Philosophy 6: The Place of Religion
Religion is a right unquestionably awarded and protected.
This is relatively unsurprising, as 85 of the American population are identified in the most recent ARIS report as having a religion. Of those remaining 15%, only .7% of the population describes itself as explicitly atheistic.
However, any casual trip around the internet reveals that the debate is much more fiercely contested. It is then the expectation that atheists not espouse their opinions on social forums, such as Facebook, and quietly practice their non-religion on their own.
Atheists are a marginalized and persecuted social minority. It is suicidal for a political candidate to not be religions (or, in the case of the presidency, Christian). It is generally unwise, in American society, for one to be openly atheistic. This could lead to cold ostracism, dinner table awkwardness, and inevitable fighting among friends and family.
But why is it seen as inappropriate for Americans to be openly non-religious? To answer this, we have to discuss the historic and current role of religion in western society.
Religion is far older than societies, and represents man’s earliest and most popular attempts at philosophy. Religions have similar goals: to discover and teach truths about the world and life. These, in truth, are just philosophies that occasionally rely on supernatural forces for answers.
Religion is born out of mankind’s desire for knowing. Before science, rocks and trees were the gift of pagan gods and the stars were their playground.
Man also questioned elements beyond knowing, such as the afterlife and the time before birth. Heavens were devised, reincarnation was considered, and religions began to offer these as cosmic rewards for faith.
Popular modern religions are no different. Christianity, and the far more popular Islam attempt to answer the unknown questions of the world and cosmos. They seek the source of unhappiness and suffering, and look to fix it with faith.
This is why atheism is so persecuted; to the pious man, an atheist has the desire to destroy their entire world view, to take away their cherished gods and beliefs.
However, as a good philosopher, I must oppose religions and religious behavior.
While I can commend the humanitarian feats and genuinely pure intention of the religious, religion has one dangerous element in the modern world: Religious philosophy is not based on facts and evidence and logic. Religion is based on the authority of a religious text.
Elements of more ancient societies have given rise to gods and religions for clear reasons. Before the modern biology, sacrificing to a harvest goddess may have given a farmer the comforting thought that his crops may now succeed.
Now, modern farmers have the biology of growing beautifully mastered. Mankind has searched from the tiniest fractions of an atom to the wide cosmos, uncovering enough secrets of science that I can live more comfortably than the finest kings of France but a few centuries ago. We no longer need rain dances, we have the truths of crop growing.
Even in the realm of morals, we have such science and comfort. Like Issac Newton revolutionized mathematics, classical liberal philosophers like John Locke offered revolutionary ideas in philosophy. We have access to philosophy that rationally and logically proves that man best lives without theft or assault or murder. We no longer need commandments, we can prove theft is wrong without them.
The modern religious man faces an incredible contradiction. Religion teaches to defer questions of life in the modern world to religious texts and prayer. The scientific method teaches to answer questions using evidence and logic.
This is why modern morality is so stunted, compared to mankind’s fantastic technological advancement. People continue to use religion to decide how to live, and religious commandments tend to either contradict each other, or contradict the facts of the world.
Zealous religiosity can also cause so much disagreement and violence. This was painfully clear numerous times in history. When a question of science is debated, there is no war; only rigorous testing until one theory is proven most correct. However, religions claim to be beyond rational proof. When two opposing sides claim the will of God, they will in the least resent each other. In the worse, they will slaughter the other.
Practicing religion is not intrinsically immoral. I can build tiny shrines to Artemis without harming anyone. However, religion tends to oppose rationality, and this is why it is ultimately destructive to human growth.
I think mankind would be much better spending their time developing drought-resistant crops than praying for rain.
Personal 2: My Education
Although I am not done with my formal college education yet, I can say confidently that I have not learned a single thing of use in a decade and a half of schooling.
When I was very young, it was only by the loving attention of my parents that I learned to read so early and so well. I was always far ahead of my class in terms of “reading level.”
I took to mathematics fairly well, but I do not give my formal education any specific credit to this. Until I learned calculus, any haggard woman with a textbook could have taught me. With proper motivation, I could have likely taught myself. And if there was anything schooling provided me none of, it was motivation.
