Philosophy Matters, QED

Every man has a philosophy. It shapes his thoughts, directs his actions, and even determines his very outlook on reality. In order for man to live on earth, he must have a philosophy which guides his most fundamental decisions. Even newborns who have not yet had the opportunity to formulate a philosophy start the process of doing so almost immediately by perceiving and integrating sense data. Philosophy only ceases to be useful to man when he is dead.

But neither the living nor the dead are of primary concern here. There is, in fact, a third class of men who attempt to straddle the barrier between life and death. Philosophically, they are the walking dead. Though their biology still functions normally, their mind is poisoned, holding to premises which ultimately lead to destruction. Though they live now, their philosophy is inherently anti-life, leading not to health, happiness, and prosperity, but to decay, injury, and death.

To be honest, most people cannot identify in explicit terms the nature of their own philosophy, let alone recognize its full implications. But even among those who can introspectively comprehend their philosophy and verbalize it, there are some who either do not see, refuse to see, or deny seeing the end results of practicing it consistently. Just because the practitioners of a given philosophy do not accept or acknowledge the products of that philosophy, however, does not make its products any less real; similarly, the fact that some disregard philosophy as a mystically esoteric or even irrelevant field, cannot diminish its importance to their lives.

For those who deny the immense significance of philosophy, examine a recent interview conducted by Patrick Gavin of Politico. The article is entitled, almost as a victory cheer, “CPAC boy wonder swings left.” The “boy wonder” referred to in the title is Jonathan Krohn who gained notoriety for himself by speaking at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference at the age of 13. In 2010, he even published his own book called Defining Conservatism: The Principles That Will Bring Our Country Back (he self-published the shorter Defining Conservatism in 2008). At the time, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich took note of Krohn, commenting that Krohn was “[s]ure to be a leader of his generation’s return to conservatism.” I personally remember seeing Krohn in a television interview at the time and, if I remember correctly, he claimed his eventual ambition was to become the President of the United States. But that was the “13/14 year old” Krohn. The “17 year old Krohn” is no longer a conservative.

The fact that a boy changed his political opinions between ages 13 and 17 is so unremarkable an event that it makes the title of Gavin’s article almost laughably overly-enthused. Though the number of individuals who write political non-fiction or speak at national political conferences at that age is minute, the number of those who understand what they are writing or preaching is even more so. I myself was no older then than Krohn is now, and I did not truly discover Ayn Rand and her philosophy until my first year of college. But even in high school, I remember watching Krohn on the news and thinking silently to myself, “That kid really doesn’t have a clue about what he’s saying, even if I do agree with it.”

And in that respect, I was correct. “It’s a 13-year-old kid saying stuff that he had heard for a long time,” admits Krohn. “I live in Georgia. We’re inundated with conservative talk in Georgia.” Having grown up in Georgia myself, I can attest to that. That being said, it does not explain precisely why Krohn made the transition from a conservative to Leftist political ideology. Some modern psychologists will often try to attribute to this fact to something they call the “Acceptance-Rejection Mechanism” (ARM), a mystic part of the human subconscious which determines whether an individual will “accept” the precepts of the cultural/family/etc. environment in which he was raised or “reject” them. The choice made by the ARM is entirely arbitrary – a child will either grow up accepting the political ideology of his parents or he will not, but which side of the ARM he falls on will be a random chance of nature without any real justification. As such, this “explanation” is inadequate.

There is a second explanation that provides a more rational understanding of a child’s psychology. If a child is raised, as Krohn implies he was, in an environment in which the adults around him blatantly try to mold and frame his political ideology, this can lead to a backlash in his psychology. If he is taught to wholly swallow the precepts of his elders without justification, even if those precepts are rational, then one can expect a nature of intellectual rebelliousness to arise in him. The child, whose mind is hopefully not yet mangled by more advanced philosophies to believe that nothing is justifiable, will seek solace by developing a political ideology that he thinks “makes sense” compared to that of the adults around him. Though, certainly, he can still err and choose an ideology which is even less justifiable. Those that retain their parents’ political beliefs do so for one of three reasons: 1. their parents justified it; 2. their parents did not justify it but the child found a justification which appears reasonable (even if it is not) on his own; 3. the faculty of the child to do anything but regurgitate the dicta of his seniors has already been crippled. But this still leaves a few questions unanswered: why do children choose the final political ideology that they do? Why do they believe that one “makes sense” over the other?

