Friday, 28 April 2017

Why there won't be any more revolutions

First of all I have been on holiday, so there was no post last Friday and this Monday (apologies!).

Second of all I have discovered that posting twice a week is too much for me, so I will have to go weekly. I will be posting every Friday (starting today!).

This past week I read an amazing article from Gazzetta del Apocalipsis explaining why there won't be any more revolutions. The article is in Spanish and although it focuses on the situation in Spain, it has global reach.

I would like to comment the highlights here and also add my thoughts:

Probably you have noticed how nowadays, big scandals like the Volkswagen one, or the espionage cases and diplomatic intrigues published by Wikileaks, or the never-ending cases of corruption over the world have zero or almost zero consequences. This is because:

EPIPHANY #1: THE TRUTH IS NOW WORTHLESS

Long are gone the days when people would rally the streets and force the powers that be to make the necessary change that the people demand. Today you will be lucky if anybody turn up for a demonstration and even if millions did turn up, they would then go back home and sit there waiting for something to happen.

But why is this?

EPIPHANY #2: WE ARE ADDICTED TO EVER FASTER INFORMATION

According to the article, this apathy is created by the continuous bombardment of information we receive nowadays, constantly: news, internet, social media, tv, radio. We want more and more info, quicker and quicker. It is like a drug. We are getting addicted to the ever faster stimuli that gets pumped straight to your brain.

The problem is that:

EPIPHANY #3: WE CANNOT PROCESS ALL THE INFORMATION

So we love it when the opinion is nicely and neatly provided together with the information. We are told how to think about the info, how to feel about it. This is completely in line with what I wrote in my post about surrogate thinking. Basically we outsource our thinking to others. We are relieved of the hassle of valuing the contents of the info that we are quickly digesting, so that we can quickly get some more. Everything is now 140 characters long or a very short easily digestible article. This is why the acronym tl;dr (too long; didn't read) came to exist in recent years.

And all of this leads us to:

EPIPHANY #4: WE ARE EXHAUSTED FROM CONSUMING INFORMATION

Even if we realised that we should do something about a particular piece of information, we are so apathetic and exhausted that we basically do nothing.

How many times have you spent hours writing an essay, a post, an important email or letter to just receive a smiley, a Like, a +1, as a reaction?

How many times have you enjoyed reading a fantastic article but you left no comments or gave no recognition to the writer?

Even in conversations nowadays, the topics covered are quite scarce and the depth of the conversation it usually kept at a comfortable shallow level. You don't want to offend anyone (another hot topic to cover at some other time: the easily offended). So we just parrot the pre-digested info fed to us by the media and we just agree or politely disagree to them.

And to conclude:

EPIPHANY #5: NOBODY WILL SAVE US FROM THIS

There won't be any revolution in the decades to come (or ever!), unless we fight this apathy, unless we make an enormous active and conscious effort to fight against surrogate thinking.

Philosophy is the key skill we all need to hone in order to fight this fight and win this war. In order to find happiness and lead a meaningful life.

Otherwise we are doomed to become Morlocks.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Is Existentialism for you?

I read The Ethics of Ambiguity a few weeks ago and I wanted to share my thoughts with you.

First of all I was overwhelmed by the way Simone de Beauvoir writes. I found it completely disorganised, with no structure whatsoever. It feels like she was just writing it as it came along while smoking weed or taking magic mushrooms. It is practically a brain dump. Did nobody read her manuscript before sending it to the prints? Maybe nobody had the guts to tell her about her writing style...

I must say that I read this after reading Wittgenstein's neat and OCD-written Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, so that might have influenced my perception of her writing style.

However, the content was pure gold. I found the content so interesting that I did something I have not done before: taking notes.


In this mere 162 pages, she covers the three pillars of Philosophy: Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics from the Existentialism's point of view.

Simone starts by saying:

"...the most optimistic ethics have all begun by emphasizing the
element of failure involved in the condition of man; without failure, no ethics; for a being who, from the very start, would be an exact co-incidence with himself, in a perfect plenitude, the notion of having-to-be would have no meaning. One does not offer an ethics to a God."

