Category Archives: philosophy

Against Libertarianism

Libertarian philosophy, which achieved it’s clearest development in the work of Robert Nozick, rests on the state of nature fantasy, conceived of by Rousseau, which conceives of man as a self sufficient automaton who rationally gives up a portion of his independence to benefit from the law and order of a just society. Thus, for liberals of all stripes, but especially libertarians, the relation between man and society is contractual, man serves society only insofar as it is beneficial to his own self interest. The conception of a cause greater than individual self interest is discarded, if not explicitly then implicitly. Libertarians may pay lip service to nationalism, community, religion or other forms of tradition, but this can only be considered lip service – their philosophy relegates these to a place of subservience to the self, and their existence is thus contingent on their being perceived to benefit a collective of this self interest. To make these tings contingent on individual interest is to remove all their significance, and to condemn them to an inevitable downfall among a mass of other superstitions which, in the liberal mindset, were only hindrances on the individuals growth.

Libertarianism differs from other forms of liberalism in that it is completely amoral. Other forms of liberalism leave a place for some kind of universal morality, generally based on universal compassion or the remnants of a Christian morality, libertarianism by contrast sees it’s amoral principles as steadfast due to their objective fairness within the conception of man the libertarian holds. This a priori, objective nature is what draws a lot of young intellectual types to the movement, they, like socialists, want an easy solution, a few basic principles which are applicable to all forms of social organisation, at all times, for all people. Taking these principles as sacrosanct, any societal problems which develop under them are seen as faults of he individual, protecting the objective rightness of the principles involved. But there will be losers under libertarianism, and these losers will be those who cannot make themselves valuable in the open market.

This is another problem of libertarianism, it is almost wholly an economic philosophy. It’s founders and chief propagators, Friedrich Von Hayek, Milton Friedman, Murray Rothbard and others, were economists who sought to build a wholly a priori economic science which was not so reliant on the whims of politicians and changing circumstances as Keynesianism was. Keynesianism necessitated politicians deciding when the time was right to stimulate the economy with tax payer money, and when the time was right to restrict growth to prevent eventual downfall. With an understandable and natural distrust for this kind of cynical authority, they sought to take this power over people’s lives out of the politicians hands and into the individuals, through their collective choices to supply and demand the market and thus dictate a fair equilibrium, and also to objective, fair, a priori principles, which could do the job politicians tried to do better than the politicians. Libertarianism is the philosophy of the modern automaton. The wholly individual, self seeking economic unit, the “ego and his own”, free to forge his destiny through the amoral pursuit of his desires.

But man is more than an economic unit. Who has ever seen the Individual that the libertarians speak of? Man is an aspect of, a reflection of, a creation of and an integral part of his community. Man is his family. Man is his religion. Man is his nation. Man is his ethnicity. Man is his people’s history. Man is NOT simply a pleasure seeking animal, man, as Aristotle says, is a social animal. And more importantly, man is a being who thirsts for something greater. In his day to day life, he chases one pleasure after another, life, as Schopenhauer says, swings like a pendulum between pain and ennui. And yet, there is an intuition within us all that there is something greater than the material, that there is a good or goods to be pursued, whose pursuit goes beyond any narrow economic interests, and whose pursuit we feel is the justification for this endless game of survival.

Finally, libertarianism, more than any other credible political philosophy, is anathema to nationalism. For the libertarian, every individual is equal and should be given an equal chance, there is no concern over mass immigration for within libertarianism this is fundamentally fair. Let as many immigrants come as they please, the best will be hired, the worst will not, that is what’s fair. This is also to suppose that outside of the government’s interference we can have a totally color blind world, where individuals escape the shackles of the ignorance of racism and other prejudices. Libertarianism is also steadfastly opposed to all forms of protectionism, and, in it’s usual a priori way sees Free Trade as objectively fair and right, regardless of national interest. What this unabashed free trade would mean is a fully global market and the removal of borders in any meaningful sense.

This is hardly surprising when one looks at the founders of libertarianism. Von Hayek, Friedman, Rothbard, Nozick and Ayn Rand were all racial jews. Kevin MacDonald in his book The Culture of Critique gives two characteristics of Jewish intellectual movements. They are generally internationalist in nature, and propose a world free of nationalism and national interests, and they rest on unproven, often unprovable a priori assumptions. This fits Marxism, psychoanalysis, the Frankfurt School, and of course libertarianism. It is easy to see why it has attracted many prominent jews among it’s ranks, for it promises a world free of nations, free of irrationality, free of collective interest in any groups, and favours a society which would inevitably be run by a small economic elite, free from taxation or responsibilities to their host nation. Let no man call himself a libertarian who opposed internationalism, liberalism, atheism, modernism and the materialism and selfishness which accompany it.

Democracy is a Myth

Democracy is a myth

“Who will rule, God or Man? This is the great constitutional question of human existence”
Excerpt from Demokratin är en myt (Democracy is a Myth); or The Myth of Democracy

Swedish historian, thinker and leading representative for the Perennial school of thought, Tage Lindbom (1909-2001) wrote his critique on Western democracy in 1990. Formerly a dedicated member of the Social Democratic Party of Sweden, he grew disillusioned with the economic progress, yet spiritually and culturally empty void of Swedish society. He denounced Social Democracy in favor of a Traditionalist worldview, embraced Sufism and became a disciple of the Swiss Sufi metaphysician Frithjof Schuon. He spent the remainder of his life with writing critiques of Modernity. In his work “Democracy is a Myth“, he puts democracy under the microscope and lay forth that once Democracy raised to the status of Myth, Mythos, became the Order of Western Civilization or as he terms it: the Kingdom of Man; “Människoriket”.

The first thing is to give some context. What is Traditionalism and Modernism? First, Traditionalism is being aware of a higher, divine reality that determine the worldly, sensual reality. The other is the idea that rejects the Traditional in favor of evermore change, progress and the abolishment of hierarchies and authorities in order to create new fields of human exploitation. Simply put, Traditionalism is the idea of a cosmic equilibrium in which man lives in connection with both a vertical and horisontal existence, whereas Modernity is the idea of unrestrained human freedom and a purely horisontal worldview.

In spite of this long lasting enmity, Lindbom finds a common thread that unites both the Traditionalist and Modern worldview. While ideological, cultural and spiritual enemies, they share a common heritage of a common memory of a primordial state of Order. Both Traditionalism and Modernity acknowledges a primordial order, yet differ on the basis of whether Man or God will rule supreme. It is from this search for the primordial source that the French thinker Jean Jacques Rousseau constructs his ideas of the General will, the Social Contract and Nature being the primordial source, i.e. the Garden of Eden or Paradise Lost.

With the Fall of man, we have the rise of Liberty and Equality, the two cornerstones in human existence and the ideological frameworks for the French and Russian Revolution or Devolution. By using the Myth instead of the Ideology, Democracy is raised above time and space, beyond human wills and strivings, becoming absolute, total and ahistorically primordial. Man is made the Sovereign, indivisible and the center of everything.
The prevailing order can be summarized as the holy trinity of Modernism.
In the name of Man, Modernity and the mythical Democracy.

