Tag Archives: Philosophy

Manifest Destiny–Literally

How many of you noticed how things seem to fall into place in your life when you’re feeling good about yourself?  Or conversely, how everything seems to fall apart when you aren’t feeling good about yourself or where your life is at right now?  It always seems like a crazy coincidence, but there’s something about coincidences a lot of people don’t realize.

They don’t actually exist.

Well, not the way we normally think about them.

You welcome into your world what you think the most about, and “coincidences” are simply validations that your inner world and outer world are interacting.  We simply can’t notice all the subconscious interactions and connections we make each day and how they all weave together to influence our lives at a larger level.  Thus, if you hold negativity you’ll encounter negative outcomes, circumstances and coincidences and the same is true for holding positivity.

For example, if you think you’re better than everyone else you will spend all your time finding people’s flaws and attracting other people who think the same way, which you will interpret as flawed thinking and take it as evidence you are better than everyone.  On the other hand, if you are self-content you won’t see a need to judge or compare yourself with others which will help you see not only the good in you, but the good in the people around you who are often your biggest supporters.  We see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear.

Think about it.

Given we share one outer world and all have our own inner worlds, the events that befall in life are the result of everything that everyone is thinking.  If you think of matter as energy and thoughts/emotions as energy and believe in conservation of energy, it could be said that a rise in global disasters, wars, disease and famine can be the result of a global-scale trend toward negative or destructive thinking.  And if you can see things that way you can see what kind of influence over the physical world our intangible thoughts have, making them akin to the influence of a God.  Which helps explain why religions emphasize the growth of self and promote self love because in having these traits one brings only positive things into their lives and the lives of others, using their “Godly” mental influence over fate and the world responsibly and compassionately.

But you don’t even have to take it that far for it to make sense.  Thoughts dictate behaviors, behaviors cause reacting and reoccurring behaviors–ebb and flow, to and fro, cause and effect, Taoism.  It all begins in our minds, and by it, I mean the flow and progression of life. The paths our lives lead are hugely influenced by our actions, habits, beliefs and attitudes–and each of those things begin as thoughts.  Simple, everyday thoughts we think about, but don’t really think about as our mental habits turn into mindsets.  Mindsets that affect perspective, motivation, self-esteem and happiness levels.

So mind your thoughts and keep them positive for best results.  We are what we repeatedly do, as Aristotle says, and this extends to what we think about.  “I think, therefore I am,” or to relate with this article, “I think, therefore I exist and I exist as my thoughts are.”  Our minds are POWERFUL BEYOND MEASURE and can act as cages or as wings.  We can be our own worst enemies or our greatest allies depending on the thoughts we keep with us in the foxhole.

Seek to empower and inspire yourself everyday and you’ll be unstoppable.  Be your greatest supporter and provide encouragement along with your constructive criticism and you’ll be well on your way to becoming the best YOU as humanly possible.

The Truth is, You Can’t Handle the Truth

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique.  Just like everyone else.”  –Margaret Mead

Every set of eyes is a lens through which each individual mind sees the world.  A lens crafted from beliefs, knowledge, and personal experiences — shaped by environments, circumstances, chance, choice, and peers.   No two sets of lenses or individual minds are the same, largely because we all have our own perspectives and points of view:  each of us sees the world differently, thinks differently, and experiences things differently.  As such, we all live our own realities in our own worlds and though we may not see it, we live by our own definitions, rules, and interpretations as well.  One could say none of us are living in the same reality as anyone else, despite the fact we all exist in the same physical world and work together to keep it running.

But this raises the question:  if life, existence, and reality is different for all of us, then what can we consider truth?  Some people say truth is “fact” or “universal knowledge,” such as it is a fact Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States, or it is universal knowledge that washing one’s hands helps prevent illness.  However, the President of the United States serves one term at a time and is re-elected, which means John F. Kennedy was technically the 44th president — just as George Washington was both the first and second president.  Because of this definition of presidency, Barack Obama is actually the 56th and 57th President of the United States.  In a similar vein, washing one’s hands builds the soap tolerance of germs and bacteria on your skin.  Because of this, washing your hands too much can make you more susceptible to illness by making the germs you frequently come into contact with more resistant to antibacterial agents.  Again, the truth here lies in the context by which it is presented.  Because we all think, experience, and believe differently, we all see truth, facts, and knowledge through different contexts or lenses.

 

Let’s get epistemic

Now that I’ve diluted the truth of a fact and an example of universal knowledge, does that mean neither were true to begin with, or they were both always only partially true?  Can they still be considered a fact and a piece of knowledge despite only being true when given a certain context?   To answer these two questions we must ask a third question:  How can we know we know what we know is true?

