Thursday, October 24, 2013

Truth, Fact and the Consequences Therof: Part 2

Author's Note:  I am sorry for the long hiatus between this blog post and its predecessor.  As I mentioned before, this is a part of a series and should be read as such.  Thank you for your patience. 
       Our second proof of existence and thus absolute truth is that there is a force greater than our own.  I will discuss this scientifically later on in this publication, but for now, let us remain in the realm of philosophy.  We know this because of the mark of the divine on ourselves through what was called “Natural Law.”  C.S. Lewis defines this natural law not as something physical, like gravity or Newton’s Laws of Relativity, but as a moral law to which we all ascribe. 

There is a code of conduct that is written on every human out there.  While some of the specifics of this code to vary from culture to culture, the base issues of murder, thievery, rape and the like remain taboo throughout.  Some of you may point to cultures that have robbed and murdered as a way of life, but those cultures also established a method to divide themselves and those that they robbed and murdered.  For example, it is ok in muslim culture to subject a non-muslim to a tax for being a non-muslim when they are living in muslim lands under muslim law.  They are referred to as a “dhimmi” which is akin to being a second class citizen and many of the laws of Islam are not equally applied to them.  This is the establishing of an “us vs. them” attitude in Islam. 

This code often finds itself played out in the idea that something is not fair, or that equality is desired.  C.S. Lewis teaches us that we do not have to instruct a child as to what is fair and what is not.  It is ingrained into them as a human.  It is the idea that leaves us with “I gave you X, and therefore you owe it to me to return the favor with Y.”  We feel compelled then to give because of this unspoken code of good conduct and fairness towards our fellow man.  The idea that man is subject to return kindness for kindness is born out in that idea that we all feel this need.  Mankind lives and breathes and creates whole systems to ensure that fairness is passed on.  We believe it makes us better people to ensure that it is fair, and that we are doing kindness to our fellow man.  A prime example of this is the Equal Opportunity program in the United States today.  Our government believes that to be fair and to establish a base for all races to be equally supported and recognized it needs a program to help under-privileged people to achieve entry into colleges, and equal treatment in the work place and classroom.   We want to see “fair” enforced so much that we have created a government program to make sure it does. 


The question of this code, though, is why do we feel the need to repay good for good?  Why do we feel that we must do right, and live by this unspoken natural law?  The answer lies in our nature as humans.  It is our nature to follow this natural law and we are predisposed to live by it, even though never taught it formally.  It comes from our nature, but why is in included in that nature?  In the natural or animal world, we do not see it.  Just because you give a steak to a tiger does not mean that this tiger will give you one in return, or even not consume you for dinner next.  It is not even among like species that we see this.  A grizzly bear will not surrender its fresh catch of salmon to another grizzly, even as a favor, and cannot expect that in return from the first bear.  It is a human trait that we see passed on from man to man as an essential part of our nature.  All of the laws and codes that we as humans have established point to the existence in humanity of this natural law, but they do not define its origin. 

With that being the case, that this code is natural to mankind, but not to the animal kingdom, where did we draw it?  It must be the influence of an outside force acting on mankind setting them aside to reflect a part of its essential nature.  In short, it is because whatever higher power has included mankind on this planet must have desired this to be a part of humanity, as if we were an off-shoot or self-portrait in some way of this higher power.  We have been established as such to show a part of the nature of this power and thus do not reflect the animal kingdom in our being.

People will say that this is inaccurate because of the instincts that mankind displays, but it is a remainder of the physical and not our dominant being that gives us the instincts.  We can, as people, overcome instinct which is not true of the animal kingdom.  We also can give that ability in a limited fashion to other creatures on this planet, a prime example being a trained monkey or a police attack dog.  

In all this indicates a greater power than mankind.  Something or someone has instilled in us a complete moral code, not founded in the blood and flesh of the world.  It indicates that we are not alone, because of the creation within us of something that is not of our bodies.  It indicates that we are not alone, absolutely, and therefore that there is a truth, and being higher than our mere minds.  It is the proof of the idea that we are not isolated beings in a world of thought where we are the creator of all we know, but that there is a higher power.  A being outside of our being and that being is an absolute.  It is a truth, and in the knowledge of this being’s existence we can begin our search for truth. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Truth, Fact, and the Consequences Thereof; Part 1

This is going to be the first part of a three or four part series that I’m going to title “Truth, Fact and the Consequences Thereof.”  It is going to be discussing the realities of the world that we live in and refuting the notion that there is no absolute truth.  Since this is such an integral subject to the way we think and act, it is going to be hard to discuss it without touching on other subjects.  It may seem a little less well framed because of that, remember that this is in fact only a discussion about the existence of truth and fact and not a discussion of what those facts are.  The truth of those facts will come in later posts. 


