Existentialism Philosophy

What is philosophy?

True philosophy consists in a thinker responding effectively to critical junctures, in thought and/or experience. All philosophy combines the personal with the metaphysical. Hence, philosophy is like religion: it relies on a personality - either a person or some deity - to personify a WAY TO BE. It does not rely solely on thought, but on action, and action requires a role model. The thinker must either use himself as the role model, or some other, possibly fictional person, but hopefully someone who actually exists. Hence, philosophy relies on heroes and villains, and has a great deal of connection with mythology as a result. All philosophy is merely a response of the individual to his or her environment. Nothing more or less. True philosophy consists in the individual finding the optimal response to his or her environment - a response that, whatever the circumstances, leads to greater ability to survive and flourish in a chosen environment. Philosophy does this by allowing the individual to predict the future to some degree.

The future can be perceived. It cannot be known absolutely, but one can use probabilities to determine the most likely course of events. Many elements of the natural, biological, world operate in systems, or patterns. By understanding those patterns we can understand climate change, ecological change, population change, etc. We can know the future on one level. Another level is social, political and economic change, which are intertwined. These changes are built on the biological changes. They consist of social structures, caste systems, values, myths, and who controls the resources. By understanding the social structures, you can predict how people may respond to environmental changes. There is not perfect accuracy, but you can predict what will probably happen, using models of political and electoral systems (using political science, sociology, economics, anthropology, and social theory).

The only "truth" that exists in this sense is the ability to accurately predict events, and respond to them effectively. You can measure truth by these abilities. People who know less truth have less ability to predict the course of events, and when events occur, they respond in a sub-optimal fashion. Thus, they suffer. Those who know truth predict events and respond in an optimal fashion. Consequently, they do not suffer. Because they do not suffer, people who do not know truth look "up" to them and follow them, hoping that by following they will stop suffering. This is where we get leaders.

We must use philosophy to act as if. Acting as if is delusional. If it were not delusional it would not be very powerful or effective. The definition of an illusion is something that is not real. The definition of a delusion then is acting in a way that contradicts reality. We know that reality, at its best, consists as an agreement on shared illusions. Anyone who has traveled can go to India, Iran, Pakistan, England, Canada, Japan, China, or Hawaii and see very different cultures. How did they get that way? We can simply say they have different lifestyles, but why aren't all the cultures the same? The fact that different cultures exist provides a perfect guide for the rest of us: we can create our own personal culture among our friends, family, and colleagues. The only reality that exists is the reality we agree to recognize. That is why the free market is so dynamic: realities are being created and destroyed all the time. Acting as if is completely delusional because it is based on the idea that you do not agree with the ordinary reality. You create reality yourself. If you do not act as if, you are not a very good creator. We call such people followers, or, to use a better term, sheep. People who do not know how to "act as if" will only follow other people who do. You are a leader or a follower, and it is up to you which you want to be.

There is only illusion, and the contest is simply between those who present a better version of it to others. Woe to those who fail to recognize that the world consists of only followers and leaders. If you fail to realize that, you will never be a leader. You will only follow, and you will not live up to your potential as a leader/creator/deceiver. They are different words for the same thing. The catch is that if people agree with you, you are leading. If people disagree with you, all you are doing is deceiving. There is no reality but the one you make. Or, as the movie Terminator 2 says, "No fate but what you make."

People of similar talents and interests go into business with each other, study the same subjects together, run for the same political offices, look toward the same artistic visions. You have Paris in the early Twentieth century where people with similar talents congregated to create art. There is common human decency of course, but it doesn't tend to be very creative or inspirational. Any person who possesses some sort of talent will look for other people who possess similar talents, or any talent. That is why you have art schools, film schools, workshops for future politicians, and business schools. All societies work by having people with similar interests congregate and share their interests, building on each other. The ordinary people who do not do this never develop their talents. They have humanity inside of them, but that is all. They never aspire to reach beyond their basic humanity.

Integrity is a fancy word that really doesn't mean anything. We think it means being honest and kind, and thus showing respect. However, most people tend to be like that. If everyone is beautiful, there is no beauty. If everyone is rich, there is no wealth. We begin with integrity. That forms the basis of all the relationships we develop when we "act as if." However, Integrity is not the end of our development. It simply facilitates our growth. The aim of human beings is not to have good relationships. We have good relationships automatically. Rather, we aim for productive and creative relationships. If we have good relationships, productive and creative relationships are the next step.

