Philosophizing Myself Away
I have had the opportunity over the years to write down a number of personal thoughts that come under the rubric of philosophy. These are rather disparate in perspective and tone and content, but they all share the ambition of making some sense out of this person who I am and this universe we are part of. My ramblings, and that is the proper way to view these thoughts, are not very structured, nor generally fitted into the larger corpus of philosophical thought that our civilization shares.
Indeed, I have tended to be adventurous and searching, often remaining baffled and open to further elaboration in personal thinking. Plus, I have naturally evolved in the direction of my thinking over the years, moving from a quest for spiritual salvation to one of personal experiential understanding of the world.
So it is time now to try to bring this somewhat together and see if a coherent synthesis is possible. What do I believe in the end? Is there a personal belief structure that fits things together in a sensible way? That is what I plan on attempting here. [My earlier turn-of-the-millenium attempt in the form of my Travels with Duncan do not capture my most recent thinking, even if they convey the general basis for it.]
I shall link out to various pieces of previous writings rather than repeat things here, for the intent is to integrate and coalesce bits of thinking rather than preparing a presentable full description. Not only is the informal approach more manageable, it is also my preference in style, more fluid and adventurous.
I am trying here to derive my personal view of the world, for my own sake, and not present it for general viewing, although I am not adverse to others reading it should they like what they are reading.. My challenge, though, is one of coming to some integrated view, particularly as I come out of a dark winter in which I brushed up against absurdity. In effect, my current motivation is to see if an absurdist perspective remains the sole rational one once I bring in the various other strands of worldview that I have developed in the past. I am still on active mission here.
As I see it, there are two ways to proceed. One is from the inside out, from the mind (the self) on out to the world, the advantage of this being to focus on our constructing the trappings of the world around us. The other way is from the out in, from the world in to the self, the advantage here being to capitalize on the naturalness of the self as simply a part of the world. I think this latter approach perhaps the best, with some wandering back along the other path on occasion.
The title Philosophizing Myself Away might sound troubling, but I believe it quite apt, for it recognizes the search for the selfless in spiritual terms and for a less self-centered view in philosophical ones. Only later will I see if the title still makes sense.
How to organize this? How about along the lines of the eras of the universe? => http://pduchastel.googlepages.com/passages .
The Universe in which we find ourselves
The one big philosophical question to which we have absolutely no answer is the issue of origin. Where did it all come from? What made it happen? For an atheist, there is no answer and a theist’s answer is simple capitulation.
The scientific view starts at the big bang. We can imagine a cyclical process of repeated big bangs and a scaled process of big bangs within big bangs, but the infinite regress, and the mystery, remains.
So the universe, ours, is born and evolves [what is the ontological status of this ‘change’ concept, I wonder?]. It transforms from energy to create matter, and from there to life. The details of how that happened may be fascinating, but it is the big picture here that is of concern. => http://duchastel.com/~pcd/papers/realm.html and http://philoduchastel.wordpress.com/story-of-the-universe/
Life itself evolves to more complexity [local complexification, part of the change concept => http://duchastel.com/~pcd/papers/cyberg02.html]. Mobility leads to animal life, which complexifies to sentience and the creation of pain and its converse satiation. This is a potential factor of great import later on (we’ll see).
Then comes the mental, consciousness, and eventually self-consciousness. And mankind, the social, language, agriculture and culture, cities and governance, power plays and elites. With emergence and development of the self all along. And a partial reaction to the self => http://pduchastel.googlepages.com/selfing .
This is where we find ourselves at the moment. A Universe based on change, increasing in diversity (and complexity) and arising out of an unknowable origin. What sense can we make of it?
The Self we experience
Man is the mental animal. Not the only animal with mentality, but the one with the most advanced mentality. Going further is a story for later on.
My mind allows me not only to abstract concepts from particulars and think through recombinations of those concepts, but most importantly to imagine alternate states of being. Imagination is one of our most powerful tools, for it in effect creates time and space. All I sensually experience is the here and now. Everything past, everything distant are experienced through my imagination. I imagine what the French Revolution was like, for I never experienced it (how could I?). Likewise for Russia, or Korea, or Bali, for I have never been there. Even the pictures of these places and events are only a small part of what I imagine about them.
The same goes for science and culture pretty generally, including religion. I know how a volcano works and the atom too, even if I have never experienced them. We hold our imaginings together through coherence (except for religion, where we invoke faith). Indeed, coherence is the basis for one of the two modes of human learning (associative learning and modeling).
We apply our mentality to our preservation through our sense of self. We build up our Self ever since it emerges in childhood, constantly bettering it and keeping it as polished as we can (the notion of a good self-concept).
The trouble with this (most trouble in the modern world) comes from the fact that we are not alone in this competitive world. Everybody is at it in his or her own way, even the most saintly of people. That is just part and parcel of our animal heritage and hence of our mental makeup, indeed part of the world as it is. No matter how much, in our imagination, we might want to deny it, or overcome it, we are stuck with the brutality of this dasein.
We humans seek our happiness (=>http://pduchastel.googlepages.com/happiness ) in productive ways, yet tradition (for example, stereotyping) is hard to overcome and we are certainly not all-knowing and infallible. We remain in awe of the world, wondering about it and wondering at it => http://duchastel.com/~pcd/Philip/philo/wonder .
Our imagination might at times enable us to float above worldly concerns and find union with the cosmos, but only for a while, until the world intrudes again in the form of hunger pains or other interruptions. We are here and now, but foremost, we just are as we are, with this particular makeup and in this particular world. There is no other being. **Or is there? Again, via the imagination, irrespective of time limitations? Cajoling the virtual.**
So we have a Self that is imaginative, rational (coherent), competitive, in awe and perhaps stuck here. We ask ourselves what it all means, where are we going? => http://duchastel.com/~pcd/papers/cyberg05.html . For that, we need to first explore trends and imagine the future.
The project we are engaged in
Our project is our search for meaning. It is a philosophical project for some => http://pduchastel.googlepages.com/questions , even if many simply shun it aside and go with their instincts in living the daily life in a carefree here & now.
The road to the future leads away from humanity into an age of artefactual reason => http://duchastel.com/~pcd/ida/beyond_000.html , a culmination of our greatest gift, but in the end, our demise too. Defeated by our own curiosity, by our own nature.
That is, only if we do not precipitously effect our own demise either through foolishness à la terrible mistake or more deliberately in ethics => http://endquestion… .
Philosophy remains an adventurous road, one of exploration, but leading nowhere in the end, for sense-making must stay ineffable, reason in the end proving powerless, downtrodden. Seeking refuge in the naturalness of the Dao is one traditional answer, entering into Wonder is an alternative => http://duchastel.com/~pcd/Philip/philo/wonder. Why both appear to me to be escapist I’m not sure. There is renouncement, true, but only against something found wanting; is that so shameful?
In the end, it is our very dasein that is found wanting, human nature itself found too unreliable, too quirky, to be counted on for the big project of progressive civilization. We will eventually hand over the process => http://duchastel.com/~pcd/papers/cyberg02.html to other forces and step back into our absurdist but proper place in the universe.
We continue to quest despite our losing battle, such is our nature, unable to settle down into stoic resignation, the quest process itself replacing the goal. With the project demolished, what would that settling in be like? That, surely, must be the next big question .