Phenomenology – The Gateway to Existentialism 1

We come now to the part of the series where I branch out. By no means have we reached a proficiency of the ancients, or really covered their styles with any kind of flair or expertise, but I feel that we could spend the whole of this summer with them and still not cover it to my satisfaction. We will have to save the rest for actual class time. Today I want to begin the kind of philosophy that I really love.

Like I mentioned before, we will be spending some time jumping around and not doing anything in any particular order, but hit what I am interested in. If you want chronology, you can start your own blog. In the early twentieth century (modern times now) philosophers generally switched thought processes from a series of questions that tried to answer with certainty and definiteness that we know a certain aspect of existence actually is there and we do exist. There were many philosophers and theologians in the early catholic church who tried with all their might to deduce existence (small ‘c’ catholic denotes the whole body of Christians rather than the Roman Catholic Church as a specific body).

This may seem silly because you can look down and indeed see a body. At least, I do. I am not sure about you. But, it is not really silly when you consider that if you think about what your mind actually has the capability to create when it is called on to do so, it is not out of reason to wonder, as many of you probably have, that our minds could be creating existence and images and our corpus as well as the world around us. How can you be sure that what you see is the same thing I see? This was a real problem for early people with lots of money, smart brains, and too much time on their hands. Rene Descartes (1596 – 1650) was one of the most famous thinkers who doubted his existence but came up with the famous cogito ergo sum, or, I think, therefore I am. He postulated that because he CAN doubt, at least his mind exists. He helped add on to generations of thinkers that were concerned not with events in the universe, or how we ought to live our lives, but whether we can trust our senses. This process was, for the most part, abandoned by twentieth-century thinkers who were more concerned with phenomena, or events, that took place in the world rather than a slightly more nebulous process mentioned above. I mean, in a sense, we seem to be certain of our existence, or at least our sentience, and if we can think, even if our life is some kind of bizarre virtual reality, it is, and that should be enough, right?

Leave it to the Germans to advance a new method of philosophy and give it a deceptively hard name. Phenomenology became the new thing through Edmund Husserl (1859 – 1938) and his protege turned disappointment and Nazi sympathizer and snake, Martin Heidegger (1889 – 1976). First, let’s set the scene. In the turn of the century, everyone was enjoying more personal freedom in government and society, women are starting to have more natural rights granted to them and in certain places of Europe, race mattered little, and all colors were granted at least much the same place in society. What seemed to matter is how you drank or how you thought. Hemingway and the Fitzgeralds were prime examples of the drinking with the philosophers we will talk about in subsequent lessons and psychologists leading the world with new thought. This was the era of the development of psychoanalysis and the subconscious mind. What one could perceive and place meaning on became important rather than what exists and how. This was also the time period where science and medicine began evolving at a clipped pace. Faster and faster innovations were pumped out of the universities and the minds of thinkers in French cafes.

Phenomenology is the study of phenomena or simply, events. Intentionality (which has ontological as well as teleological implications, but for the phenomenologists as well as the existentialists, referred to consciousness and being conscious of your consciousness) meant that philosophy had entered the world of psychology and how we interact with the world around us, and more importantly, why is interaction important for you personally. I will write more in a later post digging into phenomenology, but for now, think about this:

How do you interpret experiences? Are you the type of person who sluffs off interactions with others and forgets what happens, or are you the type to analyze each exchange? Why is that? What do you focus on? If I were to chop down a tree in my backyard, how would I put importance on the life that I just ended, presuming it was a live tree and not a dead one? What about reading this? How do the words on your screen have any importance for you at all? How do you know? What events leading up to you reading made the words have meaning?

Plato – Forms, Reality, and the Allegory of the Cave

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Outside of The Matrix (which I am not sure people really watch anymore) or Inception, one of the core questions of philosophy over the millennia has been related to the nature of reality and how we would even know if we were living in such a world. Plato (428-348 BC) was a philosopher and Athenian who wrote about the life of his mental master and mentor, Socrates (470-399 BC). While I am not going to give these two their due, because it would simply take way too long, I do want to mention that these two were some of Classical Greece’s Golden Age Philosophers, another being Plato’s student and later, Alexander the Great’s teacher, Aristotle.

