The Diabolical, Dark Days

Here’s calamity—the destruction of religion.
The Devil lives on illusions only, some deception
Hold no belief. We cannot look to superstition.
The Devil may own, upon the world, such confusion.

It is impossible for men to conceive the world gone daft,
In which good and evil are relative; the world goes mad.
This is a strange time, from dawn of day to blink of night,
Upon the altar, of brick and mortar… we see no light.

Like not the smell of authority—doubt the powers of the dark.
The Devil is precise, the nature of man caught for a fraud.
Of heavenly combat between the Lord and Lucifer, order and freedom,
The Devil is a wily one—never believe marvelous pretenders.

Wonder on it: no one can really know the pure in heart.
There is too much evidence now that the town’s gone wild,
Fear nothing but thundering wrath that profits nothing:
A lump of vanity, a deadly sin.

Think on it: like a beast upon the flesh of pure lambs.
The Devil’s agents, cold and cruel… always kept poppets
As weapons—kings, philosophers, scientists, ecclesiasts.
The Devil is alive, and God is dead!

The Modern Truth on Truth

The Modern Truth on Truth

In a world of skepticism and rationalism—the movements that rove over the European continent—are supposed to be earnest about our convictions?

Does Truth only matter to us when it benefits us? Hence, does Truth only bother us as it challenges our values? This in itself is not a purely simplified issue on philosophy, but overshadows our ignorance.

Algernon, in Importance of Being Earnest, much less an earnest man than his alter ego, Ernest, asserts: “The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious is it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!”

Paradoxically, whether or not this assertion is in itself a pure and simple truth, non-self-evident truths are complex in nature, leaving us perplexed. Fictional inventions and relational situations are what turns life dynamic and worthwhile.

The fact that “the very essence of romance is uncertainty; if ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact,” entails that modern life is not black and white, but painted in a spectrum of mismatching colors.

Wilde teaches us, then, that preference and ignorance of truth are inevitable, partly and largely due to our human nature and human knowledge:

“As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.” Science emphasizes the intellectual minds on accuracy, whilst the arts underline the emotional flairs on creativity. Forte, as a wordplay, is a double entrende, meaning “played loud” in music, and “excels” as a verb.

I believe this reflects Algernon’s excellence in playing aloud the fictional inventions he uses to distort obligations and relational situations (as Earnest Worthing and ‘Bunburying’). In a sense, he uses both creativity to invent, and accuracy to pretend, in order to maintain false truths.

I am much reminded of the infamous Gettier’s Problem, which is a trigger towards contemporary philosophy that even what we call as true based on false evidences may be, falsely, the truth.

Kierkegaard even regards that, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”

However, modernism, as a movement throughout Victorian England, made it a maelstrom. It is possible to believe anything, but impossible to know everything. As a matter of fact, “more than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.”

Wilde, therefore, satirically criticizes that Truth becomes not a matter of fact, more less a matter of opinion, but greatly a matter of pluralism and pragmatism. In modern life’s culture and modern literature, sad to say… truth becomes relative to one’s subjective viewpoints, and valued on the basis of practicability and feasibility.

Truth is, without question, rarely pure and never simple.

The Epistemic Uncertainty

A Midsummer Night’s Dream inevitably embodies Theory of Knowledge’s aspects on falsehood and truthfulness. Shakespeare, using both his wit and wittiness, implicitly but cleverly conveys that whatever we think is true has its basis on context and culture; the beliefs that we believe originates from a particular point in space and time. Hence, this is a valuable source of knowledge framework that somewhat educates the audience on the value of empathy.

René Descartes is one of the key philosophers who distinguished the difference between what we think is true and what is true. “Start thought with doubt” is his key philosophy. He may be certain that our minds exist—since to doubt is to think, and in order for doubting or thinking to be possible, our minds need to exist in the first place—but the body may be nonexistent. This is logically possible, but it is logically impossible to prove nor disprove. Here, he pointed out that fantasy vs. reality is based on what we think is true.

As in the case with Lysander and Demetrius, they both may think that life is both a fantastical dream or an actual reality, based on the context of who they love (and who they hate). As Lysander remarks, “Half asleep, half waking. But as yet, I swear, I cannot truly say how I came here. But as I think—for truly would I speak, and now do I bethink me—so it is.” As Demetrius responds, “Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream.

How do they know? They are ignorant that the supernatural world exists, because their culture does not do black nor white magic, but because their context does reflect marriage tradition and rebellion. Lysander wakes up loving Hermia back, and Demetrius wakes up loving Helena still. Therefore, ironically, they both think that their realities were fantasies, despite the fact that in actuality, they were the opposite.

They are biased towards naturalism, and biased against naturalism. It follows that passion towards assumptions distort reason.

Hermia and Helena also fails in pursuit of truth; Hermia condemned Demetrius by speculating, “Oh once tell true even for my sake… Has thou killed him sleeping? O brave touch!” Additionally, Helena denounced Lysander by theorizing, “[You] love Hermia… and now mock Helena—a trim exploit, a manly enterprise.”

