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
As the light from the moon peers in through the lattice of my cell, as it always has and most undoubtedly will continue to do so. It is time once more to return from the corner where my head has rested, to the glitter of the moonlight. As I slowly crawl, weak as never before, to the cell bars that have long confided me; I grip one bar, then the next and the next, slowly bringing myself up from the floor. The moonlight captures my attention as it caresses my face with its glow, it is another beautiful night with little sign of travesty, the breeze that follows my thoughts, is as calm as nature itself and as nature seems to relief once again, the feeling of the breeze eludes me. Temperance captures my soul. The wish to capture this small period of relief from the long agonizing day sets in, making me once again drop my head in sadness. Tears rush from my face, small droplets of life, draining from the windows of my soul. It is much to live as one is in happiness and security, but as the tides change and moments shift to his retraction, then life reveals its true head. Another thought passes me, like the breeze itself, another follows it; All of it is temporary, the thoughts in my mind repeat themselves, ever more getting louder with each repetition, All of it is temporary, from the stars above to marble below, all must come to an end sometime or another…never is anything eternal, never is anything immortal. Overwhelming myself with tears, ever more increasing, I drop to the ground. The light, very much still on my face now finds accompanied with it, drops of life; which drip from the windows of a long aching and heartfelt soul. As the moonlight twinkles in the droplets of the dead and cold, I feel the breeze caress my face once more.
Drifting aimlessly in the gentle breeze, seemingly going nowhere, well I bore my head in sadness; a small dandelion befalls me with humble a landing as ever I saw. Averting my head from the place where weepiness be my friend, gaze upon the small thing was the task that my eyes had set, and as if paused in time emotions fleeted me and temperance regained its hold over me once more. The small dandelion had seen its share of hard winds, with many of the small florets of its body absent from view; its stem, crooked from sea faring winds that long had besieged it. Yet, regardless of the travesty it had faced, regardless of the many florets that were taken from it; many small bits of its life. It still had managed to have landed somewhere new…somewhere different. In its small state of being it had managed to traverse great distances, through great winds and great travesties, losing much of itself to winds that spur like titans to man. Yet it continuously mounted on through the rain and sun, through the night and day; all of which to get to another place, in another corner of the globe. Only to be picked once more up by the wind; which would take it beyond the heavens and beyond the clouds to a new land once more.
All that has befallen me can be captured in that small dandelion, traversing the unknown reaches of the globe. In the moonlight that is creeping in through the lattice of my cell, to the time where fate will return I back to the corner; Amor fati. All can be shown with the representation of the floating dandelion. It never knows where it will go and it never knows how it will get there, it just does whatever the moment demands. Turning away for a moment from the dandelion, I once again stare at the moonlight with a different thought in mind, If the dandelion, with all its small essence and its small size can take the winds of any storm, still managing to survive every moment; then most certainly can one such as I, seek to do so as well. As my eyes ponder the left over moonlight, so too does my soul return to its place. One day. I ponder to myself, just…one day.
As the sun begins to break the dawn and the moonlight fades, the wind picks up once more, this time with it comes gently sailing, the dandelion; dancing on the breeze. As if transfixed by its movements, there I stand, my eyes following it as it waltzes across my cell to the bars that confide me. It knows not of limitations…it would seem. Slowly passing through the bars, its stem gets caught by grit…it is stuck…it is helpless. Raising my hand to the bars, my fingers thin as sticks; manages to get between the bars to the place where the dandelion remains captive. Thoughts that were left pondering now become attentive to the dandelion; whatever had been is no more. The winds become jackals; howling ferociously as the sun continues to rise. Now more than ever my heart begins to race as I try with intensity to dislodge the feeble thing from its captivity. “There we go…come now… just a little more.” Comforting myself with thought, I slowly pull the stem, careful as ever to not break more of the florets off, doing what one can to free what is left. As the Jackals howl more and more; drawing closer and closer with every gust, before they can lay harm to the feeble thing there comes, wide stretched and full of glory, the rising sun; glaring over the dawn break. The jackals were not to destroy the dandelion this time!