In short, given the other lessons we have talked about, what Plato and Socrates talked about relating to today’s ideas was that everything had multiple forms. The Greeks were very interested in finding some universal law that dictated everything. Much like Einstein much later wanted to find a grand unifying theory in physics and mathematics, Plato and Socrates wanted to explain the solution where the idea of something is perfect. We see that in our own minds often. We can envision a project in its perfect outcome. Our paintings have perfect brush strokes with brilliant paint and are instantly masterpieces, our papers are lauded for their brilliance. We see the Form of them, the Ideal of them. We also know that when we create something, it rarely if ever conforms to our idea of it. When I set out to write blog posts for your enjoyment I see many people following them and publishers clamoring for me to write a philosophy book for students. This, in an imperfect nutshell, is what Plato thought of as the perfect Form of something. In fact, even in our minds, we cannot compare to the Form of it in perfection. What we can create, no matter how hard we try or how beautiful it is, is merely a shadow of what the Form of it really is in the world of Ideas.

Part of what makes an Idea so perfect is the fact that it is unchanging. We and those things in our world are ever changing and aging and decomposing from the moment they are born, and because of that, they cannot be perfect nor can they live up to the ideal of the Idea. Babies are so beautiful to us because they are just new and seem to not be changing when we see the baby, we see the ideal of the baby that we want, that is stuck in our memories from that first photo or social media post right after birth.

To explain this, Socrates walks us through a story that is related to us in Plato’s Dialogues. This is what came to be known as the Allegory of the Cave. The Allegory of the Cave is perhaps the most famous story in Western Philosophy. It is just a short excerpt from Plato’s book, The Republic. In The Republic, Plato tries to convince his interlocutors (those he is debating with) of many things including the perfect forms of government (philosopher kings are in charge, shocker!), the Theory of Forms, and the Socratic Method, among other things.

Imagine you are chained to a wall inside a cave. You have been so all your life, and have had no experiences outside the cave ever. I am sure you can imagine that you would not have seen mountains, clouds, rain, elephants, or other wonders and would have no frame of reference for them. Chances are, these prisoners would not even be able to imagine the possibility of these things. Some way off behind the prisoners, at the mouth of the cave, is a fire that constantly burns and throws light against the wall at the opposite end of the cave that the prisoners face. There are people who walk in front of the fire carrying objects and their shadows are projected by the fire so the prisoners see the shades of them and create names and stories for these shadows. In fact, the shadows are all they know. I am sure you can see where this is going both as a story, and an allegory for the Theory of Forms.

Eventually, one of the prisoners look down to see that his manacles are off, and he is free. He gets up and looks around, sees the fire and the world beyond. The light of the fire is more than he has ever seen, and as his ignorance is burned away, it acts as a physical wound and hurts him. The memory of that enlightenment stays, More than that, he sees the people creating shadows, and naturally, his mind is blown. He has no reference point for these new things and as he takes them in, he is seeing beyond the shade or the fake world that he was raised knowing. The question is, can he go back into the cave after experiencing these new and wild things that are the actual reality, or has he been separated from them for eternity? Personally, I would suggest that he could not go back in and try to tell tales of his experiences. It would be too fantastical for his former prisoner friends.

Freedom

His mind has been unleashed and he cannot ignore what he has seen. It is the same with knowledge or ideas. Once we have had ideas and moved outside ignorance, we cannot go back to being ignorant, at least not easily. This is one reason why adults advocate travel (among other things) for new graduates. Back in the day, when someone graduated from college, they would embark on a long tour of the world called the Grand Tour. The aim was to experience the real world outside of what they saw in their sheltered college or university life. Next time we will talk more about the perfect ideals or Idea of things, for now, I want you to consider the allegory. Which is more powerful, the idea, or the thing itself?

The Basic Substances – Thales of Miletus

What are you made out of? Can you break your composition down to the essential components of what makes you, you? Can you understand the basic core concepts of any substance? If you could, what would you find?

Now, I understand that scientific breakthroughs in the last few hundred years have dramatically limited the scope of the above questions, but they are still interesting to ponder. I want you to do a little imagining. After all, you are probably at home and no one can see you close your eyes and concentrating on a dream that I dictate. I want you to imagine you are in a world where Gods and Monsters are the reasonable explanations for thunder, lightning, floods, and the changes of the seasons. You and no one around you has any clue why these things happen. It would never occur to you or anyone else that positively and negatively charged ions interacting, or massive tectonic plates larger than our imagination can visualize actively shifting causes some of what they were terrified of. You are standing in a field thinking. Around you are small trees and bushes, butterflies and birds zoom in and out of your vision. No one else is near you because you are in the wilderness i.e. anywhere there is no city or road. You look down at the ground at the dirt and wonder what it is made from, what colors it brown if the grass and the rocks sprinkled in the dirt are made from the same substance if the water in the stream nearby is also made of the same thing. If you looked at the world in that view, it would be very hard to see anything physical as a different substance. We know that granite and basalt are different and so is silica based soil vs. limestone soil. To you living thousands of years ago, it is just soil. How would you classify things in that world where you don’t know what you know now? Could everything share something that makes it alive and connected?

