East to West: Part 1

East to West:
Part 1

Islamic Architecture values Aesthetic

Islamic Architecture values Aesthetic

 

In Australia, my country of residence, a less-than-popular Television channel called ABC broadcasts constructive documentaries, foreign films and educational series, particularly during prime-time. Recently – that is to say last week – ABC began broadcasting a Television series called East to West. The documentary series, which begins at 7.30pm every Wednesday, Details the Eastern cultures during Middle-ages and post-Ancient times and their influence on the Western world. Unfortunately, the general concencus of the Eastern world in Western culture is very uninformed. With the increasing negative stereotypes around Islam and Asian society (i.e. Al Qeada being associated with Muslims), the program could not have come at a more appropriate time. Hopefully, people will change their channels from The Big Bang Theory to ABC in the effort of watching East to West, as it serves as quite an informative, yet visually stimulating series.

The first broadcast of the documentary, presented last week, centered around the early Islamic movements and their influence on the Western culture of the Renaissance as well as post-modern times. The show turned out to be quite informative to me, as it kept me captivated with great facts of history which are rarely ever spoken about. As it turns out, the Muslims and Arabians were imperative for flaying our society into shape and the current stereotype of their culture is in blind sight of their influence. Important texts of the Ancient Greeks, such as the writings of Plato and Pre-Socratic philosophers, were translated into an almost Universal language by the Middle-Eastern Muslims. In fact, some of the precious gems supposedly destroyed from the Dark Ages were gracefully saved by the Eastern societies. If it were not for Islam’s great value of religious and historical texts, the Western world today would presumably be entirely different – with valuable texts like Republic lost to the wind.

I will be evaluating the upcoming episodes of East to West and supplying the Blog with the Eastern influences pronounced by the Documentary. The next episode will give an explanation of Buddhism and the struggle for leadership of Rome and China.

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Memorable Fragments by Heraclitus

Heraclitus and the Fragments:

 

Statue Resembling Heraclitus

Statue Resembling Heraclitus

 

Heraclitus

Heraclitus is one of the most renowned Greek Philosophers during the Pre-Socratic times. Although not much is known about his upbringing and general biography, he was – and still is – considered a “pioneer of wisdom”, especially throughout his own era. In Plato’s Theaetetus, Chapter I. Heraclitus is mentioned and his famous quote, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”, was employed by Socrates in an effort to understand the nature of knowledge. Yet, Heraclitus is also quite memorable for his fragments: brief sentiments about Philosophy and life in general which were written by him in Greek. The list of known fragments which Heraclitus wrote are listed below in English translations. The translated texts were extracted from classicpersuasion.org , and the site’s bibliography is referred respectively underneath the listed Fragments.

Painting of Heraclitus

Painting of Heraclitus

Fragments

 

Fragment from Heraclitus

Fragment from Heraclitus

 

Below are some memorable Fragments written by Heraclitus, translated from Greek to English by G.T.W Patrick.

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     “Into the same river you could not step twice,  for other waters are flowing.”

              – Heraclitus, Alleg. Hom. 24.

War is the father and king of all, and has produced some as gods and some as men, and has made some slaves and some free.

– Hippolytus, Ref. haer. ix. 9.

Recognizing oneself and being of a sound mind are for all men.

              – Fragment B116

Although the Law of Reason is common, the majority of people live as though they had an understanding of their own.

– Sextus Emp. adv. Math. vii. 133.

It is hard to contend against passion, for whatever it craves it buys with its life.

– Iamblichus, Protrept. p. 140, Arcer.

Dogs, also, bark at what they do not know.”

– Plutarch, An seni sit ger. resp. vii. p. 787.

Of all whose words I have heard, no one attains to this, to know that wisdom is apart from all.

-Stobaeus Floril. iii. 81.

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References

From The Fragments of the Work of Heraclitus of Ephesus on Nature, translated from the Greek text of Bywater by G.T.W. Patrick, Baltimore: N. Murray, 1889. This was originally Patrick’s doctoral thesis at Johns Hopkins University, 1888. A note states that this 1889 edition was reprinted from the American Journal of Psychology, 1888.

