Tag Archives: philosophy

Thought #25. On free will.

One of the big questions of philosophy is whether free will is tantamount to free action or not. People’s perception of freedom blurs the distinction between will and action because, unless you have lived in a dictatorship or any other kind of system based on the deprivation of liberty, you may not have been confronted with any situation that could undermine your sense of being in control of your thoughts and actions.

Free will is the power of acting without constraints. But will is not action. No matter how much effort you were willing to put in on sunbathing, it would be literally impossible in an overcast winter morning. Many distinguished scholars and renowned philosophers have been trying to unravel the secrets of freedom, and yet the discussion remains inconclusive.

On the one hand, the theory of determinism speculates that everything that happens is predestined to happen in a particular way and nothing could be done to avoid the fate. Should determinism be a sound theory, will would have never existed and, consequently, we should not make value judgments about others’ actions however good or bad they were. Consequently, being morally responsible would be impossible.

But in my opinion, the future, unlike the past, is not yet written; it can be changed. Only in this way  can we set the building blocks of will, actions, and responsibility. Yesterday I read an essay by George Orwell entitled “Shooting an Elephant”. It just so happens that after reading Orwell’s narration of the elephant’s assassination I ended up a bit shocked. Was he trying to convey the message that sometimes people do not have any option but to act against their own will? I have slept on this question.

“Shooting an Elephant” is, like “1984”, a must read. I do not want to spoil your appetite for an excellent essay so I encourage you to actually give it a try. Personally, it has made me reconsider some of my unatoned sins. Sometimes, people are somewhat forced to act unwillingly. Orwell’s essay is full of clues to understand the message he is trying to pass on; if I had to choose a single representative quote from the text, it would be this one:

“I perceived in this moment that when the white man turns tyrant it is his own freedom that he destroys.”  — George Orwell.

However, to err is human and you can always make the effort to change your ways.

Thought #24. Keep calm and take life philosophically.

“Unfinished India” is a personal favourite of mine. Photography is a tricky discipline not only from the point of view of the photographer but also from the viewer’s. When I took this one I had to carefully choose the framing. There were infinite options and I decided to include the minimum amount of information needed to leave it open to interpretation. Half a cow, half a man and a pool of…

To make an interpretation (artistic or not) is always extremely difficult. The aim of philosophers is to try and work out the best way to think about things. For all intents and purposes, we all try and work out how to think about things. A simple picture but also an existential question demands something more than mere observation.

In this example, the most important element is neither the framing nor any included visual clue. Interpretation is what really counts. This post is entitled “Keep calm and take life philosophically”, a message not intended to be conveyed to the reader but to myself. I know full well what was going on there when I took the photo, thus I can find meaning from this passage from my memory recollections. And as yet I prefer to devise a different story.

Premises could lead to hasty conclusions. The man and the cow were just sleeping near a pool of water in the shape of India. I often try to disavow the link between my beliefs and my thoughts; I seldom succeed. Realising how to deal with everyday problems philosophically is a tough job. Only by dismissing some of the obvious premises or facts will I be able to achieve my goal. And more often than not, I am confronted with a new situation or problem that requires a different approach.

My life baggage must have served a very useful purpose. However, little did I know that someday I would be discarding my deeply held beliefs in an uphill struggle to take it easy, to take life philosophically. But I have to, I need to, I do not have any other option.

There is only so much a person can learn through life. Fight or surrender.

Thought #18. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Writing a comprehensive essay about beauty is far beyond my ken. I am a mere observer and a simple listener, one who can smell, touch and taste. I am sensible hence I am able to perceive the senses, and not by any stretch of the imagination could being sensible describe me as an expert in the art of unveiling the mysteries of beauty.

I have mixed feelings about beauty. I often feel the urge to take pleasure in delighting myself with something alluring, but at the same time, more often than not the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. Maybe this could somehow explain how being in the mood is the key to enjoying beauty in all shapes or forms.

Having said that, I allow myself a dose of insanity and hereafter you will find four different approaches to the concept of beauty. I hope I prove myself and eventually show that there is method in my madness.

One: being ignorant friendly. All that glitters is not gold or how you can hear the ocean in a shell. Do you remember how blissful you became when, trudging through the sand on the seashore, you stumbled upon a big seashell? I bet you would end up holding it up to your ears in an effort to listen carefully to the ocean. What you really hear, pardon me spoiling the enchantment, are the surrounding sounds, but isn’t it beautiful anyway?

Two: being ephemeral friendly. The feast of blossom in spring. Rambling through the field and lanes in the countryside can be of great pleasure, especially on the brink of spring, when bushes and trees are in their splendour. But, sooner or later, autumn will hopelessly arrive and, before long, only silhouettes of bare trees will remain, clear against the winter sky.

Three: being ambiguous (and adverse) friendly.  “La Traviata” or The Fallen Woman. This opera composed in 1853 by Verdi tells the terrible story of Violetta, a prostitute, who ends up agonising while swearing with her beloved Alfredo to live together. Unfortunately, time is up and she breathes her last breath as she remembers the beautiful days lived with Alfredo. The extreme beauty of the music in this Opera makes you believe that you are in front of a comedy. But as life, this opera is a drama, and yet beauty is allowed every now and again.

Four: being true to yourself (self-friendly). I like the picture on the top. I really like it. I love my creation. It shows a boy inside a box, artless. For want of a gorgeous landscape or an appropriate lighting, I simply took the picture at a relatively low speed considering that the little boy was in movement. I panned the camera slowly across the scene, not even seeing through the viewfinder but staring at his soulful eyes, and triggered the shutter gently. This boy did not have any toys so he made do with a box. Isn’t it beautiful? Is not there something magical in his soulful eyes? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.