Through the passage of mere moments, it seemed as if the dandelion was to be injected with life; as it slowly became undone from its captivity, it began once more to waltz in the wind now gentler in passage. It had escaped the cell, and began to venture forward into the glare of the sun. Watching from within the cell and through the bars, I could see it slowly drifting into the glare of the sunlight; a sudden sense of pride overwhelmed me. A slow tear drop crawled down my cheek, as the windows of my soul became fogged with the overwhelming sense of loss and pride; an odd feeling was upon me, one that had only rarely sought to rear its head up. The feeling of accomplishment for the liberty bestowed upon me to liberate the small dandelion from the clutches of the oncoming winds, but also of one of loss for allowing the dandelion to leave me. There it goes…my thoughts now returning, There it goes…to new places; a dandelion a drift in the sea of possibilities. Only titans know what fate has in store for It. Pulling my head away from the sunlight, crawling slowly back to the corner that has long been my home; I whisper softly now, well my eyes begin to close once more…the words “Amor Fati”…“Love of Fate.”
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
Artwork By: Rainer Jacob
It is now time to discuss matters to do with morality, Alison has told me much of her past history to with religion and her path to enlightenment, I thought it might help you understand the importance of forming one’s morality based upon empathy and reason; and not on the basis of some divine warrant or relative cultural clash.
Left on the porch to an old abandoned chapel, which lay not too far a distance away from the local town church, whose size was double that of the chapel’s; Alison, deep in thought, begins her postulating. She is concerned with the state of the old building, though this may seem strange given that she spent most of her life running from an establishment of this sort, so why would now she wish to lay concern on it? She reasons to herself that the old building, though it may represent that which she detests, she still wishes that it would be ordained with some vestige of life. The church seemed to garter much more life then the chapel, and the precarious thing about it was the church was much younger then the chapel. Yet, how is it that the church is much livelier than that of the chapel? The reason for it (she thought) must come from the fact that the church is much more modern then the chapel. The church’s architecture is post-modern (ironically enough), with the roof bending in the shape of a dome, with the walls being made from a combination of glass, marble and steel. The doors are made entirely of glass; the roof has a huge sphere with a steel cross imbedded on it. The rest of the building is made up of abstract shapes, such as squares forming into ovals and so on; it does not represent anything on the lines of traditional church architecture and instead resembles the embrace of the modern era. Compared to the chapel, which architecture is pre-modern, classic architecture, rigid and so on; the chapel is made from wood, and resembles closely to that of missionary chapels that you would expect to fine in the Bible belt of the USA. The chapel is pathetic in comparison to the church, yet has the odd sent of death around it. The graveyard at the back of the chapel tells a story that dates back to the late 18th century. How could a building like this be abandoned? Then another thought crosses her mind, one that had not yet crossed it before. What if the reason for this abandonment is the realization, that the traditional simply was not needed anymore? Yes, there are a good deal of people coming into the church, but look at its structure, look at its tenants, do they resemble exactly that of old traditional teaching, or has cultural relativism shown itself?
Her story will be revisited later, as it is quite an interesting thing to discuss, but for now we need to embark on a different path; one of morality and nihilism.
Here we are, from the moment of our conception to the moment of our last goodbyes; we are here. Well we are here; we make the most of it with others, which is the reality. We create systems by which we can co-exist and thrive, that take the rights of the many, as well as the rights of the few. These systems allow us to function together, that allow people the ability to take charge of their own lives and not harper on the whims of others who have equal responsibility. We develop systems that have principles that discern right and wrong actions, good and bad deeds; we call these systems, systems of “Morality.” Within these systems there are principles that discern between harmful and helpful behaviour amongst others, these principles are what we call “ethics”, and they are the philosophy of morality. These systems of morality may derive from ethical codes, laws, books and so on. Others may seek to derive their morality from the world around them; others may seek a universal morality that applies objectively to the world. What is deemed moral has been a major debate amongst philosophers, ever since its amalgamation in the infancy of our species. That is why we discuss it here, in this letter, as one needs to grow in understanding of such concepts and understanding of the roles these concepts play on society and on the individual. So when discussing morality and ethics we must ask the following three questions.
1. “What ethical principles do we use to discern between right and wrong behaviour?”
2. “What system of morality is ideal in discerning moral from immoral?”
3. “By what authority or reasoning is that system of Morality ideal?”
Another method of framing these three questions is done so like this…
“What ethical principles do we use to discern between right and wrong behaviour, and what system of morality is right in terms of discerning between what is moral from what is immoral and finally how do we know that, that system of morality is correct?”
