The Meaning of Life
Lecture 5: Existence and Knowledge


1. The Star Seed
2. Existence and Knowledge
3. Human Knowledge
4. Meditations

March 9, 2012

The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.
Proverbs 18:15


Transcript

Greetings and welcome to lecture five, existence and knowledge. It is a Sunday today, the day of rest, the day of our Lord. And I wanted to start this lectures to speak about the Jews {Hebrews}. This is the day of the Sabbath, the day that God passed over our souls. This came from the last plague when they were slaves in Egypt when Moses set them free. It also comes from the day of rest in which God reflected on His creation, and it was good. So there is meaning behind the things that we do and it is good to look at that meaning and respect that meaning.

I want to now reflect on the Jews and their subjugation that they have gone through throughout our history and I want us to think about that so their subjugation, death, and massacres will not be in vain. Let us remember the six million under the rule of Hitler. Let us just reflect on how they were slaves in Egypt and later on were dispersed and for their beliefs in God, which is the ten commandments, they have been persecuted and throughout our history been treated less than human. And we need to learn how to go beyond that because our fellow man is the only thing in this life that matters, and our insanity to subjugate and oppress that fellow man is what we need to learn to overcome. So let's just understand the topic that we are dealing with, and that is what we are going to be going through today is history. And we need to respect what it is that we are touching on. And as far as the Jews, I am very sorry as my part of being the human race. And I will not sit back and let something like that happen to me, if I see an atrocity I will do everything I can to prevent that and I will do everything I can to help you to your promise land.

Okay, its Sunday so we are going to relax. We are going to relax this lecture. So just sit back and let this lecture come to you. Just listen out to these ideas and just be receptive and we are going to take it slow. We do have a lot of material to cover but I want you to realise the topic that you are dealing with. It is philosophy and you have your entire life to sort through these topics. So to introduce you to this incredible and enormous history is but a tip of the iceberg so if you just let the ideas come in and out of your head they will be repeating over your time invested into philosophy. But this will just give you a general overview about some of its history.

As far as online learning, this course that I have set out for you has all come together from a long time of study. Everything in my mind started linking. I have been doing online learning in different methods for a lot of my life. I have been doing university external, it is not really online but I download the lectures on the Internet and I get sent the material and then I read the material and I listen to the lectures. I have done a lot of different types of external studies and I am trying to present this with the best of what I have been receptive to. Not only that, you are not limited to any time with this. You have a pause button there and I encourage you to make use of that pause button whenever you want. You can walk away and come back to it later. These are online and free for you so you can make use of them as you will. Just go through the material slowly. If you only want to do a lecture and readings a month, if that is the amount of material that you can go through and understand then that is fair. I would recommend doing more then that (maybe one a week). But schedule it your own way. You have a lifetime to tackle these subjects.

I am going to tell you the entire key to this subject that will put your mind to rest, so any time you get a little bit confused with what I am talking about, just fall back on this, and that is that we know nothing. As I am talking about these subjects at any time just think, "okay, well we know nothing". So that will help reorientate your mind back to what type of subject we are talking about. Also you can download these lectures in MP3 format so you can then listen to them on your iPod or something like that, so anything that you can do to make your learning easier for you, I recommend you to employ those methods.

Philosophy is a lifelong commitment whether you are just starting out now or you have a little bit of background, they are topics that will go over your head throughout your life. So even if you are starting out, these topics will continue to haunt you through your life even if you do not continue after this course.

The content of this lecture is going to be going through our history and what we have come to try to know. There is going to be a lot of culture involved here because there is a lot of different groups and a lot of dispersion between these groups, and aliens. So there is a lot of multi-culture that begins to happen and culture conflicts so we need to think about that when these philosophies are being presented. And throughout most of our history we have had wars and there is wars going on through most of this time. A lot of times there is ten years of peace here, ten years of peace there, and sometimes there is longer times... We have a very brutal history and I am hoping that our future can go beyond that.