 “A=A, and that means that a man is subject to an absolute morality.” –Ayn Rand, in “Atlas Shrugged”


“Would it be alright if I punched you in the face, because I didn’t like the way you looked?  No?  So that is absolutely wrong?  Then there are moral and factual absolutes.”- Mike Lott

                In this blog, I want to challenge the preconceived ideas we have that shape our paradigms.  I want to help you to find, and to challenge the ideas that your mind functions by and thus to challenge you to change and make those ideas better.  The first step to doing that is defining the absolutes of your mind; defining the truth that you believe.

                In modern thinking, there is no longer a thought of absolute truth.  Most people think that “if I believe it, then it must be true for me,” or that truth is relative depending to the person.  The thought is stems from the belief that there is no single “right way” and that there are many ways of living life that are equally valid and equally acceptable.  It allows for the person to define their morality by what is inside their mind and project that upon the world, or to see things as they wish to see them.  These thoughts allow for the thinker to make up the rules as they go along.  We see this in the brought out in the statement: “It may be true for you, but not for me,” or “it may be right for you, but not for me.”

                The effect of this thought process being that a person is able define what is moral and what is not by how they feel at the time, and the pressures on them.  This was the birth of the phrase “it may be alright for me, but not for you.” The thought here is that at any given time a person may determine what they think to be permissible and do it, whatever it is.  That may be taking a candy because you are starving, or killing a person because they have made you angry.  It makes all things permissible to mankind.

 This thought process naturally leads to the idea of “you cannot judge me, because you do not know what was right for me at the time” where a person is convinced of their right because they felt it was so.  The feelings of the person led them to act in a certain manner and thus they acted.  The idea being who are we to know what they were going through and how a person should react in that circumstance. 

                Conversely, before the 19th century postmodern thinkers came along, most people believe that there were absolutes to truth and there was a right and wrong way to live.  There was the universal belief that because morality was given to us by God that we were responsible to live our lives in a certain way.  The idea was that because we were given laws by God to govern our actions that we should live by those laws.  This has sadly gone away from our society, because most no longer believe in God. 

                The fact of the matter is that A=A.  What I mean by that is, there are things that are.  By our own existence we can validate that we are.  We think, we breathe, we do, we act and therefore we are.  If we can think, it is evidence of an intellect and an absolute, and if we possess an intellect and are sure of it, then we, by the nature of being, are a fact.  That is the first fact of life that a person can become aware of when they are born: they think.  My child was born she spent the first few hours of her life looking up at me and blinking, then she started to move, and discovered her hands and feet, then she started to understand that her mind controlled the movement of her body.  She became more aware of her surroundings and began to use her body to manipulate it.  She began to understand that there were natural laws, like gravity, and mass and began to move and walk.  The crux of this is she used her mind to learn all of this.  She began her life thinking, and therefore she is sure of her own existence. 

                Many of you will say that an infant is not capable of thought on our level, I agree.  They are, however, thinking.  They think of the new world that they have discovered, and the old they just left.  That is why a child is comfortable listening to a heartbeat of its parents, because it is reminded of the safety and security of its mother’s womb.  The child has recognized its surroundings have changed, and that implies a thought. 

                This being the case, we know that the child is, because it thinks, and that we are because we think.  Our intellect is awake, and our mind is active.  The mind is the first proof that we exist. 

                If we exist, how to we know if there are absolutes, because we absolutely exist and therefore there must be absolutes.  Ourselves and our mind are the first absolutes that we know.  Our nature demands that we believe in ourselves as existing absolutely, and therefore are.

