, or a purpose for the individual. Time allows for causality: if there is no beginning then there is no end; if there is no end then there is no beginning. If there is a beginning but no end, then there is an endless causal chain (logic would suggest) going on into oblivion. If there is a beginning and end, then there will be a natural cycle at which there will be a clear direction (outward perspective: one that is not contingent on inward relation). A mortal’s life consists of events that have natural ends. A person makes a cup of tea, the intended function of that cup is to provide sustenance to the drinker, and once this need is met it serves no purpose besides its initial one. Immortality is an infinite Cup of tea by which the initial purpose of sustenance is there but its value diminishes over-time; drying out its purpose, or initial value. The great importance of time and natural progression is its ability to initiate value in the subject that is a part of it; everything has a purpose, every means by which a person wakes, does an activity etc. As they provide a natural means by which to start another causal chain of events, by which all bear on that initial starter.
The immortal offer may sound good, but over-time the tasks that seemed worthwhile at the beginning, begins to lose value to the person initially doing it. As humans we have the tendency to imagine things in relative time (this is to say we view it as ‘close-time’, not thinking long-term about our decision processes.), but when we are speaking of ‘infinity’, which is the nature of time to an immortal, the amount of activities one does in that time will lose warranty faster than that of a mortal – but there is an added hook to the offer! The interaction one has with their fellow human being loses value, for the individual has to go through a succession of loves and heart breaches. For the price of immortality means that one can never love someone with their deepest passions, without the fear of losing them. Granted that this can also happen to mortals, but the good thing about mortality is that you can die and experience love in its truest sense, rather than experience loneliness in its truest sense. The only logical conclusion that one can draw is to simply not have any relationships; for if one does not have relationships then one cannot experience that pain of loss. However if humans are naturally a social species, who need unity and love to derive purpose, then would not that in itself diminish a purpose for the immortal, who is bound by time to stay, and who cannot by in unison with others? Say you did not care for your fellow constituency, and instead embellished in narcissistic luxuries. Say that you only cared for the material luxuries in your life. One must realise that those things also are temporary, and once those material possessions lose their appeal they will also fade away into obscurity; evermore losing value and steering you towards the point of boredom. Or will you embrace nihilism? In fact if you were an immortal in this case you would slowly become a nihilist, would you not? Then what would happen?
Religions seek to offer immortality; an eternal life in the form of heaven, or some sort of paradise, as an incentive for subscribing to their religious dogmas. It is in this case that one should refer to the aforementioned discussion, however, with the added incentive for reproach. In the most widely subscribed monotheistic, Abrahamic and messianic religions, the mandate of worship means an eternity of worship. One is offered heaven and a relationship with the almighty, “what could be so bad about that?” Now at first it sounds good, but keep in mind what eternity means. If one spends an entire lifetime climbing a steep mountain they will find that they have not even scratched the surface of the timescale of infinity, for there is no end in sight when talking about eternity.
By trading in one’s life for an afterlife, one is relinquishing the life they have for a fantasy; a fantasy of the darkest kind. For the fantasy they are given is a promise of an eternal worship of a narcissistic God, one at which there can be no expression of renouncement. A deity who can never relinquish its control over you, something that is no better than embracing nihilism, or embracing an ultimate surrender of the facilities as the offer from religion is bent on doing. Many people wish to leave the discussion on immortality when religion is interjected, as they fear it may affect them or may offend them. However, one must not forget that conversations to do with death, mortality and immortality are bound to collide with religious discussion eventually, why not start it here? As free-thinkers we must be ready to take on the opinions and statements of those of the religious lobby.
