Category Archives: Philosophy

Philosophy of Determinism

For centuries, there has been a hugely important philosophical debate going on, and in the minds of many it is still unresolved today. It is the debate of determinism versus free will. As an introduction, let’s define those terms so you know what I’m talking about.

Free Will = The power of acting without the constraint of necessity or fate; The ability  to have freely chosen differently than you did at any moment, regardless of your beliefs.

Determinism = The idea that for every event there first existed conditions which could have caused no other event; The future can only unfold the one way it is going to go due to everything that plays a role in how it goes that way.

On one side, we have those arguing that universe operates via cause and effect. This means that for every event that takes place, there was a string of prior events which caused that event to take place, and made it inevitable. The reason people believe the world is governed by cause and effect is that when observing the unfolding of activity around us, we have learnt there are certain relationships between events. For example, it’s quite clear that if I stick my hand on a hot metal plate, I will get a burn. And so the whole of scientific enquiry was born out of trying to understanding these relationships better, which is to understand why and how something takes place. We try to find the reason or explanation for how something came into existence, because we acknowledge there is always a process of cause and effect which led to it’s creation.

So, why is there a debate? Why do people disagree with this view? Well, the thing is, if nothing can happen without something having caused it, then every thing that will ever happen in the future is already determined and set in motion. And this idea is completely incompatitable with the very popular and beloved concept of “free will”. The only reason to doubt that cause and effect reigns supreme lies with this notion that humans have free choice.  And thankfully, this concept is oh so testable. But in this article, I want to argue a case for determinism in a completely different way, without even resorting to the standard cause and effect argument. I want to answer this question: Is it possible for life to unfold any other way than it is going to?

As I said, we don’t even need to consider the concept of causality to answer this – it is a completely different topic altogether. Let’s instead consider the word possible. When we say something is possible, what do we mean? Well, for something to be possible, really means that we believe it could or can occur in reality. If it’s possible to catch a fish it means hey,  we think people can/could do that in reality. So then, the question “is it possible for life to unfold any other way than it’s going to?” really means “can the events in reality unfold in a way that is different to the way the events in reality unfold?”  Wow, what a confusing contradiction! I think that has answered the question! But let’s continue:

Did the past unfold differently to the way that the past did unfold?

Is the present unfolding differently to the way the present is unfolding?

Can the future unfold differently to the way the future will unfold?

Well to say things like “this event could be different right now” or “that past event could have been different” or “that event in the future could go differently to how it’s going to (it’s not fixed)” is quite ridiculous if you ask me. You are really stating that something is possible, not realising that the only way to measure whether something is possible or not is to see whether it occurs in reality or not. If an event does not occur at a given time, it was obviously never a possibility for that event to occur at that time. The concept of uncertainty and chance only exists within our own minds. Because we do not know what will happen next, it feels like anything could happen. But in reality, the only things that can happen are the things that do end up happening. To say that the events could have gone differently than they did is really saying that you believe your own imagination is a better measure of what is possible than reality itself is. It’s like saying you know more about reality than the universe itself does! Where does this line of thinking lead? Well, let’s say you come across another person, and they say to you in no joking manner “I am a dragon, and you are stealing my dragon eggs. I must burn you with my fiery breath!” Then they proceed to blow on you. What would you think? Well you would most likely think they are a bit crazy, since you know the things they are saying are not possible. How do you know they are not possible? Because the event of being burnt by fiery dragon breath did not occur in reality at that time (or anytime obviously). But if you were to instead adopt the line of thinking where reality does not determine what represents a possibility, you would have no choice but to admit that the dragon man could indeed be correct, because you would be measuring a possibility only by your imagination. Of course we can imagine and predict what the possibilities are for the future, but we won’t know for sure until it arrives!! When we are dealing with the subject of possibilities we are really dealing with the subject of “probability”. We are assessing the likelihood or “chances” something has of actually occurring in reality. But once something has actually occurred in reality, such measures are useless because it is a fact that the event always had a 100% chance of coming about.

