On Sanctity

Coating a neutral component of our external world, be it an idea, person or thing, in a clouded incoherence seeks to trap the light of knowledge. This lantern is then shone on to the shadows in-between the context of our confusion: we use this trapped light to speak of the shadows. The contained light we call “sanctity” and the dancing shadows it creates we call “sacred”. The danger of saying that anything is sacred, of turning the little lantern on to a cloister of shadows, is to prescribe some assortment of preconfigured ideas, thus rendering discussion null. It backhands conversation and criticism into a fist which snuffs out what little knowledge burns in the lantern.

In order to cross the chasm created by other minds, we must dismiss sanctity once and for all. Instead, what begins is something unique: a critical discussion of sanctity itself. Indeed, what we discover are better reasons for saying why we regard something as “sacred”. People defer to sanctity when the cards are down. It is unhelpful, arbitrary and at most bizarre. Instead of criticising various convolutions of religious expenditure, which are too easily dismissed for religious as opposed to sacred reasons, we should focus on a universal sacred theme: the sanctity of human life.

Human life is not sacred, since it seems nothing should be labelled sacred if we are to progress in dialogue. We must be consistent, even to the point where we say human life is not sacred. This does not mean that we think human life meaningless – this would be a false dichotomy – but simply that we are operating in a consistent way. Human life is not sacred because sanctity, as has been said, is simply an unhelpful, arbitrary term imposed on to the external world due to various often religious reasons. What might be sacred to one group could be blasphemous or horrifying to another.

One is reminded of the example of Darius and the eating of the dead. Herodotus accounts a great moral discussion in his Histories, when King Darius encounters the Callatians, a group of Indians. Darius asked a group of Greeks “at what price” would they eat the bodies of their dead fathers; the Greeks replied that no sum would account for it. He asked the Callatians at what price would they burn the bodies of their dead fathers and they replied that no sum would account.

To the Callatians it was a sign of respect to consume the bodies of one’s kin. To the Greeks it was cremation. Both revere life enough that death is not a full stop to its sanctity. But if we are to assess which is a better decision, we can not indulge in sanctity. For example, when kuru was killing off the Fore tribe, who lived in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea, it was discovered their endocannibalism was the cause. Kuru is an incurable degenerative neurological disorder – or brain disease. It mostly affected women and children rather than men, since the men got the choice of the best parts of the body – whilst the rest of the tribe were restricted to other parts, including the brain. The brain was the main source of kuru. When cannibalism stopped, so did the spread of the disease (though the incubation period is 14 years, thus there were still incidents years after the ritual was restricted). What is important here is that the notion of sanctity of the ritual was dismissed in order to identify the source of the disease. This is an important example to consider when looking at sanctity.

If we indulged all forms of sanctity, simply because they were sacred, we would get no where. With sanctity, people can easily die, as seen with the Fore people; or with blood transfusions and the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We can see here that saying something is “sacred” is meaningless, since it does not automatically mean good or beneficial. People can die and often do from ideas or things which are sacred. We need to constantly be open to the possibility that we are wrong, mistaken or deluded about our ideas. Sanctity traps that thought in the lantern.

Getting back to human life, we can see something arising. In modern terms, sanctity of human life gives rise to emotional responses in critical debates. Emotional responses are often not on the stilts of thoughts. Thus, people are automatically against abortion, are automatically against euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide (PAS). But if we got rid of the sanctity of human life, if we diminished the notion of sanctity in all areas, we can start having grown-up decisions. Instead sanctity allows for folded arms and backward pointing as a justification. Too many automatically bow-down before anything sacred – or something said to be sacred.

We need to dismiss the sacred in order to progress with our conversations about the world. Human life is not sacred, in keeping with the consistency of the argument, but it certainly is precious. It is not sacred but it is worth saving, protecting and helping or at least allowing to flourish. (I do not think that human life is worth creating, since people who are not born do not lose out anything, thus avoiding all possible harms to future people.)

Sanctity has allowed people to limit free-speech, as was seen with the Rushdie affair. Sanctity undermines women’s desire to allow themselves to be free. The horrid “sanctity of marriage” from the theist’s perspective prevents happy homosexual couples from expressing their love for each other. Instead of deferring to sanctity, we need to shut off the lantern, grasp it from the hands of the faithful and toss it away. From the fire that rises, more grown up ideas can rise. These Phoenix ideas can take flight and allow us to be more understanding and critical, more grown up, and thus better people. To do this, we must rid our world of sanctity. Nothing is sacred but there are many things that are precious. The question as to why they are precious – to me – is a question I can answer without simply saying “by their intrinsic nature, they are precious for being what they are”. This is unhelpful. In the same way I am willing to discuss why, critically and objectively, a certain thing is precious, people must be able to at least say why something is sacred removing the arbitrary religious junction in place.