It would appear that a large proportion of humanity has not come to grips with their own mortality, many it would seem live for the next life rather than this one. They waist their life on the idea of an afterlife, and adjust their whole frame of focus to living out that ideal. The most devoutly religious individuals raise whole families under the guise that there will be an eternal bliss, an eternal paradise for them when they die. How sad it is to understand where religion originates, and the history of religion’s evolution through the epochs, and still see individuals cling to an ideal that clearly has no foundation. The only reason for why religion still holds prominence is because of the amount of individuals who raise their children with these beliefs, and who thus do psychological damage upon them by shifting their gaze off of reality. However I digress, and come to now to a speech that is to be mentioned. It comes from Christopher Hitchens, and it befitting of the aforementioned discussion on immortality. He was debating intelligent design advocate, William Dembski, it is in response to a question the moderator asked about eternal life, here it is:
Why don’t you accept this wonderful offer? [Eternal life in heaven] Why wouldn’t you like to meet Shakespeare, for example? I don’t know if you really think that when you die you can be corporeally reassembled and have conversations with authors from previous epochs. It’s not necessary that you believe that in Christian theology and I have to say that it sounds like a complete fairy-tale to me. The only reason I want to meet Shakespeare, or might even want to, is because I can meet him anytime because he is immortal in the works he’s left behind. If you’ve read those then meeting the author would almost certainly be a disappointment. But when Socrates was sentenced to death, for his philosophical investigations and for blasphemy for challenging the gods of the city, and he accepted his death he did say, “Well, if we are lucky perhaps I will be able to hold conversation with other great thinkers and philosophers and doubters, too.” In other words, that the discussion about what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble, what is pure, and what is true could always go on. Why is that important? Why would I like to do that? Because that’s the only conversation worth having. And whether it goes on or not after I die, I don’t know. But, I do know that it is the conversation I want to have while I am still alive. Which means that to me the offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way is an offer of something not worth having. I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet… that I haven’t understood enough… that I can’t know enough… that I am always hungrily operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way. And I’d urge you to look at those who tell you, those people who tell you at your age, that you are dead until you believe as they do. What a terrible thing to be telling to children. …and that you can only live by accepting an absolute authority. Don’t think of that as a gift. Think of it as a poisoned chalice. Push it aside however tempting it is. Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way. [sic] (Christopher Hitchens, William Dembski Versus Christopher Hitchens, 2010)
Hitchens, as do many great intellectuals and free-thinkers, pushes the harm of immortality no better in the aforementioned extract. One mentions him here since he has long since departed from this planet and contributed a good deal to the modern free-thought movement.
Immortality, in a way, is more harmful than good, because it steals the time away from us when it is most needed to motivate us. Mortality gives us perspective. It allows us to set aside much needed effort, focusing us to apply consideration to what we do now. Immortality gives us comfort when it is not needed, security when it is not warranted. Mortality gives us the stress when we need it. Time is the only difference between mortality and immortality, as to the mortal time is god, to the immortal time is merely an illusion. Yet, humanity thinks of itself as a god; humans longs to be immortals. With this said, and the last word made on the matter, one can only end with an extract from Alan Lightman’s beautiful book, Einstein’s Dreams, which was written in 1992. It emphasises the cost of immortality:
With Infinite Life comes an infinite list of relatives. Grandparents never die, nor do great-grandparents, great-aunts…and so on, back through the generations, all alive and offering advice. Sons never escape the shadows of their fathers. Nor do daughters of their mothers. No-one-ever comes into his own…such is the price of immortality. No person is whole. No Person is Free. (Alan Lightman, Einstein’s Dreams, p. 93, 1992)
Knowledge is Power.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
In times of silence, the greatest weapon that can be utilised is the power of speech; with it, the cloak of silence can be uplifted and communication restored. We all have ways at which we express ourselves and communicate to others our intentions; it can be both pronounced and subtle, it is all a matter of looking for the right indicators. Language, whether it is non-verbal, verbal or written, is language none-the-less and we express it in every single thing we do in our daily activities in life. Thought is communicated through language, the simple gesture communicates an array of thoughts that our brains’ subconsciously harvest and utilise; we build thought based from external pressures, daily conversations and daily interactions with one another. That is how societies come about; when humans communicate with humans, for the intentions and means of one another’s survival. This interaction evolves into something more than just hedonism and survival; it develops into admiration for the surreal. It develops into the love of the majestic in the natural world; aesthetic qualities, altruistic means, are each adopted by us when our intelligence evolves.
A young woman taught me a lot about myself, her words still echo in my mind even after her long departure. Alison Locke, a woman I shall forever remember, gave me one of the most powerful statements about the human condition; she told me,
“No one should give up so soon on the human condition, everyone who gives up on the human condition is giving up on themselves; for it takes but a moment to realise what it means. It has been said that many individuals do not feel adequate with their place amongst the daunting world, no one notices them, no one understands them; they tell themselves it is there fault for this abandonment. Oh, but it takes a moment to realise the power of one’s actions on another, if they had known that they are but one part of the human experience, if they had known that what they do has impact on others; then they most certainly may understand the state of the human condition. If only they had known their place amongst it, if they had only had the proper will to learn which is at the heart of all of a decent education, for it has been said many a time before…”
“Education is the match stick that lights the world a blaze with the will to learn; to be educated is to be in ability to pursue understanding of the world they inhabit. Education, emancipates the mind from the shackles of ignorance, and empowers the individual towards enlightenment. The human condition is the centre of all of us, what one may do now affects the whole part. My will to understand the world around me, is the will my fellow sister and brother has to understand themselves, ‘true enlightenment’, if it can be called that; is not solely latent in the dormant abyss, but is much more. Enlightenment is to find oneself amongst the abyss, to find understanding of the world around them well acknowledging the dark that surrounds them. That is why the human condition, is tied to us all, we all want to understand the world in which we inhabit, and we all want to be human! No better way of feeling human is to understand, or want to understand, the world around us; to be a part of the human experience, that is what we all do. We all live now with one another, and that is why no one can ever be separate from the human experience, they need only live now in the sun. That is the state of the human condition.”
Empowerment comes from education through the learning and understanding of not just the outer natural paradigm, but of experience of life and the individuals within it. We all are inspired by words that communicate empowerment, we all get goose bumps when listening to something that truly speaks to our metaphoric soul; such as a grand sympathy is being played that truly brings us to deep felt emotions. Our minds relay information from our senses, through sensory experience, our thoughts and expressions respond to this experience, and emotion comes from it. When we lose loved ones we feel the need to express our sensory experience we had with them, in the form of emotion; often that of tears, which brings us closer to those experiences we truly valued from them, its empathy at its finest! Empathy, the emotional attachments we have with one another, are subject to sensory experiences, and the moments we value are ones we remember; glimpses of those sensory experiences of reality are housed in our minds, like machines that store information, our brains hold those experiences in the form of memories. Emotions are built from them; expressions of deep felt belief in the form of passionate language, is just what it means to be human.
Concerned Free-thinker, both young and old, ideas that you express on paper and share with others do have an effect on them; this is guaranteed, but it should not be your intention to change others, it should only be your intention to express ideas. Do not write for fame, for it is an ever-more increasing cancer that consumes and destroys the body. Do not do it to be rich, for it too is a cancer that spreads. Do not try to be someone else, never mimic another man’s voice lest ye want to hold the baggage he carries; difference is uniqueness. An individual has but one life to lead, best they lead it doing something original rather than a copy of another’s. Seek uniqueness for its own sake, seek independence for its own sake, seek freedom of thought for its own sake; language is meant to express deep felt beliefs and this is just one aspect of language that truly makes it powerful.
There is something that should be addressed in this letter, it has to do with all of us, it has to do with the feeling of being alone; loneliness. There is something unique that connection brings, and that is love; it cannot be stressed enough, that the only cure to a lonely soul is love. There is someone out there who needs help, and the only way they are going to get it, is through the aid of another; this is tantamount to eradicating the sense of loneliness. We all want to feel secure, feel like our words are not falling on deaf ears; we wish to keep connected. This can sometimes be hard in a world that values the individual more than the collective. This is not entirely bad, because after all, we do need people finding their own voice, but we need to keep in mind while when we do this, that we do live among others and in communities. Some of us have families, our “tribes”, at which we use to interact with other “tribes” in an even bigger “Tribe”, we call society. We are social creatures and need to feel as if we are contributing, for if we do not we feel we are contributing we will instead feel that we are doing a detriment to society; this is why so many who have the feeling of loneliness think that no one loves them, if unchecked this feeling leads to an even greater sense, that one is simply not needed and therefore should rid himself from society all together. That is why suicide is such a prevalent matter in the western world, as in the west we privilege success and innovation, but forget community. As a thinker living in the west, you should remember that the way you can change this is through the words you write and the language you express; it can be said that the individual who can inspire just one person out of a crowd of millions, has the potential to change the world for the better. After all ideas are theoretical applications that are created in response to the world around us and the reality we live in, for the sole purpose that they have is to one day become practical applications that we can utilise in reality, to create a “progressive reality”. That is why thought, especially free-thought (not in the arrogance of selfish values) in a free-society, should be utilised for the better.
This brings us to the centre of this letter, and that has to do with the power of language, and its contribution to the empowerment of the individual through the enlightenment of the mind. Knowledge (as mentioned in the pursuit of epistemology letter to you), has to do with our understanding of the wider natural paradigm we exist in. We establish understanding through ideas that we have that are justified by the natural realm, to constitute it as being potentially valuable in understanding ourselves and the outer world of our brain. Language is one way we come about knowledge; through interaction, we can stir up the pot of ideas…two minds are indeed better than one. Enlightenment was built on the principle, that cooperation for the benefit of one’s understanding and one’s potential is crucial in achieving knowledge and understanding. The enlightenment movement of the 18th and 19th century that spawned science, individualism and the rejection of tradition, was built on this principle; better benefiting one another with education and empowerment of the self, rather than the acceptance of dogma from sources of “antiquity”. No longer was it the norm to simply nod about when given a potential source of information, the norm became cultivating and questioning the ideas within that information, for the better enlightenment of social activity and individual understanding.