                The truth is that we are, this truth being non-relative, and absolute.  It is an established fact that it we exist.  This is proof that there are absolutes and that the modern way of evaluating truth on a personal basis is false.  If it were not false, I could simply decide that a person was not a part of my paradigm, and thus treat them as they didn’t exist.  They would be a caricature of my imagination and thus I would be correct to do whatever I wanted to them.  It would then become moral and acceptable for me to commit atrocities to that person, because they would be imagined, and not real because I decided that they were not true, not real. 

                The mind being the crux of a person’s being must be convinced of the fact that it is real, of its own assurance, and then accept that others are real simply because they say they are.  That is why a hallucination of a person is so powerful.  We automatically ascribe to the “person” we see as reality, as it is right for us to do so.  We ascribe the reality of a second being with the virtue of reality like we possess.  We can surmise others are real in a second way by their own thoughts and mental process.  We discover this through their ideas, and those are communicated by speech.  Our communication with one another shows us that there are people outside of us, and assures us of one another.  To test this theory, and see if somebody is real, try slapping them.  If they are a figure of your own mind, will it hurt when they slap you back?  No, because they aren’t real, but when they hit you back with a broom handle because you hit them first.  It is a simple test that assures us that they are real, no matter what we want to suggest.  We know that it was absolute that we got hit.  A=A. 

                In very much the same manner we can know that much of our physical world is real.  What then of our mental or spiritual world?  The truth of that is our mental and spiritual worlds are what define how we perceive physical reality.  We see through physical eyes, feel and know through our hands, and speak physically though our mouths.  Our physical is tied in an absolute way to how we think, feel and act.  It is tied even more deeply to what we believe.  We find this because we know that what we think translates into what good or bad we make with our hands; how we treat others.  We know that our minds form our actions because the mind controls the body, and that our beliefs control our mind because it is through our beliefs that we must learn to think. 

                Therefore, we must know that there is right and wrong, mentally and morally, because of the way that our mind shapes our physical world and the way our beliefs shape our thoughts. 
                I will pick up here and discuss the effects of the ideas of right and wrong and why they must be. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Philosopher as One Should Be

“If you say you are going to do something, you need to take responsibility for it.” – My Father, Mike Lott

“If you are going to do something and you are unopposed, you had better bring it.”- Jon Stewart, speaking about President Obama’s policy towards Veterans

