Archive for September, 2008

Free will and fate

September 30, 2008
  1. I believe I have free will.
  2. I would like you to think that you have free will.
  3. However, whether you and I choose to really believe in free will and therefore act on it is fated.
  4. I do not blame you for what you were fated to do, but I do blame you because of 2.

I do not wish you to think that you have free will just for the sake of it. A passionate belief in free will is powerful and life-changing for the individual – that’s the point of the notion. Whether particular definitions of it actually exist is irrelevant. The belief in free will and the belief in non-free will both create fate. The question is, will you free will your fate? Are you responsible for you or are you a hapless victim of fate? You only get one life to answer this question.

Christianity as holier-than-thou social club

September 29, 2008

One of the primary motivations for people joining and staying in groups is status.

Is Christianity a social club for the mutual self-righteousness and self-aggrandisement of its members? Certainly for the more pious sects of Christianity, such as the Calvinists, this would seem to be the case. But what about Christianity at large?

Consider a typical Christian church service – in roughly the usual order (some variations from sect to sect):

  • introductory sentimental platitudes
  • endorphin-rush singing
  • navel-gazing confession
  • endorphin-rush singing
  • Mithras segment
  • Preacherman show – topic: why you’re so lucky not to be one of those scum not here today
  • cute kids segment (occasionally)
  • endorphin-rush singing
  • self-righteous, feel-good offering
  • more sentimental platitudes, happy-go-lucky benediction
  • tea and scones

Then everyone goes home buzzing with goo-goo feelings, happy to have caught up with friends, and mightily pleased with the play which had them at the centre as stars. They can’t wait for next week.

It is all very clubbish and pretentious. Not much of the life of Jesus to be found.

Happiness as a choice

September 29, 2008

In addition to the comments I made on happiness at Happiness Comes From Within, I would like to offer the following quotes and a few comments.

Where happiness comes from

No man is happy unless he believes he is.– Publilius Syrus (85 BC- 43BC, Roman writer)

Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them. — Count Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910, Russian novelist, philosopher)

Most people ask for happiness on condition. Happiness can only be felt if you don’t set any condition. — Arthur Rubinstein

Happiness is not dependent upon circumstances but upon attitudes; it is not so much environmental as mental. — (William A. Ward)

A man is happy so long as he chooses to be happy and nothing can stop him. — Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1918-, Russian novelist)

Happiness lies in the consciousness we have of it. — George Sand (1804-1876, French novelist)

How we ‘magically’ transform the world with happiness

The world of those who are happy is different from the world of those who are not. — Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951, Austrian philosopher)

When I have been unhappy, I have heard an opera… and it seemed the shrieking of winds; when I am happy, a sparrow’s chirp is delicious to me. But it is not the chirp that makes me happy, but I that make it sweet. — John Ruskin (1819-1900, British critic, social theorist)

Cultivating happiness

Real happiness is not dependent on external things. The pond is fed from within. The kind of happiness that stays with you is the happiness that springs from inward thoughts and emotions. You must cultivate your mind if you wish to achieve enduring happiness. — William Lyon Phelps

Happiness must be cultivated. It is like character. It is not a thing to be safely let alone for a moment, or it will run to weeds. — Elizabeth Stuart Phelps (1844-1911, American writer)

Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate. So practice happy thinking every day. Cultivate the merry heart, develop the happiness habit, and life will become a continual feast. — Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993, American Christian reformed pastor, speaker, author)

A few comments of my own

* Happiness is not found by looking for it outside of yourself (material possessions, love, etc.)
* Happiness is not obtained through finding it within yourself (self-development) or throwing off attachments to the world (Stoicism, etc.)
* It is not a matter of calculus where you weigh up your recent history of pleasurable and painful experiences and then determine ‘objectively’ whether you are happy or not
* You can choose to believe the above or you can choose to posit a condition for happiness that ‘lies outside of the individual or is within the individual in such a way that it is not there by virtue of the individual themself’ (Kierkegaard)
* The biggest obstacle to happiness is a self which does not want to identify with it, i.e. pride in being unhappy
* Happiness is found not by looking for it, but by thinking you have already found it
* It is a matter of reflecting on a whole life and the entire universe and making a choice
* Happiness is obtained by choosing it, by choosing to perceive the world with happiness

Final thoughts

There are men who are happy without knowing it. — Marquis De Vauvenargues (1715-1747, French moralist)

Passionate apathy

September 29, 2008

I have never seen such passion put into a humourous web site about apathy, brilliant!

Chuurch of apathy

Philosophy, faith, dogma and authority

September 28, 2008

On Philosophy asks What Is Philosophy, And What Can It Do For You?

