Philosophy of Life or Rules for Living
Posted: 29 October 2006 06:22 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Although a thread titled "What is Your Philosophy" is already running, I didn’t feel it was focused on the real topic.  This seems to me to be what the question was about.  What would your answers be to both of the below sub-topics?
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When people talk about one╠s philosophy of life they could mean the most important beliefs they judge to be their core, or the rules they use to guide their lives.

If the former, mine are as follows:

1)  Meaning or purpose is a concept that comes only from a reasoning mind.  The universe exists but has no meaning other than that which we define for it.

2)  It is a meaningless waste of time to postulate existence and beings outside our physical world, and which we cannot demonstrate.

3)  All life, including humans, are natural phenomena that have evolved without any outside influence other than the physical environment.

4)  The only meaning to each of our lives is that which each of us defines by our ideas and our actions.

If we mean by a philosophy of life, a set of rules to guide one╠s life, mine would be (a bit similar to the Unitarian Principles): 

1. Treat everyone and everything honestly, fairly, justly, and lovingly with respect and understanding.
 
2. Help others to grow, but give them the freedom to forge their own path without limiting or directing them.
 
3. Think carefully, independently, and work toward reality, understanding, meaning, and consensus.

4. Work to make the life of every person happier, easier or fuller, and if possible, to avoid ever hurting anyone.

5. Live my life joyfully for the benefit of others as well as myself.


Occam

P.S. And it would great if I could live my life according to all of these, but I’m pretty imperfect so I mess up pretty frequently.  :?  LOL

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Posted: 29 October 2006 06:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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This is an excellent question, Occam, and one that does deserve some study and thought. To a certain extent it’s a question that has motivated the world’s religions as well, so it’s one we have to take care with. Each of them believe that there is some fundamental problem with humanity that can be cured by their particular belief system.

But I think it’s better to begin with something like the ancient Greek question, What is the good life? or What is the best way to live your life?

And the answers you gave, as well as those we can find in many Humanistic and non-theistic philosophies are quite well and good. Much more can be said about all of them, and we may want to get into some of that here. But the main takeaway is that there is nothing ‘magical’ or ‘surprising’ about what the good life amounts to. We don’t need any esoteric philosophies to figure it out.

So to that extent I’m a careful skeptic aobut “meaning of life” questions. Many people raise them in order to foist some sort of odd and unjustified metaphysics on us, e.g., that humans have the power to create the universe, etc.

It is better to remain more circumspect, and note that each person has to decide for him or herself what the best life consists in for them. That’s not to say that they will always be right about that—it may be that someone chooses wrongly. But this must be a free choice.

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Posted: 29 October 2006 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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That “good life” thing always bothered me for a few reasons.

1.  A guy I knew many, many years ago in high school went bonkers and had to be institutionalized for the rest of his life.  He was completely delusional, and lived his own fantasy life in which he was a wonderful person.  Was he living a good life?

2.  Consider a pedophile who really believes that he is not harming the children because he is showing them love.  He’s certain that he’s living a good life. 

Do we define a “good life” ourselves, or does our society define it for us?

Is there an absolute definition of a “good life” or are there parameters dependent on outside judgement, and if the latter, which outside persons do the judging?

Occam

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Posted: 29 October 2006 08:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]That “good life” thing always bothered me for a few reasons.

1.  A guy I knew many, many years ago in high school went bonkers and had to be institutionalized for the rest of his life.  He was completely delusional, and lived his own fantasy life in which he was a wonderful person.  Was he living a good life?

2.  Consider a pedophile who really believes that he is not harming the children because he is showing them love.  He’s certain that he’s living a good life. 

Do we define a “good life” ourselves, or does our society define it for us?

Is there an absolute definition of a “good life” or are there parameters dependent on outside judgement, and if the latter, which outside persons do the judging?

Well, these are the right questions to be asking, Occam, for sure. That’s why I said, above, that it’s possible to be wrong about what the good life is, even for you.