Some might say the move from sacred to precious is just in a name. True, but it is amazing what a word-change can do for a mindset. Let us rid ourselves of sanctity to grasp the world in its full reality, its sharp corners and jagged edges, so that if we cut ourselves on our mistakes, at least we know it is not through limitation via sanctity.

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What I Believe for the 21st Century

Along with Bertrand Russell, it is importance to consider what one believes rather than what one knows. Knowledge, the evanescent sphere that humans touch upon to ascend to higher planes of comprehension, is mostly unimportant: It is the beliefs that we hold. Indeed, modern philosophers like Roger Scruton regard epistemology not as the study of knowledge but the justification for our beliefs. In this short space, I am aim to succinctly outline my current beliefs with the goal of checking up on them in one year. I hope readers do not find this self-indulgent but rather a project of epistemic duty, to which each person should scrutinise for themselves. If there are alternate and better views, many current views should be rescinded or replaced.

I believe…


  • …nothing is sacred and the attempt at sanctification brings nothing but dogmatic human assertion onto an otherwise neutral world. This is not to be confused with not thinking certain thing highly important: for example, I do not believe in the “sanctity of human life” but I believe very strongly in fighting for people’s autonomy, freedom and their pursuit of happiness.
  • …many current governmental policies, even in “Western” liberal democracies, are premised on knee-jerk emotional responses which cater to the masses. We need a thorough reassessment based on evidence rather than emotion if we wish to help our fellow Man. Thus, our policies on drugs, capital punishment, education and the automatic respect for religions to dictate on important moral issues needs at the most rescinding and at the least thorough consideration.
  • …suppression only worsens rather than ameliorates most social problems. Thus, we should legalise drugs (from marijuana to cocaine), prostitution, pornography, abortion,  euthanasia and similarly related constituents of “immorality”. Conservative moralists tend to consider a slippery-slope that as AC Grayling put it works like this: “If you eat two bananas, you are going to want to eat a million.” We can already see the irrationality of such an approach. Firstly, if people want drugs, abortions and euthanasia, they will usually find a way to get it. Secondly, we already have arbitrary instances of various allowances of these prohibitions: we have legalised alcohol and nicotine (both of which are far worse than other drugs, like say marijuana); we don’t blink when we give a pet a good death (the literal meaning of euthanasia) but shudder when the gaze shifts to one of our own. This again goes back to considering something sacred, rather than looking at something humanely – that is, it is more important for someone to have life, even if it is filled with suffering, than to have no life and therefore no suffering. Also, those who chant the mantra “drugs are bad” should remember that for the most part, even alot of so-called hard drugs when taken in minimal circumstances do little to no damage.
  • …when entering the public sphere, all ideas are open to criticism, debate, mockery and scorn. If we eliminate the stupid notion of sanctity, we can allow that ideas are man-made and therefore fallible. The point is to weed out the bad and keep the good but that can not be done if certain ideas are beyond criticism. For too long we have lived under the shadow of a respect for people’s faiths but no longer must that be the case. We should care more about people and creating a better world, than hushing our own important criticisms which could better more lives by being spoken rather than placating dormant lives with silence.
  • …we should not be afraid to defend our point of views strongly, but more importantly we must be able to utter 2 three-word sentences: “I don’t know” and “I stand corrected”. Sure, we may feel like imbeciles when we vehemently defend a view which turns out to be wrong. We should then apologise and say so, rather than making the situation worse by deluding ourselves into naive dogmatism. Nobody really cares anyway because no one is keeping tabs on how often you were right. Also you will be right by acceding to your opponent or antagonist (even if there are say, your brilliant philosopher girlfriend), because you will be able to correct those who shared your previously held view.
  • …religions are a disgusting affront to human sensibilities and are perverse for accruing various properties. It is both tedious and mortifying to constantly read about religious groups opposing abortions, same-sex marriages, prostitution, drugs, freedom of speech and expression, liberty, and so on. In each case, we can probably name a few cases where religious people who deem their actions sanctified (there is that notion of sanctity again!) by a god have killed someone who is part of these movements. Religious people often refuse to face facts and evidence, as is the case with for example evolution and contraceptives, and instead point to arbitrary passages in their arbitrary (sacred) book.  Religions not only reward people for horrifying actions like the slaughter of innocent people, but also rewards people for believing without evidence. It also rewards people for peering into other people’s private lives which, if ignored, would not hinder their own lives at all (how could a happy homosexual couple going about their business make the lives of say a normal family horrid, unless they were Christians and told by their holy book that homosexuality is an affront to god?)
