Five Big Questions In Life - Book Excerpt
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Five Big Questions in Life  -  book excerpt

The Big Questions in Life

A Book for the Thoughtful

By Miriam Pia (PD/ MA offered by Middlesex University 1999, SUNY Brockport cum laude 1994)

Table of Contents

1. Introduction - What is philosophy, and what is the purpose of this book

*the love of wisdom, and the purpose is to equip people to be able to practice philosophy using themselves, their own brains and feet with some guidance on how to do philosophy from this book.

2. What is the world really like? What is it made of? Is there a God particle? Ontology and the question of God.

3. How do we know what we know? What is knowledge? Is there such a thing as objective truth? *examples of historical experts: Aristotle, Immanuel Kant: the methods of the sciences, ‘hard science’, social science, the relevance of ‘the mind’.

4. About good and bad or good and evil: what is it, and how do we really know? Is there an absolute right and wrong? Does religion help with this? Can people be ethical without a god? Are ethics purely relative? - Does it just depend on the culture?

5. What is the best way to live? Closely related to ‘what is the meaning of life’?

1. Introduction

What is philosophy? Translated literally from the Greek, it means “love of wisdom”. It has been around for approximately 3000 years in the West. It has been around as long or even longer in the Far East.

Another simple way to understand what philosophy is to describe it: the subject that tries to answer some of the questions in life that are hardest to answer. Philosophy takes more effort to practice than it does to just think about. For adult readers, the most obvious way you have seen this is whenever you have taken a new job. The company often gives you a small flier. One paragraph of the flier gives you the philosophy. The entire business functions daily - and its all in an effort to implement that little bit of philosophy. That’s how much more there is to doing philosophy than there is to learning the theories.

There are a lot of trained professionals who practice philosophy and who clarify the theories involved. Whether done by amateurs or professionals, it is important work. Most cultures have a history of philosophy, which is a history of theories about fundamental truths and how to live one’s life. Much of religion includes philosophy. Whenever there is a God or were gods closely associate with the philosophy, it is called theology. If it associated with a “mystery school” or the occult or paranormal then it is often referred to as theosophy or as metaphysics.

Of the world’s religions, the most famous for philosophy are the Catholics - just a few of them, such as Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the Buddhists - the Buddhists seem to always be talking about the philosophy of the mind and of the emotions and how to practice compassion. That is, the top Buddhists seem to emphasize this when writing or speaking in English for a nonBuddhist audience. Being part of that audience, I have no idea what its like for Tibetans who grew up Buddhists but I also don’t know what its like to grow up a wealthy upper middle class Californian Buddhist. There are people that do.

Those are not the only philosophers in the world. Most readers have at least heard of Confucius. There are many others.

Confucius is simply one example of the nontheistic or atheist philosophers of the East. There are many more who are less well known in the West. In the West, there is the philosophy of European people before the first life of Jesus Christ. I call it the first life, because officially, he is not dead; he rose after the crucifixion in his spiritual body and has been living as an immortal for the past 2000 or 1968 years as of 2011. Masses of people are confused by this and that’s OK. People think of Jesus Christ as having lived 32 years - the regular mortal style of living up to the crucifixion and after that, he is apparently still alive but everyone is confused about that and what happened afterwards. Whatever one thinks or believes about Jesus Christ, in the Western society philosophy grew before knowledge of this theological philosopher - Jesus Christ spread, and then there is how philosophy was heavily influenced by his teachings and by the organizations that grew up and moved around with his teachings. There is a good thousand year period of European history when the only philosophy successfully published had been cleared by the Christian clerics, and by people who actually and/or supposedly represented the religious philosophy of Jesus Christ. From the 1750’s to 2011, it became increasingly possible in Europe and North America to write and publish works whether they agreed or disagreed with Christian doctrine.

In the pre-Christian realm the philosophies which survived in a way that was actually written down, or that could be written showed up amongst the Greeks and Romans. It is unlikely that these were the only people who practiced some type of philosophical work, but much of the world is oral - sorry, that isn’t kinky, it just means spoken and heard rather than written. There are oral traditions today in the world and there always have been. Some are more highly structured than others.

One change which is commonly viewed as a type of cultural progress is the invention and use of the written word. The preservation of knowledge within a culture helps to protect and define it. The preservation of knowledge through a written system, means that the information can be added to the gigantic body of knowledge which is sifted by scholars and then taught as curriculum at the world’s universities. Once churches and educational systems are using a group of teachings they become quite powerful and can be used across centuries and societies in new ways - in ways that only being able to pass them on through the spoken word could not do.