These assumptions are paradoxically logical and illogical, since the women irrationally ignores mystical evidences, but rationally accounts personal experiences (on how both men had loved or hated in the past, i.e. Lysander loving Hermia and Demetrius hating Helena).

Overall, Shakespeare encourages the audience, through wit and wittiness—an interactive and entertaining approach to Theory of Knowledge—to think on whether we should trust the self (our intellectual, emotional, and volitional faculties) or trust the unknown (evidences not known to us).

The Charade of a Parade

Reason as disorder, and religion as order?

Christopher Marlow touches on the contradiction between reasoning and religiosity, criticizing how the first-mentioned elevates human dignity over divine authority.

“The god thou serve’s is thine own appetite, wherein is fix’d the love of Beelzebub: to him I’ll build an altar and a church” explicitly expresses the experience of reconversion, implicitly implying the Catholic communion.

Faustus’ lack of faith on the Greatest Possible Being, a theology that puts together Classical and Christian philosophy, thus loads a faith on the devil, supposedly and ironically the treacherous possible being, to provide and protect. This is a ‘love’ towards Beelzebub, an advocate of selfish love instead of selfless love.

It is well-known that the Greco-Roman proverb of the human purpose is “to seek happiness, through wealth, health, fame, and praise.” It is a fulfillment. And in Christian thought, ‘7’ in Hebrew means “to be full,” a number of completion and perfection, represented in the days of creation, the images in revelation, or the number of heavens.

The Seven Deadly Sins—Superbia, Avaricia, Invidia, Ire, Gula, Acedia, and Luxuria—are abstractions personified, the representations of the heart in a morality play. They are presented as distractions from religious thinking as from rational thinking, as a parade. It is significant that the sins introduced themselves from the most to the least deadly.

Vainglory is at the top of hierarchy, led by musical (folklore piper) and visual (grotesque attires) appreciation and enjoyment, which demonstrates sins as delight instead of despair. This enhances the illusion that hell is heaven on earth, to become an admirer of the despiser. It is a mystery too, to live a life of pleasure without immorality.

Faustus wants to “gain a deity” as a “conjurer laureate,” as the Deadly Sins despise reason that leads to religion, drunk enough to distort the mind and heart from focusing on God. Since, the parade is more comedic than demonic—more humorous than systematic. Gluttony invites Faustus for dinner, whilst Covetousness desires Faustus into gold. Sloth was too lazy to introduce himself, and Lechery too fond of an “inch of raw meat.” Notice that the Deadly Sins explicitly states what they are craving for, in a light-hearted instead of a fear-driven or tough-minded manner. Lucifer’s objective is to transform Faustus in such a way that he would ignore the consequences of his yearnings than its contentment.

Faustus’ mind is hungry for something beyond reason, and his heart thirsty for something beyond religion, led by Pride who laughs and feeds on the pleasures of unlimited reason than being limited by religion. A part of Pride is not taking seriously the dangers of Pride, much less than the demands of Pride.

The role of Pride is dishonest reflection on the self, hence Faustus’ lack of introspection on himself, as a walking 7-in-1 deadly and deathly sinner. How? Faustus watches the parade—not realizing he is a charade of the extravaganza.

The Nothingness Ex Nihilo

We are “thrown” into existence, within a universe without evident logical, ontological, or axiological structure. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness opposes metaphysical conceptions—including religious doctrines and absolute morality—as these are self-deceptive approaches to ‘authenticity’. Hence, we are beings whom prior to existence were nothing and are destined to non-existence or nothingness. Although this thought undermines the existence of morals and meaning, or virtues and values, we are nonetheless “condemned to be free” to ask ultimate questions without resolute answers, or reach decisions without ethical certainty.

Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, written a few decades subsequent to these existential movements, and Einstein’s formulation of relativity, notably incorporates motifs on both the absurdity of human fortuitous life and the B-theory’s implications towards human deterministic living. This combination implicitly entails the contradictory nature of this irrational world, yet provides a solution that we can be “authentic” by “rebelling” this illogicality as both an idle and likeable resolution.

“As an earthling, I had to believe whatever clocks said—and calendars” conveys space-time as contingent upon our construction of our temporality. Although the idealist’s version of time is that “all time is time; all moments, past, present, and future, always have existed; it does not change; it does not lend itself to warnings; it simply is,” akin to a frozen river, yet we experience time as a flowing river. “[Weary] is in a constant state of stage fright, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next” is proof that our illusion of before, now, and after merely traps us in uncertainty, leading to absurdity, due to the simultaneous objective existence of timelessness and the subjective experience of temporality.

Thus, the concept of “why” is irrational, independent of our rationality. From the perspective of timeless beings on temporal beings, “Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber? …There is no why.” Accordingly, advocates of atemporality reduces human essence—including cognition and conation—to physicalism, suspended in non-causality. “We know how the universe ends—and earth has nothing do with it, except that it gets wiped out.” Not only humans and animals or chemicals are technically equivalent, this pessimistic yet apathetic theme and tone casually arouses the absurdist question of how can we live lively or rationally in an irrational world?