Rationalising the Ethics of Justice: Theft and Murder

Justice is Blind

Justice is Blind

A common question which is asked by the general public when it comes to Ethics is; “How do our Laws really determine what’s right and wrong?”

Such a question is the quintessential starting point for most Ethical debates, and it’s quite alarming as to how many people do not understand why the most essential ethical codes are in place today. Two of the most essential ethical codes which are governed in laws are theft and murder. While being accepted as insidious acts of immorality, most people during their youth years question as to why they are so unjust. The points made here will hopefully establish why these two common acts of injustice are implemented in the laws today. The distinction between morality and Ethics is established below as well in a concise, informative manner.

While the words “Moral” and Ethics” both derive from the Greek word “Mos”, meaning custom, the two are different in terms of Philosophy. Ethics, in terms of Philosophy, are the codes of what we personally believe in right and wrong. Ethics are the thoughts. Morality, however, is that which is objectively right, and it determines that which is objectively wrong. Morality is the ACT of right, while Ethics are the thoughts of right. That’s why the laws which the Government implements are considered ethical codes, because they’re laws which the people of the government think govern justice.

If one were to take candy from a baby, then they’re using force to retrieve something which was originally in rightful ownership of the baby. The baby earned the candy through non authoritarian methods, and it was unlawfully taken by somebody who exploited the governing system in exchange for nothing. In the movie, “The Gods must be Crazy”, the narrator suggests that ownership is something which is determined by the Governing system of justice in order to maintain a sense of equality and freedom for people. For example, to “own” a mars bar legally you have to exchange something for it. This trading of ownership is a fundamental part of western society, as it tries to equalize the privileges among society. If you take a candy from the baby, then the baby has lost ownership of an object and gained nothing else in ownership. The only case in which this is ethical is if the baby warranted for you to have the candy in exchange for nothing, otherwise the baby has essentially lost something and the scales of equality are skewed.

The case of murder being immoral can be rationally justified as well, similarly to theft. If you murder somebody with a gun, for example, then you’re using certain mechanics to propel a certain object into the victim’s body, with the intention of killing them. When the trajectory hits the brain, in this case, and the victim has been killed, then you have essentially exploited the laws of physics in order to make somebody lose their right of life without their consent. When somebody loses their life, they lose every possible freedom that they originally had: they lose the freedom of buying an object, like a croissant, and eating the croissant. Once the victim loses consciousness, they have lost the capability of doing, or even experiencing, anything. Upon murdering somebody, you have essentially destroyed every freedom of the victim in order for your own purpose (whether it’s for monetary gain or just pleasure). Unlike theft, where you take away the freedom of a baby to enjoy a candy, you literally take away every possible freedom, and every memory, from that person. That’s why murder is widely considered as the most immoral, revolting act against equality and freedom that anybody can commit.

The Roots of Philosophy and their Importance

The Roots of Philosophy

The creation, and eventual expansion, of Christianity throughout Western culture was gradual as not only was it a radical, more dogmatic, change from Paganism and Pre-Socratic philosophy, but because it was considered as an insult to the identity of God.  Early Christianity spoke of the Trinity of God – in divine, in spirit, and in flesh. The latter, that is – God in flesh, is deeply offensive to the traditional Philosophies which were eventually usurped by Christianity itself; even in recent years, the Holy trinity, while not as radical today, poses as an insult to Islamists and other Religious people.

But what was the purpose of Christianity, or any philosophy for that matter? Its goal was that of science is today – to discover truth, knowledge and wisdom. Christianity served as no substitute for empirical devices of searching for truth, instead it served as the device for discovering truth in itself. With this, people developed the theory of Creationism; such a theory was partially produced from the classic story of Adam and Eve.

Although many would agree that, with the predisposed knowledge available today, the story of Adam and Eve is a metaphorical tale of redemption, origin and identity; however, the ancients had little knowledge at their disposal, and creationism not only seemed  plausible – but infallible. This is not to say that, despite its inherent popularity, Creationism is impossible; instead, Creationism, like any Philosophy which is not entirely dismissed, remains as a possibility of truth. But in comparison to Evolution, its prime competitor, Creationism would seem as an unlikely choice even to radical sceptics, as the former has exponentially more empirical evidence (such as the comparison between Apes and humans, and fossilised evidence), and subsequently it seems more rational to resume that Creationism is unlikely at the very least.