My natural curiosities in the sciences was sated only by tireless questioning of my parents, and television programming like Bill Nye. Even the best school teacher couldn’t have hoped to answer all of my individual questions, not to mention twenty or so of my peers.
I scored high for my class and advanced well into junior high school. There, I consumed and regurgitated information as well as I could. I had no particular love of grammar or mathematics. They were just tools, and while I was skilled at them, I was annoyed by their formal study. History was an exercise in reciting dates, which I hated. I even resolved myself not to form much of a formal opinion on what I was taught. Only science interested me, and most of my questions were sated far outside the classroom. In the sciences, I felt restricted by disinterested classmates and tired teachers.
In high school, I finally found teachers passionate enough to actually influence me. My band director worked tirelessly with us, with supportive and firm leadership, to make us the pride of the state. I found a history teacher with a love of showing us the absurdity of politics and history, a literature teacher who pressed Ayn Rand into the curriculum, and a physics teacher who gave me power over the mathematical sciences.
But my growth in high school was despite the education, not because of it. I still harbored a distinct hatred for the study of mathematics despite my skill at it. I saw it as superfluous and silly if not in the context of its practical application. The vast majority of literature I was forced to consume was modern and hopelessly useless. I did not enjoy spouting historical facts for the sake of it. To my horror, later, I learned that most of my education in American history was outright wrong.
And, combined with this, I was caught between a variety of social groups, none of which I particularly liked. Many students abandoned any desire for growth and betterment, preferring romances in the backs of fast cars. I did not have any love of these students, but I did not dislike them; they simply existed.
One group that I consciously resented, and one I still do, are the would be intellectuals. I was a high scoring student, but resented the system of standardized testing and artificial barriers to entry. These students, the intellectuals, actively enjoyed these activities. They placed their entire existence into their resumes and scores. They reveled in doing as they were told, unquestioningly, and voraciously consumed the praise they received for it.
College has not proved far different. Studying engineering, my time is consumed with ceaselessly calculating the loads on bridges. I understand the necessity of studying these skills in some form, but I am certain that most of this will be irrelevant to a career. The internet and free literature have proved far more useful in pursuing the sciences than any classroom study.
In the absence of state mandates and licences, I would be free to spend all of my time studying the sciences relevant to my career.
All my education has done is prove that I have the tenacity to suffer a backward, slow, and redundant series of exams, and that I can emerge from them relatively unscratched. It has not formally taught me a single useful thing.
Philosophy 5: “Shalt Not” of Virtue
I’m going to begin this post with an assertion: A man in a coma can never be guilty of committing a moral wrong.
It is absurd to assert that a man who is stricken to take no action could be committing immoralities.
This notion has very important implications. Moral law is universal for all men in all circumstances. Thus, if a moral law would make a man in a coma immoral, it is not a true, universal moral law. Rather, it is a cultural preference.
Several obvious moral codes pass the test of the comatose man. For example:
- One must not kill another man. Do not kill.
- One must not coerce another through violent force, theft, or coercion. Do not assault, steal, or lie.
These “shalt not” codes pass the test of the comatose man. They also uphold man’s right to his own life and property. Thus, they are universal moral laws.
Empirically, almost every civilized religion and government has independently come to these conclusions. Although religions and governments tend to make exceptions for outsiders (one can kill an non-believer, a foreigner, and the like), they tend to ban killing, assault, theft, and rape of their own.
However, the test of the comatose man reveals a variety of “false virtues” in western society. For example, a man in a coma can never voluntariy:
-Donate to charity, or assist his fellow man in any way.
-Worship in a chapel, or act patriotic toward a country.
While it is worthy of praise for a man to donate to the downtrodden, it is not a virtue to do so. Examining the universality of moral law, and finding and debunking false virtues is an important step toward creating a more philosophical and free society.
Politics 9: What Your Sports Team and President Have in Common
Lets start this post with a story:
You’re a 17 year old boy living in a suburb just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. Its the early afternoon of Sunday, February 5th, 2012; Superbowl Sunday. This year, its your family’s turn to host the annual football party. Your uncle, his wife and kids, and even grandpa are all set to come by some time during the day.
This is a big day. Your family’s favorite team, the New England Patriots, are about to play against the New York Giants for the Championship. Mom hurries about the kitchen preparing a massive plate of her special wings. Dad’s out picking up a few cases of beer. Big sister helps a little bit, but she doesn’t seem very excited. She’s an aspiring hopeful on her college’s track and field team, but she doesn’t really understand football.
Uncle shows up a little later in the day with his wife and two small boys, aged 4 and 6. They’re wearing cute little jerseys, but care more for the toy trucks they brought with them than the game itself. Grandpa came with them, and immediately sits down in his favorite reclining chair. He’d watched the sport grow over the decades. He doesn’t think much for the loud announcers and ads, but he loves the company of his kids and grand-kids.
The game starts, and the lot of you circle around the television on every couch and chair you can find. After a hearty helping of Mom’s wings, Uncle offers you a beer. You wince a little, but he pats your back, assuring you’re “man enough” for it. Sister is upstairs studying. She came home begrudgingly, and wishes she was back at school. This is the way it had always been, with your family cheering and jeering at every Patriots game they could.
This year, your family watches in horror as the Giant’s Ahmad Bradshaw literally tumbles into the end zone, scoring the touchdown that would cost the Patriots the game. You’re disappointed, but uncle is genuinely angry, streaming colorful profanity, cursing the entire population of New York. In the end though, you all had fun, and hope that the Patriots will have an even better season next year.
I’m sure we can all find ourselves somewhere in that anecdote. I certainly can. Now, let me tell you another story.
It is late October of 2012. You’ve the same boy, have just turned 18, and are enjoying your first semester of college at the University of Massachusetts.
Its the end of election season, and you’re well used to Comedy Central being punctuated by political advertisements. You’re not the political type, and don’t pay these ads much mind. Some of the people around you certainly do, however.
At home, you’re used to heated political debates as long ago as you can remember. You were only six during the September 11th terrorist attacks, but you have a vague memory of those days. You remember a slightly younger uncle talking about people on the other side of the world and needing to set them straight. Grandpa wasn’t too happy about the war. It reminded him of Vietnam, but uncle convinced him it was for “freedom and good Christian values.”
You remember a lot of talk about president Busch in those days. Come 2008, you remember Dad and Uncle being really worried about “their” party as the Republicans had a hard time deciding who to run against Barak Obama. Uncle didn’t want a “terrorist” in the white house, which Mom assured him was a crazy thought. Sister spoke up against Uncle. She said that neither choice was very good, and that neither party makes any sense. Uncle told her she was un-American, and the two haven’t spoken about politics since. Dad didn’t like Obama’s economic stance, but wasn’t nearly as loud as Uncle.
You remember the disappointment the day after election day after your family’s favorite McCain lost. You didn’t have too much of an opinion yourself though, you had better things to do.
Now, you’re getting ready to vote in your first presidential election ever. College brought a firestorm of new ideas. You thought that Mitt Romney may have been the better choice; he could run a massive company anyway.
People at the college disagreed with you though, they spoke long and passionately about Obama’s quest to help the poor, to give everyone health insurance, to even save the poor people in Syria against a tyrant. There were others; someone kept writing “Ron Paul 2012” on the sides of buildings in chalk, with a big peace sign instead of an “o.” He had to be crazy, Paul never had a chance.
They couldn’t sway you though, and you were set to vote for “your man.” The only one that worried you was Big Sister. You tried to talk to her once about politics. She said something about the system being wrong, about having no more taxes or wars. You told her you didn’t understand. The system has been around for so long and so many people like it, it couldn’t be wrong.
Now, do you notice the similarity between these stories?
While I don’t have any problems with sports as a leisure time activity, it is plainly clear that professional sports are a deep cultural icon. Teams are not chosen because they are best, they’re supported because they represent a home town or area. The sports teams compete with teams from other areas, giving their fans a chance to feel superior to other cities. This rivalry can breed so much anger, and transforms people from individuals into proud New Yorkers, New Englanders, and the like.
People will even refer to their teams as “us” or “we.” Phrasing like this is dangerous. It gives people a chance to feel accomplished where they have accomplished nothing, and to hate another people who have done nothing to deserve it.
This system is so ingrained in the culture because it is passed down through the generations without questioning. Supporting a team is a cultural norm, and to not care for professional sports is strange and unpatriotic.
And this is exactly how people tend to view the American political system.