 

 

 

The Frankfurt School: Who They Were And Why They Matter

You may or may not have heard of the Frankfurt School. Though they may not be as well known as other philosophers or social critics, their influence on the world can not be doubted but is grossly underestimated.

The Frankfurt School was founded in Germany by a group of Jewish intellectuals as the Institute for Social Research in the University of Frankfurt, hence the name. Among their best known members were Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse. In order to understand their foundation, one must look to Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci.

Gramsci wrote in his famous prison diaries on the nature of communism and the reasons for it’s failure in generating a mass revolt of the proletariat and destruction of capitalism. Gramsci placed the blame for this failure in the proletariat’s ideology, manifest in culture. Gramsci lamented that people maintained traditional loyalties to ideas such as the family, religion, morality and race. Gramsci was intelligent enough to realise that communism could never win substantial support while people maintained a love for these things – the only way to win people over to communism would be to undermine and destroy their competing loyalties. Marxism would have to switch from a focus on economics to a focus on culture if it was to be successful.

Taking up this idea, the Frankfurt school, who were forced to emigrate to the US due to the rise of Nazism in Germany, attempted to critique and undermine traditional social bonds and loyalties. They fused the psychoanalysis of Sigmund Freud with a Neo Marxist view of of society and economics to create a new way of critiquing and understanding culture, hence the common label for their ideas as Cultural Marxism. Their chief weapon came in the form of critical theory, now thought across universities.

Why is this significant? After all, surely a few philosophers writing on culture and the state can’t do much harm. The fact is the Frankfurt school achieved the ultimate success, their ideas have infested the mainstream of culture. What are characteristics of their approach? There is the attempt to pathologise anyone who does not share their communist world view as being mentally ill, or being motivated by an irrational hatred like homophobia. There is also the denouncing of religion as being oppressive and archaic, the support for extreme versions of feminism, the promotion of globalism over nationalism and the equating of nationalism with racism at every opportunity.

Essentially, any of the traditional bonds which traditionally have kept people away from the lure of communism were and are under attack by the Cultural Marxist approach. Nationalism is undermined by it’s association with Nazism and racism. Traditional views on marriage or other social issues are deemed to be motivated by a pathology. Any promotion of Western culture or values is also deemed racist, while one is an Islamophobe if one holds the opinion that the West becoming Islamic, or Islam influencing western culture would be a bad thing.

The above all undermine Western culture and promote an intellectually grey, vapid communist approach to understanding the world. Fundamentally however, the chief way of undermining traditional values and morality is by promoting it’s polar opposite – unabashed materialism. This is now ongoing at an unstoppable rate, people are becoming more and more self centered, dull, shallow and materialistic. They see nothing beyond their most base material desires and consumer goods capable of satisfying them. While it may at first seem absurd to suggest that it is in the interest of communists to have the masses engaging in greedy unabashed consumption, the reality is this consumption is a symptom of what the Marxists really want – a materialistic outlook which ultimately rejects the higher and embraces the promised paradise on Earth of Karl Marx.

God: A Process Perspective

One of the most interesting aspects of the philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead is his notion of God. Sometimes obscure, his conception of a supreme being does not seem to perfectly fit into any traditional theistic or philosophical beliefs on the nature of such a being. The most startling fact about Whitehead’s God to anyone approaching it for the first time is that it is not omnipotent. Whitehead referred to God as a mere “accident of creativity. For Whitehead the ultimately real, that beyond which we can go no further in our investigation, which just is, is the reality of Creativity. From this conception all else flows, even God. To some, however, the idea of God is so tied to omnipotence that conceiving of him without this trait is not possible – God is either omnipotent and omniscient or he is not God. Thus, some have claimed Whitehead was mistaken in naming his supreme being God at all. I disagree. These people are still looking at Whitehead’s God through the lens of the traditional western philosophy, deeply tied to the legacy of Aristotle.

According to Whitehead, expanding on a concept from Plato, being is equated to power, and power comes from the ability to act and be acted upon. Thus, the greatest being would be one which has the greatest possible relation and interconnection to all actual entities. Aristotle’s unmoved mover, which sets the world in motion and watch it unfold, is inferior to the process God, which holds ultimate creativity, being interrelated to every actual entity and influencing their action with the intent of realising objectively good ‘subjective aims’. Of course, actual entities retain their own creativity, and are thus free to disobey God and not pursue their divinely imbued subjective aim.

This seems to reflect the traditional theistic answer to the problem of evil. Evil exists because beings are free to disobey God and pursue selfish aims. In this traditional solution however, we seem to lack an explanation of ‘natural’ evils, such as the existence of debilitating physical diseases which seem to afflict without prejudice, inflicting suffering on everyone including the virtuous and children. “Bone cancer in children, how do you explain that one?” the atheist demands of the believer. Whitehead’s metaphysics gives us a more satisfactory answer. All of reality is the interplay of actual entities, which each contain a smidgen of  creativity and free will. The lion that attacks the village, the cancer cells that refuse to obey orders and thus cause their holder, the water in the flood, all contain a freedom which cannot be wholly made subject to God’s will.

Whitehead’s God is both immanent and transcendent. Thus, Whitehead has been described as a panentheist, as his God is present everywhere in the world but is not limited to it. God has an immanent nature, dubbed by Whitehead as his ‘consequent nature’. This is the aspect of God just spoken of, which ‘prehends’ all actual entities and engages in a continual process of communication with and attempted influence of each actual entity. God, through his consequent nature, strives to draw all actual entities closer to him, in a process similar to how the Hindus describe each soul being reborn until it eventually achieves union with it’s source, the Godhead. However, the qualities of God are not exhausted by his consequent nature, he also has a ‘primordial nature’, which would traditionally be termed his transcendent quality.

The primordial nature of God is especially improtant in Whitehead’s organic philosophy, as it contains the ‘Eternal Objects’, Whitehead’s conception of platonic ideas, objects which exist irregardless of their actualisation in the actual world. Thus Whitehead echoes the Neo Platonists, who place all platonic ideas as ultimately being contained in ‘The One’. The primordial nature of God is understood by it’s intimate relation with the idea of potential. It contains the envisagement of all possibilities, all possible worlds, and holds in being the eternal objects of which the actual entities which make those possibilities take their being. However, were the primordial nature of God his only nature, he would be static, perfect, unchangeable being which is not actualised. It is only by the action of his consequent nature, working in process with actual entities, that God’s primordial nature is actualised and turned into real being, which is only possible in a state of process.

Thus, the consequent and primordial nature of God are intimately linked and ultimately inseparable, without the primordial nature there would be no ‘being’ for the ‘becoming’ of actual entities to enter into. Likewise, without the consequent nature there would be no ‘becoming’ to give the conceptual realities of eternal objects an actualised reality. This sentiment of being and becoming’s interdependence is echoed by Whitehead, when he writes

“It is as true to say that God is permanent and the world fluent, as that the World is permanent and God is fluent.

It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.

It is as true to say that, in comparison with the World, God is actual eminently, as that, in comparison with God, the World is actual eminently.

It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God, as that God is immanent in the World.

It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God.

It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that the World creates God.”