We will start out with the ancient Greeks and they focused on mythology. When we think of mythology today we think "oh that means its rubbish" and that is not true. The way mythology worked is that they structured characters similar to real people. So their god's were similar to real people, they lived lives and had bodies. But not all of them were immortal but they had characteristics of humans that were heightened: enhanced. And through these characters they told stories and they did that through poems and plays. These stories would give some deeper meaning into a certain aspect of humanity; human life and what we are to do with it. So these were inspirational poetic pieces of work that were trying to portray a deeper meaning about humanity and not necessarily about worshipping a god. That is why it is not called religion. But in saying that a lot of people did worship these god's and thought of them as everyday existing characters who they needed to please and sacrifice to etc...

That was mythology and over that time you started to get the Sophist. And Athens had a big influence on intellectual freedom and the Sophist were the teachers of their time. The teachers would charge for learning but they would teach individuality. They taught that man is the measure of all things and what is right for one is not necessarily right for another, and they taught that in all things. So there is no absolute good at all and man is everything. And that is what the Sophist taught.

And then you had the Stoics and Zeno started that and what they would do was teach rigorous training on the body and mind so that they can become tranquil in all that happens: all events of experience. Around that time we also had Hericlitus and he taught that everything was composed of simple substances and there was one simple substance that was composed of everything and that was fire. And there was fire somehow within everything. Other philosophers around this time have said that it is water or earth or something like that. They have categorised these simple substances and now we see that in the result of the periodic table. But the periodic table is still only the substances that are known and perceivable by human.

Around this time as well was Democritus and he taught that the most simple substance was an atom and everything was composed and formed of an unfathomable amount of that have composed themselves in certain manners. And now we see and understand that in science. So these were ideas that go way back. But now we are able to observe more than we were able to observe at that time through technology, so we know more about it.

Around this time you have Buddha (Siddartha Gatuma) but this was over east so this was not integrated at all, but you might hear some of the same ideas that come from it. Then Socrates was around that time too, and Socrates taught that there was an absolute good and we were on a search to find that absolute good. And how are we going to do that? And he did that the Socratic method which is a discourse: talking to someone, out and through a topic. And usually the way these discourses go is Socrates goes, "this is this and this is that, is that right?" and they go, "yes, yes". So most of his people are "yes men" but every once in a while not so much. But that is the Socratic method and we are able to logically form conclusions based upon that.

Then we have his disciple Plato, and we have read some of him in The Symposium and we will talk about him next lecture as well. But he said that everything is a shadow; the world is a shadow. And the way that he explains this is the allegory of the cave. He says that we are all chained in a cave facing a wall. And behind this wall is a fire and there is people (our captors) walking behind and around the fire and it is casting shadows onto the wall that is before us. So we are spending our entire lives looking at this wall and only seeing shadows of what life really is, and what everything really is. We spend our lives then breaking out of our chains and being able to walk around the cave and see that the shadows were cast from the fire from observation. And then we are able to walk out of that cave and see an entire different world.

So for Plato what was knowledge is the ideal behind the thing. And that is the image of the thing; he called it forms or ideas. And this was a true knowledge for Plato because it was like an imprint or general mould for the thing. So we see if we make cookies and we use a certain cookie cutter, all of the cookies still turn out different. But you use the same cookie cutter for it. So it is like the form to make the cookies. And that is the perfect knowledge that we should strive for. And that is the spiritual for Plato as well. Just as if you look at a tree you are only looking at one perspective of a tree, you are not looking at the entire tree. Then you have to question what makes a tree. The "treeness" of a tree makes a tree even though each tree is different. Just like we can not see all sides of a cube: it is not possible. But we know what a cube is just by seeing a simple depiction of a few sides of that cube.

Aristotle gets into ethics and categories. For knowledge for Aristotle we can compartmentalise categories. I will give an example of a justice question but then we will translate it into knowledge, but we will come back to it later on Why Act Morally?. If I have a guitar that I would like to give away for free, let's say that it is the best guitar in the world and I spent my life making it and I want to go give it away because I want it to be used as the best guitar in the world. Who we are going to give that guitar should be the best guitar player in the world. So the best guitar in the world would make the most beautiful music if we gave it to the best guitar player in the world. Well what constitutes a guitar player? And then what constitutes a "best" guitar player? So we have to look how to divide these things up. Then we have genus and species. So a guitar player consists of this, this, and this. It further breaks down into amateur, intermediate, and advanced. And then you either achieve certain goals to get beyond those levels or you just fall into them for what you are. This is a true knowledge because then we are able to divide everything up and this is where science is able to analyse and document detailed information about what we have.