First, as you come out of that little daydream I have to congratulate you as you probably just had your first thought experiment that you were aware of. A thought experiment is a made up scenario that philosophers and scientists use to help model a thought or test a theory. If something could be modeled in your brain, being tested in reality can sometimes be possible.

As you imagined yourself in that field, you could have been just like Thales of Miletus as he began to ponder the questions you just did. Thales was born in Miletus in Greek Ionia (the western coast of present-day Turkey) and became known as one of the “Seven Sages of Greece” and was one of the first recognized philosophers in the western tradition. This last part is interesting because we are so used to thinking of philosophy as the norm, but in 640 BC, a professional philosopher was incredibly novel (unique). In fact, even up until Newton and further, the scientists were “Natural Philosophers” rather than scientists.

Thales was concerned with not ethics or society, but what was called “Natural Philosophy”, which is why I asked you if you could name a substance in the natural world, or matter that everything is made of. Thales spent much of his time trying to solve the problem of the day concerning matter. After much thinking and observing, Thales decided that water was the substance that all things were made of. He saw how plants used water, rain made all things more alive, humans needed water to survive, and snow became water as well as many other observations. He observed the forms of water as Ice, liquid, and, gas constructs his view of the world. He reasoned, falsely, we know now, that because of the almost omnipresence of water, all substances must be made from it. To his inquiring mind, it only made sense that water was the primary substance of all things. To us, that sounds like a silly idea. We know that all things come from protons, neutrons, electrons, atoms, quarks, and other pieces of mystery (to me) that science has told us to combine to create all things.

If we were isolated technologically, it seems like it would be actually easy to agree with Thales. Water is essential to every living thing on earth. What was neat about this approach rather than what came next in philosophy concerning the core substances is that Thales observed that life was the core substance. Instead of thinking of things like an engineer and looking at the organization of the world through what is dead and gone, Miletus’ approach to looking at what was living and changing as a core substance is a surprisingly optimistic and humanistic look at the living world.

What are the consequences of this approach to natural philosophy? What is the point of studying someone who has a patently false understanding of the world from our privileged viewpoint? Fair question. What is really important about this search, and natural philosophy, in general, is that, like my thoughts about language, this was one of the first times we see people sitting down and attempting to make sense of the core components of the world. This means two related things. 1) Humans had been settled and comfortable enough to create not only civilization, but they were so comfortable that they didn’t have to search for food, and spend their whole lives moving from place to place as resources were depleted. They could send others to conquer for them so philosophers could sit and think. This is a big step forward that allowed us directly to create schools and universities and people could live in their heads rather than worry so much. Certainly this created worries of their own relating to city life, but for the time being, comfort and stability created the atmosphere for new thought. 2) Natural philosophy and a view of the world in a mythological viewpoint, as talked about before, led to a break in that down the road that was a more reason-based philosophy. We can think of this, therefore, as an early mover in the philosophical sense. Thales of Miletus can be traced to the advancements of other natural philosophers as well as the cause of disagreements of the reason based thinkers that will be the subject of future conversations.

To sum up: Thales was a Natural Philosopher and in his time thought that water was the core substance that all was made of. Is there anything in life we still look at in such a simplistic way?

Mythology as the First Explanation

Why do Earthquakes happen? Tornadoes? Hailstorms? Floods? How can we react to them and how should we feel about disasters? Are they normal, or something to worry about? With our relatively newfound understanding of the world, it is much easier to look to the sky’s weather patterns, tectonic plates, or the sun’s spots to understand why these happen, but that was not the case for most peoples through time.

I said newfound understanding because for the whole of human history up until the advent of rational and practical science we as humans relied on a mostly mythological or religious view of the workings of the world. In Lisbon, Portugal November 1, 1755, was a day that the world shattered for many tens of thousands and caused millions more to repent their sinful ways in order to keep the wrath of God off their shores much in the same way that the Romans of Pompeii and Herculaneum wondered why the gods were punishing them. This is so far from how most people view world events today.

