A SOLI Original Document.
You won't find it anywhere else.

Survival Into the 21st Century ... and Beyond: a Practical Philosophy

(c) Copyright 1988, Robert J. Hustwit
Preface Philosophy is at the heart of all human action. History, the narrative of human action, is by and large the story of man's search for a practical philosophy, one that consistently provides the desired results. Over the millennia, we have experimented with many different philosophies. Their deterioration and eventual demise is recorded in works such as Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Albert Speer's Inside the Third Reich, and Will and Ariel Durant's monumental The Story of Civilization. Our current failures are painfully obvious. We see them in the tragic images of today's broadcast news; we read their stories--endless chronicles of suffering, death, and horror--in every newspaper and magazine. If we hope for success tomorrow, we must understand the reason for today's failures. In this book, we will endeavor to shed light on the dark and hidden sources of our personal and societal troubles. Then we will use the knowledge gained to create a powerful new vehicle that will not fail, a vehicle that will steadily carry us into a brighter, freer, more secure future. We will present a truly practical philosophy which, if adopted, will dramatically improve your life while at the same time making stronger the society in which you live. There are questions to answer and distinctions to make before we can implement this new philosophy. For instance, we make a sharp distinction between political systems and governments. They are definitely not the same thing, and an understanding of the difference is crucial to practical philosophy. We will see how a rational, workable social order can be built, indeed, must be built, on a scientifically simple, practical philosophy. We will discuss right and wrong, morality and immorality. These concepts are vital to the survival of any social order and ones which demand a detailed, rational examination. Before we start our journey, however, we will establish a home base, a foundation from which to proceed. From this base we will be able to make a practical, functional distinction between ethical and unethical conduct, between moral and immoral behavior, between right and wrong. The benefits are tremendous. We will find power and freedom in the distinction between religion and theology. We will begin to understand the true meaning of our drive to live together in social groups. We'll see why most people try to work with one another instead of being alone. And there is much more. I hope to show you the benefits, both immediate and long-term, of adopting a practical philosophy on a personal level. I hope to convince you of the value of staying with such a philosophy once you have found it. And I hope to astonish you, as the incredible power of a practical personal philosophy becomes clear. We will see the advantages of a philosophy which cannot convincingly be used to harm or control people. We will examine political systems and the philosophies they use, philosophies they claim give them the right to harm and control others. On a global scale, we will assess the effects of Communism, capitalism, and socialism. Every day we see the results of our ill-fated 100-year experiment with Communism in the fiscal irresponsibility demonstrated by most political systems and the abject poverty of many third world countries. The equally ill-fated experiment with capitalism, now almost a thousand years old, appears to be ending as well; capitalism has been unable to provide a social structure in which the free market can flourish. The inability of both capitalism and Communism to provide any kind of moral social order is causing them to die. Socialism, communism's defective parent, dies as well. The erosion of morals and values around the world is seen to be a natural effect of abortive philosophical experiments reaching back into the dim beginnings of our history. Many philosophies try to provide a workable social order, and try to improve the quality of life. Some have allowed a measure of progress before their death, others, as history shows, have done the opposite. If there is some good done by a philosophy, we needn't throw that good away just because the philosophy itself doesn't work. We shall try to keep the good and get rid of the bad, always making sure that we build upon sound, workable human principles instead of unsound, unworkable ones. In the process, we will solve the age-old problem of telling the difference between the two. We will see the beauty and power of scientifically simple ideas, and learn to distinguish between the elegant and the simplistic. We will find that many people fear simplicity, feeling as if things must be complex in order to work. In the simplicity of what is said here we will detect no fear, but rather an elegant new framework for our philosophical structure. In our attempts to bring practical philosophy into clearer focus we will examine the American Revolution, survey the republic founded on the U. S. Constitution, and scout the American political system. We will learn that, at their base, all political systems are alike. Because of this, when we discuss any political system or government the points we make will apply to all political systems and all governments around the world, not just to the one under discussion. We will challenge some of the most cherished and basic ideas of government and social order: capitalism is seen to be a sham; the tenets of Communism crumble; political and legal systems fall into ruin. Emerging like the legendary phoenix from the ashes of discarded ideologies we will discover an integrated, rational, practical philosophy founded on the premise that species' survival is desirable; a philosophy inseparably linked to individual liberty. In exploring this new system, we will meet America's founding fathers and witness the times in which they lived; we will visit Neanderthalers and Eskimos, philosophers and Kings. We will see war and pestilence, discovery and joy. But most of all, we will learn how each of us can survive in peace and tranquillity, in luxury and style. -----------
(c) Copyright 1988, Robert J. Hustwit
Chapter One: Survival on the Savanna: a Practical Philosophy On the open savanna they huddled together, naked and cold, facing nature's onslaught. The sky roared and flashed its disapproval; rain like arctic bullets pelted their flesh, but resolutely they stayed, huddled together, naked and cold. They stayed because one of them believed that to seek the protection of the sacred baobab tree when the gods were angry, was to invite death. They had no name, this group, no language as we know it, but they scavenged, rooted, and hunted together. And they shared the same gods. They didn't call them gods, of course, but they knew that there were powerful, unseen "others" out there. The others were even now roaring with anger, lighting up the sky; the others were invisible, but none doubted their presence. These others held the fate of the group (it was too primitive to be called a tribe) in their hands. The others helped the group find the roots and berries that made up most of their diet. From time to time, the others allowed them to find and enjoy the rare and savage taste of freshly killed animals. The others, when properly asked, helped make the occasional hunt more successful. The