My joke, non-answer is “Why not?”
To be serious, though: I’ve been thinking a lot about these questions for a very long time now, starting with whenever it was when I first started thinking about the role of the individual in society.
I keep trying to answer questions as they arise, and no matter what I say, it doesn’t seem quite right. I never know why it doesn’t feel right, exactly, but every answer I’ve given—and received to my questions—feels flat. It doesn’t matter how in-depth my answer to a question has been, it always seems like there’s just one more dimension that I could be utilizing.
To illustrate, it’s like every conversation on ethics, government, religion, philosophy, or whatever, is part of an interstate. Each conversation—more importantly, each answer—is like that part of the interstate you’re on when you’re going from Point A to Point B. It may seem like you’re arriving at a destination, but you know that, beyond that exit, there’s another one. Further, you know that they’re interconnected, and that if you went one step further, you might feel better about where you end up.
Some people don’t seem to have this dilemma. Well, no, that’s not right. Most people I talk to don’t seem to have this dilemma. That, probably, is because I spend a lot of time observing and off in my own bubble—moreso than a number of people who are out doing instead of thinking.
Point is, I always walk away from a conversation with a person who disagrees with my standpoint very underwhelmed. They may have made very salient, intelligent points, but something about what they say inevitably leaves me disappointed.
That kind of sounds like a prick thing to say, doesn’t it? Well, I don’t mean it like that. I fully recognize that my understanding of what constitutes “fun” is more at home in, say, a philosophy course than a bar, and this is why I’m a huge downer at parties. I tend to try and have arguments about existentialism or objectivism when the other party would rather be trying to hook up with someone.
Once again, I’m a huge downer.
Careening back to the above points: I think that the reason I walk away from an argument more perplexed than anything else isn’t because the other party has changed my mind—though, of course, that happens—it’s more that I often come away thinking, “How could they possibly think that way?”
For whatever reason, I try to see the entirety of an Interstate than the few miles between exists. You could say I’m a big-picture kind of guy, I guess, though that’s usually a term reserved for coked-out producers in Hollywood.
See, I think that ultimately, when I have an argument about what sort of tax structure we need in the U.S., I’d much rather be having a discussion that boils down to “What, at the base of it all, do you believe? What do you think about the ‘nature’ of man? What do you think about what that says about how man should interact with the world? Is that your definition of ethics? Why should we act that way?”
That’s right: If you want to have a conversation about Real Things with me—and not, say, whether or not Mordin Solus is the best professor in the history of all fiction—then you’d better be ready to define your entire bloody worldview, starting with what makes up the human body.
This, also, is why I have a very small, but robust, group of friends: It takes a long time for me to get a very good judge of character.
This, then, got me to thinking about what it is that I believe about everything. Of course, I didn’t think that in one swoop. It hit me as a series of shouts by those different parts of my brain, all screaming at once.
I spent the entirety of my bus ride ignoring high school kids screaming, state workers muttering, and then, after I left the bus, the whooshing of traffic as it whizzed by me, thinking about all of that. How it all fit together, whether or not I could easily get it all down in one blog post.
Of course, no. I can’t. That’s a ton of thinking. That’s a huge amount of topics.
So I started thinking some more. This time, I thought back to what little I remember about proofs in algebra and geometry. Break everything down, step by step. What causes “ethics?” What is the role of humanity? How does humanity relate to the world—all of the questions from a few paragraphs before, just in reverse order.
So, I then thought about how to implement that without spending several years doing so and pulling a Montaigne—who all of you should read if you haven’t. Even just a few of his essays. You can find Best Of collections all over the Internet. Go! Read him! He’s much more interesting than I am!
For those of you who stuck around after that flurry of exclamation points, hi.
I’m going to try to break down what makes my philosophy what it is. When I can, I’m going to back it up with links and citations (further reading, you see), but my main focus is going to be just getting everything down in writing. Apologies if something I write comes across as thin. If I don’t have anything to back it up, I like nothing more than to have a nice, long, protracted discussion over Guinness.
So, that’s what I’m doing with this. That’s why I’m doing this. It may not be interesting to you, and if it’s not: Sorry. The six entries that follow this one will probably be over pretty quickly, and after that, if I haven’t alienated you, then I’ll go right back to faking e-mails, yammering about video games, and writing shitty one-act plays about how inept Tennessee is.
But I’d like to end this first post by trying to get you to think down to the root of whatever you believe. Why do you believe that? What made you that way?
As Socrates said: “…the greatest good of a man is daily to converse about virtue, and all that concerning which you hear me examining myself and others, and that the life which is unexamined is not worth living…” (Apology, Plato’s account of the trial and death of Socrates)