Vonnegut echoes Nietzsche’s urge to “live your life as a piece of art” within a nihilistic world, as “no art is possible without a dance with death” (Vonnegut 27). The limited intervals, in space and time, or between life and death, gives life meaning. There are infinite possibilities but finite potentialities—akin to producing or interpreting art. “Ignore the awful times, and concentrate on the good ones” is a sentience’s issue on conscience, as an artwork’s worthiness or worthlessness is arbitrarily up to us to judge.

The Fictioneers of Fiction

“The ends justify the means” is the universal axiom that every moral decision hinges upon. Cannon fodders dug into the trenches believing that they were justified, by mass destruction, to achieve a nation’s utopian dream. However, Vonnegut reveals that the brutal means occurred for delusional ends. A ‘perfect world’ is illusory, hence every battle to establish that fantasy is meaningless.

“If the death penalty is ever to be imposed for desertion, it should be… not as a punitive measure nor as retribution, but to maintain that discipline upon which alone an army can succeed against the enemy” exemplifies that to survive is to discipline one’s self to exterminate the opposition. Thus, the ends to survive is through the means of death, and both sides of war sustain this philosophy. Therefore, to survive is to die, yet a soldier is disciplined to think otherwise. Pilgrim describes his comrades as “woods creatures, living from moment to moment in useful terror, thinking brainlessly with their spinal cords.” The soldiers are disciplined not to think by their cerebral capacities, but to act by their corporeal capabilities. They are heteronomous to human warfare instead of autonomous to human welfare.

Indeed, a ‘perfect world’ requires humans to become non-humans (machines)! Android autonomy is acting without thinking, but consistently, reliably, and efficiently. The mass has to be systemized to formalize a permanent economic cycle, as seen in the dystopian-totalitarian regimes of 1984 or Brave New World.

“Tralfamadorians say that every creature in the universe is a machine,” because they “produce an image of life [with] no beginning, no middle, no end, no moral, no causes, no effects.” These alien concepts imply that war for a perfect world is an illusion, i.e. a changeless world of peace, power, and parity, since a perfect world eliminates the concept of vices and virtues. A perfect world is just “is,” because of its autonomic-monotonic consistency. Consistency undermines free will, akin to consistently operating machines without free will. Tralfamadorians discern no morality, but machinery.

“[Billy and Weary] had found life meaningless, partly of what they had seen in war.” Giorgio de Chirico, a surrealist artist, found that nationalism and patriotism are meaningless. Soldiers and leaders believe that the ends of war are superstructures of complete uniformity and harmony, through the means of war that involves fatality and barbarity. Hence, instability leads to stability—war is a distorted state of mind to achieve an ordered state of mass.

Yet, for Pilgrim, “science fiction was a big help [to] reinvent himself and his universe.” The fantasy of a perfect world is a fiction, not a reality. Until it is believed to be sane to believe in false truths of mythology where one can truly escape from actuality. This is Vonnegut’s revelation: “fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” The book itself is part fiction that reveals the truth that we imperfect humans have to live as if our humanly lives will be made perfect.

The Personalism of Persons

J.M.E. McTaggart, in 1919, was the first to differentiate two theories of time. He identified the B-theory as the view that time does not exist, whilst the A-theory as an illusionary experience that time exists.

In my Extended Essay, “Temporality vs. Timelessness: Is God Inside or Outside of Time?” I concluded that if time is a subjective, psychological projection, then libertarian free will is negated. Knowledge, conation, and emotion, integrated as love, do not have epistemological significance. This entails that God is impersonal, since God’s timeless nature is beyond everything that we know of (i.e. within time, since we are time-bound creatures within a temporal universe), including personality.

Interestingly, Martin Luther King wrote a paper criticizing McTaggart’s unreality of personality, in 1951. He claims that he studied “Personalistic philosophy—the theory that the meaning of ultimate reality is found in personality… [Personalism gave me] a philosophical grounding for the idea of a personal God, and a metaphysical basis for the dignity and worth of all human personality.”

It is extremely crucial to distinguish the archaic and the modern terminology of personality. In psychology, personality is the characteristics, or mental and moral qualities, of a person. In King’s ontology, personality is the “factual quality of being a person, distinct from a thing or an animal,” as the essential, abstract, intrinsic nature of a person.

Indeed, in virtually all his speeches and writings, in the context of segregation, discrimination, or martyrdom, he explicitly and repeatedly states that every man should “respect the dignity and worth of human personality,” since every man “is an heir of the legacy of dignity and worth.” This is one idea for humanity to attain the one ideal society.

With freedom of choice (rejecting McTaggart’s determinism) comes ethical purity or depravity. Since King’s Personalism concerns the especial significance, uniqueness, and experience of personhood, it is our cosmic responsibility to nurture the ethereal status.

Hence, when King refers to the axiom that “any law that degrades human personality is unjust,” he thus formulates the standard for equilibrium—not in hierarchy, but in individuality. Equality for the blacks and the whites, dissolved into a communitarian solution, is the majestic grandeur of personality.

This is an objective, universal, transcendental law because of who we are, in reflection to who God is, in essence: a Person of infinite dignity and worth.