others were everywhere. They were inside the baobab tree, inside the hunted animal, in the wind, the sky, in the very ground upon which the group huddled. These others constantly had to be appeased, cajoled, or bribed. It had become clear to the group that if they did not please the others, the group would be punished. It was so very difficult, though, trying to learn just what the gods wanted. They seemed to change their minds often, being pleased today with something that had drawn their wrath only yesterday. Which is why the group was here in the open savanna on this brutal day. At one time, they had all known that when the gods were angry, the sacred baobab tree was good shelter, even though they couldn't always use it. Sometimes the sky would darken and begin to empty so fast that there was no time to seek cover. When that happened, those caught far from trees simply crouched together in the open. In general, though, they sought and found the protection of the baobab. These ancient trees, dotting the savanna like huge brooding vultures, were a dominant force in the life of the group. The baobab, which can reach 30 feet in diameter and grow to over 60 feet high, holds prodigious amounts of precious water in its spongy interior and lower branches. Its fruit was food to the group, its branches a haven. The baobab was clearly a gift from the gods. But there were problems with the baobab. The gods had many punishments for transgressors. The worst of them all, the most terrifying and final, was when the gods hurled a blinding spear from their home in the sky, striking and killing offending members of the group. The group had learned that this bright killing spear was a threat only when the gods were angry, when they thundered and turned the sky sinister black. The baobab offered shelter against the wetness and the wind, but even this sacred tree was no protection from the terrible, brilliant, blinding spear. When the spear hit, people died. The group knew this because they had come upon the charred remains of other groups who had felt the fury of the gods. Occasionally the gods spared some members of a group, killing the rest. Two of those huddled on the plain today had come to the group in this way. These two now cowered in the open even more terrified than the rest. Usually when the spear hit, everyone died. Groups were hit when they huddled in the open, and they were hit when they crouched under the baobab tree. They were hit whenever the gods wanted to punish them. There was no escape. Sometimes, apparently for sport, the gods would hit one of the baobabs, even though no one was under it. The shattering explosion that followed seemed to please them. This is the way it had always been. Today, however, was different. The group had not been heedless of the angry gods; they had seen the storm coming; they had had much time to seek the shelter of the baobab. And yet they did not seek its shelter, but in- stead stayed in the open plain. Today was different because that one (he had no name, none of them had names) refused to move toward the baobab. He had used the danger sign, and pointed at the tree. He would not go. He could not tell them what he knew, there was no way to express it. He could not remember when or how he began to think that perhaps the gods aimed their spears more often at the baobabs than anything else. He could not remember when he had first wondered if the spears would follow him into the open if he were to run. He could, however, remember the pain when the gods had struck down his woman as she sat resting against a baobab during the last fierce storm. Something happened to him that day. In the agony of losing her, he startled himself by wondering if she would have been safer in the plain than under the tree. Earlier today, as this storm approached, he felt again the same pain he had felt when he lost his woman. Once again, he was with her by the baobab, trying to make her move, trying desperately and in fear to awaken her, but she did not move, she did not awaken, ever. He was jarred from these thoughts as the group began to shift toward the baobab. He looked to the sacred tree for shelter, and again he felt the sharp taste of danger, again the hollow sense of loss. Suddenly, with both terror and conviction, he knew. He would not go; he would instead stay in the open. The tree was danger when the gods were angry. He would not go. The group was uncertain what to do. They always acted as a group. Whatever the group wanted to do, they all did without question. And the group clearly wanted to move to the shelter of the baobab tree. But this one, this one would not go. He would not go, and he would not stop telling them the baobab was dangerous. Finally, hesitatingly, another of the group crouched with the first, indicating that he, too, would stay, even though there was no danger to be seen at the baobab. The rest of the group slowly and uneasily followed. Shortly, the gods began to thunder, the sky emptied, the wind howled, and the terrible spears began to fall, now here, now there, always to be taken back by the gods more swiftly than could be seen. Thus we find them here, huddled naked and cold, bewildered and afraid. And then it happens. A blinding flash, a deafening roar, and the nearby baobab is no more. The group is stunned. They know that if they had been under that tree, they would be dead; and now they know the reason for the danger sign. As the storm begins to diminish, they gather around the scorched rubble that was the baobab. Even in the swirling wetness, it smolders, the acid smell of charcoal and ozone burning their noses. They turn from the wreckage to look at the one who had known of this danger, this danger that none could see. He looks no different than before, but plainly he has a special knowledge. From this day on, they will follow him without question. From this day on, the group has a leader, and all will prosper. -------- In our minds, we can travel back over the eons and see that we have learned much our ancient friends could use; we know of meteorology, electricity, and physics; there is much we could teach them. But before we venture too far on this imaginary and somewhat condescending journey, let us realize there is much these forefathers (and mothers) knew that is no longer part of our basic knowledge. There is much that has been forgotten over the ages, much that we can learn, must learn, from our many-times- removed grandparents if we are to survive. This ancestor of ours in the broad grasslands of Africa had developed the rudiments of a practical philosophy. It was practical because it was simple to understand, and because it worked. It was a philosophy because it used knowledge to try to better understand the way things really are. As terrifying and uncomfortable as it was, the open savanna really was the place to be in a storm, the baobab really was not safe when the gods were angry. Unfortunately, our ancient father's primitive philosophy, like most of the philosophies that had gone before and most of those that were yet to come, contained the seeds of its own destruction. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Before we discuss its defects and problems, we should be clear on precisely what we mean by philosophy, and why we need the term practical in front of it. A philosophy is any body of information whose purpose is to correctly explain some facet of the universe. A practical philosophy is one which succeeds in doing this. A practical philosophy works consistently and with predictability; it produces independently verifiable results, it is of both immediate and long-term benefit to anyone who adopts it. Looked at in this way, every time we take any action based on information, we are implementing a philosophy. Is there anything to be gained from looking at things in this way? Is this a proper perspective from which to proceed? Up until the 1800's all knowledge was called philosophy. Should we return to the thinking of that time? Is all knowledge really philosophy? We will not return to pre-1800 thinking, but we will build on it. Remember, before the 1800's all knowledge was called philosophy. What happened to change that is instructive. Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica was published in 1686. Its explanation and proofs of the three laws of motion gave man an unprecedented ability to understand his world. As more and more people began to apply what Newton called natural philosophy, it became obvious that this philosophy was different from all the rest. This one clearly worked in a way that was predictable. This philosophy could be proved by anyone, anywhere. No one needed to take anyone's word, or believe in anything for it to work. Many people thought this made it more than just a philosophy, and searched for a new word to describe it. The new word that evolved was science. Like any superior product, the new word soon drove the old word out of circulation. If it was science, it worked. If it was philosophy it was mere speculation. Science was obviously more useful and desirable. With the change in words, as often happens, there also came a subtle change in thinking. The belief was that everything in the physical world could, in principle, be explained using science and the scientific method. People believed the physical world was explainable, knowable. Things were different, however, in the realm of philosophy. Philosophy was perceived as being not subject to scientific explanation; it was believed that scientific laws such as cause and effect simply didn't apply to philosophy. It was at this juncture that philosophy began to fall into disrepute with the people at large. The reason was that human interaction was (and still is) widely perceived to be part of philosophy, not science. Except for a few thinkers who tried unsuccessfully to find scientific principles which controlled human interaction, almost everyone came to believe that human interaction was a proper subject for philosophy, not science. Many, with wonderful egocentricity, set out to find a different set of laws which governed human behavior. They thought that we humans are special. Our actions simply couldn't be subject to the same laws as the frog or the tree or the rock. Since no such laws were found, philosophy was relegated to the status of an unwanted child, only occasionally seen, and hardly ever heard. When the Wallace/Darwin theory of evolution was published in the mid-1800's, attempts to find scientific principles of human interaction flourished again, and a movement called Social Darwinism began. It postulated that societies, like life forms, evolved naturally, the most fit or successful societies surviving. Social Darwinism was doomed from the start. It ended up being used to support the worst excesses by those who claimed to be superior and therefore, they said, more fit to rule those who were inferior. Clearly this was an impractical philosophy . . . it didn't work. As a result, the idea that human action was not subject to scientific laws was reinforced. Once again human interaction was relegated to the scrap heap of philosophy. The scientific method is not hurt when an experiment fails, nor is it helped when one succeeds. The purpose of the scientific method is to discover truth through observation and experiment. In other words, the validity of the process used by science is not affected by the results of experiments which use that process. Experiments are not supposed to succeed or fail, they are supposed to show the truth. This is the heart of the problem of trying to apply science to human interaction. To see why, let's assume that we are going to conduct an experiment on ourselves. Let's further assume that if this experiment succeeds we will have peace, prosperity, and happiness. If it fails we will die immediately. Obviously we will not be disinterested observers. We will conduct this experiment believing that it is supposed to succeed. As a matter of fact, if it looks as if the experiment is going to fail, we will alter the experiment to try to make it succeed. We will do everything in our power to load the odds in our favor. Plainly, this can no longer be considered a scientific experiment. If we cannot conduct an impartial scientific experiment, it certainly seems as if we cannot apply science to human interaction and expect to get reliable results. To be sure we are talking about the same thing, let's define science, using the American Heritage Dictionary. Science is "the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of natural phenomena." [emphasis added] We can come close to impartial observation and description, even to theoretical explanation, but as we have seen, we fail miserably when it comes to impartial experimentation. Or do we? Why can't recorded history be used as our impartial experiment in human interaction? Just because the experiment is over doesn't mean we can't benefit from it. However, if we are to use history in this way, we must leave our biases, prejudices, and preconceived ideas as far behind as possible. If we are successful, we can observe the results of many different philosophies on different peoples at different times. In this way we may be able to arrive at valid conclusions. But before we can begin to test the information of the past, before we can begin to look to the future, we must establish guidelines. We have said that a practical philosophy works consistently. By "works," we mean that it produces similar results under similar circumstances. This is one of the hallmarks of any thing that is going to be of long-term value to us. If results are unpredictable we cannot benefit; as a matter of fact, the chances are we will be harmed. More on this later. By "Consistently" we mean on a regular basis, not necessarily each and every time. It does not mean the same thing as "constantly." The distinction is significant. When we say that something works constantly, we mean without letup or exception; when we say it works consistently we mean regularly, but with some exceptions. The reason the distinction is so important is that those who adopt a practical philosophy must try to apply it constantly if they are to receive its benefits, even though it does not produce the desired results every time. For example, our friends on the savanna grudgingly adopted a practical philosophy: they would not use the baobab tree for shelter during a thunderstorm. If this small philosophy were applied constantly, the results would tend to be beneficial. Let's assume that after several more storms, our ancient counterparts were hit by lightning while huddled in the open. Should the survivors abandon their philosophy and return to the cover of the baobab? Well, today with scientific hindsight, we know that their chances of survival would always be better in the open than under the tree. Again, here's the point: the chances