So basically, she is saying that all Ethics begin by saying that we are imperfect and that we should try to reach "perfect plenitude", "an exact co-incidence with ourselves".

She uses the concept that we all need Ethics because otherwise we would be fully perfect and the only fully perfect being would be God and that we obviously are not Gods, so we need Ethics.

And she also goes the other way around and says that because our ultimate goal is to become Gods (to reach that state of perfection where we no longer need Ethics), then the vehicle to achieve this is via Ethics.

So having said this, then the main concept in the "Ethics of Ambiguity" is that the ambiguity is between "lack of being" and "existence".

Lack of being is acknowledging that man is not complete, he needs to assert his freedom.

Existence is the (never-ending) process of trying to achieve freedom bit by bit, giving a purpose to his life. It is to strive for self-betterment.

She continues:

"His being is lack of being, but this lack has a way of being which is precisely existence".

This is quite the riddle. But there is more:

"My freedom must not seek to trap being but to disclose it. The disclosure is the transition from being to existence. The goal which my freedom aims at is conquering existence across the always inadequate density of being".

Basically, we cannot become "being". We need to accept that we cannot become perfect, a God. By "disclosing" (accepting) this, we move from "lack of being" into "existence". We begin our journey of self-betterment (Ethics) and the way to improve ourselves is by asserting our freedom (as per Sartre's definition).

Then Simone goes probably too far by saying that existentialism is the only way to go:

"Only, unlike Kant, we do not see man as being essentially a positive will. On the contrary, he is first defined as a negativity. He is first at a distance from himself. He can coincide with himself only by agreeing never to rejoin himself. There is within him a perpetual playing with the negative, and he thereby escapes himself, he escapes his freedom. And it is precisely because an evil will is here possible that the words "to will oneself free" have a meaning. Therefore, not only do we assert that the existentialist doctrine permits the elaboration of an ethics, but it even appears- to us as the only
philosophy in which an ethics has its place".

She states that we are first defined as a negativity (as opposed to the Kantian view of people being essentially good) because we are at a distance from ourselves and we can only coincide with ourselves by agreeing to never rejoin ourselves (hence the ambiguity).

She later repeatedly states that we must "will ourselves free", that we must assert our freedom. This means, that we need to explicitly acknowledge that we want to perfect ourselves and then we must embark in a never ending journey of self-betterment knowing that we will never reach our goal.

But what is the role model we should follow?

She gives a number of examples of different types of people and their conceptions of freedom. These are too long to discuss here (we can discuss them in the comments), but below is a small summary:

First she distinguishes between the sub-man (people that are not aware of their freedom and simply lead their lives as best as they can; in a way the poor) and the serious man (the regular person that refuses their freedom and complies with the system and sometimes takes advantage of it; in a way the middle and upper class).

She then lists a number of roles that embrace freedom but sometimes to the extreme: the nihilist, the adventurer, the passionate man, the critical thinker and the artist-writer.

The nihilist, the adventurer and the maniacally passionate man (that can turn into a tyrant), misread the meanings of freedom.

The ethical person, as portrayed by Beauvoir, is mainly the critical thinker and in a lesser fashion, the artist-writer as it is a generous role, creating "content" for everyone to enjoy (does it sound like in Carlopia?).

I would like to end with one of her quotes that resonated with me:

"Oppression divides the world into two clans: those who enlighten mankind by thrusting it ahead of itself and those who are condemned to mark time hopelessly in order merely to support the collectivity; their life is a pure repetition of mechanical gestures; their leisure is just about sufficient for them to regain their strength; the oppressor feeds himself on their transcendence and refuses to
extend it by a free recognition".

Do you identify yourself with this? It is about time you assert your freedom.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Philosophy 101

I read The Ethics of Ambiguity, by Simone de Beauvoir, a few weeks ago and I will be sharing my thoughts with you in my next post on Monday. However this post is about something else...

