THE PRINCIPLE OF REASON
Honesty, Objectivity and Doubt
Reason is the arbiter of truth. We can know better the world if we assess what we encounter using our faculties of discernment: honesty, objectivity and doubt. Of course, these things are filtered through our won bias and the inertia of our current beliefs. But what can we do about these, except to strive to spot them and maneuver on towards the best model of truth we can muster.
It is easy and tempting to find and follow and easier path. To abide simple belief, or tradition, or superstition, or dogma. Though these means are wholly unsatisfactory to anyone who truly cares if what they think is true, is really true.
So be reasonable. Be honest. Be objective. But also, be a poet and a philosopher, and a mystic and even a fool. But then always rest your hat on what you can discern is real. Never knowingly lie to yourself or others. Carry always your hat in your hand. Be ready to say to any “I did not know that” and then carry on in doubt.
Life does always push back... Like gravity it pushes back, always in the direction of down - where down is towards disorder and dissolution and death. Though we can resist this draw for a time; life pushes—or pulls rather—always down towards fact over fancy and change leading to everything one day at an end of all order. It's that end which is the fact—and the thing we make up stories against to go away. Our own end to be sure. We make the fearful thing go away by masking the famine of death with a feast of authentic love suggesting a banquet of forever.
Temperance, apathy and an awareness of death: such are the ingredients of a still and quite mind of peace. Like eating dry salt crackers in a desert when nothing could be better.
Go away, death! I will remain—forever—despite your arrival. Come take my wife, or my child or my friend, and they too will go on...because I say so. Come take me also and I will live on as well. I'm forever don't you know..? Don't you? So, death takes the wife, and the child and myself. And my story is forgotten like the rest. My forever becomes like the nothing it was before the dream was proclaimed eternal. Just sounds in a void. A few utterances in the sunshine before the light goes out. It is thoughts like this that demand a more honest assessment and truth. It is such thinking which stills the tongue and shuts the mouth and softens the eyes which gaze at our now living wife and child and at all we have. It is the testimony of reason which demands our humble withdrawal from before the awesome theater of night and day and the swimming course of moments moving through indifference. We withdraw our reckless speech and protest and sit instead wherever we can—this rock will do—and summon our family to sit with us. We ask about their day with sincerity while the sky blazes above our heads with too numerous stars to comprehend, all singing entropy like a discordant chorus of fact. Just gazing up once should blind forever the vanity of anyone who is wise. And so, we go on through our remaining days. Each day better than the last—come what may—though also quieter too. For what use is there in speech and action or consumption when only the quiet remembers the truth. And so, we are quiet. And so, we remember the truth.
This is The Good Life—quiet, remembrance of the truth.
“We may take Fancy for a companion, but
must follow Reason as our guide.”
I am very good at being wrong. It's a knack, kinda. And I am often wrong on the same decision more than once. That's a real talent of sorts–not a good talent, but REAL. Being wrong once, and then again, can really drain us of our resources, not to mention our confidence and resolve. So, maybe it would be better if I stood less firm sometimes on my resolutions? Perhaps I should be more willing to step down or away from an aim when the wind begins to blow in another direction? Though something about this does not sound right or ring true to my sense that life is something of a fight which we must engage towards worthy ends. But what if those ends prove not worthy? Or simply wrong?
The risk it seems is that we may step away from a worthy aim. The risk is that we might give up too soon for fear we might fail in our pursuit of something good. How do we then prevent giving up virtue? The key is to clearly examine our goal to discover if it is truly good. For even if the aim is wrong—maybe not the right thing to do in this moment, or in this way—then as long as if it was a good thing to try, then the pursuit was worthwhile, then we were indeed engaging our time and energy and resources towards worthwhile ends. So now, when I endeavor to begin some new campaign of life, I'll ask myself less if what I am about to do is the right thing to do, and more if it is a good thing to do. For then, even if I fail, I will succeed. And if I discover later that this thing is indeed not good, not of virtue, not in the pursuit of the well-being of thinking creatures, then I will stop at once, and direct my time, energies, and resources towards better ends. And I will do so without much regret for lost time, wasted energy, or expended resources; as I am always one who seeks at least to use these well, even if I don't always quite get it right.