Fortunately, Krohn provides the answer, unwittingly shedding light on a much deeper issue. Read carefully:

“‘I started reflecting on a lot of what I wrote, just thinking about what I had said and what I had done and started reading a lot of other stuff, and not just political stuff,’ Krohn said. ‘I started getting into philosophy — Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, Kant and lots of other German philosophers. And then into present philosophers — Saul Kripke, David Chalmers. It was really reading philosophy that didn’t have anything to do with politics that gave me a breather and made me realize that a lot of what I said was ideological blather that really wasn’t meaningful. It wasn’t me thinking. It was just me saying things I had heard so long from people I thought were interesting and just came to believe for some reason, without really understanding it.’”

If you did not catch it, reexamine one of Krohn’s key points: that he “was really reading philosophy that didn’t have anything to do with politics.” Why, then, did his political positions alter the way they did? If what he was reading didn’t have anything to do with politics then one could reasonably assume that what he was reading wouldn’t have affected his politics. But it did.

The reason why should be obvious: man’s philosophy is an integrated whole which represents the totality of his intellectual person. Moreover, philosophy is hierarchical, with derivative branches depending on more fundamental ones. As it is, political philosophy is at the far end of the philosophic chain, relying on a number of other branches to serve as the substructure for its own premises and conclusions. To suggest that Krohn could have read the philosophies he did – not only read, but accept them as fact – and not have changed his political positions represents a misunderstanding of causality. Just as man should not plant seeds of poisonous berries in the ground expecting them to produce healthy fruit, neither should he expect the seeds of a poisonous philosophy to produce sound politics.

And right though Krohn is to realize that much of what he said at the time was merely “ideological blather that really wasn’t meaningful,” it was Nietzsche (or Kant, or any of the others) who made him realize this? Is anyone really surprised that Krohn went from political conservatism (which is flawed enough on its own) to political Leftism?

How could Nietzsche have led Krohn to any logical conclusion when he himself rejected logic? (“There are many kinds of eyes. Even the Sphinx has eyes – and consequently there are many kinds of ‘truths,’ and consequently there is no truth.”)

How could Wittgenstein’s theories have led Krohn to a system of governance which holds each man’s life as his own highest value when he himself believed our lives are supposed to be lived for someone or something other than ourselves? (“I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.”)

How could Kant teach Krohn how to live within reality when he himself said that the nature of reality depends upon our perception of it, rather than vice versa? (“Hitherto it has been assumed that all our knowledge must conform to objects. But all attempts to extend our knowledge…  have, on this assumption, ended in failure. We must therefore make trial whether we may not have more success…if we suppose that objects must conform to our knowledge.”)

And one must remember that it was not the mere fact that he read such inanities that caused Krohn to change his politics. Instead, this was the result of his age and impressionability, i.e. that he fully accepted these philosophies rather than critically judging them on their merits (or, rather, their lack thereof). There is a point in man’s life in his late teens and early adulthood – a point which Krohn is fast approaching – at which man’s philosophy becomes relatively permanent. For most, their philosophies become dead dogma which they believe is fundamentally true even in the face of rational criticism. Most of the changes in one’s philosophy beyond that point are generally minor. This is not to say that a man cannot undergo his own philosophic enlightenment later in life, but the likelihood of this is severely reduced.

And Krohn’s chances of discovering a rational philosophy – at least before his own philosophy ceases to be youthful curiosity (however flawed) and instead turns into dogmatism – are not good. Unsurprisingly, those philosophers named by Krohn are the same who have overseen the intellectual decline of the West – and so too the erosion of individual rights – over at least the last 100 years. Judging by that which I can observe first-hand in a fairly conservative university, relatively speaking, I can safely assume that Krohn’s irrational philosophic prejudices are likely to be reinforced rather than abated in his college years. And if the general rule of thumb holds true that modern philosophy departments are more intellectually corrupted than some of the others, then Krohn’s chosen course of study in philosophy will likely only intensify this reinforcement.

Whatever the case, Krohn has done well to accidentally make an example of himself to the benefit of rational observers. Krohn’s shift from speaking out against President Obama in 2009 to supporting him and his healthcare act in 2012 demonstrates the natural conclusions of Kant’s, Nietzsche’s, Wittgenstein’s, etc. ideological refuse. More than that, his example displays the direct link between man’s psyche (i.e. his ideology) and its application in man’s actions.

