Thursday, October 28, 2010
Aati: Your philosophical nature stems from more than just intellectual or spiritual yearning... [it also stems from] A quest for Identity. Philosophy is also a way for you to distinguish yourself from others, and its charm reduces if it loses that function, even if the other roles it serves in your life increase. Boy, in a way, the world is lucky so many insist on ignorance :P If everyone had been an intellectual, mild-mannered creative type forever thinking, your ego might have driven you to carve out a 'radically' different unique identity by becoming an anti-intellectual brash self-righteous hick type barely aware of his brain. Haha, I'm already trying to imagine you as that! And I can't. :P
Me: What if i had become a reluctant conformist in such a case? :)
Aati: Who would secretly blog about the pleasures of vegging out, and long to be a public ignoramus? :P
Me: Hahaha! Now that does sound like me! :D
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Continuing my thoughts based on the comments on this post:
* It seems that being rational helps us achieve our goals and needs, and actually puts an individual at an advantage, in contrast to morality, which apparently puts an individual at a disadvantage. So one might say to 'Why be rational?': 'Because it is good for us.' /'Because it works for us.'
* While morality apparently puts an individual at a disadvantage, it is advantageous to the society as a whole. A society in which individuals act morally is more likely to flourish and survive. Therefore, in answer to this question 'Why be moral?' an individual may have no answer, a society can definitely answer 'Because it is good for us.' / 'Because it works for us.' And if a society is moral, then indirectly, the individual would be forced to be moral.
* While rationality help us in practical matters, it is not always advantageous to the individual. Consider the example of an individual using rationality to discredit a religion in a society that is very strongly religious, and is condemned to be burned on the stake on the charge of apostasy. In this case, rationality is leading that individual to a painful death. And yet, there is something worthwhile and noble about this pursuit of 'truth' even when this puts you at a disadvantage. Very few individuals would actually be rational to this extent, and yet, I presume, most would see this act of sticking-to-rationality-in-the-face-of-death as something admirable. It wouldn't make sense unless some part of us believes that there is an inherent value in rationality, in 'truth'.
* I have suggested that rationality even in the absence of its utility is viewed as a worthwhile goal for its own sake. Morality, it seems, has much less utility for an individual, but even so, it is viewed as (/ought to be viewed as) a worthwhile goal for its own sake. That is where I believe the analogy lies.
* This is not a real philosophical answer to the questions that I had posited. It is just an evasion. What I say turns out to be something like this:
"Why be rational and moral?"
"Because they are worthwhile pursuits having inherent value."
"And why do they have inherent value?"
"Because this is what our intuitions tell us /Because that's what humans are programmed to believe."
The Five Curses
He stood on the edge of the Water Tank, trying to discern the shapes that were the buildings and walkways of the university, that would have been visible all splayed out before this eyes, if it were not the opaque darkness of the charcoal clouds churning in the casserole of nighttide, – a nuit sans étoiles – and if it were not raining blood from the sky. The cough intermittently rose in his chest like a geyser of ominous bile. The weakness in his limbs and his dyspneic breathing reminded him that time was short. There were greater forces at work here. He could almost feel the wings of the Cherubims fluttering in his face amidst the splatter of drops, their howls permeating the torrents of winds, threatening to tip his balance any minute. He was soaked in water but he knew that he was sweating, the gravity of what he was about to do bearing on his heart. It had been almost two months ago that he had become aware of that over-bearing knowledge… the five curses. He wasn’t supposed to remember all that! “Damn it, what went wrong?” He muttered, as he recalled his meeting – no, their meeting – with the Old Man. He had told them they’d have no memory of it. That lying bastard. One fine morning, just like that, the Knowledge had seeped into his conscious mind, and the world was no longer the same. He saw things, which others did not see. He saw the meaning of things. He was the only one who knew. The other four had showed no signs yet of any awakening.
He knew what he had to do. He just didn’t know whose side he was on, or for what purpose. It was all layers and layers of mystery. He could end the curse, he was the guardian. He was the key to it all. He would free those fools of their ignorance. This was his fate.
