Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Sunday, July 02, 2006

My worldview revisited

I used to be an Objectivist. Due to my strong disagreements with the Objectivist party line as regards to the theory of knowledge and political morality, I can no longer call myself that. "Rational Individualism" is a good term, but it is perhaps not that succinct, and somewhat redundant.

This reflexion started very recently. I have been successful in connecting the dots between religion and politics- they are just two forms of the same kind of destructive collectivist belief. But I want to go further and look at other negative aspects of life, like cults, quack medicine, diets, exercise programs, AA (and other such recovery systems based on submission and groupthink), the self-help industry, altruism and duty, and the "rat race". Things that people follow and end up just making their lives more complicated and full of hardship. Like religion and politics, actually! Do you see where the dots start to connect now?

Philosophy is not just about high concepts, but also about daily life, or at least it should be. After all, we should not delude ourselves into thinking that there is a difference. Our large-scale decisions are nothing more than the result of a lot of small-scale ones. We decide to go to church or not go to church, to vote or not to vote, to speak for or against something, to break or stay in a noxious relation. Making the same choice again and again commits us to a path. We may learn to regret that path.

Philosophy asks us to reconsider our fundamental positions and examine their premises. Shouldn't it ask us to reconsider our daily actions and their motives as well? Why not?

The main common thread between all these things is that people make their lives more complicated than they need to be, and they buy into systems that other people have built in order to gain money or power. Now, gaining money and power, when done honestly, is a great thing. But when done dishonestly, it's our responsibility to stay clear of the results. Otherwise you become a "spiritual seeker", a compulsive dieter, an AA nut, a battered wife, or in the worst case scenario, a Scientologist (I was gonna say "a Nazi in jackboots", but I don't want to trigger Godwin's Law- besides, Scientologists are funnier).

You just make your life harder, more complicated, less happy. That's all it does! Rarely do any of these things ever solve anything, and if they do, the relief is usually temporary. In the case of medical quackery, the placebo effect does actually make it slightly less of a crap shoot, although placebo is still fraud any way you look at it.

The main role of these things is to enslave you into a specific scheme of thought and feelings- to always do a little more, and that will solve it. The solution must be in the next diet, or the next religion, or the next election, or the next year of AA meetings, or the next homeopathic pills, or the next spinal adjustment, or the next family meeting, or the next time you talk to your abusive husband, or the next promotion, a bigger this, a smaller that...

It requires a lot of individualism to go beyond the conditioning (i.e. what we've been actively taught to believe) and the mainstream (i.e. just believing what most people believe), and look at one's premises. In fact, breaking free of this morass is pretty much necessary for any real philosophy, we already know that. But this is really deep-reaching stuff. Anyone who's ever deconverted from religion or statism knows how it feels. And at a smaller scale, anyone who's broken free from the other systems I listed. It's also a powerful liberation. This is powerful stuff!

I'm not trying to say something as stupid as "simple is always better" or "don't trust anyone". You can make up an exceedingly simple rule and fail. I can say that all people with green eyes are evil, and everyone else is absolutely good, but that would equally just subject me to hardship, because it is a false and evil rule. Likewise, some people can help you see things that you overlooked, or contribute a ariety of approaches to life.

You have to look at problems from a fresh approach, look at your premises rationally (what are your values? are those good values?), and come to simple and reasonable solutions. The obvious case is religion. Just forget about all the belief systems out there and look at the reality of it. Have you ever seen a god? Does the notion even make sense? Not really, no. We really have no idea what we're saying when we say "supernatural" or "Creator", and if it makes no sense, what good is it to include it in our lives? All we see is the material universe, so it makes more sense to cut away from those beliefs and try to grasp the universe on our own material terms. If belief in some universal force makes you feel better, then by all means believe in it, but don't get hookwinded by people who claim to speak for this or that god.

A good example of a person who does this in other areas is Reinhard Engels, who came up with the concept of Everyday Systems. It is his work that inspired me to make these new connections. He proposes various solutions to problems such as drinking, overeating, exercising and information overload, but his solutions are not gimmick systems designed to make you fall in a rut. What he proposes are catchy, simple habit changes that you integrate in your life. That's all. Deceptively simple, but extremely reasonable. His work is a perfect example of someone looking at problems from a fresh perspective, looking at his premises rationally, and coming to a simple and reasonable solution.

One important premise is that everything you do must try to reinforce your free will, not erode it. One constant between all these systems is that they attempt to impose arbitrary restrictions, or attempt to make you submit and obey. They are based on trying to cave your will in, and get you to return again and again to the fold. Instead, the methods you choose should try to reinforce your will- through changing your habits, empowering you to search for yourself, to make your own destiny instead of letting others dictate it for you. No good can ever come from subjecting your intelligence and critical faculties to another, however much you trust them.

Reinforcing your will can be uncomfortable because it implies that the problems are actually the result of your decisions. That's okay! As long as you want to change, why should you hit yourself on the head? Lay off the guilt complex until you do something actually worthy of feeling guilty for.