It is the same with saying any event could have been different to how it was at a given time. If it could have unfolded differently, why the hell didn’t it? If there is a large range of possible options that the future may take, why does only one set of outcomes only ever come into existence at a given time? Let’s do another example. Say you have two young brothers at home, playing video games. The younger brother says the older  “I think I’m gonna win this time!!!”. The older says “nope not possible”. So both brothers are making predictions about a certain point in time, in the future, when the game they are playing has finished. They both think they have a good idea about what is possible at that moment. But, when the time comes, and the game finishes, only one of the brothers will be correct. So, let’s say the game finishes and the younger brother wins. He was correct, and he now has a definitive answer on what could, and could not, occur in that moment in time!! This is why predictions are called predictions and not facts, because they must pass the test of reality first!

So, to answer the question, no it is not possible for life to unfold any other way than it going to! We live in a completely deterministic world, and this is such an awesome thing! We live in a world where everything that happens was meant to happen!


Cause and Effect

I have explained on this blog that psychological stress is built upon an incorrect framework of understanding life. This incorrect framework includes the  “If you are good, you will get” method of developing or controlling people, which sets up the “achievement model” for measuring personal development. But to really understand stress, we have to go deeper. We will have to cover the subject of cause and effect,  and see where this takes us.

One of the most obvious things about the universe is that it is that it operates via a system of cause and effect. There is a process of action and reaction which we can witness everyday in the unfolding of our lives, and it is only by this process which events come to take place. Meaning if you believe you need some food, you must try and set in motion a chain of reactions (events) which would lead to you getting some food. Better go to the shop and buy some! So now, say you are at the shopping centre, and you start pondering this question: “How did I get here?” (we’ll pretend you’re not in any rush). Well the most obvious answer might be “I drove here”. But you start thinking that maybe that’s not all there is to it. How many other things played a role in how you got there?

I drove here because I believed I needed more food”. But how did you come to have a car in the first place? “I have a car because I bought one, which was because I believed having a car was necessary for my work and hobbies”. But how did you get the money to buy the car? And why did you drive to this particular grocery store? “It was the closest big supermarket with cheap prices”. Closest to where? “My home”. But how did you come to live there? “I moved here because the lease ran out it the flat I was living in, and I wanted to live in a house. I found this place through an online advert”. But how did the place come to be available at that time? “Who knows”. And how did you come to live in this city anyway? And why did you believe you needed food? “The kitchen was empty when I was looking for something to eat”. Why was that? “I’ve been too busy to go shopping the last few weeks. I’ve been eating takeaway”. Why don’t you keep eating takeaway? “It’s too expensive”. Why is that only a priority now? “I have some spare time now”. Etc Etc.

I could go on forever, but I think you get the point. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing and whatever event takes place, you can be sure that there have been trillions of factors have all come together to have caused it. You could trace the causal factors involved in any event or decision making process you find yourself in. If you really wanted you could trace it all back to “how did you come to be conceived anyway?” And you could trace that back to hundreds and thousands of  years of cause and effect in action. How did you get to be at the shopping centre? You got to be there due to everything that played a role in how you came to be there. And so, let’s say you are so perplexed by this discovery that you start to ponder a different question. “Why am I not currently somewhere else? Hmmm.

Well, after some thought, you might realise that this question has the SAME ANSWER! The reason you are not currently somewhere else is because of everything which played a role in how you came to be where you currently are!  Nothing can happen, without something playing a role in how it comes into existence. And, for everything that does happen, there first existed conditions that could have caused no other event.

But let’s say while you are pondering this, you receive a phone call from a family member saying they had an accident and are in hospital, and also receive a text from your boss asking you to come to work. And, as your mind considers these two things, you think “I believe it is more important to go to hospital and check up on the family member than it is to go to work. And so you drove to the hospital. The point I am making here is that even though there were different options to consider, the eventual action you took was governed by certain beliefs you held. There was a reason you went to the hospital, and it was the same reason you didn’t go to work. This is what it means to live in a world of cause and effect. You could even start thinking about WHY you believed going to the hospital was more important. There is really no end to it, and you won’t ever be in a position to have all the answers on how and why things unfold the way they do, but you can be sure that there is always a process of cause and effect governing it.

Can We Miss Out? Is death an example of missing out?

