Opinion

there are no eternal facts as there are no absolute truths.”

Day 595-1

 

This is a famous quote by Nietzsche and I am tempted to give my opinion about it, but I don’t. The reason I don’t like to that is complicated, but I can give an example that might explain it. If someone ask me what I think of a piece of music from for instance Mozart, I can tell them if I like it or not, but I cannot be critical about the quality of the music because that would mean that I think that I am at the same level as a Mozart. Only if I studied classical music, composition and so on, I can begin to understand Mozart’s quality’s and I can start thinking about giving a critique.

The same goes for a quote from a famous philosopher. I cannot critic it because I don’t know how it is connected with the rest of the philosopher’s work. If I have an opinion about it,  I must be honest and admit that that opinion is based on that of another philosophers work with a similar status than the one that I am commenting on. The same goes for agreeing to, do you really know what you are agreeing with?

An opinion is surrounded by pitfalls, watch your step.

 

 

 

Democracy and the naked leader

Spinoza

Those who wish to seek out the cause of miracles and to understand the things of nature as philosophers, and not to stare at them in astonishment like fools, are soon considered heretical and impious, and proclaimed as such by those whom the mob adores as the interpreters of nature and the gods. For these men know that, once ignorance is put aside, that wonderment would be taken away, which is the only means by which their authority is preserved.” Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677)

I have not done the research on how often politicians break their promises after elections, but it’s looks like it is part of the trade. Promises are often not lined up with reality out of fear that the truth will not be believed, wanted, or wished. These same politicians are in the spirit of the quote from Spinoza, the “interpreters of nature and the gods” and looked upon by the “mob”. All these lofty promises are thus dressed up in certainties, and proclaimed to be rules of nature or the will of god. The product they sell is not that what’s thought to be true but what ought to be true. Because of the nature of their promises it must be sold with deception and trickery.

If a candidate can win with a strong mandate, the people that voted for this person will forgive, if reality shows its face and leaves all the promises forgotten in the corner. If the candidate wins narrowly or must work with others, reality will be blamed on the other or the chest get pumped up one more time to make sure the “wonderment would” not “be taken away” and there will be a stalemate between this “wonderment” and reality.

This is one way you can interpret part of this quote but there is even a more sinister interpretation in it. In today’s (2017) politics we see a tendency to ridicule the opponent and deny excepted science. This practice is off coarse as old as that there are governments formed, but in a modern democracy it is normally done with a bit more class.

“Those who wish to seek out the cause of miracles and to understand the things of nature as philosophers, and not to stare at them in astonishment like fools, are soon considered heretical and impious, and proclaimed as such by those whom the mob adores as the interpreters of nature”

Times change, but we don’t, as individuals we can be great but as a group we’re still dumb as hell.

 

The unexamined life is not worth living

Day 588-1

“The unexamined life is not worth living” Words supposedly spoken by Socrates at his trial, where he chose death over exile. For Socrates philosophy was very important, he is famous for his questioning of people’s beliefs, where he tries to guide a participant on to a path of doubt in his own reasoning and assumptions. There is a lot more to it but for now I want to focus on the “unexamined life”. I think that everybody “examines” their life, more or less. Of course, I cannot speak for everybody but it’s hard to imagine a person that has not once in their life looked in the mirror and thought…?

But Socrates is off course not thinking of the general questioning and doubt we all have as proof that we “examine our lives”. Most people answer their questions in the most economical way, by using the answers that are easily accessible to them. There are your parents, family, teachers, villagers, society, culture, church and more. All these entities have readymade answers, your parents don’t see it like that, but they give you what they got from their parents and the same goes for the teachers you have or the church you go to. Most of the time it is all in good faith, but if you look to a society controlled by a dictatorship for instance, you can find literal guidelines in how to behave and what to teach your children, something that is not so easy to find in a Democracy where there are other, harder to unravel, forces to control society.

Our brain is evolved in such a way that it doesn’t like to doubt. Our brain protects our consciousness from the conflicting information it receives by giving our consciousness the idea that all its ideas and world views are coherent. That makes sense when for instance you’re an ape, jumping from branch to branch unable to inspect every leaf that moves and every sound there is. The ape brain had to filter the information that was important and discard the rest. We humans do that still on a lower level with the input from our senses. This is called selective attention. But it also happens with more evolved brain processes like our capability to reason. A well know example of that is cognitive dissonance wherein conflicting ideas get resolved by suppression and avoidance.

As human being it’s difficult to be sure what is right and wrong within your own mind. In the world of inventions and speculations about the universe they came up with the scientific method. In this method the scientist not only have to prove their theory, they also must try to disapprove it, and let others try to replicate the theory and method of testing. It’s a little bit more complicated but the more refined this system became over the years the more fantastical wonderers the scientist came up with. In other words: the more they tried to circumvent their own bias mind, the better the result.

But for the silent chaos in our head the scientific method doesn’t work, we cannot be judge, jury and prosecutor at the same time in our own head. But we can start with something. What I just wrote about  is not unique, it’s not common knowledge but with a little effort you might except that the things you know have a reason that you know them. That doesn’t say much about the validity of those ideas, but the fact is that you have those ideas and they could have been different. And that is a good starting point in the world of philosophy. You don’t have to kick out all your values, but start wondering why you have them and the way they are.

Philosophy is not an easy path if you want  peace of mind. There are many ways you can dull the senses enough to go on living in reasonable happiness, most people do, the numbers don’t lie. But progress has brought us a lot and it’s in a great part because of some remarkable individuals that started “thinking outside the box”. If you want to make the world a better place for all of us, then a good start would be to start questioning yourself. Imagine if everybody did exactly that.

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.” Friedrich Nietzsche