Some may wonder if it is possible for man to draw conclusions in a political or some other sense which conflict with other tenets of his philosophy. Certainly it is possible, insofar as one means that such a man is ignoring the actual ends of his more fundamental premises. Modern conservatives serve as an excellent example of these sorts of contradictions. Though they hold many of the same premises as liberals and Leftists – i.e., that it is man’s duty to take care of his fellows, that sacrifice is a moral standard of value, etc. – they claim to support a different kind of government. But because the conservatives share the same fundamentals as their philosophic opponents, they have gradually defaulted over the past century and have granted victory after victory to the enemies of individual rights. Why? Because the Leftists are more consistent in their positions than are the conservatives who already share their same basic tenets, leaving the conservatives no means to combat the others – this, I believe, is part of the reason Krohn was so ready to accept the philosophies he did.

Broadly speaking, the contradictions that man can hold within his own ideology are more often of the superficial rather than the fundamental variety. Rather than holding to conflicting principles, it is the application of those principles which produces the inconsistency. A conservative could believe, for example, that altruistic giving is an absolute moral good while not being consistent enough to support a socialist government. He could not, however, believe in the same moral supremacy of altruism and that the pursuit of one’s self-interest supersedes the interests of others. The first is an inconsistency in application, the second in fundamentals.

But reality does not contradict itself. Reality is consistent. The moment man assumes a principle (or application) which is contrary to the nature of reality, he is, in fact, acting against his own nature. Man can only live his life, not to mention live it happily, by unflinchingly pursuing his own self-interests, and he can only do that by understanding and properly responding to reality. If he does not, he puts himself in harm’s way – either spiritually or physically.

Fortunately, not all contradictions are the same – lesser contradictions produce lesser levels of harm, though they are still harmful and ought to be corrected. But the contradictions currently held by Krohn and many others are not so minor. They are of the level which will very rapidly inhibit man’s productive abilities – and so too his ability to live – if they were implemented fully. Undoubtedly, there are people working diligently to see that they are.

Fortunately, the American public still retains enough of a rational philosophy – and the American Constitution enough integrity – to prevent full, direct assaults by socialists and other breeds of thugs, even if individuals like Krohn do not. Individuals of that kind attempt to treat reality as it is not and to live in a way which man cannot. They are destructive to those affected by the application of their philosophies, but even more than that they are self-destructive. And if they do not correct their errors in their own philosophies then they are, in a very real sense, dead men walking.

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3 thoughts on “Philosophy Matters, QED