Thus, God is not, as in Neo Platonism, perfect being which corrupts itself by entering into imperfect process. Rather, God maximises his being by sharing in creativity with a multitude of actual entities.

Whitehead never offers an argument for the existence of God. Like much of his metaphysics, it is not supported by any logical deductions or philosophical arguments. Rather, Whitehead presents God as a necessary aspect to his metaphysics. Whitehead presents his speculative view of reality, which conforms to all known fact, then let’s the readers decide for themselves if it offers a better understanding of reality than all other available options. If one is to accept his viewpoint, God is a necessary addition. Whitehead’s God is necessary for without him their would be no order to reality, and in a sense one could extract an altered version of the design argument from Whitehead. Actual Entities require an ordering power to structure their interactions, while ‘Eternal Objects’ require an ontological ground, which is offered by God’s primordial nature. Thus, God offers order amid what would otherwise be a well of chaos, in which any actualised state of being is impossible.

Perhaps Whitehead, through his abstract and at times obscure cosmology, sought to defend ‘the God of the poets’ against a sustained attack from the impersonal and wholly abstract ‘God of the philosophers’. Though Whitehead’s God completes his complex conception of reality, he is more in line with the layman’s understanding of God than the likes of Spinoza or Bradley. God is not some impersonal absolute which simply is, but never becomes, which is every action, but doesn’t act. Rather, God is an intimate, immediate reality, present in every being, attempting to influence them in a loving way, but never through force or coercion. There is a place for mystical experience, as mystics enter into a loving relationship with the equally loving God. There is also a place for free will, as described above, and even prayer, as subjects enter into communication with the ever present consequent nature of God, petitioning a positive influence on their lives, which can be influenced through the subjective aims given by God. However, our aims and the objectively good aims sought by God are often mutually exclusive, and so the role of God in aiding us could better be understood as influencing us to see the good, and deal with whatever sturggles we may face along the way. Of course, Whitehead never expresses these sentiments, but the important point is that Whitehead rebels against the philosophical abstraction of God and returns to a loving, action oriented being.

 

Nagarjuna’s 70 Stanzas on Emptiness

1] “Arising,” “enduring,” and “disintegrating;” “existing” and “non-existing;” “inferior,” “middling,” and “superior” do not have true existence. These terms are used by the Buddha in accordance with worldy conventions.

[2] All phenomena must have either self-existence or non-self-existence. There is no phenomenon which is other than these two, nor are there any expressions which do not come under these two catagories. All phenomena which are the subject of this treatise are similar to nirvana because all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence.

[3] What is the reason for this? It is because the inherent existence of all phenomena is not to be found in causes, conditions, aggregations or individualities. Thus all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence and are empty.

[4] Some assert that a result already exists inherently in the nature of its cause; but then it cannot arise because it already exists. Others assert that a result exists inherently but not in the nature of its cause; so it cannot arise becuse it is not in the nature of its cause. Yet others assert that a result both does and does not exist inherently in its cause; but then they are asserting contradictory views about an object because an object cannot simultaneously both exist and not exist. Because phenomena do not arise inherently so also they do not endure or cease inherently.

[5] Whatsoever has already arisen will not be able to arise. Whatsoever has not arisen will not arise. Either a phenomenon has already arisen or else it will arise; there is no other possibility beyond these two. Whatever is in the process of arising should have already arisen or else it will arise in the future.

[6] The cause of a result which already exists is similar to that which is not a cause. Also in the case where a result does not already exist, then its cause will be similar to that which is not a cause. A phenomenon should be either existent or non-existent but cannot be both non-existent and not-non-existent because these two are contradictory. Therefore it is not suitable to assert that there is either an inherently existing cause or an inherently existing result in the three times.

[7] Without one there cannot be many and without many it is not possible to refer to one. Therefore one and many arise dependently and such phenomena do not have the sign of inherent existence.

[8] The twelve limbs of dependent origination result in suffering: since the twelve limbs and suffering do not arise independently of each other, they don’t exist inherently. Furthermore, it is not acceptable to assert that the twelve limbs are based on a single moment of a mind nor on successive moments of mind, as such moments arise dependently and do not exist inherently.

[9] Because contaminated things arise in dependence on one another they do not exist inherently as permanent phenomena nor do they exist inherently as impermanent phenomena; neither as phenomena with self-nature nor without self-nature; neither as pure or impure; neither as blissful nor as suffering. It is thus that the four distortions do not exist as qualities which inhere in phenomena, but rather are imputed to phenomena.

[10] There are no four distortions which exist inherently and thus there can be no ignorance arising from them. Because that ignorance does not exist inherently it cannot give birth to karmic formations, which means karmic formations will not arise and so also the remaining limbs too.

[11] Ignorance cannot originate as a cause except in dependence on the karmic formations. Also, the karmic formations cannot originate except in dependence on their cause, which is ignorance. Because ignorance and karmic formations are interrelated as cause and effect so these two are known by a valid cognizer not to exist inherently.

[12] By itself none of the twelve limbs can originate inherently, but must depend on the remaining limbs. How then can one limb produce another limb? Moreover, because one limb has originated as a cause in dependence on the other limbs, so how can it act as a condition for the origination of results such as the other limbs?

[13] The father is not the son and the son is not the father. These two are mutually not non-existent and the two of them cannot arise simultaneously. It is likewise with the twelve dependent limbs.

[14] Just as in a dream, happiness and suffering depend on dream objects and upon awakening these objects are known not to actually exist, likewise any phenomenon which arises in dependence on another dependent phenomenon should be known not to exist in the manner of its appearance.

[15] Vaibhisika: If you assert that phenomena don’t exist inherently then you are asserting that they don’t exist at all. So how can you make distinctions like inferior, middling, and superior or that there are different beings in the six realms of existence? How then can you assert the manifestation of a result which arises from causes?

[16] Response: When you assert that phenomena exist inherently you are asserting that they do not originate in dependence on causes and conditions and thus that phenomena actually do not exist. For if phenomena do not depend on causes and conditions, then they should have independent existence throughout the three times. Therefore there cannot be inherent existence for functional phenomena which arise from causes and conditions or non-functional phenomena which do not arise from causes and conditions, and there cannot be any third mode of existence for phonemena.

[17] Opponent: If phenomena do not exist inherently, how can you use terms to refer to their own characteristics or their characteristics in relation to other phenomena or non-functional phenomena?
Response: Although phenomena lack inherent existence, still we can use terms like own-characteristics, other-characteristics and non-functional phenomena for although these are unfindable upon analysis, still, like objects of a dream they appear to have existence to ordinary perception. So the way they exist and they way they appear are different and these conventional existences are called distortions or false.

[18] Opponent: If phenomena are devoid of inherent existence then they will be completely non-existent like the horns of a rabbit, and so there can be no occurrence of their arising or their cessation. As Buddha has spoken about arising and cessation, they must exist, so how can things be devoid of inherent existence?

[19] Response: An object cannot simultaneously arise as a functional phenomenon and cease as a non-functional phenomenon. If a non-functional phenomenon does not exist then a functional phenomenon cannot exist because an object cannot arise and endure as a functional phenomenon without depending on its cessation as a non-functional phenomenon, or else it would exist at all times. If a non-functional phenomenon which is different from a functional phenomenon does not exist then it is impossible for a functional phenomenon to exist.