  • …the most disgusting affront to our species and the biggest fight we have is the continued emancipation of women and bringing their hands to tightly clutch the banner of liberty. Especially in such places as Africa, where we know that when women are allowed charge over their own bodies, we can end poverty. Poverty will not be solved solely though charity – we know that will not work. Instead, we must seek charity’s root, namely karitas or the love of fellow humans. This means liberating women which reduces poverty by not dealing out already low resources to an inestimable number of offspring, who themselves grow up to continue to breed and create more people to suffer needlessly. Aside from poverty, we need to push back the patriarchy of society to realise that women (who do better than the male counterparts in education) are human. Religions also aid this patriarchy by giving men a divine sanction to use their wives as nothing more than cattle. There are too many instances to name in Islamic countries that they might collectively be called Misogynia. By combating these arrogant and stupid men who think women are lower than themselves, we will be pulling the carpet from under the feet. The biggest wake up call that Muslims states could suffer would be a woman, wearing clothes of her choosing, smiling and enjoying her own mind and body. A respect for the minds and their bodies should be welcomed, not solely for the purpose of the male related urge to have sex, but also for the appreciation of the beauty of both. Personally, women are the better sex and it is often said that if god was a woman, the world wouldn’t be in such a mess – perhaps the only statement of an anthropomorphic god I could agree with.
  • …we need a re-evaluation of why we procreate. To the Greeks, everything was an ethical dilemma: even the clothes you wore. To them the ethical life was a life well-lived and living ethically was a life-long challenge. We tend to forget this view, with its importance on self-reflection. Applying this to all spheres would end a lot of social problems but it needs to be consistent. Thus, to be consistent, there has yet to be a good reason laid out for the procreation of  our species. As I write this, I am of the opinion that it is immoral to create new people, since it is by definition impossible to have a child for that child’s sake – because the child does not exist when you conceive him. Parents do not know their children for quite some time, so it is impossible to say that parents have children for that child’s sake. To have a child is simply a selfish act, a biological need (arguably the most prominent and therefore the most overlooked!). Why have kids? It is a bizarre question to most people, but as of yet there has not been a satisfactory answer. To continue the human species is not good enough either, since I do not care for those who do not exist. I care and apply my moral sphere to those who exist. Those who do not exist do not suffer. Also, we must remember that our species will die out eventually and we only prolonging the inevitable. It seems harsh and to some horrifying, but it is rather simple. For this reason, I at this moment will not have children. Instead, I think our efforts in helping people to procreate and the “sad” fact that people are sterile, needs shifting to aid children who are already alive. That is, instead of focusing on children who do not exist, focus on those who do! Perhaps this is what irks me the most – there are so many children who need loving families and I do not doubt that people who want kids simply want a child to love. Therefore, they should not add to our overpopulated word, but simply adopt. Psychological testing has shown time and time again, there is no difference in affection and love between children who parents adopt and children born to biological parents. I believe it a human duty to shift our silly polices on those “unlucky people who are sterile” and who can not create new people; and instead promote the humanity and importance of adopting people who already exist.
  • …reading is the gateway to living the good life and engaging in discussion with ideas its path. Epicurus was the embodiment of this, who thought the highest aim in life was sitting beneath a tree discussing philosophy. Whilst we can not reasonably expect such a life today, we can approach it with the same considerations. Reading is a joy and should be shown to young people when their minds are finding fruition and goal. Like education, reading should not be promoted by forcing children to read certain books, but how and why they should read in the first place. People find their hunger grow when reading and the acquisition of “knowledge” becomes a life long goal. There is nothing pretentious in reading Tolstoy and Faulkner’s books, indeed they are beautiful and actually simple writers. They are classics because even the general reader is able to enjoy its beauty, whilst stuffy introverts like myself could dissect it for in-depth literary criticism. There is also much joy to be gained in reading opposing viewpoints, thus reading books for and against evolution, for and against god, for and against postmodernism, and so on. We enjoy debates for their entertainment value and watching one side get overturned by the brilliance of the other; but we also allow people in better positions than ourselves to criticise more eloquently and with better information. It is a joy: try (really try) for example reading a work by Derrida (perhaps a short one) than try Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont’s Fashionable Nonsense or Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom’s Why Truth Matters.
  • …by studying philosophy, I hope to bring it further into the public sphere where it belongs. Much is to be gained from the history of ideas and discussion within philosophy. Not least the clarification and use of critical thinking so important to this discipline. Moral philosophers need to be higher placed within our society than say, bishops and rabbis – for the simple reason that moral philosophy is not moralising – i.e.: it is not about setting out a list of “Thou shalt…” and “Thou shalt not…” but the clearing of verbose emotional reactions and alternate paths not previously considered. The first person journalists should contact when an ethical dilemma arises from medical advancement should not be the public or a religious don: it should be a bioethicist. After outlining all the paths and conjectures surrounding the topic, others can contribute more coherently. This should be the job of the philosopher in general, to clear the path for discussion to continue maturely.
  • …sex is overrated. In nearly every sense, sex finds itself at the top of the list for both those who consider themselves godless liberals in their “FOR” list, and for the conservative moralisers in their “AGAINST” list. If sex was less the topic of focus, it could be allowed to be the healthy, enjoyable actualisation of affection two (or three or four) people have for each other.
  • …I am not intelligent or bright. I reserve such terms for those who deserve it and find it a particularly insulting when an important property finds itself attached to me. As an example, I did terribly in high-school, barely passing. I did even worse in a tertiary institution, only managing firsts in English literature – a degree, nearly anyone could do well in. I am not exceptional in any way, save that I am particularly good-looking.
  • …that last sentence was a lie.