Since we have given a framework by which to begin our topic of morality, we shall discuss each question and the relative views and discernments between them. Though it must be noted, that to consider anything to be “moral” (at least in my view), it must go to the benefit of the well-being of conscious creatures; physically, mentally or socially. What we consider to be “immoral” goes towards the denigration of the well-being of conscious creatures, either physically, mentally or socially (overall social standard of the group, which is).
The first question has to do with normative ethics, which is the branch of ethics concerned with ethical action, and how one should act and behave. The major branches associated with normative ethics are; deontology, consequentialism, pragmatic ethics and virtue ethics.
-Deontology; is the branch of normative ethics concerned with the motives behind actions, rather than the outcomes of those actions. Deontologists’ reason, that you need laws and rules in society in order for it to function effectively, and thus it is one’s obligation to follow those rules as it is their duty. Deontologists say there is a “Moral law” that is absolutely right and it is this law that must be upheld and respected regardless of personal prohibitions otherwise. Immanuel Kant (German philosopher from the 18th century), came up with the “categorical imperative” where by which one acts on the will of maxims (actions, laws or memorable guidelines for living eg. “Do not eat spaghetti with bird droppings for it will cause dysentery in the bowels.”) that can be willed to become universal laws. And the individual should live by their maxims in a“universal kingdom of ends” (Kantianism).
–Moral absolutism; is another form of deontology, which seeks to discern absolute rights from wrongs. Moral absolutists take ideal ethical behaviour from often holy texts that have laws that are believed to be from an ultimate authority. Divine command theory goes hand in hand with moral absolutism, as the “supernatural” agent, behind the formation of these texts is believed to have ultimate authority, and thus all actions and anything that is deemed ethical must be accordance with a God of some sort. Thus, if the moral law says “do not kill” then it must be upheld despite the circumstance. This plays as well, that morality and ethics are entirely up to the deity and that humans have no say in what is ethical an action and what is not, as the supreme entity is the ultimate scalar for deciding actions that are right or wrong.
-Consequentialism is the opposite of deontology, and judges’ ethical behaviour by the consequences of one’s conduct, and identifies that the consequences permitted by an action are what matters most. Consequentialism in normative ethics, can be divided into many sub-theories; State consequentialism, utilitarianism, ethical egoism, altruism and so on. We shall discuss one of these and that is utilitarianism.
–Utilitarianism simply put, is; for any action to be deemed proper it must go towards the maximization of utility (benefit) and the reduction of suffering (negativity). What is interesting about utilitarianism is its practicality with the social structures, if we take a look at two-level utilitarianism, which synthesis act utilitarianism (a moral action is decided upon, based on its relative delivery of happiness it delivers to a subject at a given time; happiness being defined as pleasure and absence of pain. The consequences of an action are judged alone.) With rule utilitarianism (an action is deemed right by the most effective rule that it follows that delivers optimum goodness; goodness being defined as optimum positivity towards human life. Rules are judged rather than individual actions.) to create a theory by which instead of purely going on the basis of pleasure to measure ethical actions (hedonist utilitarianism); ethical actions are instead based upon on ‘intuitive’ moral rules (which employ, empathy and so on), except in the instance where critical reasoning is involved by which the individual then must use his deduction and reasoning to engage in a ‘critical level’ of moral reasoning. Now the reason why this is an effective way of distinguishing ethical behaviour, is it takes in the wider realm of society and co-opts the most effective way of living, which is in accordance to reality. A small note, on the difference between hedonism and two-sided utilitarianism, hedonism seeks for pleasure’s sake; well the other seeks for aesthetic and progressive features, as well as pleasure.
-Pragmatic ethics; embodies the already mentioned ways of discerning ethical behaviour, and applies it on a practical level; taking various elements of deontology and consequentialism and applying it in a pragmatist sense (practising various other forms of normative ethics with full knowledge that social order needs to progress and innovate). What must be noted is that ethical pragmatists are not moral relativists (who believe morality is relative and thus subjective); they will revise their position, just like scientists may revise their theories, to achieve an objective understanding; pragmatists revise their ethical standards to achieve an objective higher goal.
-Virtue ethics; is the classical sense of discerning ethical behaviour, it combines deontology and consequentialism in order to live a “virtuous life” or the “Ideal character” (“dikaiosune”, in greek).
