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What I Am

What I Am January 27, 2015

I wasn’t sure about what to write for my first entry. After pondering a few ideas, I ultimately decided that it may be most appropriate to expand a bit more concerning myself. Thus, I will breakdown some key terms featured in the About Me section.

Pro-social justice

“Do not do to others what you would not like yourself.”

Also translated as:

“Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”

– Confucius, The Analects of Confucius, Book 12, Verse 2

I can’t help but be amused by those who quote Matthew 7:12 (or Luke 6:31) as if Jesus–rather, the anonymous authors that attributed it to Jesus–was the originator of this maxim. The likely inspiration for these Biblical references was Hillel, renowned Babylonian Judaic sage whose golden rule was a well-known proverb during the formulation of the gospel texts.

Beyond Hillel, this ethical code has existed as an adage since antiquity. Though it’s taken on various adaptations dependent upon culture, belief system and epoch, its essence remains the same: reciprocity and evenness is most fruitful for a harmonious existence.

Philosopher John Rawls had a theory of social justice that posited “justice as fairness” [1]. His theory branched out from a social contract notion, one that affirmed social justice as being a mutual agreement between individuals (pieces) to follow certain rules for the betterment of all (whole). Said rules “specify the basic rights and duties to be assigned by the main political and social institutions, and they regulate the division of benefits arising from social cooperation and allot the burdens necessary to sustain it” (Rawls, 2001: pg. 7).

Dr. Matthew Robinson summed up a key to Rawls’ philosophical system of social justice as being “The Equal Liberties Principle,” which he defines as “Each person has the same indefensible claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all.” [2]

I try to reflect this morality in interactions with others. For this reason, I find myself compelled to promote an egalitarian society while confronting injustice that exists both flagrantly and also embedded in the more subtle expressions of privilege granted to some and withheld from others.

Skeptic

6a00e551b77aa388330133f65191b3970b-800wiI identify as a skeptic, or an individual who tends to question or inquires after things asserted or taken for granted. I’ve already written about this, so I’ll just sum it up here. Miguel de Unamuno, philosopher and writer, once said of skepticism: “Skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found.” (Unamuno, “Essays and Soliloquies”)

How I demarcate skepticism follows Unamuno’s line of reasoning. Though the terms doubt and skeptic are conjoined, they are distinct. The origin of the latter term was conceived from skepsis (“investigation,” denotes activity) and skeptikos (“inquiring,” “reflective,” “thoughtful” – characteristics of action).

Doubt is more closely related to “dubious” and means “to suspect,” “to lack trust” or “to lack belief.” Doubt is one-part of the skepticism formula. It’s a passive “negative trait” that’s only the first-stage of skepticism, as it initiates hesitancy. The second-part of skepticism is acting on the hesitancy. This is the “positive trait” of skepticism, as it produces the contemplative juices that motivate inquiry into any given matter.

An influence for my skeptical thinking is philosopher William Clifford whose essay “The Ethics of Belief” is considered the “locus classicus” on the subject of freethinking. This species of intellectual acuity is punctuated by the principle:

“It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence.”

Though I sometimes fall short, I find this a worthy goal to aspire towards.

Gadfly, Philosophile

Socrates–or, more precisely, Plato’s Socratic character–is a key inspiration for me. The exercise of the Socratic method and Socratic irony has left an indelible mark on how I approach an issue or individual, the kinds of questions I ask, my devotion to tenacious inquiry, and my means of ferreting out bad (unsubstantiated, specious) ideas.

In Plato’s Apology, Socrates refers to himself as a gadfly, referencing his tendency to be a nuisance to the uncritical mindset and a disrupter of the status quo. He incited his “victims” to think about their thinking (metacognition), which is the idea behind the focal Socratic saying, “the life which is unexamined is not worth living” (Apology, 37e-38a).

Such resolve to treat conformist unthinking and credulity with critical appraisal is a kind of philosophical gold that really lays at the heart of much philosophical ideation. The act of being a social gadfly is also a code of thought I apply to myself, to others (with chagrin), and to any matter that may present itself to me.

These are some key values that shape my mode of rationale, and they very much inform what and how I write. So then, now that I have given myself what I hope is a “proper introduction,” I look forward to sharing my thoughts on topics that both concern and interest me. A recurring theme on Notes From An Apostate will be the examination of beliefs, culture, social justice, and intersectionality.

 

Yes, I will inevitably step on toes. No, I will not apologize for it. There is no progress without confrontation. I am an unapologetic apostate who has only just begun to sharpen his analytical tools for lapidary concision.
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