Month: April 2019

Week 18 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Mind-Body Dualism

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here! I hope you’re enjoying the topics so far.  Now that we’re approximately a third of the year in, the concepts are getting a little more abstract!  Hang on tight – we’re about to get metaphysical!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Substance Dualism Substance dualism is a fancy term for the belief that the mind and physical body are two different kinds of “stuff” in the universe. Think of the brain and mind.  The brain is physical substance, whose properties we can detect through scientific study.  For example, we can measure electrical impulses, chemicals, and understand the connections between cells.  The mind, however, seems to be a substance that really exists but is undetectable by scientific methods. The reference to the mind as a substance is controversial because although we have intimate subjective experience with it (we feel it), we cannot scientifically test its properties.  So how do we know the mind exists and how can we even …

Week 17 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Happiness

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Happiness Do you want to be happy? For all humans, the answer is an unambiguous Yes.  To be human is to seek happiness, wouldn’t you agree? The desire for happiness simultaneously brings humanity together and tears us apart. Sure, we are all united in our desire to be happy. However, happiness means different things to different people and therefore, we’re divided in how we go about getting it! Concepts of Happiness Happiness as Pleasure: The Greek school for “happiness as pleasure” is called Hedonism.  Hedonism thought that pleasure was the ultimate human good. There were higher pleasures and lower pleasures.  A lower pleasure is a physical pleasure such as eating or sex. Higher pleasures were intellectual goods and virtues which had the effect on the possessor of increasing her other pleasures.  For example, the virtue of moderation allows a person to receive the most pleasure from her body – if you drink …

Understand Marx’s “Estranged Labor” to Create A Personal Revolution

Marx was a German philosopher of the 19th century who is most famous for his economic views.  Marx observed laborers and the economy and his observations led him to come to the conclusion that revolution was necessary and inevitable. Why would Marx write that revolution is necessary and inevitable? Many of us would look at the world, and upon viewing the many erroneous and bloody revolutions would take revolution to be abhorrent, unnecessary and to be avoided at all costs.  Marx disagreed, for he was a Hegelian in his reflections that history is a series of progressions that take the form of: Thesis – a particular state of order; a beginning proposition Out of which arises the: Antithesis – a radical move against that thesis; a contradiction arises And finally: Synthesis – a reconciliation that creates a brand new state; a progression of history For Marx, revolution was necessary and inevitable because the way that people lived under the current economic system had become a contradiction of what human beings ought to be. The Problem …

Week 16 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Human Activity

(This post is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project. Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Human Activity Human Being = Human Doing Humans are a busy species. Human life is synonymous with willful activity. Each person is always moving, chasing objects or ideas, procuring and utilizing things – whether that’s food, money, knowledge, feelings, or relationships. Even the laziest person isn’t “doing nothing”; although his activity may be categorized as “unproductive” by other people, it cannot be strictly categorized as “nothing”, for it’s always purposeful in some way or other. The desire to move and act is so strong that the thought of being paralyzed – even if one is perfectly safe and cared for, surrounded by loved ones – is alarming and abhorrent! That some people sign assisted-suicide documents in case they are paralyzed is proof that as a species we’d rather die than be incapacitated, cut off from activity.  We have a deep desire to “do”.  Human beings are humans-doing.   Frameworks for Understanding Activity …

A Brief Analysis of Rousseau’s Ethics of Compassion in “Discourse on Inequality” and Relation to Buddhist Teachings

Last week, I read Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “Discourse on Inequality.”  It’s a fascinating work of political philosophy written in 1754 by Rousseau as an entry for an essay contest that challenged authors to address the question: What is the origin of inequality among men, and is it authorized by natural law?  In order to thoroughly answer this question, Rousseau expounds a philosophy  of man, discussing who and what man is as an individual, what is freedom, what are man’s essential and accidental qualities, what is the effect of society on man and the ideal political situation.  As someone who is interested in Buddhism’s answers to these same questions, I was curious if there was any similarity between Rousseau’s answers and Buddhist views. I think there are at least two similarities.  The first similarity concerns Rousseau’s account of man’s natural morality of compassion; this corresponds with the Buddhist view of compassion as constitutive of morality.  The second similarity arises out of Rousseau’s lamenting about the detriments of rational thinking to man’s mental constitution; likewise, Buddhism teaches that …

Week 15 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Uncertainty & Risk

(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project.  Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Uncertainty & Risk Spring is a hopeful time of year. In spring, we witness the energy of nature as fauna busily attend their young and flora burst forth with an array of spectacular shapes and colors.  Human activity picks up pace for we begin making summer plans and thinking of love. In nature, we can count on things like the seasons to happen regularly. In philosophy, what’s known as the principle of the uniformity of nature (PUN) dictates the rationality of assuming that the future will be like the past. In spite of the PUN, the future is always uncertain – it can never be predicted with 100% accuracy. The recognition of life’s unpredictability causes distress and insecurity for many people.  At some point, each of us must decide on a way to deal with an unpredictable future: Try to control it – the “control freak” Avoid thinking about it – the …

Week 14 Questions for Know Thyself 2019: Cheating

(This blog is part of a weekly series for Know Thyself 2019, a 365 day journal project.  Start here!) This Week’s Journal Topic: Cheating You might think that cheating is purely a character flaw or a lack of virtue. This isn’t the case.  Cheating is partially a social phenomenon because it depends on our social expectations, interactions, and observations of others.  Studies show that people are more likely to cheat if they believe that others are cheating, too.  The rub: expect others to cheat, and you might, too. Do Values Make Us Immune? Studies on college students reveal that students who think that others have cheated will also cheat, even if they believe cheating is wrong.  The studies run the following scenario:  a class of students is given a test to work on.  Several of the “students” are actually actors who display obvious signs of cheating.  The actors complete the hour long test within several minutes and leave the classroom.  The result is that the real students, after witnessing the cheating, one-by-one begin to cheat, …