And of course I want to clarify that when I talk about free will, I am not talking about severe mental problems where you are actually not in control (such as severe depression, or schizophrenia). You can't reinforce what is not there, and people who need actual medical attention can't be expected to follow a method that requires willpower.

And sure, some problems are more complicated than others. Curing cancer is very complicated. But from a personal standpoint, I simplify my life if I follow my medical treatments and don't buy into all the quack stuff out there, which at best will only make me poorer (and could kill me). Getting chemotherapy is more than enough hardship, and I don't need further hardship on top of that. If some inoffensive thing like getting needles stuck in your back or getting "therapeutic touch" makes you feel good, then go ahead and do it, but don't believe that you're doing anything but paying for someone to pass her hands around you. If you're gonna do that, why not pay for a massage? At least you get something real out of it.

You've got all these diets- but all a diet does is make you crash and feel guilty when you fail, so you start another one. It's self-perpetuating! You are asked to buy into these complicated systems which do nothing but enslave you. Individualism simply means to stop buying into all these magical recipes and think for yourself. Go back to the premise of your values and the facts of the matter. As always, it comes back to morality- what are your values and how best to accomplish them? The answer, if you are honest, will never be "by subscribing to a system that tries to enslave me in an endless pattern of guilt and hope".

You have to recognize what does not exist, and what does exist and can be used. For example, altruism does not exist- everyone acts in their self-interest. That's just a basic fact of human behaviour. Now, if you want to go and help others, you can do that! Just don't make it into a moral doctrine. Do it in recognition of what it brings you. God does not exist, religion is bullshit- be spiritual if you want, do your own thing, just don't buy into what other people want you to buy into. Make your own connections. Don't rely on others to make them for you.

Same thing for consuming and working. If you value work and consumption, don't feel guilt over it. It's your values, your life. Don't fall into altruistic duty, but don't fall in the opposite side either. Don't buy something just because you saw a good commercial, or because your neighbour got one, or something like that- unless of course your purpose is to be better than your neighbour! Individualism is not a fixed worldview, everyone will do things differently. That's perfectly fine, as long as you check your premises.

Post a Comment


At 7/02/2006 12:22 PM, Blogger Daniel declaimed...

It's your values, your life...Individualism is not a fixed worldview, everyone will do things differently. That's perfectly fine, as long as you check your premises.

I couldn't agree more. That said, let's consider for a moment those persons who truly consider their actions to be solely for the benefit of another. Now, you presuppose that such persons really cannot be correct about their motivation, but I doubt you deny that some people hold this belief and that they value this belief, and consider themselves acting upon it.

So, in meshing that with what you said above -- telling these people that they are deluded is quite different than telling them that they are deluded for believing in Magic Men who ride on clouds. Do you agree, or disagree?

I am a skeptic about whether or not we can prove a non-tautological universal negative. In this case, in proving the proposition that "no one ever acts solely on behalf of the good of the other", we run into the problem of other minds, as well as questioning how far our inductive process allows us to go.

I would just say, in conclusion, that "100% of what people do is out of self-interest, where 'self-interest' can mean 'just honoring their own values'," may be meaningless, if we define "their values" as "doing things for others" and admit that in their conscious minds, they hold this value and are acting on it.

It seems that egoism may border on the tautological when we do such things.

At 7/02/2006 1:02 PM, Blogger Hellbound Alleee declaimed...

I see what you're saying, but to assert that one can act solely for the benefit of others implies that there is no effect on the one doing the action. There happens to be a motivation to help others, a desire. In fulfilling that desire, we fulfill our value, that is, the value of helping others. And what does it mean to fulfill your values? Sure, you can pretend you don't wish to help, but that's well, over-complicating things.

To act with the sole intent of helping someone else is still an intent. The only way I can see this being accomplished is by accident, and that has nothing to do with what we're talking about, does it? It would be a reaction, not an intended reaction, no morality used.

At 7/02/2006 1:22 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

"I couldn't agree more. That said, let's consider for a moment those persons who truly consider their actions to be solely for the benefit of another. Now, you presuppose that such persons really cannot be correct about their motivation, but I doubt you deny that some people hold this belief and that they value this belief, and consider themselves acting upon it."

Of course. Delusion is delusion. I definitely include altruism and duty in the list of things that people get deluded about because of conditioning or education.

"So, in meshing that with what you said above -- telling these people that they are deluded is quite different than telling them that they are deluded for believing in Magic Men who ride on clouds. Do you agree, or disagree?"

No, you missed the point of my entry completely.

"I am a skeptic about whether or not we can prove a non-tautological universal negative. "

Then you are against science. Proving universal non-tautological universal negatives is how science progresses. You doom yourself to a life of ignorance.

