Saturday, July 13, 2013


 How are knowledge, senses, Mind and truth related to one another?
John Locke felt that the mind at birth was a tabula rasa, or clean slate upon which the senses drew or scribed knowledge. This in some part is true.  When a child at first encounters some new thing, the first thing they try to do, is look at it, then they turn it over and over and try to see all sides of it. Then they try to put it in their mouth.  This says that a baby is trying to gain knowledge by sensory experience. The knowledge that we have from a thing is what we gain from our senses.   As we get a bit older we start to rely on our other senses rather than oral, we can’t put everything in our mouth.  Sometimes we have to rely on other people’s experiences to form knowledge.  A mother knows that bleach is poison, so she puts it high away and tells a child that it is bad.  The child has not used its own senses to know the bleach is bad, but mother has said, and mother is always right.  The problem with this way of gaining knowledge is that we have to rely on two factors.  One that the information giver (mother) is always right which in most human cases is not so; and two, that the information giver is benign, that he or she or it has our best interest at heart. A mother will always give the child the information she think it is best for the child to have, so most of the time we can infer good intent, but this is not so of every information giver that we encounter the whole of our lives. Another factor to look at when using the senses to gain knowledge is perception; everyone is going to perceive an object in a different way. George Berkeley thought that nothing exists without being perceived. According to him, nothing is the world has a true set reality until someone uses their senses to quantify and name and perceive an object. The problem with this theory is that things exist regardless of whether or not someone is there to perceive it.  The  reality  of a rock is that it is a rock, has been and always will be , whether it is buried in the Sahara, or sitting on top of the world at the arctic circle.  What changes is man’s perception of the rock.  Say we set the rock on a table for people to look at.  There is enough commonality in perception to say that everyone will see a rock, however, experience colors perception.  A child will look at a rock and maybe think about how fun it would be to throw it, a mother might look at a rock and think that it is dirty and covered in germs, a sculptor might look at the same rock as the potential carving piece for a statue or another work of art, and a geologist is going to look at the rock and try to determine what sort of rock it is, how old it is, and what is inside it.  All are seeing the rock, but each has a different perception of it. So it is also with truth.  The truth is what we know and perceive, the child’s truth will differ from the mother’s, and those truth will differ from the sculptor and the geologist.  On the surface it seems that there are four contrasting truths, all derived from valid experiences. And yet all are possible.  Yes it is just a rock, but yes it may be fun to throw it; it may be dirty and covered in germs, it most definitely is made of something and does have an age, and an original location, and yes it may be able to be carved into something.  Harder to quantify are those truths which are abstract, which only exist in the mind of man.  Freedom is a word and concept of which we all become aware.  The truth of freedom is so complex and so abstract that you could say the word to a hundred, or a thousand different people, and each person will have a different idea on what the word actually means. The mind wants to classify and name all known and unknown things and ideas, that that it becomes easier to store knowledge.  What becomes more difficult is when the mind continues to use generalities even when such naming has out lived its usefulness.  Take the original rock. The mind was content to name it a rock, and perceive it in any way it decided to do. And from knowledge and experience might come the thought that there are many rocks in the world, and so be able to form a general theory that all rocks should and ought to look the same as the first rock.  If the first one rock or five or five hundred rocks are grey granite, the mind starts to form a set hypothesis: all rocks are made of grey granite. All it takes it one piece of blue marble to destroy that theory.  A closed mind will refuse to acknowledge that the blue marble is indeed a rock, in that it is not grey granite ,and so therefore must NOT be a rock in any way shape or form. A more open mind will think it may indeed be a rock but that it is an aberration, not to be repeated in a long line of grey granite rocks.  A truly open mind will know that the line of thinking used to classify all rocks as grey granite may be false, will take the knowledge of the blue marble as an opportunity to re-adjust a set perception of rocks, and use the experience of having seen the blue marble as an opening to re-investigate all previously perceived grey granite rocks, to see if he might have passed a blue one without knowing it.  Thus the open mind will shy away from forming set opinions with a limited amount of information( the one rock), and continue to examine all information coming from the senses; continue  to reassess and reclassify , and continue to think critically about all information being received.