of truly benefiting from a practical philosophy are only better if it is applied constantly. None could predict where lightening would strike. So if our friends were to crouch in the open occasionally, but not constantly, they would be gambling with nature, and the odds would be against them. By applying their philosophy constantly they stack the odds in their favor. A current example of this same point is the use of seatbelts in automobiles. If we wear our seatbelts constantly, we can still be injured, even killed, in an accident, but there is less chance of it. If we wear our seatbelts only occasionally, we lose the positive edge this small seatbelt-philosophy gives. Granted, we are better off wearing a seatbelt occasionally, better off crouching in the open during a thunderstorm occasionally than not at all: we are better off applying any practical philosophy occasionally than not at all. But to understand the value and receive the true benefit of any practical philosophy, we must apply it constantly, even when it doesn't immediately produce the expected results. The question, of course, is, "If it doesn't immediately produce the desired results, how can we know that it ever will? How can we know that it really is a practical philosophy?" The simple answer is that we can't know--for sure. As we will see, however, with proper analysis we can make some very accurate predictions. There is another consideration to be explored. That is, what about philosophies which seek to know the unknowable (Does God exist?), or philosophies that challenge the self-evident (Nothing we perceive is real.)? These seem to be neither practical nor impractical. Many people are annoyed and even angered by philosophies of this type, which seem to be of no value, and often confuse people. Today, the average person's idea of philosophy is that it deals with the unknowable. The public perception is that philosophy produces nothing of real value, that philosophy is impractical. Because of this, philosophy is considered irrelevant to today's problems. Intelligent, thinking people tend to dismiss many so-called philosophies out of hand because those philosophies ask questions which appear to have no answers, or deny that which is obvious. It is a grave mistake to do this, but it can be corrected. First we need to know there is some value in any philosophy which has not been proven wrong. In order for our species to survive, we must continually seek to know the unknowable and constantly challenge the self- evident. None of us can rightly say which line of inquiry will produce results in the future and which will not. Questioning, probing traits are part of our humanity; they will not go away. They are in large part responsible for our survival. Rather than risk condemning a valid line of inquiry, rather than risk killing the seeds of a true philosophy, we shall simply divide philosophy into three groups, practical, impractical, and speculative. A practical philosophy, as we have said, is one that works consistently and predictably, one that produces independently verifiable results, one that is of both immediate and long-term benefit to those who adopt it. An impractical philosophy is one proven to be wrong. Everything else is speculative. When a speculative philosophy produces consistent, reliable, and independently verifiable results, and when it provides some benefit, it then becomes a practical philosophy. As useful as this division is in helping us to think clearly, it also illustrates one of the lurking dangers of practical philosophy. It is all too easy to see only that which is before our noses, and to dismiss everything else as being unimportant. If our practical philosophy is to work for us, we must never deny reality. If we are to survive, some members of our species must question and hypothesize and probe in ways that seem uncomfortable or even foolish to the rest of us. We cannot and must not dismiss speculative philosophy, for it is the cradle of all practical philosophies. In this book, however, we will not concern ourselves with speculative philosophies, but rather we shall develop a practical philosophy. If we are going to continue to huddle in the open plains and get rained on, while there is a perfectly good baobab nearby, if we are going to continue to take the time and energy to "buckle up," we had better be certain that our small practical philosophies are correct. If they are not correct, if they are not practical philosophies, then we are doing more than just wasting our time, we are in danger of damaging ourselves, even dying. We cannot afford to have an impractical philosophy. We cannot even afford to have no philosophy. (technically, having no philosophy is a philosophy itself, but we won't split those hairs here) In either case, we are much more likely to be hurt than to be helped. The reason is that life and survival are not automatic functions of nature. That is, every living thing not only has to work hard to stay alive and propagate, it must also follow a narrow course of right action (a practical philosophy) that will allow it to overcome nature's hostility. We know that nature isn't really hostile to life, nature is simply unaware of life. As far as we know, nature is not aware of anything. It just exists. Nowhere do we see nature adapting itself to life. Instead, life must constantly adapt to and/or change nature's local effects to live. Any life form that does not follow this course of action will not survive for long. Put simply: there are fewer ways to do something right than there are to do something wrong. What happens when we try an impractical philosophy? The consequences of adopting an impractical or false philosophy are surprisingly harsh, although in the field of human interaction, they are not always immediately apparent. Because we usually don't see immediate bad results from an impractical, or false philosophy that deals with human interaction, it is easy to confuse or even miss the cause and effect relationship between it and its negative consequences. If we hold a hammer in our hand, and drop it from a height of about three feet, and neglect to move our toes from under it, we all know the consequences. We can predict with functional certainty that unless we move our toes, the hammer will hit our foot hard enough to give us a jolt. If we don't move our foot, we will get almost immediate feedback telling us that we should have done so. To understand what has taken place, we can use the laws of physics to precisely describe the motion, speed, and force of the hammer. Biology can tell us the effect the impact will have on our nervous system. If we want to take the time, we can, without ever dropping the hammer, know that it will hurt, know that it is a bad idea. We might want to drop the hammer once anyway, just to be sure that our conclusions are correct, but we probably will not repeat the experiment a second time. However, what if we dropped the hammer and felt nothing when it hit our toes? What if it took five minutes to feel any pain? What if the rest of our body responded normally, but our toes didn't feel anything until five minutes after whatever caused the pain? This would certainly make life more difficult. Sooner or later (if we had any toes left) we would realize that our toes are affected by things in much the same way as the rest of our body. We would realize that if something hurt our fingers or our nose, it would probably also