Creationism, like its fellow ancient philosophies, was founded on the structure of little predisposed knowledge – like a house with sticks for supports. However, evolution, a theory not only scientific but philosophical, was founded on the seemingly intuitive knowledge which science and  empiricism promoted. In this case, the structure of evolution was supported by sturdy pillars.

Creationism, in some sense, is a quintessential example of the philosophical journey which the ancients, and their descendants, traveled.

With little understanding of the Universe, and no structural system for discovering external or historical truths, our predecessors were left to build their society with their bare hands. While this details the shortcomings of our ascendants and their philosophies, such as Creationism, it also gives unseen value to their self-reliant ingenuity. Without these metaphysical, outworn creeds, Evolution would not have been, nor would science and post-modern philosophy be as developed as it is today. From the desolate boiling pot of uncertainty and speculation grows the tree of unforeseen knowledge – a blessing which grew from one seed, a tiny speck in the ground.
While most radical philosophy delivered by the ancients and enlightened, are considered  to be creeds outworn, the philosophies in question still have intrinsic value to it – more so than what we consider grateful. For a seed, however small and insignificant to the naked eye, is still the hallmark, the blueprints, for a greater being to come – and, in this case, evolution grew.

Atheist and Theist Mistakes in Argument

God and Adam from Garden of Eden

Common Atheist and Theist mistakes in argument

1.

I’ll start by saying that, in controversial argument of atheism vs theism, there is no definitively correct answer – so long as the opposition remains unproved, then the theory is valid, however speculative it may be. Causing a scene and claiming that your opposition is just “wrong” or “retarded” doesn’t support your argument, it just further permeates a negative stereotype of your own beliefs.

2.

Theism is not a religion, and religions are not necessarily theism. Religion usually constitutes not only the belief of God, but sacred texts, rules and ethical codes, ontology, cosmology, epistemology and many other beliefs. Just because Christianity or Islam believes in a God, it does not mean that theism is essentially the same. IIf an atheist is to argue against theism, then they are to argue the belief (that is that God exists), and not Christianity, creationism, or Mormonism etc.

3. (and the most important)

Fallacies are abundant in both the arguments regarding theism and atheism. The primary fallacy in this case is known as the straw man fallacy. The straw man fallacy is when the opposition (often intentionally) misinterprets one’s argument, and rearranges it so that it sounds absurd, yet vastly inaccurate. A prime example given which is in this Thread is by the following gentleman;

“Believing in a God is just the same as believing that a cheese sandwhich made the Universe.”

As you can see, the person has employed a comparison of believing in a God, a founder of the Universe and divine being, to that of a Cheese sandwhich being the sole architect of the Universe. This attempt at reductio ad absurdum, while being hilarious, is a straw-man fallacy, as it gives a blatantly ridiculous comparison in the hopes of drawing people to believe their argument based on social convention. Clearly, it is insane in our society to believe that a cheese sandwhich created the Universe, therefore it must be insane for one to believe in a God, right? No, this is not true. There is a lot more to the belief of God than this cruel attempt of sophism, such as sacred texts, reports and general philosophical reasoning.

4.

Atheism is not supported by science.
Many atheists, and people in general regardless of their beliefs, somehow believe that the field of science gives evidence supporting atheism or, in extreme cases, “proves” it to be true. However, science doesn’t support atheism at all. One might say “but after all of this space exploration, there has been no sighting of God – so there musn’t be a God?”
This is certainly a good question, however many theists believe that God does not even reside on the natural Universe, but instead in the divine realm (i.e. Heaven). If God supposedly resides in the divine realm, then there is no possible way for one to employ empiricism (the fundamental ploy of evidence in science) to support their atheist beliefs. An atheist could argue, however, how absurd it is to believe that a God resides in the divine realm, as one could possibly not evaluate any hard, legitimate evidence supporting the belief.
Personally, I believe the discoveries made by science does the contrary to supporting atheism, for if one looks at how intricate the Universe and even their own body can be, then they might become very compelled in believing that some divine being is behind it all.
As for the Big Bang theory, many theists could argue that a God was the force behind the initial “big bang”.

