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.

Looking from above: aren’t we all fighting for our lives?

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Unannounced, I took a break. Silently, I slipped away from the scene. I did it because I felt, and still feel, overwhelmed amidst chaos.

As for those who know me, they know I am into politics, more precisely into geopolitics. How could I not? I was born in the boiling region of the world.

Watching world news, I can’t help asking myself why I was born in the most tormented place. Everywhere I see people striking for freedom and dignity. Simultaneously, I see bloody oppressive responses from authorities. Am I in an impossible region?

I showed up today on here simply because I missed writing “out loud” my screaming thoughts. One of them is the following: the world is ungovernable anymore!

Internet and social media have become a collective virtual consciousness; a concept I picked to Karl Marx. Whereas people are aware of imminent dangers, politics are still in 19th century systems.

Do you feel your hands tied?

What ancient Greek philosophers feared

Plato, in his book The Republic, criticized all political regimes. But mostly he feared the outcome of democracy as a tyranny.

Democracy, known as people’s government, is already biased in Plato’s book. Since they are deeply manipulated by sophists and politicians, their reign would necessarily include manipulation. Alongside this vicious nature of democracy, comes the principle of equality and freedom of opinions. This allows the competent and the incompetent to express themselves equally. This will create chaos later on in the democratic life.

The outcome of democracy would lead to tyranny as people’s choice to bring order back in society and politics.

For more details, please click the link below 👇

https://theconversation.com/why-tyranny-could-be-the-inevitable-outcome-of-democracy-126158

Revolution’s emergency kit: 5 ways to handle stress under chaos

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The revolution in Lebanon is still on for the 24th day, with protests in front of institutional buildings accused of being corrupted places. Economically, the situation is very bad: not a lot of cash, due again to corruption. If I want to talk about stress, I wouldn’t know where to start from. Therefore, relying on my very long experience in protests and revolutions (some 20 years long), I want to answer this question that’s been around since the beginning of this revolution: How to keep yourself sane in times of political and financial turmoil?

Here are to me the best ways to keep you balanced while fighting:

  • Focus: in chaotic times where life is threatened, we tend to lose concentration by thinking too much and being anxious. So, recenter your priorities: money, jobs, necessities, protesting etc. and why not organizing yourself around them.
  • Take care of your finances: maybe the most important issue in terms of surviving where economy is crashing by the day. Spend on necessities only; it is a time of restriction.
  • Healthy eating and resting: it is the 3rd on my list because people tend to forget about this one but it is as crucial as the first 2. Less sugar, less caffeine, no processed food, less meat, otherwise you would be more irritated. Some intermittent fasting would do good for the body and the mind.
  • Switching off news sometimes during the day and focus on yourself, maybe for a good read. It will help you refuel physically and mentally.
  • Staying fit as much as possible for endurance of both the body and the mind. Yoga and meditation are great at keeping you healthy and in peace.

When life is threatened, survival instinct is on alert, but it can be exhausted quickly. Here are the tips I found useful for difficult times. What’s your emergency kit to cope up under stress?

The five benefits of slowness

Usually criticized for being counterproductive starting from school, slowness (often understood as laziness) has been the antidote to success and ambition. So, the world revolved into one huge running field with one aim: fortune. If the State promoted activity in the sense of having a job and being ambitious, it is for 2 reasons: making people busy (so they are unable to think of important issues) and therefore making them pay taxes. The more you move the less of a thinker you become; the more you move the richer you become, the more taxes you pay. It’s a double-bind equation.

In this scenery and ideology, many types of work are considered slow: philosophy, painting, writing, poetry, teaching etc. These types of activity don’t include speed and fury. Socially speaking, they don’t include climbing the social or professional ladder: once a painter, always a painter. No titles, no fitting in the crowd, artists, philosophers etc. are misfits.