The If you are good, you will get foundation philosophy which society lives by teaches us that unless we can prove our worth, we will miss out on our requirements for development and survival. This is really just another way of saying we will DIE.  Missing out equals death to the subconcious mind, because most people believe death is a case of missing out. In society, we are often taught that death is inherently bad, and always to be feared. Of course, death is a very real thing, and one of the only guarantees in life. But is death really an example of missing out? Is it actually possible to miss out on your requirements for development and survival?

Well let’s start with survival. Your requirements for survival include everything your physical body needs in order stay alive long enough to receive the development (life experiences) you were meant to* receive. Everyone who is alive is obviously receiving these requirements or they would not be alive. Everyone who is dead has already received these requirements. They now either no longer exist and so there is no-one there who can be missing out, or you could say that the components they are made of have moved on and are performing work elsewhere, and so they live on in a sense. If you believe in some form of afterlife, this is still not a case of missing out. The only view of afterlife which includes missing out is the idea of being eternally punished in hell, and this is obviously an incorrect concept which has evolved out the notion of free will and the if you are good, you will get philosophy.  So no one ever misses out on their requirements for survival and existence. But what about development? Well that all depends on which model you are using to measure the success and progress of your life. If you believe that development is measured by the accomplishment of desired outcomes, then you will most definitely have many times when it feels like you are missing out on what you need. On the other hand, if you understand that development is correctly measured by the gaining of wisdom – an accurate account of reality, and that every experience you ever go through facilitates this development, then you will understand that no, it is impossible for anyone to ever miss out on the requirements for their development or survival! This certainly does not mean you will ever live up to the superhuman feat of never getting lost amonst incorrect thoughts and experiencing the fear these thoughts cause. It happens to everyone – to be human means to be in a process of growth.

But of course, people most definitely die. So if death is not a case of missing out on our needs for survival and development, what on earth is it? Well, it is simple. Death is change. Nothing more. Death is simply a process of change. And this process of change is how the world works, so to call it “bad” is not very wise. They say the earth and ourselves were born from the ashes of dead stars. I think this is a good metaphor to explain that death and birth are just two sides of the same coin.

Of course it is completely human and to be expected that the death of a loved one would bring on some form of grief. And of course since every person is performing a valuable role, it makes sense to try and preserve life. But in order to help someone who is suffering after the death of a loved one,  I think Byron Katie has the best advice: Thank the person for dying right on time.

*By “meant to” I mean that a person’s life unfolds the only way that it can given everything involved in the process which causes it to go that way.  They receive the only life span possible.

Wisdom Versus Knowledge

As humans have evolved over the years, there is no doubt we now understand a lot of things that we did not understand before. The advancement of our scientific knowledge of the universe is simply amazing. We can communicate around the globe at a click of the button. We can study the chemical composition of the stars. We can even analyse the smallest components of the atoms we’re made of. But what I want to talk about in this post is the distinction between wisdom and knowledge, and how they are different from each other.

If you look up the definition of both words on google, you will find no clear distinction between them. But there is a distinction. First let’s look at knowledge. What is it?

Well seeing as it originates in the mind, knowledge must consist of beliefs, because the mind operates solely via beliefs. Knowledge consists of those particular beliefs a person hold which correspond to reality. In other words, beliefs that are true. How do we know what is true? Well we can really only  rely on the reasonings (justifications) which our life experiences provide us with, which is why different people having had different experiences will believe different things are true. Even the results of scientific studies or mathematical equations are still examples of people coming to conclusions based on their life experiences. So the person with the largest and most connected network of logical reasonings on a given topic can be said to have the most knowledge on that topic.

But if you have a close look at those people in society which seem to have a vast amount of knowledge, you will sometimes find that they are very much lacking in wisdom. And some of the people who seem to be very wise may not have a large amount of scientific knowledge at their disposal. So what is the difference? What do I mean by this?

Wisdom is a certain type of knowledge, just as knowledge is a certain type of belief. It is knowledge of the true nature of reality, and our existence as humans. It is not do to with  having knowledge of the specifics of the universe’s small components and their behaviour, but rather having knowledge of what all those components are doing in the big picture. How do they all add up? What is truly taking place in life? What is the system of life all about? Wisdom is a developed awareness which allows a person to look beyond a superficial threat to recognise a more important beneficial factor or reason for things unfolding the way they do. Wisdom is the factor which neutralises fear and allows people to psychologically survive what they witness.

For example let’s say you have a very smart individual who specialises in theoretic physics and has won many awards and much recognition for his/her work. Now obviously this person would have a lot of knowledge about the the way the universe works (or at least you might assume that). But now let’s consider that during one of his lectures, he makes a huge mistake in calculations, and ends up making a fool of himself in front of his students and peers. Maybe afterwards one of his peers laughs and sneers at him. Well what would he do? That would depend on his level of wisdom. If he understood that there was obviously no shame in making the mistake since such an outcome was the inevitable product of the universe’s existence, he might help educate his peer to understand the same. He might even be thankful to be offered such a great opportunity to explain to his peers how to measure personal value, and that such value is never under threat due to the events taking place in life.  If he was seriously lacking in wisdom, he might view the situation as threat against his self esteem, and start think he must make sure such mistakes never happen again. He might be so anxious to prevent the mistake that he has an anxiety attack at his next lecture. He might make an even bigger fool of himself, and people might start to think “he’s lost it”. Maybe his career slows to a halt. What then? Well all those events would definitely be helping him to gain wisdom, because despite all his knowledge of physics,  he was still not aware of the most basic functional characterises of the activity in the universe. He was there thinking that the components of the universe are somehow in competition with each other, and that some components can be deemed worthless just because the they follow a trajectory which other components don’t like. He did not understand that all components of the universe are deemed valuable because of the automatic and unavoidable influence they have on the system.


For another example, let’s look at the human body –  a healthy one. Let’s look at an analogy. Try pretending for a minute that you are a cell within the human body, called Doug. Yes this might sound odd, but bear with me. If you are a cell within the body, and you’re going about your activities as a cell, you might start a conversation with another cell – we”ll call her Cecilia. Let’s say Cecilia is very interested in gaining knowledge about the activity going on all around her. So she starts asking questions and experimenting. She starts comparing all the cells around her and seeing how relate in size. She starts looking at their unique shapes. She observes how they interact with each other. She measures how long they take to move a given distance. She measures how much this speed changes. She tests what happens when she exerts a force on another cell. She even slices up a cell thousands and thousands of times to see what’s it is made up of. And so she ends up with a huge bank of information and facts about her surroundings. She finds she can use this information to make predictions, and invent technology to make her tasks as a cell easier.

And she says to you “Doug, I am very wise – look at all of this knowledge I have!”.

But then you turn to her and you reply “Well that’s very impressive Cecilia. But I have a question for you. What do you think we’re doing here?

Cecilia looks puzzled, but but she insists “well there isn’t really a purpose to our existance, all we can do is measure things and come up with numbers and statistics and use them to make our life better! Life is what you make it! We’re all unique and have to make up our own life purpose.”

You stare at her quite fondly and answer. “Oh really, that’s interesting. But what criteria are you using to judge whether your life is getting “better” or not?”

Cecillila thinks for a few minutes. “Well it’s getting better when it’s more like how we want it to be. Did you see that skin cell the other day? He dissapeared off the edge of the world. I don’t like that at all, he was my friend. Maybe we can make it so no more skin cells dissapear. That would be much better.”

You start smiling. “But what if the skin cells are just doing their job? What if they’re playing their role in the system?”

Cecillia has a look of distaste. “System? What system Doug? Are you saying there’s some kind of higher power? That’s a load of rubbish. I’ll believe it when I see it. Those poor skin cells deserve better!”

You sigh. Then start to reply. “Cecillia, you can see it. A system is a collection of parts. We are a collection of parts. We are working together, whether we like it or not, all influencing each other in order to bring about that which this system is producing. We are all valuable to the system, and receiving our needs from the system. Due to cause and effect we go about our activities for as long as we are meant to before the next generation of cells takes over, with our every action being controlled by our unique array of influences.  That is the understanding which is missing from your knowledge. That is what defines the reality of our lives as cells. To understand that is to have wisdom.”