The second question has to do with the discernment of moral from immoral; in doing so we need to consider the various views on this discernment, by various different cultures, individuals and we should discern what should be the ideal morality based on its weighing on reality. Comparing and contrasting various systems of morality should help us to do so; in regards to this, we shall have to thus discuss; moral relativism, realism, universalism and absolutism.
-Moral relativism is the moral system that expresses that every culture has a different standard of morality; and thus it would be wrong to assume that an objective moral standard existed as every historical and contextual setting is different from another. And thus good or bad are entirely subjective to the case and culture in question, and thus it is our job to treat each cultures morality equal without giving bias to one another. The problem with moral relativism is it seeks no objective standard of morality, and thus if for example one society favoured child molestation and another culture detested child molestation; then according to moral relativism each side is equal in opinion and waiting. Thus contradiction appears in this moral framework, as there is no weighting on reality or objective standards of morals and thus every action is relative. This is different to situational ethics, as situational ethics seeks to provide an objective standard, whereas moral relativism does not seek to do so and only settle on subjective standards.
-Moral realism takes a different tact from moral relativism, as it is interested in objectivity of morality, rather than subjectivity. Moral realism proposes that ethical statements/sentences have propositions that can be analysed to be right or wrong from the basis of objective features in the real world, and thus are indifferent to subjective opinion. Moral realism, takes elements of utilitarianism, cognitivism (Meta-ethical standard which states statements express propositions and those can be expressed as being true or false) and realism (what is in the world and what nature is made up of material and physical substance); and creates a system of morality, moral actions are those that employ utilitarianism and realism, and immoral actions are those that deplore utilitarianism and realism. Moral universalism is similar to moral realism, as it seeks to provide an objective morality that can be attributed universally to all cultures and civilizations. It uses the same formula (Utilitarianism, cognitivism and realism) but adds universal perspectivism which takes the tact that ethical statements have imperatives that are universal, so if one commits moral judgement he is subject to that same moral judgement despite the action (however this is not to be confused, dear thinker, with absolutism; this applies in certain areas more so then others).
-Moral absolutism is different to moral objectivism; moral absolutism states that its principals are not to be violated despite any sense by which it would otherwise detest to do so, the principals are absolute and unalterable and cannot be revised. Objectivism seeks to have an ideal sense of moral actions being permissible or impermissible, and will adjust to optimise the given standards. Moral absolutism is often associated with a religious framework that employs (Kantianism, and divine command theory) a celestial being who has revealed himself in a form of some sort, whether it be through others; who then dictate God’s will. Anything that is against God’s will is considered to be immoral, and everything that contributes to God’s will is moral; and thus this sense only puts God as the ultimate source of morality. This moral system can be quite extreme, for if we are to take the bible or Quran; who both do not deplore slavery or child rape, then what are we to make of those actions? If they are not immoral, then they are moral, and thus if God commanded the subjects to do something that may go against their emotions then they have no choice but to do so, if they are to be “moral” in God’s eyes. This system of morality is simply in-consistent with what the world actually is and how societies function and thus this system is wrong by those standards.
The third and final question now comes to the discernment of these systems and identifying the morality that is most ideal, and by what reasoning it becomes ideal. Now for a system of morality to be correct it must way into the real world, which is the fact. It must be objective to our understanding of the world, we have created morality and it applies to us and our functioning within this existence. So that immediately gets rid of moral absolutism and moral relativism, as through science which asses the natural world we can quantify actions and their effects. The science of morality is an interesting look into how science can discern between moral and immoral actions based upon elements of utilitarianism, realism, neuro-science and psychology and correlation of cases. Dear thinker you must understand that views and actions come from neurological sequences in the brain. Thus for anything to be deemed “moral” it must go towards the “Flourishing of conscientious creatures” (Sam Harris, Moral landscape). We can plot various ethical systems across an average gradient and we can identify “moral peaks” (this comes from Moral landscape) on a “moral landscape” and we can identify societies throughout histories that had optimum levels of morality, and they would thus be on a higher peak then those who had poorer ones. In discussing morality my dear thinker, remember to ask the three questions listed above, this will give you a good method by which to build knowledge on the subject. As morality for any sensible person, should be instinct, empathy, altruism and reason alone are enough to distinguish right from wrong; yet there will always be those who will deny the reality, and that is what you need to watch out for.
