I argue here for how philosophy must be a way of life and its relationship to mysticism and the alogical, what seemingly can not be tackled by reason alone. Dostoevsky once said that reason without compassion is evil and he expounded on this in his famous Ivan Karamazov, anyone who has read the novel should know exactly what I am talking about, and in short this is my response to this claim of his. Reason, I assert should be deemed superior to both authority and the prevailing voice of passions within our psyche.
Faith of a Rationalist
Paul Davies authored a book that presupposed the task of finding God with an assertion that science does a better job of accomplishing this than religion. I shall use Module four as a Prolegomenon to this essay, as I have answered many of the major questions posed in that book there. At this point I would like to make an allusion to Kant?s famous essay on What is Enlightenment. Englightenment Kant argues is the process of extricating yourself from a self-imposed immaturity. And this self-imposed immaturity no doubt stemmed from our natural tendency to be egocentric. If we look through history we will notice how people tended to perceive the world only in accord to the way it appeared to be through their perceptions as indeed they were confined to them. Prevailing orthodoxies dictated what the truth should be understood to be, and those who opposed were deemed heretical and punished severely. Many were lucky enough to get off with just ignominy, yet others were forced to die for their beliefs and have been burned at the stake. A glaring case in point for this would be the story of two European philosophers of the 17th century, Giordano Bruno and Benedict de Spinoza who dared to oppose the prevailing (in this case religious) Orthodoxy. The first has been burned at the stake and the second was branded opprobrious for the rest of his days and many of those who were influenced by him were forced to deny this publicly and among them was an eminent German philosopher and a mathematician (contemporary of Newton and a discoverer of Calculus, they both have discovered around the same time framework yet published it with several years part, to this day historians have found no evidence of them collaborating on this project) Wilhelm Gottfried Leibniz. As Bertrand Russell once noted in the History of Western philosophy that Leibniz was a supreme intellect of all times, yet morally he was not admirable in the least. His greatest work was in Mathematics and philosophy of logic which he left unpublished on his desk, yet what he was renowned for during his time was something different: a work that was manifest political sycophancy in philosophical guise where he has concocted a monstrous metaphysical system that supposedly proved that we live in the best of all possible worlds while glorifying his Queen. Clearly, if Leibniz was dishonest in this regard, this was an attempt by him to ease the pressure of himself and buy more time to work on ideas that he truly invests faith in, and in his case this was mathematics which never got out to the market. The problem that we have encountered here is one that concerns the discrepancy of reason and our drive to appease our vain prejudices.
As Arthur Schopenhauer would comment on this: our fundamental drive in life is to exist, this is what we is at the bottom of all our activities, everything else is just a sophisticated subterfuge of this. This is what later on Freud would call the ID. Accordingly, Schopenhauer would assert, it is the ID that is the ruling passion of our life, the EGO is always slave to it. So one shall ask him here, how exactly do we appear to behave in a reasonable fashion at least some of the time? The intellect is slave to the impulses Schopenhauer would answer, the ID is always in activity to please itself, yet intellect reports information to it that if it behaves recklessly, it will encounter problems and therefore the ID puts the intellect to work for its own end. Our goals in life are fundamentally structured in order to appease our impulses, in this case the strongest impulse of all is to be happy, we never chose to have this in our minds, it was impressed upon us since birth. At best intellect is only a tool for us to appease our urges. This, as despondent as it may sound is the reality of human condition. Christianity among many other faiths asserted that man is evil by nature and spirituality which can only be propounded by religious orthodoxy can aid our cause. In this essay I shall argue that spirituality does have value in a sense that religions have presented it in, yet religious orthodoxy is not necessary here and only human faculty of reason can see through to our salvation. G.E Moore, a well known 20th century Analytical philosopher who specialized in linguistics once said that the most difficult aspect of philosophic inquiry is stating the problem in a way that it can be solved or asking a question in a way that it can be answered. So from this it follows that I first and foremost should thoroughly explain our problem or what it is that the human condition is afflicted by. What exactly is it that religions talk about that we need salvation from? And right now it would be best to let Schopenhauer, a man who had an uncanny insight into human condition and human nature, a man who did not fall for the temptations of wishful thinking and ?cherished the truth beyond all else as well as was a man of supreme integrity? as Popper has eulogized him take over at this point.
