We’ll finish my Hoffman's, Case Against Reality, review project, 'Playing Basketball in Zerogravity' with a look at the serious side of philosophy. It seems only fair considering some of my wise ass remarks in previous segments.
I’ll admit to having issues with the showboats who demonstrate little respect for honesty, and constructive learning. As for serious philosophy, that I can relate to on a personal homegrown level.
That’s why I’m grateful to Lausten over at CFI for sharing a genuinely insightful talk by Richard Carrier, explaining what philosophy was, is and isn’t. I’ve rerun it a couple times and it keeps improving. It's a wonderfully fitting closing segment for this review, and I hope Skepticon doesn’t mind me sharing some of Carrier's posters.
For the complete set see, RichardCarrier.info/philosophy.
(click on images for better viewing)
Then I came across a 20 minute video by one Dr. Paul Maxwell, a fast paced summary of the development of western philosophical thought. Maxwell did a nice job of defining and weaving together the development of the various strands of philosophical thought. I was impressed. Then came his ending, implying that the evolution of philosophy brings us right back to "god" and the "Doctrine of Revelation." Didn't see that coming, at all.
Maxwell’s ending left me wondering about his claim: the impulse to philosophical thought is an extension of our struggle to achieve an authentic encounter with God? Upon further investigation turned out Paul Maxwell is a theologian, "a friend in Christ" is how he signs his name. In other words, another example of being stranded within one's own Mindscape and blind to the Physical Reality we are embedded within.
Remembering back to my own early decades, I must admit, there was that in me. Seeking an authentic encounter with God. Eventually I achieved as much, the experience of "God's whisper," like a breeze against the back of my neck.
Mind you, that's an infinity away from "knowing god." Suffice it to say we are at peace with each other, and my god, heaven, hell concerns have faded into a dim memory. As for Christ, rather than a friend "in" Christ, I'm okay with being a "friend of" Christ (more on that in some future essay).
For me the key to liberation from dogma and everyone else's religious interpretations, was learning about Earth’s fantastical pageant of Evolution, the dance between geology and biology through deep time, unfolding one day at a time. The pageant that ultimately created us, me. That's where the real "answers" are to be found!
While Maxwell's review impressed me, I think what Maxwell clings to is sad. That is, the God question remaining a dominant interior mental, spiritual, emotional upheaval, the source of endless inner turmoil.
Then I think of the various topics I've read up on at Stanford University's Plato Encyclopedia of Philosophy, topics that always seem to wind up back at variations of the same theme, our all too human struggles between ego and god.
To me it indicates that a large portion of the learned crowd still hasn’t achieved any fundamental appreciation of the clear divide between our Gods and Physical Reality. Something that, to me, seems akin to mastering crawling before walking is possible.
After all, every one of our myriad gods is the product of our Human Mindscape and is an expression of our own individual egos. While Physical Reality is something else altogether. Something that simply IS regardless of what's going on within our minds.
Why is that notion so difficult to process?
Being a philosopher?
If you’re reading this; if my words resonate; if you’re trying to find the truth beyond your own “me, myself and I”; if it matters to you; if you find yourself spending a good deal of time chewing on the deeper mysteries, trying to formulate questions and hoping to find answers - then you are a philosopher, no matter how you earn your keep.
Some food for thought, for the frustrated. If you’re one of the workers, busy simply keeping up with your day to days, the feeding, clothing and sheltering yourself and perhaps family, you simply don’t have the time to do a lot of reading. Something they tell us all ‘serious’ philosophers require.
Our street level reading comes in spurts and splashes. At times it may feel like a curse, with so much out there and so little time. Some use it as an insult, “Read more!”
Take comfort, you are given the luxury of time to digest those bite sized profundities, through the eye’s of your own day to days with their ups and downs, and monotony, along with welcome and unwelcome surprises. You touch reality with a depth hidden to the inmates of ivory towers.
Do you envy the professional scholar? Consider their lot. Society expects something for their coddling and upkeep. There are demands and deadlines.
The pro is expected to absorb that flood of available information, non-stop. Add to that, they are expected to keep producing. Think about it. That fire hose of information is forced through a filter of personal utility, in a way that the causal philosophical enthusiast doesn’t worry about.
Consider the tourist going it alone, budget style, next to the tourist on a cruise ship hitting all the hot spots. One’s visit is impoverished in one respect, but enriched in another.
Which is which?
It comes down to what one makes of the situation one finds one self within.
Which is better?
That's a non sequitur.
Sort of like asking how good of a job can this particular tool do?
It’s not the tool, it’s the operator who determines how good a job that tool does.
If your nature drives you to ponder life's mysteries, then you’re a life long student. No need to register, all that’s required is passionate curiosity, honesty, method, pro-active learning, doing the homework.
Dancing the knife edge between those better angels (and demons) within your mind, and the desires and impulses within your physical body, that you may be noticing is running the show most the time. While those inner voices do their best to keep up with it via their nonstop narrative of interpretations and rationalizations and second guessing.
It’s a matter of integrity and how we handle the slings and arrows of living life.
Seek and ye shall find! The struggle to understand who we are isn’t an easy road, but the payoffs are tremendous, if you stay true during your dance across life’s stages, as Earth’s pageant of Evolution continues onward, to infinity and beyond. ;-)