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Searching for the Answer

The Victim

While I am not an expert I’ve seen first hand how our legal and political systems work to empower the victim.  At face value this seems like a very common sense thing to do.  Those in need should get help.  We can all accept this, I don’t intend to deny it here.  A society has laws and rules, but these are not enough.  We require cultural initiatives as well to foster good will and values.  At some point the scales tipped and our laws began to dictate our values.  As we fell down this slippery slope we lost our ethical compass.  Cultural initiatives have shifted from being focused on values and cultural development to promoting special interests.  It’s difficult to navigate now.  It’s hard to know what cause to get behind, to see what’s genuine.

The American dream is nothing but false promises.  The very thing our nation was founded upon.  The idea that if you work hard, anything is possible.  It’s so naïve. This would require life to be fair.  Life isn’t fair.  People every day work hard, do the right thing, and are stricken with illnesses and hardships that are in blatant disregard for ‘fair’.  Now don’t get me wrong.  There’s nothing wrong with a world of indifference.  I’m a firm believer in the strength of humanity and we can overcome.  We can bring order and hope to a world of primal indifference.  However, it simply doesn’t ring true to our world views.  The truth is if we work hard, we will get ahead, but only so far.

Laws now empower us to be indifferent.

Taxation leaves us bitter and resentful.

 

Volunteerism is now tracked at roughly 25% of the population volunteered at least once.  Once… that’s sad.  We have 365 days, 24 hours a day, and only 1/4 of us gave a few hours out of that year.

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My Will

Is it possible to separate our concepts of identity and freedom?  I don’t believe it is.

Identity can be viewed as many things.

It can be reduced to the physical realm and explained as the body we inhabit, or the brain where our ‘thoughts’ reside.  Thoughts in this terminology meaning just the electrical impulses being fired within.  Self identity would then be tied to a physical body in a specific timeline.  This view surprisingly has more merit than it seems at face value.  Theoretically we could someday be able to develop a machine that could reassemble every atom of your being and create a duplicate, would this not be a different person and yet their memories and personality traits would be identical.

Identity can be seen as our collection of memories and experiences.  Many believe these are what makes us who we are and there’s a lot of scientific and sentimental evidence to support this.  Consider someone with amnesia, where all memories have been permanently wiped, but we still consider them the same person do we not?   And yet in our legal system disorders such as amnesia have been used as a defense to prove the opposite of this and that it is indeed a different person.

I believe identity has to be seen in a different light.  I think how we obtain memories, through perception, has an important role in this.  Is what we perceive real?  Is there another reality behind the physical?  Are we nothing more than conscious machines or is there something else at work?

I’m moved by the old thought experiment of a man who was raised his entire life in a world of black and white.  There was no color.  No way for him to see red, blue, etc.  He was given a book that contained all the worlds knowledge.  He could read about the colors, he knew of their existence.  Then one day, he moved outside the room, and saw color for the first time.  Did he not gain knowledge and experience?  If so, then how do we define it, how do we quantify it?  It’s completely outside our realm of physical explanation.  I believe there are many conditions like this in our lives and I believe these are a driving force in our identity.  They may not be as ‘black and white’ (pardon the pun, couldn’t resist) as the above example, but the very fact that we can comprehend it leaves room for other concepts and forms of knowledge that we simply can’t quantify.

Identity separated from the physical realm would not be able to be reduced to memories or a physical location in space and time.  It would be impossible to describe in literal terms.  However, I believe we can close our eyes and listen to the voice in our head, watch for the images and scenes it puts before us.  That experience is our identity.  Wherever it comes from, it defines us.  Without it, we would cease to be.  Even if we had the technology developed where we could somehow translate the impulses in our brains to somehow read another’s thoughts, we would not be able to obtain the same perception as the original, as the identity.  There would be something more there that could never be taken.

Nothing I’ve said so far has been outside the normal scope of any other dualist/realist belief.  It’s been long argued there is a metaphysical realm outside the strictly physical.  This belief plays a key part in our definition of free will.  Does the will act on it’s own?  Are our choices just a result of physical impulses?  If there is a physical impact on our choices, can we really consider it ‘free’ will?

I don’t know that I can say there is really such a thing as ‘free’ will.  There is order which is governed by laws of cause and effect, and there is disorder, essentially chaos.  Let’s consider some things we can say universally about our identity and our will.