5.

“Atheism is its own religion.”
Atheism is a belief, not a religion. A religion, as said earlier in my second (2) point, constitutes for a way of life, codes of ethics and cosmology. If one claims to be an atheist, then they merely believe that a God does not exist, but it does not constitute for a particular way of life or how the Universe works. Just because an atheist may support science and empiricism, it does not mean the two are relevant to each other (see point 4 for more details regarding science and atheism).
Atheism is not a set of beliefs – it is one belief.

There are variations of atheism, and many atheists strongly condone and follow scientific and empirical foundations; but this does not mean that atheism, by default, also takes into consideration these foundations as a way of life.
Your argument is just a matter of semantics. Consider your argument as something which is like the claim that we are living in the Matrix; we may be living in the Matrix, this may not even be the “real” reality, but it does not matter for we still perceive something external, and we can still gather knowledge of the external “something’s” truths, and we still refer to it as “reality”, whether or not it is “real” by somebody’s standards is entirely irrelevant.

In your (the atheist’s) case, you’re claiming that atheism is a religion, but it’s just a matter of semantics. It doesn’t matter what your interpretation of the words “atheism” or “religion” are, because the former is not, by definition and current meaning, categorised into the former. If you’re claiming that atheism does, by default, carry a system and way of life, and cosmology. etc. then you’re wrong. It’s similar to a cause and effect fallacy – you seem to think that just because atheists are more than often empiricists, that means atheism is empiricism.

Some people speculate that atheism is a LACK of a belief. This has some truth to it, but it still co-exists with the fact that atheism is a belief. Atheism is, indeed, the lack of a belief in God; but the lack of a belief in God is, by all means, just the belief that no God exists. It’s a silly matter of semantics to really argue this point, as the only factor between this argument is how to express it properly – which is redundant considering that both presentations are equally unbiased and respectively right.

6. (and final point)

Atheism does not automatically mean one is safe from attack. Many people mistake atheism as a belief in which they hold a skeptical stance, and subsequently are resistant to a lot, if not every, attack supporting theism. However, if one were to take a more skeptical, yet appropriate stance, then agnostic atheism (or just agnosticism) is the most preferable path. An agnostic person essentially believes that a God most probably does not exist, considering the substantial lack of evidence, but the possibility of theism as being truthful remains so long as more evidence is presented. Agnosticism is a very skeptical stance, and it’s more than often the most rational stance in the great debate between atheism vs theism. Unfortunately, many people aren’t aware of this belief.

Epistemology II

Epistemology II

Ancients and Modernists

The majority of philosophical beliefs an individual holds onto are often due to the current philosophical movements and practices in their time. In contemporary times, the recent domination and success of science has resulted in a particularly realistic monist, empirical philosophy, and current epistemic beliefs openly reject the traditional faith from the rise of Christianity and theism. Regardless of the recent rejection of traditional epistemology, the western history of philosophy is imperative for founding modern science and culture.

Plato and Aristotle were dominant figures of flaying Epistemology into shape an Ancient Greece (~200ac – 200bc). The two philosophers agreed that knowledge is prior to senses, and sensory perception is not directly responsible for knowledge. Instead, in classical philosophy, the mind was responsible for recognising knowledge, while the senses were simply a means for the mind to obtain knowledge. The ancients founded the belief of intelligibility and the flux and contingency of the cosmos. Sensory perception was believed that it could not establish knowledge for time causes the objects in the external world to be in a constant state of becoming, rather than being. The mind recognises the intelligibility of objects in their state of being, despite their state of constant becoming.

While the ancients believed that reason, or logos, is the intrinsic method of obtaining knowledge, their epistemic beliefs were essentially based on faith that it is true. A large amount of perceptively unjustified trust was placed in their belief that the world inherently possessed intelligibility (opportunity for knowledge), as well as the idea that the mind evaluated knowledge. This recognition of faith in ancient epistemic values can be rightfully applied to a substantial amount of post-modern realist philosophy.