I hope that by next year one of these would have changed, either to be replaced with something more informed, or elucidated more clearly. For example, I hope to be able to say that I am working from a tertiary institution. Until then, let us see what changes the world makes upon itself.

Trappings from the Past – Ireland’s Blasphemy Laws

Critical reasoning and clear thinking are not synonymous with politics, but this is taking it a bit far. It seems that this arose out of reforming the libel laws. The reason that it suddenly arose seems that within the Bunreacht na hÉireann, it must by law be legal to prosecute for blasphemy. Another reason that it has happened so suddenly has apparently to do with the current explanation for everything we don’t like: the recession. See, the only alternative to filling the void of the blasphemy law appears to be a referendum. But, according to justice minister, Dermot Ahern, that would be costly.

But, as Padraig Reidy has stated in the Guardian: “no one ever bothered to formulate what the exact [blasphemy] offence might be, and we muddled on for quite a long time without anyone worrying about this.” But now suddenly, to make do they are pandering to religious sentiments for no good reason.

It is also difficult to say whether there was religious pressure – isn’t there always that feeling of the Bible pushing against the neck of politics, or Islam collecting stones on the way to the glass-house of politics? – but it does not repudiate the claim that this is a limitation on free-speech.

Blasphemy is a human right, part of free-speech and is in its purest form an extension of the maturity who give each other. By limiting us on what we can and can not say or do, a government or those who have put themselves on higher moral planes, have decided what is best for us. Instead, to be a good government, it should be a show of trusting the people, treating them like adults to decide for themselves how to deal with having their feelings hurt. It is terribly childish to be told “You can’t say that or you will hurt their feelings”. I know little about Irish politics and politics in general, but I do know and fight for freedom of speech and thought – even if I do not agree with it.

In order to progress we need freedom not wishy-washy mewling noises from paternalist regimes. We are living in an age of (ideal) freedom for all men. This is an idea that would’ve shocked many in the Dark Ages and this is exactly the reason that blasphemy is such an extension of thought. We can respect each other without bowing down before our ideas and beliefs. This last thought seems to be terribly difficult for most people to understand and indeed took me many years to comprehend. But with enough vigour and clear-thinking, I hope that more of us will come to see the separation of person and ideas, of religion and the religious, of ignorance and the brotherhood of Man. It is possible but we need to start by getting rid of this thing called blasphemy.

Who Cares About the Stripper?

Quick Summary

For those of you who have no interest in reading the entire article, here is its thrust: We need to stop paying attention to the private actions of those we label celebrities, for the simple reason that it is in domain of their private lives. If such actions are within their private lives, then it is none of our business. However, when they engage in the public domain, they – along with anyone in the public domain including, for example, religious groups – are subject to the open criticism of a secular, liberal society. By respecting the autonomy of such people, we can shift our interest and obsessions to more important matters and make life better for all, simply because we will be using what precious little time we have.

Full Article

In honour of the 4th of July, I would like to shift quickly and briefly to America, as this is often the breeding ground for my critique.

Whether it was Bill Clinton doing the naughty in the Oval Office (and he didn’t apparently, it was only “oral” sex, as far as we know), or finding some rock star in bed with a dozen strippers and cocaine – I frankly could not care and neither should you. The so-called moral outrage is a symptom of the horrible disease of peering over the fence at the Jones’.

This takes its unbridled form in “gossip” magazines: he is dating her, but she is actually married to him, but he was seen kissing his sister; she was wearing this dress which was not appropriate for her age and her daughter was seen with this guy, etc. etc. Many people lick their lips when a celebrity, for example, is found “cavorting with a stripper”, as happened here in South Africa a few months back. We need to stop this obsession when other people make apparently horrid choices in their – note – private lives. When they are good and just, we should praise them in the public; but when they act against the backdrop of a moral choice, in private, then we should leave it for the person, their family and their friends to sort out. It is none of our business if they want to have cocaine with strippers in a hotel room. (I recall Dylan Moran saying: “What else are you meant to give strippers in a hotel room!”)

