The Woe Of A Dreamer

Lost in an echo long since uttered…in a place long since forgotten.
We have time to be; and pick out the hollowed reminisce of an echo.
Dreams come so quickly before leaving.
The mind seems to be at a miss to their origins;
only having time to remember glimpses of past experiences.
Playing those treasured moments back in a reel,
like a film which never ends.

The long to return to some distant dream;
to some distant corner of paradise… seems impossible.
The moments that haunt can never be replayed as they once were originally.
Those moments of revelation, that draw the mind to explain the mystery of the day,
are only realised in those passing lights.

Beauty is exaggerated; hurtful pains hit home to gripping moments.
Knees are dropped to engage for but-a-fraction, before entirely disappearing….
Why cannot the moment remain for longer?
Why must it flee with the recoiling of darkness?
Why must the dream end?

The dream of the world to be as it was,
(the dream for it to return to a state of innocence)
can be heart aching.

It is human desire to become a child once more;
echoing the longest of woes.
The human mind’s desire to be a child once more;
to be innocent, care-free, calm and secure.
The shift from childhood to adult can (and is) the most turbulent of mental storms.
For if winds be too much, those sails that carry across ocean waves…
lead to rocky shores….

And so was the woe of the dreamer.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


Liberty and Responsibility: two sides of the same coin

The liberty to speak one’s mind does not make them immune from the criticism of others; if one is willing to open their mouth and be heard, they should realise that they are responsible for what they say and how they say it. For liberty does not just mean the freedom to speak or act in a manner one chooses, but it also means the responsibility of the individual to stand by what they say and do. A person should never be afraid to express the liberties they have, they just need to have the mindfulness to know the consequences that those liberties bring on others. The liberty of expression comes in unison with the responsibility of expression; when we express ourselves to others, we are doing so with them in mind. It is thus for this reason that an equilibrium between the liberty to express and the responsibility of that expression, be made. All people are granted liberties, but with these liberties come the burden of responsibility. 

It is with such liberties that we are made aware of our responsibilities. When citizens of liberal democracies have the liberty to speak openly and honestly, they are to be weary of the words they use; being aware of the affects that words have on others, can be the difference between free speech and hate speech. With words we can create discussion and inform individuals about the thoughts that captivate our minds; we can introduce them to new perspectives that allow their inner spirit to transcend the bounds of flesh that shackle them. This leads to healthy prosperity in society. Yet, when we abuse this liberty by hurling insults against others; when we seek to only fuel the flames of wrath that so to easily burn away the fabric of society, we leave nothing but the charred remains of what could have been. 

In the words of Voltaire, “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”; George Orwell would later retort this by saying, “I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the death your right to make an ass of yourself.” This is to be our attitude to expression.

It is with such a liberty, that it is imperative we conduct ourselves in a manner appropriate with one another. If the liberty of conduct is brought with it-like that of speech-a responsibility, that responsibility will be up to the individual to ensure that their liberties do not encroach on the wills of others. As a general rule, we should not seek to impose our liberties on others if it is against their will; this is a crime of moral proportions, as it will go to the denigration of the well-being of our fellow Human. A large part of society consists of ensuring equality, and equality means taking others liberties into account besides one’s own. If a person intends to maintain their state, it is in their best interests to ensure the prosperity of all individuals within it; for one stick alone is easily breakable, but a bundle of sticks tied together, creates strength (Aesop’s famous, “The Bundle of sticks”, expresses this thought perfectly.).

Every Ying has a Yang, as expression of liberty and the acknowledgement of responsibility; we express but two sides of the same coin. In French, the expression of such thought is beautifully summed up in the following line:

“La liberté et la responsabilité,sont les deux faces, d’une même médaille.”…. “’Liberty and responsibility are but two sides of the same coin.”.

If one wishes to have liberty, they must remember the responsibilities that come with it. We are susceptible to biases all the time, and it is remembering that we have these biases that are important. Many of us wish to think of ourselves as competent in our abilities of speech, action and so forth. Yet, do we forget to realise that we have emotions? Do we forget to remember, that when we see our people be shouted at by viperous-a-tongue, and we see the morsel of eyes glitter with the waters of sorrow; do we not see that people have been hurt by the carelessness of one’s liberty of speech? Was it not the responsibility of he who utters a word, to keep in defence of their words and mindfulness of others’ thoughts? Is not the role of responsibility to ensure that one’s liberties do not impose on others? Many questions will be raised, and as long as society is open to discussion, questions like these will be continued to be raised. 