  1. Self-Talk and What Others Have Told You—Programmed You

    After examining the philosophies, the theories, and the practiced methods of influencing human behavior, I was shocked to learn the simplicity of that one small fact: You will become what you think about most; your success or failure in anything, large or small, will depend on your programming—what you accept from others, and what you say when you talk to yourself.
    It is no longer a success theory; it is a simple, but powerful fact. Neither luck nor desire have the slightest thing to do with it. It makes no difference whether we believe it or not. The brain simply believes what you tell it most. And what you tell it about you, it will create. It has no choice.
    “As a man thinketh, so is he.” Many of us remember this quote from The Bible if we were brought up in a traditional Christian church. We probably shook our heads when we heard this. After all, isn’t our physical self one thing and our private thought another? Little did I (or most of us then) understand that the Biblical passage had hit the nail of truth squarely on the head. But, it would be years later, however, after much research, and following the discoveries through which modern-day neuroscientists had begun to unlock the secrets of the human mind, that I would come to know just how correct—how scientifically correct—that Biblical passage had been.
    In the last two decades we have learned more about the workings of the human brain than was known throughout all history prior to that time. We now know that by an incredibly complex physiological mechanism, a joint effort of body, brain and “mind,” we become the living result of our own thoughts. Through scientific discovery we have proved the relationship between our own “mental programming” and the matter of whether we will succeed or fail in any endeavor we undertake in life, from something as important as a lifetime goal to something as small as what we do in a single day.
    Have you ever considered just how much of what you do—how you act, how successful you are—is dependent on the conditioning, the programming you received from others and on the conditioning you subsequently bought and kept giving yourself? It is virtually impossible for any of us to do anything, no matter how insignificant, without being affected by our conditioning. Every step you take, move you make, or word you say is affected.
    It follows that if every action you take, of any kind, is affected by prior programming, then the end results of your actions are equally affected—in short, how successful you will be at anything is inexorably tied to the words and beliefs about yourself that you have stored in your subconscious mind. And what is stored there, for most of us, was decided for us by someone else.
    The 148,000 No’s! I will give you an example of some of the negative programming most of us have received. During the first 18 years of our lives, if we grew up in fairly average, reasonably positive homes, we were told “No!,” or what we could NOT DO, more than 148,000 times! If you were a little more fortunate, you may have been told “No!” only 100,000 times, or 50,000 times—however many, it was considerably more negative programming than any of us needs.
    Meanwhile, during the same period, the first 18 years of life, how often do you suppose you were told what you CAN DO or what you CAN Accomplish in life? A few thousand times? A few hundred? Some say that they were only told What They Could Accomplish only 3 or 4 times. Compare the Can Do’s to the No’s or Don’ts. It is quite obvious how we became programmed and why it is so rigid and difficult to change the pattern of negative thinking that leads to distress, pain and unhappiness.
    Whatever the number, for most of us the “yes’s” we received simply did not balance out the “no’s.” The occasional words of “belief” were just that—occasional—and they were far outweighed by our daily doses of “cannots.”
    This negative programming that we all received (and still receive) has come to us quite unintentionally. It has come to us from our parents (who wanted to protect us); it has come to us from our brothers and sisters, from our teachers, our schoolmates, our associates at work, our life-mates, advertising of all kinds, the morning paper and the 6 O’clock news.
    Leading behavioral researchers have told us that as much as 77 percent of everything we think is negative, counterproductive, and works against us. At the same time, medical researchers have said that as much as 75 per cent of all illnesses are self-induced. It’s no wonder. What if the researchers are correct? That means that as much as 75 percent or more of our programming is the wrong kind. Until very recently no one understood well enough the human mind—how it really works. The result was that without knowing what they were doing, and with us not recognizing the immense effect this “casual” programming was having on us, “they” have been programming us in the wrong way. Everything and everyone around us, without being aware of it, has been programming us.
    Unfortunately, most of it was the wrong kind of programming—and we took it to heart. Year after year, word by word, our life scripts were etched. Layer by layer, nearly indelibly, our self-images were created. In time, we ourselves joined in. We began to believe that what we were being told by others—and what we were telling ourselves—was true. No matter how innocently given or subtly implied, we began hearing the same words and thoughts repeatedly; hundreds, even thousands of times we were told, or we told ourselves, what we could not do, could not accomplish. Repetition is a convincing argument. Eventually we believed what others told us and what we told ourselves most; we began to live out the picture of ourselves we had created in our minds.
    In time we became what we most believed about ourselves. And, in so doing, we created a wall, which for most of us will stand invisibly but powerfully between us and our unlimited futures for as long as our old programming remains in force. Unless the programming we received is erased or replaced with different programming, it will stay with us permanently and affect and direct everything we do for the rest of our lives.
    Fortunately, that does not have to be the case. Remember, “As a man thinketh, so is he.”
    Change Your Life, Change Your Thinking! Yes, you can!! By Jerome Ennis, MA with excerpts from What To Say When You Talk To Yourself—a book by Shad Helmstetter, Ph.D.

  2. Change Your Thoughts and Change Your Life
    Many of our problems in life, at times, seem impossible to resolve. This is especially true for those who have used alcohol or other mind-altering substances as a way of escaping emotional pain created from fears, guilt, shame, resentments, anger, hatred, regrets, etc.
    Alcohol or other mind-altering substances gave many of us self-assurance, a feeling of acceptance, a feeling of power, a feeling of control, a feeling of courage, and other positive feelings when we first started using.
    The alcohol or other drug affected the rational brain where the language centers are located, and we stopped telling ourselves that we were shy, lacked self-confidence, were not pretty enough, smart enough, athletic enough, popular enough, good enough, etc. This feeling was so good initially, that we wanted to feel this way all the time, or at least as often as possible.
    Thus, an addict is being created and born. A person who does not feel good about him or herself, suddenly feels good and seems to become the person that he or she wants to be. A new irrational belief becomes part of your reality, and you begin to equate happiness, joy, fun, and pleasure and a sense of self-confidence when you drink or drug and you seek this feeling as often as possible. You are beginning to “get hooked or addicted to a feeling”.
    What you do not realize at the time is that if you had a good sense of self-confidence and belief in yourself, you would have already felt good about yourself and would have been able to find happiness, joy, fun and pleasure without the use of alcohol or drugs. For example, after you had a few drinks or tokes, you found yourself laughing, dancing, etc. and having fun. Well, the alcohol or drug did not give you rhythm or ability to dance, you already had it. You just did not believe it and you were too self-conscious about what others might say about you and that they might laugh or make fun of you. But, after you had a drink or toke, you did not care about others opinions. And, you liked your new-found abilities, skills, and self confidence, and believed that the alcohol or drug is what gave it to you.

