For some time now I’ve been meaning to write this. For it was some time ago that I realized a potential contradiction in my writings. In my essay on the Stoics I write:
If we are in pain, if a disease is going to turn our kidneys to waste we need not a Stoic will but the assistance of others – assuming we aren’t medical experts with a pharmacy in our kitchen. If we do not receive help, either because people choose not to give it, there are no people close by to give it, or one lives in a time or place where the needed help does not exist or is not known, then we must either do what we can to suffer in silence or choose to end our lives and end our pain – in other words, it is only when the situation has become so abysmal that there is no remedy that we become Stoics. The problems of this world are largely physical and societal, not psychological. That is to say they are problems that can be solved by science (finding a cure or better way of doing something) and by public policy (implementing said cure so all can receive it, or arranging society so all – or at-least most – can reap in the wisdom of the sciences) to alleviate the burdens of this world.
In my essay I wrote in celebration of the good will and physiology of humanity (written coincidentally on the day of celebration of my birth) I wrote:
We have to remember who we are in our best moments, and try to teach others through example that goodness and generosity is not a burden but are themselves gifts. We have to remember to be kind to others, but also be kind to ourselves. The solution to the project of civilization isn’t scientific or technological – it’s experiential. We must experience the world in a moral tone before we act in such a way, and we must act in such a way before it will be in such a way. Technology has its utility but has a tendency to stimulate the Ego rather than the heart.
Someone could claim in the former paragraph I say that the solution to humanity is scientific while in the other I claim that such a claim would be false. And it is both – in a sense. The major things in our lives, the things we see in the news, that people due-to their unreflective nature see while ignoring the more subtler and persistent traits of their lives, are solved in part through science. They are technological and societal rather than psychological because it is a problem that can be solved through external means (e.g. a machine, a pill, education, proper nutrition, etc.) rather than the introspection that the Stoics would advise; however, humans also require a moral aspect to solve much of the world’s problems. Capitalism is for numerous reasons a problem for us all that causes much distress, suffering and apathy, and it is that apathy of the market that prevents much of the potential good will of man to go through, prevents scientific research from achieving its proper utility and implicitly promotes and profits from the sufferings of the first and third world.
Then there are the problems of existence most people don’t see most of the time but they still experience. If they didn’t experience them, it wouldn’t be a problem for them, but they do experience the dissatisfaction and pain of existence, but they are not fully aware of it through a lack of introspection and awareness that is found in those with an abundance of intelligence and spare time. The compassion and good will one can extend to others, and the philosophic euphoria one can at times generate is what I meant when I said the solution to life (to the extent there is one in a fundamentally bleak circumstance that is only cured in death) is experiential and not scientific or technological. We experience the world first-and-foremost – not know it through algorithms and scientific laws of induction. We must reflect on our lives and pursue how to live first and most fundamentally, not what the truth is with a capital ‘t.’ Such things can never be known in absolute. We will never know anything for certain about our physical world or if said world is reality; all we can do is experiment and use the senses and reasoning faculty to make the most sense of what seems to be the case in the world and Universe, but never knowing if the Universe really exists or not.