“Aristotle’s First Principles” – Of Wolves and Ravens – Western Philosophy

Happy Mani’s Day

Discussion:

In recent days, I have discovered that I enjoy all forms of ideas from philosophy.  I enjoy considering them anyway.  Western philosophy has more influence on people’s mindsets in the west than people know.  I recently came across Aristotle’s first principles in a YouTube Video I was looking at which I will provide below.

The idea of being able to categorize and break things down into basic or first principles is something I can definitely resonate with. I do this all the time with this blog’s journal posts where individual virtues are the First principles for me but then categorize them in Virtues relating to Love. Justice and Wisdom as well as Foundational, Business, and Self. This idea of breaking things down in their basic components was first introduced by Aristotle.

To the Wolves and Ravens:

“Feed the Wolves, but Listen to the Ravens first.”

Needs (Geri):

Taking this idea to the subject of needs this allows one to break down one’s needs into the most basic components – food clothing, and shelter could be said to be the first principles of needs. But also you could say social contact, security, and standing.  Well-being is the main category of need, but it can definitely be broken down further and further.

Wants (Freki):

I think the basic thing in the area of want would be that if you want something the simple act of breaking things down step by step is what Aristotle brings to the table. No person who has a goal that requires effort has not done this. I think for me this is the essence of First principles not only in analyzing the world around me but also achieving that which I want to achieve often requires this ‘breaking things down’ into smaller bites to get them done.

Reason (Huginn):

I find Aristotle’s approach to be very reasonable because it isn’t purely mental gymnastics but also considers relationships and emotions.  It involves these things because they exist. It isn’t black and white thinking but more of a type of thinking that allows one to categorize the nuances of life to better understand them.

Wisdom (Muninn):

I find this also leads to wisdom – that things once understood can be wisely engaged.

Conclusion:

This has been a couple weeks of thinking about this part of Western philosophy that I definitely engage and use but now understand better both why I do and what value it has. It is something to note.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

“Stoics and Epicureans” – Of Wolves and Ravens – Western Philosophy

Happy Tyr’s Day

Discussion

In Hellenistic Western philosophy, there is also a form a dualism that is a creation of two schools of thought – Stoicism, and Epicureanism. Breaking them both down:

Stoicism:  Nature is rational; man cannot escape the forces of nature but can uniquely follow its laws; A life lived this way leads to virtue; Wisdom is the core of virtue from which spring the cardinal virtues; Passion is irrational and thus strong feelings should be avoided; pleasure is not good or evil and only acceptable if it does not interfere with one’s quest for rational virtue; Poverty, illness, and death are not evil; Duty is the motivation for pursuit of virtue.

Source: https://www.thoughtco.com/stoics-and-moral-philosophy-4068536

Epicureanism: This is a little more complicated.  One person, I read listed eight epicurean councils: 1) Don’t fear God.2) Don’t worry about death. 3) Don’t fear pain. 4) Live simply. 5) Pursue pleasure wisely. 6) Make friends and be a good friend. 7) Be honest in your business and private life. 8) Avoid fame and political ambition. He also listed ten values of which the first five deal with ourselves and the second five deal; with our relationships to others: Prudence, Self-management, Self-sufficiency, Serenity, Simplicity, Friendliness, Honesty, Generosity, Cheerfulness, Gentle-ness

Source: https://churchofepicurus.wordpress.com/basic-principles-for-the-modern-epicurean/

I suppose the main difference I see is the fact that Stoicism is pretty straightforward, but Epicureanism seems to be a little more freeform – ‘chaotic’ if you will. It would explain while on one site about Epicureanism there was a list of 40 tenents.  The difference between the two basically comes down to the goal of Stoicism being happy through overcoming and enduring hardship, wherein Epicureanism happiness is found in training one’s desires.  I can see one major difference in that Stoics accepted the fate of circumstances and tried to be wise by enduring it where Epicureanism seems more at odds with the idea of fate. Some things can be avoided if one trains one’s desires. Both sides had the basic same goal – wisdom.  To be a person content with themselves.

Source: https://academyofideas.com/2014/03/stoicism-vs-epicureanism/

To the Wolves and Ravens:

“Feed the Wolves, but Listen to the Ravens first.”