    For a time, the alcohol or other mind-altering substance works for us in what we perceive a positive way, and we become more and more dependent, and even when we begin to experience relationship, monetary, employment, academic or even legal problems connected to drinking, we refuse to make the connection with the drinking or drugging and the problems we are having. We begin to rationalize and justify our drinking and drugging.
    Then, the addict discovers that every time that he or she feels any sort of distress or emotional pain, that it can be ‘cured’ with a drink or drug. And, over time, the ‘cure’ is needed more and more often, and that the ‘cure’ is not lasting very long, and the addict keeps going for the ‘cure’ sooner and sooner, and eventually to the point that there is never a lapse between doses.
    And, all the while, life seems to become more and more hard to manage on a day to day basis, and whatever fears, doubts, worries, shame, guilt, resentments, or anger that we are feeling and thinking about, become worse and worse to the point of a feeling of helplessness, hopelessness, and uselessness for many.
    In Recovering Your True Self and Life, will require a change in your irrational thoughts and beliefs that lead to your feelings, attitude and behaviors. Thoughts lead to feelings, feelings lead to attitudes, and this leads to behaviors that are not in your best interest.
    Overcoming your irrational beliefs that you are not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, sexy enough, courageous enough, athletic enough, etc. that started this cycle of Self-Doubt is the beginning of Self-Discovery and Sustained Recovery.
    You are not recovering from alcohol or other drug addiction. Alcohol and drug addiction are merely symptoms and the result of your irrational beliefs about yourself and about life that led to your mental and emotional discomfort and pain that led to the continued alcohol and drug use to begin with. At some point, the ‘cure’ that you had accidentally found, was not working any more, and by this time, you had enslaved yourself to your irrational beliefs that lead to exaggerated emotional hurt and pain, and in turn enslaved yourself to alcohol or other substance abuse that further eroded your Self-Concept and belief in yourself.
    Underneath all your irrational beliefs, you are a whole, intact person who possesses all the skills, abilities, aptitudes, intellect, and other qualities that you need to enjoy life and to fulfill your responsibilities and to manage your own life in a meaningful and productive way without the aid of alcohol or other drugs to give you a ‘false’ sense of well-being-ness which it gave you in the early stages of alcohol or other drug use.
    Who you are, what you were born with, is all you need. You just have to go back and find your true self which is still there. Even though you may not remember who you started out to be at the moment, once you stop Rating Yourself, Comparing Yourself to Others, and Adopt the Philosophy that: “Other people’s opinions of me is none of my business,” and beginning to discover your own ideas, interests, abilities, skills, intellect and opinions about yourself, about the world around you, etc. and stop being at the affect and under the influence of others, you will find that you truly are a unique and fully-self-contained individual and that you were born with all the skills, abilities, aptitudes, intellect and interests to fully achieve becoming the best that you can be given your own gifts. You are unique. You’re an individual. There is nobody else exactly like you, and therefore, you are special. Use your talents, skills, abilities, interests and intellect and become the best that you can be. Do It For Yourself. Respect Yourself. Accept Yourself. Love Your Self. Take Good Care of Your Self. And, in turn as you become more and more self-actualized, which means that you begin to approach all you were capable of being, you will find that yourself is Good Enough, and that you get that Feeling of Power and Control and Fun in Life that you originally thought was not there.
    It was always there, but was trapped by irrational beliefs that led you to believe that you were inadequate in some way, which is what led to use and abuse of alcohol or other drugs in the early days when the alcohol or other drug momentarily allowed you to forget that you believed you were not adequate to deal with life and to enjoy it and to be accepted.
    You have and have always had everything that it takes to live a full life with a good sense of self worth. Explore your mind, and Erase Irrational Thoughts and Beliefs that lead to self-doubt and fear. Life is good. You are good. Believe it. Re-program your thinking with Positive and Truthful Self-Talk! Life is Good, and So are You! Believe In Yourself!! Discover Your True Self—The Self that Existed when you Were A Child; before you began to be shaped and molded by the World Around You and You Began to Accept and Believe things, mostly about yourself, that were not true, were negative, or were otherwise irrational and dysfunctional beliefs. Live One Day At A Time. Today is the Only Time That You Can Do Anything!! You can plan for a better tomorrow, but Today is the Day That You Can Make The Decision To Change Your Mind, and Change Your Life For Good. You can Do It!! You Better Believe It!!
    M. Jerome Ennis, MA
    Addiction Therapist/TVAMC

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