|Joined: 24 Jul 2007
| Philosophy Final
|Felt like posting this here, because why not. I fear I may have focused too much on personal history and not enough on personal philosophy, but here we go.
The Final Exam will be a 2500 word philosophical autobiography. This is not a term paper, so it should be in essay format. Please feel free to turn in your Final as early in the quarter as you would like, as it is independent of each subject we will study. This means that you will write about your "world view" and how you got to where you are at now in your thinking. You may want to begin with why you took this class. You can write about why you do or don't believe in God. Who influenced your ideas? Any important books or classes you can share that helped you define your worldview? Etc.
The Final Exam does not need to be about religion if religion is not a part of you worldview. Just think about some of the decisions you make. These decisions will reveal your worldview. For example, how do you vote? Why? How do you spend your money? What do you spend it on? Do you give any money away? How do you spend your free time? What are your friends like? How important is your family to you? Why are you going to college? Questions like these reveal our worldview. You donít have to answer all of these questions, but hopefully they will help stimulate your thoughts about your own life and how you see things. It looks good when you can incorporate material from my lectures and our texts into your responses!
The main thing is to engage yourself with why you think about life the way you do. That way you will be learning not only ABOUT philosophy, but also you will actually be DOING philosophy!
Life for me has been an interesting journey, and that journey has done a lot to shape my worldview. The best place to start of course is at the beginning. In 1987, my mother, who was eighteen years old at the time, gave birth to me. My father was twenty-one years old and in the Navy. Shortly after I was born, he completed his service. He was the definition of a failure. He couldnít hold down a steady job because he had neither the skill nor the intellect nor the force of will to stick with it. He was, and still is an alcoholic and had a serious drug problem. To this day, Iím honestly not sure if he doesnít still have it. By the time I was two or three, he was out of the door and out of my life Ė at least, for a little while. It was just my mother and I living amazingly poor in San Leandro. This theme of having little or no money and more importantly, the feeling of not having the room to enjoy myself with material things was constant in my early life, and has I believe contributed in a major way to my current semi-obsession with them. To this day, I have almost no ability to stop myself from buying something I believe I will gain some level of enrichment from; be it movies, books, graphic novels, music, art, I have almost an addiction not to the desire of possessing them but more to the desire to not feel the lack of freedom to obtain it, if that makes sense. Being unable to afford something that I truly want is maddening to me; it takes me right back to days where I had barely anything, regardless of how different my current situation may be. When my father was still around the house and I was between the ages of one and three, I can only very faintly recall an atmosphere of stress and anger between him and my mom. My mother was, and still is the polar opposite of him; sheís intelligent, hard-working, driven, and brings this uncompromising attitude to her expectations as well. When an overachiever and an underachiever have to maintain a life together, I suppose itís only natural that strife would occur, and that a breaking point would be reached rather quickly. This early and continual feeling has had an interesting effect on my relationship with my mom; Iíve always felt that it is impossible for me to fully measure up to her standards, that I will never be good enough to satisfy her expectations of me. I felt that because my father had gone, that I had replaced his role in the house as the underachiever. This has been more and more unraveled in my current life but through these early periods became definitive of our relationship, as I was simultaneously resentful and insecure about myself, and became very withdrawn into my own head as a form of solace. I felt disconnected in a certain sense from her, and since I had no father to draw on as a backup I learned to self-assure in my own head. Strong evidence of that still exists; I quite often find myself talking out loud to myself as though I am in fact a listening party to my own thoughts and opinions, and more often than not, I find I am the only one who is able to make myself feel better about something, as that innate disconnect from people still exists on some level. In addition, it took me a VERY long time to feel comfortable explaining the full breadth of thoughts and emotions I had with my mother about any issue of discussion; my subconscious self-assignment of underachiever meant that for most of my life, I felt like I was intellectually inferior and not able to bring my thoughts and feelings into discussion, as they were less than worthy of her attention. Iím not sure what other effects this has had on me; when I analyze my own sense of humor or what seems natural to me, violence is almost at the forefront. I love getting into debates about stuff and even better, get to yell or rant about it. Perhaps this is some residual of being exposed to this atmosphere at such an early age, or just another expression of this early crisis of inferiority that I went through. I canít imagine myself ever becoming physically abusive with someone; there have been moments in my life where I would have relished the opportunity to choke or hit someone, but thereís always been a strong piece inside of me that has reviled such a reaction. This I think plays a major part in my personal philosophy regarding people: I think that people will do everything they can let themselves get away with. I think notions of nobility or fortitude in matters are largely forced; I donít believe it to be naturally occurring. When it comes down to it, the reason I wouldnít attack someone who was driving me crazy is not that itís morally incorrect, but that some arcane institution in my head exists from my upbringing under my mom, who is in terms of morality a giant monument to it. A large piece of what I viewed as her venomous disgust for unnecessary violence and abject moral disobedience was firmly rooted in my mind. Thatís as close to a moral system as I had; self-disgust was the cost for violating it.