The hedonistic ascetic Epicurus gains exposure and he says that we should find our happiness through not clinging (similar to Buddhism) and that is through having the minimal necessities. Let's say you eat a lot, you indulge, it is more difficult to stop indulging when your indulging. So if you resist indulging then you no longer have the desire to indulge. So you are able to have the minimal necessary and still be happy, for when you are drinking water that is appreciated for water because you need water, then that water is the water of life. It makes you more appreciative of what you have. And we will talk about this later because this is an important topic. But he ascribed to the theories of Democritus, which if we remember was atoms. Then we go on to the "neo" (new) reformations such as neo-epicureans, neo-stoics, etc... We have all of the different off casts of the originals.

Then Jesus comes and teaches the end of suffering through suffering on the cross. But his teaching is his life and not his death. And then we have many interpretations of those teachings of Jesus, and one of those interpretations then is Gnosticism which is about finding true knowledge through a type of secret understanding which could be found through the path of searching and finding the right material to read so that you could possess the correct understanding.

Then you have Paul who kind of organised religion. Jesus was born as a Jew and his people were Jews so he was under the Law of Moses which true knowledge was the ten commandments and the adherence to strict laws that followed those ten commandments. Then he preached something that was a little bit different so you then have the Jews being reserved about his teachings. Then you have the Gentiles who were called the "God fearers" who were wanting to find solace in God and the Gentiles were grouped between mostly Greek but also Roman; it was mixed. And Paul said Jesus is for everybody and "everybody" is the Gentiles because he relates it to a word that was used in the Old Testament. So then he says through the sufferings of Jesus on the cross (who is God) died for each man's sin and the cross then regained our place in heaven. This is a very profound thought and it is a good thing to think about but in doing this, Paul created three God's from One; following a polytheistic religion but claiming it as monotheism. But I do not know, there is a lot of different factors involved with Paul, but either way you look at it Paul established what has developed into the modern day church which the Roman Catholic church embraced.

And then we have the Dark Ages because that was church rule. And for a long time no one was thinking and no one was daring to think because the church ruled the ideas of the people because they rule the state as well. We get very little works from the Dark Ages. And eventually people start to think again and that is where we get St. Augustine and Aquinas. And they are trying to think out God because God is given to them as the Ultimate and they get persecuted or become a heretic if they think any different. And they might get martyred or imprisoned for that. So it is something if they do bring up the ideas then they have to reject or pay extreme consequences for.

Then through that you are getting Galileo and Copernicus and people saying things like "the Earth is not the centre of the world" and causing controversy about that because that then screws up the idea of their own perception of God. And then the printing press comes and this starts a whole big thing because instead of scribes writing it out, its really easily available and cheap to produce to everybody. And this started a whole line of thought and then we get Descartes who opened up a whole bag of worms by dividing the mind and the body. And Descartes will be one of our readings for this lecture but we will talk about that later. He questioned knowledge and what we could truly understand and his conclusion was that he exists because he thinks. Cogito ergo sum, which means I think therefore I am.

Then we have Locke who looks at empiricism and that is experience. So we are starting to look at experience now; we are looking at the "I" that Descartes through in there. Locke looks at the blank slate and he says that everybody starts with a blank mind and then they take from the world and ascribed to that slate experience and that slate then gets built. So the soul and the I and the me becomes something clear at the beginning and through time changes to make that slate what it is.

And then we have Hume who says that everything is through perception of sequential events. I light a match when a stove is turned on and I expect the gas to unite with the flame and create a fire. And I do that so many times and I come to know that those two things are going to happen. And if it doesn't happen then I look for reasons why its not happening. So if it doesn't happen then I look to see if the gas is on. That then developed science a great deal because then we started to look at the sequential events and document that; so this is this empiricism thing. The ultimately statement though that Hume was saying is that we can never trust the event to continue to happen because we do not determine the laws that are surrounded by them nor can we have any idea whether there are any additional laws that we can not perceive because we are only being of certain senses. We can't say that things don't exist because they might. We can't say that black swans don't exist but they said that before they came to Australia and found the black swan. So we are always for what's not.