[20] If there is no arising and enduring, which are functional phenomena, then there can be no disintegration or cessation, which are non-functional phenomena; so the latter would be completely non-existent. If a phenomenon were to exist inherently it must have arisen from its own nature or from some other nature, but it cannot arise from its own nature and because a phenomenon cannot have a different nature than its cause, so it cannot arise from some other nature which has inherent existence. Because of that, a functional phenomenon cannot exist inherently and because a functional phenomenon cannot exist inherently, so a non-functional phenomenon cannot exist inherently.

[21] If a phenomenon were to exist inherently it should be permanent. If a phenomemon were to disintegrate completely then you must accept the annihilationist view. If a phenomenon were to exist inherently it would either exist permanently or else undergo complete disintegration: it cannot occur in a way which is different than these two. Therefore one should not assert that a phenomenon has inherent existence.

[22] Opponent: Because of continuity there is no danger of the two extreme views. Acting as a cause of another causal phenomenon the original causal phenomenon ceases to exist.
Reply: As explained before, the cause and the result, like a functional phenomenon and a non-functional phenomenon, cannot arise with inherent existence either simultaneously or sequentially. In your view their lack of inherent existence makes them completely non-existent, in which case you cannot assert their continuity or that of the moments between them. Therefore the faults of the two extremes remain in your view.

[23] Opponent: When Buddha explained the path to liberation he spoke about arising and disintegration, so they must have true existence.
Response: It is true that Buddha spoke about arising and disintegration, but they are devoid of inherent existence. For that reason the way they appear and the way they exist are dissimilar, and they appear in a deceptive way to the world.

[24] Opponent: If arising and disintegration do not exist then suffering can not exist, so what cessation will bring forth nirvana? But because nirvana can be attained that means there is suffering which has inherent existence and therefore there is arising with inherent existence and disintegration with inherent existence.
Response: Nirvana refers to that state where suffering does not arise with inherent existence and does not cease with inherent existence. Don’t we call that state the naturally abiding nirvana? therefore arising and disintegration do not exist inherently.

[25] You have accepted that the extinction of the continuation of suffering is nirvana, in which case you have held an annihilationist view. And if you modify your position and assert that nirvana is a state where suffering has inherent existence and has not been extinguished, then you accept permanent suffering which even includes the state of nirvana, which is an eternalist view. Therefore you cannot assert that nirvana refers to a state where suffering is a non-functional phenomenon which has been extinguished nor can you assert that nirvana refers to a state where suffering is a functional phenomenon which has not been extinguished. These two assertions about nirvana are not appropriate. Therefore nirvana refers to that state where suffering does not arise with inherent existence and does not cease with inherent existence.

[26] If you assert a cessation that is different than a functional phenomenon then you are asserting a cessation which does not depend on a functional phenomenon and which exists inherently and permanently. Because we have refuted the inherent existence of a functional phenomenon and also the inherent existence of a non-functional phenomenon which depends on a functional phenomenon, so here a cessation cannot have independent existence and so it cannot exist inherently or permanently.

[27] Without depending on the defined one cannot establish a definition and without considering the definition one cannot establish the defined. As they depend on each other, they have not arisen by themselves, so therefore the defined and the definition are devoid of inherent existence and also they do not exist inherently in a mutually dependent way, so none of them can be used to establish the inherent existence of another one.

[28] Following the logic of this explanation of mutually dependent origination one cannot use the cause of a result to prove that the result has inherent existence. The same applies to all the pairs of such as feeling and the one who feels or seeing and the seer, and so forth. Taking these as examples one should understand how all the pairs are explained as being devoid of inherent existence because they originate in mutual dependence.

[29] Time does not exist inherently because the three periods of time do not maintain continuity by themselves, but are dependent on each other. If the three times were to have inherent existence in a mutually dependent way, then we could not make distinctions between, but because we can make distinctions so time itself cannot be established as having inherent existence. Because time does not have inherent existence, the functional basis on which the three times is imputed cannot have inherent existence, so therefore the three times do not have inherent existence and are merely imputed by concepts.

[30] Following the reasoning just given, the three characteristics of a composite phenomenon which are arising, enduring and ceasing are unfindable upon ultimate analysis even for you, so then a functional phenomenon which is characterized by these three attributes is also unfindable, in which case the functional basis of a composite phenomenon becomes unfindable. So when a composite phenomenon cannot exist inherently, how can a non-composite phenomenon which depends on a composite phenomenon have inherent existence in the least.

[31] At the point of its complete disintegration does a phenomenon disintegrate which has already disintegrated or at that point does a phenomenon disintegrate which has not yet disintegrated? In the first case the process of disintegration is complete, so this cannot be accepted. In the second case it is free from the function of disintegration, so this cannot be accepted. The same applies to enduring and arising. If a phenomenon were to endure at that point when it has alrady endured then the process of enduring is complete and we cannot say that it is enduring at that point. And a phenomenon which has not endured cannot be accepted as enduring at that point because it is free from the function of enduring. If a phenomenon were to arise at the point of arising which has already arisen then the process of arising is already complete, so this cannot be accepted. and if a phenomenon were to arise at that point which has not arisen then that case is not accpetable, because it is non-existent.

[32] If we examine composite phenomena and non-composite phenomena then we cannot find them as one, because then we cannot differentiate between these two types of phenomena, and we cannot find them as many, because then these two would be completely unrelated. If a composite phenomenon is asserted to exist, then it cannot arise because it is already existent and if it is asserted not to exist, then it cannot arise because it is non-existent. If it is asserted to be both existent and non-existent, this is not possible because such a state is contradictory. Every different type of phenomenon is included within this criterion of non-inherent existence.

[33] Opponent: The Peerless Subduer has taught that there is continuity in the flow of actions. Likewise, he has taught about the nature of actions and their results. He has also taught that the results of actions performed by an individual sentient being must be experienced by him and that whatever actions are performed are certain to bear fruit. For these four reasons actions have inherent existence.

[34] Reply: Buddha taught that actions do not exist inherently and so they cannot arise inherently. Although actions do not exist inherently, they will not be wasted but it is certain that they will bear fruit. From these actions arise consciousness, name and form, and the rest of the limbs of dependent origination. Conception of self is generated through focusing on the person who is merely imputed upon these dependent limbs. Also, it arises from the preconception which takes imporper objects and overestimates them.

[35] If actions were to have inherent existence then they would not be impermenent but would have the nature of permanance, and then the body which results from those actions would also be permanent. If actions were to be permanent then they could not give rise to suffering, which is the ripening of actions. If actions were non-changing then they would have the nature of permance and then they would have self-existence. But then Buddha would not have taught about the lack of self-nature.

[36] If actions were to exist at the time of conditions, those actions could not arise from those conditions. And if conditions do not have the potential to give rise to actions, then actions cannot arise from conditions because those conditions are similar to non-conditions. Because actions cannot arise even slightly from non-conditions, so therefore all composite phenomena are like an illusion, and a gandharva town and a mirage, and therefore they lack inherent existence.