The slight Freudian analysis is hard to resist here: those who are usually most outraged by the moral perplexity of our society are usually the ones who most desire said outrage. But often we can predict with pin-point accuracy that, when, for example, a gay couple gets married, when we advance in stem-cell research, and so on, usually people of a religious persuasion and often the one involving a man on a Cross are going to “comment”.  Their voices are raised highest when such things that outrage them are found stirring in their surroundings (if their voices are loudest, we can only wonder how badly they crave to be let loose from the chains of their society). There are too many examples of religious people marching against this and that, which, if they simply ignored it, would have gone away (recently, it was one that involved blasphemy, which you can find on this blog). But it’s not just religious people. Anyone who subscribes or is obsessively tracking the downfall of some celebrity due to a “sex scandal”, is partisan to such a mindset of “fence peering”.

We need to stop. There are more important things to focus on: how we can contribute to a just society, how we can help others, how we can advance our technology, and so on. Who cares if Britney Spears breasts have got larger, if this person is found doing drugs again, and so on. That is their business.

This is of course as a result of the freedom of the press: with so much freedom and information to collect, there will be garbage. Notice: I am not saying we should ban celebrity-focused websites and magazines, I am saying we should alternate our views and read something more intellectually stimulating. We should stop being drawn into the obsessive culture of “fence peering” and focus on ourselves. No one is perfect, least of all those who have climbed the acting-ladder in Hollywood, or the one made of guitar chords and broken hearts in the music industry. The intensity to which we hold such moral outrage against celebrities would be a better tool used against ourselves: are we succeeding in our goals of being better people, are we constantly striving (more important than succeeding, since the latter hardly occurs or matches to the expectations of the former)? We need to ask these questions or we are failing in our, in terms of philosophy, “epistemic duty” – to question, evaluate, pose alternate theories and evidence.

So, I am not asking the celebrity papers to be burnt to the ground. I am asking the readers to read something else – not by pain of death, but by pain of losing out on something far more fulfilling. Socrates said that the unconsidered life was not worth living and we might think that with all the focus and consideration our societies dumps onto celebrities, their lives would be most worth living. But they are not. We need to divide up our considerations mostly for ourselves to become better people.

No doubt many readers will say: How can we praise them when they do good but ignore them when they do bad? If you are thinking that, you have missed an important word: “privately”. Julian Baggini defends this same position I offer of turning our attention away from celebrity hogwash in his book Making Sense, stating that a shift in focus could alter our society dramatically. And this begins when we can understand the difference between “private” and “public” lives.

For most people this is a difficult concept. For example, when we deal with religious issues in a secular society, I for one will accept people practising their religious beliefs in the privacy of their own homes. When they begin to shift their god-given opinions into the public domain, say to stone women who are traumatized enough after having gone for an abortion – then we have a problem. The notion of freedom from and of religion is permitted within the domains of said religious people’s private domains. Their views are unwelcome in the public arena – only to the extent that they justify it with their holy book. Austin Dacey dissects this problem in his book A Secular Conscience: note again, I am not saying religious people are not welcome in the public domain. Their ideas are not. This is not to say that perhaps their ideas – say to protect the life of the unborn (a bizarre concept) starts with the Bible, then grinds itself along by the friction of non-biblical sources. If they can do this, fantastic. In most cases they cannot and simply assert it with dogmatic confidence fueled by the torrent of Biblical exegesis. Thus, we see the differentiation: the private domains of the religious are suitable arenas for religious worship and proclamation – when they bring it in to discuss such matters as health care initiatives, for example banning stem cell research on nothing but the whim of the bible, their ideas are at the least irritating and childish and at the most preventative in our endeavour to further medical knowledge. Private and public – acceptable in the former, worthy of mockery and derision in the latter.

It gets complicated if we ask ourselves: is a church a private domain? This is what I mean by it being a difficult question. It is not so easy to answer such things.

Now, if we bring back the moral outrage and focus again on celebs, I hope we can clarify my position on this. By private, I mean those things (I have to repeat) done in the privacy of their own homes and lives. If the celebs want to have affairs and do drugs, leave it there. It stays in the private domain and is none of our business. If the celeb however advocates cocaine to be sold to minors, then we can have an outrage and deride him for being an idiot. Bertrand Russell famously was hated for his advocating of a promiscuous marriage and relationships and he lost his position in America because of it (briefly and during this time, he managed to deliver the lectures that would make up his beautiful History of Western Philosophy). Here I can actually sympathize with those who were outraged, because Russell wrote a whole book about it. Thus, his advocating was in the public domain – if it is such a sphere, it is part of our culture of ideal freedom which means it is open to being criticized. That’s why when people, in this case, were outraged by Russell’s views, it was acceptable: if they were simply outraged by him having affairs with beautiful women, it would be unacceptable. In the latter case, it would be none of theirs, or our, business. (It must also be largely assumed that Russell was loathed because he was a brilliant, eloquent and ardent defender of freedom from religion and all areas and openly agreed with Lucretius, as he himself states, in thinking religion a virus).

