Mere Atheism vs. Positive Philosophy

Atheism means almost nothing. It’s just a negation—a rejection of the notion that a god exists.

A person’s rejection of the existence of a god says nothing about what he accepts as true, why he accepts the ideas he accepts, how he arrived at his conclusions, or how he and others should and shouldn’t act.

What do you accept as true—and why? These are the questions that matter most.

What are your thoughts on the nature of existence? Do things that exist have a definite identity? Is a rock a rock, a person a person, a trade a trade, and theft theft? Or can a person be a rock? Or theft a trade?

Must things act in accordance with their natures or identities? Can a rock make a choice? Can a person turn into a pillar of salt? Can a thief have high self-esteem or acheive long-term happiness? Why, or why not?

These are metaphysical questions—questions about the way the world fundamentally is—and your answers to such questions underlie and have consequences for everything else you think, accept, and do in life.

Likewise, what are your thoughts on how you can know what is true? Do you know by observing reality with your five senses and mentally integrating your observations into concepts, such as “rock,” “person,” “trade,” “theft,” “self-esteem,” “happiness”—and generalizations, such as “rocks are inanimate” and “people need certain things in order to live” and “self-esteem is essential to happiness”? Or do you know what’s true by consulting your emotions or feelings in disregard of such observations and integrations? Or by deferring to the claims of a leader or the consensus of a tribe?

These are epistemological questions—questions about the nature and means of human knowledge. And your answers to such questions underlie and determine everything else you think, accept, and do.

Similarly, what are your thoughts on how we determine what is morally right and wrong? How do you decide what you should and shouldn’t do? Do you ask yourself: What are the factual requirements of your life and flourishing given the kind of being you are, and then answer that question using reason, observation, and logic? Or do you disregard such facts and consult your emotions or feelings? Or do you turn to other people, a leader, or a tribe to see what they say you should and shouldn’t do?

These are ethical questions, and your answers to them have profound consequences for your life.

So, being an atheist? Not believing in a god? Sure, it means something. But not much. It doesn’t even say why you reject the existence of a god. Do you reject it because you see no evidence to support his existence? Or do you reject it to be a nonconformist, or to piss off your parents, or to fit in with a group or impress other atheists? Only one of these reasons is intellectually responsible.

And even if you reject the existence of god for that reason, your atheism still says nothing about whether you hold—as a matter of principle—that evidence and logic are the only proper standards for accepting ideas as true.

Atheism is just no big a deal.

Your positive philosophy on the other hand—what you do accept as true and the means by which you accept it—this is a big deal. This is something to think about, talk about, check for accuracy, hone, and refine. And the reason all of this is worth doing is that an observation-based, logically integrated philosophy is your means of keeping your ideas connected to reality so that you can act successfully and achieve happiness in reality.

The philosophy you embrace determines whether your ideas are derived from reality and thus useful in reality. It determines whether you live a wonderful life or something less.

Atheism is relatively trivial. Your positive philosophy is profoundly important.

Exposing the Racist Left

Amala Ekpunobi eloquently exposes the racist left in this beautifully written, passionately delivered video. What a breath of fresh air!

I’m delighted that Amala will be speaking  at TOS-Con 2022 about her journey from the regressive left to independent thinking. Scholarships are available for young adults. So if you know any 18- to 29-year-olds who might enjoy a three-day deep dive into philosophy for freedom and flourishing, let ’em know.

Frederick Douglass on Robert E. Lee’s Death

Having spent a large portion of my life in Richmond, Virginia—where some still refer to the American Civil War as the “War of Northern Aggression”—I’ve witnessed mind-boggling mental gymnastics regarding the “great” Robert E. Lee. I’ll spare you details.

However, in “celebration” of Lee’s birthday (Jan. 19), I’d like to share a few words from a truly great American, Frederick Douglass, in response to such drivel.

A few weeks after Lee died, Douglass wrote an editorial for his newspaper, The National Era, about the cause of Lee’s death. After citing several obituaries from sources sympathetic to Lee—such as Jefferson Davis, who said Lee “died of a broken heart,” and a journal that said “he died being sadly depressed at the condition of the country, that he could stand it no longer”—Douglass concluded: “From which we are to infer, that the liberation of four millions of slaves and their elevation to manhood, and to the enjoyment of their civil and political rights, was more than he could stand, and so he died!”

I love Frederick Douglass.

(Read his full editorial at The Reconstruction Era blog or the Library of Congress.)

Hello Good People!

I’m re-launching my personal website, which has been down for several years while I’ve focused on other projects.

Under “Home,” I’ll publish things that are more suited to a personal blog than to other outlets. Topics will include philosophic ideas I find useful, interviews I do, lectures I give, places I go, artworks and performances I love, recipes I love (oh yeah!), and issues I’m mulling over for formal articles, books, or courses. It'll be a melting pot of my thoughts, activities, and interests.

This website will also be home to my new podcast, Under Standing, which is about keeping our ideas connected to reality so they can serve our lives in reality. I and occasional guests will discuss cultural trends and underlying causes, individual rights and how to protect them, and principles and strategies for gaining clarity and loving life.

Also on this site is a specialized blog titled “Discord,” where I’ll address significant disagreements (or attacks) among individuals or organizations in the so-called Objectivist movement about which I have relevant knowledge and think speaking up is required for clarity and justice. (Hopefully, this particular blog won’t be very active.)

If you have questions or subjects you’d like me to address on my blogs or podcast, drop me a note. I can’t guarantee a reply to every message, but I read all of them. And if your question or suggestion is of general interest, I may write or podcast about it.

If you’d like to be notified when I publish new material or make announcements, sign up in the right-hand column for my occasional newsletter.

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