                To be honest it is with a considerable amount of trepidation that I approach the idea of writing a blog.  I don’t possess many of the qualities you would suspect of an aspiring writer.  I’m not terribly well spoken, I stumble over public speech and my flair for the written English is sadly lacking.  In fact, it is my older sister who possesses the penmanship of my parents.  I, sadly, possess only a small amount of the intellect that the three of them do, and only a small amount of the drive that God has instilled in my younger sister.  Yet still, I feel compelled to write this, not as a memoir but as a statement of the way that words and worldviews have inspired me to live my life.
When people are brought to think of the words of a philosopher they are often confronted with famous statements of “to be or not to be” or “because I think, therefore I am.”  Often times the significance of these statements goes un-noticed as people go about their daily lives.  In truth, though, it is statements like these that shape the worldviews of all people in the entire planet.  The mind is given a set of circumstances on which people make observations.  Oftentimes this is what we refer to as “growing up.”  Whether this is rejection by a love, a hard loss at a sporting event or even the death of a loved one, the mind takes in the stimulus of the outside world and makes a judgment on it.  It then patterns a way of thinking for that person based on the experience.  This process repeated is learning, and whether or not we all realize it we are all being taught one thing or another. 
                The undiscerning mind may choose to make a paradigm, or worldview, based on the surface evaluation of the situation it is given.  For example, a person may determine motorcycles are bad because a loved one is killed in a motorcycle accident.  A discerning mind, or thinking person, instead will examine the facts of it more closely before passing judgment on all motorcycles, for example, was the rider wearing safety equipment, or was the rider sober.   One would think that the population as a whole would make these kinds of evaluations before passing judgment on anything, but in my experience, I have found that to be false.  A perfect example of this would be the recent Zimmerman Murder Trial.  This trial was highly inflammatory and was blown to a national stage where few of the real facts of the case were publicized.  It was dramatized and imagined that a wrong, which the evidence did not point to, was committed, in fact so much so that even with national pressure the jury found the defendant not to be guilty.  An examination of the evidence by police found that no arrest was necessary, but the public outcry was so great because of a cursory, surface look at what occurred, that an arrest was made and a trial was held.  In fact, after examining the character of the defendant, one could argue that this person was one of the most upstanding citizens of his community.  A little over a week after his trial and not guilty verdict, the defendant actually assisted travelers on a highway after a traffic accident.  Instead, the population brought the preconceived notions that the defendant must have been wrong to the trial, and he was demonized without the proper examination of the evidence.  All this to say that people have a very shallow view of the world around them because of the preconceived ideas of their paradigm, and do not seek the deeper ideas of what drives their paradigm and thus the way they live their lives. 
                In order though to have a good idea of what is included in your paradigm, a person should examine the decisions that they make.  Just as a steering wheel controls a car, so thought drives people.  There is linkage and connectors but the way you think influences the way you act.  A perfect example being that if I you believe that the case above should have been a guilty verdict than many of my previous statements may make you angry and may indeed convince you that I am a racist.  In that case I would ask that we examine the facts of not only the case, but why you would think I am a racist because of my statements, and then determine what your worldview is in this circumstance.  Whether you know it or not, your thoughts have already shaped your opinion of this writing and its author just as you have begun. 
The ideas of right and wrong, good and evil have long since been debated in our world.  Many people even debate that these ideas are even valid, because there is disbelief in moral absolutes.  In my paradigm, I do believe in the idea of right and wrong.  I believe that there are absolutes and that truth is something that people should seek at all costs.  Scripture says that “the Truth shall set you free, and if the Truth has set you free, then you are free indeed” (this is a bigger text than at first look as well, I will cover the idea contained here, like what and who is Truth at a later time).  Right and wrong are things that I believe to be self-evident, and everyone has an ingrained sense of the natural order of mankind.  Right and wrong, can be confusing at times, but when one examines the facts of the matter, there is a right and wrong in everything, just as there was according to the law in the aforementioned trial. 
  The truth of the matter is though, that you will decide what is right and wrong depending on what shapes your paradigm.  If you paradigm includes that taking possession by force is ok, than it is likely that you will become a thief, but if you know that man should be left the possession of what he rightfully has acquired then you will leave it to him to possess his belongings even though you may be able to take them. 
As a child, my parents instilled in me the idea that what I think would determine the way that I live my life, much in the same way that a rudder determines the direction of a ship.  It is such a small thing to say that “I think that ice cream is good” or “I think I like to run,” but those small decisions have made my world a vastly different place than it would have been otherwise.  For example, if I did not enjoy frozen desserts, I would have missed out on many of the wonderful date-nights I have spent with my wife because I simply would not have taken her to get ice cream, or if I did not decided that I enjoy running, I would not have bonded with one of my best friends as quickly or possibly ever.  These small decisions have shaped my life in some form or fashion because I choose to live my life in accordance with my beliefs.  I believe that running is fun, and therefore I go running and invite others to do it with me, or I believe that action speaks louder than words and therefore I live my life as a man of action, not only saying, but also doing.  Therein lays the truth of the matter that we believe therefore we act. 