I don’t find the answers satisfying, but I will only pick on a few things.

religion is built on faith and dogma while philosophy is not

I can’t accept this dogma on faith.

Philosophy embraces the idea that claims are to be argued for, or at least motivated in some way, and that every theory is subject to criticism and revision. Any satisfactory definition of philosophy will at least rule out faith and authority as a source of philosophical theories.

Such a satisfactory definition would rule out all philosophy, because the fundamental assumptions of any philosophy cannot be proven, only assumed (tentatively). We must trust ourselves as authority in using these assumptions for philosophical investigation.

Philosophy must not pretend to have a completely objective, God’s eye view of the world. When it assumes it does, it has lost credibility in its ultimate purpose of questioning the world and providing answers – answers which must ultimately be accepted on faith.

Many philosophers do not take seriously the idea that philosophical theories are ultimately grounded in faith. Many are unwilling to admit that extent to which they have trusted the theories of others on authority. It is time to get real; to admit that God-like objectivity is impossible; to admit a certain degree of subjectivity.

Relationship advice from Schopenhauer’s Ghost

September 28, 2008

Helpful relationship advice from a dead, cynical existentialist philosopher: ASK SCHOPENHAUER’S GHOST

Meaning of life as an image

September 28, 2008

I think it is valuable to have an image in mind which captures what you think the meaning of life is. Too often people talk about the MOL in woolly, abstract, sentimental terms and you can’t help but think they have stolen their idea from the back of a cereal box.

Images are powerful and can help you to articulate your thoughts. As symbols they can capture meaning which cannot be possessed by written language. The image can be metaphorical or literal, but the most important thing is that it is emotive, spurring your desires.

As an example of a simple yet powerful, metaphorical and emotive image representing an ideal, consider the following text, which supposedly represents what the world will be like when Jesus Christ returns to earth in God’s Kingdom (Isaiah 11:6):

And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them.

Just to give an example of an image that may represent the meaning of life for someone:

Wakened by its golden sun, I stretch out to the world in anticipation of the work it has given me. I put on my boots and open the door to its fields. I labour to bring forth its bounty and at night I sit down with fellow workers to enjoy its blessings. I do this all my life, until the boots are no longer needed, and then the world says to me, “thank you” and I say “you’re welcome.”

The meaning of life is to be found in emotions

September 28, 2008

The late Robert Solomon, following Nietzsche, says emotions are engagements with the world. Emotions are intentional and – despite the myths of pop psychology – more often than not, rational.

A synonym sometimes used for the emotions are the passions. The passions have been the whipping boy of philosophy for centuries, but they are key to the meaning of life. Personally, I have nothing but contempt for philosophers who unthinkingly follow the herd in maligning the passions and instead use abstract principles far removed from human existential reality in order to pretentiously tell us what the good life ought to consist of.

The passions are about creativity and being genuinely devoted to causes and other people. To be passionate is to care.

The meaning of life is to care

September 28, 2008

Heidegger writes beautifully on this, but unfortunately I don’t have any quotes on hand – I’ll better organise my sources soon.

He says, to care is to be a shepherd.

Anxiety is a distressing emotion which is an intricate part of caring. We all experience anxiety, but I think we have wrongly come to see it as a mental illness. Indeed, there are anxiety disorders which are destructive, but anxiety is not something bad in itself. It reminds us, or at least it should remind us, that we care.

When we care about something that something becomes one of life’s meanings for us. It ought to be no surprise that many people find meaning in compassion, caring for others. Others, such Australian Aboriginals, find meaning in caring for the land.

To care is to have meaning in one’s life and to care is to be human.

What a way to will to power!

September 27, 2008

You may think I am masochistic for posting this, but I thought it was an awesome example of a Christian martyr (Ignatius) possessing ‘will to power’ (passionate self expression, assertion) in sacrificing his life for a cause he thought most noble.

Now is the moment I am beginning to be a disciple. May nothing seen or unseen begrudge me making my way to Jesus Christ. Come fire, cross, battling with wild beasts, wrenching of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing of my whole body, cruel tortures of the devil–only let me get to Jesus Christ! Not the wide bounds of earth nor the kingdoms of this world will avail me anything. “I would rather die” and get to Jesus Christ, than reign over the ends of the earth. That is whom I am looking for–the One who died for us. That is whom I want–the One who rose for us. I am going through the pangs of being born. Sympathize with me, my brothers! Do not stand in the way of my coming to life–do not wish death on me. Do not give back to the world one who wants to be God’s; do not trick him with material things. Let me get into the clear light and manhood will be mine. Let me imitate the Passion of my God.

Early Christian Fathers – Ignatius’ letter to the Romans