Many people tell me that when you are a celebrity, your life is one that is constantly a public life. But that is nonsense and nothing but assertion by hungry, lecherous fools who have nothing to goggle at except falling stars of the wrong kind. Instead, we should shift our gaze and curiosity to the world at large, which is often far more beautiful than say the pestilential Jeremy Clarkson or Amy Winehouse – who is a very talented musician who just gets the worst pictures! We can do better than goggling, ogling and bumbling around celebrities’ private lives which are mostly quite boring and secondly not our business. We must stop the fence peering and instead try microscope-peering, telescope-peering or the one I can’t stress enough book-peering. Do you really want to waste precious reading time on how many babies Madonna has adopted (I think she is doing more good for our species and planet than people who just keep breeding for no reason other than to further their genes in an already overcrowded and scantly resourced planet)? Or perhaps reading on the latest naughty-naughty that <insert any celeb here> has done? Or would you rather brush up on your Carl Sagan, your PG Wodehouse, your Oscar Wilde? In fact, there are things called libraries where you can get the latter for free! Why pay for garbage when you can get gold for free? Feast your mind, dear reader, lest it rot in the bile of fence-peering.

UPDATE 13 July ’09: Michael Jackson was apparently gay! Oh no! Oh my! I can tell you right now there will be:

1. People who say he’s alive

2. People who say he’s faked his death

3. People who will say it was a murder/conspiracy

4. Etc.

I really don’t care that Michael Jackson was gay. It really does not diminish the brilliance of “Thriller” nor his amazing dancing. Who cares!!! This is what I mean by us minding our own business. His homosexuality is an issue for him, his family and his gay-lovers. What can it mean to us – pretty much nothing at all. Focusing on this is unhealthy. And there will no doubt be many of the ignorant who will take this as another tick in linking homosexuality and pedophilia (most studies indicate no correlation between the two, in fact they very much act against each other. Thus if anything, children are better off in terms of safety with gay men than straight.) So let us be calm about this and reflect on how idiotic it is to find this sensational. Let us not read this tripe except to laugh at it and get on with our lives.

So what if he’s gay? That is not our problem (even though being gay is not a “problem” unless you were hiding it from your wife and kids).

On Certainty

To the Ancient Greeks and Romans, ethics did not stop at the end of philosophical sentence. The thought continued well after, spilling into the everyday life. Everything was part of making life good because, according to Socrates, “the unconsidered life was not worth living.” How are we to live? To inculcate all Greek and Roman thinking into one miasmatic contortion is false, since this also could rescind discussions of whether one is a Sophist, a Sceptic, a Cynic, and so on. Not to mention the Stoics, whose philosophy was so broad and wonderful and resonant, that an emperor, Marcus Aurelius, and a slave, Epictetus, are considered the best writers and sources for Stoic thought.

It is difficult to come to grips  with a lot of ancient philosophy; or to not come off as arrogant when considering and promoting it. People would rather consult the torrid garbage of Hay House and its clones. The horrible influence of mystical thought that conveys mystery about the mysterious. Or it swings its pendulum of bullshit smashing through a wall of sensibility to the other side, to give one-off points about making contact with angels. It may appear arrogant to most people that we can dismiss such drivel as, well, drivel. And we really can.

This is not meant to convey that we can know for certain that angels do or do not answer our prayers. Who knows? More importantly, who cares? It seems that the most fundamental question rests in this: We must focus on our own standards, morals and initiatives, within this world, if we are to better ourselves and this world, too. We have seen no evidence whatsoever that there are any external influences to aid us. It must be from ourselves and for ourselves. The Greeks we could attribute with being the first to remove the gods from inquiry – thus making it free. And inquiry without the shackles of angels and gods becomes more enlightening, since it is neither tethered to the ephemeral clouds of mere assertion above (“Angels exists and are helping you!”) nor to the hardened rocks of dogma below.

When people begin to realise that we can be OK without certainty, OK with not knowing, then we will have a better world. “I am wise because I know nothing,” said Socrates. If we want certainty, let us be certain only of one thing: that at this moment, we do not – individually or collectively – know everything. We can be certain of that. That could be a first step toward a free inquiry into making the best out of our horribly short lives. Rather read about how to think, from ancient philosophy, than on what to think from modern assertion about ephemeral beings.

What I Believe for the 21st Century

Along with Bertrand Russell, it is importance to consider what one believes rather than what one knows. Knowledge, the evanescent sphere that humans touch upon to ascend to higher planes of comprehension, is mostly unimportant: It is the beliefs that we hold. Indeed, modern philosophers like Roger Scruton regard epistemology not as the study of knowledge but the justification for our beliefs. In this short space, I am aim to succinctly outline my current beliefs with the goal of checking up on them in one year. I hope readers do not find this self-indulgent but rather a project of epistemic duty, to which each person should scrutinise for themselves. If there are alternate and better views, many current views should be rescinded or replaced.