At 7/03/2006 10:30 AM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

I think you got most of it Franc, except possibly the indoctrination systems and the propaganda machine that constantly "validates" these interdependent con games. Then too, you get a whole panoply of service providers with a vested interest in the status quo, like the Butcher, The Baker, the Wedding Dress Maker. I once tried to come up with a descriptive term for the big picture, but all that came to mind was "Monkey Hustle".

At 7/03/2006 12:56 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Oh yes breakerslion, I have that in mind too...

At 7/03/2006 12:56 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Oh yes breakerslion, I have that in mind too...

At 7/05/2006 3:39 PM, Blogger openlyatheist declaimed...

Jeez Francois,
Between you, Dawson Bethrick, and Anton Thorn, I was just starting to get into Objectivism.
I'd be interested in reading more of your opinions on Objectivism as they develop.

At 8/25/2006 11:56 PM, Blogger mario declaimed...

I am sure you have heard the song "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club but have you ever given much thought to its meaning? While on Earth, you are living in a world of reincarnation which is governed by the law of karma. Karma begins to propel you as Soul on a personal journey through the universe. Karma ends when you have reached enlightenment and fully realise that this physical reality and the Universe itself is just an illusion. When you reach a state of knowingness that there is but One all pervading essence and that essence or consciousness is You!
So what is Karma and how does it work? While in the illusion you have a soul. This soul lives past, present, and future lives. To grow in love, joy, and awareness, you reincarnate into a series of physical bodies to experience different existences. This road leads to the experiences of being both sexes, all races, religions, and ethnic types throughout many lifetimes.
Karma in its simplicist terms can be described by the biblical statement "as you sow, so also shall you reap". Karma is the principle of cause and effect, action and reaction, total cosmic justice and personal responsibility. It brings 'good' experiences as well as 'bad' - a debt must be repaid and a blessing rewarded.

A more indepth esoteric look at karma gives us the following distinctions: Sanchita Karma: the accumulated result of all your actions from all your past lifetimes. This is your total cosmic debt. Every moment of every day either you are adding to it or you are reducing this cosmic debt. Prarabdha Karma: the portion of your "sanchita" karma being worked on in the present life. If you work down your agreed upon debt in this lifetime, then more past debts surface to be worked on. Agami Karma: the portion of actions in the present life that add to your "sanchita" karma. If you fail to work off your debt, then more debts are added to "sanchita" karma and are sent to future lives. Kriyamana Karma: daily, instant karma created in this life that is worked off immediately. These are debts that are created and worked off - ie. you do wrong, you get caught and you spend time in jail.
As a soul, you experience a constant cycle of births and deaths with a series of bodies for the purpose of experiencing this illusionary world gaining spiritual insights into your own true nature until the totality of all experiences show you Who you really are - the I AM! Until you have learned, you will find that pretending that the rules of karma do not exist or trying to escape the consequences of your actions is futile.
Although it may often "feel" like punishment, the purpose of karma is to teach not to punish. Often the way we learn is to endure the same type of suffering that we have inflicted on others and also rexperience circumstances until we learn to change our thinking and attitudes.

We are all here to learn lessons as spiritual beings in human form. These lessons are designed to help us grow into greater levels of love, joy, and awareness. They teach us our true nature of love. Where we do not choose love, show forgiveness, teach tolerance, or display compassion, karma intervenes to put us back on the path of these lessons. Quite simply, the only way to achieve a state of karmic balance is to be love.
Before you incarnated into your present personality, you agreed to put yourself in the path of all that is you need to learn. Once you got here, you agreed to forget this. Karma is impersonal and has the same effect for everyone. It is completely fair in its workings and it is predictable - "do onto others as you would have them do unto you" is a way to ensure peace and tranquillity in your own life as well as the lives of those you come into contact with. The law of karma is predictable - "as you sow, so shall you reap" what is done to you is the net result of what you have done to others!
Karma gives you the opportunity at every moment to become a better person than you are and to open up to the realization that you are the master of your own fate.

The goal of karma is to give you all the experiences that you need to evolve into greater levels of love, joy, awareness, and responsibility. Karma teaches that you are totally responsible for the circumstances of your life. They keep you on the straight and narrow until you have mastered your vehicle and can ride freely on your own. Once you understand that you are the master of your own circumstances and that everything you experience is a direct result of your past actions due to your thinking and emotional responses you can overcome its seeming negative effects by creating only 'good' karma.
Karma forces us to look beyond ourselves (oneness) so that we can see ourselves as we truly are Whole, Complete, at One with everything. Once we truly understand ourselves, we can see our divinity and our unity with all life.
Karma drives us to service. Love means service. Once you accept total responsibility for your life, you see yourself as a soul in service to God. Once you do, you become a fully realized being, allowing God to experience the illusion through you.
Belief in karma and an understanding of its workings will lead you to a life of bliss. Only your own deeds can hinder you. Until the time comes when we release ourselves from our own self-imposed shackles of limitation and fully understand who and what we are we will live under the mantle of karma. So until that day why not create some wonderful experiences for ourselves by "doing onto others, as we would have them do unto us". hypnosis



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