hurt our toes, even though it would take a little longer to feel the pain. We would slowly notice our toes were subject to the same laws of nature as the rest of our body even though it took longer to feel the effects. But what if it took 10 years to feel the pain? Obviously, the process becomes far more difficult and far more prone to error as we lengthen the time between cause and effect. Nevertheless, as long as we understand that the toes are subject to the same laws as the rest of the body, we can make accurate predictions about their welfare, even though it takes a while to verify those predictions. The analogy here is that the body is the entire universe, and the toes, well, the toes are us--homo sapiens. When it comes to the physical part of being a human, most of us clearly understand that we are subject to the physical laws of nature. If we step from a high building we will fall to the ground "like a rock" . . . exactly like a rock. Gravity doesn't know that we are alive. Gravity doesn't know anything at all, it just is. But there seems to be an important difference, that is, we know we are falling (and we probably don't like it.) Are we different from rocks (or hammers, or toes) when it comes to human action? Are we different when it comes to knowing something, when it comes to feeling an emotion? Does nature deal with human action in some special way reserved just for us? The answer is no. As far as nature is concerned, human action is not fundamentally different from anything else which exists. However, because we are alive, we can postpone nature's effects on us and continue to live. This postponement is always done at some cost. It may be time, effort, money, or thought, but there is always some cost involved in staying alive.{(EXPAND)} When we adopt a false or impractical philosophy of human interaction, the results are as predictable and as certain as that hammer heading for our toes. Sooner or later we will feel the pain, sooner or later we will pay the price. But we will not feel the impact right away. Unfortunately, when we finally do feel our false philosophy's effect, we probably won't know what caused it. In the same way, when we feel the positive effect of a correct, practical philosophy of human action we are just as liable to attribute it to the wrong cause. In the field of human action all events occur over time. Each event is made up of smaller separate events, which occur in sequence. Human action in this respect is no different from action in the physical sciences. The difference between them is the time scale involved. In most philosophies, we get immediate proof or denial of our experiment's value. When we discuss a philosophy of human action, however, we have to keep in mind that proof takes longer, but it is just as certain. Let us assume that we should use a practical philosophy in dealing with our fellow humans. Further, let's assume that sooner or later any impractical philosophy will hit us in the toes. We are still left with the question of how to recognize a practical philosophy when we see one. We have talked of using history as an experiment to see how philosophies have worked in the past. What about ideas with no historical precedent? How can we know that a new philosophy of human interaction will work if we can't get immediate, verifiable results? Let's find an existing practical philosophy and see how people first learned it worked. Physics is a practical philosophy. As a matter of fact, what we call physics was originally called natural philosophy by its founder, Isaac Newton. We know that physics is a practical philosophy. We have built our modern world on it--it works. It works consistently. It works predictably and its results are independently provable. But when Edmund Halley first published Newton's Principia Mathematica in 1687, there was no historical precedent to refer to, no body of successful experiments to prove it. How could we have known then it was practical, it was correct? We could have done what many others of the day did. They checked Newton's premises for validity, then tried it for themselves. They conducted their own experiments. They saw that Newton's philosophy worked. Because it worked on a reliable, consistent basis, the industrial revolution began. Is there a similar way to test a philosophy of human interaction without waiting years to see if it will work? There is, but first we must answer two questions: How do we conduct the experiment? Where is our laboratory? The answer to both questions is the same: We conduct the experiments using our mind; our mind is our laboratory. In this laboratory we can examine the experiments of the past, and conduct experiments which will determine our future. In this laboratory we will try to learn what will work, what can work, and what will not and cannot. To summarize our discussion so far, we have defined philosophy as any body of information whose purpose is to correctly explain some facet of the universe. We have said that a practical philosophy is one which succeeds in doing this. We saw that every willful action we take can be thought of as a small philosophy. It can be analyzed, tested. We have divided philosophy into three components, practical, impractical and speculative. We have seen that there is a simple test for determining whether a philosophy is a practical philosophy: Does it consistently and predictably produce the desired results? If it does not, then it is proven to be impractical. If it produces no provable results, we can consider it a speculative philosophy. We have seen that the word philosophy, which originally referred to all knowledge, fell into disrepute when Isaac Newton opened the door to explaining the physical world. We have looked at using history as a kind of completed scientific experiment to which we can refer. We have made an important distinction between constant and consistent, and have seen the benefits of applying a practical philosophy on a constant basis. We have looked briefly at the dire consequences of adopting an impractical, or wrong philosophy, learning that we are likely to be severely damaged in the long run. We touched on the apparent difficulty of applying the scientific method to human interaction, the difference in time between a cause and its effect. We have seen that nature makes no allowances for our existence. And finally, we said that we can use our minds as a laboratory for experimenting with new ideas in human interaction. If every facet of our life can be analyzed simply by asking, "does this particular action produce the desired results?" then we can begin to look at our lives as an interlocking system of small philosophies. We can look at our social structures in the same way. Later we will see the power of looking at things in this way, but first there is one fundamental question we have not asked. While there is a simple test to tell whether or not a philosophy is practical, (does it produce the desired results over time), even a practical philosophy fails now and then. If we are in the open savanna getting rained on, and one of our group is struck by lightening, how can we know for sure that we are still safer out here than under the baobab? The fundamental question we must address is Can this philosophy produce the desired results? In other words, is it capable of working? We will show how this question can be answered with confidence, as we get back to basics in the next chapter.
