What is a strong will?

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We hear a lot these words. Commonly known as mental strength, a strong will is acting with intentions towards a goal by overpassing inner and outer limits.

Most of the time, inner limits are the real limits whose determination distinguishes a “strong” will from a “weak” one (only if the word “weak” can be an adjective of the will). In other words, it takes decision, discipline and consistency to have a strong will.

But is it really all the work of a free will? Or is it the action of a certain type of will? Maybe is it something deeper?

Perhaps, a “weak” will is a choice of a free will to be irresponsible.

The 2nd wave of the lockdown

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Talking again about the lockdown is not a pleasant subject; what else can be said? What more advices can be given to overcome it? None of us saw the lockdown coming again.

The lockdown is in between fighting the pandemic and the full control of the State over people. Whilst the quarantine is necessary for saving people, it is at the same time a political act. So, it is health versus freedom.  According to a study done by the Kennedy Institute of Ethics of the Georgetown University in 2014:

 “Implementation of medical quarantines in America brings into conflict various legitimate arguments regarding who, if anyone, should have the authority to restrict movements of citizens.  Quarantines are not new, but they exist now in a world with new dangers and new opportunities for abuse”.

How to fight the pandemic without individual freedom restriction?

The full study is on link below:

Breaking traditions and breaking free

Traditions, what are they for?

Traditions are an endless repetition of an event, a behaviour, an action or just a way of being based on a cultural idea brought to light by society over generations. Repeating is cementing an identity, a cultural heritage and an ideology. Christmas tree, white wedding dress, Sunday family lunch for example and much more are Christian traditions and collective consciousness (to pick this concept from Marx0 perpetuated even by non Christians. It does tell then how religions in general shaped up and influenced our daily life until this present day.

Are traditions bad? Some are and some aren’t. However what is bad about traditions in general is limiting individual freedom. Identity goes deeper and wider than its social characteristics (nationality, race, religion etc.) and it is linked to individual freedom. Not only a background defines a person but this person does, what lessons they learned from their experiences, what they have been through and so on. Therefore, identity and freedom are beyond traditions and repetitions. They are endlessly evolving.

This is why, breaking free and “becoming who you are” to rephrase Nietzsche is to break free from traditions or at least to make the latter work for you and not the other way around.

What are we discussing?

It is commonly known that philosophy is about discussions and debates. However this common idea is not totally accurate; some philosophers might say it is totally wrong. Therefore, what is the source of this misconception?

Discussions and debates have always been present with opinions; to be more precise, when democracy was invented. We discuss opinions and this goes alongside the freedom of speech. Regardless of this much needed sense of freedom, philosophy is not a gallery of opinions.

“Opinion”, from the Greek doxa, is a subjective and sometimes emotional point of view. An opinion is never based on any rational analysis not on a scientific proof, in spite of the sharpness and the truthfulness of some opinions. This is the reason why we argue about opinions because the latter has no rational foundation.

Philosophy treats with concepts. A concept is an abstract idea that synthesizes many relevant empirical and concrete representations. For example: the concept of freedom is the collection of many ideas about freedom: freedom of speech, the belief that freedom is to do whatever one wants to do, for some people a natural scenery like watching the sea or walking in nature is representative of freedom etc. All of these are implicitly contained in the concept of freedom. Therefore, discussing freedom is about what each one believes freedom is; it means discussions goes to opinions and representations.

Philosophy is concept crafting. When philosophers criticize one another, it is through long analysis and essays. Philosophy is not a talk show.

Epictetus vs Jesus on Figs. The relationship between philosophies… | by Massimo Pigliucci | Stoicism — Philosophy as a Way of Life | Medium

Massimo Pigliucci refers to two passages on the fig tree. One is from the Gospels, where Jesus cursed a fig tree and it died completely. The second passage is from Epictetus, the stoic philosopher, who explained that it is wise to take advantage of what life has to offer; therefore it is foolish to desire the impossible.

Through the comparison of these two references, the author explains the difference between religion and stoicism as a philosophy.

It is a well written article, easy to read but profound. There is a freedom in picking religion over philosophy and vice versa. This choice, along many others, dictates our life in general.

Check the article by clicking on the link below:

https://medium.com/stoicism-philosophy-as-a-way-of-life/epictetus-vs-jesus-on-figs-the-difference-between-philosophy-and-religion-3f47939375d1

The invisible people

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Human history mentioned invisible people without mentioning them. The mass, the vast majority, the anonymous are mainly forgotten in all walks of life.

In Plato’s “Allegory of the cave”, the invisible people are left to their destiny, choosing between comfort and manipulation or the arduous journey of freedom made by Socrates, the only visible one.

The invisible slaves changed history with Spartacus, the visible slave.

Mandela, The King, Gandhi are still vividly visible men of salvation and justice.

The invisible people are the people we choose not to look at. Beggars and homeless are faceless and nameless people of the modern world.

History, ethics, philosophy taught us that ideals of justice and equality are to fight for. However, society is still based on hierarchy, on visibility and invisibility.

The real force lies in the invisible world!

My life this week in 2020 the year of change

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The country is shut down due to the corona tsunami and people remain home. For me, it was a new experience as i am teaching online. I hate corona but i am loving this online job experience. However, being locked down, I couldn’t help but wonder about the year 2020.

