I don’t need a piece of paper to affirm my rights. I have rights because I am a sentient, sovereign human being living within the physical realities of this universe.
.All that is needed to obtain true knowledge can be learned through reality itself. Real, lasting knowledge, not just facts and figures you don’t understand in the first place about people you’ve never met and places you’ve never been. Not to say that these things are to be scoffed at or that they have no intrinsic value here, because they obviously do. But dates and names and places and events don’t bring with them the same kind of self-examination that is needed to think critically.
Modern society puts an emphasis on the facts and figures portion of education, and while that is perfectly acceptable, it unfortunately seems to come with a squandering of reality based education. The two need to go hand-in-hand. What good is it for someone to rattle off facts about historical events, if they are unable to derive the reason these events occurred in the first place? People have relegated their brains to that of a list of ingredients – able to pick out a date here, a name there, a nice quote over yonder and so on, but not being able to see the end of those ingredients or why those ingredients were required in the first place.
I find myself to be guilty of this. My high school education was, to put it nicely, lacking. The number of times Socrates, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Dante or anyone in that ilk was mentioned or referred to in four years there was exactly zero. The word philosophy was not uttered. The only “critical thinking” we ever worked on was trying to identify with the inner anguish of Johnny Tremain. I’ve spent the last eight years trying to play catch-up.
If you are able to identify a problem, but are unable to identify why that problem occurred, then there is a serious disconnect in your thinking that needs to be resolved.
This extends itself to decision-making and morality as well. How can you know what is right and moral when you are just subjectively picking items out of a hat and viewing each one as this independent event disconnected from all other events that you can examine in a vacuum. This sort of singular analysis of events is superficial. It is the soft layer of snow covering the soil and goes no deeper than that.
To be without knowledge – real, lasting knowledge – is to be a slave to authority. This has to be the most dire consequence of parroting subjective names and figures: the appeal to authority. When someone does not, or cannot, think critically they are delegating the use of their mind to someone else – they cede autonomy.
Ceding autonomy over yourself also brings with it the abdication of moral responsibility. You see this in politics all the time: “Well, the Republicans/Democrats want to do this so it must be OK because they have my best interest in mind, and they wouldn’t have gotten elected if they weren’t really smart!”
Remaining ignorant makes you complicit with immorality. The abdication of moral responsibility is itself an immoral act.
I’m not sure where I’m going with all this at this point, so let’s wrap it up.
How do I know what I know – except that it’s been told to me by others?
What is truth?
What is right and wrong?
How do I know what is right and what is wrong?
Spoilers. Spoilers, everywhere.
I recently finished Dune by the fantastically bearded Frank Herbert. Though the prose is fairly light and the narrative flows decently enough, the book feels overly long at over 180,000 words. It’s a very conceptual and even philosophical book that you can plainly see has influenced the bulk of modern science fiction. But being one of the grandfather’s of a genre does not excuse Herbert from having written a fairly boring book.
Yes, Dune is boring. The characters are wooden and stale, like a week old saltine cracker left on the kitchen table. Outside of Duke Leto Atreides and possibly the Fremen Kynes, I don’t think there was any character I connected with, felt empathy for, or even liked.
At the beginning of the book the view I had of Paul was he that he was a skinny schoolboy who clings to mommy. He is whiny, overly confident in his then yet-to-be-defined abilities and I sensed that his father was disappointed in him and he compensated for that by clutching at his mother’s skirts. Yet, as soon as the Atreides family lands on Arrakis, Paul is suddenly a competent, commanding Leader of Men like his father, who then expresses his pride in his son. He also suddenly knows 100 ways to kill a man and can paralyze you with his voice.
Jessica is a terrible mother and, to put it lightly, not that great of a person. She constantly coddles Paul, even when it is revealed that he is The Most Competent Man in the Universe™, constantly scolds him even when he can literally see space-time and it’s variations with the infinite number of timeline possibilities. She scolds him! As if the know of all things that were and are to be needs chastisement like a wayward toddler. I think he knows what he is doing, Jessica. Let it go.