Berkeley was a subjective idealist that believed his mind was reduced all to subjective experience; a product of the mind which is part of the spirit of everything which constituted the physical reality. The physical reality was a bi-product of the mind instead of the mind being a bi-product of the physical reality. And this is one of our readings. We need to question whether it is that this "outside reality" which we hold so dearly and definitively, actually exist. And if it does exist then how does it exist? And how can we say it to exist? We get some of these answers from our last lecture with Kant but we will speak about that later.

Hegel believed that everything was God's consciousness coming together. Like human reason, thought, understanding, ideals, everything was God's consciousness coming together. Kierkegaard comes out and starts to look at individuality because he notices that yes, it is true that everything works as a whole, but there is individuality in everything. And it is our own destiny, to be a Christian does not mean what the orthodox church says it means. It is our destiny to accept our burdens and make the best of them that we can in life. To be a true Christian is to truly walk for God and not what the church does.

So now we are getting now diversity within this whole "God" thing. Hume and Voltaire were controversy in it all. It is starting to become known that some people might not necessarily believe in this "God" figure. Some were getting persecuted, like Hume got bricks thrown at his house and I think there was a fire started. But there are starting to exist the people.

We then have Kant, and we read a selection of Critique of Pure Reason last lecture, as we have seen he is questioning existence and perception (he is following on Berkeley's argument which we will be reading) and he is explaining how through an idealist method (Berkeley) we still can claim some existence to be there. And he does this through saying what is a priori (before the fact) of experience. And that is that time and space are before my experience because they make experience possible because without time and space and the continuity between time and space we would not be able to have experience, so we can know there is some external factor there that is causing our existence or our dealings within that existence.

Spinoza then develops pantheism which is the idea that God is in everything and it will probably resonate some of my words as this goes on especially as we reach lecture seven and one of the readings, but as God is in everything all we need to learn how to do see that God and resonate our spirits within that God that is in everything.

Nietzsche said, okay if we have killed the concept of God then where are we going to fall back on? What do we know and what can we trust to fall back on? So how can humanity rebuild morals depending on what we know outside of God. And this is his big question and his statement, "God is dead" that shakes up everybody. But this is his question. So if we are not going to rely on a god then how are we going to treat our fellow human being.

We also have people analysing words and Wittgenstein analysed words a great deal. We have mathematics going on too so we have different areas of philosophy developing at this same time with their struggle with the question of God, and knowledge, and existence (whether we exist or not).

Then we are lead to Hurrsell who studied phenomenology and that is the outside external res extensa of the world: the things of the world. And this brings then Heidegger and he questions where our consciousness is focused and that is in the future ahead of itself which we spoke of in the last lecture. Heidegger also had a pupil, Hannah Arendt, and they had a love affair a few times. It is interesting because he was part of the NAZI party and she forgave him for that {she was Jewish}, but he did get her out of Germany in a difficult time, so they were close.

And Hannah Arendt did a lot of good in philosophy and a lot of good for women. And not just that but Simone de Beauvoir was around that time and she started pulling off the rose tinted glasses of oppression of women. So slowly you can see this ungripping of oppression but the thing is that you are always going back. So its grip might tighten and loosen. But we are slowly developing as a race and even though it might not manifest in every single individual, the collective understanding of everything is a growing and sharpening tool.

Alan Turing looks at the mind and how that can be compared to a computer. And then we are starting to analyse the mind like a computer and then building computers what we are analysing the mind off of and then we get this great technology.

We get then Freud studying this subconscious and unconscious, so repressed ideas. This comes from the question of the "I" that Descartes threw in the loop. "I think therefore I am", but Sartre says "essence is before existence", so there is a fault with that thinking. But then Freud is looking at what is behind that existence was part of the essence, and that is the unconscious and the subconscious. We get the different levels of activity within consciousness. So consciousness is not just one stream but multiple streams. Like different dimensions within that one consciousness.