In Europe one of the places that changed is close to the dawn of this generation’s sense of ‘history’ rather than ‘pre-history’. The ancient Greek civilization was not exactly the first, but because they were able to leave traces of teachings and knowledge which have been taught every year to some people ever since, for many they mark the beginning of history. One of their oral tradition philosophers was made immortal by a younger man who had the wealth and the ability to actually write much of it down. This was Socrates and Plato. Socrates was not a high class man, but was respected as he had fought bravely and loyally for Athens in a number of wars. However, he lived at a time when men in general were expected to do so for their city-state, just as some nations have mandatory military service for men, or even women [as in Israel] in 2011. He made a reputation for himself by trying to find free teachings because he was so poor that he could not afford to buy a local university education. They did have higher education in Athens at the time, but it wasn’t for the poor. Luckily, there were places in Athens where one was allowed to socialize this way. (The Last Days of Socrates, Plato, Penguin Classics, Harrold Tarrant 2003). Through such means he met a local nobleman called Plato; this man actually founded or taught at one of the local universities and as part of his service, he wrote numerous dialogues in which this lower class but profound Athenian starred. Thanks to Plato’s actions, millions have not only heard of Socrates but have taught at least to some degree his ‘elenchus method’ of questioning the meanings of words and concepts. This has political implications wherever and whenever one lives and helps to keep philosophy something relevant which people can actually practice today. The other great thing about it, is that once you learn it, it is cheap to do. It can even be free. That doesn’t mean one can’t spend on it.

Plato taught a number of people, mostly men. One of them was a younger man called Aristotle - who was actually from Macedonia. Aristotle lived during the same time as Alexander the Great. They did not have the Internet and so their view of the world may well have been smaller. Although Alexander the Great was irrelevant in the Americas back then, and in many other locations, for the Athenians he was highly relevant. Aristotle was able to serve as one of that man’s teachers and founded scientific nomenclature by seeing the weird value in simply cataloguing information. Most people who have studied philosophy West of Kazhakstan on the Earth in 2011 have been introduced to and have heard of Aristotle. These two somehow continue to have an influence in the New Millenium. Christian theology has been affected. One of the main contributions of St. Thomas Aquinas is that he actually sought to bring theology to terms with the heathen pre-Christian thinkers Plato and Aristotle of the Greeks. Anyone who thinks that was easy, is welcome to read The Summa Theologica in an English translation. Originally written in Latin, there is available in the written word in English a brief summary consisting of only 600 pages. There is an outrageously brief book summary of this ‘short version’ which is only about 20 pages long and is available through BookRags. [tip: I know because I ghostwrote it, and learned some of these other philosophy bits from doing that]. There are aspects of Jesus Christ’s teachings which jibe with a no dualistic view of reality also proposed by Aristotle but these teachings make Jesus Christ’s survival of the crucifixion all the more dumfounding but also more consistent.

This book is not really about the history of philosophy as such, but is about how readers can recognize philosophy and how to actually practice it in daily life. The author has received years of training in philosophy and has practiced it both in and out of an academic context for two decades. That’s 20 years of practice with academic training to the Master’s level. This has included a supplemental year and a half of writing book summaries on philosophical works in 2008 & 2009.

To get back on track: the love of wisdom is what philosophy literally means. Wisdom generally means being able to determine the best course of action in a given situation and taking it. Older people are often associated with wisdom when they are of sound mind because wisdom seems to often improve with life experience. At the same time, at every age, when people look around them some stand out as ‘wiser’ than the others. There are people who feel this is an innate quality. If so, that does not support philosophy that well as something for the masses. That would make philosophy something for the wise. Others feel that whatever one’s innate ability proper training can make the most of what is there, and that can include wisdom. Say, someone is only average in innate wisdom will be their best with some philosophical training just as the person who works out is going to be in better shape than those who get no exercise regardless of whether or not the person is a natural athlete or naturally strong etc..

This book includes basic mental exercises that everyone can do, that will help them to practice philosophy. The field of philosophy can also be defined as an area that asks a few important, tough questions in life and makes an effort to answer them. Some of the questions are ones also covered by religions and by science, such as: is there a God? And What is the world really like or made of? This book has a look at these. This book is being written for people who are interested in this subject but may not want to or be able to take university classes or to get degrees in philosophy and theology or religion.


Street Talk

Interesting, thanks. Wisdom does seem to grow from life experience, both good and bad.

Reply
  about 3 years ago

I read your comment.

Reply
  about 3 years ago

Thanks.

  
  about 3 years ago
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