Congregations gather in churches and exercise their liberty to worship; those who do not, are exercising their liberty to be free from worship. Attached to these liberties there are words of caution:

Do not impose your beliefs on those who wish to be independent of them; for if you do impose your beliefs on them, you will be stepping on their toes and impeding on their liberties. As one who does not believe in any gods, I can say that in my nation [Australia], the role of religion is not entirely prominent; though churches may unfairly remain exempt from tax, and parliament remain bias towards the Christian religion when they open parliament in prayers, I still feel no direct imposition. If however, the state had to be ruled by an establishment of religion; this is to say, if it had to be ruled like say a, ‘theocracy’ or an, ‘eccliosocracy’ then I would have my liberty imposed upon. Yet, as I live (as do so many others) in a secular nation, where the church and the state are separate entities, I can be entitled to enjoy the liberty to be free from religious imposition; for the freedom to worship also inclines the freedom from worship. 

As more and more nation states begin to embrace democracy, and throw off the shackles of tyrannical rule imposed by those who would seek to abuse the equilibrium that must exist between liberty and responsibility; it is in this time, more than ever, that individuals need to be reminded about the principle of fairness, and be reminded how easily it is to lose this equilibrium between liberty and responsibility. Where so easily it has been said before, that one should ‘render their liberties for a bit more security’; these words uttered so many a times before by corrupted individuals; from every fascist ruler to every corrupt king. As global citizens, it is our active duty to point out corruption when we see it, and actively criticise those who would seek to take away liberty and replace it with tyranny. As we close to the point of thought, and we allow our cognitive faculties to interpret what has been expressed; we should leave with one final warning:

Language expresses ideas, and it is these ideas that mould society; if we do not keep wary of this, and instead allow language to be censored or regulated under the guise of pitiless excuses, we only seek to plant the seeds to the destruction of civil rights.

Acknowledgements for Art-work as well as Artist and Writers’ comments on the piece:

Art-work created by: Rainer Jacob (17/10/2014)

Rainer Jacob is the artist responsible for the sketch attached to this written piece; it is the third art-work out of his ‘Metamorphosis’ sketch album. The specs and art-work details, along with purchase place for his works are located below:

Metamorphosis · Tinte · Ink· 210 mm x 297 mm ·
Original 300,- Euro · Print Edition 30/30: 50,- Euro

http://www.rainerjacob.com

http://www.rainerjacob.com/drawings/morpheus/index_ger.html#e2382

Rainer Jacob’s comments about the Art-work and the written piece: “The thing that inspired me to draw the art-work was the line, 

“With words we can create discussion and inform individuals about the thoughts that captivate our minds; we can introduce them to new perspectives that allow their inner spirit to transcend the bounds of flesh that shackle them.” I took the crystal block instead of shackles; a block where we sculpture ourselves and our character, and I developed it…. Words are like wind; just molecules in motion, but it changes our thinking and our perspective. Intentionally, I was reversing the old patriarchal dualism: the whole “man= spiritual, woman=earth” thing…..We are much more…there is a third way, and above us is only sky; that turns us into humans with empathy. Neo-idealism is for me, to give up old symbolism and create our own vision; from idea to action. With responsibility for nature, because we are a part of it, and not the crown of it; we have to earn a soul, it is not given to us by higher beings, we alone have to behave respectfully towards all creation.”

Anthony Avice Du Buisson’s comments about the Art-work and the written piece: “The word, ‘liberty’, today has acquired an anarchistic undertone; no longer does it seem to carry the cultural significance it once had. Too much has it been used as an excuse for individuals to do whatever they like; instead of a responsible ‘liberty’, it has become a ‘YOLO (even that has lost its meaning); do whatever one wills etc.’. With this piece, I thought I might express the old meaning of the word; along with Rainer’s art-work, I felt that his expression of the sculptured man, carried the message across…we all are mere mortals given only a short bit of life to live out; better to live it together, than live it alone…”


Letters to a Concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #5: Immortality and Death

Dear Thinker.

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.
Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


Letters to a concerned Free-Thinker, Letter #10: Knowledge is power:

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

Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson

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

Dear Thinker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge is power.
Use it.

Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


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

Dear Thinker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Knowledge is power.

Use it.

Written by: Anthony Avice Du Buisson


Letters to a concerned Free-thinker, Letter #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 #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)