Slowness is not idleness which is inactivity also known as slothfulness. Therefore, here are the benefits of slowness:

  • Thinking: it is mainly an individual and lonely activity, evolving with time. To think deeply about existential matters needs time.
  • Creativity: there are days where creativity is absent. But to be inspired requires a constant awakening of the mind, which means less running and more contemplating.
  • Freedom: which is solely a faculty of the mind and it comes with time. To be free is to be ungovernable by others.
  • Spirituality: I haven’t heard of any type of spirituality that promotes speed to reach enlightment.
  • Silence and stillness: they are fuel to the mind and the body

In a world of speed, slowness is so old-fashioned. However, were we meant to be fast? Aren’t diseases multiplying? Isn’t confusion the keyword?

Revolution onward

Yes I told you in my previous post, I will be away, demonstrating in the streets with millions of lebanese inside of lebanon and abroad.

Our demands is the resignation of the current government for being heavily corrupted. You would be scared if you knew the stolen amounts. After 7 days of being in the streets, blocking roads, striking, djing and dancing (we love to party here!), the government didn’t resign.

I am still down the streets. I check your posts while I am sitting down, it is my favourite escape to learn and be inspired.

I urge you free people out there to fight corruption, the plague that led us to climate change and to poverty. I know you are doing it somehow with your constant creativity but there is nothing like the streets.

“See” you soon all of you. The photo was taken a couple of days ago in Beirut ❤ And until then be great and free as you all are!

Peace and reconciliation

 

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(I took the picture of this street graffiti couple of years ago in the streets of Athens)

If peace is defined by quietness, tranquility, harmony, then reconciliation (restoring a friendly relation) is to be seen as a new conciliation, an action of mediating between disputing people or groups, which is the current state of the world.  Whereas the Social Contract was conceived like the reference of conciliating differences and reconciliation, Hegel’s State, on the other hand, is an ethical totality, a product of conjunction of the subjective will and the rational will. Ideally the State is supposed to eliminate all conflicts between the subjective desires and the rational law of the government. Mainly, these two theories, among others, are the frame of any peace and reconciliation; unfortunately it seems that they have missed out on the reasons of today’s world problems that lie beneath the surface.

Therefore it is interesting to seek an explanation in the philosophy of immanence, more precisely in Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy that demonstrates the problem of war by displaying a plethora of dualisms: nomos/polis, smooth/striated, deterritorialisation/reterritorialisation, minor/major etc. Deleuze’s ontological politics follows a cartography of desires which points out the various issues of identity on a molecular level (or individual) and on a molar level (religious, ethnical, social etc.). In Deleuze’s perspective, to understand the world today in all its identity crisis, violence and emergence of minorities, taking note of the cartography of desires and analyzing capitalism will show us that the current conflicts are a logical response to the way desires shape lives and societies as a reaction to transcendence in religion, philosophy and politics. It shows us ultimately how war is inherent to the State’s nature.

This being said, States want to achieve a worldwide peace by declaring a global war (which is happening today in a way or another). Needless to say that peace and reconciliation as perceived on people’s minds would never happen through the State which times of calmness and security are more likely to be a cold war on a deleuzian perspective. Peace and reconciliation are to be searched in desire and lines of flight.

we did not inherit the original sin! Kierkegaard on Adam and Eve!

painting by Albrecht Durer.

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) is a Danish philosopher who is widely considered to be the founder of existentialism. Believing in free will, Kierkegaard thinks that anguish or angst is what motivates any free action, or as he calls it a “leap”. So, what is the link between angst and the original sin?

Angst, or anguish, is a feeling of suffering when facing emptiness in life or when facing many options. Any action taken would be a leap, good or bad and ugly. Angst is therefore, not fear. One is scared because of a scary object. However, angst has no object. It is the vertigo in front of many possibilities.

Kierkegaard analyses the story of Adam in Eve in terms of angst. God had forbidden them to consume the fruit of knowledge, better known as the apple. Adam and Eve broke the divine law and ate the fruit. This was the first illegal action in history, and they were the first outlaws.

In Kierkegaard’s theory, Adam had an alternative (assuming that Eve was tempted and weak in front of the snake, known as the devil): to do God’s will or to follow Eve’s recommendation. Facing these two options, he acted out of angst and leaped. The rest is history.

To Kierkegaard, we didn’t inherit the original sin; since one cannot inherit the crimes of their ancestors. We, humankind, inherited angst and freedom.