On the voyage through life, one has to settle on a moral system; that is why it has been mentioned in this letter. If one understands what morality and what ethics are, there use in society and in one’s life; then they can effectively create a moral system that is consistent, objective and true with reality. Yet, people have a growing disproportion between what they want to value (need), and how the world operates. A German philosopher witnessed this growing process in western culture and called it “nihilism” (nothingness), this philosopher’s name was Friedrich Nietzsche; for most of his life he opposed the thought of nihilism. Yet, to understand how this opposition came about we must look at the life of this philosopher, as we have done with that of Socrates; so I give you the second great philosopher to appear in our discussions, “Friedrich Nietzsche”.
Friedrich Nietzsche was born in the year 1844 in the small town of Rocken in Germany, to a religious family; his father was a famous Lutheran pastor and would preach daily to congregations in the church that Nietzsche grew up in. He had a younger brother and an older sister, who he is known to have loved and cherished. His father suffered from a mental ailment and as a result would abuse Nietzsche, at the age of four his Father died and with it Nietzsche’s belief in God; “God is dead” (“The gay science”; “The Parable of a madman.”). A year later his brother (which he was very fond of and loved dearly) died; Nietzsche’s life can be seen as a series of hardships and broken moments from then on. He attended school in Naumberg and is still one of the youngest people to become a professor (age 24), his chosen field was that of philology (science of language), but he longed to be a proper philosopher; taking inspiration from Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy. Yet, his hardships would only truly begin during his time at school. Nietzsche, throughout his writings, describes each hardship he was given as an obstacle to be overcome; expressing this in the line from ‘Human, all too human” (1878), “triumph of the will”; being his motto towards suffering. At the age of 26, well fighting in the Franco-Prussian war, Friedrich attended a brothel in Genoa (Italy), where he developed syphilis, which would impede him through his entire life. At the age of 35, sick from all the abuse and his growing decline in health, he left Basel, and took up a journey of self-discovery. Nietzsche ventured to Switzerland, in Sils-maria where he would remain for the rest of his life (except of course the occasional venturing out to traverse the Italian country). A philosopher to Nietzsche did not only mean tackling that of the mind, but that of the essence of human being. Nietzsche embraced a philosophy during his time in Sils-maria, any worthwhile achievement comes out of struggle and suffering; Nietzsche revolutionised a philosophy of hardship. Rising ever morning to write till noon, then traversing the nearby mountain. This ideal environment for Nietzsche gave him the means at which to write some of his best works (“Ecce homo”, “Beyond Good and Evil” and so on); “That which does not kill me, surely make me stronger”; was a line he embellished. Nietzsche developed his philosophy from observation; observing western Christianity, which offered (according to Nietzsche) ‘a weak man’s philosophy’, that played down suffering and embellished “Good according to God”.
Nietzsche observed that in western culture the ill proportion of values over-shining what is true, was remarkably high. “Nihilism”, was the word he used to describe this phenomena; he described people who embraced this phenomena as “drowning in self-pity” (“Human, all too Human”). Nietzsche held to the ideal of resisting nihilism and to do such a thing first one needs to embrace suffering and cultivate it, finding meaning in the suffering in order to survive; this is to say, that for one to find ideal meaning he needs to cultivate the pain he is suffering and find, that within the reality of the world there are things that will enhance pain and suffering, for one to survive this reality they need to embrace it and not be drunk with happiness, as in a nihilistic framework; brushing off suffering in the hopes it will go away. For if one continues to brush away a mound of rocks; it is inevitable for him to one day not be able to brush away those rocks, instead having created a heap that is now impossible to sweep away. For us to understand that we will have pain, we will have hardships, but it is not in the hopes of drinking away our problems, we need to face them and conquer them seeing meaning in the suffering; instead of deluding ourselves in too much of value and little of reality for that is when we embrace nihilism, to conquer this phenomena we need to embrace it and face it full on, living a life in reality for that is the only way we are to survive. As opposed to the dulling of pain, which was what Nietzsche believed Christianity was doing “Dulling the pain, like a drunken man dulls his sorrows by drinking.” Nietzsche believed with the death of Christianity, nihilism would be widely embraced (The parable of a madman, is a brilliant poem by the philosopher describing the death of Christianity and loose timid naivety of morality).
