This blog contains material I wrote and posted on between the years 2005 and 2011 only. It does not contain any new material. For newer writing, please check my main blog (Bill the Butcher).

Sunday, 25 November 2012

In Search Of A Personal Philosophy

I still readPeanuts reruns sometimes.  
All right, now thatconfession is out of the way, and you’ve stopped sniggering, the reason I’m admitting it isLucy and the new “philosophies of life” she used to expound every few strips. I was trying to formulate some kind of philosophy of my own, to evolve some idea of what I might distil out of the accumulated experience of three and a half decades on this planet. It’s amazing how difficult I found it.
What is a personal philosophy? How can one formulate one and stick to it at all times, under all circumstances? Is such a thing possible? I do feel stealing is not something I should do, for example; but if I were starving and without succour by traditional means, would I take the opportunity to steal enough for myself? Like a shot. Anyone would. Except maybe a suicidal masochist looking for sainthood.
Therefore, I do not think there is any way one can have a fixed, immutable, personal philosophy.
Yet, since I feel one owes it to oneself to formulate some kind of code one should at least try to live by, if only to distinguish oneself from totally unscrupulous opportunists, here goes, remembering of course that I have never formally studied philosophy and I don’t know any of the jargon:
In the first place, of course, I’m an atheist. Although this is not inborn in me (I was a semi-believer in some sort of divinity till my early teens, though never the deity of dogma) I began to grow out of it when I began applying a little thought to it. The final break came at the funeral of a relative when I asked why all the prayers for the repose of his “soul” were necessary if he, as they said, was in heaven because of all the good deeds he’d done on earth. The lack of a coherent answer was enough.
The fact of my atheism, of course, means I do not believe in any life after death or any such charming eccentricity and anyone predicting I’ll end up sizzling in hell will draw a polite bored yawn (assuming I’m not in a combative mood. If I am, however,…well, then…) from me. Also, this means that since anything and everything I do, so far as it affects me, is bound within the unguessable span of my own limited lifetime. The usual criticism of atheists by theists is of course that atheists are “immoral” because we don’t have fear of the hereafter. This view is not something I intend to discuss in this post, because once I get on my antitheist soapbox I find it difficult to climb off; but I have yet to find atheists who are quite as immoral as the most outspoken theists, and I’ll leave it at that.
To get back to the point: if I’m an atheist, it means to me that I alone am responsible for my actions, and there is no higher deity to pull me out of messes I create and make it all right. So it is up to me to make sure that I don’t create a lot of grief for myself, for other people and the world at large, human and non-human. I don’t see that that’s worse than theistic belief.
Furthermore, I’m a pacifist. This does not mean I am a believer in non-violence at all times. It’s just that I think that n most circumstances, non-violent methods get more done, and better, than applied violence. But when all someone is willing to listen to is the language of violence, that is the medium of communication that would get through to them. Fascists don’t understand palaver.
So far as I can, I try and believe in science. It clarifies things a lot. Just as an example: since this planet is due to be cremated in about five thousand million years when the sun becomes a red giant, is there any real point donning uniforms and killing people in the name of enforcing “inviolable national frontiers”?
Then, I guess in one dimension I might be called a contrarian. Certainly, if everyone around me espouses one set of beliefs, I’m naturally going to at least look at the other side. It’s just the way I am. I think any reasonably intelligent person ought to be expected to do the same. If you insist – without looking – that the sky is green, I might at least want to see if it is some other colour. If no one had been a contrarian, we’d still have been living in caves.
My political orientation is of course – I have never made any attempt to conceal my views – left wing. I don’t believe in trickle down effects or the inherent superiority of the rich and powerful. Nothing new about that; even Jesus Christ, assuming he existed, was far left wing, like virtually all religious founders. Their followers are unworthy of them.
Well, I never claimed I could be a Lucy. I can’t live by rigid philosophies. But for what it’s worth, there are my views.
And, no, I am no solipsist (even though I flirted with it back in my teens). You are not a figment of my imagination.
Even if you wish I were a figment of yours.

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