Freud believed that man is an innately aggressive animal and that man’s true nature was to be a conqueror of other men. Freud thought that man’s nature to kill to rape, to take and seize, and rape and pillage. And that only the fear of the consequence of his action enables man to overcome these primitive impulses.  He believed that the suppression of the primitive urges of the subconscious and the subjugation of the id by the ego, were the underlying cause of most mental illnesses. He also thought that a lot of mental unrest was sexual in nature.  To him man was not a rational creature, but a violent, sexual, irrational creature only held in check by the wills of stronger men who rule above him.  In terms of constructing a moral code, this means that Freud thought man incapable of living a just and moral life without having some sort of system in place where the fear of retribution and punishment outweigh the urges that cause men to act immorally.  However if you follow these thought to their logical conclusion it could be said that having immoral men in power, will give the common man permission to be immoral.  If the government is corrupt, so too, will its people be.  This is false logic. There are many cases in history where this is not the case, where just and moral men have risen up to depose and unjust or immoral form of government.  There have also been cases where the government, and the men in power in that government, was clearly corrupt, and immoral, such as occurred in Hitler’s Germany.  It cannot be said with any certainty, and is clearly disproven in individual cases, that all Germans in this era were immoral or corrupt.   I think Freud was wrong.  I think Freud himself was inwardly violent, immoral, aggressive, and over sexualized.  He voiced his own inner demons and declared them to be universally applicable to all men.  This is the very worst sort of abuse of power.  Freud was in a position of intellectual authority over other human beings (in that people listened to what he thought, and he was able to convince people that he was right), and he used that authority to purge his own inner conflicts and to further his own agendas, whatever they were. In contrast to this, Sartre thought that all humans were responsible for their own morality and that no other person’s morality could be inflicted on another. He believed that humans existed within a reality whose parameters were set by their experiences, thoughts, fears and ideals and no one person’s reality was the same as any other person’s reality.  That there could be things so universally perceived as to be agreed upon that they were real, but that any one individual’s perceptions of that common reality would differ from another’s. He believed all humans are trapped in a prison of their own making, as each person cannot escape the limits of his or her own perceptions.  In the context of trying to forge an ethically moral system, Sartre thought that each person must be given the freedom to choose their own moral path. He thought that no moral code could be constructed that would be applicable to all humans in all situations, and therefore no universal moral code was possible. He thought of himself as an anarchist, in that he believed that it was impossible for one person to impose their own morality and governance upon another, and that the idea of men governing other men was preposterous and that each individual should or ought to be able to act in accordance with what was best for them and them alone. The idea of one man or one set of men trying to impose their own moral imperatives on any other man or set of men, in the form of government, to Sartre, this was the immorality.
 What is the Faustian of meaning life?
A Faustian meaning of life could be construed as one where a human pursues an objective regardless of the long term consequences.  Also this could mean that the human in question is so determined to reach his or her goal, he or she ignores all possible ramifications of said goal.  Faust was a character who sold his soul to the devil for unlimited knowledge, youth, power, and wealth.  Faust was a learned man, a wealthy and respected man who felt that the charms of his life were not enough to keep him mentally and spiritually engaged with his endeavors.  He lost the will and interest to continue with his work, because he was not satisfied with what he had.  He summons a demon who grants him unlimited knowledge and power, along with youth, energy and wealth.  Instead of using his newfound abilities for the greater good, because he is in essence a selfish man, Faust seduces a girl of good family, Gretchen, who had previously rejected him in his older incarnation.  He ruins her and her family, which leads to her death. In one version, not being satisfied with his revenge, he makes a plan to drain the sea to mine the minerals and treasures beneath the sea, and on the sea floor; this being an allegory for the destruction of the natural world in the pursuit of progress and industry.  At the pinnacle of his newfound life, having achieved the ultimate happiness humanly possible he dies (in some versions of the story, this is a set number of years, usually 24) and the demon comes to collect the soul owed to him.  Faust dies, and yet through the intercession of the pure innocence of the soul that was Gretchen, and in some versions the Virgin Mary, which embodies the Sacred Feminine; and due to the striving of his character to better himself no matter the cost, his soul is saved and Mestopheles the demon is thwarted. In other versions, he is forced to pay the debt that is owed, and is damned to hell.  It had been said the story of Faust is an allegory for the mind.  Faust is the conscious mind, which knows that there is more out there, but that is at a loss to find it.  Mestopheles is the id, which offers unlimited knowledge and pleasure, but at a cost. Gretchen and the deux ex machine that is the Virgin Mary or the sacred feminine, depending on the story, are the ego and the superego respectively which try to subjugate the id for the betterment of the conscious mind.  It can also be said that the story of Faust is a tale in which the humanity of our race is lost within the search for moderninity.  We strive to do bigger better faster more, and since the advent of the industrial revolution have lost the respect for the individual who had been reduced to a replaceable cog in the industrial machine.  The soul being owed or due can be construed as the damage that we do to the natural world in the search for progress and advancement.  John Stuart Mill talked in his autobiography about the ennui that poisoned his life’s work.  He no longer found satisfaction with his job his life his routines, because he had lost the capacity to engage with his daily life, and that he could no longer find satisfaction in his daily routines, projects and interests..  He thought his life was pointless so therefore it has lost all meaning to him.  This is a Faustian attitude.   This is precisely the sort of attitude that led Faust to propose his deal in the first place.    According to the text of the meaning of life:
We may conclude, then, that according to the moral approach our lives have
Meaning if the following conditions are met: first, they are not worthless, pointless,
Misdirected, trivial, or futile; second, we have not succumbed to the view that all
Human projects are absurd; third, we have identified with projects that we genuinely
Want to pursue; and fourth, our belief that successful engagement in our projects will
Make our lives good or better is true.
If Faust had done this, if Mills had not succumbed to the ennui of the routine of his life, they both would have led happy, successful, eminently useful lives.  If we were to look at this from the viewpoint of forming an ethical construct; then what we would have to extract from this is that in order to have a successful ethical construct, that you must include in the parameters the idea that enjoyment of routine, duties and personal endeavors is essential.  However according to Sartre, we must include in that construct a sense of personal responsibility as well.  According to him, each person is responsible for his or her own moral code; and though no one person can be responsible for another’s conduct, there is in his philosophy the thought that to have a working moral construct, one must include concern for other humans.  Yes you must do what is best for you but at the same time you must consider what is going to move the whole of humanity forward. As Sartre considered himself an anarchist he would not have followed this thought to the conclusion that some form of moral government is good; but he may have thought that limiting your own personal freedom enough to do what is best for not only you but also for the rest of humanity would have been the right path to take.  If we must search for meaning in our own lives then we must take into account the fact that a Faustian outlook on life would not be the most ethical path to take.  Yes it is right that since we are trapped within our own perceptions , we should and ought to do what is best for us, we must also take into account how our action affect others.  We must not be swayed however by the opinions or morals of the masses, or of the society in which we live, but must take every situation, every day, and carefully balance what is good for the individual versus what is good for the whole.

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