Needs (Geri):

The fact there is a debate in Western philosophy probably indicates the need for moral philosophy. How one conducts ones’ self toward self and others is has a great bearing on what we need.  Needs are real and both schools acknowledge this. One side, however, seeks to endure while the other side seeks to live in such a way that they are dealt with beforehand.

For myself, it seems that need is more of a looking at life and seeing what is needed for survival.  This breaks down into obvious needs and personal needs.  Food, water and shelter from the elements when needed. Stoics would endure a lack of these needs while Epicureans would seek to avoid the lack in the first place. Other needs are more specific to the individual.  I think what I find is that I mix this whole debate in a blender and come out with something that is a mix between the two when it comes to needs.

Wants (Freki):

Passion and desire resulting from it, Stoics would decry, I would say that without passion there is little motivation to pursue much of anything, including virtue. I balance things, which is more in line with Eastern Philosophy.  We are all self-motivated which stems both from rational need and passionate desire.

Reason (Huginn):

From a rational point of view, it is reasonable to look at any philosophy and eat the meat and spit out the bones.  I can see from the Stoics that virtue is a good thing and agree with that, I, however, reject the notion of fate as it leads to a lot of evil in my opinion.  I can see the Epicurean point of working to avoid evils like poverty and illness, but I can see the Stoic point of sometimes endurance is needed.

Wisdom (Muninn):

I see wisdom in both philosophies, but their means are different in achieving the state of self-contentment or being the sage as they would call it.  I see the best example of my own blending of the two is the fact that the Nine Noble Virtues seems to borrow from both but each virtue might be seen as a blending of both schools of thought.

Courage, Discipline, Perseverance, Indstriousnesss are more Stoic; Truth, Self-Reliance, Hospitality, and Fidelity more Epicurean.  Both in their own way strive for Honor. Some of my other underlying philosophies borrow from both.  Minimalism is Stoic, lIbertarianism more Epicurean but both have elements of both.

Conclusion:

I guess it all reflects that I am kind of eclectic when it comes to philosophy.  That said My philosophy of “Feeding the Wolves but Listening to the Ravens first” has remained constant now for almost a year and I find many philosophies simply get too focused on my way of thinkingto me on a small group of ideas. There is more to life than reason or getting what you want, but together, the many dualisms of my philosophy come together and form something very coherent to me at least.  I borrow from many viewpoints to get a fuller view of the world and how to live life.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard, and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Of Wolves and Ravens – Western Philosophy – Individual Rights

Happy Tyr’s Day

Discussion:

If one wants to point to the main difference between Eastern and Western Philosophy it is Collectivism vs. Individualism.  This is overly generalized on my part, and I would say there are elements of individualism in Eastern philosophy and Collectivism in Western.  It is just the results ultimately lead down these paths overall.

See the source image

Source: http://www.writeopinions.com/western-philosophy

We could argue all day which is superior, but there is one element that I personally take to heart because of where it leads. The focus on the individual over the centuries has led to an understanding of individual rights.  The people have certain rights like life, liberty, pursuit of happiness and ownership of property that no collective group can take away is something very Western.  In Eastern Philosophy you get more of a rights of the group mentality. This can be detrimental to the individual.  I suppose this debate will continue until the bitter end. I am going to side with the individual and the below cartoon illustrates how collectivism or majority rule can lead to evil.

See the source image

That said there is something to be said for Eastern Philosophy in other areas. I just get real rights conscious for the individual from Western philosophy and in this regard I think it is superior to Eastern. I am not going to go into the philosophy where our rights come from at this time.  That will probably be the subject of a Of Wolves and Ravens down the line.

To the Wolves and Ravens:

Needs (Geri):

The need for an understanding of individual rights is paramount to treating each other like human beings.  If you don’t think humans have rights then it is very easy to see them as non-human.  I think it is a basic test of humanity to see what a person’s feelings about the rights of other humans are or may be. If you find they give rights to themselves and people they like but not to others, I think they fail that test.  This discussion of rights fills to needs – a) tests your own humanity and b) litmus test for others being human by how they treat other humans.

Wants (Freki):

For myself I would rather have this rights issues than the collectivist one. If the thought that you could be killed for the benefit of the ‘greater good’ bothers you, you understand why you want individual rights.  They give you the power to live your life ad protect you from those who would try to take that away from you.

