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In defense of philosophy

Most people find what I do of no value. Though I don’t actually care as it’s certainly not my loss if people do not wish to learn from me what there is to learn, the first principle of which is there’s something to learn from everybody, I certainly would rather people be dissuaded from this position. I somewhat argue the point in what I have rewritten to be the new introduction to my essay “An Ontological Expedition†. The original introduction started “it is no secret I am a cold, distant man†and so on and so forth. I originally intended to end the essay with “therefore I am the happiest man alive†and so it would be my version of a joke on the reader that only I find amusing (which, ironically, would be the part I find amusing). Either way I never got around to it anyway, and the whole third of the essay I’m displacing to another essay, so I figured I’d just rewrite the whole thing. What I’ve got done so far just so happens to address Drvilson’s point: “I read through this blog, and i enjoyed, but I’m not sure if it actually says anything, Possibly thats because there are no solid facts that can be taken from it (much of philosophy is like this i believe)†and so I thought I might as well continue this particular discussion with it.

An Ontological Expedition
Chapter one
For nearly my entire life, for most of everyday, even while otherwise occupied and thought could be spared, I have pondered four questions. Though I did not ponder them sequentially but back and forth - making this advancement or that, relating one topic to another - Is it or is not reasonable to believe in God? How should society organize itself? To what ends should society aspire? Can I determine my own worth as a human being? Now, all these questions could be summed up with the single question What is goodness? However, though this question also puzzled me it seemed that any attempt to answer it would fall under one of the other four questions. Which of course led me to the puzzlement, or perhaps anxiety, of the question Are there good things that would not be satisfied with my original four questions?

Either way, I was not regimented in my enquiries, generally pondering the universe as a whole, and it was not until later that I realized my thoughts would tend to one or another of the four afore mentioned question. For at first I was enthusiastically going about learning from those minds that have gone before me, and so as I did not have much control over what this philosopher or that had written my learning was from my perspective sporadic and unpredictable. Eventually though the litany of philosophic texts, or indeed any literature or medium of communication whatsoever, quenched less and less each day my thirst. As great concepts and cunning were no longer simply being handed to me in abundance I was at first very shocked. For when I began my study of the world of thought I had assumed that it was limitless. How could I have guessed that the vast majority of published books said nothing new rather poorly.

And to compound my less and less fruitful searches for knowledge I was not at all satisfied with the knowledge I had already acquired. None of the questions did I feel had been adequately answered. And so undirected in my pursuits by the general consensus within the philosophic community of who is worthy to read and to contemplate I went quite mad for a time.

However, my madness did not go anywhere. And as entertaining and creatively engaging as it was I cannot rightly say it was a worthwhile venture. For though I would ardently encourage the abandonment of social convention if there is no reason to continue it, I would in retrospect strongly discourage the abandonment of forethought. However, I have never known society to be that forethoughtful, and so perhaps I was not as insane as I would have otherwise been led by myself to imagine.

Nevertheless, eventually I was able to order the great body of knowledge I had accumulated in no particular order and a few ideas occurred to me which seemed to be valuable. Thusly contemplation slowly beguiled most if not all of my thoughts. For it is one thing, and quite an easy thing, to be presented with an argument and through a short expenditure of focus come to understand such an argument, and it quite another, much more difficult thing to try to argue one’s way to a conclusion one knows not of. And so, though a few ideas had occurred to which had not seemed to have occurred to anyone else, I had no way of knowing at the time whether such ideas were valuable and worth pursuing. Such is the onus of the philosopher. Not only are there infinite amount of directions one can go within the domain of the mind the very nature of space therein is not known, nor objects measurable or time viewable.

For instance, I was not even sure whether questions I was concerned with were answerable and hence worth pursuing. Indeed, on every front I had been told the opposite. God could not be intellectualized, one cannot change the political system, humanity continues simply out of instinct, and life cannot be the result of some equation. Thus my first major breakthrough was as following.

If it was proven it was unreasonable to believe in God, faith certainly could not be sufficient reason. Indeed, what sort of God would God be if Hän arranged it that from our perspective unreasonable to assume Hän’s existence. Hence, there must be an answer to the question of whether or not it is reasonable to believe in God.

As for politics, history strongly suggests that there are better and worse political decisions to be made. Would it be intelligible to argue that society should make decisions by a cast of the die. I do not think it is so. Furthermore, the corollary to the notion that society can make good and bad decisions necessarily leads to the supposition that these decisions can be measured on some sort of scale. If a certain decision is deemed wise it must be because it garners certain consequences, and likewise if a decision is deemed unwise. Why continue society must be an answerable question.

If human life was simply instinctual then it must be shown that even knowing what is reasonable and not reasonable would be independent, unable to deviate from instinct, from a persons actions. If this were the case then humans would be fundamentally irrational, if not in mind then in action. Now, to prove that people cannot act a reasonable fashion even knowing what reasonableness is would require experimentation and experiment. Yet how could irrational humans employ the intellectual tools of science.

Which brings us to the fundamental question of whether one is determined by circumstance. For if one is determined by circumstance, then one need not think. One cannot be held fundamentally responsible for one’s actions, and so one mustn’t consider those actions. This line of reasoning leads to the statement ‘I am not in control of myself’, which the philosopher rejects. However, what a person knows, has, and is physically capable of, is largely dependent on circumstance. For whatever one knows one can imagine never having acquired such knowledge, whatever one has one can imagine never having (indeed, if one imagine oneself being born early enough one can imagine many things which would not even yet exist), and certainly likewise for the attribute of the body.

Furthermore, though no intelligible person would go about trying to prove that all humans are irrational, neither has anyone tried to prove that people are incapable of doing anything other than what they reason to be reasonable. This line of reasoning ends with the notion of the will. One wills oneself to think of what one should do, and then one wills oneself to do whatever one concludes. It is this ‘will’ which can be imagined to remain constant throughout all circumstance. However, there cannot be a science of the will, for then one would have to will oneself to employ the science, and there would then have to be a science of the will of the science, or the will would become obsolete and one would become wholly determined, which cannot be assumed. For then again one would not be in control of oneself and so nothing anything one does is one any intrinsic worth. However, I have never actually met someone who has claimed ‘I need not exert myself and yet I am perfect’.

Philosophy therefore must only concern itself with trying to establish what is reasonable. What should people think and do in general? What should one think and do specifically? If one answers these questions and does not carry out their proposals no further intellectual inquiry can resolve the matter. Furthermore, if one answers these questions presuming one can manipulate people into conforming is fruitless. It is a matter of the will to seek out understanding (else we would all be maximally knowledgeable), and it is a matter of the will to apply it. If one attempted to manipulate someone into acting in accordance with understanding though they do not actually possess such understanding would necessitate having more control over the person in question than they have over themselves, indeed more control than one has over oneself. Though this may seem self evident, many political theories are based upon the idea of controlling the people for there own good, which would not only necessitate the afore mentioned feat of control but it requires it to be done in ridiculous proportions (one “person of understanding†for many thousands of people). Indeed, all attempts to manipulate history are fruitless.

Thusly, having firmly established that there must be answers to my questions, which happily I already knew could not be in a few specific forms, I concluded that trying to progress such ideas would be a valuable endeavor.


copyright 2006 - 2020 Eerik Wissenz