Goebbels was investigating how to control the masses through product placement and different methods of media through repetition and simple messages that might not be completely understood on the conscious level but over time of repetition, it will be understood. And then Bernays hones in on this using some of those ideas and Freud's unconscious and subconscious. And then he booms capitalism. From the Industrial Revolution we had a means to produce massive amounts of good so then capitalism becomes a mass production. Through different techniques he reaches the subconscious and unconscious to express this individuality through different objects, and those objects can be a lot of different objects. And that is why we have a lot of variety of objects. There is no one person that has the same things as another person. I mean you might share certain things but most people have a lot of different types of things and they express their individuality by those things.

This shirt that I have, it was a gift actually from a good friend, but it expresses my individuality and that is why I wear it. But this then made one forget about the individuality of the self; of their own personal experience and how they have built that experience. And this is how capitalism controls the masses and the ones who see through it are alienated and oppressed; attempted to be quietened. So we can see sort of how history has developed through all of this. It is a difficult life, I mean this is our history. This is what has built us. I mean there is a lot more to it than this, I am just giving you an overview of the history of philosophy and a little bit on religion.

In 400 or 450 {570-632} you also have Muhammad and he saw the prophets being true prophets but corruptions being in Paul and other interpreters and saw that they were worshipping three god's. So he then says that God is one God. And Islam means to entirely devote oneself and not spread ourselves thin by worshipping more than one God.

That is how everything has come together. And there is a lot of stuff that I forgot. Everything links and it is good to know these things. But at the end of the day after all of this is said, the only that we know is that we know nothing. And that is what this shirt says, "The only thing that I know is that I don't know anything. Socrates". And this is from Greece, and it is actually from a Greek friend that I have. Thanks Irini for the shirt by the way.

That is where we are and what we need to look at is the test of time. The important text, the ideas that come from text, from the expression of the painter will go through rigorous testing of time. And it will either make it or not. So the material that you read is either going to go in the trash of humanity or on a pedestal or as a piece of mediocre work that is just archived, so there is the options. The trashy novels that are out there, I am trying not so critical, but the trashy novels that are out there and the things with very little meaning or none or poor meaning or immoral meaning; things that do not help humanity at all but are made to kill time, those are not going to stand the test of time at all. These articles in current affairs and all of these things that people think are critical issues are not things that will stand the test of time. And whether a philosophy will hold up or not will demonstrate itself in time. So whether or not I go down in history will show itself. And I believe that I will, but at the same time I do not care. I am only living the best life that I can. But my ideas will either spread or be shot down. And either result is for the best of humanity because the ideals of humanity will guide it or the corruptions of those ideals will destroy it. And one of those is going to happen not only to my work and all of the other philosophers of the world's work. But also our entire humanity.

So I hope you have enjoyed this lecture. I want you to relax. Relax through this material. I know last lecture was quite difficult. It is quite difficult to stand back and look at how you see things. But it is an important skill to obtain because once we do that we can then modify our unhealthy habits and make them into virtues.

I will leave you with this question. Imagine being in a room and speaking with the author of a typical modern book. Now imagine being in a room and speaking with the author of one of these grand books that we have been going through. How different would those two situations be? So let us relate that back to the question of time. For time will tell everything for it will either destroy us or it will help us flourish. And the only way for it to help us flourish is if we go back to evolving as human individuals with a perception and understanding of what knowledge could and might be.

I want us to again consider Plato and his work Crito that we read in the first lecture. Through Socrates Diatoma said that a man is not ignorant or wise but somewhere in between. And we are always at some point in that spectrum of ignorant and wise. And we are never either way on either side entirely. So if you are wise there is no reason to search for wisdom. If you are entirely ignorant, like in the fall of man, then you might be persuaded to break out of that ignorance, and I persuade you all to break out of that ignorance. We have already eaten the apple and it is time to learn all that we can so that we can progress as human and take our god-like inheritance with knowledge and God, or what we understand them to possibly be.

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