In our world, so many people act in a way contrary to their beliefs.  They say that they believe in God and sin, but then live like there are no consequences to their actions, or they say that morals are relative, and there can be no right or wrong except what is determined by the individual, but are angered at genocide.  Truth be told, if one holds to the idea that morals are relative and to be determined by the person acting, then there is no cause that is truly wrong.  It may be wrong for me to kill indiscriminately, but who are we to say that it is wrong for Idi Amin to do so?  On a lesser degree, would it be wrong for you to cheat on your spouse?  If not, is it then ok for me to punish you for it?  Moral relativism allows for me to decide that this is correct and thus do whatever I please to you in the name of “it was right for me.”  These questions demonstrate the point that there are absolutes, and an absolute morality, but I digress.  
                A philosopher is a man who thinks, defines, and redefines his worldview for the betterment of others.  He given people the ideas that they found their lives upon.  The philosopher John Locke said that “government comes from the consent of the people” and that is what the whole political system of democracy is based on.  Thomas Jefferson said that “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal” and that in and of itself developed into both the Women’s Suffrage movements and the freeing of slaves in the United States.  The ideas that we accept and truths we believe have shaped our lives and our world.  Ideas have shaped our society more that we know.  We pick our leaders based on the what we think is good for the world, and they, based on their own paradigm make policy that alters the course of the globe.  Imagine how different our world would look if FDR had not been in office during the War to End All Wars, or if Reagan had not told Gorbechev to “tear down that wall!”  All of these ideas would never have been even formed had Locke not published his book and said that men should determine their own governments. 
                What then of our ideas?  What is the personal philosophy that you apply to your life to make the choices of the everyday?  What is the logical end to these choices?  My point being, what are the parameters that you use in your decision making process that allow for you to do right and wrong, and are they well thought out and correct.  In our world, so many act in a way contrary to their speech, our leaders, our pastors, our teacher, ourselves in our day to day and moment to moment.  What if someone, or anyone had the courage to actually do what they said, and say what they meant?  What would our society be if people thought, and then acted?  What if our education system allowed for our children to form ideas on the moral right, on what is honorable, on justice, and why these are desirable, and then allowed them to formulate a well thought out paradigm?  Then what if these kids lived it?  Our society would be changed forever, and for the better.
                Logical processes would be the key to this transformation.  They would be the base from which our “super kids” could determine right from wrong, and good from evil, and then apply a logical solution to the evil and wrong in our world.  Our children would have to think through issues, afterward apply themselves in right action to achieve the best solution.  Of course, being human, they would not act completely perfectly, but imagine the right that could be achieved on this alone. 
                It is to us to ensure that future generations have the ability to do this kind of thing.  It is to us to bring up these types of thinkers and leaders in our society.  If we wish for our world to change for the better, we need to ensure that our world’s future, it’s young, are able to decide right and make the correct life choices.  We are the crux of the issue, our actions determine what is entered into the decision making process of our children.  We determine their paradigm by teaching them how to act, think, eat, perceive, and digest the information that they are bombarded with from the world around them.  We train up the child to face the life challenges ahead.  If our society is to become any better, we must have a well thought out paradigm, and must have the ability to pass this on to the younger generation.  This is where your philosophy comes in, meaning why you believe what you believe.  Where do we learn this philosophy?  From school, church, work, and most importantly from those that have meaning to our lives; from anywhere and everywhere; from what we allow into our way of thinking due to our decision making process.  Our biggest influences are those we spend the most time with. 
                So because of our responsibility to teach the youth, our philosophy becomes the most important thing that we possess, and the ability to think becomes the most important gift we can possibly give.  Who are you philosophers?  Who are the sages that guide your way of thinking?  Who is your Aristotle, and is that person worthy of that honor?
                I write all of this to say that a philosopher is a thinker, and a man who determines the worldviews of society.  What, though, of the men themselves?  Plenty of men in our world spout ideas, but how many of them truly live the ideas that they spout.  I was asked when I signed up for service to our country, “why are you doing it?”  A better question to ask me would have been, “why do you choose to act on your belief.”  The philosophers and great people of history were not simply people who thought, but people to acted.  Our heroes are people who have said, and then acted on what they have said, people who have shaped the world by their belief.  Their thoughts and actions are what has driven our world, and has given base to many of the ideas that determine our lives.  They are the “George Washingtons”, “Mother Teresas”, or “Winston Churchills” of the past who have shaped the world by their paradigms, and thus made it the place we have today.  It is for us to examine history and determine whether their thoughts that drove their actions, their philosophies, were good and right.  It is for us to determine how to live our lives in a way that would help these ideas to flourish, or if we determine them evil, to die.   We need to live our lives on the ideas we have, and not be afraid to take action. 
In this blog, my purpose is to cause you to examine your thoughts and to live what you think.  To challenge you to think about what you believe, by showing what and how I believe; to help you to carve out a thought out paradigm from the myriad of bad ideas and philosophies out there.  To allow for you to have the opportunity to change the future of our society, by being the one who knows what they believe.  Some of the things I will say will anger you, some of them sadden you, and some confuse you, but I hope that you will endure so that you may have a clearer picture of your own worldview.  Disagreement and debate will happen, and that brings you to the point where you must decide right and wrong.  
To be a philosopher as one should be, living out the meaning of your thoughts, and proving your paradigm can and does work in the world we live in.  So here are my thoughts on the world and its working.  I hope they cause you to think.