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.