Exploring, not searching...
I had an interesting conversation with someone yesterday—a Christian friend—who commented that he thought I was "searching" for something... Skeptics hear this a lot, don't we? Believers who suggest we—the unbelievers—are somehow lost and seeking after something. Of course, the "something" they suggest is always the very thing which they have already found—and which they think we too will find if we only try hard enough. It is an annoying thing for them to suggest, as it belies their vain conviction that they've the only answer which everyone else is looking for. I didn't give my friend a very good response, mostly ignoring his suggestion that I was on a quest which should only end well if I wind up at his truth, and instead I simply moved the conversation on to another topic. But I have been thinking about it. And I think I have now got something better to say.
The next time someone suggests I am "searching" for something I am going to respond that I'm not really searching as much as I'm simply exploring. I am not trying to find anything in particular, but instead am just enjoying the act and process of moving around in new territory, for the sole purpose of finding what I didn't know was there. I am hoping to expand my horizon. I'm not "searching" for anything in particular...though I'm genuinely interested in finding anything that is interesting or true. And as for finding...I've found a lot. As for finding something of meaning...I've located some of that too. Let me tell you briefly about that.
“The function of man is activity in
accordance with reason, or not
apart from reason.”
The things which I've found which are most useful are the things which are true, as well as the propositions which some claim are true, but which have since been revealed to be false or at least founded on very poor facts. In the process I have developed my own small collection of treasures which some might regard as things worth searching for. These are the Objectives and Principles of The Good Life, which I have developed over the course of many years, and which I now use as my guide to better living. In short, I'm no longer "searching" as I've already found and created the things I was previously looking for; and now instead I am simply exploring for the simple sake of adventure and the joy of discovering what I did not know was there.
Necessary and sufficient
Necessity suggests a condition which must be met in order for a proposition to be true, while sufficiency ensures us that the proposition is, in fact, true.
For the proposition of fatherhood, it is necessary to be male, but not sufficient—while being both male and a parent is a necessary and sufficient cause of fatherhood.
It would be unreasonable to declare someone a father simply because they are a parent, as parenthood alone demonstrates sufficiency without demonstrating necessity. For the proposition of fatherhood to be true we must also demonstrate a necessary trait such as the parent identifying as a male.
For the proposition of breakfast, it is necessary there be food, though food alone is not sufficient—while there being food and the meal being the first of the day is both a necessary and sufficient cause for a meal to be regarded as breakfast.
It would be unreasonable to declare something breakfast simply because it was the first of the day, as "first of the day" alone demonstrates sufficiency without demonstrating necessity. We must also provide some necessary evidence such as the thing which is the "first of the day" is also food.
For the proposition of being an American, it is necessary to be a human being, but not sufficient—while being both a human being and having been born on U.S. soil, having an American parent, or having become naturalized is both a necessary and sufficient cause to become an American.
It would be unreasonable to declare some creature an American simply because that creature was born on U.S. soil, as being born on U.S. soil alone is merely a sufficient cause to be identified as an American, while being a human being who is born on U.S. soil is both a necessary and sufficient cause to be labeled an American.
No need of a hatchet
When I first came to Siberia three years ago, I’d always keep my little hatchet close by at night. Now I don’t even bring it to the desert. There are no mountain lions here. No wolves. No bear. No ghosts—despite this place being a ghost town—no monsters, no devils, no gods. There’s nothing to fear here but snakes, Black Widow spiders, the heat, my fellow man, and accident. And none of these—not even the fellow man—require a hatchet.
“A little learning is a dang'rous thing,
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And Drinking largely sobers us again”