The-1755-Lisbon-Earthquake-and-How-it-Almost-Totally-Destroyed-Lisbon

In our work, we are still in the mostly shadowy vailed period long ago. Thousands of years are not easy to peer through and understand the truth of those who lived there. Up until the advent of scientific reason (in some places in the world that only occurred in the 1800’s AD! For instance, early calculations for the age of the earth in a scientific mindset started in earnest in 1855 Lord Kelvin, The First Baron Kelvin William Thompson (great name, huh?)) gods and monsters roamed the world and punished mankind for their sins or failed observances. Back in that time, man spent much of its time placating gods and trying desperately to make them happy. Many of the Greek thinkers such as Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates were all accused of being atheists because their approach of looking to the natural world rather than the Gods was so unique and scary to the enlightened Hellenic Greek society.

Our friend Hammurabi prayed to his gods to help make the city prosperous. In Ancient Britain, the Celts prayed to any number of gods as did the Greeks and Romans we know so well in order to gain a good harvest or avoid an angry outburst that could destroy their society. Half a world away and centuries later, the Aztecs, Olmecs, Incas, and Maya all had their pantheon of gods that helped explain the sky, water, earth, fire, war, harvests, and childbirth. Any act or natural thing that was hard to explain had a god or goddess which helped layout how the force got to be. This seems like the easy way out, but it is actually quite hard to conceive of a god or goddess, convince a whole people that they exist somewhere outside of reality, the are responsible for the sky or the changing of seasons and that they should believe in him/her is no easy feat.

As we bring this short post to a close it is important to remember one main aspect of trying to study philosophy and history of a people that relied on the supernatural only as an explanation, they are far more dependent on their belief system, and they do not allow for any doubt of their system of belief. I will try to veer away from all things religious if possible in this blog. The theological is separate from the philosophical except where the theologians like St. Augustine, Boethius, St. Aquinas, Martin Luther, and others allowed themselves to question the nature of the reality of the times to question. Sometimes we also have to do so in order to progress beyond our age, experience, and exposure to new things.

Hammurabi and his Rules

When did people start caring for others? What about governments? We expect our government to at least pretend to care for us and give us justice if wronged. You might think that the search for equality is a rather modern idea, but it goes back almost four thousand years. For today’s exploration, I wanna stay in the Mesopotamian region. In fact, we will stay in Mesopotamia and Asia Minor for a while as we work our way through the earliest recorded thought as well as the questions the people had to deal with.

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I want to emphasize the last point on our earliest thoughts. 1700 BC (almost four-thousand years ago) is an early point of written history, but much of the stories told in early scripts were from earlier oral traditions. In fact, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that some stories went back many thousands of years before they were written. It would be like me writing about Plato…or Hammurabi and someone a thousand years in the future reading this blog. Due to the exclusivity of writing, and the relative newness of the advancements in language, many, many stories from earlier peoples were told and written down first in religious and historical traditions, hence the 28,000-year reign of the first Assyrian kings we heard about last time. Over time, embellishments and adjustments twisted reality and made the real-life kings turn into semi-mythical whisps of memory, then into mystical gods and god-kings who were all but immortal. It’s not unlike the American veneration of the founding fathers. The progress is actually quite intriguing.

The process is also not too far removed from our knack of honoring celebrities far beyond their deserved place in life. As they turn old and die, their music, movies, books, or personalities grow in death until they are well known more through death than they ever were in life. Herman Melville and Edgar Allen Poe were both relatively unknown except in their close circles of friends, but in death and separated by a few generations, their story grows, and now there is scarcely a college student who has not read Moby Dick–or skipped the almost 300 pages of whale anatomy and bragged about their ‘completing the book’.

That brings us to King Hammurabi (born ~1810 BC and died ~1750 BC). He was a Babylonian king (the sixth king of Babylon actually) who wrote down a code of ethics and–more tellingly–a list of punishments for breaking the rules. This will not really be a history lesson, and instead, a springboard for thought on rules.

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Fun Fact: almost all his punishments ended in either death or dismemberment. I guess if you want someone to do what you want, threaten to take their hand in exchange for thievery and you deter some of the would-be thieves.