For instance, you “know” you are reading this post, but how can you be sure?  You may be dreaming right now or your entire life could be a dream, the world and/or reality around you could be an illusion cast by some all-powerful being or very clever scientists, you could’ve been abducted by aliens last night in your sleep and placed in a holographic world where everyone you know has been replaced by impostors.  Perhaps you’re really schizophrenic and are really in a padded room somewhere imagining your entire life — or at least imagining that you are reading this blog right now.

It’s hard to know if any of that is the case or not, let alone know you know that’s the case or not.  And even if you know something is the case, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is true:  We used to know the world was flat and now we know the dinosaurs were killed off by meteors, but we disproved the first theory many years ago (so we never really “knew” it and it was never true to begin with), and we may do the same with the second one eventually and deliver it to the same fate.  Truth and knowledge are very tricky concepts and we seem to take them for granted on a daily basis.

So what’s left?  Individual truth, for one.  What we as individuals know to be true based on our own perspectives, experiences, thoughts, beliefs, and perceptions.  You know you aren’t dreaming because you woke up today and have had to breathe all day to stay alive.  You know washing your hands kills bacteria and prevents infection, and you know Barack Obama was the 44th person elected President of the United States.  You may even know the Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary offers a definition of “president” as “4: the presiding officer of a governmental body,” and since “presiding” is present tense, a president serving two terms counts as a single president.  However, you may also know that the print edition of the Merriam -Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary Eleventh Edition offers a definition of “presidency” as “2:  the term during which a president holds office,” and since “term” is a singular word, a presidency only applies to a single term.  Because of these different beliefs, thoughts, and definitions, it can be true that Barack Obama is both the 44th president and the 56th and 57th president.  However, we also know presidents can’t serve more than two terms, so now we’ve reached a contradiction and must throw this out the window.  We could say Barack Obama could either be the 44th president or the 56th and 57th president, but that makes truth conditional and therefore, relative.  And if truth is fact or universal knowledge, it can’t be relative.  We just reached another contradiction.  In these cases we tend to go with the answer given to us by a credible source, and the websites for the White House, The National Museum of American History, and Wikipedia all say Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States.  But just because they say it is true, doesn’t mean it is — we only give them the power to make definitions and create truth for the rest of us.

“Right is right, even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.”  –William Penn

So how can we know what we know is true?  We can use reason and logic, but due to their very own designs we would still be skeptical of any truth and look for ways to verify it by falsifying the other possibilities and testing our theories (if we are to be philosophical and scientific about it).  So for instance, you could reason that perhaps you did have to breathe all day but that doesn’t necessarily mean you haven’t been dreaming.  As for washing your hands and who the 44th president is, who is to say that hand washing isn’t just “Nanny State” propaganda to keep P&G sales in the black or that the real first  president was assassinated and removed from history books to keep the future country from knowing about him (or her…).

There are many different ways your reasoning can go depending on the context or lens through which you see truth.  You can use your own knowledge, interpretations, beliefs, and experiences to know that you know something, however you have to justify and validate each of them by determining if your sources are good, your interpretations are logical, your beliefs are valid, and your experiences are generalizable and unbiased.  It’s a lot of work, to be honest.  And over time, searching for verifiable and justifiable truth leaves you with a lot of skepticism and very few truths, if not just only one:  You think and therefore exist, “Cogito ergo sum,” in the words of Descartes.  But even then your thoughts may not be your own.  Your thoughts could actually belong to a universal unconsciousness or a God, which means you exist but only as a vessel of something much bigger than yourself and not as your own, governable entity.  At that point your foundation of truth crumbles, and everything either becomes pure “subscribed” belief or the entire lack thereof — sincere faith or absolute nihilism.  You know and believe Barack Obama is the 44th president because of how you define a presidency, you know and believe hand washing prevents illness because it kills germs and the Medieval times were both very dirty and very diseased.  You know and believe your whole life hasn’t been a dream, illusion, or hallucination because if it was, things would be much better.  Despite the facts, they are all supported by and arranged from beliefs, all the way down to the simple belief that you exist on Earth as a human and the world around you is real.  But ultimately your knowledge and beliefs can always turn out to be false given access to the right (or true) context.

