Sunday, August 30, 2009

Identity vs Character

We don't know everything. The unfortunate reality constantly forces us to judge and act on incomplete information. We form opinions and worldviews with neither a complete sweeping general picture nor an exact conception of the details of our circumstances. So then what happens when new information is brought to our attention? There are two options.

We can use previous conclusions to reject new premises. This is irrational and amounts to a denial of reality. It is a deception of our own psyche to believing that reality is something other than what it is. This option may sound ridiculous when it is explained in these terms, the easy option for a dull mind.

We all have a inclination to create our own identity - a self-image - as a conglomeration of the characteristics of many external entities. It's as though we are programmed with a need to know where we are and where we are going. Defining ourselves is such a laborious, taxing, and time-consuming experience that we do not wish to repeat it. Some may feel that were they to redefine themselves they would appear wishy washy. Or they might be intimidated by not having a clearly outlined destination in the process and they might worry they'd get lost in the middle, like a computer operating system attempting to reprogram itself.

The real problem is when people identify themselves with transient entities, things that change. Examples might include people that think of themselves as the stylish one, the unemployed one, or the leprous one. Character is when one forms his identity based on eternal and unchanging principles: of a man with character it might be said "he is good, kind, meek, courageous, passionate about truth."

Possession of character is predicated on an absolute and unequivocal embrace of reality, eternity, truth (all one and the same). In order to function an intelligent agent must draw conclusions based on incomplete premises (knowledge of reality). But as more knowledge is brought to light it is embraced as well as all previously held knowledge; it is welcomed as a premise and any contingent conclusions are reconsidered.

My fellow author in this blog was once told, "you don't always have to be right" to which he had the ready rejoinder, "why would I ever want to be wrong?" This is a powerful expression of character well-founded in correct philosophical premises. This is the only attitude any truly free man will have. The free man maintains his freedom by giving no allegiance to any political party, ideology, position or principle except truth. As new truth is learned all opinions, prejudices, worldviews and paradigms are modified as necessary into consistency with this truth. And the truth shall make you free.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Autonomy and Slavery

In every association of two or more people the challenge of creating a society can be boiled down to the establishment of a balance between the extremes of anarchy and slavery. The individuals of every social system desire maximum autonomy for themselves. If an individual was living in complete isolation then he would have complete freedom to choose every facet of his life, living conditions, lifestyle and conduct for himself answerable only to the natural laws of the reality in which he lives. The existence of intelligent third-party agents introduces many new dimensions of two-way accountability for each pair of individuals in the system.

Political and social strife are always the result of the dissonance created by differences between individuals' beliefs as to where the anarchy-slavery balance should be drawn. These beliefs are always predicated in some fashion on the values and philosophical premises of the individual. In order to foster a society that relishes thought, creativity, and successful pursuit of happiness, no man can be a slave or create slaves. No man can be expected to live (work or actively support contrary to his expressed wishes) for any other man. Corollary to that, no man can expect to be supported by any other contrary to their wishes. No man can expect, much less demand, what was not rightfully earned.

It is reasonable that in order to allow a man freedom to pursue his happiness he must also be allowed to pursue his own demise and misery. Freedom to pursue one is freedom to pursue the other. This is as natural a conclusion as that a choice with only one option is not a choice at all. It is a natural law that every freedom necessarily comes with accountability for use of that freedom. We are always accountable to ourselves, to that part of ourselves that cannot be deceived or rationalized into blindness. Mere desire can never change reality.

All processes for progress/improvement or regression/deterioration are cyclical. All causes have effects and effects reinforce the causes. A man is creative, has a good idea, implements it, improves the lives of a community, the community rewards him with money, veneration, and whatever else might just be a part of this man's realization of greater happiness than he previously had which only motivates him to continue to work because he knows it will make him happier. Conversely a depressed man may lose his job, get on welfare, feel sorry for himself and lose all sense of self-respect, stop contributing in any way to his social system and become a pitiable nothing. Forced welfare for such a person does neither him nor the forced taxpayer any good.

'Victim' cannot be universally defined for a society without the creation of slaves. Maximization of freedom for all agents in a social system occurs when all agents are autonomous: all people must have the freedom to act and reap the natural rewards of their actions (i.e. society should not work to oppose natural law) and all people must have complete stewardship over those rewards. A state welfare system is a sign of social slavery. For a free society all unearned aid can only be the result of charitable donations: goods or services willingly ceded by those with full title and stewardship.