I believe…


  • …nothing is sacred and the attempt at sanctification brings nothing but dogmatic human assertion onto an otherwise neutral world. This is not to be confused with not thinking certain thing highly important: for example, I do not believe in the “sanctity of human life” but I believe very strongly in fighting for people’s autonomy, freedom and their pursuit of happiness.
  • …many current governmental policies, even in “Western” liberal democracies, are premised on knee-jerk emotional responses which cater to the masses. We need a thorough reassessment based on evidence rather than emotion if we wish to help our fellow Man. Thus, our policies on drugs, capital punishment, education and the automatic respect for religions to dictate on important moral issues needs at the most rescinding and at the least thorough consideration.
  • …suppression only worsens rather than ameliorates most social problems. Thus, we should legalise drugs (from marijuana to cocaine), prostitution, pornography, abortion,  euthanasia and similarly related constituents of “immorality”. Conservative moralists tend to consider a slippery-slope that as AC Grayling put it works like this: “If you eat two bananas, you are going to want to eat a million.” We can already see the irrationality of such an approach. Firstly, if people want drugs, abortions and euthanasia, they will usually find a way to get it. Secondly, we already have arbitrary instances of various allowances of these prohibitions: we have legalised alcohol and nicotine (both of which are far worse than other drugs, like say marijuana); we don’t blink when we give a pet a good death (the literal meaning of euthanasia) but shudder when the gaze shifts to one of our own. This again goes back to considering something sacred, rather than looking at something humanely – that is, it is more important for someone to have life, even if it is filled with suffering, than to have no life and therefore no suffering. Also, those who chant the mantra “drugs are bad” should remember that for the most part, even alot of so-called hard drugs when taken in minimal circumstances do little to no damage.
  • …when entering the public sphere, all ideas are open to criticism, debate, mockery and scorn. If we eliminate the stupid notion of sanctity, we can allow that ideas are man-made and therefore fallible. The point is to weed out the bad and keep the good but that can not be done if certain ideas are beyond criticism. For too long we have lived under the shadow of a respect for people’s faiths but no longer must that be the case. We should care more about people and creating a better world, than hushing our own important criticisms which could better more lives by being spoken rather than placating dormant lives with silence.
  • …we should not be afraid to defend our point of views strongly, but more importantly we must be able to utter 2 three-word sentences: “I don’t know” and “I stand corrected”. Sure, we may feel like imbeciles when we vehemently defend a view which turns out to be wrong. We should then apologise and say so, rather than making the situation worse by deluding ourselves into naive dogmatism. Nobody really cares anyway because no one is keeping tabs on how often you were right. Also you will be right by acceding to your opponent or antagonist (even if there are say, your brilliant philosopher girlfriend), because you will be able to correct those who shared your previously held view.
  • …religions are a disgusting affront to human sensibilities and are perverse for accruing various properties. It is both tedious and mortifying to constantly read about religious groups opposing abortions, same-sex marriages, prostitution, drugs, freedom of speech and expression, liberty, and so on. In each case, we can probably name a few cases where religious people who deem their actions sanctified (there is that notion of sanctity again!) by a god have killed someone who is part of these movements. Religious people often refuse to face facts and evidence, as is the case with for example evolution and contraceptives, and instead point to arbitrary passages in their arbitrary (sacred) book.  Religions not only reward people for horrifying actions like the slaughter of innocent people, but also rewards people for believing without evidence. It also rewards people for peering into other people’s private lives which, if ignored, would not hinder their own lives at all (how could a happy homosexual couple going about their business make the lives of say a normal family horrid, unless they were Christians and told by their holy book that homosexuality is an affront to god?)
  • …the most disgusting affront to our species and the biggest fight we have is the continued emancipation of women and bringing their hands to tightly clutch the banner of liberty. Especially in such places as Africa, where we know that when women are allowed charge over their own bodies, we can end poverty. Poverty will not be solved solely though charity – we know that will not work. Instead, we must seek charity’s root, namely karitas or the love of fellow humans. This means liberating women which reduces poverty by not dealing out already low resources to an inestimable number of offspring, who themselves grow up to continue to breed and create more people to suffer needlessly. Aside from poverty, we need to push back the patriarchy of society to realise that women (who do better than the male counterparts in education) are human. Religions also aid this patriarchy by giving men a divine sanction to use their wives as nothing more than cattle. There are too many instances to name in Islamic countries that they might collectively be called Misogynia. By combating these arrogant and stupid men who think women are lower than themselves, we will be pulling the carpet from under the feet. The biggest wake up call that Muslims states could suffer would be a woman, wearing clothes of her choosing, smiling and enjoying her own mind and body. A respect for the minds and their bodies should be welcomed, not solely for the purpose of the male related urge to have sex, but also for the appreciation of the beauty of both. Personally, women are the better sex and it is often said that if god was a woman, the world wouldn’t be in such a mess – perhaps the only statement of an anthropomorphic god I could agree with.
