Clearly, this book is about philosophy. The dictionary defines philosophy as:
1. the rational investigation of the truths and principals of being, knowledge, or conduct. 2. any of the three branches, namely natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and metaphysical philosophy. 3. a system of philosophical doctrine: the philosophy of Spinoza. 4. the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, esp. with a view to improving or reconstituting them: the philosophy of science. 5. a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs. 6. a philosophical attitude, as one of composure and calm in the presence of troubles or annoyances.8
This book is
all of these things. Clearly we are in a time of trouble and transition
in our society. We perceive that our quality of life is disintegrating
around us, and we do not know how to reverse this process. We are
clearly flailing around in a search for some solution, any solution,
which holds a rational promise of returning us all to "the good old
days." What we really need is a new philosophy.
It is with some trepidation that I undertake this writing. As Descartes noted:9
"I shall not say anything about Philosophy, but that, seeing that it has been cultivated for many centuries by the best minds that have ever lived, and that nevertheless no single thing is to be found in it which is not subject of dispute, and in consequence which is not dubious, I had not enough presumption to hope to fare better there than other men had done. And also, considering how many conflicting opinions there may be regarding the self-same matter, all supported by learned people, while there can never be more than one which is true, I esteemed as well-nigh false all that only went as far as being probable.
"Then, as to the other sciences, inasmuch as they derive their principles from Philosophy, I judged that one could have built nothing solid on foundations so far from firm. . . ."
been some argument from time to time as to what distinguishes humans
from animals. Most of the postulated distinctions have found to be
lacking in one respect or another. For example, if you assert that
humans are the only tool using animals, that assertion has been proven
to be false, as chimpanzees have been proved to naturally use tools
when the need presents itself.
The thing which truly separates mankind from animals is an advanced Philosophy (or as some would assert, it is Reason which makes mankind Human). The subject of Philosophy encompasses all human knowledge, beliefs, relationships, and rules. Thus, when we attempt to impart moral values to our children, what we are really doing is indoctrinating them with our own philosophy, or at least a philosophy which we have come to accept as being "normal" for our society, Western Civilization. The particular branch of Philosophy which deals with moral values is called "Ethics," and what we teach as morality is really just Ethics.
But we avoid training our young in Philosophy, because to do so naturally exposes them to the thoughts of great men, such as Descartes, above, who have discovered that there is truly no foundation to any system of Philosophy beyond that which each individual creates for himself. This is a truly dangerous concept, and we go to great lengths to prevent our young from discovering this fundamental truth.
However, like all truths, they are eventually found out, and thus the essential lack of a foundation calls into question the entire system of values which we raise our children to embrace, and they rebel. We have come to accept rebellion by our young as a natural part of growing up. However, it is much more insidious than that. Gradually, generation by generation, our overall value system is deteriorating to the point where we can now barely call ourselves civilized in the true sense.10
Western Civilization is the first truly global civilization, and is thus the first civilization to be inclusive of all mankind. While there are no barbarians at our gates, because virtually the entire world is under our control, we seemingly are doing a pretty good job of raising our own barbarians from among the disadvantaged minorities which populate our inner cities. Unfortunately, barbarism tends to spread, unless actively opposed by a civilizing force, and it has now reached the point where, for example, virtually all of Southern California can easily be seen as a "barbaric" inner city environment. The only real question left is how far we must devolve towards barbarism before something good springs from the ashes.
In some sense, this book is an attempt by me to foster the growth of civilization by espousing a new Philosophy. Unfortunately, honesty compels me to note, as Descartes did before me, that it is all too easy to denigrate another man's philosophy and all too hard to foster the sort of near universal agreement which is necessary to form civilized groups, acting in accordance with a common Philosophy.
Philosophy naturally encompasses all areas of knowledge, whether known or unknown, and whether subject to scientific study or not. As I noted above, it is the true foundation for all knowledge and rational thought. In fact, as was the subject of the essay of Descartes from which I quoted above, truth is derived from reason, and reason is the product of Philosophy, whether you like it or not. The particular branch of Philosophy dealing with reason is called Logic. Unfortunately, Philosophy is also a form of truth, and is thus itself a product of reason, a state which leads us to a circular definition. This is the essential fallacy of Philosophy: all philosophical systems are, at their base, founded upon a fallacious circularity of reasoning. But the learned only point this out when criticizing somebody else's Philosophy.
Most philosophers begin with a foundation that includes certain assumptions which are ingrained to the culture within which they were raised. So it was that Benedict Spinoza, one of the greatest philosophers of Western Civilization, was condemned as "a God-intoxicated man."11 In his writings, Spinoza began with the assumption that God was universal, thus everything is a part of God, thus every action by men or nature is, in fact, God's will, and thus, mankind has no free will of its own. While there are still sects of Christianity which adhere to this concept espoused by Spinoza, most of Christianity has denounced the concept of predestination in favor of a concept that mankind has free will to either act in accordance with God's law or against it. It would have been impossible for Spinoza to have created the same philosophy if he had been raised in Athens during the period of classical Greek culture. A pantheon of anthropomorphic deities is not in any way adaptable to the concept of universality espoused by Spinoza.
Accordingly, it is just as impossible for me, raised as I was in the schools of a principal nation in the great play of Western Civilization, to create a Philosophy which is at great odds from that within which I was raised from birth. What all philosophers tend to do is to write about logical next steps. Thus, most great philosophers are not popular, or even generally accepted, until a generation or two after their deaths. As examples of this, one of the last truly great philosophers of Western Civilization, Friedrich Nietzsche, was not really accepted as a great philosopher until decades after he stopped writing coherently. Both Descartes and Spinoza were not seen as great philosophers until long after death.
Most great philosophers have had limited success at selling books while alive, and have been the subject of great ridicule during their lifetimes. Accordingly, it is truly a testament to the driving nature of the force which compels philosophers to set forth their ideas in the face of nearly universal adversity that so many great works of the great philosophers have survived to become accepted as great by our civilization.
It is this same force which compels me to write this book. As I type these words into my computer word processor, I do not know if I will be lucky enough to have more than a single copy printed of this book. I am an unpublished author, and the obstacles are great to acceptance of my work. Nonetheless, I persevere.
This is my rational investigation of the truths and principals of being, knowledge, and conduct. This is my critical study of the basic principals and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, especially with a view to improving or reconstituting them. This is part of my Philosophy. If I get it accepted for printing, perhaps I will try to set forth some additional parts of my Philosophy. In any case, the same forces which seemingly compel all philosophers now compel me to set forth this book for the enlightenment of whomever reads it. Just remember: to achieve true enlightenment, what you read must become part of your own Philosophy. Only by studying from a well-rounded selection of a number of different and diverse sources can you truly develop a Philosophy of your own. This book is thus my hopeful contribution to the development of your own Philosophy.
8 Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Second Edition, 1993.
9 René Descartes (1596-1650), Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason and Seeking for Truth in the Sciences (1637), translated by Elizabeth S. Haldane and G. R. T. Ross, quoted from the Great Books of the Western World, Volume 31, page 43.
10 By "civilized" in this context I mean things like polite, law abiding, well-ordered, and all of the attributes we generally associate with having an advanced or humane culture or society.
11 "Ein Gottbetrunkener Mensch." - Novalis, Friedrich von Hardenberg (1772-1801), as quoted in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 15th Ed., page 308, Footnote 2.
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