Living under my mother for my formative years definitely had a major impact on my mentality for the way things are, and when I started seeing my father again through visitation (still at a very young age, perhaps around 6 or 7) his disrespect and disregard for her way of thinking also did. My roles in how I viewed my father were reversed from my mother completely. I viewed myself as the underachiever with my mom, and with my father was the other way around. Iíve always seen myself as better, smarter, and more capable than he could ever be; this is not because itís true necessarily (although he didnít set the bar high) but because this way of overman-underling thinking was so powerfully ingrained in my head. The concept of equality in these relationships was not something that later came naturally over time, but something I had to fight to recognize later at an older age. At this age, there was no concept of equality between them. I was inherently lower than my mother and inherently greater than my father, something that inexorably could not be changed. This opposite way of thinking towards my father strangely ended up having more or less the same result as with my mother; I didnít feel like I could share my true thoughts and feelings about myself and especially about him. The reasons however were different; in my fatherís case, I literally didnít feel he had the capacity to handle them. I felt an almost responsibility to dutifully repress my distaste of him, because like my mother, I viewed him as less than me. This further reinforced my reliance on self for comfort and constructive thoughts, because my mother was too high to burden her with them and my father was too low to waste them on. There seems to exist within me a constant collision of what is right and what is more easily obtained because of my exposure to their two very different lives. My mother, the paragon of hard-working righteous (outside of the religious sense) single mother gets hold of everything she reaches for through toil and commitment. My father, on the other hand, takes advantage of as many people as he can to do as little as is necessary while maintain a delusion of respectability. And growing up with both of them really affected my perception of how important structure and doing the right thing is. Here was my father who did less than 1/10th of the work my mother did, and he was remarried with a nicer house, more possessions, and a stable family (at least, that was my perception until I hit an older age). As a young child I followed in my motherís footsteps; work hard, show integrity, and good things will come. But seeing my father get what appeared to be an even better life while doing no work and not earning anythingÖ It was the equivalent to seeing someone cheat at a sport and get away with it regularly and without criticism. This destabilization of my values first began presenting itself in 5th grade: I completely forgot to do two assignments. By middle school my grades were floating barely above average. Instead of getting straight Aís I was getting Bís and occasionally a C, which at the time was unforgivable. Flash forward again to high school and my grades are hardly passing. At this point it was surprising to see an A in anything except English class, which I had taking a liking to, or Creative Writing. Dís were more par for the course, and I finished the second half of my junior year in continuation school amongst kids from broken homes with nothing resembling good upbringing. It drove my mother crazy; she couldnít understand, and even worse, I couldnít explain it to her because I didnít recognize it myself. I had essentially lost the reason to aspire; if you could just as easily take something as earn it, what was the point if the joy came from just having it?
Of course, as I grew older, I started to realize just how much of an illusion my fatherís life was, as I spent mine heading in his direction. He was still drinking way too much. He was cheating on his wife, who forced him through a tech school and got him the job he still works at now. He didnít have enough money to support the lifestyle he was living because of his marital choices and soon started to lose the things he deceived so hard to earn. My stepbrothers, his sons started to fall apart in school. One ultimately turned to drugs; the other turned to the Marines. He was floating in between houses and lives. In his depression, he started staying in and doing nothing but drinking and watching TV, which caused him to start gaining weight. He would yell at others for not meeting up to standards he would never even consider holding himself to. His whole life was a fallen house of cards that he kept trying to get other people to put back together unsuccessfully. Seeing this and realizing it was simultaneous devastating and freeing for me. For the first time I realized he was working just as hard as my mother was to maintain this farce that was his life; but the dishonest and shifty nature of it ensured that it was a perpetual job that never yielded any real benefits. You canít enjoy the things youíve taken rather than earned; instead, you spend your time clutching them and trying not to lose them.
By 18, I was at what I would call the most atheistic point in my life. I felt like natural justice was the closest thing there was to a God. Natural justice ensured that my mother would always make it through hurdles no matter how difficult they were; if there were a God, I felt that these hurdles would not have existed in such variety and volume for her based on her virtue. Likewise, natural justice was kicking my father repeatedly in the stomach as he lie curled into the fetal position on the ground. If there were a God, his destructive influence would not have pulled people like my brothers and myself into his hole of a life. While my life began in physical poverty, it moved out of it at a fair rate. My life however only went further into psychological poverty, and growing old enough to realize it made me bitter, angry, and self-absorbed. I felt like I had been cheated, that I had been shown that life that was a show, and behind the backdrop there was this terrible reality that we all had to tolerate. I felt like I had been cursed to bear the knowledge of its falseness. Things had to be emotionally miserable for people because my two primary examples of life were both going through levels of it no matter what they did. My first real intimate relationship suffered because of this; I was an emotional nihilist and subconsciously imitated my fatherís behavior of studying how far one could push and use another before they couldnít tolerate it anymore. It was an almost glorious cascading of different, jumbled ideologies; I simultaneously put all my hopes into the thought that I could break the system while the whole time I was sabotaging my attempt. I would tell myself, ďIím not going to be my dad. Youíll see. Iíll prove it with this girl.Ē And all the while my attachment to her was more entrenched in this inner competition than it was on feeling. She was attracted to me, and I was attracted to the idea of using her to show my superiority to the way I perceived the system of life to be. So when it inevitably failed (and spectacularly, at that) I came to the first real crisis in my life. I didnít know what to think, and I didnít want to feel. I just hurt and the last thing I wanted to do was acknowledge that it was self-inflicted. But I also knew that if I didnít, I would end hurting the same again.