With the introduction of free-thought, which then was a privileged gift from wealth (which is sad, because today wealth does play a major part in education; robbing “free” from “Free-thought.”), could be entitled to all. Poverty was created with this growing distinction between self-righteousness and self-enlightenment, very different things; the one seeks to view learning as a means to an end, the other sought to better fulfil one’s knowledge in accordance to others. The mistake when it comes to knowledge, is the illusion that knowledge somehow will guarantee you privilege; that is not the case, in fact, it can be said privilege only comes about through circumstance. People of enlightenment, may be knowledgeably better off, but often they miss circumstance to promote themselves and their constituency; living under the infatuation of another. This is why not everyone is remembered in the cannon of history, and a lot of individuals do get left out and marginalised. This is why circumstance and enlightenment harbour (unfortunately), appreciation in our materialist paradigm in the west. Now materialism is not necessarily a bad thing, after all, our bodies are made of organic material and one cannot help but note that to survive you must adopt the material.
Where does language fit exactly in the marketplace of ideas? Well dear thinker, where it fits is in the transportation of ideas to others; the value of the enlightenment introduced the mass production of ideas and the creation of the free enterprise. This enterprise was for all who were willing to take a rational approach to every day viewing. This is why nothing taken on faith is considered worth anything unless justified with sufficient evidence; for fools only accept things based on nothing. Knowledge is power, if you know how to use it; the reason why it is power, is because it can do one thing and that is empower. When people are empowered by ideas and understandings of those ideas, they will in all circumstances improve themselves; this is the nature of an enlightened mind, which always seeks to improve that which needs improvement. Books, poems, interactions etc., are all forms of inspiration and enlightenment for the individual, to not only find his voice, but acknowledge his place among the social species. Yet the enlightenment is not for the “privileged few, in some elitist mind out there, it is for everyone, and in-fact can only work effectively with the entire collective; as opposed to the minority of a culture. The measure of success really does come when the majority truly start to improve themselves, having the will to progress and change and spread the enlightenment to others in the way to help them. This is an ideology, not just an idea, but a belief put into practise; this may deter people, but it is the only ideology that seeks universal acceptance and fulfilment, why should it be deterred?
The essence of free-thought is housed in the enlightenment movement, never before could one read the works of great literature without being hassled by the government and tradition of the day. The burning of books by societies, that are ruled by those who reject the freedom to learn and the freedom that the enlightenment brings; are societies where suffering and misery increase, as silence is adopted and fear pressed, we should all be weary of the value of language being deplored in such societies. Language is at the centre of the trade and teaching of ideas to others, this communication that is at the heart of the pursuit of empowerment through the affirmation of knowledge, is central to the utilisation and enhancement of our species. When we step into the world and embrace it for what it is rather then what we want it to be (deplore nihilism), finding understanding from the things we are curious to find out about, then do we gain potential. We still do not know a lot about the world, we still are finding out new and interesting things about our existence and there is never enough for one to learn and understand, nor enough for one to teach (the essence of philosophy is its application to spread ideas to others, in the hopes of better fulfilment and enrichment.). There is never a lack of unknown things to be known, the world and the cosmos are filled with countless of undiscovered worlds and undiscovered things, which it would be foolish to ignore or learn from it. There was never a dull movement for words to play into the alteration of human development; (forgetting the old stories and lessons of history, in favour of the new, “Out with the old, in with the new”, as the old saying goes. The value of language in every day conversation is the main reason for progression among our species.) from the primitive grunts used for the most simplistic needs and survival between each other. This has evolved into huge applications and sophistications of letters and speech to be harvested by ourselves to better enhance the world. Who does not want to see the riddance of poverty, intolerance and injustice? Who does not want to see all these things which deplore man; rid of? It takes just one voice, one word to just one individual, to change the world; there is never an idea too small to be used, or too big to be understood. It just takes the will power to learn and embrace what is, beauty and enlightenment come from it.
This brings us to the end of the letter, my dear thinker, I have written many letters to you and I will continue to do so. But there is one thing I need you to remember, corny as it may sound, ‘never forget yourself’; in a world where conformity is pushed, and confusion rife, remember your voice. Remember why you learn in the first place, why you embrace the pursuit of epistemology, why you are willing to go the extra mile in the journey only limited to a short distance. “The journey of a thousand miles starts with the single step” (Leo Tzu) and you are taking that step and running. Socrates, Hitchens, Nietzsche, Sagan and all the other thinkers, philosophers, doubters and scientists had tough times finding their own voice; but at the end, men like these found themselves (though it was never easy) doing something truly revolutionary. Spreading the ideas they created to others, in the hopes of further improving the world. That is my goal as I write to you, that you take something from these letters as I continue to send them, some form of will to understand the world. The will to understand ideas and life, and all these things, take what you can from them and run for the mountain tops. Remember that we all stand on the shoulders of greatness, it only takes acknowledgement of this fact to truly wish to continue the pursuit of understanding; this is the heart of all that one has to offer now…just listen read closely.
Knowledge is power
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
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
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.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
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?
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
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.
Written by: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
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:
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:
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.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
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.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
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.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson