- Written by Jeff Summers Jeff Summers
The study of philosophy means many things to many people. In its most basic form, it is man's investigation of the causes and laws underlying reality. Philosophy is typically based on applying logical reasoning to nature rather than relying on empirical methods to explain one's existance. The study of philosophy spans millennia and the theories of human thought are as diverse as man himself.
Rather than try to live one's life according to the teachings of the great philosophers, I have strived to create my philosophical doctrine. This has allowed me to become self reliant in my reasoning while helping me define the universe in my own terms.
Over the course of my life, I have been a student of many of the great philosophers. I have read Plato and Socrates. I have studied Nietzsche and Ayn Rand. Each of these had their theory of why man was and what he was destined to be.
I have concluded that philosophical theory should be a personal endeavor that is meaningful to those who are directly affected. I myself define man as naturally good. The spirit of mankind is perpetually attempting to find happiness although in many cases man forgets to define what would make him happy before beginning his quest to find that which would fulfill his journey.
Initially, when I attempted to define my personal epistemology I thought man was by nature a solitary animal that interacted with others only when necessary to meet his own personal needs. I anticipated that man must first and foremost care for his own personal needs above all else. When his needs had been fulfilled, he could then focus on supporting the needs of those whom he needed thereby creating a self sufficient community of individuals who are working independently on their own with the community benefitting whenever two people's needs overlapped and they worked together.
Selfishness in this scenario was seen as a virtue. Although I could not accept all of her precepts, Ayn Rand popularized this theory in her Objectivist Epistemology. Early in my life I tended to agree with her concepts and at a time felt this was a school of thought I would follow. As I have grown older, I have determined that I cannot blindly follow this school of thought and in many instances I do not agree with her theory.
Man must indeed look to himself to fulfill his needs and desires. He cannot rely upon the goodness or charity of others to provide for him. In this sense he must be selfish to a point. He cannot give all that he has worked for to the betterment of others without first accounting for his own needs.
But conversely, he cannot ignore those around him in order to fulfill all of his needs. A man does not live on a solitary island. He is a member of a group. This group may be a community, it may be a family. The point is, he cannot fulfill all of his needs in a vacuum.
He must establish relationships and share his talents and knowledge with others thereby increasing the sufficiency and knowledge of the group as a whole. His needs will be met and in most cases more efficiently by working and giving of himself while striving to achieve his own goals.
To a certain extent, we are all mentors to each other. We each have talents and expertise that can be used to better our own lives as well as the lives of others.
With each relationship, there must be give and take to be successful. By that I mean that if you are to give of your talents, you should likewise expect something in return. This return does not necessarily have to be monetary nor even identifiable. It may be companionship, it may be stewardship, it may be friendship or possibly even misunderstanding or contempt.
The point is there should be some sort of transaction that goes on between individuals. This may seem crass or to some even self-centered. But if you look at it in its purest sense without value judgement you will find that it will work.
I am not suggesting you require payment for everything you do, I am merely identifying that payment is given in one form or another for every interaction two people have together.
For example, a student goes to school. The teacher stands before the class and begins to lecture. The students take notes and when class ends, they leave. Did the teacher receive payment from the students? Yes. The teacher received payment through their attention and willingness to learn. Did the students receive payment? Yes, through the transfer of knowledge from teacher to student.
Did either of them profit from this transaction? Yes, both parties are richer because of their interaction. Did either of them do it with the thought of not being paid? I don't think so. They were each anticipating payment of some sort. If payment was not sufficient, they will look elsewhere. In the student's case, they may look or another teacher or they decide to provide the teacher fair value for what they are receiving. This may take the form of inattentiveness or absence. The teacher likewise will modify payment based upon how the transaction goes. They may cease to teach with the enthusiasm they had for other students or they may just go through the motions. It is up to each of us to determine what value we place on each interaction in our lives. We should continue to strive to get the most value that we can with each relationship we form with those around us.
My thoughts regarding philosophy continue to evolve and mutate as my life experiences accumulate. This I believe will allow for mental and spiritual growth as I progress through life.
I challenge each of you to stop and contemplate your belief structures and question why you believe the way you do. I am not suggesting you change the way you believe I am merely suggesting that you identify what you believe and determine how strong your convictions are for this belief system.
You should each be passionate about what you believe and be willing to identify and explain why you believe what you do. We must all be open to the thoughts and ideas of others for that is how we learn. But as you can see, I believe learning is a two-way transaction that must be shared by each party if we are to find value in it.
If you would like to discuss philosophy or have additional questions about my theories, please feel free to contact me.