One of the things that I was very impressed with was how Simone covered the three pillars of Philosophy (Metaphysics, Epistemology and Ethics) in just over a hundred pages, defining her own philosophical current (existentialism) wholly.

That is an exercise I would like to do myself. I would like to spend the time to define my own take on Philosophy. I encourage you to do this exercise yourselves. Look at the questions below and come up with your theory for each of them to build up your very own philosophy.




MAKE-YOUR-OWN-PHILOSOPHY KIT!

METAPHYSICS: exploring the nature of reality

Find your own answers to the central questions:

1) Being and ontology: what is and what is not? 

2) Identity and change: what is equal to something else? Is change possible?

3) Causality and time: if A interacts with B and then something C happens (the effect), what this interaction of A with B what caused C or events are simply random? What is the definition of time?

4) Necessity and possibility: is this the only world (or reality) there is or are they alternative realities?

5) Cosmology and cosmogony: is the material world (our current reality) all there is or is there more? What is the origin of the Universe?

6) Mind and matter: what exactly is the mind and what is its relationship with the body? What is the matter made of?

7) Determinism and free will: do we have a destiny or do we have free will?

8) Religion and spirituality: is there a God (or multiple Gods) or not?



EPISTEMOLOGY: exploring the theory of knowledge

Find the answers to the central questions:

1) What is Knowledge?

2) What is Belief?

3) What is Truth?

4) How do you acquire knowledge? Is it possible?


ETHICS: exploring the best possible way to live


Find the answers to the central questions:

1) What are your Truth Values (if any!)

2) What is Good and what is Evil?

3) What is Right and what is Wrong?

4) What is expected of you as a human being?

5) What is the meaning/purpose of life?

6) What should you do and not do (if anything)?




And to finish I would like to leave you with the Gettier problem, to delve more into Epistemology (image and text from Wikipedia).

 There are two men, Smith and Jones, who are awaiting the results of their applications for the same job. Each man has ten coins in his pocket.

Smith has excellent reasons to believe that Jones will get the job and, furthermore, knows that Jones has ten coins in his pocket (he recently counted them). From this Smith infers, "the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket."

However, Smith is unaware that he also has ten coins in his own pocket. Furthermore, Smith, not Jones, is going to get the job.

While Smith has strong evidence to believe that Jones will get the job, he is wrong. Smith has a justified true belief that the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket; however, according to Gettier, Smith does not know that the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket, because Smith's belief is "...true by virtue of the number of coins in Jones's pocket, while Smith does not know how many coins are in Smith's pocket, and bases his belief...on a count of the coins in Jones's pocket, whom he falsely believes to be the man who will get the job."

These cases fail to be knowledge because the subject's belief is justified, but only happens to be true by virtue of luck. In other words, he made the correct choice (in this case predicting an outcome) for the wrong reasons.

This example is similar to those often given when discussing belief and truth, wherein a person's belief of what will happen can coincidentally be correct without his or her having the actual knowledge to base it on.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Surrogate thinking

In my previous post "Morlocks", I described how people nowadays are lethargic; too busy with their routine to spare a thought or two.

Since I started to work and formed a family, it was so easy to "fall asleep" under the constant lull of routine.

It was only recently that I rediscovered reading, proper reading, I mean books. Yes, those old paper things.

I soon discovered I was hungry. The more you read, the more you want to read. I devoured 11 books in 2 months. I also read all sorts of them: classics, modern, fiction, non-fiction, comics and serious philosophy.

This woke me up from "the Matrix".

Some people escape the slumber when they have a near-death experience. They are "forced" by the severity of the situation, to remember the finite nature of their lives and this usually propels people to make life-changing decisions after self-reflecting.

Others feel more than comfortable having other people thinking for them, taking decisions for them. I call this "surrogate thinking".

Thanks to my lovely Chinese wife, our trips to China and our Chinese friends, I have an appreciation on how being Chinese and leading a typical Chinese life is. So please, allow me to share it with you.