Nietzsche sought to say that pain and suffering are what make life worth living, they are with which we find meaning; by adopting a philosophy that seeks to reduce pain and suffering in embrace of a lifestyle of total need or value, rather than reality. We seek to embrace nihilism, he who embraces the simple life of valuing above his self, is embracing nihilism the most dangerous poison to develop out of the death of Christianity. And the only cure for this poison is to embrace every hardship one is given, cultivate it and seek to utilise it to its maximum potential and “Triumph over it, and become the superman”. There is a famous tale, in 1889 Well Nietzsche was visiting Turin in Italy; he came across his usual walking path, a horse who was being flogged by its owner. The tale goes that Nietzsche pushed the flogger away and embraced the horse and collapsed well doing so. His mental breakdown would halt him in his writings for the rest of his life, up until his death in 1900; Friedrich Nietzsche lived his life with his sister and aunt. The tale of Friedrich Nietzsche is one of hardship and triumph, Nietzsche always wished his friends the worst suffering; for what he meant by that, is the best potential to harvest success and happiness. And this is what you must remember, hardship is no way should be seen as something to be deplored and drowned away, but something to be cultivated, like the roots of a plant being cultivated by the gardener.
Alison Locke, now totally dumb-founded at the reason for the chapel’s abandonment; looks toward the church; Jolly and happy people, and even more coming out. As if drunken from happiness, they exit, those in the local town who aren’t at church whisk a bottle, and drown themselves in the taste of it. As if an orchestra of madness, they stroll candidly from one side of the street to another, well on looker-look by. Those coming into the church and those going out seem to be very different individuals, She noticed as people went in their faces would lighten up; but not in the way you would expect. As if turning their crosses from upside down to right side up, it seemed that those entering were going for their weekly drinking session. The church seemed only to have new drinks as opposed to the chapel, whose stock ran out long time ago. This is the reason; not because of architecture but because of stock, people are getting drunk with happiness to drown out their own problems. Those who have had hard times, deaths and such, may eventually find themselves drinking happiness from their local church. The church, the synagogue, the mosque are just different buildings for men to get drunk with happiness and drown away their problems. As for the free-thinker, after realising this, he begins his track back home; for unlike the rest of them, she is sober. She is free. This I write to you
Knowledge is Power, Use it.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
Humanity ponders its existence when it gazes at the stars, for it knows deep inside that it longs to return home; lost children of the stars crying out for love. From the small ant to the large supernova, all inhabit a universe filled with the most beautiful array of different and exciting phenomena. Homo sapiens, like other mammals, are offered an opportunity of life for a short glimpse of cosmic time. This life that has been offered (the life that the universe and all of nature has luckily spared through billions of years of evolution) is to be cherished. We are but the products of vast eons of time. For this reason – and for the sake that many of our past ancestors have been wiped away by nature – it should propel us to do our best, for the short amount of time offered to us is fleeting constantly. Truly is it magnificent to look around at nature and relish in the sunshine of the day, looking upon the stars at night – all of this should fill every mammal with joy and inspiration. Yet, humanity confines itself to quarrels over tribal matters – which fraction of the world belongs to whom, which God gave us this and that, etc. All these quarrels have halted humanity’s progress towards greater heights and new distances, and have kept humanity wallowing in its infancy. These tribal disputes have threatened to erase the last four centuries of real progress that has been made in the way of human rights, knowledge – and have threatened to undo historical advancements. It was the enlightenment values that brought the fall of monarchs, and it was the values of mental autonomy that brought an end to tyrannical regimes. With the removal of tradition, and the removal of the need for divine warrant, humanity has spared itself from an eternity of slavery and torment; finally beginning to awake from its long slumber. Appeals to the heavens have been heavily reduced with the ever growing knowledge of the cosmos. The need for the numinous has died within humanity; the need for humanism has replaced the left over void. If one such God existed, then it is most surely dead to humanity.
Humanity’s origins lay in nature itself; what it does in nature ultimately determines its prospective meaning. What we wish to do with our lives is but our own choice, we can squander it on trivial matters or we can use it to further enhance our perception of the world. The feeling of smallness coupled with the feeling of no objective purpose, may cloud the minds of some, but to them they must realise that meaning comes with interactions with nature itself; and the things one does with the situation they are given, determines the life they will lead. Thinking individuals, those who look at the stars and look at humanity in the light of discovery, set themselves up as pioneers – pioneers who are on the horizon’s edge of knowledge. Every thought about nature is a thought about the possibilities that can come from understanding it, and in order to understand it one need to find themselves in the cosmos; one needs to forge their own ‘natural identity’.