[37] Actions are caused by delusions. Our body arises from the nature of delusions and actions. Because the cause of the body is actions, and actions arise from delusions, so therefore these three are devoid if inherent existence.

[38] When actions do not have inherent existence there will be no person to perform actions. Because both of them do not exist, results do not exist. When there are no results there will be no person to experience those results physically and mentally. Because of that reason that actions do not exist inherently, so all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence.

[39] If one understands how actions are devoid of inherent existence, then he sees the suchness of actions. When he has seen suchness he will have eliminated ignorance and when there is no ignorance then the actions which are caused by ignorance cannot arise in him, and so the results of actions such as consciousness and so forth up to aging and death will not be experienced by him. When consciousness ceases to exist the dependent limb of aging and death cannot occur; thus he will attain the state of liberation free from aging and death.

[40] Through his miraculous powers, Tathagata the Subduer emitted an emanation and that emanation emitted another emanation. As the emanation emitted by the Tathagata is devoid of inherent existence, it is hardly necessary to say that the emanation emitted by the emanation is also devoid of inherent existence.

[41] When we say that these two emanations do not exist inherently, that does not mean that they are completely non-existent but rather that both of them, just like actions and the one who performs actions, merely exist through terms because they are separated from the nature of inherent existence. They do not exist, but merely through imputation by thought in a deceptive way.

[42] The person who performs actions is said to be similar to the emanation emitted by the Tathagata because he is led by ignorance. And so his actions are said to be similar to the emanation emitted by the emanation. All of these are devoid of inherent existence, though they do have a slight existence as mere imputation supported by terms and concepts.

[43] If actions were to have the nature of inherent existence, then they would be permanent. But if actions were permanent then they would not depend on a person, and if there were no person to perform actions, then actions would not exist. In that case, nirvana, which is the state of cessation of delusions and actions, could not be attained. If actions did not exist through mere terms and concepts then their ripening results such as happiness and suffering could not arise.

[44] Whatever is said by the Buddha has the two truths as its chief underlying thought; it is hard to understand and must be interpreted in this light. When the Buddha says “existence” his chief underlying thought is conventional existence; when he says “non-existence” his chief underlying thought is non-inherent existence; when he says “existence-and-non-existence” his chief underlying thought is conventional-existence-and-non-inherent-existence as a mere object of examination.

[45] Neither does inherently existent form, having the nature of elements, arise from elements nor from itself and not even from others. Therefore, it does not exist, does it?

[46] A form cannot have the fourfold nature of the elements because if the form has four elements then it will be fourfold and the four elements cannot have a singular form or else they will become one like form, so how can form arise from the four great elements as its cause?

[47] Form is not apprehended as inherently existing, so therefore the form does not exist inherently. If it is said that the inherent existence of form is understood by the mind which apprehends it, then such a mind does not exist inherently because it has arisen from causes and conditions to it cannot be used as a reason for proving the inherent existence of a form.

[48] If a mind apprehends a form with inherent existence then the mind will apprehend its own nature. Such a mind has arisen from causes and conditions, so it is a dependent arising which lacks inherent existence. In the same way, form does not exist truly, so how can that mind apprehend a form with true existence?

[49] The kind of form, which has arisen but not ceased to exist, that I have explained is not apprehended by each moment of the mind in the present. Therefore, how can such a mind apprehend forms of the past and also of the future?

[50] In all times color and shape do not exist as two different things. If they were to exist as two different things then a mind could apprehend shape without considering color or color without considering shape. Because these two do not exist as two different things, so therefore there is not a mind which apprehends shape without taking color into consideration nor color without taking shape into consideration. In the world, a form is known to be singular; if its shape and color were to exist as two different things then the form would appear to the world as two instead of one.

[51] The eye has no consciousness because the eye is a form but eye consciousness is formless and that which is formless cannot adhere to form. In the same way the form which is observed has no eye consciousness, nor is it between eye and form. Because eye consciousness is generated in dependence on eye and form, if it is apprehended as having inherent existence, that is a mistaken concept.

[52] When the eye does not see itself, how can it see forms? Therefore the eye and the forms do not have self-existence and the remaining entrances should be understood in the same way.

[53] The eye is devoid of its own self-existent nature. It is also devoid of the self-existent nature of another. In the same way, form is devoid of its own self-existent nature as well as that of another. And it is the same with the rest of the entrances.

[54] When any of the six internal entrances arises simultaneously with contact, at that time the rest of the entrances will be devoid of the nature of contact. The rest of the entrances which are devoid of the nature of contact do not depend on the nature of contact. That which is not devoid of the nature of contact will not depend on that which is devoid of the nature of contact.

[55] The eye, eye consciousness and its object arise and immediately disintegrate, so they cannot exist as abiding in their natures and so those three cannot assemble. When these three cannot assemble, contact cannot exist and if contact cannot exist, so there cannot be feeling.

[56] Consciousness arises in dependence on internal and external entrances. Because consciousness arises in dependence on the entrances, so it is like a mirage and an illusion which are devoid of inherent existence.

[57] Consciousness cannot arise without taking its object, so it depends on the object of knowledge. The object of knowledge cannot arise without depending on the consciousness which apprehends it, and therefore because they exist in a mutually dependent way both of them lack inherent existence. The object of know ledge and the apprehension of the object do not exist inherently, therefore the person who knows the object does not exist inherently.

[58] Buddha has seen no essence in composite phenomena with inherent existence so he said that all composite phenomena are impermanent, so therefore they are devoid of inherent existence, or because he said that all composite phenomena are impermanent, so how could they exist inherently in the nature of permanent phenomena? If phenomena were to have inherent existence they should either be permanent or impermanent; but how can there be phenomena which are both permanent and impermanent at the same time?

[59] Through superimposition one develops the three distorted preconceptions toward pleasing, repulsive and neutral objects, which respectively cause attachment, hatred and closed-mindedness. Because they arise in dependence on these conditions, the essential nature of attachment, hatred and closed-mindedness is without inherent existence.

[60] A pleasing object does not exist inherently because some persons develop attachment towards it, others develop hatred towards it, and still others develop close-mindedness towards it. Therefore such qualities of the object are merely created by preconceptions, and these preconceptions also do not exist inherently because they develop from superimposition.

[61] Whatever may be an object of examination does not exist inherently. As the object of examination does not exist inherently, how can the thought-consciousness of that non-inherently existing object exist inherently? Therefore, because the object of examination and the thought-consciousness arise from causes and conditions, they are empty of inherent existence.

[62] The mind which directly understands emptiness is an unmistaken mind which eliminates the ignorance that arises from the four evil preconceptions. Without that ignorance the karmic formations will not arise, and so neither will the remaining limbs.

[63] Anything which arises in dependence on any causes will not arise without those causes. Hence, functional things in the form of produced phenomena and non-functional things as unproduced phenomena would be empty of inherent existence which is the natural state of nirvana.

[64] The Teacher, Buddha, said that the conception of true existence of functional things which arise from causes and conditions is ignorance. From this ignorance arise the twelve dependent limbs.

[65] Understanding the non-inherent existence of things means seeing the reality [i.e., emptiness] which eliminates ignorance about the reality of things. This brings about the cessation of ignorantly grasping at an apparently true existence. From that the twelve limbs of dependent origination cease.