The premise is simple: through study, discipline and hard work, you get a university degree that will allow you to find a job. The job will get you a salary that you will mostly save. With the help of your parents, you should buy a flat (if you are a man) in order to find a wife that shortly after marrying will produce one or more babies (the one child policy is now gone). You will build up your savings if you had a boy, so that you can help him buy his flat in the future.

If you are a woman, you must marry during or soon after you complete your university degree. The pressure is tremendous and the whole family will try to avoid you being single at the age of 30. Did I say 30? From 26 your family will be on red alert to find you a good husband.

One of the books I read recently was Wish Lanterns and according to my wife (and my experiences in China), it is 100% true and accurate. If you are interested in the lives of the young 80s-and-90s-born Chinese, have a read.

Let me spend some more time talking about how they teach in China.

Chinese are pragmatic and they want maximum efficiency, so they will teach you the entire curriculum as scheduled and they will not deviate from the curriculum (no more, no less).

To put an example, in Math, they will introduce for example linear equations. They will define what they are and they will ask the class to repeat word for word the definition. They will ask you to write that definition and probably ask you to read it aloud a few times. Then, they will show you an example of a problem that needs linear equations to be solved. They will ask everybody to copy the problem and to repeat the problem themselves. Then at home they will have to practice a very long worksheet  on linear equations. Next day at school, they will review the homework and move to the next topic. Linear equations is now learned and does not need any more time spent on it.

Most importantly, at the exam, they will have a problem on linear equations and it will be the exact same problem they introduced in class or maybe a couple of numbers changed or apples instead of pears, but there will be no surprises and no need to think outside of the box.

More blatant are the examples on humanities, where it is all down to memorising the definitions, facts and data that were given to you.

This system has pros and cons.

Nobody can argue the huge success that the Chinese education system has achieved, with all their territories (Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong and Mainland) taking 4 of the top 10 spots worldwide according to the OECD PISA report.

I believe this is down to the hardcore iron-like discipline, more than the education system as a whole.

On the other hand, when it comes to critical thinking, creativity, individuality, Chinese people are victims of their surrogate thinking.

In China you will have plenty of people (mostly your parents) telling you what you should do, which job or career to take and they will push you hard in that direction.

It is easy to just go with the flow and you could wake up at 50 years old, about to retire, not having taken a single meaningful decision in your life. Well, you will probably decide what your children will be, funnily enough.

But we don't need to go as far as China to see the evils of surrogate thinking.

In the western world we are constantly bombarded with messaging and propaganda successfully manipulating our thinking. The media in all their forms, serving their owners' agendas, constantly telling us how to think and react to events and facts.

Social media lynching is terrifying; ending someone's entire career, ruining them for life simply for not conforming to the "standard" view of the world.

An example of this happened recently in Spain, where 21-year old Cassandra Vera was served a 1-year prison sentence for making a couple of jokes on Twitter about Carrero Blanco, a fascist dictator that was murdered by terrorist group ETA 43 years ago. Not only they got her a prison sentence, but they also got her banned for 7 years from any public service, destroying any hopes she had on becoming a History teacher. Political correctness gone mad.

You would imagine that having higher education would be enough for you to "wake up" from the spell we are under, but it clearly is not.

Alarming is the number of highly educated people that have given up all hope to fight back the system.

But we have a powerful tool: Philosophy! (no wonder they removed it from the high school curriculum in Spain recently).

I invite you to join the Philosophical Guerrilla. Our mission is to make people think, regardless of how hard it is for people to do so.

Some might call us Philosophical terrorists, due to the extreme pain and terror that thinking might cause to some people, but our cause is noble and just.

I urge you to spontaneously steer casual conversations with colleagues and friends towards philosophical grounds. I recommend you to start small, targeting one person at a time for maximum efficiency.

Open up blogs, facebook groups and twitter accounts and spread those hard questions.

