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 If there are alternate and better views, many current views should be rescinded or replaced.
- …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.