Monday, 11 November 2013

How to Fix Everything (or at least Stupidity)

I recently read an article titled "Abstinence is Unrealistic and Old-fashioned." You're probably thinking the same things I first thought when I saw the title: "Why the heck is a Christian guy posting this on facebook? Is there something I don't know about him? Has he fooled us ALL???"

Or something like that.

The article is actually a critique of the issue and in support of abstinence. It was a very interesting read, and made me think of the messages that our culture is sending us. Why would a teacher (spoiler alert) tell his student that abstinence isn't practical anymore, and it's better to explore sexuality? That's pretty alarming.

However, I found something even worse. One of the comments said something along the lines of, "I wouldn't have a problem with this is you stated it as your opinion, not as truth. Sex is important in a marriage, so you should practice. THERE IS NO RIGHT AND WRONG! I'M A BIG STUPID IDIOT! BLAH BLAH BLAH!"

At least, that's how I remember it.

Several other people had the same or similar issues with this comment as I do, judging from the endless list of replies to this person. A lot of them said exactly what I was thinking, but none seemed to touch on my biggest issue: the claim that there is no right or wrong. Yes, this person actually said that (in all caps, too). It's an issue I've had in some of my classes at the U of S here as well. The belief that there is no right or wrong, only personal experiences and mentality that shapes our individual morals.

Do you see the contradiction?

If you don't, that's ok. I was in a Philosophy class when this idea was first brought to me and it blew my mind. The contradiction is that to say there is no right or wrong is based on the belief that this statement is truthful, or right. So you shouldn't actually be able to say this with a straight face. It's a similar phrase to "There is no absolute truth," which is an absolute truth statement. It's an immediate contradiction, which renders the initial statement false. Even to follow the statement with everyone has their own morality is saying that right and wrong exists, just on an individual level.

Ok, so what about ignoring the first statement and focusing on personal morality? Consider the example of Hitler, or Stalin, or Pol Pot. These people acted on their own judgement. They believed that they were helping their nation/people by getting rid of the opposing force. For Hitler, it was the Jews; Stalin, political enemies; and Pol Pot...ok, so I don't know much about him, just that he's considered evil for some sort of genocide thing. Google it (I will later). Some researchers have even claimed mental impairments that allowed them to do these unspeakable atrocities, because no regular human could do that. This points to the existence of a universal standard to which people can be considered evil.

Therefore, if something can be considered evil, there must also be it's opposite, or at least the idea of it, which provides an understanding of what evil is. Evil is a comparative claim. We only consider Hitler to be evil because he is so far from our understanding of what good is. So if there is a universal evil, there is also a universal good. It is through this good that we base our understanding of evil from, not vise-versa. The Good is a topic that has been discussed since the time of Plato and Socrates. In fact, the beginning of Plato's Republic goes through this argument also exactly by taking three popular views and then refuting them one by one. These views are still almost parallel to the majority of views expressed today on the Good.

Hmm...that's interesting.

So, really, societal beliefs really haven't changed much since ancient Greece. It's all repeats through history. The only thing that changes is the technology we use to express it. Every generation seems to believe that they are the best and most advanced, and the previous generation regards the present generation as the worst and most degraded people. Since people killed each other for sport in Rome and there were celebrations to gods that was basically sleeping around with everyone, I don't think we're getting that much worse. It's all our narrow perception.

So why do we still believe/do all these things if it's a) happened a million times before and b) been proven to be false by Philosophy?

Simple: education.

I believe our high school education could use the addition of philosophy classes. This might be in the form of an ethics class, or framed more in a historical context (history of thought). It could even be added to present courses, like Health or Social Studies or English. This would provide the basic knowledge of some elementary philosophical principles that would help students become much more knowledgeable and wise adults.

"But Dayton! Philosophy is hard! The language is difficult and the concepts can leave people even more confused! Even if they didn't, they would still need to find teachers qualified to teach these subjects! Your idea is impractical!"

Yes, so maybe this is a little impractical, but not as much as you might think. First, our generation is in the mess it's in now because of laziness. We don't want to work hard for our rewards. We want instant fame through a viral video. We want the instant pleasure of sleeping with dozens of people before marriage. If it's easy, we want it. But since when did something worth while come from not working? The YouTube celebrities put in hours and hours on projects. They spend their money on equipment in order to make better content and travel to spread their brand. It's not lazy stuff. Hard work=better rewards. Ask anyone who's ever worked for anything ever.

Besides, teens already look at Shakespeare in class. That language is tough and there are layers upon layers of thought and analogy that is definitely not all looked at in school. Yet we study it anyways in order to get a better understanding on literary works considered to be some of the greatest of all time. So throwing in a little Plato and his analogy of the Cave or discussion with the three perspectives on the Good wouldn't be that big of a stretch. As for effective teachers, well, maybe this would help get rid of the crappy ones like the one mentioned in the article I read if they were required to have taken Philosophy courses in college or university. Teachers should be developing minds in order to think for themselves, anyways, not shoving facts down throats. That's why I want to be a teacher. I want to get kids to think about things and discover the joy of learning. Cause learning is so cool. Getting your mind blown is awesome.

With the influence that media has on our society today, I think this is more important than ever. To add philosophy in school would be to combat the negative trends that are consuming the youth. What is the Good? What is Justice? Love? Wisdom? Prosperity? Philosophy addresses it all. They may seem basic, but the basic is always the last thing to be considered.

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