While post-modern practices (i.e. science) excel in discovering universal truths, its grounds are still based on realist and empirical beliefs. Science and other relative practices largely rely on its trust in empiricism; in a sense, this substantial trust is, to some extent, a faith. The difference between the faithful grounds of Modernity and faithful theism is the fact that the latter is particularly dogmatic. The reason as to why science cannot definitively support its claim is because the method of validating their claim is refuted. For example, one can not give evidence supporting their empirical beliefs because the opposition rejects empirical evidence.

The ancient sceptics, despite being a minority, were also important for the following philosophical and theological movements. The sceptics believed that, if senses can often fool the mind with auditory and visual delirium, then subsequently the mind can result in having a false judgement, despite a supposedly fair sensory account. The sceptics often asked the question;

“If the senses are the only method of understanding the external world, and the external world is intelligible, then how is it possible to have universal knowledge and truth?”

Scepticism

Scepticism

“…it seems plausible that the truth can’t be found, whereas to me it seems plausible that the truth can be found.”

            -Augustine

The philosophy of scepticism, particularly ancient scepticism, is a way of life which appeals to my philosophical interests. The modern definition of scepticism takes no significant relevance to ancient scepticism. In contemporary English language, a sceptic is man who questions the validity of whichever subject. Yet an ancient sceptic is cautious to approach anything, holding to the belief that no religious or philosophical belief can be legitimately proven. In most sporting games, such as football or cricket, there is a goal which the players reach to achieve. The average player plays hard to reach that goal, just like the average man reaches for divine truth or validation to their belief. However, an ancient sceptic firmly claims that the goal is unreachable, giving them the privilege of being free from knowing anything which is untrue.

Of course one questions how the ancient sceptic would make a good player in the field if they hold the belief that the goal is unobtainable. But one must understand that any well respected sceptic will reach for the goal regardless of their philosophical perspective. Just as playing on the field exercises their muscles and playing skill, so does studying philosophy exercise the soul.

In a Nutshell: Augustine

Augustine

Augustine

            “Believe in order to understand.”

Augustine (born 358AD) was a young man and a brilliant teacher of rhetoric. At age 15 he read Cicero’s Hortensius, as well as other sacred texts of his mother’s religion of Christianity, but found them repulsive and contradictory. This led to a feud between Augustine and his Mother regarding their differences in belief. Augustine thought that the human emotions and interferences of the Christian God were inappropriate. The semi-Christian sect of the Manichees took in Augustine, where he used logic and rationality to become celibate. Manichaeism was a radical dualist organisation which rejected the primitive God told in the Old testament, which governed a lot of similarities to Augustine’s belief. The Manichees, as well as Augustine, promoted the self control of passion and instincts, and claimed that reason on the intellectual plane offered freedom. However, Augustine lost faith in the organisation because he believed that its Astrology made no sense, and embraced ancient scepticism to further pursue his career.

In Milan, Augustine became acquainted with Platonist Christians after meeting the country’s Bishop, where he was baptised (29 years). Platonists Christians had a non-literal understanding of Scripture yet maintained their Christian beliefs. During Augustine’s time, Western civilization commonly scrutinised the Christians because the common belief was held that Christian theology was no more than mythology. However, due to a shift in only allowing Christians to join the military, a sudden surge of people joined the Christian Church. Because of this, the level of piety in the Church was radically reduced and many pious Christians, including Augustine, started a Monastic movement in Egypt. Before the time of his death (430AD), Augustine abandoned his Philosophical aspirations and pursued the life of pastoral care as a Bishop of Hippo’s Church.

Freedom: Are Human Beings Free?

Freedom and Determinism: Are Human Beings Free?

Is freedom an idea which is available to us in modern society, and in general history? Or is it that freedom is an illusion which no man could possibly possess? If freedom is illusory, then it leaves the question as to why it is an ideal so sought after in mankind. The problem of freedoms is at the core of meta-ethical reflection, as it is the possibility of moral behaviour. Hence, if freedom is a myth – a curtain laid across the stage, or Universe – then so is morality.