 

The truth is out there

Imagine something being true even though no one believes it, knows it, or is capable of understanding it.  That truth is an unknown.  It is still a truth or a fact, but no one knows it exists, believes it exists, or is capable of understanding its existence  —  which makes this truth unattainable or speculative at best.  For instance, say the entire universe is a pebble and every galaxy in the universe is an atom or molecule that makes up that pebble, which is sitting on a creek bed in a forest somewhere that is inhabited by the Gods of all religions and mythologies.  In this case we don’t know the truth because we don’t have access to the right context — being on the creek bed and able to see the pebble and that it contains our entire universe — but we can “know” what is true or real to us based on our own knowledge, experience, and points of view.  None of us can know our universe is a pebble on a creek bed in a forest somewhere, but we can know that we live on Earth, that Earth is in a solar system within the Milky Way galaxy, and that the Andromeda galaxy is relatively nearby.  We don’t have access to the right context to know the truth of our universe pebble, so it is unknown despite being true.

To accommodate for unknown truths, relative truths, individual truths, and subscribed truths, we have our chosen beliefs.  We can simply choose what we believe is true, which is typically what we do to help us understand and navigate through life.  For instance, I can choose to believe our universe is a pebble on a creek bed in a forest somewhere that is inhabited by the Gods of every religion and mythology (you’re free to believe this too), but that doesn’t make my belief true.  For it to be true it needs to be justified and for it to be justified it needs to have substantial evidence, and for this particular truth to be true it must also be seen through the right context, frame of reference, and mode of presentation ((the last two are fancy ways of saying point of view and the means by which you came to know something).  But all that is really needed is enough evidence to convince me or anyone else to believe it is true or to have faith that it is.  So people can believe Barack Obama was the 56th and 57th president because their source of choice defines a “presidency” as serving one term, so serving two terms counts as two presidencies.  People can also believe washing one’s hands helps prevent illness and control the spread of disease, but only in moderate and prudent usage.  Both would be true for their contexts, frames of reference, and modes of presentation.  But through a different lens from a different point of view and learned though some other means, the opposite of both claims can also be true.  Maybe some people are allergic to soap and prone to infection when using it.  To them, “washing one’s hands prevents illness” is absolutely false despite being true for many.

Astrophysicists can choose to believe that we live on Earth, that Earth is in a solar system within the Milky Way galaxy, and that the Andromeda galaxy is relatively nearby.  They have plenty of evidence to justify the truth of their beliefs, so I wouldn’t blame them for believing those things.  But even then, perhaps the Earth and/or solar system is like a terrarium and the universe is an illusion or projection that aliens created to mislead us.  Or maybe NASA is making up stories and Photoshopping pictures so we keep giving them money to stare into space with telescopes.  Maybe everything around you is a concerted effort to keep you thinking you live in a progressing world with scientists, teachers, and businessmen when really the entire planet is an intergalactic zoo that aliens visit when they’re on vacation or win free tickets from a radio station.  Of course, these alternatives seem extremely unlikely so we discard them as possibilities the way we’ve been conditioned to.  But the fact that they were thought of makes them legitimate possibilities, along with thousands of other theories (according to philosopher David Lewis’s Law of Attention).  And we still don’t know if there are any unknown truths that falsify the beliefs of these hypothetical astrophysicists, so even if they are true today that doesn’t mean they will be true tomorrow:  inductive reasoning versus deductive reasoning.

 

Takeaway

Considering all of this, is truth something worth pursuing?  Or is it much wiser to ignore the concept of truth due to our inability to understand or fully attain it, and instead just focus on the things we “know” and the things that are real to us as individuals (basically, our beliefs, knowledge, and experiences)?  It’s the age-old question of objectivity versus subjectivity.  Humans have been discussing this very thing for thousands of years and still haven’t come up with a satisfying answer.  Maybe we never will.  Some things are just too elusive for our minds to grasp.  Though there may be a hint in the quote at the beginning of this post:

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique.  Just like everyone else.”  –Margaret Mead

Despite our different lenses, minds, experiences, perspectives, beliefs, knowledge sets, interpretations, and circumstances, we all have things in common.  We are all unique, for one.  We’re all human and we all live on Earth.  We all want to love and be loved, we all have our own lives and our own stories (though to be fair, none of us can actually know if anyone else thinks or exists as anything more than a hallucination, so this is all belief at best).  So perhaps “truth” is simply anything that ties us all together to experience, think, and believe the same thing.  Then again, truth may be nothing more than what we consider it to be and vary greatly from person to person.

The truth is, you can’t handle the truth.  It is sand between your fingers and the wind blowing by.  You can feel it, see it, hear it, smell it, taste it, or otherwise sense it or perceive it — but you can’t hold it and you can’t keep it.  This is why the truth is different for everyone — it is an elephant being touched by six blind men, everyone experiences it differently.