Everything that is matter, matter which can be computed and quantified, can be said to be a part of the ‘natural paradigm’ of existence. This natural paradigm is the only paradigm that is open to humanity; the world that exists to humanity is the world found in the senses. Everything that the senses take in is an aspect of material. There is no independence between creature and material; creatures are formed from material substances. Everything in the universe– every small insect, large mammal, celestial object – is made up of these substances. The substances that make up one’s hand are the same substances that make up stars. The atoms that make up the fabric of nature play a great part in our understanding of the universe. In light of this fact, we base our thinking within the world around us – interpreting, via our senses, objects and organisms around us. The understanding that humanity is but one piece of a grand puzzle can stir the imagination, as it puts into perspective the identity of the individual. The natural identity is humanity’s identity in the cosmos; it is how it views itself in light of the findings of science, and how it orientates its knowledge.
Consciousness arises from the brain, and is the product of mental computation – nothing more. Consciousness, or what philosophers try to explain as consciousness, exists as something – or mustexist as something – formed from matter, as matter is all there is. When a person has their frontal lobe blasted by a shotgun, having bits of their brain forced violently from their skull, the essence of their being – the essence of their existence within the realm of nature, and anything that was perceived as being conscious within them – is dead and gone; if one destroys the neurons of the brain, then one destroys consciousness. If they should live from the event, however, then they most surely will be different in thought than they once were, as the mind’s state has been altered. When a person like this is in the condition they are in, or is found in this condition by others, the emotions that will come from the sight of such a grotesque scene, are but the products of material processes. The empathy that was exerted, the heart felt emotions and the genuine tears shed for the scene, are but by-products of the material world that they live in, and the elements that they are comprised of. This may appear to be a very reductionist way of assessing the scene, given the violence involved, but it is a real picture of the event. Some may find my description a tad bit cold (even a little naïve), however I try to look at the situation for what it is, not for what I want it to be. Yet, should they really feel cold? Why is it that people reject such descriptions? Can they not handle the reality of the world? Despite such questions, there is an underlining silver lining to this. Instead of feeling cold about reality, we should instead feel awe struck and amazed by such understandings of the complexity of the world, and the history behind its formation – that it should lead us to truly cherish it. The child does not relish in the fact that it is but a mammal, it relishes at the moments of life it manages to get, and the wonders of existence it finds itself in. Should this feeling die amongst adults, or should this feeling of enjoyment be fostered? It is up to the individual to judge for themselves.
Meaning comes from the individual; as all of humanity is forced into existence, and is forced to lead their own path. This ‘creation’ of meaning is the essence of the free individual, who has taken control over their identity in nature – and forged from it – a brighter world for themselves. As Jean-Paul Sartre once put it, “Man is condemned to be free, because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”(Existentialism is a humanism, 1945). The condition of humanity is comparable to that of an abandoned child; once made orphan by mother, it now must find its own path…regardless of the struggle. This existential perspective can be hard to swallow, but it is just one perceptive that offers the individual hope. Existentialism provides the individual a philosophy of freedom, some might find this freedom too overbearing, and others might find it right, but it is a freedom none-the-less. Philosophies like existentialism help give solace to the individual, and help build upon what it means to be human in existence. However, though such a philosophy is popular to continental individuals, it is not the only philosophy that is useful. In science especially, the dominant form of philosophy is that of naturalism.
Naturalism is the poetry of science, for with it science has its basis in reality. Science works from methodological naturalism, which takes the view that components in existence can be assessed through the scientific method. The scientific method uses the natural sciences, conjoined with induction, to assess reality and build models of reality to draw provisional conclusions, and to make future predictions about it. Methodological naturalism is what scientists use to investigate the hidden mysteries of the universe. By constructing hypotheses and testing those hypotheses through experimentation, seeing if those hypotheses stand the test of reality and scrapping them if they do not, the scientist constructs models of reality. These models are falsifiable and allow for the scientist the ability to make predictions about reality. If these hypotheses stand up to the scientific method, then they are regarded as theories and are incorporated into science. A model has to be simple in its language, but rich in its explanation; following evidence where it leads, and taking simple explanations over complex ones. Methodological naturalism is at the heart of science; however it is the child of ontological naturalism, which is another aspect that needs explanation.