[66] Produced phenomena are similar to a village of gandharvas, an illusion, a hair net in the eyes, foam, a bubble, an emanation, a dream, and a circle of light produced by a whirling firebrand.

[67] There is nothing which exists inherently. In that fashion even non-functional things do not exist. Therefore, functional things which arise from causes and conditions as well as non-functional things are empty of inherent existence.

[68] Because all things are empty of inherent existence the Peerless Tathagata has shown the emptiness of inherent existence of dependent arising as the reality of all things.

[69] Ultimate reality is contained within the limit of the non-inherent existence of a thing. For that reason, the Accomplished Buddha, the Subduer, has imputed various terms in the manner of the world through comparison.

[70] What is shown conventionally to the world appears to be without disintegration, but the Buddha has never actually shown anything with true existence. Those who do not understand what is explained by the Tathagata to be conventionally existent and empty of the sign of true existence are frightened by this teaching.

[71] It is known in the way of the world that “this arises in dependence on that.” Such statements are not refuted. But whatsoever arises dependently does not exist inherently, and how can that non-inherent existence itself have inherent existence? In fact, that non-inherent existence must definitely not exist inherently!

[72] Those who have faith in the teaching of emptiness will strive for it through a number of different kinds of reasoning. Whatever they have understood about it in terms of non-inherent existence, they clarify this for others, which helps others to attain nirvana by abandoning grasping at the apparently true existence of cyclic existence and non-cyclic existence.

[73] By seeing these internal and external phenomena arising from causes and conditions they will eliminate the whole network of wrong views. With the elimination of wrong views they will have abandoned attachment, closed-mindedness and hatred and thereby attain nirvana unstained by wrong views.

Alfred North Whitehead and Process Philosophy

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It is rather unfortunate that 20th century philosophy is remembered chiefly for two main schools of thought. One was the analytic turn towards logic and eventually the study of language, pioneered by thinkers such as Bertrand Russell. The other was a move towards existentialism and postmodernism in the continental school. Each was motivated by a rejection of even the possibility of ever answering great questions on God, morality and metaphysics, and instead took a subjective turn. This was spurred on by Marxist theory on the continent, for the analytical school it was guided by a general distrust of metaphysics and philosophising of the kind done by Hegel, a disdain for the elaborate metaphysicsal systems seen to greatest effect in the school of German idealism and Neo Hegelians.

While these two trends dominated the century, there were nevertheless some great thinkers who fall outside of these two poles, chief among them being Alfred North Whitehead. Whitehead is best remembered for working with a young Bertrand Russell on the Principia Mathematica. After his early focus on mathematics, he turned to the study of the philosophy of science, his contributions to this field are also notable, as he  would publish a unique and working theory of relativity. In the final period of his career, Whitehead was offered the chance to become head of the department of philosophy at Harvard, which he duly accepted. Whitehead turned his great mind to the field of speculative philosophy, and over the next eight years he would create his unique philosophical school of thought, culminating in the publication of Process and Reality. Whitehead created what he called the Philosophy of Organism, but which has since been more popularly called Process Philosophy.

Process philosophy breaks with the Western tradition instituted by Aristotle and discards the notions of enduring substance and matter, instead taking process itself as being ultimately fundamental to the nature of reality. Whitehead terms it “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness” to wrongly take some part of reality as ultimately fundamental. This fallacy is committed when someone sees reality as being made up of tiny bits of matter, beyond which there is nothing more fundamental. In breaking from the long tradition of substance metaphysics, which takes parts of the world as separate and imagines them to exist independently, Whitehead also breaks from traditional philosophical language, which is “thing” oriented in nature, and introduces a variety of new terms to help understand his process oriented Metaphysics.

Whitehead claims reality is fundamentally made of Actual Entities, in his own words “they are the final real things of which the world is made…. God is an actual entity, and so is the most trivial puff of existence in far-off empty space.” Whitehead’s Actual Entities are similar to Leibniz’s monads, but, while the monads of Leibniz are “windowless”, Whitehead’s Entities could be said to be all window, they are temporal events which flow into one another, and prehend one another. The many become one, and are added to by one. Whitehead’s vision of reality is thus holographic in nature, every entity mirrors every other, including those of the past which have gone through Concrescences with other Actual Entities to create the current ones, thus gaining Objective Immortality, as they live on in all future Actual Entities.

The theory of organism provides a solution to the problem of the relation between mind and matter. We are wont to think that mind and matter are two distinct facts of experience influencing each other in some way. But how can any mutual interference be possible if they are separated from each other? The problem can be solved only if mind and matter interact by a relation of process. Nature flows into the mind and flows out transformed by it into the objects of perception. Here, neither of the two is more real than the other. The perceiver and the perceived form one continuous process. There are no subjects and objects differentiated from one another. The perceived universe is a view of itself from the standpoint of its parts that are modified by the activity of its whole being. There is a continuity of process between mind and matter. Thus, Whitehead is commonly labelled a panpsychist, though modern process philosophers use the term Panexperientialism to clarify his thought, as Whitehead himself says experience is prior to consciousness, and not vice versa. This means, in a very real way that the whole universe is in a state of conscious interaction with itself, an object is nothing but a continuous process of actual occasions as we experience them in their externalised condition. There is no fixed object anywhere. An event is a series of actual occasions revealed in perception as demonstrated in a molecule for a few moments. Objects are more complex formulations of such events, they are the coming together of Actual Entities into societies.

Whitehead speaks of an Ingressive evolution of the actual occasions from possible forms of experience which are known as Eternal Objects. The eternal objects Ingress into the formation of actual occasions. These eternal objects are not concrete existences but abstract possibilities of the evolution of the actual occasions. They are Whitehead’s more abstract version of Plato’s forms, non actualised possibilities which make reality as we experience it possible. The number 3 is an eternal object, as is a possible musical pattern. These Eternal Objects exist in God’s Primordial Nature.

What spurs on this endless process of creation, this evolution of Actual Entities into more complex stages of becoming. Whitehead uses the term enjoyment to describe the motivation of the process. Actual Entities interact and form concrescences for the enjoyment of the act of creation, as they evolve into more complex societies and achieve objective immortality within the greater process. Fundamental to reality is Creativity. This concept of creativity takes on a similar role to the Will in Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, it is all that is fundamental to reality and pervades the cosmos in it’s influence, it is the driving force behind the process. Even God, generally seen as the ultimate metaphysical existent, is for Whitehead a mere non temporal accident of the ultimate of Creativity. As Whitehead explains, “In all philosophic theory there is an ultimate which is actual in virtue of its accidents. It is only then capable of characterization through its accidental embodiments, and apart from these accidents is devoid of actuality. In the philosophy of organism this ultimate is termed ‘creativity’; and God is its primordial, non-temporal accident”

This neatly introduces the concept of Whitehead’s God, and God in process philosophy generally. Whitehead’s brief descriptions of God’s role has since inspired the rise of it’s own school of process theology. Whitehead turns the concept of God on it’s head by introducing a temporal God to his system, who is not all powerful, but instead co operate with and coaxes along Actual Entities in a certain direction. Whitehead’s God is panentheistic, or Dipolar, in that it contains two natures.