Truth is merely a measurement of our ability to act on our beliefs. That requires selling our beliefs to other people. We convince ourselves of the truth first. That is where it always starts. However, if we do not "act as if" - that is, if we do not sell our truth to anyone else, then the truth will forever remain inside of us regardless of how much we believe it and how much of it we receive. Principles are only important if you can act upon them. If you cannot act on them, they are irrelevant. Truth is simply a measurement of the physical effects of our inner beliefs and thoughts. You need to convince other of the truth in your before you see any physical effects. That is why truth - philosophy - has a lot of connection with religion. You are not simply verifying truth, or saying accurate statements. You are selling a vision of the world, a way to be, and the measurement of the accuracy of that vision is everyone adopting it. If you cannot sell it, or do not sell it, it must not be very true, or is only true for you. By acting as if, you make it true for yourself first, then for everyone else last. This critic is advocating truth for yourself first and last, which is not truth at all.

Our search for the truth never ends because we never stop acting as if. We are always creating new ways of living and being. New religions always come. However, the foundations of truth consist of your family and friends. After you have secured those people, your search for truth becomes marginal: you only fine-tune what you already know. You change your behavior a little here, a little there. but you don't engage in wholesale changes. That lack of whole sale change is what occurs when you stop searching for the truth, because you have already found it. You are simply implementing it with greater and greater accuracy than ever before.

There are two kinds of questions: purposeful questions and meaningful questions. Purposeful questions are asked only at the beginning, when you want to know why you are doing something. After that, meaningful questions are asked about how to do something. Once a project is started, you stop asking why. You question the world in the beginning in order to decide why you should act in certain ways. When you know how you want to act, you then start questioning how to act. Acting as if is just a faith-based protocol. It allows you to implement truth first, and then correct it when you see a problem. The critic is advocating correcting truth first (which never ends) and then implementing it (which never happens because truth is never completely corrected. Hence, it can only be personal because you can never sell it. That isn't truth; that is merely opinion. People who constantly question themselves only offer opinions. They never offer truth, because they never get around to acting on it and showing the results. It remains only a thought in the minds. When you act on something you merely wait to see the results. You don't question the results because the results speak for themselves.

Acting as if is a way of completely changing yourself, based on your ideals. The world is not perfect yet, however, what must be done is to assume a perfect world and then look at the current world to see what changes must be made. The point of philosophy is to detect the changes that must be made, in us and in others, to move from the current world to the perfect world. Then, you act as if in order to implement those changes.

That will get the world to change more rapidly to correspond to us. Yes, this is an extremely selfish way to think. That is the whole point. I want people to be extremely selfish. However, they only way they can be extremely selfish is by discovering other people first. The reason selfishness works is because you must first know and understand other people before you know and understand yourself. Other people - your family, friends, and acquaintances - provide mirrors for you. Without those mirrors, you may know yourself a little but you cannot truly and completely know and understand other people. You need other people to be more of who you are. You find your interests through them. You either learn about others and thus learn about yourself, or you help others and thereby help yourself because they in turn help you. But first, you select those people who will provide the most insight into who you are. You start friendships and romantic relationships because you want the other person to improve you. All relationships are extremely selfish, otherwise we wouldn't get into them. However, it is because we must first learn about others in order to know ourselves that we can avoid religious wars and bigotry. If you know than a minority group can provide you with lessons about your own life, there is little chance that you will persecute them.

Merely personal truth is just that: personal. If it cannot be applied to other people and situations - if it cannot convert and change others - it is not truth. The practice of philosophy is the deliberate analysis of ways of being, and people represent those ways. Then, we select specific ways and we emulate them.

The true measure of philosophy is not how reasonable it is, but how effective it is. Does it produce results? Reason produces results, for sure, but it is not the only tool. There are also emotions and a variety of human experiences and perceptions that have nothing to do with reason, that a pre-cognitive. The role of philosophy is to encompass all of human experience - the rational and the irrational - and combine them into one system that can be understood by all. This is why "act as if" is a proper philosophical objective, because it channels rational thought into action that encompasses the entire range of human experience.

posted by Marriah at 8/04/2002 |

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