Science is natural philosophy, as it explores nature and structures thoughts around it. Through the unweaving of the fabric of reality and ultimately understanding its complexity, humans both enrich their prospect of knowledge and enrich their sense of meaning. Ontological naturalism takes the findings of methodological naturalism, and expands upon those findings to create a metanarrative. This narrative accounts for the story of the universe. Ontological naturalism seeks to weave the findings of methodological naturalism into a model of thought. This model helps frame the scientist’s understanding of reality, and helps give credence to phenomena within nature. Both methodological naturalism and ontological naturalism go hand in hand, and create the philosophy of naturalism. Nothing exists outside the natural, as the natural is existence (as aforementioned); anything that seeks to go beyond nature goes beyond existence. This would mean that the supernatural does not exist, as the supernatural seeks to establish a paradigm outside the natural paradigm of existence.
Supernaturalism, the opposite of philosophical naturalism, would place another realm of existence above the natural paradigm of existence – and thus go beyond natural explanations of reality.Supernaturalists would posit the existence of supernatural agents that are responsible for nature, positing that these beings gave life to humanity and all of existence. Some would even go so far as to posit the existence of a spirit, or an inner being that exists within humanity. And by what basis do they have to make such claims? Well, that would depend upon who you asked. Supernaturalists are as varied as nations, with each supernaturalist having their own branch of nonsensicalness. To cut the roots of this tree of irrationality, the basis of which entirely rest upon speculations, let one consider what supernaturalism is. Simply put, supernaturalism is a bad parody of naturalism; the idea that something exists outside the realm of the natural is a paradox in itself. For if supernatural beings existed, then they would occupy a greater realm of the natural, and hence be considered natural beings! Anything that is said to go beyond the descriptive laws of nature, and seeks to escape the knowledge of humanity, is considered to be a part of the ‘unknown’, not the ‘supernatural’. When humanity develops the tools to investigate the unknown, then the findings will be considered natural, not ‘supernatural’. In other words, there is no methodology by which to distinguish the supernatural from non-existence. Until the supernaturalist posits a methodology to prove their claims, their claims will have no basis to rest upon. I mean, how do they expect the rest of humanity to interpret the supernatural, when the supernatural goes beyond what the senses can perceive, which is the natural? The fact of the matter is that the supernatural can be negated a priori, as the term itself is nonsensical. Whether it is claims of entities such as gods, ghosts, goblins it must not be forgotten that these things need to manifest themselves in reality, in order for them to exist.
One may criticise the natural paradigm of existence by referring to the multi-verse theory. This theory posits that there exist multiple universes, with each that may operate on different physical and epistemic rules and laws. One could ask, “Wouldn’t any universe, whose laws are different to our own, be considered ‘not-natural?” The response to this question can be expressed through an analogy: Imagine the natural paradigm of existence, as being a huge jewellery box; a meta-jewellery box. In it there are various different compartments, with each compartment being dedicated to a particular set of objects – one compartment may contain earrings, another may contain rings, etc. All these compartments are different in contents to one another, but they all are still a part of the Jewellery box. Objects that exist in one compartment will not be able to occupy another compartment, because each compartment is separated by limitations. An object that wishes to occupy another compartment, needs to get pass the limitations of its compartment.
The natural paradigm of existence is the meta-jewellery box, and each universe will occupy it as a compartment. Though one cannot be sure of whether they will get pass the limitations of their compartment, one can at least attempt to get as much as possible from their own compartment. The natural identity is the identity found when the individual dares to understand the compartment they are in, and dares to understand the set of circumstances that they have been given. The more that one understands their place, and denies themselves the delusion of ultimate attention, the more the individual will be able to start to make progress. We have come too far in the last 4.5 billion years of evolution to give ourselves to anthropocentrism. Whatever is in our power, we need to deny ourselves the obnoxious delusion of our supremacy; that everything ends with us. However, we must also not forget the value of life the cosmos has allowed us, and the obligation to fulfil what time we have with exploration to the stars. We are children of the stars longing to return home. How awesome it is to be alive, and to be living right now. As the great astronomer Carl Sagan once said,“Somewhere, Something incredible is waiting to be known.”
Knowledge is power.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
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