The first aspect of God is the Consequent Nature of God, which is the God in the world aspect we most immediately experience, this is God entering into the world through the prehensions of actual occasions. This is akin to the classical God of theism, which acts on the world, but his power is limited in that each Actual Entity retains freedom in it’s activity. God is more like a loving mother, encouraging and supporting each entity along it’s journey than it is like the authoritarian father figure of the Abrahamic religions. Whitehead is not specific on how significant the effect of God is on the world, but he does give to each Actual Entity Subjective Aim which is their fundamental motivation in moving forward. For Schopenhauer, the Subjective Aim is the same in all, the kernel of the Will to Live. We can rather suppose the idea found in much religion and mysticism, that the subjective aim is the aspiration of the universe to realise it’s perfection in union with the Absolute or Godhead.

The other, more theoretical nature of God is his Primordial Nature. As it is more fundamental to the metaphysics of Whitehead, this aspect is discussed more in Process and Reality. As mentioned, the primordial nature of God contains the Eternal Objects which, so to speak, provide the being for the becoming of existence. This is the impersonal, trans-temporal aspect of God which is the ground of being.

It is easy to see why theologians have been drawn to the model offered by Whitehead as a way of understanding God. Within a framework of process philosophy, many of the age old theological problems are better understood. For Whitehead, God cannot be held responsible for the problem of evil, this is true because God is not the creator but the principle of limitation, who provides the conditions necessary for the manifestation of the universe. The process of reality is like a jazz session, multiple musicians play their instruments off each other, originally there is chaos, and there is often bad music created by the individual musicians often conflicting aims, but great music is created when the musicians work in tandem to express their creativity. We are once again reminded of the fundamental reason for this whole process to Whitehead, which is one of enjoyment. Whitehead frees us from the nihlistic, fatalistic obfuscations of modern philosophy and gives us a way of seeing the world which keeps a special place for reverence to creativity, novelty, beauty and freedom

 

One of my favourite modern Whiteheadians, who also writes excellently on Nietszche and Schopenhauer, is Peter Sjöstedt-H. You can follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/ontologistics

Kali Yuga – Are We Living In The Dark Age?

According to Hinduism, the world is currently in a state of Kali Yuga, or the dark age. One might take this as mere fiction and carry on, but considering the Hindus produced the finest examples of wisdom ever created in the Vedas, and that they generated their own theory of evolution, I believe we should consider carefully this ancient idea, which is also found in other religions.

According to Hinduism, the universe is destined to go through four Yugas or stages, the last of which is Kali Yuga. There is dispute about when this age started, indeed some have argued it is already over, but charting the course of the modern world one can see a drastic move away from tradition, spirituality and religion towards atheism, materialism and radical politics, starting around the enlightenment. Though this was focused in the West, in the East we have likewise seen a descent into barbarism, as the Islamic Golden Age was followed by centuries of intellectual stagnation from the Muslim world. The reverence for the ancient religions in the East is waning, as countries like India embrace modernism, while Buddhism has faced suppression in parts of communist Asia.

This may all seem a natural progression of history, though man has never lived so cut off from certain aspects of his nature. One would have no reason to think this is part of some greater epoch, had we not the incredibly prescient predictions of the Hindus, which bear incredible conformity to what we see in the phenomenon of modernity. I will leave what strikes me as the most accurate predictions here for the reader to evaluate themselves. All are taken from the ancient Srimad Bhagavatam.

Prediction 1:

Religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the age of Kali.

Prediction 2:

In Kali Yuga, wealth alone will be considered the sign of a man’s good birth, proper behaviour and fine qualities. And law and justice will be applied only on the basis of one’s power.

Prediction 3:

Men and women will live together merely because of superficial attraction, and success in business will depend on deceit. Womanliness and manliness will be judged according to one’s expertise in sex, and a man will be known as a brahmana just by his wearing a thread.

Prediction 4:

A person’s spiritual position will be ascertained merely according to external symbols, and on that same basis people will change from one spiritual order to the next. A person’s propriety will be seriously questioned if he dos not earn a good living. And one who is very clever at juggling words will be considered a learned scholar.

Prediction 5:

A person will be judged unholy if he does not have money, and hypocrisy will be accepted as virtue. Marriage will be arranged simply by verbal agreement, and a person will think he is fit to appear in public if he has merely taken a bath.

Prediction 6:

A sacred place will be taken to consist of no more than a reservoir of water located at a distance, and beauty will be thought to depend on one’s hairstyle. Filling the belly will become the goal of life, and one who is audacious will be accepted as truthful. He who can maintain a family will be regarded as an expert man, and the principles of religion will be observed only for the sake of reputation.

Prediction 7:

As the earth thus becomes crowded with a corrupt population, whoever among any of ther social classes shows himself to be the strongest will gain political power.

Prediction 8:

The citizens will suffer greatly from cold, wind, heat, rain and snow. They will be further tormented by quarrels, hunger, thirst, disease and severe anxiety.

Prediction 9:

In Kali-yuga men will develop hatred for each other even over a few coins. Giving up all friendly relations, they will be ready to lose their own lives and kill even their own relatives.

Prediction 10:

Uncultured men will accept charity on behalf of the Lord and will earn their livelihood by making a show of austerity and wearing a mendicant’s dress. Those who know nothing about religion will mount a high seat and presume to speak on religious principles.

Prediction 11:

Cities will be dominated by thieves, the Vedas will be contaminated by speculative interpretations of atheists, political leaders will virtually consume the citizens, and the so-called priests and intellectuals will be devotees of their bellies and genitals.

 

So from examining these predictions what are the characteristics of this promised age, and how well does it describe the modern age?

  • Widespread atheism, lack of respect for religion and a lack of understanding of religion by those who practice it.  This is evident in the lack of understanding among modern theologians and religious figures of the perennial aspects of religion. Warring religious tribes kill each other over interpretations of scripture, not realising that at root they are all branches of a more profound universal religion. We are also warned of propounders of religion being focused on nothing but their “bellies and genitals.” Giving the recent revelations to come from religious institutions, this became more of a problem than anyone realised.
  • Materialism. The view that the universe is contained of nothing but brute matter, with no spiritual aspect, no reason for being, and no phenomenon beyond the material has never been more popular or widely accepted than today. There were schools who propounded this view in ancient India, but they had few followers. In the modern world, people like Richard Dawkins can get a huge following among ordinary people by arguing for this simplistic materialism. The narrative is that it is the philosophy science gives us, but when one examines physics this is patently false. Yet people believe it. Often when challenging a materialist, it becomes apparent they believe it because they want to believe it.
  • Obsession with money, material goods. Kali Yuga is a time when man’s focus turns away from what is objectively good and instead focuses on self interest, which manifests in the modern obsession with money. From a young age, people are indoctrinated into the belief that the highest ideal in life is to become wealthy, no higher ideal is imagined, while religion and ethics are seen as means to an end, useful to comfort some people, but secondary to the ultimate goal.
  • Collapse of marriage. Degradation of sex. To the Hindus, marriage was a sacred institution with spiritual purposes. This is another aspect of the perennial philosophy, marriage is not a contract between two people who live and breed together, but a spiritual union worthy of reverence. Sex was intended as an act of love or procreation, the idea of engaging in casual sex just for pleasure would be considered morally abhorrent. Not only is it the hedonism that is antithetical to a spiritual view of the world, but it also reduces people as means to an end, objects of pleasure. We are now at the stage where, as the scriptures predict, men and women will live together merely because of superficial attraction
  • Machiavellianism. Though the term was yet to be invented, the Hindu scriptures predicted that politicians in Kali Yuga would be self serving, devoid of beliefs and focused only on their own gain, even at the expense of the people they represent. Never before has this been more felt than in the modern age, politicians go on telivision to defend policies they don’t like, they stab each other in the back and decide policies more based on their popularity and chance of winning votes than for thinking they are what’s right. In the recent Republican primaries in the US, most candidates denied man made climate change because they realise people don’t want to be told unfortunate truths.
  • Environmental Destruction. The Scriptures promise widespread environmental catastrophe. Flooding, drought, and extreme weather will negatively effect people’s life span and the world will descend into a less habitable state. We now realise the huge destruction being done to the planet’s eco system by climate change, which confirms these predictions, yet still, little action is taken. Most people know the reality of climate change, but carry on living in ways which worsen it.

