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Philosophy asks questions about the interconnection of the universe, the world, and humankind. The wisdom of the meaning of life is the conclusion of human thought.
Philosophy is the realm of human reasoning about anything and everything. It departs from one recognized fact. Humankind is the highest form of life. Humans inhabit Earth and the question is why is it so? What is the purpose of this scenario? How do we live our lives?
(Audit of Humankind, chapter 5.4)
Humans, down through the ages, have used their individual and collective brains and minds to analyze their physical surroundings, the Universe. Likewise, they’ve cogitated about thousands of years of human interplay, living beings that occupy this Space. Based on all this raw data they’ve drawn conclusions. They’ve been valiant in trying to answer all the big questions in and about life. That is Philosophy.
This final chapter of Audit of the Universe focuses on How Humankind Reasons. The bottom line for this is we need a social formula, a set of basics, to know how humans should live and how they can bring and maintain peace and prosperity to Earth.
Reasoning revolves around the central theme of human well-being. It is the whats, hows, and whys of human existence related to its environment, in the largest sense of the term.
Philosophy revolves around three centers:
- The Universe, the material, the immaterial.
- Life, mainly humans, in their relationship and dealings with the material, animals, each other, and maybe extra-terrestrial beings.
- The solutions in the form of wisdom teachings.
The three sections of The Explanation follow this format. Obviously presented in a particular fashion and with wisdom teaching that does not emanate from humans. Philosophy focuses solely on human reason.
We have a well-known philosopher in France and I want to summarize and illustrate this way of reasoning via a series of three of his many books.
Michel Onfray reconnects readers with a philosophical meditation in direct contact with the cosmos. To contemplate the world, to recapture the founding intuitions of time, of life, of nature, to understand its mysteries and the lessons it distills for us. It focuses on the Greek ideal and pagan human wisdom to establish human harmony with the world.
Greek philosophy was more idealistic and theoretical. Dialogues eternalize and practical applications are not forthcoming. As for pagan human wisdom, there is no consensus and it is up to each individual to formulate their own self-understanding and concepts about life.
Please engrave this reflection about human reasoning in your mind. We want and need guidance and it is thrown back at you! There’s confusion and it’s up to you to negotiate the rocky road of life.
In one sentence Onfray succinctly and beautifully summarizes the entire concept of philosophy. It focuses on the Greek ideal and pagan human wisdom to establish human harmony with the world. In fact, as the above video states, anyone and everyone has their own ideal and wisdom as to how life and the world should function to reach harmony.
The key I’d like you to retain is that philosophy is motivated by HUMAN wisdom.
His second book is Decadence.
It reveals the duplicity of our world. The Egyptian pyramids, the Greek temples, the Roman forum: so many traces of dead civilizations proving … that they are mortal! Ours, two thousand years old, does not escape this law. There are mad desert monks, bloodthirsty Christian emperors, Muslims building their “paradise in the shadow of swords” of great inquisitors, an atheist priest who announces the death of God, a Jacobin revolution that kills two kings, dictatorships of left then right, death camps brown and red, an artist who sells his excrement, a writer sentenced to death for writing a novel, two young boys who claim Islam and slaughter a priest during a Mass – not to mention a thousand other things …
This book is neither optimistic nor pessimistic, but tragic because it is no longer about laughter or crying, but understanding. Philosophy has the mission of making sense out of all this. This goes way beyond just drawing out the lessons. It can ask and give answers to questions like, is there a time for rebellion? Can you depose and/or harm a mediocre leader? Under what circumstances?
These and many others are extremely difficult queries to place on average people. Philosophy is the discipline that is supposed to unravel the mysteries of existence. It is supposed to disentangle that twisted string so we have a straight line to all the solutions. That’s where the third book comes in.
Onfray’s third book is entitled Sagesse – Wisdom.
How to behave in a civilization that threatens to collapse? By reading the Romans whose philosophy is based on examples to follow and not on smoky theories (like the Greeks). Wisdom is a kind of philosophical extravaganza in which one witnesses the death of Pliny the Elder and the gladiatorial combats, the grandiose suicides and banquets of ridiculous philosophers, the sublime friendships and the assassinations which change the course of history.
This book answers very concrete questions: what use to make of one’s time? How to be firm in pain? Is it possible to age well? How to tame death? Should we have children? What is keeping your word? What is loving someone with love or friendship? Can we own without being possessed? Should we get involved in politics? What does nature teach us? What does the value of honor resemble? While waiting for the catastrophe, one can always live like a Roman: that is to say upright and upstanding.
There, in a nutshell, is the concluding advice of a reflection on the Universe. Live an upright life. As the above video points out this revolves around elaborating a system of ethics. How people should live together and get along with each other. Beauty and logic come into this equation because humans value what’s beautiful. Philosophy tries to define what that value is using logical reasoning. Hence this second way of human reasoning.
Philosophers are intent on offering their value system to the world as a basis to living that will reach harmony for all. This next video proposes optimistic nihilism. In other words, be happy and have fun, you get one shot at life, you get to decide whatever this means to you.
There are seven billion of us here on Earth. Philosophy tell EACH HUMAN to figure it out for themselves. Use your own human reasoning power.
Philosophers end up giving us their recipe for living in harmony with ourselves and with others. Here are a couple of the better-known ones today and their ideas.
Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life
- Stand up straight with your shoulders back
- Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
- Make friends with people who want the best for you
- Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
- Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
- Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
- Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
- Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie
- Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
- Be precise in your speech
- Do not bother children when they are skateboarding
- Pet a cat when you encounter one on the street
Yuval Noah Harari’s 21 Rules for the 21st century.
Part I: The Technological Challenge 1
1. DISILLUSIONMENT The end of history has been postponed
2. WORK When you grow up, you might not have a job
3. LIBERTY Big Data is watching you
4. EQUALITY Those who own the data own the future
Part II: The Political Challenge
5. COMMUNITY Humans have bodies
6. CIVILIZATION There is just one civilization in the world
7. NATIONALISM Global problems need global answers
8. RELIGION God now serves the nation
9. IMMIGRATION Some cultures might be better than others
Part III: Despair and Hope
10. TERRORISM Don’t panic
11. WAR Never underestimate human stupidity
12. HUMILITY You are not the center of the world
13. GOD Don’t take the name of God in vain
14. SECULARISM Acknowledge your shadow
Part IV: Truth
15. IGNORANCE You know less than you think
16. JUSTICE Our sense of justice might be out of date
17. POST-TRUTH Some fake news lasts forever
18. SCIENCE FICTION The future is not what you see in the movies
Part V: Resilience
19. EDUCATION Change is the only constant
20. MEANING Life is not a story
21. MEDITATION Just observe
Whether it’s Socrates or Aristotle from the Greek realm, Plutarch or Pliny the Elder from Rome, Francis Bacon or Jean-Jacques Rousseau from the Christian era or Thomas Hobbes and Friedrich Nietzsche as more modern examples, philosophy remains the ideas of humans.
Can human reason alone answer the big questions in life? Can the philosophy developed by human reason alone show us the way that leads to real peace and prosperity for all of humankind?
This blog post is an excerpt from chapter 5.4 of the book Audit of Humankind.
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