Assuming that freedom is a legitimate ideal, which plays a significant role in the play of life, then there are two types of freedom to consider; these are: negative freedom (freedom from constraint or coercion), and positive freedom (freedom for inclusion). Negative freedom is essentially about not stopping an individual from doing what they want, regardless of the consideration of other’s liberty. Positive freedom, however, is the participation of what is genuinely good for an individual, while considering the freedom of others.

In contemporary society, people are often skewed towards negative freedom, often due to the conception that the Government is stripping society of freedom. Yet, as stated in my statement regarding Government conspiracies, the general idea of a Government is to maintain civility and equality at the expense of negative freedom. Leviathan by Hobbes reinforces this fundamental, albeit generalised, ideology.

Facticity

Things which are naturally granted to ourselves which we do not determine, but determine us. Such things include:

-Moods

-Family of origin;

-Genetic Constitution;

-Socio-political circumstances;

-Access to (and quality of) education;

-Culture;

-Native language(s);

-Actions of others;

I personally believe that I have free will, and my entire life isn’t determine by another force or nature. However, I am compatibalist in the sense that I understand facticity. Often in life we have to “play the cards we’re given”, and, as such, not everything is determined by our independent free will.

The Libertarian Thesis

In the absence of physical coercion etc.; human beings have free-will or agent: their decisions and actions are their own. The case of the Libertarian Thesis essentially boils down to the experience of deliberation, making Libertarianism incompatible with determinism.

Libertarianists rebut the argument of determinism by claiming that “I could have done otherwise had I so chosen.” For example, a Libertarianist, in defence of their belief, could say that a Determinist chose their belief in becoming a Determinist. As well as this, one could claim that just because X caused Y, it does not necessarily mean that X is the cause of Y.

Government Conspiracies

Government Conspiracies

The New World Order Conspiracy theory has one fatal flaw: and that is that mankind, no matter how cruel they are depicted throughout history, will still follow their own nature without being diabolical, purely intellectual, beings that exist entirely for the sake of controlling other people. Of course, people would like to consider controlling others, or world domination may be a passing though; perhaps somebody may seriously pursue it. But, in the end, they’re going to question their code of ethics and whether or not their decisions for Controlling the World is, in actuality, a decision which is good for themselves in the end.

The only reason in which I could even consider that an organisation is working to control us and create one Government is that the members of the organisation, whoever they may be, already have answers to the divine purpose of mankind, and that their divine purpose is somewhat related to putting mankind under one roof – so to speak. Yet, even if this is the case, it still goes against my argument regarding human nature, ethics and intuitive, for if somebody were to finally answer some of Philosophy’s deepest, most unknown, questions, then it would seem natural that they would share it and write it down with reasoning that concludes why the world has to have a New World Order.

Perhaps people are mistaking the prediction of the New World Order because of reading from science fiction novels (notably 1984 and Brave New World), as well as the fact that the Government IS controlling us in the respect that they maintain equality and civility at the expense of some of our own liberty and freedom. Yes, supermarkets have extremely long aisles of food and their speakers chant songs of propaganda; yes, the current economic situation that our world is in seems largely unnatural; but these are both consequences of what has led us to genuinely believe that civility and stability comes from such a system, as well as marketing ploys used by businesses.

In the meantime, I find the point of this ‘New World Order’ too dull to pursue for man, unless it is either just for human stability and equality, or for whatever divine purpose. If it is for a divine purpose, then I’m afraid I’m not about to give up my beliefs in Philosophy and knowledge of Western history in Philosophy because of mere conspiracies. However, if the New World Order is just a case of simple Politics going on an unnatural path, then I won’t stand to see such things happen. I already loathe walking through a Supermarket aisle for the reason that the current state of Government and marketing ploys are very unnerving — and in this respect I could see your point of view about the New World Order, but if it ever happens then there are many resolutions to change your lifestyle out of such a morbid image, such as moving to a different country which condones nomadic lifestyles. And yet, even if the latter does occur, then I’m almost certain that it’s not for some diabolical reason because mankind’s nature is to have a code of intuitive ethics. Conspiracies lack fundamental rationality and reasoning so much that I choose not to believe them.