A Philosophy Fulfilling The Purpose Of The Good Life
Basic ideas of philosophy should be easy to understand and intelligible to common people, educated or uneducated since philosophy is a guiding worldview of society. If it is vague and heavy, it may not serve its entire purpose. It should be meant, in its fundamentals, for all people. It should be not only a theory for the specialists and but also a practice of the theory for the people’s good. Philosophy should seek the truth and make it fruitful in the affairs of the living beings.
It should be a guide to action not only for the people but also for the government of the country.
Bertrand Russell lists topics that philosophy speculates on in his History of Western Philosophy. I select three points of the list to examine from a humanist angle. I shall touch upon other points of the list later.
- “Is the world divided into mind and matter and, if so, what is mind and what is matter?”
Inanimate nature is matter. It is primary.
Humanism thinks that there is no division between mind and matter. Mind or soul or consciousness are embodied. Outside the human body, there can be no mind or soul, or consciousness. Mind is the product of the operation of the brain, which is matter. They are interdependent and live and die together. There is no scientific evidence so far establishing a division between matter and mind. This is the monistic view of the body-mind relationship.
Religions, Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism created the division between the matter and mind, dualism in the human body. That the human mind or soul does not die with the death of the body and lasts forever is the pure conjecture of the fertile minds of the prophets, saints, some mystics, and idealists. Like the external heaven and hell, the external mind or soul or consciousness has never been perceived by the human mind. It has not been found so far by science as existing outside the human body.
2. “Is mind subject to matter, or is it possessed of independent powers?”
The mind is subject to matter. No human body, no human mind. Engels writes: “It is impossible to separate thought from matter that thinks.” A separate mind doesn’t exist and hence there is no question of its independent powers.
The primacy of consciousness or mind or soul is one of the cornerstones of Idealism, the dominant trend in philosophy. Idealism places God, soul, Divine Mind, Universal consciousness or Spirit, and so on out of the boundaries of the human body. Idealism claims that they exist as external and independent entities and some of them have powers over the universe and human beings.
S. Radhakrishnan, the noted historian of Indian philosophy exemplifies the primacy of consciousness: “Our inability to realise consciousness apart from the body does not imply that consciousness is a property of the body, for the body may only be an auxiliary to the realisation of consciousness. Perception of light is not possible without light. But from this it does not follow that perception is light or property thereof.”
While light, electromagnetic radiation is the entity external to us, consciousness, mind, or soul are part of the body and not external to it. Who says that light is the body’s part? The analogy appears to be unconvincing and insubstantial.
3. “Has the universe any unity or purpose?”
The universe has its unity and its purpose. It is governed by the laws of nature. Corliss Lamont, the humanist thinker, says: “Humanism, on its part, reiterates that Nature considered as a totality has no purpose, no preferences, no prevision of the future, no awareness of the past, no consciousness or mind.” It is neutral to life, human, animal, plant, or microbial.
The sun rises and sets every day; the earth and other planets orbit the sun; the rain falls; the wind blows; oxygen is created; the plants grow and die, and countless other natural processes happen. These natural processes have no human-related purpose. They mind their business!
Philosophy, a guide to a good life
Humanism, the life-centered philosophy, is simple, intelligible, and relevant for our life. As Corliss Lamont eloquently puts: “Yes, this life is enough, this earth is enough; this great and eternal nature is enough.”
And humanism, the human-centered philosophy, is enough for us.
I believe you may be one of us. Are you?