I would argue that very, very few Americans take a principled approach to politics. How a person votes is strongly based on their upbringing and family rather than their personal values.
Christians will vote for Republicans because they are the apparent Christian party. People who want a “fair” society will vote for Democrats because they apparently help the poor, regardless of the true facts of these candidates’ stances. Much of this is influenced by thinking at home, and not by real historic facts.
It is also strange not to support these parties, in the same sense as it is strange not to like a popular sports team. There is no reason for this, it is just the cultural norm.
People need to understand this, and start taking a principled approach to politics, to start voting for candidates because of their platform, and not their party. To read economics and philosophy and history and decide to vote for who is best for the country.
Or, I think the inevitable; to not vote at all.
Americans shouldn’t worship Tom Brady. He’s no more than a man with a football. People living in New England gain nothing from his wins or losses other than a few hours of entertainment.
Americans shouldn’t worship Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. They’re men with checkered histories, with contradictions and inconsistencies and mistakes. If you’re going to support them, support them as men with using facts. I personally think the facts will teach you not support them at all.
I want to write a quick post to thank people who have been reading my work, and especially to the folks who have been following and reblogging me.
You’re all an inspiration to me and great motivation, I hope the best thanks I can give you is to keep doing my research and producing content.
Psychology 2: Teen Angst
The teenage rebellious streak is iconic. Catcher in the Rye is written about it, Bon Jovi sings about it. But why, at the coming of age, do children fight so against the world around them?
Young people are more perceptive than the older generation tends to give them credit for. They are programmed as nature intended: curious, self-interested, and skeptical. Children want their way, and will attempt to get it by whatever means necessary, and will try to ignore anything to the contrary.
This is why children are so resistant to authoritarian arguments. “Because you have to” conflicts with a child’s interests, and this upsets them. Anyone who has ever tried to convince a young child (or, for that matter, some adults) to eat a plate of broccoli knows exactly what I am referring to.
Resistance to authority stretches all throughout a child’s life. Children don’t want to brush their teeth, don’t want to eat well, don’t want to go to bed on time. They certainly don’t want to go to school.
While some parents may see this as a problem, and sadly, a need for strict discipline technique, I see a child’s natural selfishness and resistance to authority as a gift. Many adults could use this same vigor in their lives, it may do them well.
Children do what they believe is best for them. Any child will only genuinely happily comply with a parent’s request when it believes that it is in his best interest to do so. While it is difficult to logically explain to a child why they need to eat their carrots, this can be accomplished with a great deal of patience, and a child can be taught to eat well.
What children, resist, however, is being barked at to eat their vegetables. They do not believe the authority telling them to do this, they simply comply to avoid the screaming. The child is being forced to do something against their will, and this is tremendous source of stress for a growing mind.
Now, let us look at children in the setting of public schools. From a young age, children are forced to spend hours in cramped classrooms learning things they find more or less irrelevant. While children are naturally curious, they explore the world at their own pace, asking questions about the things they experience in their lives. I maintain that I’ve taught my kid brother more about the world by playing the “why” game with him than he has learned in his few years in public school.
Structured schooling, public schooling especially does not provide an adequate environment for this curiosity. Children are inflicted with a one-size-fits-all curriculum, with history lessons from times they could care less about and math classes about abstract numbers. A child will learn more about addition and subtraction by sharing crackers with his friends than could be taught to them in a classroom.
At this young age, “psychological disorders” may begin to develop. There is no diagnosable pathological cause of ADD, ADHD, OCD, or even Autism. A child with ADD does not have a disorder. They are stuck in a classroom for seven or so hours a day being inflicted with tests and classes that they could not care less about. I can’t blame a child in this setting for not being able to focus or sit still in his chair.
Young children can keenly sense when something is wrong in their environment. They’ll seek an answer, and will despair when no one can be given. A child can be taught to eat carrots because a patient parent can explain why vegetables are healthy for a child. A child can never be taught to enjoy public schooling because no adequate true answer exists. Rigidly structured schooling does not benefit children whatsoever, and there is good reason to abuse a child with the anxiety of homework and tests.
This anxiety persists into higher levels of schooling. As they age, kids are given even less sympathy by their educators. The testing becomes more rigorous, and young teens are forced to choose from a small handful of careers if they are to have any worth.