(c) Copyright 1988, Robert J. Hustwit
CHAPTER TWO: Lessons of the Inuit The furry thing on the ice didn't move, but he knew it was alive. He hated hunting these evil-smelling creatures with the many thick skins. There was no choice. Food was scarce and he must eat now. Soundlessly he inched forward, flat on his belly, toward the motionless animal. If his mind had been of a different cast, the hunter would have sniffed with disdain at this poor creature who didn't even hunt, only waited motionless for its prey. But he didn't think these thoughts--hunger filled his being. As he narrowed the distance between them, he might have been grateful for the creature's stillness. It was difficult enough to deal with its smell without having to fight with it. They were surprisingly hard to catch, these foul-smelling creatures, they were alert and very smart. But this one seemed to be sleeping. One blow and it would be dead. There was no sound on the ice. Slowly, slowly--closer, ever closer he slid. And then it was done. The evil-smelling creature was dead. He fed happily and without fear, not even taking time to carry home his prey. When he had had his fill, he turned and quickly moved away, almost seeming to vanish in the arctic wilderness. A few shards of bone and some clumps of fur were all that remained to underscore the brief and bloody violence that had shattered the quiet of this frozen desert. ------------------- The woman was not cold even though it was well below freezing in her home. As a matter of fact, she became uncomfortable when the temperature rose much above freezing, which it seldom did in this frigid country. While her children played on animal pelts laid on the frozen floor, Meku, the good wife of Angudluk, felt fear. Angudluk had gone seal hunting that day, and he was late in coming home. This was not the sign of a good thing. Meku and Angudluk had been together for many seasons. Meku's father was a good hunter, and his daughter was very fat. To be fat is a sign of prosperity in a land held hostage by hunger. To be fat is to be beautiful in a land where cold kills. Angudluk had been attracted to the girl from the beginning, and they decided to mate early in their lives. It had been a good pairing. Meku could not stay still. She bustled around the freezing home, moving this pot or that blanket, constantly tending the blubber lamp that was their only light for much of the arctic winter. Meku had always been a bustler, never able to sit quietly. When she was a small and plump girl, her father and mother had laughed and called her "little seal". The good humor and warm heart of the Eskimo had made this an endearing term, which Meku loved even now. She cherished the times when her husband used the affectionate name. Her husband. How unalike they were! For hours Angudluk would sit motionless and quiet, waiting for a seal to rise to the surface for a breath of air. Then with astonishing speed and accuracy, he would drive his barbed spear home. Before Angudluk brought the seal to the primitive and transient campsite, he and the other hunters would gather around the seal, cut out parts of the still warm flesh and eat of it, each giving thanks to the seal who is a friend in this world. Each man would touch the seal in turn with his spear, Angudluk first, and then each of the others. Angudluk, who had first spear, also ate of the animal first, then the others in the order of spearing. But for this, the animal belonged equally to everyone. Angudluk, like all Eskimo hunters, respected the animals he hunted. He felt thankfulness to each one he killed. In dying, every animal in this forsaken place, even the Inuit, the Eskimo, helped the others to live. Death here was as natural as life. Death here was necessary so others could live. Yes, thought Meku, Angudluk could sit motionless for hours to feed his family. Wonderful Angudluk. Married to a woman who couldn't sit still for a minute. Angudluk, as funny and talkative, as she was quiet and given to melancholy. She snapped quickly from this reverie, the crunching of boots on snow and ice wrenching her to stark reality. There was no men-talk to be heard, no banter, no conversation; only the sound of boots on snow and ice. Her heart beat faster. In her was a feeling of sickness. Hunters died often in this harsh land. The dead could not be touched, nor could their names be mentioned aloud, for fear of offending them. The fact of a death was communicated in a traditional, ritualistic manner. Meku was told in this way of her husband's death. He would be no more with her. She was given to understand that a great and powerful white bear had taken Angudluk as he sat, unmoving, waiting for a seal to surface, and she was immediately grateful. Angudluk, (she could still think his name, she just could never speak it again) Angudluk always said that he was descended from the white bear, and everyone believed him. He was a great hunter, fearless and brave like the bear, and, for an Inuit, big like the bear is big. Although she was sad that Angudluk was gone, she was happy that a great bear had been able to feed well. She knew that it was right for each thing here to live according to its nature. She knew that all things must live for any one of them to live. And the teachings of 4,000 generations of Inuit told her that in every thing that lived, each of them also somehow lived. The feeling was reflected among the other six families who together formed this arctic community. Angudluk provided them with much food throughout the year, and he did it gladly. The loss of this hunter would be felt by all, and yet each of them were thankful that the great bear had fed well. The bears took the weak and stupid seals, those who needed to die. This let the good and strong seals live and multiply. This meant that the Inuit would always have enough seal meat to stay alive and feed their children, some of whom would be food for the bear. Thus the infinite progression of Eskimo life. Meku would probably grow old without a husband, her son taking care of her as soon as he was able, her daughter helping at home until pairing. Until her son could hunt, her family would share in the food of the group, taking only what was absolutely needed. Even after he had taken a wife, her son would care for his mother. And when she was too old to help with the housekeeping and clothesmaking that took most of an Eskimo woman's time, she would simply not go on when her family, her group moved to another hunting ground. That day, she would say good-bye to everyone, sit on the ice, and wait for death. The others would be sad, but at the same time grateful that the bears and birds would feed. They would not look back as they left for their new hunting ground. Meku would not be afraid. This was the Eskimo way, the way of the Inuit. ----------------- In the harsh wilderness of the arctic, there is little room for error. The smallest lapse of concentration or awareness can mean instant death. If one is not industrious enough, starvation waits nearby. There is much to be learned from Eskimo culture.* The Eskimo clearly had a practical philosophy. It worked--it kept them alive. It also shaped their attitude toward life. To the Eskimo, if it wasn't compatible with the survival of the group, it was wrong. If it was compatible, it was right. Nature helped them understand this simple formulation by killing those who were wrong, and allowing those who were right to live. Over time, Eskimo culture and tradition passed on to each new generation the epic tales, taboos, and customs that allowed them to survive. Compared to the Eskimo, our ancient friends on the plains of Africa had much room for error. If the hunt didn't go well, there were always berries and roots. If they didn't have adequate shelter for the night, they would not be frozen into solid blocks by morning. In Africa, our ancestors survived by trying to do what the gods wanted. In the North, the Eskimo did what the gods wanted by surviving. Africa teemed with capricious gods. In the harshness of the Arctic, capricious gods, though they are gods, cannot live. In the frozen north even the gods must give simple, clear, and consistent messages. Our ancient friends in Africa and the more contemporary Eskimo each have a different practical philosophy. For each, it works. In the end, they follow it because they believe it allows them to survive and garner expected rewards. They are not unique in this. To survive and reap rewards is the ultimate and final reason anyone anywhere follows a philosophy. This reason is so even when the rewards and survival are promised in another, unseen life. We have already observed that our ancestors in Africa have a greater margin for error than the Inuit in the Arctic. That is, they could afford to make more mistakes or, alternatively, to devote more time to matters other than survival and still live a secure, comfortable life. The practical philosophies of each culture, although different, appear to be equally valid. But even though each produces the desired result of survival, we can show that one is clearly better, that is more conducive to survival, than the other. The method we use to compare and evaluate practical philosophies is simply to look at the basis of each one. While the method is simple, it is not always an easy thing to do. In Africa, the gods ruled. Our friends from the previous chapter had implemented a practical philosophy regarding baobab trees, their safety, and thunder and lightening. It was based on what they thought the gods wanted. Let us imagine for a moment our small African group huddled on the plain in the middle of an angry storm; lightening strikes, killing several, but not all of them. What are the survivors to believe? Will they continue to avoid the baobab during lightening storms? Their lesson of survival is a tenuous one. The obvious question is, from the group's point of view, "Why should we?" Without scientific knowledge there is no reason. The gods appear to kill them whether or not they are under the baobab. The group was doing the right thing but for the wrong reason. Because the basis of their philosophy is unsound, they can easily be dissuaded from continuing to do the right thing. Under the circumstances above, for example, it is clear that the group would finally return to the "protection" of the baobab.
