My Philosophy

I noticed a lot of people “liked” my last post, but didn’t respond. So I thought perhaps it wasn’t fair of me to ask such ridiculously hard questions without breezily answering them myself. I wonder if you will come back again after you get to know me? This is feeling like a first date.

How do you weigh in on the free will/fate debate?

I decided somewhere back in my college days that experience is what matters most to me, it’s epistemologically prior to external causation. In other words, it’s what I know most clearly and directly. So I experience being free, therefore I am. Although I’m going further than Descartes here.

How do you determine right from wrong?

I don’t really know. This is one of the hardest and most important questions, in my opinion. I think it’s intuition and quite a bit of utilitarianism that guides me, and I’m okay with it for the most part, but it doesn’t solve everything. I’m not a relativist in the extreme sense—I believe in a right and wrong, but I don’t think it’s possible to figure that out without taking everything into context, which requires consideration on a case by case basis.

Are you a rationalist or empiricist or both? (If you don’t know these terms, don’t worry about it. Or just Google ‘em.)

I think it would be best to do away with this whole rationalism/empiricism divide and just describe what’s actually going on in experience, without the need to reduce or dismiss anything. I experience ideas as much as or more than ‘sense data’, so why place ideas in some ethereal realm?

How would you solve the mind/body problem? (Clue: You can reduce things to one or the other, or…actually solve the problem. Good luck.)

I look to phenomenology for the answer to this. I admit it doesn’t really solve the problem, it merely looks at things from a different angle, the angle of experience, to be sure, and feels like it’s doing away with the problem. But if you were to put a gun to my head, I’d choose solipsism over reducing everything to the machinations of our brains. I do believe our minds depend on our brains in some way—I experience this every time I’m under the influence of some drug…like ibuprofen!…or when it’s that time of the month…yes ibuprofen!—but these two aren’t quite the same thing. How do the two interact? Do they? I don’t know. I just base my opinion here on experience as epistemologically prior which I spoke of in the first answer.

Does God exist?

I think it depends on what we mean by God. Yeah, this sounds like a lot of hemming and hawing, but really, I’m not a religious person (possibly because I grew up in the Bible belt), so I don’t want to say “yes” without being a bit careful. However, I’d say “yes” if it meant a sort of Aristotelian God as an end to an infinite regression, as a rational explanation for why there is something rather than nothing. I’d even go so far as to call God “Reason” or “the Good”…I know…you think I’m crazy now.

Is there life after death? Why?

Hell if I know.

If God exists, does that mean there is life after death?

Nope. Not necessarily. Like I said above, God’s existence means nothing, pragmatically speaking, to me.

What is a soul? Does it exist?

I think so. I would call it “mind” to sound more modern, but I feel it.

Do dogs have souls?

Yes indeed. And they go to heaven automatically, whereas we’re stuck in purgatory and forced to crawl around under their dinner tables begging for scraps of meat while they tell us to “get down.”

What about parameciums?

Ugh. Yeah. Okay. Sure.

What is Justice?

Hm. I can’t really answer this one with any detail, but I’ll say it’s a world in which everyone is perfectly happy.

What is Love?

Desire to have full possession of the Good forever. No just kidding. Sort of. I do agree that love is desire, and desire is something you can have only for something you don’t already possess. I think I’d better put this in terms of my relationship with my husband. We’ve been together for nine years. Given the odds of our particular circumstances and what we’ve had to go through, this is quite remarkable. He makes me a better person, the person I want to be deep down. It’s a quiet thing for the most part, and often hard  (because sometimes we don’t know or pursue what’s good for us). I tend to be a recluse, but he knows I’m not, not deep down. So he’ll suggest that I go to a coffee shop to write instead of sitting in my comfort zone here in my office. It’s never a selfish desire to change me, or shape me into something I truly am not. It’s seeing potential and truth and good.

And I like to think I do the same for him, except he doesn’t have much that needs to be corrected. But when he does, I’m on it, I’m on it.

I think when you find someone you understand and who understands you, you’re close to being in love. Getting this far in life is a hard thing. Having real friends is a hard thing too, and I’d extend love here (I could only be saying this because I don’t have that many!) When you have someone who not only understands you, but knows what’s good for you, and makes you see that good, you’ve hit the jackpot. You just go from there trying to return the favor.