It is heartbreaking that a teenage girl must affirm her worth either by her waistline or her SAT score.
This is compounded by pressure at home which the child may face. Children, as they enter into their early teens, begin to develop ideology on the world at large. Because they can form concepts greater than themselves, they form the rudiments of notions about how the world at large works, about basic philosophy.
These children are growing up in a world that is, largely, anti-philosophical. Many children are taught nothing useful by their parents. Children are given no logical explanations about how the world works, they are often taught that they must obey their parents, they must attend school, that the law is supreme, and the like.
Most American children are inflicted with religion, that the rules of the world are handed down from supreme authority, and that questioning the like is punishable by death or worse. I cannot think of a worse abuse.
This is why teens throw themselves to false philosophies, that they should follow their heart, follow their god, follow their parents, or follow the government. Children seek answers and have been given nothing substantial.
And once a child is old enough to realize that there is no distinct difference between them and their parents, that perhaps the schoolteachers and parents that have taught them for years are wrong, they rebel. Because they have been so abused by those who they were told to trust, these children trust no one.
They become short sited, immature, hateful youths, who do not trust anything more than their emotions and whims for guidance. And they are dangerous because they offer others no comfort or answers. It is these youths that will stand at the forefront of intellectuals and cry “there is no truth!”
They become the adults who resent their wives and husbands because they married for young love, which is fleeting. They ignore and abuse their children because they do not know how to do otherwise. They watch the same sports teams and vote for the same parties because they could not consider that these things don’t matter. They become the soldiers who kill civilians on video from the back of an apache helicopter or shoot innocents in a movie theater or fly planes into buildings. They have no philosophy to teach them that these are terrible, terrible crimes. Worse, they may have false philosophies to teach them that these crimes are actually virtuous.
If we desire for the adults in this country to be capable of using logic and critical thinking to improve their lives, we have to give them the respect and time of day as children.
Politics 8: Public Roads
Automotive accidents account for a great deal of avoidable deaths in the western world.
I personally find it extremely unsettling that the public is not more outraged by this statistic. Health leaders, and even public figures, lead massive public awareness campaigns against childhood obesity and drug use. Yet, I seldom hear auto safety discussed in the public sphere.
Perhaps this is because there is a certain innocent naivety associated with obesity, alcohol and tobacco use; the user has brought their fate upon themselves. This is why they can be publicly decried; no one is forced to accept blame for another’s misfortune.
Automotive accidents, however, are not so innocent. They happen quickly and without warning. And I propose that they are a direct consequence of the road system itself.
I don’t see a need for it. From even a pragmatic perspective, I don’t see a reason that a person, weighing an average of 180 or so pounds, needs to ride in a two ton box of explosive fuel and steel. I would think that, especially in the 21st century, the absurdity of this would be more apparent.
The reason the convention of highways is seldom challenged is because it is imposed on the public. Use of roads is not a choice for anyone living even a minimally functional lifestyle. Cars and roads exist, and America’s principally suburban population has little choice but to tolerate this and risk life and limb for travel.
Unlike the great railroads, which were made public and purchased by the government, the highway was never desired privately. The extensive public use of the roads is perpetuated by big government, because:
· The highways were originally built as a post-World War II public works project, and for the sake of moving troops and supplies around the country.
· Post WWII suburbanization and subsidized housing forced the populace into the suburbs, which necessitated individual, fast travel.
· Big Oil is heavily government subsidized. This is plainly and painfully visible in the modern era.
· Automotive companies are heavily subsidized. Companies like GM are given massive government bailouts to continue producing, essentially, the same product that they’ve produced for the last 70 years. If these companies were allowed to fail, perhaps others would sell a safer, newer product.
· Lengthy patent laws make testing new automotive technology difficult in the US. Recently, European automotive innovators have begun testing self-driving vehicles. One cannot expect this innovation any time soon stateside.
· The railroads have been bought by the government and utterly destroyed in recent decades. Fares are needlessly high and only connect major cities. This eliminates rail travel as an alternative to automotive travel.
In summary, if automotive travel were left entirely to the free market to solve, innovators would have worked through its inherent inefficiencies and safety risks. Large consumer companies could have built dedicated roadways for their truckers, while passenger vehicles could have been smaller and more safely designed. But it is not my place to speculate, it is my place to identify what is wrong.