Despite some of my examples being farfetched they are very applicable to everyday life.  Asking the same kinds of questions about a variety of topics and subjects helps sharpen your critical thinking skills and trains your brain to decipher the truth of every claim and concept.  Whether you are being exposed to politics, getting information from the media, dealing with a salesperson, trying to learn the truth of a situation, or evaluating whether you or someone else knows the truth at all, this will help you find it by stripping away lies, misinformation, propaganda, and false beliefs.  It’s a philosophical practice called “epistemology,” and after reading this post you are now initiated in the practice.  Use it wisely friends.

If you are interested in reading more posts like this, please let me know in the comments section below!

Corporate Personhood meets Personal Business

If corporations are recognized as people in the eyes of the law and thus can enjoy certain constitutional rights, can people be legally identified as businesses and thus enjoy certain tax exemptions and benefits?  It’s an interesting question that fights the fire of corporate America with the fire of America’s humanity.

Think of it like this.  Our work paychecks are our revenue, and our business is a self-investment capitalist venture that generates revenue by providing services for our clients (e.g. employers and the companies we work for).  We have expenses that are similar to business expenses, such as rent, living expenses (similar to a business’s upkeep expenses), utility expenses, and travel expenses.  These expenses add up and for many people, they consume more than half of a year’s salary.  For many other people, they consume the entire year’s salary.  Still, we have to pay taxes on our full salaries despite the financial burdens our expenses place on us.  This is something most businesses are not required to do, as they can use their expenses to offset their taxable income and reduce or eliminate most of their taxes in order to protect their profits.  While people can do the same thing by claiming deductions, there are a lot of restrictions on the things we can deduct and how much we can deduct off our incomes for each item.  Because people aren’t able to take advantage of their expenses in the way businesses and corporations can (unless they are sole proprietors or their own businesses), many people don’t turn much of a profit at the end of the year as most of their wages go to paying for their living expenses.

Now, by asking if people can be identified as their own businesses I don’t necessarily mean sole proprietorship, where self-employed individuals claim themselves as their own businesses.  Though in many cases individuals would be classified as sole proprietors and would be eligible for certain advantages, such as offsetting their incomes with their expenses and being taxed less by the IRS or not taxed at all if their expenses are greater than their incomes.  Which of course is a very enticing advantage.

Rather, what I am asking is can people be legally identified as businesses whether they are employed, self-employed, or unemployed?  This way people could be able to form business partnerships with other individuals such as friends, family, and spouses — or even form partnerships with their employers — in order to receive certain tax advantages.  Additionally, they could report net losses if unemployed or making low wages in order to avoid paying income tax.  They could spend their time doing charity work and philanthropy and count themselves as nonprofit organizations, which come with their own tax breaks, advantages, and insurance premiums.  Individuals could also be identified as Limited Liability Companies (LLC) and be protected from some or all of the liability of their actions and debts, and then decide whether they want to be taxed as sole proprietors, partnerships, or corporations instead of taxed as individuals — all of which come with their own sets of advantages and disadvantages.

For instance, with  S corporations the business itself does not have to pay federal income tax, but the shareholders do after reporting the corporation’s income or loss on their individual tax returns (shareholders in the case of people being their own businesses would be individuals and their business partners, financiers, or spouse).  So before paying their taxes, S corporations subtract their expenses from their revenue and are taxed on the profits that are left afterwards.

This would be the equivalent of you making $25,000 in one year but spending $10,000 on rent (a living expense), $5,000 on food (another living expense), $2,000 on gas (yet another expense), and $4,000 on other expenses (such as car repairs, business supplies, internet and phone bills), leaving you with only $4,000 in income that year as $21,000 of your revenue was spent on expenses.  Which in turn means only $4,000 of the $25,000 you made would be taxable income.  And since your income is so low you wouldn’t have to pay as much federal income tax and might even qualify for certain tax breaks.  This benefit also applies to sole proprietors, however they have unlimited liability for their debts and can be audited by the IRS or sued by creditors for not making money any given year.  On the other hand, as a LLC an individual wouldn’t be as liable or responsible for his or her debts, which may even include credit card and student loan debt depending on the individual’s situation.  While you may not be doing any work at your place of residence and your food may not be in the form of business lunches, you do need to pay for rent and food in order to survive and to continue making money (or to keep your money-making “business” afloat, if you will).  You also need to pay credit card bills to keep your credit in good standing and keep your business a reputable one.  The same applies to school loans, which are technically business investments in yourself that you plan on seeing returns from in the future.  These are all expenses that need to be paid for you — an individual business — to continue operating smoothly and making money.  It’s only fair that these expenses offset our revenues before our income is taxed, rather than taxing us on our salaries without taking the majority of our necessary expenses into consideration, while handing us deductions with limitations attached to them that hardly do anything to benefit us.