(c) Copyright 1988, Robert J. Hustwit
CHAPTER THREE: Survival. Londinium Brittania, 349 A.D. Marcus Tullius Phaedro had lived a long and prosperous life. He was retired now, an honored and respected soldier of the Roman Army. He liked living in this bustling city of Londinium. His home here befitted his station in life. It was large but nondescript, seemingly typical of the Roman villas in the area. Typical, that is, until one entered. Marcus's home was like a wonderful, warm museum. There were books, oh so many books, with sturdy wooden covers and pergamena (vellum) pages. The books cost him dearly, and yet he still purchased them. Once or twice a year crates with all the latest books would arrive as the Roman fleet, the Classis Britannica, was renewed from Rome. And then there were the souvenirs. Souvenirs from a hundred battles, a thousand conquests. Marcus's forty years of service to the Emperor had not gone unrewarded. The spoils of war had never looked so noble. In the position of honor was the letter and a gold plate sent by the Emperor Constantine himself when he heard of Marcus's retirement. Marcus was born in the year 273. The Emperor Aurelian was busy earning his title "Restorer of the World," defeating and destroying Queen Zenobia and her city-state, Palmyra. Two years later, the Emperor was murdered, and so it was from his parents and his school that he knew of the Emperor of his birth. Being born under the reign of such a soldier-ruler was a considered a good omen. Marcus joined the army at the age of 16, and served in the west under Emperor Maximian, first in Gaul, and then Brittania. He began his career in the hastati, a unit of the heavy cavalry consisting of the youngest raw recruits. He was always in the front lines, and he fought with a determination and courage that distinguished him even among the veterans. Eventually, Marcus rose to the rank of Tribune (Colonel), in charge of the first Cohort (Brigade) of the first Roman Legion (Battalion) in Brittania. There were 10 Cohorts in a Roman Legion, the first and most elite Cohort had 1,100 men. The others only 500 to 600 men. Marcus's was a position of fame and honor. He had the best, the bravest, the most experienced soldiers in the Legion under his command. The men fought with valor and courage. He respected his men, he even loved them. But though Marcus was fair and honest, true to Roman tradition, he made certain that men feared him more than any enemy. Marcus Phaedro had married a local British girl in 304, long before his fame and fortune were made. They lived in comfort in the villa city of Londinium. In the year of their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, in the summer of 329, Marcus and his wife retired in luxury to the suburbs, their two sons now serving with honor in the same Roman Army, one of them in the same Legion and cohort from which Marcus retired. Marcus had not wanted to leave the army, he resisted it as long as he could. Retirement, however, had been an agreeable surprise. Not that he didn't miss Army life--he did. But to his delight, younger officers regularly sought him out for advice and counsel. To Marcus Tullius Phaedro, this was an honor above all others, save the Emperor's gift. Marcus had moved from the hustle and bustle of city life when he retired. Within 10 years, however, the city had grown and moved to Marcus. Marcus and his wife didn't mind, though, their life was good. The city clean. In his marriage there was happiness, contentment; and then, after 37 years of being together his wife, his companion, took ill and in three days, died. Marcus missed her terribly, but with the grim determination that had made him a good soldier and a great leader, he carried on. Marcus had always been healthy, always strong. In all his years, he had never been really ill. So when his sickness began, he knew at once. And somehow, someway, he knew he would die of it, and he was not afraid. His long and wonderful life was coming to an end. Almost every day for the past twenty years he had gone to the public baths and later, in the evening, rested and enjoyed the private bath in his home. Today would be no different. As he slowly walked home from the baths, his white toga fairly glowed in the unaccustomed sunlight, its pure gold trim firing competing shafts of light back at Apollo's chariot. Marcus felt clean and refreshed as he always did after his afternoon bath. Clean and refreshed, but oh, so very tired. Age was to be his final enemy, tonight his last battle. Marcus rested at home in the comfort of the bath, and went over the final details of a good life. He looked to make certain his will was on the table where his sons could find it in the morning. He took his time, knowing he would bathe no more after tonight. When finished, he slowly went to bed. Marcus Tullius Phaedro died peacefully in his sleep on the ides of June, 349 A.D. He was 76 years old. ------------------- London England, 1349 A.D. The man screamed in agony. He screamed again and still no one heard. London seldom benefited from the summer's heat, and this year was no exception. Everywhere the stench was overpowering, even the acrid evil- smelling smoke could not hide it. Heat and smoke and death and fear, all were like tangible things, assaulting and abusing the senses without warning. Yet another scream, the pathetic wretch who uttered it still unnoticed. The Black Death, the plague, was killing one-third to one-half of all Europe, and London was not exempt. The filthy, dying, screaming man in the gutter did not know, nor did he care about the death of others, he only knew his own pain and fear. The man had never bathed, not once in his life. He didn't know that he was killed in part by the filth in which he lived. He screamed again, but it was not a scream. The sound finally caused others to take note of him. The sound was heard often in the last few years; it was the death-sound. Even when death was everywhere, when a man died, when a woman died, when