It’s time bound.  Whether it exists in the physical realm, or a non-physical realm, our identity and our will experience time.  It passes.  Without time we couldn’t close our eyes and experience our identity, we couldn’t form memories, we couldn’t make choices.  Choices being bound by an experience of ‘either-or’.  Of course the role time plays in the physical realm vs. non-physical could be different and obviously our perception of time can change between the two.  These considerations still do not absolve will and identity of being bound by time.  Without time the two would cease to exist as we perceive them.

Let’s call it ident-o-will, or.. willentity…. or… iWill… I’m no good with names… I consider them inseparable though…  every good philosopher needs to be good at making up their own words… I guess that makes me a bad thinker… I call it my will.  It is what makes me me.  It is the impact I have on the world.  It is the choices I have made.  It is that which drives me.  It is the flame that burns within and dictates that I will go on.

As I develop this train of thought I’m beginning to think I should have started by defining virtues…

 

 

 

 

 

Virtue

An ethics revolving around virtues of character will always be at the center of our experience.  While many will gravitate towards a system of rules and laws to dictate behavior and values, these ethical structures are simple.  Rules are what we teach our children, when they are too young to understand.  Rules are what we use on an agent that simply can’t manage themselves.  I believe humanity is greater than this.  I believe in the human condition, in the human will for good.  I feel it in myself and I can see it in everyone around me.  Such an experience opens the door for more advanced codes of ethics.  Perhaps with proper reflection people can develop virtues in themselves and weaken their vices.  This is what I believe.  I believe with proper reflection we can even begin to understand these virtues and form that understanding into a practical code of ethics that this world so desperately needs.

Virtues and values are the core language we understand ethics through.  At the core of our being, in our heart of hearts, we can feel a sense of right and wrong.  This sense can be twisted and warped by our vices, but it’s always there.  Refined rules and codes can be considered a reflection of these values.  We shape the laws of our society to protect the virtues as we perceive them, but the laws themselves are imperfect representations.  They can never be all inclusive, and they can never substitute for an actual ethical consciousness.

An easy criticism of my believe would be to consider if all humans are good at the core, why are there so many problems in the world?  Why isn’t everyone just a model of virtue?   It has to be conceded that we are perhaps not good to the core.  There are vices as there are virtues; jealousy, rage, greed, lust, gluttony.  These are all real in every one of us.  A person must reflect and dissect these frames of mind and understand them for what they are.  I myself am still at a stage of breaking this problem down.  I believe Fear to be the most influential vice of all.  I believe Fear to be at the core of, quite possibly, all vices.  Fear lends itself to being the villain.  It’s animalistic, primal.  Our survival instinct itself is most likely just a complex nest of fears that drive us.  Fear of starvation, fear of injury, fear of loss, fear of leaving nothing behind, fear of death.  Many might argue without Fear there would be nothing left.  No emotions or sentiments, no drive.  Mankind would simply waste away in apathy.  There’s no doubt Fear can motivate us and many forms of Fear seem perfectly natural to us.  No one questions a mother’s fear for her child.  We don’t question a Fear of death, it seems natural if life is to go on.  Perhaps at the end of the day Fear itself isn’t even all that bad.  Civilizations throughout history have survived and thrived in a state where mankind knows Fear and indeed accepts and embraces it.  It’s driven us to the age we live in now and things aren’t so bad are they?

(Let’s not get into a dramatic debate about all the injustices of modern society now though.  Anyone with the mental capacity to see the big picture and weigh injustices of the past 100,000 years to the current state of affairs can see things are not even comparable.  There can be no debate that’s progress.  Progress is good.  We’ll leave it at that.)

As the world grows and expands though, as we see things clearer, I believe we will need something better than survival.  We need something better than Fear to drive us.  First I can’t accept that without Fear and survival instinct to drive us we would be left empty.  To accept that would mean that everything we believe, everything we think and feel, can ultimately be reduced to mere survival and distilled into Fear.  It’s a very common practice for people to reduce life to something along these lines.  Evolution, genetics, survival instinct, might makes right, etc, etc.  It’s a very interesting sleight of hand they play here though.  I don’t find this reduction of human experience pragmatic.  I want more out of my life.  I want a deeper explanation.  Many would say too bad, there’s nothing more.  There’s nothing special out there, it’s just a bunch of complex animals trying to survive.  However, the very fact that I can want more, that I can even perceive it, leads one to doubt that portrayed state of affairs.

I’m growing old.  Writing like this the words used to leap from my mind.  Now it almost feels like a chore… maybe I’m getting lazy, maybe it’s a lack of youthful angst and inspiration…. who knows…

 

Justice and Order

I’ve long since found myself hedging towards a virtue driven code of ethics.  It’s something far from a modern day view as we’ve developed over the years into a society of rules and laws.  I’ve written another piece on Conviction.  I will not go back into that detail but just to say that it was my first identified virtue and I stand by it as a necessary virtue.