The reason I ask is because corporations are allowed to assume personhood in order to engage in lawsuits, they are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and guaranteed certain constitutional rights (freedom of speech and the right to petition, for example), they can enter contracts, they can own property, and they are legally responsible for themselves as people instead of employers, shareholders, and managers being responsible for a corporation and the corporation’s debts.  Because of this, corporations can act independently of their owners since they are classified as their own people, which means the owners aren’t necessarily responsible for the actions of their corporations in a legal sense.  It’s a nice little loophole that reduces the accountability of CEOs and allows corporations to donate to political campaigns because their contributions are considered “freedom of speech” that don’t necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the CEOs and owners:  the corporation made the donation using its own, God-given free will.

Due to the laws of the United States, corporations are legally treated as people unless otherwise noted by a judge.  As stated in 1 U.S.C. §1 (United States Code):

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, unless the context indicates otherwise– the words “person” and “whoever” include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals.  –From Wikipedia

So if corporations are recognized as people and are protected by constitutional rights, can people be recognized as businesses and receive the tax benefits that come with it (along with being eligible for small-business stimulus packages)?  This is already possible and happens frequently in the cases of sole proprietors as I mentioned earlier, but I’m talking about people claiming themselves as businesses even if they aren’t self-employed or if they work for a company.  Work is business regardless of what kind of work it is.  Employee and employer are doing business together as time and services are being exchanged for pay.  Since we own ourselves and we are trying to make money, we are technically our own businesses already and should qualify for at least some of these 31 small business tax deductions.  But it seems as if the tax laws do not recognize us as our own businesses or give us the same benefits as businesses receive.

If we were able to use all of our expenses to offset our incomes, then we would be taxed less (or not at all) and our finances would improve since we could essentially write off rent, gas, furniture, and groceries as “office operation expenses,” “equipment, furniture, and supplies expenses,”  living expenses, and other business expenses.  The collective quality of life in America would increase and people would have more money to make purchases, take out loans, and otherwise stimulate the economy.  Instead of punishing the people who make America happen everyday, we should be doing all we can to support the people and make it possible for them to live and spend freely:  for the sake of liberty and a stable economy.  After all, the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution refers to “We the people,” not “We the corporations.”  Perhaps it is time to stop investing so much of our faith and favor in the corporations and instead invest more in humanity.

Feel free to share your thoughts on this idea in the comments section below!

With Uncertainty Comes Possibility

Stars and space dust
The Horsehead Nebula.

There’s no telling what life has in store and somehow, that’s more comforting than a pre-determined and mapped out future.  Perhaps it’s because of the unlimited possibility that comes with not knowing what is going to happen next, or maybe it’s because you’ll always know that nothing stays the same forever.  Oceans evaporate and mountains crumble over time, kings and queens die, stars implode upon themselves and coal turns into diamond.  Change is constant.  Every passing second is an opportunity in bloom, an opportunity that remains invisible to the unopened or preoccupied eye.  All the while chance and choice dictate the changes that spread across the world in a ripple effect that eventually find their way to your doorstep.

You hear a knock on your door and are given the key to your destiny.  There’s no telling what is on the other side until you choose to open that door.  And even then you can still decide not to step through, out into the unknown.  But should you take that step you can rest assured that you dramatically increased the amount of possibilities available to you because with uncertainty comes possibility.  And with possibility comes excitement, opportunity, and potential.  With just a single step into the unknown you are living more than the person who has walked thousands of miles down a beaten path.  Anything can (and will) happen and as you take more steps on your journey the world opens up to you and reveals countless destinations or quick stops along the way, all inhabited by new people and more possibilities.  The adventurer cannot fail when he/she is walking through the unknown.  This is because the unknown is an adventure in itself.

There’s no telling what the future holds–the uncertainty of life is certain–and you can take comfort in that.  Because not knowing what lies on the next page is what makes life worth living.  Regardless of the circumstances, every passing second brings the possibility for change and opportunity.  And with them, another door to pass through.

The possibilities are truly endless.  Every beginning has an infinite number of ways to end.

There’s no telling where tomorrow can take you if you live for today.