Friday, December 3, 2010

higher philosophies

A "higher philosophy" was a phrase used in a local letter-to-the-editor that appeared in the paper this morning in the course of arguing for "inclusion" in local schools. "Inclusion" means folding those with special needs into classes with those who are judged not to have special needs.

A higher philosophy. A kinder heart. A human decency. Who could argue with such a higher philosophy? And yet the argument put a fire under my behind and encouraged me to write my own letter to the editor questioning the argument for inclusion as made.

Higher philosophies are very nice things. They inspire effort and determination ... and sometimes a lot of sweet talk. But I think it is worth saying that higher philosophies, when unexamined, can create some awful idiocy and some widespread sorrow. The higher philosophy of Christianity brought with it the Crusades. The higher philosophy of national security brought with it an unsubstantiated war in Iraq and another in Afghanistan. The higher philosophy of abortion is often loath to concede the particulars of the operation or the psychological impact on the pregnant woman. And the higher philosophy of inclusion in the schools too often closets the impact on teachers (who might otherwise be teaching) and other students.

None of these observations is to suggest that a higher philosophy should necessarily be tossed out as unworthy. And we could all drink a lot of beer when discussing the social-impact particulars of a given higher philosophy.

But what interests me is how willing individuals might be to examine up-close-and-personal their own higher philosophies. Examining does not mean turning into some intellectual nitwit and tearing down everything that does not comply with logic. Examining just means that if you follow one course of action, that course of action is likely to have unintended consequences and the fine print of actuality may not shine so warmly as the presentation of a higher philosophy. It's better not to lie about such things. A higher philosophy may indeed be worth following, but denying responsibility for or awareness of the less-glowing effects is likely to mean the higher philosophy itself will be demeaned. This is not just cowardly. It's also stupid.

As I say, the social ramifications can be discussed from now until the cows come home.

But the personal ramifications are something individuals would be well-advised to examine closely.

End of rant.


  1. We do get rather attached to our higher philosophies, hence our unwillingness to closely examine them. Things thus closely examined often start to stagger on suddenly uncertain legs. Then what?

  2. The indefinete seems to be the core of the matter.
    I have, in past and present times, been struggling with a lack of guidance. An unwillingness towards ethics one might say. I have vacated barrooms and pissed away my money on things that pleases the ego but in the end wreaks havoc on the remains of my conscience.And when those higher philosphies descend on my crippled self I feel nothing but more pain. To state things bluntly, philosophers emerged for a reason...
    These are not the words of an old and wise man. They are the scribbled down experiences of a struggling young man battling insanity and alcoholism.

    A penny for your thoughts....
    And admist all the stark seriousness I wish you all a great weekend!

  3. Patience, courage and doubt are our constant companions. It is time to put them to work.

  4. But what happens when all of these resources have been depleted? Or at least I think I have nothing left. Is there truly a self lingering beneath the traits of personality? I don't even know why I'm asking you this..My apologies for the inconvenience, It's just that I've been following your blog for quite some time and I'm at a point in my life (what a cliché!) where certain questions have started to yank my chain.

  5. I also apologize for the fragmented arguments and bad grammar. I do not belong to the english speaking world.

  6. Where all resources have vanished, what is it that notices all resources have vanished? This is not just some upscale, philosophical/psychological question.

    My sense is that whenever a problem rises up in life, the first thing anyone needs to do (assuming they actually want to solve it) is to slow down. Literally, slow down.

    A good way to slow down is to take a little time each day to sit down, erect the spine, sit still, shut up, and focus the mind. It may be called meditation or it may be called idiocy ... do it anyway. For five or ten minutes each day ... do it! Don't worry, you can have all your uncertainties back later, but for these five or ten minutes, do ... this! Do what? Well, mentally counting exhalations from one to ten and beginning again is an excellent practice.

    The chattering mind may have a hundred opinions and cite a thousand worries ... do it anyway.

    A story I have always liked was this one: