By Revival Ojedapo.
So, I stumbled upon 205 philosophical questions “about human nature and the human condition” on https://conversationstartersworld.com. I will be taking them through the lens of general human experiences and expectations. It is a weekly publication, and 5 questions would be touched per article. So, let’s get to it. It is philosophy, remember, let your mind wonder, but let your heart be true.
1. What harsh truths do you prefer to ignore?
This philosophical question is as subjective as they go. And you could give any answer, and still be right. But, when we decide to bring the whole of humanity into the picture, the answer can be narrowed down to one inescapable fate of mankind: death.
It is not only a harsh truth, but also a common fate shared by the whole of mankind. It is one thing that we all prefer to ignore, until we’re faced with the reality of it. However, the fact that we consciously prefer to ignore it doesn’t mean it doesn’t influence our lives.
Henry Van Dyke wrote, “some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live”. Death has always been an interesting philosophical topic and would continue to mystify the human mind. While we shouldn’t let the thought of death plague us, we also shouldn’t completely ignore its influence on the story that is called ‘life’. For, one can only die well, when they’ve lived well.
2. Is free will real or just an illusion?
The dichotomy of this argument is one that may never be united, and is sometimes futile. At its extreme, one would be drawn into considering this scenario:
“Imagine a universe in which everything that happens is completely caused by whatever happened before it. So what happened in the beginning of the universe caused what happened next and so on, right up to the present” (culled from https://www.scientificamerican.com)
That’s how far you’d have to stretch your decision if you say that freewill is an illusion. But, it is a plausible argument. It is true that several factors influence our decisions, many of such factors we might not consider consciously.
To answer this question, one would need to have a precise illustration of events, as well as the awareness of possible outcomes. It could boil down to the moral subject of good and bad, in which case, we would conclude that there would be rewards and punishments for decisions taken.
Freewill is surely indispensable if we are to give rewards or punishment to a person. Sometimes, court cases would turn to psychology to determine if a crime was influenced by an uncontrollable influence, in which case, freewill will be dismissed.
3. Is there a meaning to life? If so, what is it?
Like the previous question, it would be difficult to reconcile the different views surrounding this one. But, one thing is true in every case, you can give meaning to life (or more precisely, your life). The question may lead into argument regarding the existence of God, and the never ending debate on essence and existence (which comes first).
However, these debates are inconsequential in the face of our own deeds. We all feel the need to find meaning, and if there’s indeed a meaning to be found, then finding it will only draw us closer to the truth. Of more pressing concern is what we do with the truth when we find it. But, for the sake of creating a better future, we find the need to define life so things go wrong. In which case, we could find consider the words of Victor Franklin when he wrote “that it did not really matter what we [expect] from life, but rather what life [expects] from us.
We [need] to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who [are] being questioned by life—daily and hourly… Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual”.
4. Where is the line between art and not art?
Hmmm, if there is a line, then who made it? The simple truth is that we all have different taste in aesthetics, which make the popular adage true, which says “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. But, what is art?
According to Oxford dictionary, “art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power”.
Typically (note), but not limited to painting or sculpture. Musical compositions, poetry and many other forms of self-expression have come to be classified as art.
The subjectivity of what can be considered art is not only limited to its aesthetic value, but also its emotional power. Some people just don’t feel anything for some powerful poetry, and that would a sacrilegious confession in the ears of others.
We can easily conclude that the more people who come to a concession regarding the artistry of a certain piece, the more chance of it being called art. But, time can also be a factor. As certain works are now more appreciated than they were when they were first made.
5. What should be the goal of humanity?
The third question on this list is closely related to this one. While the former can afford to be have a subjective opinion, this one requires a general idea (at least, one that is accepted or acceptable to the majority of humanity).
Humanity in this case is the collectiveness of human beings. However, trying to answer this question would lead us to a second definition of humanity. It is the state of being benevolent, being kind to other humans, (some would include animals), and seeking to alleviate suffering whenever and wherever possible.
Bringing the two definitions together, in a sequential order, one could say the goal of humanity is to be humane. Problems arise when we start making variations to the second definition. For example, kindness to animals has opened ground for arguments like vegetarianism.
Also, people sometimes question if kindness is to be shown to someone who has previously been unkind. But, these arguments do nothing to hamper the consensus that the goal of humanity is to make the world a better place by showing kindness and helping those who are in need of help. Whether or not we pursue (or are capable of pursuing) this goal is another question.
Feel free to drop your comments.