Reason (Huginn):

Of course reason gets us to the point that we realize that rights only have value if they are defended and stood up for. This is another matter for the ‘where do rights come from?’ issue.  But for now, it is simply noted that the basic rights require other rights to defend them.  One thing leads to another when it comes to rights and the right to defend one’s rights stems from calling those basic rights rationally essential.

Wisdom (Muninn):

A wise world would promote individual rights.  It allows one to be both for the individual but also if everyone collectively is given the same individual rights – all benefit collectively  from having those rights.

Conclusion:

I would love to think balance between the collective whole and individual rights can be achieved, but I know people are inherently tribal and eventually they submit the rights of the individual to the fear or desires for power. There is always going to be that element in society that thinks they can come up with a better plan or system for you than you can and it seems inevitably they want you to hand over your rights to them or take them from you.  This needs to be resisted because if they can do it to you, they can do it to everyone. Individual Rights have to be defended against the mob.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Odin’s Eye – Deism: The Search for The Rational God

Happy Thor’s Day

Discussion:

I still very much embrace Deism as the most rational way to approach the subject of the divine.  I think the notion that there is no god is just as irrational as the theist or religion who thinks he/she has god locked down.  The great challenge for me as a deist is to deal with the subject of the divine using only reason and natural revelation as a guide. Heavy emphasis on the reason part because natural revelation is still subject to human interpretation.

Epicurus’ argument against God is pretty well-known and I still have some of the same problems with it as I had as a Christian.  In fact much of my arguments against it have not changed because even back then the defense against philosophy is not theology, it is more philosophy.   Most notably Epicurus assumes his definition of all-powerful, etc. are locked down and cannot be challenged. He seeks basically to win the argument about god through definition which is an argument from authority based on the authority of the definition.  What his argument does do is present the rational contentions about the divine that need to be addressed very concisely and in a logically sound manner.

This is actually one time where the Eye lines up pretty good with each part of Epicurus’ argument. So….

Time to Look Through the Eye:

Faith:

If he is able but not willing?  He is malevolent

I find it interesting that Epicurus engages in faith at this point. He has faith that there is such a thing as malevolence or beneficence and assumes that god must be one or the other.  Such definition really lose their meaning if you dismiss notions of good and evil and realize there might be a rational reason why a supreme being might create and then move on.  As George Carlin points out – God may simply not give a shit.  He may be a creator, but it does not imply that he is malevolent simply because he refuses to do something about ‘evil’.  He may simply also look at humanity and say – “you did this shit to yourselves and you have the capability to get yourself out, take responsibility for the ‘evil’ and suffering you have caused and fix it yourselves.”

I actually think this is the strongest argument for polytheism. That the reason we see so many problems in the world, is it was created by a committee.  Just saying.

My faith is that if there is a god or gods or whatever, that they are creators but not necessarily cosmic babysitters. Like good parents he/she or they want us to grow up and tackle our own problems and we can’t learn how to do that effectively without struggle.

Religion:

If God is neither able or willing, then why call him God?

Actually because the definition of ‘god’ is much broader than “Omni” classifications.  We also use the term ‘god’ to describe beings of great power and use a small ‘g’.  It is religion that paint god as all-powerful in the sense that he can do anything, but there may be laws to the universe that prevent the divine from acting and they may as pointed out above, not give a shit. It doesn’t stop them from being more powerful than anything else and thus deserving the title of ‘god’.

Theology:

If God is wiling to prevent, but not able.  Then he is not omnipotent.

I like to point out at this point that Epicurus does not eliminate god with this statement as some atheists claim.  It just shows that perhaps human conception of the ideas of omnipotent, omniscient, etc. might not be properly defined. So such a god could exist with all the power that actually exists, knowing everything in the way it is knowable and be present in all places that actually exist.  Yes, these ideas create a powerful being worthy of being called god, but there are limits here. Such limits make the normal understanding of omnipotence in need of adjustment, but it doesn’t make such a god not possible or lacking in existence. All this statement really does is point out that our definitions might be in need of change.

Spirituality:

If he is both able and willing? Where does evil come from?

Moral evil is easy to justify if you use freewill as a defense and a god who does not interfere because he wants humanity as a whole to learn and grow. It may not be logically possible to have freewill without suffering. Natural evil is a little harder to justify.  Other than if god is still bound to the laws of the universe, then the laws of physics make natural ‘evil’ simple existent and God may very much be a powerful being who fights these forces but cannot do everything.  Rationally, the god that actually exists might have limits – both because the laws of the universe place those limits or those limits might be self-imposed because it is not always wise to interfere.

