Philosophy Monday (6)

By Revival Ojedapo.

Here are five more “philosophical questions about human nature and the human condition”. They follow from the 205 questions found on https://conversationstartersworld.com/philosophical-questions/

26. Would things get better or worse if humans focused on what was going well rather than what’s going wrong?

It is true that most people tend to focus more on things that go wrong, while blurring out the good. You might want to reverse that tendency, you know, just as you’d rather see the glass as half-full instead of half-empty. And just as in the case of the glass, we still can’t help but notice that there’s a void. A void that may need filling.

Life situations are very complex, and you never know when the bad things will overlap the good ones. Focusing on the things that are going well is very important, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of reality. The fact remains that things do go wrong, and some things certainly will, and we can’t afford to blur them out. Both goings would have to share our attention, I’m afraid.  When they go well, we can be contented. When they go wrong, we set them aright. If we succeed in setting them right, we can only expect more happiness.

Karl Pfeifer replied to a thread on similar topic with these words: “If people focused only on what was going well, they would not deal with the things that are going wrong and those things would accumulate and make the overall situation worse. If people focused on the things going wrong, they might be motivated to do something about them, thus things could get better”. It just shows the danger of the supposition. We don’t want to fall on either extreme though. So, while basking in the good, let’s be ready for what may go wrong.

27. What benefits does art provide society? Does art hurt society in any way?

With the aesthetic and emotional power of art, it is easy to conclude that art brings a lot to the table. Especially now that almost all creative works are labelled art. Literature, visual art, performing art, architecture and so on are all categories of art that are out there to make an impression. And it is true that several art works have inspired changes around the world. Whether it is an illustration of the horrors of war in Picasso’s Guernica, or the nerve calming melody in Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2, or the tensions in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, art manages to leave an imprint on history.

The crux of art’s influence would ultimately rest on the message it passes across. Because, art is after all a tool for communication, backed up by its emotional and sensual appeal. Sometimes, it is depiction of reality, and other times, it is an escape; either way, people communicate through art. Like most forms of communication, it is the message passed across that matters in the end. With art, your message doesn’t only pack an emotional punch, it can also influence people’s view on societal matters.

However, it is this very effectiveness of art that makes it dangerous when employed by dangerous minds. This latter point is expressed by Mikhail Bakunin, the Russian anarchist, when he wrote that “the urge to destroy is also a creative urge”.

28. How likely do you think it will be that humans will last another 1,000 years without killing ourselves off?

If humans are going to kill themselves off, we already know that they do not need a thousand years to do that. The proof of this assertion is evident in the serious nuclear close calls we’ve had in the past century, especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis. You’ve also probably read about the Tsar Bomba and its destructive capabilities.

Perhaps, the frame of a thousand years is to account for our environmental activities and the damaging effects on nature. There are several projections that earth would quickly become inhabitable if things continue at this rate. The annihilation of mankind is definitely on the horizon of possibilities.

Noam Chomsky said in an interview that “if there was an observer on Mars, they would probably be amazed that we have survived this long. There are two problems for our species’ survival – nuclear war and environmental catastrophe – and we’re hurtling towards them. Knowingly”.

That said, it is overambitious to start considering possibilities beyond a thousand years. We need only focus on the foreseeable future to realize how much we threaten our own survival. And if we can make appropriate changes to the way we live and relate with each other, we’d not only surpass a thousand years. The hypothetical observer on Mars will also cease being amazed, and instead applaud our moral behaviour.

29. What do you attribute the biggest successes in your life to? How about your largest failures?

My biggest success would be attributed to the fact that I’ve set my personal convictions right. It is from this point that I can achieve every other thing. It is in my Christian values that I found the strength to focus on the weightier things of life. And, it is from this focus that I’m able to find a purpose. So, yea, that would be the crust of my success story.

Failures are harder to trace, since I’m trying very hard to put many of them behind me. However, I’d say it all boils down to disobedience for me. While growing up, you get this idea that you find your path by exploring. Most times, parents would appear as an obstacle, because they’re always offering advices that seem at odd with our spirit of exploration. So, I disobeyed my parents on several occasions, and my largest failures ensue mostly from this defiance. However, as stated earlier, I’m set on a right path again through my personal convictions, made clear by my faith in Jesus Christ.

30. If freedom is simply being able to do what you want, are animals freer than humans?

Even if we’re limited to the definition of freedom given above, it will be difficult to consider animals freer. What exactly do animals want? We’re looking at millions of species here. Do they all have the ability to do what they want to do? It’s hard to say.

Even if they do have the ability, so do humans. The distinction is just that humans don’t stop where animals do. Humans keep breaking barriers. Creating more room to experience freedom. It is true that we face more and more constraints as we yearn for bigger endeavours. But the challenges only gives us an edge over other animals, as we become conscious of our freedoms, and ethical limits.

However, it must be noted, we can only get away with this simple definition of freedom when we make comparisons between humans and animals. Freedom, as you know, is a little more complex. Yes, it is complex because humans are no less simple beings.

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