Justice will be my focus.  I believe Justice to be a primary virtue of any and all sensible belief systems.  Justice as I believe it to be is the idea of ’cause and effect’ in the ethical world.  It’s the idea that good deeds should be rewarding while evil deeds should leave one lacking.  I’m not going to propose that the natural world exists this way.  I don’t believe in karma or any supernatural force that maintains this balance.  Nature and reality are indifferent to the ethical world.  That is the very thing that makes Justice primary.  Without it we are animals, we are nature, we are in the constant state of conflict for survival.  Without Justice there is no sense of ethics at all.  Justice can be obtained via rules or virtue.  It’s not exclusive to a virtue driven code of ethics.  However, I believe it is a necessary to be Just if we are to remain virtuous.  It doesn’t sound as fancy as I originally hoped… I’ll probably have to invent some philosophical jargon to make the concept stick.

Justice allows us to frame the world ethically.  Without it we can’t create opposing sides.  Some may take offense to this concept and preach tolerance and understanding. This is a circular argument.  If you believe tolerance is a virtue you inherently have to accept that intolerance is a vice.  You have to accept that we should be tolerant of others views because it will create a better world and that intolerance would create a lesser world.  Ultimately when someone says we should be ‘tolerant’ it simply means they’ve watered down or shifted their world view enough that it doesn’t conflict with any other world view to the point where it would require boundaries.  For example it’s easy enough to be tolerant of others views when discussing favorite colors of flowers.  One person can think red makes a nice flower, another can think blue, another green, they’re all nice flowers.  However, for most people tolerance goes right out the window when someone decides they want to kill your red flower.  You will take a stand to protect it and you will acknowledge it’s importance over the importance of the opposing sides views.  Now I’m not saying EVERYONE will take this stand.  There are plenty of sideliners and non-participants that lack Conviction that will simply ‘tolerate’ and let the flower die.  To those I would contend they never really thought the red flower was that nice to being with.  Maybe they were just jumping on the band wagon for other reasons or maybe they don’t have much Conviction one way or the other on the importance of red flowers.  My point here is that this mode of thought is dangerous and impractical.  Taken to it’s furthest extent it’s downright self destructive.  Tolerant or not we must all accept that we have to identify good and bad via Justice.

Consider the value of Justice even in just a very pragmatic sense.  If a concept of Justice wasn’t valuable why would so many belief systems and governments adhere to it?  Through history we have had legal systems of crime and punishment, religion systems of Heaven and Hell, karma, even Lady Justice herself.  Without cause and effect our ethical existence would be as chaotic as a world without cause and effect.  There would be no Order.  No way to take reasonable action.  All actions would be indifferent to the world and have no meaning because there would be no right action and no wrong action.  Just a random string of events occurring.  I’m not saying there’s evidence to prove there’s more to the world than a random string of events, I’m simply saying that if we hold any values at all they will benefit and flourish in a world of Order and Justice more so than a random string of events.

Justice and Conviction are the primary virtues to any ethical system.  They create the definition that is necessary for us to frame the world ethically.  From this point we must try and deduce what comes next.

 

 

 

Living in the Moment

Some days it’s easy to forget the moment.  There’s the past to learn from, the future to worry over, and the ever expanding imaginative consciousness we can escape to.  It’s easy to stop focusing on the moment at hand and get lost.  I spend more time out of the moment than in it.  More time thinking about tomorrow, going over what I did today, and imagining a better life in my mind.

If you stop and look at the world on a sunny day.  Just look at the way the light reflects off the world, just take it in and let it hit you.  Stop thinking about what might happen tomorrow, stop wishing for a better life, and take in what you’ve been given today.

Looking at the trees as my car passes them by.  The light bubbling between shadows, flickering in my eyes.  Music and time itself flowing along as if it’s all woven together.  It’s impossible for me to think this is just chance.  I wonder how many moments we pass by that were perfectly created for us.  It’s too easy to get stuck in the prison of our minds.

Searching

I’m searching for an answer.  I’ve been working hard now for years.  I’ve accomplished every goal I’ve set for myself.  I feel an emptiness, I’ve felt it all along.  It’s not static. I can’t surmount it.  It’s a living thing that pursues me.  The more I try to distance myself from it, the more I realize it’s inescapable.  So I am searching.  How do I relieve myself of this burden?

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