The world in 1700 BC was a small place for most people. Many never left their hometowns, most never left their country, and really only the nomads, enslaved, or soldiers traveled much. Travel for fun was not really a thing unless you were royal or connected to royalty and even then, was quite rare. There was little excess in life, even for kings. They may have been bathed in gold, but food and water were still luxuries since mankind had only recently settled and began creating cities instead of hunting and gathering. When gold is everywhere and trees, water, and meat are rare, those items become the luxuries where gold is as unremarkable a thing as water is for us here in Oregon.

Hammurabi, the king, undoubtedly realized that in his kingdom lacked an all-encompassing written code of rules that governed all, even the governors. I have no doubt that the rules of the world were written on everyone’s mind, but there is a certain power in writing them down where everyone can see them, if not read them. I think we can think of that power in terms of the classroom. If the teacher has rules that he can point to when you are disobeying them, everyone can nod and realize a mistake was made, where the unwritten rules are subject to interpretation and are easily forgotten.

In 1901, archeologists discovered the stele (pronounced st-ee-lee) of rules, and having an understanding of the Babylonian language, translated it giving us one of the first sets of rules (the King of Ur, Ur-Nammu actually wrote a set code of laws 200 years prior to 2000 BC, but the code of Hammurabi remains more complete and fairly brutal in comparison).  BTW, a stele is a large block of stone, in this case, basalt. The stone was engraved and set in a common area where all can see. Stele were often made to commemorate military victories or a new king who wanted to cement his power and fame.

What is interesting in the Code of Hammurabi is that the intended goal was equality rather than domination. In a world where women, had, largely, no rights and were bought and sold as brides to the highest bidder and slaves were not considered people, equality in our context comes up short in expectation. We have to put our pre-conceived notions of equality and fairness to the side and travel back to where a society did not have any means of shaming those who were bigoted or racist…or care to do so. Those were the rule rather than the exception, which makes a situation where a king tries for some sort of equality a rather huge step forward in human growth. Below are examples of a few laws I picked off the Wikipedia page:

Theft

Ex. Law #22: “If anyone is committing a robbery and is caught, then he shall be put to death.”

One of the best-known laws from Hammurabi’s code was:

Ex. Law #196: “If a man destroys the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye. If one breaks a man’s bone, they shall break his bone. If one destroy the eye of a freeman or break the bone of a freeman he shall pay one gold. If one destroy the eye of a man’s slave or break a bone of a man’s slave he shall pay one-half his price.

Fun Fact: The concept of paying restitution or a payment in gold for the breaking of someone’s bone, or killing someone is a rule that only recently was stopped. Now, obviously, you would face prison time for killing, but up until at least 1000 AD, the killing of someone could be taken care of by paying the family of the killed in gold. This was called in Old English, Wergild.

This above one represents the “eye for an eye” rule we all know so well.

Slander

Ex. Law #127: “If anyone “point the finger” at a sister of a god or the wife of anyone, and cannot prove it, this man shall be taken before the judges and his brow shall be marked (by cutting the skin, or perhaps hair).

If the cost of gossip these days was cutting lines into your forehead, or shaving your hair off, we may actually have less drama. But, I guess then, Dayton wouldn’t be the Dayton we all know and love.

So, what do these rules and Hammurabi actually have to do with us and philosophy? First, there was a question someone must have asked regarding the subjective situations present where the rules must have been questioned to be made. It literally took someone sitting there saying to his king “what should happen to the man who steals grain, or a pot, or a slave, or a donkey?” This impetus, this need to question those in power, and one’s self in order to find a reasonable solution that meets the needs of both the perpetrator, and the victim, and is just, and most importantly, is a rule that could be relied upon to work from the day it was instituted to the day the kingdom ended, is what philosophy requires. Namely, the act of questioning the status-quo and puzzling through the possibilities is philosophy in a nutshell.

So, it is clear we do not still have the rules where “you steal and you die,” but time has tempered the rules in order for us to be able to use them. Have you ever heard of the Golden Rule? Do as to others as you would have them do to you? We can think of this rule as a way to remember the punishments of doing something wrong to others and avoid a potentially painful consequence.

We will talk much more about ethics, and what ethicists do as we progress into The Renaissance much farther down the line, but for our purposes, early on in this examination of the world, I want us to all consider a few questions until the next lesson is delivered:

1) Why can’t we all just be good to one another? Is that goal possible? Why/Why not? What keeps us from the goal?

2) What rules do you set for yourself? How hard is it to follow those rules?