What is happiness?

Being in love. (See above). A certain amount of money and good health doesn’t hurt, but isn’t necessarily required.

What is courage?

Knowing and doing the right thing, even though it’s hard. Now this is a tricky question. So don’t take my flip answer at face value.

Does happiness factor into ethics? (In other words, does being a good person mean being a happy person?)

I think happiness does factor into ethics. And I think being a good person means being a happy person for the most part. So this answer seems to conflict with my answer above to the question, “What is courage”? But it doesn’t. Because I believe that when you know and do the right thing, you’ll be happy…for the most part. Why do I say “for the most part”? Because I can imagine some pretty crazy awful scenarios that would challenge this view, but I think, for the most part, it’s correct.

What is the purpose of art?

This is where I expect everyone to get up in arms. I don’t think art is an end in itself. I’m with Tolstoy—I think it must have spiritual ends, otherwise it’s empty.

So now, what’s your philosophy?

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6 thoughts on “My Philosophy

  1. LOL, Diotima, you may have trouble getting any but the most dedicated philosophers to respond to this. Maybe one question at a time? I would just comment that I think you depend heavily on the experience argument. I value my experience and in the end, I usually have to go with that, but I also realize that my own perceptions and cognitive range are limited. I can’t see ultra-violet and I don’t understand Gödel’s theorem. In my philosophy, everything does boil down to the mind/brain. It’s not a very attractive idea to ponder, and doesn’t necessarily mesh with experience, but I am convinced by the empirical evidence in favor of it, and the lack of any evidence (except experiential and subjective) that minds have a separate existence from bodies.

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    • Yes, I do admit there’s a real possibility of getting things wrong in taking things so empirically. But I also think we rarely differentiate between what we’re actually experience, and those entities that we assume create the experience. I don’t see the point in positing something unknowable on the other side of experience causing things that I actually experience.

      By the way, I don’t think minds exist separately from our bodies/brains. I see no evidence for this either, but I do think they are different things. My experience of mind is all-pervading and close to me, whereas my experience of ‘brain’ would be limited to scans (I’ve never had one, but I could) or pictures of brains, or second hand information about recent scientific discoveries and experiments that have been performed on them. I’ve never seen my own brain, but I assume it’s there! I just think reducing my mind to that mushy stuff in my skull is taking things too far. I see the two as distinct entities that do have a relationship with each other, but they’re still different things.

      And I think they do depend on each other because I see what happens when people get brain injuries, and how it affects mind. I see what happens when people die…they don’t seem to be ‘there’ any more. So I don’t assume that their minds go somewhere else when I don’t see where it is their minds have gone to.

      Thanks for commenting! I think you’re right…I should have done one question at a time. I hoped that if I gave people a smorgasbord, they’d think “Whee! Look at all the things I can talk about!” But instead I’ve created the opposite effect of stupefaction from having too many menu options.

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      • I think it makes sense that we can speak of both “mind” and “brain,” with the mind consisting of our self-aware cognition, our experience of thinking and feeling. That raises the interesting question of whether unconscious cognition belongs to the mind or the brain. Infants and most animals learn but are unaware of doing so (or so say the scientists). Also, do animals have minds if they are not self-aware? Or just brains? Interesting stuff!

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        • That is a great question. I guess that fits into the question of whether parameciums have souls. It’s hard to say!

          Also the question of the unconscious. I have no idea how it would fit into experience. If we experience the unconscious, then it’s not really the unconscious. And if we can’t experience it, then what’s the point in talking about it? Of course, I think we do experience things that seem to come from nowhere, as if from the depths of our psyche. And this must be what we mean by “unconscious”. But I think I prefer the term “subconscious.”

          There are theories that evoke something called the “collective unconscious”. As you can imagine, I’m pretty skeptical.

          I say all this as if I know anything about psychology!

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    • You can do it! That’s the whole point of this…to get past all the caution that goes on now in academic philosophy. I was reading Leibniz’s Monadology the other day and I was struck by his wonderful and bizarre in-your-face assertions. I felt the need to get back to that way of doing philosophy. I only wish I could be as interesting and brilliant as he was.

      For instance:

      The Monads have no windows through which anything may come in or go out.

      LOVE IT. Notice the capitalization of Monads. Of course, right?

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