Commonality and Individuality

It seems today that people are often in search of self-understanding, an understanding of  “who they are”. In my veiw, what is generally meant by the question “who are you?” is this: What is it that defines the difference between you and other people? What do you have that no one else has? What makes you unique?

In other words, they are really in search of an understanding of their individuality.  In fact, society today is obsessed with the concept of individuality. Emphasis is always placed on being “original” and not copying other people. People are taught they have to put their own unique stamp on the world, and being overly influenced by other people is often frowned upon. It is interesting to note that none of the ideas I talk about on this blog are original – they all come from being influenced by other people. Does that make them less valid?

On top of this, we have many people claiming that even reality itself must be different for each individual. They say things like “create your own reality” and “find your own truths”. When noticing that different people can assess the same event via different beliefs, some people take this to mean reality does not exist at all! Many counsellors will also maintain that they will treat you as an individual rather than looking at what you have in common with others, and that you really must find your own unique answers to your problems as their are no common answers which might apply.

So then, if a person wishes to try and live by all these philosophies and really find their individuality, where would they begin such a search? Well the answer is that in order to find that which sets you apart from everyone else, you must first study what everyone has in common. How the hell can you claim to know what makes you different from others if you don’t even check to find out what other people have? What you think represents who you are” might well be something other people also share.

It is only through an understanding of commonality that individuality can be recognised. So instead of embarking on an impossible search to find “who you are”, it might make more sense to instead search for “what do people have in common?” This might sound a bit vague. So let’s look at it in a few different contexts.

First let’s say we have a therapist who is trying to help people with their mental heath. The therapist is currently focusing on what is unique among his patients, and treats them all as a case not related to the others. But unbeknown to him, there are specific beliefs which each person with the same psychological issues have in common with each other, and all these patients would require the same treatment to recover from those issues. In order to discover this, the therapist would need to start comparing his patients and looking for common factors.

Another example is the subject of “life purpose”.  Whenever I hear someone talking about finding their purpose in life, they almost always assume that purpose is different for everyone. Instead of looking for the common purpose of life, they instead get lost trying to fabricate their own unique purpose. Often this “purpose” is actually more a set of “goals”.

In reference to the idea that reality is different for everyone, you could try lining up thousands of people up in front of a truck, and ask them what they see. The fact they they would likely all come back with the word “truck” or an equivalent, indicates that there is something between all their individual experiences that they share in common – that is the experience of seeing a truck. This common shared experience is that of reality and there is only one!  If everyone created their own reality communication between people would be impossible – there would be no common ground to start from.

Lastly, we can look to the human body for an example of commonality and individuality. If you look at every human body you will find a lot of commonality – most people have the same organs and their body largely operates in the same way. This was discovered from years of comparing people’s physiology – looking for commonality in how the system works. How silly would it be to ask “oh my lungs allow me to breathe, but what do yours do?”.  Hmmm. But of course after such commonality is noted, you can then identify certain people who’s physiology might have difference. One persons lungs may have an infection, or cancer. So there may be some people who say “well my lungs aren’t working too well!”.

So, every person has both things which are common to all and things which are more unique. But ignoring the commonality in favour of individuality, as society often does, cannot be the best way to unravel truth.

Who’s to say what beliefs are correct or not?

Ever noticed how many quotes by famous, so called “successful”  people you see floating around on the internet? It’s quite interesting to ponder the reasons why it is seen  as important to include the name of the person who said the quote. Generally they are quotes by people who are renowned for something – obviously people think including the quote will add weight to whatever point they are trying to make. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with quoting someone, but the question I want to answer in this post is “do we need to know who said something to determine if it is correct or not?

For an example, let’s use Einstein. You won’t have to look far before you find someone quoting something Einstein said. It’s almost as though people think that “well if Einstein said it – it has to be true!”. But there are other people out there who think a bit differently.  Instead of giving emphasis to Einsteins name, these people give emphasis to what was actually said, and whether the statements make sense or not. Granted – Einstein was a smart man, but no scientist would believe something was true simply because he said it. Would it still ring true if a stranger on the street said it? Someone with no reputation? What about a five-year old child?  That is the real test.

