My Philosophy, Pt. I

March 12, 2009

As this term draws to a close, I find myself reflecting back on the ethical and spiritual transformation I have undergone. I began this term with strong convictions about the prevalence of injustice and the futility of interference in that injustice. As I stand on the other side of these mere eight weeks, I find that my outlook has changed more radically than I would have thought possible in such a short period without some great trauma. It is both a restoration of previous ideals I sacrificed at various points, and the creation of entirely new principles and realms of exploration.

I will not set out to outline my philosophy in a single swoop (hence the Pt. I), but I will outline what I consider to be my metaphysics – that is, my principles of reality – and my epistemology – that is, my answer to the question “how do we know what we know?”

An important starting point has to do with God. I am a strong agnostic; that means that I neither reject nor affirm the existence of a God (that’s the agnosticism), and I believe it to be inherently unknowable (that’s the strong part). Whether there is or isn’t a God, I believe we can’t know. As such, I cannot rely upon divine truth to ground myself or my philosophy.

Aside from this point, most of my philosophy exists to allow an ethics in which people are responsible for their actions, and concepts such as good and evil have meaning.

Therefore, I first reject nihilism. If someone dies from a gunshot, I hold the person who pulled the trigger responsible – we must have causality, or else there can be no responsibility.

Next, I posit the existence of free will. In keeping with my strong agnosticism, I don’t actually think we can know whether we have free will or are fated to act as we do. Therefore, I select the option which is convenient to my desire to establish an ethics of responsibility – namely, that free will exists, and thus that we are wholly responsible for the choices we make.

Finally, I subscribe to idealism – not to say that I fight for causes in the 1960’s sense of an idealist, the idealist as opposed to the pragmatist or the realist, but rather that I believe ideas have meaning unto themselves. Good means something greater than one specific act of kindness or one beautiful object, and Evil similarly is distinct from those discrete acts that I consider to be wrong.

These are the bases of my philosophy. The ethics which rests upon this foundation is still in development, but from the depths of near-nihilism and stoicism in which I began, I have come quite a long way.

Do you have a personal philosophy that you try to live by? Do you follow a religious code? Do you view yourself as a pragmatist? An idealist? A realist? I look forward to your thoughts.

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