As of late, I’ve had a lot to think about. I’ve just finished my Philosophy course in school, and I’m starting Psychology and Religion, the former an interesting course and the latter, not so much. I’ve also got an English course, and we’re reading The Great Gatsby (which, much to my teacher’s dismay, I have already finished) which is rife with symbolism in a good way. I suppose in this post I’m going to tackle some of the things I’ve come to realise in the last little while.
Revelation 1: Essence precedes Existence
A commonly debated subject in philosophy is whether essence precedes existence. I was actually answering a question on my exam when I came to this conclusion.
Essence is, essentially, your soul; the essence of your being is what makes you, you. It is more than your eye colour or your hair colour, which contribute to your individuality as much as your father’s nose or your mother’s hands. Your essence is your passion and your happiness. It rests comfortable in your brain along with your opinions and your beliefs. And when you die, your essence lives on, whether in Heaven or a heaven or whatever it is you believe in. Your essence is your eternal soul.
Existence, simply, is the moment you were conceived. Existence, in this instance, is defined by empirical data; the moment you became a living organism, you exist.
In my opinion, essence precedes existence. When a woman or couple or whoever is pregnant with a child, they cannot help but imagine how their child will be. Will she have my nose? Will he hate vegetables? The couple or the person will not know for at least nine months either or these things, but when someone thinks those thoughts, they are creating the child’s essence. When that child is born, it’s parents will watch it grow and wonder if it has mama’s nose or papa’s hatred for veggies. But, you may say, the mother is already pregnant at this point, according to me, therefore existence proceeds essence.
Ah, loveable reader, you have not looked around my words, have you? Although many couples do not plan their children, many more do. Many couples say, ‘let’s have a baby’, and there they are, painting the nursery and thinking that their child would probably enjoy a Winnie the Pooh border around their wall. Every person, at least once in their life (I generalise because I know of no one who has not done this), has thought about their children. Even if it is in thinking, ‘I shall never rear a child for fear of fucking them up’. You still imagine your child existence, albeit in a fucked up way. But there you are, right now, thinking of your child, right? You’re wondering if maybe he’ll be a good person or if she’ll be a good person, and maybe you’re wondering if your child will have your interests. When you go out with your friends and you see a girl dressed provocatively, you may sometimes say to yourself, ‘If my daughter ever walks out of the house like that, I’ll send her to a nunnery.’ Or maybe you don’t like those young men who wear their pants down at their knees? You’ve maybe said once or twice, ‘if my daughter brings a guy like him home, I swear to God she’s going to a nunnery.’ I don’t know anyone who hasn’t imagined their children. And that’s why I think essence proceeds existence; the same way you imagine a song before you write it or a piece of art before you make it.
You may be thinking right now that I’m being very religious right now. Well, yeah, I am. Not in a ridiculous way, though, if you’ll pardon the irony. Abortion is another matter. If you want a quick explanation of how I feel about that, it’s got to do directly with my next revelation…
Revelation #2:Soft Determinism is where its at.
A friend of mine helped me with this one. We were talking about Soft Determinism vs. Hard Determinism and we both came to the conclusion that you can’t believe in destiny and free will at the same time, because destiny implies that everything is preordained, whereas free will is the opposite, a definition of it being, ‘the theory that the will is uncaused’ (which I think is beautifully poetic). So, my friend and I agreed that you are given options, and you must choose based on your past experiences and your own personal beliefs which path to take. I advocate this view wholeheartedly.
I’ve talked about God before on this blog, but I didn’t go too in depth into my own views. Whatever, that’s not important. What is important is that I do believe in a God. I digress. What I’m trying to do is make sense of God’s existence and his apparent nonchalance about the misfortunes of his ‘children’. Sometimes we are not offered a ‘right path’, some may say. But there always is. We, as humans, are given the distinct ability to view our future- it’s never certain, but we are sure of which path is right, make no mistake about that. We are sure that taking that one hit of cocaine now will more likely than not, be detrimental to our well-being sooner or later. And we are sure that studying on Monday night for a test on Thursday is perhaps better than studying on Wednesday for that test on Thursday. We are also sure that going out on Friday night with our friends is better for us than staying in like we have been every Friday night for the past two months to study because we need a break from work. We have this ability to know what is good for us and what is bad. Even if both paths sound bad (like cutting off your right hand and possibly never being able to write again or being injected with drugs and forced to kill your family, that story here), there’s always one that will definitely bring you less pain in the future.
We are always given a choice, even if it seems as though we’re backed into a corner. Therefore, Soft Determinism makes sense. The choice is what is preordained- from then on, you have a Donnie Darko-esque approach to the rest of your life; one action affecting the rest of your life. I don’t think that’s horrible at all, really. Everyone likes the idea of choice, and this theory gives us choice while still making us accountable for our own problems. Soft Determinism seems like the most logical way to explain our existence and the fucked up way we face life decisions.
Revelation #3: Pascal’s Wager Actually Makes Way More Sense than I Originally Thought
So, I mention Pascal’s Wager in this article (here), and I’m just going to copy and paste my explanation of it here:
1. If you live your life as if God exists, and God does exist, you’ve won big- hit the jackpot.
2. If you live your life as if God exists, and God does not exist, you’re not losing much because you’ve still lived your life as a good person.
3. If you live life as if God does not exist, and God exists, you’re going to hell. (he doesn’t say that but that’s the jist of this point)
4. If you live life as if God does not exist and God does not exist, then you’re not winning or losing.
Holy shit, I find myself saying. That is some wonderful stuff right there. Basically, what Pascal is saying is it doesn’t matter if God exists or not because you should still live a good life, as a morally good person. You shouldn’t do bad things, as we all know, but some people still do them! Why? Because they believe God will forgive them for it anyway, if they’re truly sorry. God has become a scapegoat for people, which, I’m sure is only half the reason why people created… it.
Many people will say that we should live a good life, even if God doesn’t exist. But they still do wrong things and expect to get into “heaven”.
That’s unfortunate, but it’s just how the world works. I guess, with Pascal’s Wager, it’s easy for you to figure out where you fit. You don’t have to be religious to live as though God exists, because God is simply another name for Good. God embodies all that humans want to be- good, caring, et cetera et cetera. So, why not live a good life, and see how it goes?
That’s all I’ve got so far, reader. I’m sure other things will come to mind as my life goes on, but these are a few things that I just figured out, and would love if you gave me some feedback. Truly. Thank you for reading, and if you have any conversations you want to start, tweet me or something.