For those who follow my blog, they know that starting october 2019, we have been on a long revolution against corruption and injustice. So on a shaky land we entered 2020 that hit us with more turmoils and with corona. Horrible as it is, we must look at the bigger picture. 2020 is the year of battles and change; which logically leads to the desire of change or to resistance because of fear. I feel it is a turning point: there is before and after 2020. The decade sounds revolutionary on all levels.

Corona, floods, earthquakes, protests, climate change and more demand responsibility and collective consciousness. It demands awareness and redifinition of oneself, of social structures, of relationships, of politics, of economics. Basically it demands form each one of us a choice and a role. Speaking of Corona: movies, tedtalks, conferences predicted the outbreak of a similar virus. We listened but we didn’t get ready for it. Now that the outbreak is here, what am I going to do? How to deal with others? Who am I and what are my deepest desires? The natural incidents I mentioned indicate the redifinition of the earth itself.

2020 is the year of big lessons in life. Incidents will force us to retrieve into ourselves and connect on a deeper level with our fears and desires. It is the year that must teach us to let go of the past and start fresh new, both on individual and collective levels.

So yes there is fear and loneliness. There is a resistance to change. But do we have a choice other than love and flexibility? I don’t think we do.

 

The benefits of reading (or studying) philosophy

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When I am asked what I do for living and I answer that I am a philosophy teacher: usually I get rolled back eyes or some couple of seconds shock. These reactions are also followed by this question: do you read people’s minds? Can you analyze a person?

A philosopher is not a medium, nor a psychotherapist. Even the latter can’t objectively analyze a person from a glimpse. Let’s rewind and define philosophy and why it is needed urgently.

Philosophy is simple yet so difficult. It is a rational discipline that starts with astonishment which leads to questioning. The reason why I mentioned astonishment is because one is never able to question anything as long as everything seems normal. Questioning is critical thinking, bringing us all the way to conceptualization and redefinitions.

After this tiny introduction, here are the benefits of reading (or studying) philosophy:

  • Obviously, the first point would be critical thinking. Needless to say that the world today is chaotic due to bad managements and greed. Only rethinking the world, even as a solitary exercise, can broaden the horizon of thinking itself and open the mind to new possibilities.
  • Deep thinking and focusing on essentials or what matters the most
  • It makes us simultaneously more sensible and sensitive, capable of being affected by the abnormal.
  • It sharpens the eye and the mind so they become a radar to abnormalities (which are completely normal to others).
  • Philosophy is not only a theoretical discipline but it is practical also: for self-help, for ethics, for a better society and for a better human being.

Philosophy, like music, makes people smarter and braver. I haven’t read a philosopher who wasn’t brave enough to speak their minds and tell the truth, no matter where each one of them stood regarding the truth and other themes.

So are you to get a rolled back eyes reaction?

Henri Bergson: the theory of the inner relativity

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painting by Steve Hester 

Henri Bergson was a French philosopher (1859-1941) and one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century. His philosophy revolves around motion, change and evolution.

His work in Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness showed the fundamental difference between time as perceived by consciousness (la durée or duration) and the objective mathematical time read on a watch. Consciousness doesn’t perceive the instant or the objective present, for it is infinitesimal. It perceives a duration which can be very long or very short.

For example, if I am working unwillingly for one hour on my blog, time doesn’t fly. On the contrary, if I love what I am doing on my blog, I will not feel the time passing by. Although, the time, in both cases,  is one hour and the same according to the watch, I live it, thus perceive it,  differently.

Bergson analyzed the awareness that man has of his inner self to show that psychological facts are qualitatively different from any other, charging psychologists in particular with falsifying the facts by trying to quantify and number them.

Based on this analysis of the subjective time versus the objective time, he somehow criticized Albert Einstein for keeping the theory of relativity external to the human mind without taking into consideration one’s inner perception of the time, which is also relative.

Consciousness is memory and therefore a link between past and future through its duration. This empirical complexity is what makes human free beings, forever preserving the past and anticipating the future.

What Spinoza taught me about my body

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Or what exactly I have learned about the body in general reading Spinoza.

It is not very common to link philosophy to fitness, philosophy being a discipline of the mind and rational thinking. However it is such a vast world that the reader can find any topic analyzed by philosophers. Philosophy is maybe the only real lesson of life.

Baruch Spinoza was a leading philosophical figure of the Dutch Golden Age in the 17th century.  Hegel said about him: “The fact is that Spinoza is made a testing-point in modern philosophy, so that it may really be said: You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all.” His philosophical accomplishments and moral character prompted Gilles Deleuze to name him “the ‘prince’ of philosophers”.

Being a big critic of dualism, Spinoza’s philosophy focused on monism starting with the body and he wrote the following:

“We know nothing about a body until we know what it can do, in other words, what its affects are, how they can or cannot enter into composition with other affects, with the affects of another body, either to destroy that body or to be destroyed by it, either to exchange actions and passions with it or to join with it in composing a more powerful body”.

In other words, humans aren’t free unless they know the causes of their actions. The cause is in the body. To understand this idea, Spinoza describes life as a series of occursus or encounters. Therefore, we encounter everything: people, events, phenomenons, viruses etc. Each and every encounter affects us differently, depending on each one’s body characteristics and forces.

I learned this lesson seriously and I started to observe my body’s reactions to almost any encounter, including food, fitness exercises, some tasks at work and so on. Progressively, I began to add some little adjustments to my daily life based on my observations. Would you believe me if I say that Spinoza was a life changer?

I recommend reading Spinoza, specially his masterpiece Ethics. You can never go wrong.