He took a breath, stretched out his arms like Jesus and threw himself forward in the air. Rapidly, he was falling and rushing to the ground. Right then there was a flicker of hesitation, almost as if whispered to him in tease by a passing spirit “What if you are not nulling the curses but unleashing them?” His eyes widened for a micro-second, and the words escaped his lips, “Oh Lord, what have I …”
To be on the Cross is to die with doubts.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
In the absence of any objective moral values, the most obvious haunting question is "Why be moral?" There is, as yet, no satisfactory answer to this question. Psychological observation, however, indicates that people do not cease to be moral just because they lack a philosophical justification to be moral. Most likely this is because we possess an inherent disposition towards moral behavior. A moral person cannot help being moral. A person who makes use of the argument 'Why be moral?' to do something contra-morality is probably already somewhat deficient in that moral disposition.
A question that almost appears analogous to this one is "Why be rational?" There is, as yet, no satisfactory answer to this question either. Rationality cannot justify itself using itself. Again, rational thinking seems to be an inherent disposition, something we cannot help doing. Of course, this disposition, like the moral disposition, is stronger in some than others, but those who have this disposition, they cannot stop being rational just because they can't justify rationality, because even as they ask the question 'Why be rational?' they are already committed to the notion of acting on the best reasons available. Rationality, in this sense, seems to have an instrinsic value for us. There seems to be something worthwhile about preferring truth over falsehood.
The two questions are almost identical, and yet it seems to me that people/philosophers are far less bothered by the question 'why be rational?' than they are by 'why be moral?'. Shouldn't the same answer suffice for morality too? That morality has an intrinsic value, that it is worthwhile to be moral for it's own sake.
Perhaps the justification for rationality and morality lies not in philosophy, but in psychology.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Monday, October 11, 2010
Existentialists talk about the faculty of Choice that humans possess, the inescapable despairing choice that is thrust upon us.
If we are in a situation where we compromise, we are choosing to compromise. We might as well do the opposite.
If your father threatens to throw you out of the house if you don't do so-and-so thing and you have no means of living on your own, you may feel that you don't have a choice, but you actually do. If you submit to your father's demands, you are choosing to do that. You might as well have chosen to leave the house. But you didn't, because it would be more problematic for you to do that.
The extreme example that is given to us is that of a man holding a gun to your head and commanding you to do something. Here again, you have a choice. You could just as well refuse to obey him and take the bullet.
But, the Choice we are talking about in this case is the Philosophical Choice, which is not the same as a Psychological Choice. A person whose only beloved daughter has been kidnapped and is being asked to do something illegal as ransom would probably have no Psychological Choice in the matter. To be able to consider Philosophical Choice requires a certain emotional detachment, an ability to view things rationally from a distance. Not many people can do that.
I feel, such a perspective of Philosophical Choice can be of therapeutic value. At least in some cases, if not all. Is it better to feel utterly helpless, vulnerable to whims of others and fate... or is it better to have some sense of control and responsibility? It can be a liberating thought, but it can also drown you in anguish.
It is liberating, when it gives you the 'last of human freedoms' - ["to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way" Viktor Frankl]
It is torturing when it makes you see that your life is a mess, that you have lost your dreams, perhaps forever, and that it is no one's fault but your own.
Who can predict the outcome?
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
"They were given the choice between becoming kings or the couriers of kings. In the manner of children, they all wanted to be couriers. As a result, there are only couriers. They gallop through the world shouting to each other messages that, since there are no kings, have become meaningless. Gladly would they put an end to their miserable existence, but they dare not, because of their oaths of service."
A parable by Franz Kafka
Sunday, October 3, 2010
We believe what we believe for reasons that transcend Reason.*
Only a few gifted individuals allow Reason to reason with their beliefs.
To go where the argument leads would be to be... promiscuous.
To be without reasoning would be to be either blind or capricious.
Open your heart to the musings of logic, the freedom of arguments, the play of deductions.
Use Reason not merely to justify, but to grow, to evolve.
A heart without intellect is a heart stifled.
A heart stifled is the worst of all hearts.
* Bodes gloom for the search of Truth.
But there never was a Truth to possess.
Only a Truth to aim for.
Pity is one of the worst foundations to base any relationship on. Appealing to pity to keep a relationship alive is to put it on life-support. Appealing to pity to form a relationship is to doom it from the start.
You cannot be someone's true friend just because you feel sorry for him. You cannot love someone just because you are afraid of hurting him.