In order to have a successful/happy society that society cannot quell the willful actions and behaviors that must lead to happiness.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Simple Rule

A lot of people like to make it clear that all opinions are of equal value; right answers do not exist for real-world issues and such. Sometimes it turns out that certain opinions are more equal than others: some opinions should not only be tolerated, not only accepted, not only promulgated but in fact if you do not embrace this particular opinion you are a monster, a bigot, or an ignoramus.

While the notions of 'right' and 'good' require painstaking definition and a proper framework for meaning, logic and reasoning should be more straight-forward for the honest and sincere soul. A person's reasoning reveals his values and his conclusions make known his premises. If we are to properly embrace freedom of speech and thought and be adamant proponents for physical and ideological liberty then we must recognize the diversity of values and premises that people will bring to the table. The only way to consistently recognize the freedoms and liberty enjoyed by each citizen is to abide a simple rule: no man can live for the sake of another man nor ask another man to live for him.

My values and philosophical premises can be whatever I choose... so long as they are not predicated on you. If I were to believe that health care is a universal right of man then I would have to back up my belief by myself and not rely on you for a dime. Your belief that you are financially obligated to each member of humanity does not and can not obligate me. Else I would not be at liberty to choose my own values independent of yours. You are not only implying but demanding that your values take precedence over mine in the running of my life.

Besides that you are miserable because your premises suggest that you are afraid of death (which you cannot avoid) and your implied value is that your life should be primarily spent prolonging your and everyone else's life, which is circular and devoid of meaning.

If you want to be happy then accept the inevitable and become a proactive controller and director of your own life. Choose to help others as you can but do not force your 'help' on anyone. If I cannot convince you to think correctly with correct premises and choose to be happy, then I will certainly deny you the right to obstruct my doing so.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rights, Government and Society

We know from history and from our own natures that a large group of people cannot coexist without law. Anarchy is not conducive to individual happiness except in a society where every member is of impeccable character. But since character cannot be developed except as the by-product of the process of learning about and embracing natural law, we must conclude that anarchy is never a good social state. The process of individual progression induces a sense of achievement and well-being in a person whereas anarchy is perpetual chaos and ideas like 'progress' that imply direction lose meaning.

Too much law and too much government oppress the people they rule over. This oppression is defined as the elimination of the individual's power of choice to live, act, and do as they please. The type of law permissible is one that defines consequences for behavior and action. Civil law must be in harmony with natural law in order to work, in order for the society to be prosperous, progressive, successful and happy. An attempt to legislate contrary to natural law will bring the society to the natural consequences: the people will be forced to violate either the civil law by one action or natural law by another. Either action yields consequences for violation of law. Henry David Thoreau once observed that, "under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison." He concludes that since the violation of civil law, out of harmony with natural law (unjust), will bear no ill fruit on one's character; it is far better to break an unjust civil law than to break natural law. Confucious observed that, "If a State is governed by the principles of reason, poverty and misery are the subjects of shame; if a State is not governed by the principles of reason, riches and honors are the subjects of shame." Thoreau declares, "It costs me less in every sense to incur the penalty of disobedience to the State, than it would to obey [an unjust law]."

The purpose of government is not to try to legislate arbitrary laws that they have no reason for believing will increase and safeguard the welfare of the people. Government discovers the principles of reality, prosperity, self-reliance, productivity, and happiness (and enacts laws in accordance thereto) in the same way that the individual discovers those principles. But the government is a group of people determining these principles and so is less likely to make costly and bitter mistakes than an individual drawing upon only one life's experiences. The Founding Fathers and others have spoken of a 'Tyranny of the Majority' that happens when a majority go against the principles of reality to the misery of all. The Founding Fathers relied on an elaborate system of checks and balances designed to maximize the number of people involved in major decisions.

The United States' Declaration of Independence speaks of inalienable rights including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are inalienable because the deprivation of these lead to misery and eventually revolution. All people must have the power to drive their own lives in order for anyone to be happy. These rights are common to American citizens because all Americans, by living in America, have chosen to acknowledge and respect these rights to each. The Bill of Rights includes the rights to free speech, press, religion, petition, assembly, own weapons to check the power of government, protection from unlawful search and seizure and from quartering troops, etc. etc. because Americans have collectively acknowledged that these rights will be respected. A right is only a right because the people and the people's government have chosen to honor it as a right. There is no 'right' or privilege afforded to anyone without the people's and the government's consent. If the people or the government do not give their consent to any 'right' then it is not a right, by definition.

Now that the California Supreme Court has decided to uphold the will of the people (which is good, but a court should never have had the power to decide one way or the other on this), there has been a proliferation of rhetoric about the 'right' that is most fundamental for any person to marry any person they love. Rights are dictated by the people and the government. If the people say it's not a right, it's not a right, by definition. If you think it should be a right then you have to convince the people to respect it as a right collectively. A right is not a right because you think it should be a right.

Of course in a more general sense we all have the right to do absolutely as we please, we just have to deal with the consequences. If I am not happy, and am living in circumstances where I cannot be happy then what's the point? The only power any man can have over me ends with my death. Just as under some circumstances the only place for a just man is in prison, sometimes the only place for a just man is on the battlefield, or in the grave. Socrates and Jesus have both made comments that the extent of man's power is to deprive a man of mortal life. Man is first responsible for himself, then his family, then his community, then his state and finally his country. If the well-being of one is costing another then we must fall back to our first duty.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Godly Love and Godly Hate

God the Unconditional Lover is another nonexistent deity. Many non-thinkers trying to push their own social agenda again try to stop rational thought by invoking emotional responses with stupid questions like "what would Jesus do?" as though the answer is invariably "hug the ax murderer a little tighter." Hogwash. "When we love we're inviting the Spirit of God into our souls and when we hate we're expelling His Spirit from us." As a generalization, wrong.

Love does not equal good and hate does not equal bad. If our culture can convince us that love defines good (godly, righteous, virtuous, etc.) and then our culture redefines love (can we say 'hippie') then our culture has successfully blinded us from our fundamental understanding of what is good and why. And life becomes an aimless journey without meaning and without a destination (can we say 'Albert Camus').

David Call has summarized the skewed perspective as the preaching of Jesus, love and service. Any good principle out of context becomes a dangerous one. You start reasoning in reverse; your conclusions become your premises and when you find the original premises to be inconsistent (due to incorrect perspective) you choose to stop thinking. For instance, service is good only insofar as it increases the well-being and happiness of the doer of the service. The purpose, or final cause, of the service is to increase the happiness of the doer. The other good effects of acting on good principles are collateral damage. But if this perspective were lost and we started to believe service were good, period, then we would find ourselves serving 18 hours per day and still not feeling like we were doing enough; we would serve ourselves into perpetual misery. And the word 'good' has lost all relevant meaning to the individual.

In all true principles, the context that makes the principles true is that of primacy. The self has primacy over others. Reason has primacy over faith. Reality has primacy over God. Happiness has primacy over duty. And so on. Primacy doesn't mean that one is better than the other or anything like that. It simply means that one principle is dependent on another. The house of truth is a house of order. Primacy connects all true principles in a web of truth that shows how true principles are true and helps us understand the applications of true principles to ourselves.

God is love. As a generalization, false. If that were true in general, there would not be two separate words for the one concept. God and love are two words manifesting two different entities. In a particular and specific context, such as the one implied by John, saying God is love sheds light on both of the principles involved, love expands our understanding of God, and God expands our understanding of love. Context is obviously important, else it would be a circular and meaningless mental exercise like standing in a bucket and trying to lift the bucket.

God is hate. This is also true in some circumstances. God abhors unhappiness and misery. God hates falsehoods. We should be preaching godly hatred as much as we preach godly love. In a more generalized form, they are one and the same idea. Like the north pole of a magnet surely must always attract all magnetic south poles and repel all magnetic north poles, the nature of God is such that all principles of goodness, joy, honor, integrity and such are attracted to him and all principles of falsehood, misery, cowardice, compulsion, and so on are repelled from him. There are no magnetic north poles that attract south poles but do not repel north poles or vice versa. Same with godly love and godly hate. They are two sides of the same coin.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rationality of Revelation

Traditionally there have been two separate approaches to learning truth and the two camps supporting each approach have been at odds. Truth can be learned by the scientific method. Observations are made, data reflecting the observations is recorded, hypotheses are formed to predict patterns in observation and experiments are executed to support or disprove a hypothesis. Some people claim this is the only way to discover truth.

The crowd usually associated with religion espouses the discovery of truth by revelation. This is that truth, or knowledge about reality, can be revealed to us by an external influence or intelligence. Some philosophers have tried to argue that ultimate reality is something beyond what we can now perceive with our senses and that seeking this ultimate reality should be our life pursuit. What good is reality if it is other than what we can perceive through our senses at any particular moment? What good is it to label anything else reality?