I did enjoy the more conceptual portions of the book i.e. the Bene Gesserit. In particular, I enjoyed how he handled legends and religious phenomenon as a product of Bene Gesserit meddling – ideas get planted and are cultivated over multiple generations with an end result in mind. Prophecy is not really prophecy, it’s just a few sentences or ideas manufactured and manipulated over time until the proper genes are revealed in a certain person and they can “fulfill” the prophecy. Religion and legend are used by the rulers for their own power and ends.
Another thing that rankled at me was a product of Paul’s prescience. He could see all possible outcomes of all possible events for all time. He is basically a demi-god. But he is constantly tempering himself with the prescient knowledge that all his paths lead to jihad and mass war and death at the hands of his Fremen – which he tries to prevent.
Why does he not just talk to the Fremen and explain this? Explain that all current paths lead to the jihad and this is undesirable. They already take just about every sentence he utters as fulfillment of prophecy, so why not put a little addendum near the end of one of the speeches that says, “I do not want jihad.” But instead he keeps it to himself and broods on it like he’s Richard Nixon. For being the knower of all things, Paul sure is an annoying dumbass.
So, in the end, it’s a worthwhile book, if overly long and fairly dry. Don’t expect to connect viscerally to any of the characters, but take it more as a conceptual book about the origins of religion and legends, about the corruption and inner-workings of rulers and their lackey mega-corporations.
And lastly, I constantly see the “spice must flow” meme and I don’t think I read that line even once in the book.
Thus begins the process of finding my own personal philosophy. I am so sick of being timid in the expression of beliefs that I think are right because of fundamental lack of knowledge. No matter how much I read or write or try to reason things out there is always a person or a comment that can completely disarms me, leaving me unable to answer with anything other than “I don’t know”. This is unacceptable and I loathe it.
I feel like I have an incredible deficiency when it comes to my knowledge base and range – my education seems to have been sorely lacking. This is partially my fault, of course; what do you expect when you piss your way through high school and reject college. Getting into debates with learned people generally brings with it incredible feelings of inadequacy, self-loathing and a realization at just how little I know.
Oh, indeed, I know a little about a great many things, but where does that get you? What does that achieve except to better your chances at winning Trivial Pursuit? Nowhere and nothing.
I know deep down that all of this is a reflection of myself as an individual: non-committal, lazy, uninterested, apathetic, the list can go on and on. But when I do find a topic I’m interested in, like libertarianism, for example, I find that I rely far too heavily on already established writers, speakers and doctrines. I know I rely far too heavily on them because all I can do in debate is parrot arguments I’ve read or heard without filtering it through my own point of view.
This will be the goal from now on: reason my way through topics and arguments without the crutch of already established doctrine. If I can’t determine if I agree or disagree with something(an action or what have you) without first checking my favorite commentator to see what his perspective or opinion is, I’m just letting someone else speak for me and delegating responsibility of the argument to them. I feel like my persona is a collage of a million different quotes from a million different people, with hardly ideas to call my own.
I feel intellectually bankrupt.
I am intellectually bankrupt, and I know it. I suppose recognition is good first step. I am afraid of defending ideas because I don’t even know if I agree with deep down. Some days I think of myself as a chameleon of sorts, able to take up any point of view and sympathize with it. And even worse, and more often, there are days I think of myself as a charlatan, propagating views I don’t even endorse. Which is worse, the man who can shift his views like water, taking any form that is needed at the time, or the man who willfully promotes something he knows is false?
This needs to end and it needs to end now. I am sick of feeling inadequate and dishonest for promoting a point of view which I don’t fully understand. Today is the end of this. I need to be able to reason and think for myself, and to do that I must understand myself first and foremost. And do I? I have no clue, but I’ll try to start the process of it. After all, how can you claim to understand anything when your personality and intellectuality are bankrupt?
Morality is the key to all of this. To understand morality is to understand what should and should not be. If I can harness morality and truly understand then I know the veil will drop from my eyes and I will have absolutely no need of the filter that the crutch provides.
This blog will be dedicated to me. I deserve it.
Prepare yourselves for something you have never asked for: completely unfiltered me, now with more vulgarity, rudeness, substance abuse and child labor advocation.
There will not be quotes from famous intellectuals to act as verification for my own beliefs. My thoughts require no one but myself.
In the words of Jaime Lannister, “There are no men like me. There’s only me.”
Let’s get on with it then.