Freedom Understood Differently

At times, dominant forces in our world can seem so powerful, so oppressive, and so far beyond our control that we lose faith in our ability to act freely and affect significant change. We feel overwhelmed and impotent, and this being the case we may resign ourselves to lesser but more realistic goals like the satisfying our desires for food, sex, travel, and the like. Seeking out ever new and heightened stimuli at least temporarily can fend off the meaninglessness of living within a disenchanted, commercialized world. And yet we need not, and should not, allow ourselves to be overcome by external factors to such a degree that we slip into hedonism and escapism. There are plenty of things that we can do, even in this world, that will allow us to align our contrarian values with a way of living and being we find most congenial. This practical application[…]

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On the Importance of Making Distinctions

The ability to make important distinctions is a mark of intelligence, and our consistent failure to do so has resulted in a constricted and emotionally-driven political discourse. This in turn has torn our society apart. Instead of thinking with nuance, subtlety, and generosity – especially towards perceived opponents – we succumb to oversimplified explanations and binary oppositions: we’re good, smart, and honest while those “others” who oppose us are evil, stupid, and dishonest. Things are rarely so simple, however, and we should be on guard against those who would have us believe otherwise. In its most extreme form this phenomena leads to the well-known and typically erroneous false dilemma: you’re either with us or against us. It should be acknowledged at the outset that both sides tend to engage in this sort of manipulative discourse, pandering to their side’s implicit biases (often augmented through, e.g., various underhanded means such as[…]

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Where We Go From Here – A Quick Overview

Ontology is the branch of philosophy which investigates the nature of being. The claim was made in a previous post that revolutionary change in the future, if it comes at all, will take place through a transformation in the way we interpret ourselves and our world, with political and economic change being byproducts of this more fundamental shift. If this is so then opening up this topic for renewed consideration, thereby challenging the reductionist tendencies of the dominant paradigm, is of vital importance. How do we generally understand things within our postmodern consumerist society? In a significantly leveled down way: as resources to be calculated and exploited by willful, representing subjects. This narrowed down interpretation of beings – and most significantly of ourselves – is reflected in our politics, our economics, and our guiding values. As the philosopher Martin Heidegger noted, that which grounds and informs these derivative “ontic” spheres[…]

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Considerations on the Rise of Donald Trump

As many political observers have noted, Donald Trump’s election to the presidency of the United States has thrown the Left into chaos. The party which prides itself on its compassion and tolerance has gone a bit crazy, it seems, and hatred of Trump – along with anything even remotely associated with him – has led to some curious developments within progressive ranks. Who’d have thought, for instance, that it’d be progressives who’d place complete trust in intelligence agencies like the FBI, who’d be taking a bellicose nationalist stance towards foreign powers like Russia, and who’d be singing the praises of global free trade. And yet this is exactly what has happened. The Left is looking an awful lot like what it used to combat – and very honorably I might add – in the name of human freedom and dignity. One of the riddles that Democrats still can’t seem to figure[…]

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Beyond Left and Right

Western civilization continues to lose faith in itself and split apart into hostile factions. We have “elites” opposed to “the people,” progressives opposed to conservatives, globalists opposed to populists, white Europeans opposed to previously colonized and marginalized non-whites, etc., with each side demonizing its opponent in quasi-religious fashion and refusing to engage them in honest, charitable dialogue. These antagonisms have intensified under the Trump presidency as society is now completely polarized, with a civil war based on incompatible worldviews looking like a genuine possibility in the not-too-distant future. Historical precedents abound, with the English, American, and Chinese Civil Wars all taking place within similar highly polarized contexts, as well as the French and Russian Revolutions. The German and Italian fascist movements which rose to power in the twentieth century are relevant, too. Once you’ve dehumanized your opponent, the next step, both logically and morally, is to eliminate them through the[…]

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The Shortcomings of Globalisation

The Shortcomings of Globalisation

Were you dumbfounded and shocked upon hearing of the outcome of the Brexit vote? Have you felt the anxiety of being in a strange world that you could no longer understand after the results of the US elections? Then you have likely acquired a cultural blindspot which prevents you from fully understanding these recent events. These happenings cannot be understood except by analysing their cause – when we are blind to the causes of things, we struggle to navigate in the world, fear for the future, and are unable to adjust to what is happening around. The solution lies in the illumination that comes from real understanding of the cause – the shortcomings of globalisation. Asymmetric Development The phenomenon of globalisation is at the heart of the recent world crisis. What we observe are only reactions to the shortcomings of globalisation. It is true that globalisation has done much good[…]

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Can your senses deceive you?

Can your senses deceive you?

The question of being deceived by the senses is very old – probably originating even before the Ancient Greek Skeptics, the Pyhrronists. It is indeed something that human beings must have wondered about ever since they were human beings; the experience of believing something and finding out that the belief is false is, after all, common to all of mankind. But before I begin to go in more detail, I want to make a distinction between global skepticism, and local skepticism. Global skepticism is skeptical of everything except itself – this is exactly what modern skepticism, starting with René Descartes affirmed, and more recently what the brain-in-a-vat theories claim. Local skepticism on the other hand is skeptical of knowledge claims, including even the knowledge claim that one does not know – this is similar to what Ancient skepticism was like. The Ancient skeptic Sextus Empiricus, who best documents the teachings of the Pyrrhonists in[…]

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Is philosophy viable as a way of life?

Is philosophy viable as a way of life?

In recent years philosophy has been wearing a black hat – people rarely turn to it for a way of finding the meaning of life, providing structure to their lives and understanding the world and their place in it. Instead they turn to the more visible “gurus”, pop-psychology, marketers, TV shows and the like, which are capable to produce a lot of content, at a fast pace, keeping up with the general consumption trends of a consumerist economy. While you may find the next big fad there, it is unlikely that you will find something that can truly help you understand yourself better, or something that can provide a solid foundation for life. Why not? For the simple reason that those sources have one purpose before all others – to sell. Whether it’s a course to take, a session to attend, a new book to buy, and so on. And[…]

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Stoicism – Focus on What You Control

Photo of Marcus Aurelius

Stoicism is one of the philosophies that still has a large share of practical applications. The most important among these comes from the Stoic principle of focusing solely on what is under one’s control. A large share of the pain encountered in life is psychological, and it originates in our attitude with regards to things that aren’t under our control. From a rational perspective, there’s no point worrying about what’s outside of our control, for we cannot change it. The only productive thing is to abandon any such focus, and instead consider things that are immediately under our control. For example, harmful and destructive emotions – especially anger and hatred – are often experienced when a relationship turns sour – our partner (mis)behaves in a way that we hadn’t anticipated, or there exist unresolvable conflicts. Getting angry, feeling vengeful towards your partner, or being depressed does not change the situation –[…]

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Creativity and Consciousness

Creativity and the Mystery of Being

The problem of creativity is one that is rarely addressed in philosophy, and yet it is one of the distinguishing factors between man, the other animals and any form of artificial intelligence (AI). At first glance, it has to do with something subjective, something that comes from within man’s own consciousness. It is easy to remark that in the absence of this subjectivity one simply cannot be creative. Animals and robots are capable of solving problems, if by solving problems we understand using one’s environment (or body) to fulfil a goal. But this is not creativity, but rather ingenuity. Creativity most fully reveals itself in art – and it is in art that man outshines all other creatures, as G.K. Chesterton remarked in The Everlasting Man. No animal species comes close to the artistic achievements of man – indeed in this case, a difference in kind, and not a difference in degree[…]

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