History is littered with examples of people believing so strongly in things simply because the guru or hero they like and follow has stated such things to be fact. Many religions have involved prophets who’s words cannot be questioned. And of course we have many experts in different areas giving us their opinions, and we often validate their “appeal from authority”. The problem is, the person who said something does not have any relevance when trying to determine if their words are accurate or not. If a five year old child came up with an equation which disproved Einstein’s words, science would be forced to accept it, as the only thing which really needs to be considered is the reasoning on WHY something is claimed to be true. And following that, the reasoning on why that ‘why’ is correct, and so on.

Here’s a quote from Carl Sagan:

One of the great commandments of science is, “Mistrust arguments from authority.” … Too many such arguments have proved too painfully wrong. Authorities must prove their contentions like everybody else.[2]

The question is, did including Carl Sagan’s name really add any weight to my argument? Surely the reasoning behind the argument is much more important.

There will always be some situations where we are forced to take other people’s words for things, often due to not having the time or resources to understand the topic yourself. If I was boarding a plane I certainly would want to make sure the pilot was an expert, and would place my life in his/her hands. And, I am not saying we should be disregarding what people who have clearly spent a great deal of time learning about a particular subject have to say. It is obviously not possible for one person to hold the sum of all human knowledge. I am simply saying that it will be their explanation of such a topic which will define their view as being accurate, not their claim to be an expert on the topic. 

Because when it comes to philosophy, and the big picture of life and what it’s all about (we can define this subset of knowledge as “wisdom”), being an “expert” really holds no weight. If you attend a course on philosophy, all they will tell you is who said what, when and where. Wouldn’t it be more important to ask which philosophies are more accurate? I have seen countless people of renown all get it completely wrong when it comes to explaining an accurate account of reality. This may seem like a bold statement, but it is one which can and will be fully explained on this blog. And you don’t even need to know my name!

Who’s to say what beliefs are correct?  It does not matter. The beliefs themselves and the layers of reasoning they are constructed of will tell you all you need to know.

Is it ok to claim something is correct?

Well here goes, my first blog post! How exciting.

As I was writing the ‘about’ section of this website, I thought about how much of a taboo the subject of discussing beliefs is in society. The real deep subjects of life seem to be avoided most of the time, because when they are discussed it becomes quite apparent just how vast the chasm is between the various philosophies people live by.

People have fought and died over difference of beliefs for centuries. Many people believe that the answer to such divisive behaviour is to say “everyone is entitle to their own beliefs” and leave it at that. But is that really the answer? Could it be possible to examine and criticise beliefs without actually meaning any disrespect to the people holding them? Well, in my view, OF COURSE IT IS!

I remember watching a video on youtube from GREG NEVILLE (check him out!), and in the comments someone had written  something to the effect that Greg was not to be trusted because he was so sure of himself and was claiming certain things to be correct, and other things to be incorrect. After all, who could possibly have the answers to what life is about? Who could possible understand the big questions of life? A person who is humble and says “I don’t know, look for yourself” is much more likely to be speaking truth, according to the commenter. This commenter was not aware of the massive contradiction he was making. He himself was claiming that something was correct and incorrect. You can’t really get away from that. Everyone time you open your mouth to make a statement, no matter how trivial, you are stating what you believe to be right or wrong. To say “Hang on I’m just gonna go to the toilet” is stating you believe that the action you are taking represents you going to the toilet, and that this is a correct assessment of the situation at hand (don’t ask me why I used that for an example haha).  Next time you hear someone say “there’s no such thing as right and wrong” ask them “is that right, is it?” Hmmm.

So yes, it is completely ok to say that one thing is more correct than something else. Of course, it’s important to give your reasons on why you think something is correct. That way, other people can come back with their reasons on why they think their view is correct. Thus a healthy debate is born, and everybody grows as a result.

I want to leave this post with a thought about the bigger questions of life and what it’s really all about. Knowing the answers to questions of purpose in life has been so elusive throughout history that the notion of someone actually answering these questions has become a matter of comedy. Who are they to say they understand life? Well, I just want to point out here that there is no logical reason why it would be impossible for someone to have such understanding. There is no logical reason why the purpose of life can’t be explained. And to say otherwise is really quite a strange thing to believe in my opinion. But if you do, go ahead and give your reasons for why you think you are correct, and I will give you mine.