Aristotle had a notion of the good life which was something like ‘actualizing your potentialities in a full lifetime’ or some such thing. This is the sort of notion Paul Kurtz also tends to follow in his ethics. If you go to his “ Affirmations of Humanism ”, you will see that the last bullet point is: “We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings.” This is basically the Aristotelian notion of the good life in modern garb.

What your potentialities are should be seen as an objective matter: what you do best, how you can be most helpful to humanity, so on. (This is a very deep topic). At base it has to be partly a matter of ethics, and people like Aristotle basically used the question of the good life as an entry into ethical theories:  How do you codify or understand humanity’s potential for greatness, or being “the best and noblest” in Kurtz’s formula?

This sort of thinking could easily lead to such a “set of rules to guide one’s life” as you sketched out. It led Aristotle to something more like a so-called “ virtue ” ethics, where ethics was a matter of personal character and drive (properties like courage, generosity, wisdom, truthfulness, justice) rather than an issue of deciding which actions are right or wrong.

At any rate, you could easily be wrong about your best potentialities, through lack of knowledge about yourself. One could also argue that the madman and the child molester are not really happy people; partly this will then become an issue as to whether someone can be self-deluded about whether or not he is happy. I believe one can.

But that’s not to say that ‘the good life’ is defined by ‘society’ or me or Queen Elizabeth, either. It’s some sort of rough feature of being human, something potentially we could discover by thinking and learning.

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Posted: 29 October 2006 02:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Ah, I think I see the problem.  I set myself some rules that I try to follow, however, I know I don’t follow them all the time.  I may not have the energy to do something, I may just not be aware of what should be done, or some jerk may cut me off while driving.  My response to the last is quite often far, far removed from the rules I try to live by.  LOL

I don’t know or even care what my “potential” is.  I just usually do what feels right or good to me within my rules.  Similarly, I have no desire to live a “good life” because I don’t know what that means and I really don’t see it as germane to my functioning.

Occam

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Posted: 29 October 2006 03:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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[quote author=“Occam”]I don’t know or even care what my “potential” is.  I just usually do what feels right or good to me within my rules.  Similarly, I have no desire to live a “good life” because I don’t know what that means and I really don’t see it as germane to my functioning.

Fair enough, whatever floats your boat. But at some level I think we all want to live a “good life”, or at least the best life we can. (Understanding that we are imperfect and ignorant). Finding out what that means is where you were when you started the thread ... seems to me, anyway.

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Posted: 29 October 2006 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Good life to me is a happy/tranquil one, but how do i find it?

I have to sit down and think what i want to do and how, and then have the courage to do it. Also to keep an open mind and experience as many things as possible in order to find more things i can enjoy, not forgetting my the higher nature pleasures.

There are troubles that will come along, but i must find a way to accept them, like finding meaning to help digest it.

Sometimes when i get angry i just think back to find the reason why (FAR FAR BACK) and then start to rationalize. That balances me back out typically.  There are a few other thought processes i do in order to think clearly so i can get my arms around the situation if need be. But i naturally seem to look for other perspectives too. 

I guess the good life also would include the necessities, because you need those first in order to become self actualized if you go by the pyramid diagram by (whats his name?)

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Know Thyself

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Posted: 30 October 2006 12:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I wouldn’t worry too much about pop-psychological pyramid diagrams. But it sounds like you’re thinking in the right way. Really there’s no easy answer to these questions, and it can take a lifetime to figure them out for yourself: that’s what ‘wisdom’ amounts to.

If you read Plato and Aristotle you can get some of their ideas about it, but they were looking at the general case, for all humanity, and that really doesn’t help you very much as an individual find what’s right for you. As you were noting in a different thread, Paul Kurtz also uses Stoic notions in his search for the ‘good life’. Those can be useful too, for many people.

But you do have to find out what works for you.

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