Punchinello’s Chronicles

November 2, 2008

What’s your Philosophy?

Filed under: Word of the Day — Punchinello @ 11:57 pm
Tags: , , ,

Reading the title to this article, you might think it’s a question about the substance of your philosophy or religion. It isn’t. A better option would be to aks, “Why do human beings form a philosophy of some kind?” What’s the purpose of a philosphy, and what is a philosophy?

The late George Carlin, comedian, has a wonderful bit from long ago, where he’s doing the news and weather. In the bit he reads the latest football scores, along the lines of 12-6, 14-7, and 7-6. Then he says, “And a partial score…6.”

All around us we see data. Our senses perceive reality directly, our intellect observes logical patterns. For example, we see something instead of nothing, or we hear numbers like 73. None of that data makes any sense, it’s just data. We get in the car, turn the ignition key and nothing happens. That’s data. It’s an observation.

To convert that data into useful information we ask things like: why, how, what, when, who, or where.

The results of those questions place a context around the data. Without context, data is meaningless. But when surrounded by context, data becomes information. It may or may not be useful to us, but at least we can make the choice.

If I say, “73!” that means nothing. But if I say, “Tomorrow it’s supposed to be 73, and we should go fishing,” that’s information. The “73” takes on a context of atmospheric temperature.

A philosophy places context around all the observations, thoughts, and data we receive in life.

Another analogy of a philosophy is a Web browser. The Internet is a massive data stream, moving through wires and across the airwaves. It’s a stream of 1s and 0s, making up binary computer language. Back before HTML, the best we could do with a global network was to send and receive text. We could attach image files, but that was a separate attachment.

The hypertext markup language (HTML) used to format text into pretty fonts, formats, and layouts had to be acknowledged by the various browsers in place at the time. Netscape introduced a whole different way of seeing binary streams, and brought about the explosion of activity in the World Wide Web.

Today, we have limited compatibility between various browsers. The Internet Explorer is slightly different from FireFox, which is different from Safari. We have differences based on the underying operating systems of DOS, Windows, the Mac OS, Linux, and so forth. None of this was necessary, it was a bad decision on the part of the computer industry.

Whatever the case, and no matter how divergent from the music industry’s MIDI interface, we’re now stuck with big problems in rendering information coming to us from the Web. Depending on the browser, we see different things.

Add to that the various turnkey systems for accessing the Internet. American OnLine (AOL) offered everything in a single package, including email, Web access, chat rooms, and so forth. But everything was filtered through the basic AOL application and platform.

A philosophy is like a browser, with perhaps a religion being like a turnkey application. Everyone is free to choose which browser they’d like to use, and each browser requires an amount of learning. Some can be customized, some can’t be.

The entire function of whatever browser, email system, or overall surfing application is to make sense of the binary data stream of the Internet. It’s designed to place a context around the raw data, turning it into something useful.

No philosophy is absolutely true. Nor is any philosophy totally impossible. Same with religions. But there’s clearly a difference between choosing not to go online at all, versus making a decision as to what sort of browser, computer, operating system, and applications we’ll use.

Your philosophy or religion is an integrated system of comprehending the world around you. It’s a way to understand reality. That understanding may be more or less complex, but the key is a “method of comprehension.”

Some people include logic in their system of comprehension. Others choose feelings. Generally speaking, a better system is to take into account both feelings and logic, in a synthesized system. That synthesis has been missing for hundreds of years.

The other defining characteristic of a philosophy is internal consistency. That assumes the application of logic. Only logic provides a function of consistency of thought. A philosophy must be integrated and consistent. A religion has no requirement of consistency, operating mostly on faith. Faith is a statement of an absolute that requires no proof.

A philosophic axiom is considered to be self-evident, but ultimately it’s very similar to faith. We say that “existence exists,” and that statement is axiomatic. Nobody can argue with it without first existing. Even so, we can’t ultimately and absolutely prove that anything exists, and so we simply decide.

Philosophy, religion, or a blend of each; it doesn’t really matter which option you choose to make sense of the world around you. But to have no philosophy or no religion at all is similar to choosing to remain disconnected and dissociated from the network of all of reality.


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