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

Dear Thinker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge is Power.
Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


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

Dear Thinker. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge is Power.

Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson 


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

Dear Thinker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge is Power.
use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


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

Dear thinker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge is Power

This letter I write to you now.

Written by: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


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

Dear Thinker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This I write to you.
Knowledge is power.

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