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In Praise of the Body, In Adoration of Action

Living is as much a matter of movement as it is of mind.

We are not brains in a vat. We are not disembodied dreamers. Our potential can’t be realized through thinking alone.

Man is a psychosomatic entity. Physical action is essential to his being.

The body is not an inorganic architectural structure existing for the sole and servile purpose of passively housing the mind. The body exists for tasting, touching, seeing, smelling, hearing, dancing, singing, playing, and loving.

Life is not a concept, it’s a visceral experience. And its essence is most fully known when we engage the universe with the totality of our being.

Do not drag your body along as if it were a burden of some kind. Reject the ascetic imperative and embrace the physicality of your existence.

The flesh does not hold you back. It propels you forward.

A Mind to be Free

There is no such thing as a legislative achievement that can’t be undermined by an ideological failure.

The outer constituents of a society will always rise and fall in accordance with the inner convictions of the individuals who comprise that society.

Structural and systemic solutions are only effective for as long as the people are capable of maintaining a love for liberty.

The moment a nation loses its consciousness of freedom, its prior political gains become irrelevant.

Freedom is inherently risky in this way. The more free one is, the greater is his capacity to bind himself to that which is beneath his freedom.

Hence, the real battle of import is an ideological one.

I am after men’s minds, not their vote.

My mission is not to convince people to love one kind of politician over another. My mission is to convince people to think for themselves, to cherish their independence, to embrace their autonomy, and to always question any authority that demands faith without justification and accountability.

What is philosophy and does it have a future?

The question “What is Philosophy?” is itself a philosophical question that is not easily answered.

Philosophy is like a thief; much easier to catch in action than in analysis.

Nevertheless, any discussion on the nature and future of philosophy should involve an honest acknowledgement of the depth, diversity and disagreement that exists among professional philosophers about the discipline they practice.

Listening to, and contemplating, their answers will not only offer a wide range of insights regarding a seemingly confusing discipline, but it can also serve as an exercise in philosophical activity itself.

The Philosophy Bites podcast, which is made in association with the Institute of Philosophy, asked a range of academic philosophers and contemporary thinkers to define their personal take on Philosophy. It’s an interesting episode and I highly recommend it. To check it out, click here.

Now, here’s my take:

I define philosophy as the process of taking ordinary things and attempting to think about them in unconventional ways.

It is the exercise of thinking critically and creatively about all sorts of topics ranging from film, sports, and music to language, knowledge, and time.

Through conversation, introspection, conceptual analysis, thought-experiments, argument & debate, and any other tools of investigation he can find, the philosopher seeks out interesting connections, fascinating discoveries, overlooked insights, and unasked questions.

The goal of philosophizing, as I see it, is to explore the realm of ideas just as an astronaut explores the realm of outer space.

I regard the practice of philosophy (which is related to, but not dependent on, taking philosophy courses at a school)  as an essentially human activity.

People philosophize everyday whether they label their activity as “philosophy” or not.

Many discussions have been held about the future of philosophy as an academic discipline. For a teaser, see this panel discussion hosted by The New School on Does Philosophy Still Matter?

I have no idea how the future of philosophy as a university major in traditional academia is going to play out. But I am quite certain that the actual practice, or perhaps I should say Praxis, of philosophizing is here to stay.

We may call that rose by another name, but as long as we are taking the time to stop and smell it, the experience will continue just the same.

I love you, Philosophy

heart to heart“Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt that the sun doth move;
Doubt truth to be a liar;
But never doubt I love.” 
-William Shakespeare, Hamlet

I do not study philosophy because I deem it wise, but because, like the inhaling of oxygen, when I fail to do it, I can feel myself suffocating, contracting, and gasping for life.

Curiosity is the air I breathe and in its absence I cease to be.

Life feels expansive and exhilarating when I experience it from the vantage point of being an Inquisitive entity.

I inhabit a qualitatively distinct kind of space when possessed by the desire to learn.

In the rhythm of philosophical reflection, my questions become conceptual batons, and with each movement of my mind, the flow of time is symphonically conducted.

Contemplation, endowing the world around me with its musical quality, transforms my life into a song:

“I love you, Philosophy. Make love to me with your paradoxes and puzzles all day long.”

Uncertainty, despair, and the freedom of not-knowing

xye“Maybe each human being lives in a unique world, a private world different from those inhabited and experienced by all other humans. . . If reality differs from person to person, can we speak of reality singular, or shouldn’t we really be talking about plural realities? And if there are plural realities, are some more true (more real) than others? What about the world of a schizophrenic? Maybe it’s as real as our world. Maybe we cannot say that we are in touch with reality and he is not, but should instead say, His reality is so different from ours that he can’t explain his to us, and we can’t explain ours to him.” -Philip K. Dick

We do not experience reality as it is in and of itself.

We process the data of experience in accordance with various physiological and psychological filters.

In other words, experience is a manufactured phenomenon.

Through a combination of consciously and unconsciously directed programs, “reality” (if there even is such a thing) is edited, revised, and re-presented by the very act of our making contact with it.

In other words, there is simply no way for us to verify the existence of, or evaluate the nature of, reality without filtering it beforehand.

In A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge, George Berkeley wrote:

“It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects have an existence natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. But with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world; yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question, may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For what are the forementioned objects but the things we perceive by sense, and what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations; and is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these or any combination of them should exist unperceived?’ 

Imagine trying to figure out what a particular item of food tastes like, but before you could bite into it you had to first season it with pepper, garlic, lemon, and butter. You’d still have a valid experience of food-tasting, but the experience would be skewed by the seasoning you applied to it before eating.

Ditto for perception. All of our observations are uniquely skewed by the peculiar seasoning of each person’s individuality.

However hard we may try, it remains impossible for us to step outside of our vantage point in order to see things “as they really are.”

Even when we study others, as an effort to transcend our specific perspective, we must filter their observations and judgments through our own lenses.

If I take a survey of what a thousand different people think, I’ll definitely  have a broader perspective. But, even then, my act of listening to the opinions of others, is skewed by the same elements that skew my observations of nature.

We can’t even learn from other people in an objective manner because our ever-present perceptual filters are “watering down” everything they show us. After all our lessons from mentors, teachers, friends, and fellow students, we are still left with nothing more than a highly processed, uniquely personalized, non-objective version of reality.

Now, here is the most amazing observation (to me, at least) of all:

When these facts of perception are pointed out, many people tend to respond as if despair is the only option.

People immediately get afraid that the ideas their sense of security was based on are now in jeopardy. This is not an unreasonable fear. After all, if we can’t have objective knowledge of reality, then we having nothing stable to ground our hopes in.

May I present another possibility?

If we can’t have objective knowledge of reality, then it is also the case that we have nothing stable to ground our fears in as well.

All of the imagined negative consequences of living in a world of  uncertainty are subject to the same doubts as any other view of reality.

In a world of uncertainty, a man does not need faith; he needs an accurate understanding of what it actually means to be uncertain.

Our need for salvation can only arise out of the perception that we are damned. Our need for an escape can only arise out of the belief that we are somehow imprisoned. Our need to transcend the world can only arise from the assumption that the space we currently occupy is not already transcendent. Our need for more power can only arise out of faith in the notion that there are really obstacles “out there” to be overcome.

What happens to our need for certainty when we begin to question the myths we’ve inherited about all the dragons and demons who will supposedly destroy us if we don’t have the answers?

The more I unlearn, the more I begin to suspect the following:

We do not need certainty. We need liberation from the unsubstantiated assumption that uncertainty is some kind of threat against which we need to arm ourselves.

If one is truly doubtful and uncertain, he must also be doubtful of his doom and uncertain of despair.

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