  • …we need a re-evaluation of why we procreate. To the Greeks, everything was an ethical dilemma: even the clothes you wore. To them the ethical life was a life well-lived and living ethically was a life-long challenge. We tend to forget this view, with its importance on self-reflection. Applying this to all spheres would end a lot of social problems but it needs to be consistent. Thus, to be consistent, there has yet to be a good reason laid out for the procreation of  our species. As I write this, I am of the opinion that it is immoral to create new people, since it is by definition impossible to have a child for that child’s sake – because the child does not exist when you conceive him. Parents do not know their children for quite some time, so it is impossible to say that parents have children for that child’s sake. To have a child is simply a selfish act, a biological need (arguably the most prominent and therefore the most overlooked!). Why have kids? It is a bizarre question to most people, but as of yet there has not been a satisfactory answer. To continue the human species is not good enough either, since I do not care for those who do not exist. I care and apply my moral sphere to those who exist. Those who do not exist do not suffer. Also, we must remember that our species will die out eventually and we only prolonging the inevitable. It seems harsh and to some horrifying, but it is rather simple. For this reason, I at this moment will not have children. Instead, I think our efforts in helping people to procreate and the “sad” fact that people are sterile, needs shifting to aid children who are already alive. That is, instead of focusing on children who do not exist, focus on those who do! Perhaps this is what irks me the most – there are so many children who need loving families and I do not doubt that people who want kids simply want a child to love. Therefore, they should not add to our overpopulated word, but simply adopt. Psychological testing has shown time and time again, there is no difference in affection and love between children who parents adopt and children born to biological parents. I believe it a human duty to shift our silly polices on those “unlucky people who are sterile” and who can not create new people; and instead promote the humanity and importance of adopting people who already exist.
  • …reading is the gateway to living the good life and engaging in discussion with ideas its path. Epicurus was the embodiment of this, who thought the highest aim in life was sitting beneath a tree discussing philosophy. Whilst we can not reasonably expect such a life today, we can approach it with the same considerations. Reading is a joy and should be shown to young people when their minds are finding fruition and goal. Like education, reading should not be promoted by forcing children to read certain books, but how and why they should read in the first place. People find their hunger grow when reading and the acquisition of “knowledge” becomes a life long goal. There is nothing pretentious in reading Tolstoy and Faulkner’s books, indeed they are beautiful and actually simple writers. They are classics because even the general reader is able to enjoy its beauty, whilst stuffy introverts like myself could dissect it for in-depth literary criticism. There is also much joy to be gained in reading opposing viewpoints, thus reading books for and against evolution, for and against god, for and against postmodernism, and so on. We enjoy debates for their entertainment value and watching one side get overturned by the brilliance of the other; but we also allow people in better positions than ourselves to criticise more eloquently and with better information. It is a joy: try (really try) for example reading a work by Derrida (perhaps a short one) than try Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont’s Fashionable Nonsense or Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom’s Why Truth Matters.
  • …by studying philosophy, I hope to bring it further into the public sphere where it belongs. Much is to be gained from the history of ideas and discussion within philosophy. Not least the clarification and use of critical thinking so important to this discipline. Moral philosophers need to be higher placed within our society than say, bishops and rabbis – for the simple reason that moral philosophy is not moralising – i.e.: it is not about setting out a list of “Thou shalt…” and “Thou shalt not…” but the clearing of verbose emotional reactions and alternate paths not previously considered. The first person journalists should contact when an ethical dilemma arises from medical advancement should not be the public or a religious don: it should be a bioethicist. After outlining all the paths and conjectures surrounding the topic, others can contribute more coherently. This should be the job of the philosopher in general, to clear the path for discussion to continue maturely.
  • …sex is overrated. In nearly every sense, sex finds itself at the top of the list for both those who consider themselves godless liberals in their “FOR” list, and for the conservative moralisers in their “AGAINST” list. If sex was less the topic of focus, it could be allowed to be the healthy, enjoyable actualisation of affection two (or three or four) people have for each other.
  • …I am not intelligent or bright. I reserve such terms for those who deserve it and find it a particularly insulting when an important property finds itself attached to me. As an example, I did terribly in high-school, barely passing. I did even worse in a tertiary institution, only managing firsts in English literature – a degree, nearly anyone could do well in. I am not exceptional in any way, save that I am particularly good-looking.
  • …that last sentence was a lie.

I hope that by next year one of these would have changed, either to be replaced with something more informed, or elucidated more clearly. For example, I hope to be able to say that I am working from a tertiary institution. Until then, let us see what changes the world makes upon itself.