A Perplexed Individual


The dictionary tells us Philosophy is the love of wisdom. I say it is that and much more.

It is a tool to examine life. And if you want to examine life then take this tool and shape yourself a picture  of the world (Germ. Weltbild) around you and which you can understand and live by.

Not everyone  wants or can examine his or her life. That’s why I’m not agreeing with Socrates when he said,

The unexamined life is not worth living

I think his statement is arrogant and dismisses the life of other people and living beings who are not able to examine their lives for diverse reasons. For Socrates to say such a thing was not wise. It might have been right for him and how he  felt about life.

So, what is wisdom and the meaning of life?

Does “meaning of life” just mean passing on our DNA? Ask a Zebra: it is born, it eats, it grows, it eats, it procreates, it eats, gets old and dies? Where is the moment when the Zebra examines its life. While being hunted by a Lion?

We human beings have a different understanding. We have so many questions and they lead us to find our own meaning of life.

Why I’m here and what is the meaning of my own life? Those two questions are intertwined. Like many people I believed, when I was a child, I had a guardian angel. I was totally convinced that nothing would happen to me during the war when the English and the Americans bombed hell out of Berlin or when the Russians stormed Berlin in the final battle against the Nazi regime.

I was more afraid that my mother could die while she beat me till she was totally exhausted. Did the guardian angel or God interfere?

What about God? Is he / she really there and provides answers? I don’t think so! And neither should we. By saying, God will decide for us, we are really putting all our questions in the too-hard-basket. In the end, I think,  we have to find our own framework and ask ourself,  “where does God come from?”

So, God does not provide any answers for the thinking person, but it throws up more questions. What about morality? I can’t understand why some people think that an unbeliever leads an immoral and meaningless life. It is an absurd proposition. The unbelievers are on their own. They have not the comfort of a heavenly father.

That’s all – on their own. We have to find our own morality. Emanuel Kant said morality is within ourselves and it is connected to rationality. To be immoral is being irrational.

I think believers have often a too shallow conception of God and unbelievers don’t accept those notions. The concept of “God” is more than what religions present him or her as. How  then “do we find an ultimate order in the universe without God”?

First, we come to the conclusion that the universe is the same with or without God. The same universal laws apply. We may try as hard as we want we won’t get all answers from science or religions only. If we go too far in one direction we might lose our balance or perspective. We would have to equidistant  from the two poles and we would be in a zone, Bertrand Russel calls, “No man’s Land”.

So, where do we get the answers from? From ourselves! Because we are the only one in the centre. Oh yes, from there there is a lot to be seen and learnt. The conclusion will be our own. We can share them of course and exchange views with others.  After all, there are wise people about! It is all part of life  and through us the UNIVERSE becomes aware of itself. That is a mighty responsibility we have there. And if you think of it, it gives meaning to our lives!

Looking at all this, I think I’m an EXISTENTIALIST !  I accept my place in the natural world and  I can create my own values – which are universal anyway. But they have to be found. On closer inspection I find that I have done this all my life.

Now, I present you with a graph I created myself. It shows the standing of an individual, the family, the community, the nation or the whole of humanity. We are in the centre of conflicting, and opposing, ideas and concepts. If we tend too far to one side we lose our balance; and mostly do. In that centre  we develop our own abstract world. Kant says, we have to express ourselves, and how we see the world, through art. Some of us “only”  through the art of living, some of us as real artists or philosophers.

The Wheel of Thoughts

The Wheel of Thoughts

I’m not claiming to be a philosopher and many who are, will find lots of holes in my ramblings. But then, I’m only a perplexed individual.

Essay and graph copyright

Peter Hannemann

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