The idea of revelation has been muddled through so many strange concepts and mystical thinkers through the ages that we must identify what we are talking about when we speak of revelation. Revelation is not communion with the all-being, or being 'at one' with the universe or anything else. Eternalism is characteristically individualistic. Man's progress and development are his own responsibility and the individual must make the choice to involve or collaborate with others when he sees that it is for his ultimate benefit and happiness to do so. Reality has no meaning in an absolute sense. Reality for an individual is all that we can identify and talk about; reality is what an individual perceives through his senses.

Remember faith must be rational; that is, there must be a reason for believing what we have faith in. Each truth learned by the scientific method is like a distinct point of a math function. Generally, the more points we know for a math function the better we understand the function as a whole. Revelation can help us extrapolate on distinct points of knowledge to see a continuous, differentiable function. Revelation fills in the gaps.

David Hume was a supposedly brilliant philosopher for pointing out that just because we know that a specific cause has yielded a specific effect ten out of ten times, or a million out of a million times, we have no basis for believing that that same cause will produce the same effect in the future. Just because I have burned my hand each of the ten times I've put my hand on a stove does not give me a basis for believing that I would burn my hand again if I put it on the stove again. Clearly life would not have continued to exist if this were the natural progression of thought. Living creatures would have no survival instinct. The law of causality cannot be proven to exist by experiment, but is rather revealed to intelligent beings. Putting your hand on the stove again will cause it to burn, again. This is a very rational revelation. And all people who have lived longer than two hours have done so because they have learned at least this one revealed truth.

Revelation can be described in many different ways. It works on an intuitive level. An idea forms in the mind and it feels good. It feels consistent with the other truths and beliefs of the individual. The idea does not create any cognitive dissonance; there is nothing bothering you about the new idea on any conscious or subconscious level. It is not possible to think about every truth you know to check for consistency with this new idea, so this intuitive leap is necessary.

Revelation and the scientific method bring the diligent searcher to the same truth in the same way that y=2x+1 and (0,1);(1,3) describe the same line. Both are necessary and both are rational. One cannot learn truth through one medium without simultaneously learning truth through the other. It is counterproductive to try to separate the two.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Worth of Life

Sanctity of life. The phrase is designed to stop rational thought by inciting an emotional response. Most words with religious undertones are this way nowadays. It's really very sad. If rational beings were intended to devote an inordinate amount of thought to anything I would think that it would be the eternal, fundamental, the driving forces of everything; the "what matters most." The real God would invite nothing more vigorously than intelligent beings questioning who he is and what he is like. For the subsequent investigation would reveal the principles of godliness and happiness. What could be more important, of more worth to our and his happiness, than this knowledge? Implementation is just one simple, rational step away from knowledge.

Sanctity is a word pertaining to holiness or godliness. What could be more incumbent on us to question? So if the sanctity of life is that part of life pertaining to godliness, this investigation becomes a natural follow-up to the nature of God.

The question is related to another one that's been addressed by philosophers since Plato. The dignity of man. My co-author on this blog has summed up Plato's dignity of man: man's dignity at birth lies in his potential to become as God is; man's dignity at death is his having done so. These are very natural and deliciously simple conclusions based on our already-laid philosophical foundation. Man is on a quest for progression. The dignity of man is derived from having developed his character and abilities through the honor of work of the mind and hands to produce, create and make better his condition. The dignity of man comes from having realized his potential to become more like God.

The sanctity, or godliness, of life then is the potential that rests within each human soul to CHOOSE to become more like God, to choose to develop himself, to choose to better his eternal state. The sanctity of life is derived from the choices made by that life. If the person chooses to develop and realize the godly potential, he is making his life sacred. If he chooses to debase himself and regress to the status of beast or lower, he forfeits what could have made his life sacred. Life is not sacred because it is life; life is sacred because that life chooses to make itself sacred.

Cowards that choose to try to induce fear and terror by shooting people in the back shame themselves and are not worth enough to drink the urine of honorable people. I really have no idea what is being talked about when we try to apply 'constitutional rights' or 'human rights' to terrorists. They are not citizens, and they have chosen to not be people in any more than the biological sense. Just as a person would not think twice before using disinfectant to destroy the lives of all bacteria, viruses, parasites and all creatures that we know are bent on our pain, illness and destruction if given the chance; I believe any more complex life form that chooses to put itself in the same category is worthy of the same. Death is not the ultimate evil; states of unhappiness and fear are.