At this point in my life I had to take a serious inventory of what I truly believed in. Not what I wanted to believe in; I had already tried to do that and it led to the predicament I was in. For years I had built up this wall of dishonesty, of false assumptions and forced beliefs that didnít belong to me. And worse, I didnít recognize how my upbringing had affected me, and what my relationships with my mother and father told me about my inner nature. I had to sort them out and prioritize them. The first step was for me to acknowledge that I was not the son my mother had intended me to be; attempting to make my mind believe this was the primary source of my troubles. I first viewed myself truly to be, at the core, amoral. A bare slate, from which to start from. It explained why I had little trouble on an emotional level in lying and manipulating people to my ends. However, that previously mentioned chunk of morality still existed, and itís what I used to judge right and wrong. Itís why even though I was emotionally a nihilist I never turned to drinking, or drugs, or any kind of risky sexual behavior (the latter of which would have been impossible for me in high school anyway) to repress my feelings of worthlessness and pointlessness. Iíve never really believed it to truly belong to me; I have never identified it as being a part of myself, but more something that I was forcibly beholden to. A perfect example of this occurred recently when I was spending time with my friends. We went to a skate park on the old Naval base in Alameda, and the gates were closed and locked. My friends thought this was silly, as it used to always be open at this time, and immediately began to climb the fence. I, on the other hand, was faced with a dilemma. My body actively willed me away from the activity because it was now technically illegal. In my mind, I agreed with them. But my principles are a force I have extremely limited influence over. After about five minutes I found the ability to stave them off enough to get myself over the fence, but the entire time we were in the park I felt amazingly uncomfortable and with my prompting we ended up leaving much earlier than we would have.
Now that I stripped down all my thoughts and beliefs, and had established a solid base, it was now time to finish it off into a workable system I could live by. I learned that analyzing was power; to know yourself, your limits, and why you think and feel the way you do gives you invaluable insight. And studying and comparing your processes to others was too. At my core, I knew what I was capable of, and what I wasnít. And I began to realize that the system was not based in rules that I am beholden to. The more and more I looked at myself, the more I realized the whole truth of the system. I still believe that people are only limited by what they allow themselves to do, but up until this point I had not realized why. Itís not just the moral rules established at an early age; itís also fear of the results in others youíve experienced. In a very real way, my firsthand experience of my fatherís life falling completely apart was more of a moral institution in itself than everything about right and wrong I learned from my mother. In him I didnít see concepts but tangible results and consequences. Instead of the abstract notion of ďhurting others is wrong,Ē I was seeing a real-life application of why and how: itís wrong because it has destroyed people I love. Drinking in excess isnít wrong because the law has rules against it, itís wrong because my father used it to run away from his problems, and ended up creating new ones. In all this time, I was so deathly afraid of becoming my father, but through self-deception and manipulation I was ironically following the same path. Without analyzing myself, I hadnít realized just how powerful and how primal this fear really was, how failing to recognize it was damaging me in a major way, and how recognizing it could shape my life for the better. I always have been a person who has to ďlearn the hard way,Ē so to speak. And I believe this conflict with my father is absolutely central to that. In the end, my moral system of ethics revolves around the notion that consequences are inescapable in the end; either you face them, or you spend your whole life running from them while they catch up to you piece by piece. And this knowledge is central to my view on humanity. People ultimately hold themselves to as low a moral standard as they can tolerate. In some people, itís an amazingly high level. They are thoughtful, giving, caring people not because they want to be but because they have to. Their own sense of consequence forbids them from entering a state they view as intolerable, be it emotional, psychological or physical, and wonít consider otherwise unless pushed greatly. In others, itís very low, but that shred of humanity remains intact, that last vestige of self-accountability. Occasionally, people will hold themselves to a higher standard than their personal bare minimum, and I have a hard time believing that's for any other purpose than gratifying their own intellectual vanity. And then there are those who attempt to cheat this system, this essential nature within ourselves. And the results they meet are catastrophic, on their lives and on the lives of the people that depend on them.
"Anyone existing in this planet eagers to do something distinction"
- a robot