Conclusion:

I am not saying Epicurus is wrong.  He may very well be right and God is a figment of human imagination.  I respect the atheist position but I find it personally a little extreme because of human ignorance of the universe. His argument actually forms a lot of rational response for deism as it must address these issues to have a rational reason for belief in the divine’s existence. His argument guides the search for the rational god because the questions are valid.  That said, I do, as a theologian, see the irony of accepting certain theological definitions in order to make your argument against the existence of god, when those definitions themselves can be challenged.

For me the search for the rational God is part of the journey that I walk. But as a pagan, it is not my only criteria.

Continuing to Walk the Path,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!

Of Wolves and Ravens – Courage: Becoming the Bear

Happy Tyr’s Day:

Discussion:

My first run though in Of Wolves and Ravens with the schedule I will probably focus on the Nine Noble Virtues, the second time I will focus on the flip side. In the case of courage, the other side is Western Philosophy.  Last week it was pretty easy to mesh the ideas of Honor and Eastern Philosophy. This week was becoming a challenge until I realized that part of Western philosophy is the Viking Philosophy of Courage. Much of this is related to their understanding of bears.

The vikings revered bears on a very spiritual level.  The admired them to be sure for their raw power and courage, but it was the fact that one could encounter a bear in the wild and that bear would not act in fear in the presence of man.  I am fairly certain while bears might note man’s presence, they give him little regard as far as being a threat. It was this philosophy indeed that led some to become Berserkers. Men who would work themselves up into a fearless frenzy invoking the spirit of the bear.

Courage as a Virtue for me has been a challenge.  In large part I think my Christianity is to blame. Modern Western Christianity both lessens the potential of women by keeping them in a subservient role to men and emasculates men by forcing men to deny their more basic masculine instincts.  Both of these issues cause both men and women to act with less courage than they should.

For myself I have had to reevaluate what it means to be a man and part of that has involved facing the fact that as a Christian, I was not as courageous as I should have been. If there is a spiritual reason for my rejection of Christianity outside my four theological objections, it is this attempted emasculation of men by Christianity as it stands today. For me this embracing courage and facing life more as a man of courage is central now to my philosophy.

To the Wolves and Ravens:

Needs (Geri):

See the source image

This quote from the Havamal shows the need for courage on a deeply spiritual level.  The times one should have acted in courage but didn’t will haunt you and leave you without peace of mind. Regret is the final outcome of cowardice and it makes a man less of a man and a woman less of a woman. Mankind needs courage.

Wants (Freki):

I want courage as well as it allows me to achieve more than I could without it.  Taking action is the way to greater things and that requires courage.  I have come to realize that procrastination may very well be at times an act of cowardice, because I don’t want to take a risk on certain things. Other times it might be I am still thinking on it to long or I lack industriousness that I need as well, but there are a few acts of procrastination that should and would not happen if I simply had the courage to act.

Reason (Huginn):

Being reasonable about courage is hard.  But you cannot deny as a rational person that courage is something that is at times rational, because without it many things that are beneficial cannot be achieved.  There is of course a difference between being courageous and being foolhardy. The difference is found in whether the act has a rational outcome believe it or not.  Does the act of courage lead to self-exaltation and to no positive outcome, or does it lead to the protection of all that one holds sacred and achievement of goals that are beneficial.

See the source image

Wisdom (Muninn):

Wisdom is hard with this one other than to say that courage is not always found in the big actions that we often say are acts of courage but in the small actions of living life and going forward each day.  The Viking philosophy of how one dies is important, but I can only face my actual death once.  I face life every single day and there are multiple acts of courage and confidence I need to do so.  Courage is far more regularly needed in living life than the one-act of death I will face.

Conclusion:

I would say the Viking philosophy of courage is true.  It is needed, wanted and it is both rational and wise to be a courageous person. The Spirit of the Bear needs to be invoked regularly. Something I need to embrace far more for my own benefit and the benefit of those I love and that which I hold dear. The journey of the Grey Wayfarer is hopefully going to be a long one and will require many more acts of courage to be a good one. May I take each action with courage.

I remain,

The Rabyd Skald – Wandering Soul, Bard and Philosopher. The Grey Wayfarer.

Skaal!!!