Let's demand Philosophy slots on radio and TV. Let's have philosophers on chat shows and reality television. Nigel Warburton (@PhilosophyBites on Twitter) recently was posting many ideas on Twitter of commercially viable radio and TV shows of philosophical content without the gimmicks to make it more "accessible/palatable".

I actually think that having philosophers on TV is an excellent idea. They would be both comical and profound at the same time. Something for everyone.

Probably in the beginning people would just laugh and have a good time, but as the shows went by, the deeper meaning of philosophy would permeate and would plant a seed at the back of people's minds.

After two seasons, we would see a resurgence in Philosophy. It would be trendy, it would be cool. It would be commercialised and we would have twenty new Paulo Coelhos selling us "alternative medicine" and self-help books. Oh my goodness, it probably is not such a good idea.

No, I'm joking. This is just like publicity: there is no such thing as bad publicity.

So I want you to start waking people off the Matrix. We might still have a chance to save some from meaningless, purposeless, unexamined lives.

Make Socrates proud!

Friday, 7 April 2017

The death of Philosophy

This post is going to be more technical, so apologies for the deep and probably life-changing revelations. I will try to make it as amenable as possible. If you were looking for "proper" Philosophy, you got it!

Last year I was reading Logicomix. In it, Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead are trying to build up the whole of Math from pure logic.

In the story (which is pretty close to what really happened in history), Ludwig Wittgenstein appears as Russell's number one fan as he tries to use pure logic to define the entire world, reality and thinking. An enormous task.

He managed to synthesise it all neatly into the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

I will now try to translate the precise technical words that Wittgenstein used into plain English:

"The world consists of facts. Facts are existent states of affairs and states of affairs in turn are combinations of objects".

"Objects can combine with one another according to their logical internal properties".

"States of affairs are either existent (actual) or possible. The total combination of existent and possible states of affairs makes up the whole of reality. The world is those states of affairs that are existent".

Translation:

Every single thing that carries meaning or significance is a fact.

For example, a red apple is a fact.

A fact is a combination of atomic objects.
These atomic objects have logical internal properties that allow them to combine or not between them.

For example, the "apple-type" atoms that make up the flesh of the apple, plus the "apple-type" atoms that make up the skin of the apple, plus the "apple-type" stem and leaves, plus the "apple-type" shape and colour and smell and taste, etc.

They can conform a red apple because the objects that form it, all have the "apple-type" logical property. Objects like "hair", in principle, do not have the "apple-type" logical property, so they would not combine with the other "apple-type" objects.

Facts are either existent or possible. Reality is the combination of what exists plus what could be. The world are the facts that are existent.

For example: an artist could conceive the concept of a hairy apple and make a painting or a sculpture of a hairy apple. The artist has combined objects that currently did not have matching properties to create something new: the hairy apple. Hairy apples were always real, but they did not yet belong to our world; they were part of the possible facts (or states of affairs).

Ok, how are we doing? Are you still reading? We are getting there!

When I introduced Wittgenstein, I said that he was trying to define the entire world, reality and thinking just using logic. Well, we have covered the first two, let's go with thinking:

"Thoughts and propositions are pictures. Pictures are combinations of elements. Each element represents an object".

"The combination of elements in a picture represents the combination of  objects in a state of affairs".

Translation:

Wittgenstein presents thinking and language as an exchange of pictures. 

For example: when I was telling you about the hairy apple, I did not show you a hairy apple, but the effect of what I wrote and you read, generated a mental picture of a hairy apple even though probably you had never seen or pictured one before.

So basically when humans (and maybe animals, plants, things?) interact with each other, we are (normally) creating a picture on each other.

If we speak different languages or we use signs, noises, props, we just try to create the right picture on the receiving end.

In his later work, Philosophical Investigations, Wittgentstein actually ditched the logical argument entirely (which was a huge thing and probably the only philosopher ever to disown his own work) and focused on language.

For him, language was just a social game that we play. We just elicit a response from our listener. He uses the example of how babies get to learn their native language and how they can learn multiple languages simultaneously without needing to know any logic or grammar or anything at all.