Looking at these predictions, one finds it hard not to draw the conclusion that the Hindus were correct. Rather than engaging in early dystopian fiction, they were warning humanity of the dark days it faced as it threw off essential aspects of it’s nature and descended into materialism and amoralism. Most see this brave new world as a better one, a multi coloured, diverse, relativistic open society in which nothing is really right or wrong, systems of oppression such as religion and tradition are thrown off, and people are free to behave like the well evolved primates they are, free from superstition and guilt. At least, this is what we are told.

We are told we are happy, yet more people than ever complain of depression, anxiety and general dissatisfaction with life. We are told we don’t need religion to behave morally, yet time and again we are reminded of the selfishness and self obsession of modernity. We are told we are enlightened, yet at root many feel it is not the case. Buried in there, despite all the actions taken to suppress it, is the intuition that there is more to life than the material, that there is a right and wrong, and that spending a life chasing pleasure is inherently empty. As long as that spark of intuition remains, there is still the possibility for it to light the flames of true enlightenment

Immortality: A Dialogue

Attached is an audio reading of one of my favourite segmemts of philosophical writing, from one of my favourite philosophers – Arthur Schopenhauer. The dialogue is a discussion of immortality, death, and what, if anything survives it. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

The 5 Greatest Minds of Philosophy

Philosophy has gifted the human race with the wisdom of some of the greatest minds we have seen. From the time of Thales, humanities best and brightest have been attracted by the lure of philosophy, and an insight into their unique way of thinking has helped illuminate the shades of ignorance we would otherwise have been left wallowing in. Now, we rank the 5 greatest minds in philosophy.

 

#5 – Arthur Schopenhauer

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Though often underrated, Schopenhauer was the great genius of the 19th century. Schopenhauer published his doctoral thesis, “On The Fourfold Root Of The Principle Of Sufficient Reason” when he was 25, by the age of 29 he had published his magnum opus, the world as will and idea. By then he was fluent in 7 languages, and had produced a work of philosophy that built on the work of Kant to create a holistic explanation of reality which unified Eastern and Western thought. Tolstoy said Schopenhauer took philosophy “as far as it could go”. Schopenhauer himself would not be surprised that to this day his genius is underrated, as he said himself, “Talent hits a target no one can reach, genius hits a target no one can see.”

 

#4 – Plato

plaWhitehead said all of Western philosophy was a series of footnotes to Plato. His impact can’t be understated. Plato’s genius lay in his ability to combine theories from his predecessors and contemporaries and add his own unique insights, insights which to this day seem as relevant as ever. Another aspect of Plato’s genius was the way he could implant deep wisdom into simple dialogues, and, while never pointing to exactly what he believed to be true, the power of his work comes from his constant suggestion. He doesn’t hold up a correct answer, he leaves suggestions to point future generations in the right direction. His work tackles everything from cosmology to politics, love and ethics. His theory of the forms remains relevant today, especially in the field of mathematics and quantum theory, reminding us yet again just how insightful his philosophy was.

 

#3 – Aristotle

aristotlePlato’s greatest student, Aristotle may well be the first great polymath, writing authoritatively on ethics, metaphysics, physics, logic, art, poetry, drama, politics and zoology. A great systematiser, Aristotle’s form of logic would dominate for over two thousand years. His greatest contribution in the area of metaphysics was postulating the necessity of an “unmoved mover”. Aquinas would later revive his thought in Europe and present it as a way to rationally ground faith. He laid the groundwork for the scientific method by looking to the world for evidence for his theories, while his virtue ethics has seen a revival of interest in recent years as an alternative to deontology and utilitarianism.

 

 

#2 – Alfred North Whitehead

anwWhitehead may be remembered as the genius we missed. Though geniuses such as Plato and Aristotle are still widely read and influential, Whitehead’s philosophical work went mostly under the radar, seen as too difficult and obscure, and as a defender of speculative metaphysics in the era of positivism and the language turn, he was perhaps the right man at the wrong time. The genius of Whitehad is truly incredible. In 1910 he published the Principia Mathematica with his colleague Bertrand Russell, the volume made impotant contributions to math, logic and science. Whitehead would then shift his focus onto the area of science, and was the only one apart from Einstein to publish a working theory of relativity. He turned his focus to philosophy late in his career, when, in his 60’s he was invited to teach it at Harvard. Eight years later he published his Magnum Opus, Process and Reality. Considered one of the most difficult philosophical texts ever, Whitehead created a highly unique and original system which offered a comprehensive system of metaphysics, and gave birth to thWhitee school known as Process Philosophy. Whitehead also wrote on the history of ideas, symbolism, language and aesthetics.

 

#1 – Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz

gwl Whitehead himself said there was a book to be written titled “The Mind Of Leibniz”, and, while his philosophy is not generally considered as great as others, no one doubts his immense genius. Another great polymath, Leibniz made important contributions to metaphysics, logic, epistemology, philosophy of religion, mathematics, jurisprudence, history and even geology. He is perhaps best known for discovering calculus independently of, and at the same time as, Isaac Newton as well as the binary system. Though Newton is considered one of the greatest geniuses who ever lived, and his contributions were more influential, most who know Leibniz consider him to have had a greater mind. One of the last “men who knew everything”, Leibniz’ unmatched ability to excel in diverse and complex topics, while still making creative contributions of his own is an incredible testament to the capabilities of the human mind .

Has Aristotle’s Tomb Been Found?

In huge news in the world of philosophy, it appears an archaeologist may have unearthed the 2400 year old tomb of the great Aristotle. A team of archaeologists claim they have found the tomb at Ancient Stagira, Central Macedonia.

Aristotle was born in Stagira in 384 BC and died in Chalcis, Evia, at 322 BC. The great philosopher was originally believed to have been buried at Chalcis, however, archaeologists are now certain that the tomb they have found belongs to Aristotle.

 

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