By Bradley Harrington
“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton, “Letter to Robert Hooke,” 1675 —
Last week I made the statement that, this week, we would explore “an idea that I consider to be the key to a rational social system: Banning the use of force from all human relationships” (“On the Road to Find Out,” WTE, Jan. 8).
The more I considered things, however, the more I realized I was getting a bit ahead of myself — for that thesis is not an irreducible primary that can be left just hanging, without context, in a vacuum.
So, Dear Reader, please forgive me for that error, but we aren’t quite there yet, as such a contention needs to be deduced and not just assumed.
Speaking intellectually, I’ve already summarized modern philosophy’s “ideas” of reality and knowledge as follows: That, “metaphysically, there’s no such thing as objective reality” and that, “epistemologically, there’s no such thing as knowledge.”
I know it’s difficult for the average “man in the street” to grasp the magnitude of these errors — as even the dumbest dimwit in the country realizes that existence exists and most of us are aware that a proposal that “there’s no such thing as knowledge” is, itself, trying to qualify as knowledge (and is therefore self-contradictory).
To simply push aside such meanderings as inconsequential, however, is a grave mistake — for it is philosophy, by dealing with the fundamental aspects of the nature of existence, that sets the pace and determines the trends for all other areas of knowledge (such as the specific sciences). Corrupt that arena and everything that follows from it is poisoned as well.
So, despite the fact that a book containing such ponderous claptrap as Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” merits little more than being flung against a wall in disgust, our journey has to continue until we know — explicitly and exactly why — we believe what we believe. Otherwise, it’s just opinion and not science.
(For those of you who have an interest in this area, by the way — not many of you, I’m sure — I would recommend Aristotle’s “Metaphysics” and Ayn Rand’s “Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology” as the two best works for grounding yourself firmly in a rational outlook on the Universe in which we reside.)
For our purposes here, let’s simply state that there is an objective reality that exists independently of any observer — and that, through the application of scientific methods of observation and experimentation, it is possible for human beings to develop knowledge regarding that reality.
Well, if the Universe has a specific nature and operates according to certain principles (“natural law”), doesn’t it logically follow that everything which exists within that framework must have a specific nature as well?
And, if so, doesn’t that include us? Wouldn’t we, as human beings, therefore also possess specific natures and a particular method of successful functioning?
And, just that fast, we shift out of metaphysics and epistemology and into the fields of ethics and politics instead — for it is precisely the purpose of those two branches of philosophy to answer those very questions.
So: What do our natures, exactly, consist of? Upon pondering that question, three facts immediately leap out:
(1) That man is a being that operates on the conceptual, rational level of consciousness; (2) That that level is not inherently operable, but functions by choice; and (3) That man survives not by adapting himself to his environment but by adapting his environment to himself.
For man to succeed and prosper, in other words, two tasks must be performed above all else: THINKING and PRODUCTION. With the second being the physical application of whatever abilities we choose to exhibit in the first.
Any ethical or social system, therefore, that enhances and supports those two factors in man’s existence will improve our existence while systems that corrupt those two cardinal values will act as our destroyers.
And, of all the factors that can erupt into our lives to nullify successful thinking and production, the greatest of those is: The use of force against us by other men.
It is not in man’s mind or nature to operate under the blows of a whip — and yet, in studying history, we discover that that’s exactly how we’ve been “functioning” for countless millennia (which is the cause of our perennial stagnation).
NOW we can say with meaning that the use of force is evil — not just because we might have been taught that, but because its usage abrogates the fundamental requirements of our existence (thinking and production).
So, NOW, we’re finally ready to discuss our thesis: How do we develop a rational social system that bans such force from all human relationships? See you next week.
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the “Wyoming Tribune Eagle” on January 15, 2017. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.