Here is one for you: if you teach an ape sign language, would you agree that the ape is talking to you when they spontaneously use it with you? I imagine you would say yes.

How about a parrot, that repeats what you say? Imagine you give the parrot a biscuit and you say "biscuit" when doing so. The parrot suddenly starts to say biscuit and you give it a biscuit each time. Would you say the parrot is talking to you? According to Wittgenstein, it would; as it would be creating a picture of a biscuit plus the need for it.

How about you go to the top of a mountain and see the fabulous scenery? That brief moment of awe would create a picture in your mind, maybe a memory, maybe something new. Would you say that the scenery was talking to you? If you think about it, that might be why so many people love Nature, that indescribable feeling you get when you are surrounded by Nature.


Finally, I promised you the death of Philosophy, so here it is!

In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein also defined sense and nonsense.

To him, what can be inferred by using logic has sense.

The logical functions used to create sense are senseless as they carry no sense of their own, so they would be sort of "neutral".

What cannot be inferred by using logic is nonsense. So for example Mysticism, Metaphysics, Aesthetics, Ethics and Philosophy are nonsense.

According to Wittgenstein, there is no point in delving in these as no knowledge can be gained from them.

He himself considered Philosophy as "solved" by his Tractatus. If you read his last proposition (number 7), it "killed" Philosophy in just one line. It read like this:

7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

However, as I have mentioned, after many years, he came back to Philosophy and wrote Philosophical Investigations, although mainly to "put things right" as he disowned his Tractatus and probably he did not want to die leaving behind "a lie".

He ordered to have it published posthumously, so at least he still got some pride to not disown his own work while alive.

Monday, 3 April 2017

No need for God; we've got the Internet now!

In the olden days, when something was inexplicable or you were looking for answers, you would turn to God (or the Gods).

Later on, some people would turn to Philosophy to answer those questions. In the same way that you would look at the available catalogue of religions and Gods for answers, people would look through the existing philosophies for different answers to the same questions.

If we keep moving on in our time machine, we reach the development of Science and this also provided with some answers for some of the questions.

If we fast forward to our present day, we now have something that encompasses all of the above: the Internet.

Long gone are the days when at a friendly gathering people spiced up conversations by trying to guess who was that actor in that film, or how old is now that celebrity child from the 80s.

Now there is no need to show off your knowledge or try to convince people that you are right as opposed to  your brother-in-law. Now you can simply pull up your phone and have the precise fact within seconds. This was recently showcased in Gilmore Girls' revival, when Lorelai quotes a random fact about a smelly plant and Rory quickly pulls her phone and checks if it's true or not. Lorelai cannot believe that her own daughter would not trust her words (I wouldn't, you know how Lorelai is).

We are incredibly lucky to have the Internet. A collective recollection of most if not all wisdom and knowledge, with the biggest merit going to Wikipedia.

If we have a problem or worry, we now go to social media and post it. You only need to tell it once and multiple people will give you the comfort and reassurance that you are looking for. It is most efficient. Long gone are the days when you picked up your home telephone and called up one by one your best friends to tell them good or bad news or ask them for help with life-changing decisions. Now you can even get strangers to give you advice in your timeline and that advice might even be of better quality than the one from your friends, which could be biased or softened due to the existing relationship.

I struggle to find anything that religion can provide that the Internet can't.
---

I was amused by this new service where you can "outsource" praying. If you are too busy to pray yourself, you can contact online different groups and they will do the praying for you for a small donation or free of charge. You can even call an automated system and leave them a voicemail on the topic of your outsourced prayer.

I would have never thought of commoditising prayer. You schedule it, pay a monthly fee and you can completely relax knowing that you are covered. You could even call it a praying tax.

But what if they raised the price to a point that you don't feel comfortable paying, and all competing praying-for-you companies were together in it and aligned prices?

You would feel all that hassle of having to do it yourself, after having had such a relaxed life...
Probably you would just say "sod it" and stop praying altogether.

To be honest, I would go even further and outsource "believing in God".
For a small donation (or free for the first 6 months!), you can have someone believing in God (any or all Gods!) for you.

You would get a little plaque for your door displaying that you are fully covered for all known religions and asking visitors to not disturb the owners.

The little plaque could come with a QR code that proselytists could scan with their phones to check all deities covered.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Morlocks

I am currently watching the third season of Black Mirror and in many of the episodes, we are presented with people stuck to their smartphones, to the point that in one episode, one of the main characters dies because he was using his phone whilst driving.

Many books and articles have been written about this new (?) phenomenon, with the most popular being "Alone Together: why do we expect more from technology and less from each other" by Sherry Turkle.

I, myself, experience this on a daily basis from my lovely wife, where we will be talking about some topic while she looks at her smartphone screen. Called me old-fashioned, but in my time, this would have been considered extremely rude and  would have had serious consequences for our relationship. Now it is considered as "normal" by many.

Have you noticed how people no longer look at each other's eyes while talking? Well, if you are looking at your phone, no wonder you cannot keep eye contact with people.

But this is just one small piece of the puzzle. Probably you would have heard of the "Netflix effect", where you reject plans with friends or family outdoors in order to stay home and binge-watch series all cozened up in your sofa. Gradually nothing can compete with staying at home watching Netflix. It's easy, it's safe.

Where are we heading?

Typical of me to go slippery slope and think of the Morlocks of H.G. Wells. A human sub-species doing all the hard work for the Eloi, maintaining the machines that run the planet, even without understanding how they work or what they do and all for a few crumbs (of Eloi meat...).

It is so easy to conform; to go with the flow, stuck our faces in our smartphones all day long and then go back to our cave and watch Netflix day on end.

However, you would argue that for most people this is enough; that this actually make people happy.

But what is happiness?

This gets explained quite well in this particular Corey Mohler's Existential Comics strip.

My own view on happiness is that for short-term happiness, anything that distracts you from the realisation of the inevitability of death and the futility of life could be classified as a happiness source. So daily distractions like smartphones and Netflix could be sources of happiness, even going to work and unpleasant events like someone passing away would still be nothing compared with the existential angst that you would experience if you suddenly realise or remember about death and the lack of a meaningful life.

For long-term happiness, if that is even possible, I would venture actively doing something that would make you transcend beyond your finite life. A common choice is to have children, so that you know that a piece of you will continue to exist, and your grandchildren and their children, so on so forth. Another option is to leave your mark in History, to have your own Wikipedia entry for something (hopefully good!). You could produce something to reach a large portion of the population, like a book, a piece of art, entertainment, etc.

Most people would consider sufficient to chain multiple "distractions" throughout their lives to consider their lives happy and meaningful. And here is my final point for today: is ignorance bliss?



I was reading "Existential Terror and Breakfast" and on episode 5 (the one linked), Rev. Fitz (Michael Fitzgerald) was describing how two types of ape, a chimpanzee and a gorilla, had been taught how to sign. They were introduced to many concepts and their meaning. Some of the concepts were about feelings, like sadness, pain, soreness, etc. Before knowing about this, the apes were perfectly oblivious, but now that their eyes had been opened to these new concepts, there was no way back, no way of unlearning about these overwhelming feelings. They had been "enlightened" by humans and now they occupied an elevated position over regular apes, but at what cost!

In a way, Philosophy should come with a disclaimer: "use with caution".

Philosophy is a powerful tool that can elevate your mind in an "out-of-body" experience, allowing you to draw conclusions on what is important to you and your loved ones and helping you to better decide what to do with your life.

On the other hand, if you use it too much you may well end up like Malcolm Steadman in the "Existential Terror and Breakfast" series.

So to answer my own question à la Matrix, I would take the red pill, even if it is an uncomfortable truth.

And I would go as far as to ask you to not be a Morlock, Philosophise Now!