3) What is the power of writing these rules down? Are we more likely to follow written rules or unwritten ones?

 

Next, the search for a basic substance for all life.

The Beginning – The Development of Language in Five Minutes

If we are going to embark on this summer’s philosophy, we need to begin where it all began…as much as I can, that is. Philosophy and the evolution of thought parallels the evolution of language. Though people have been thinking deep and abstract nebulous thoughts since we had the ability, being able to express them and share with others how one sees the world probably gained some level of intensity. More than that, keeping those thoughts over time proved harder than sharing them over distance.

This is actually a tall order since man has been creating the abstract for (presumably) millennia before any system of writing came to be. In fact, writing, according to some historians, began as a purely economic tool. From what I have been able to surmise, humanity began recording checkmarks on bone, wood, or stone for as long as we could comprehend the need to record anything. The first writing systems developed (relatively) simultaneously in Egypt and Mesopotamia as a means to record ownership. Be it ownership of cattle or land, when we settled and started accumulating, it became increasingly important to indicate that this bag of rice or wheat did indeed belong to Jamsheed, and the system of pictograms on the clay seal indicates that Jamsheed is the only rightful owner.

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It is not really a stretch to suggest that soon, the language needed to make a switch from the concrete to the abstract as people became comfortable in their new life in cities and farms rather than wandering (though I am sure the wandering life appealed to them again quickly when city life became apparent). In time, language and the written language began to shift to no longer represent strictly the cattle and grain that sustain life, but then, over time, wheat and water both began to represent the metaphorical. Letters and poetry began to be written down, though written in the traditional sense is not totally accurate. Ancient Sumerian, for example, was a series of wedge-shaped indents created by a stylus being pushed into wet clay. To erase, the clay could be kneaded, or to be made permanent, the clay could be baked and then transported, or saved for posterity.

It’s easy for us to take for granted how ubiquitous writing is to our lives, but to almost everyone, until relatively recently (like, around a hundred years ago) most people were not literate, nor was it necessary to their lives as farmers, potters, warriors, or any other handicraft. Only scribes in palaces, royalty, and the religious orders generally knew the magic of letters.

2This all is, of course, an oversimplification, but the image is the important part. I am not interested in the settling of peoples so much as the result of that settling. When we reach into the prehistoric, it is harder to look at people as individuals, instead, we seem to always read about them in some amoebic, shifting form that makes them into a single body that shifted from hunter-gatherers in 10,000 BC to a point where Sargon of Akkad was conquering the Gutians (another ancient people) sometime in 2300 BC. There is not only lots of speculation and missing the beauty in the individual in that approach, but quite frankly, we know little of anything with any certainty.

I mean, the Sumerian King List says the first rulers of the Mesopotamian area during what is now called the Antediluvian Period ruled on average for over 28,000 years apiece. That longevity in any given ruler means we have to gloss over lots. I want to have each of these subsequent posts focus on a single person or period as well as their thought process. That way we can not only keep the individual in mind, but it will be easier to apply newer philosophies to older concepts through interrogating the evolution of individual thought.

A few guidelines for this series. After a few posts giving us a grounding in western thought, I will skip around to whatever hits my fancy on that date. I also will be using dates that follow the BC and AD system that have fallen out of use in recent years. I personally find that changing the date to a secular BCE title while still counting year 0 as Christ’s birth to be purely superficial, and the old system works well enough for the same reconning.

Please ask questions, engage in the conversation, chat with each other. If we engage over the summer, we can engage easier in class when the fall starts. If you are reading this and are not in my High School Language Arts classes, welcome, please feel free to join in the discussion if you can be respectful. You are welcome.

I won’t lie to you. Philosophy is hard. There is a reason why people have advanced degrees in this stuff and still make no sense. There is a good reason why you have to watch Interstellar or Inception at least a half-dozen times to understand what is going on. But I can tell you this. If you embark on this ship with me you will be confused, angry, and disoriented, but you will also be coming down a path of critical thinking that can actually be mesmerizing. Your world will be open and you will never be able to look at the world in the same way again…but more of that when we talk Plato.

Here are a few questions you can ponder until the next post: Who are you? When did you first know who you were? Are you someone who stays still and doesn’t change, or do you change over time? What makes you change?

Next post I will be looking at The Code of Hammurabi as the first written code of ethics, a branch of philosophy that deals with what is permissible, and what is forbidden, or at least frowned upon.

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