''Now if we have so far convinced ourselves apriori by the most universal considerations, by investigation of the first, elementary features of human life, that such a life, by whole tendency and disposition, is not capable of any true bliss or happiness, but is essentially suffering in many forms and a tragic state in every way, we might now awaken in this conviction much more vividly within us, if, by proceeding more aposteriori, we turned to more definite instances, brought pictures to the imagination, and described by examples the unspeakable misery presented by experience and history, wherever we look, and whatever avenue we explore?But perhaps at the end of his life, no man, be he sincere and at the same time in possession of his faculties, will ever wish to go through it again. Rather than this, he will much prefer to choose complete non-existence. The essential purport of the world-famous Hamlet monologue is, in condensed form, that our state of existence is so wretched, that non-existence would decided be preferable to it.... If we were to conduct the most hardened and callous optimist through hospitals, infirmaries, operating theatres, through prisons, torture chambers, and slave-hovels, over battlefields and to places of execution; if we were to open him all the dark abodes of misery, where it shuns the gaze of cold curiosity, and finally were to allow him to glance into the dungeon of Ugolino where prisoners starved to death, he too would certainly see in the end what kind of a best of all possible worlds this is. For whence did Dante get the material for his hell, if not from this actual world of ours? And indeed he made a downright hell of it. On the other hand, when he came to the task of describing heaven and its delights, he had an insuperable difficulty before him, just because our world affords absolutely no material for anything of the kind?. For the rest I cannot here withhold the statement that optimism, where it is not merely the thoughtless talk of those who harbor nothing but words under their shallow foreheads, seems to me not merely an absurd, but also a really wicked, way of thinking, a bitter mockery of the unspeakable suffering of mankind. And let no one imagine that the Christian teaching is favorable to optimism, because in the gospels, evil and this world are used almost as synonymous expressions.''
As Voltaire would also give credence to Schopenhauer?s grim view of the Universe.
''Happiness is only a dream, pain is real.... I have experienced this for eighty years. I know of nothing better than to resign myself to this and to say flies are born to be eaten by spiders, and men to be devoured by trouble and affliction.'' So he once said.
Students of philosophy know more about Schopenhauer?s personal life than about his ideas, yet many fail to acknowledge the brute fact of him being a genuine philosopher who made very ambitious promises and has legitimately fulfilled them. Poetic justice clearly appealed to this despondent figure as an allusion to the celebrated poet John Milton.
''Somewhere in the 1600s a man who could not see, sat down to write what he thought would be the greatest poem in human history. He said it would include, in his words, ''things yet unattempted in prose or rhyme.'' It is the view of the modern world that he achieved just that. His poem, the paradise Lost, is considered the greatest epic in human history. Few poems take on such an enormous theme as Paradise Lost, a theme that is not less than the origin of evil in itself. The man who took on this ambitious challenge, and created a classic in the process, is a man who led a life of immense struggle, loss and sacrifice. In a sense, John Milton's life was a search for paradise-a life in which the poet became the poem.''
As indeed Schopenhauer?s philosophy was about the origin of evil and what must be done about it. The way he lived is grotesquely incompatible with the beauty of his ethical teachings, yet once again his philosophy was self-expression for him. As Nietzsche noticed in the Twilight of the Idols how Schopenhauer wrote about art with a melancholy passion. Happiness was not possible to him and it is the mere pursuit of happiness is what is responsible for all the misery in the world. Accordingly, he has adapted a Buddhistic ethical axioms where selflessness is deemed to be the source of all good, and egoism-the source of all evil. For Schopenhauer, the essence of reality is comprised of the Will, or the all-embracing metaphysical ID. Schopenhauer, being an ontological idealist argued that if we pierce the atoms that make up what we consider matter, we will see the Will or this immaterial force that has at once propelled the Universe in motion. His prophecy came true as in the 20th century physicists have arrived at the conclusion that true matter is force trapped within a cluster which in itself is in constant motion, much like Schopenhauer?s Will. Many assert that Schopenhauer?s cosmology was doubtlessly pessimistic, along the same lines Machiavelli?s work is often perceived in the same fashion. But I believe for those judgments to be inaccurate and a very detailed assessment could be made to evince their falsity. The real state of the case is that these two great men were devoid of illusion and those who remonstrated against their teaching were either in hypocritical denial of the truth about themselves or exceedingly coarse and unreflective, because the veracity of the stated claims was manifest to even the most bleeding-heart of philanthropists. Machiavelli insisted that men by their nature are selfish, fickle and deceptive. Schopenhauer would concur and add that the reason why this is so is because we have no choice but to be selfish as our only other option is complete non-existence which is to be ?decidedly? preferred to this. Nonetheless Schopenhauer?s doctrine of transworld depravity stands without a refutation and I myself can not imagine how one plausibly can concoct one, as human depravity has been a profound issue in this world that has not escaped the notice of any prominent religion, not even Marxism. As Schopenhauer himself once said that true Christianity and the Eastern religions insist on the necessity of self-abnegation for salvation and deem egoism as the root of all evil. As far as Christianity is concerned he cogently argues that one must completely surrender to God and in effect eliminate all selfish urges and only then will evil in this world desist.
This is another citation that is necessary in order to set up the scene for the Schopenhauerian perception of the problem of evil ,essence of knowledge, and how, if at all salvation is possible.
"Accordingly, what follows, and this has already impressed itself as a matter of course on every student of Plato, will be in the next book the subject of a detailed discussion. Those different grades of the will's objectification, expressed in innumerable individuals, exist at the unattained patterns of these, or as the eternal forms of things. Not themselves entering into time and space, the medium of individuals, they remain fixed, subjects to no change, always being, never having become. The particular things, however, arise and pass away:, they are always becoming and never are. Now I say that these grades of the objectification of the will are nothing but Plato's Ideas.I mention this here for the moment, so that in future I can use the word Idea in this sense.Therefore for me the word is always to be understood in its genuine and original meaning, given to it by Plato; and in using it we must assuredly not think of those abstract productions of scholastic dogmatizing reason, to describe which Kant used the word wrongly as well as illegitimately, although Plato had already taken possession of it, and used it most appropriately. Therefore, by Idea I understand every definite and fixed grade of the will's objectification, in so far as it is thing in itself, it is foreign to plurality. These grades are certainly related to individual things as their eternal forms, or as their prototypes. I take no further notice of the Kantian misuse of this word; the necessary remarks about it are in the Appendix."
What we have here is Ontological Idealism. The real knowledge of this world exists within those forms or Ideas that Plato has taken note of. A good example of this would be a legal case where we all know what justice is, yet rarely see it happen in actuality. According to Plato, only the brightest of intellects can understand those forms and in this case the wisest person would have the clearest view of the form. Accordingly, as Schopenhauer posits, those forms are foreign to change, they are incorruptible. Yet our perceptions of them do change very frequently. This has been the epistemic foundation of the modern day philosophy of science as first proffered by Karl Popper?s fallibilism. Fallibilism is a notion that truth is absolute and objective and immutable. Yet our perception of the truth should always be in state of perpetual flux. Our views will always be fallible and corrigible. Platonic Ideas never change, our perspectives of them do. So in relation to Milton one can say that he has imagined the Form of human perfection and his entire life strived to reach it to no success because those forms are inaccessible to men. To correct Plato on this one we should say that the brightest of intellects would have not the true form in mind, but a closer perception of them than those who are less intellectually proficient. Schopenhauer would carry on and say that we tend to see beauty everywhere in this world, yet we are never able to grasp it, it is there mocking us and much of the same can be said for Platonic Ideals like: Justice, truth, and love. None of these can be perceived in their entirety. It is our obligation to strive for them, but we must always keep in mind than we will never achieve them, and this will eradicate the pernicious strive to make ourselves happy that Schopenhauer has forewarned us against. Therefore perfection only exists in the heavens, as far as this world is concerned all that we have is our crude perceptions of what it is like. Happiness, he would say is essentially a negative entity. A negation of unhappiness. Therefore in order for this to be accomplished, we must be completely at rest, yet the desire for happiness, in virtue of its own existence makes it impossible for us to be at rest, yet we can clearly perceive what happiness is like, and yet be forced to admit that in order for it to be achieved, our non-existence is necessary. Therefore paradise does exist, yet it will lose its perfection upon our entrance.