My Classics and Philosophy courses in university days introduced me to a number of ancients whose views I still hold with. Heraclitus, mentioned in an earlier blog entry, was important in confirming that all is forever and constantly changing and that life itself is process in so many ways.
Socrates’ ideas are still ones I find resonance in: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” The value of knowing oneself, one’s nature, limits/limitations, abilities, motives, personality, character, values, etc. is central to a meaningful life. Self-knowledge is a great good and confirms the importance of awareness, questioning, analysis, and consciousness.
Aristotle believed that one would be happy if one fulfilled his/her possibilities, potentialities, character, personality, and beliefs. For me, life is mostly about possibilities and the ones realized significantly by individuals. (This connects with Part 1’s points about making one’s ideas come true.) Aristotle was the first thinker (sorry Maslow) to suggest that our proper goal is to fulfill or actualize our potential and to realize our true selves to the maximum. Self-realization leads to happiness, satisfaction, and self-actualization.
For Aristotle, man’s highest nature was inner, mental, and spiritual. For this reason contemplation or focused, active consciousness (cf the process of this blog) are man’s highest joy, pleasure, and experience. I would have to concur that the latter three occur and arise within the individual and are mostly a subjective experience.
“The greatest good of the greatest number” (an idea arising from the work of Bentham and Mill) is a noble motivation-choice consideration. I also like Mill’s idea that we are essentially, fundamental equal–something he has never been given his due on/for.
Kant’s idea that we must treat people as ends rather than as means is abused every day globally. People use, manipulate, exploit others widely, willy-nilly. I personally treat those closest to me as ends. They are interesting worlds unto themselves who have a lot to teach me. Just about everything negative one can think of–war, impersonalness, lack of caring, etc. arises from not following Kant’s idea–one of the most significant ever in the history of Western civilization.
The Mind-Body ‘Problem’: Psychophysical Parallelism
Psychological parallelism is akin to a double-sided piece of paper–anything that affects one side, affects both. This example clarified for me the close, integrated relationship of mind and body. They each influence the other, which is why physical health, flow and freedom within the body affect the mind or consciousness. I have found this borne out since 1998, when I first began massage therapy. Consciousness is flow so one best be free and healthy in body, too.
The Confirmation that Human Life Is Consciousness/Largely Inner
“I think, therefore I am.” –Descartes
As archetypal as Rodin’s “Thinker”. The “unexamined life”, indeed.
And yet, ironically, the truth of Aldous Huxley about our times:
“Most of one’s life is a prolonged effort to avoid thinking.”
He believed (and I concur) that the human mind is a tabula rasa (blank tablet) at birth. Then the senses and sensations begin to kick in, and with them, eventually the ideas and beginnings of consciousness. Later, an individual potentially has a complex accumulation of ideas and views which go to make up the personality and character of that person. Identity–the great “Who am you?” from Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the central question explored by writers of the 20th century–is made up of what has been recorded on an individual’s tabula rasa, whether consciously realized by the individual or not. Again, truths and realities are largely inner.
“To be is to experienced.” Everything literally depends upon an individual’s ability to experience whatever sensations and experiences. Again, life experience depends on the mind, emotions, spirit, soul of the individual. All things outside us cannot be known objectively, in and of themselves. They can only be perceived and innerly processed.
Well, speaking personally, this has been my way and process as poet and writer. I can only express what I have perceived and internalized (separate and different from the things themselves). The ‘ideas’ and feelings of various moments and experiences. That is all we any of us can do–to perceive and process innerly, and express and share our impressions.