It is unusual for me to identify a problem based on its practical issues rather. The roads and auto subsidies are immoral, inherently, because they are paid for by stolen tax money. I personally believe that, if it weren’t for the military industrial complex, the roads would never have been considered, but this is sheer speculation.
The important fact here is that the roads are inefficient and dangerous, this is the fault of the federal government, and that this needs to be fixed before more lives are needlessly lost.
Philosophy 4: Hierarchy of Profession
This is a thought experiment of mine, and this post will receive frequent review and will need constant keeping.
I want to develop a rational Hierarchy of Profession, tracing every conceivable trade and skill to its fundamentals. The purpose of doing this is to identify “weak fundamentals,” which cause errors and conflicts further on.
Many “disciplines” are divided into their constituent parts. For example, “philosophy” as an academia is too broad. It is divided into Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics.
A discipline can only be as correct as the study on which it is based.
If I have missed a profession, please contact me here in the comments or at ThoughtsOnLiberty2012@gmail.com to consider additions. Keep in mind that I have listed extremely broad categories. Keep in mind, some professions are listed in part here. “Bus driver” is part engineering (how to best practically move a bus), part ethics (why one should obey traffic signs).
Tier 0: Absolute Fundamentals
Here are studies that absolutely proceed all others, period, and form the basis of all knowledge.
- Metaphysics: “The branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.”
Metaphysics explores the base fundamentals of the entire universe, and explains what can and can’t possibly be under any circumstances.
Items in this category are based on Metaphysics. They rely on very basic principles, such as the necessary existence of the universe, non-contradiction, and the like.
- Mathematics: “The abstract science of number, quantity, and space.”
Mathematics relies on logical non-contradiction, and thus, is the only reason it is not a Tier 0 discipline. However, it proceeds the entirety of all science.
- Epistemology: ”The theory of knowledge.”
Once Metaphysics has established that the universe exists and is non-contradictory, Epistemology explores how rational beings interact with the universe.
Various other disciplines begin to develop once basic logic and mathematics are applied. These studies still provide a significant amount of fundamental material for later trades.
- Linguistics: "The Scientific study of language and its structure."
Linguistics relies on, again, non-contradiction to establish a one-to-one relationship with words and concepts, and epistemology to establish that man can form concepts.
- Physics: ”The branch of science concerned with the properties of matter.”
Chemistry: ”The branch of science that deals with the identification of the substances of which matter is composed.”
Physics melds Metaphysics’ knowledge of the universe at large and Mathematics’ numeric logic to describe the universe in numeric terms. For our discussion, Chemistry is treated as extremely precise physics, but more or less the same study.
- Ethics: "The branch of knowledge dealing with moral principles."
Ethics rely on linguistics for establishment of terms, and epistemology for logical consistency.
- Biology: ”The study of living organisms.”
Once the behaviors of matter are defined, this can be applied to living systems.
- Engineering: ”The practical application of scientific principle”
Engineering births the studies of mathematics and science into real products. For our discussion here, “Engineering” does not refer to the profession, but rather, any and all direct practical applications of Mathematics and Physics.
- Medicine: ”The science or practice of the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease ”
Medicine here includes any and all professions related to interaction with the organic body, from the direct practice of a doctor to pharmaceutics. This also includes all athletics, as they are more or less the same: work on a physical body for a desired end.
- Psychology: “The scientific study of the human mind and its functions.”
Resting on biology, psychology explores how the human brain itself works. This is different than epistemology in that epistemology explores how knowledge interacts with a rational mind logically, rather than biologically.
- Education: “The theory and practice of imparting knowledge.”
Education in all of its forms rests on psychology and ethics to best decide how to teach, and on mathematics, metaphysics, ethics and linguistics to differentiate what is true and what is false.
- Politics: ”The academic study of government and the state.”
This discipline discusses how two or more people should interact. It rests heavily upon ethics and psychology. Includes rhetoric. Includes economics.
- Aesthetics: ”A set of principles concerned with the nature and appreciation of beauty”
Both the sophists’ question of “what is beautiful?” and all of the arts, from music to play-writing to architecture. Relies on psychology to discuss what is most pleasing to the human eye.