a child died, in spite of themselves, people turned and looked, acknowledging a human bond they would rather ignore. The man would scream, he would fear, no more. It was June of 1349, he was 23 years old. Marcus Tullius Phaedro's last descendant was dead. The family line of a thousand years was no more. ------------------- The ancient Romans, like most peoples of the Old World, bathed regularly. They enjoyed being clean, and public baths were a major factor in Rome's social life. The fundamental reasons for Roman cleanliness can be summed up in a single phrase, it felt good. Roman citizens received the health benefits of sanitation without knowing it. From the point of view of survival, like our African friends, they were doing the right thing for the wrong or at least not good enough reasons. What subsequently happened throughout Europe is instructive. The fall of Rome coincided with the coming to power of the Roman Catholic Church, which remained as the only Christian church of consequence for a thousand years. Early Christians had been persecuted by Romans for hundreds of years, and so most things Roman, and in Europe that meant most things cultural, were banned, burned, or buried by the church. The practice of bathing was no exception. Toward the end of the Roman Empire, many public baths had deteriorated into little more than brothels. Will Durant, in volume 4 of his masterful Story of Civilization, tells us, "Cleanliness, in the Middle Ages, was not next to godliness. Early Christianity had denounced the Roman baths as wells of perversion and promiscuity, and its general disapproval of the body had put no premium on hygiene...The Church frowned upon public baths as leading to immorality; and several of them justified her fears." (p. 835) {The Story of Civilization, iv, The Age of Faith, p 835} As if this weren't enough, bathing and sanitation faced even more opposition, as A. D. White points out, "...certain theological reasonings came in to resist the evolution of a proper sanitary theory. Out of the Orient had been poured into the thinking of western Europe the theological idea that the abasement of man adds to the glory of God; that indignity to the body may secure salvation to the soul; hence, that cleanliness betokens pride and filthiness humility. Living in filth was regarded by great numbers of holy men, who set an example to the Church and to society, as an evidence of sanctity. St. Jerome and the Breviary of the Roman church dwell with unction on the fact that St. Hilarion lived his whole life long in utter physical uncleanliness; St. Athanasius glorifies St. Anthony because he had never washed his feet; St. Abraham's most striking evidence of holiness was that for fifty years he washed neither his hands nor his feet; St. Sylvia never washed any part of her body save her fingers; St. Euphraxia belonged to a convent in which the nuns religiously abstained from bathing; St. Mary of Egypt was eminent for filthiness; St. Simon Stylites was in this respect unspeakable--the least that can be said is, that he lived in ordure and stench intolerable to his visitors. The lives of the Saints dwell with complacency on the statement that, when sundry Eastern monks showed a disposition to wash themselves, the Almighty manifested his displeasure by drying up a neighbouring stream until the bath which it had supplied was destroyed."1 HOTWOSWTIC v2, p.69 For most of the next thousand years, the dark ages saw little sanitation in Europe. But then things began to change. Again, Will Durant: "...[Henri] de Mondeville [1260?-1320] improved asepsis2 by advocating a return [emphasis added] to Hippocrates' method of maintaining simple cleanliness in a wound." (Age of Faith, 1001) In the fifteen-hundred or so years from 300 a.d. to the start of the 19th century, untold millions of people died due to germs bred in filth. These same people would have lived longer, potentially more productive lives if only they had bathed regularly. Many of the plagues could have been entirely avoided if only they had bathed regularly. The point of all this is quite simple, really, but absolutely crucial to an understanding and successful implementation of the practical philosophy yet to be described. The simple point is, even the most beneficial practical philosophy can be destroyed if it does not rest on a proper foundation. We have seen this in our brief discussion of sanitation above. The Romans bathed because it felt good. They did not know it contributed to their survival. If the Church had known the facts of sanitation, it probably would have required personal hygiene rather than discouraged it. It would have been difficult indeed to persuade anyone to give up the practice of bathing if they clearly understood the health benefits involved But no one did know for sure until the 19th century. It is important to note that once the relationship between filth and disease was proven, no one has advocated filthiness as a way of life. No one has declared that cleanliness is wrong, or prideful, or is in any way damaging to physical or spiritual health. Absent coercion, cleanliness as a part of the human culture is here to stay. It is here to stay because it is finally grounded upon a proper foundation . . . we finally understand the true cause and effect relationship involved. This point has wide-ranging use and importance. You see, every society, every culture, every civilization has at it base an underlying philosophy, a system of beliefs and values to which it will attempt to adhere. What if a society, a culture, a civilization does not have its underlying philosophy properly grounded? * In this discussion, we will be referring to the Eskimo culture as it was before western civilization made its inroads. 1 Andrew Dickson White, A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology in Christendom, New York: Dover, 1960, Volume 2, page 69 2 asepsis: The state of being free of pathogenic [disease causing] organisms. American Heritage Dictionary