“The plain fact is that there are no conclusions.” – Sir James Jeans, Physics and Philosophy.

After over 250 blogs we have at last completed the preliminaries essential for our discussion on the construction of a meaningful life. Before moving on, I think it will be instructive and reinforcing to review the earlier discussions. For our purposes, philosophy distills down to the big picture of reality and ethics and admittedly superficial treatment of key special problems: Good and Evil; God; Body and Soul; Death and Immortality; Free Will, Fate, and Destiny; Teleology; Suffering; and Certainty.

As Socrates taught us we must examine our life in order for it to be worth living. But in order to do this, we must define the nature of reality and a philosophy of human conduct. In an earlier section we saw that this big picture of philosophy boils down to thinking about five tiers of each of these two basic components.

REALITY                                                        ETHICS

Internal                                                             Self-Mastery

Proximate                                                       Conduct to Others

Cultural                                                            Societal Duty

Cosmic                                                             Relationship to the Ultimate

Ultimate                                                           Supererogatory Duty

Internal reality and ethic require Socrates’ intense self-examination. This examined self seems to be composed of three parts: (1) the external or visible persona recognized by others, (2) the internal or psychological and mental constitution, and (3) the primal, ineffable self. Defining these demands deep introspection with the help of phenomenology with its concept of ‘bracketing.’ In addition self-mastery with its five components – (1) self-discipline, (2) selflessness, (3) self-knowledge, (4) self-improvement, and (5) self-actualization – requires long periods of reflection and lifelong commitment. Humility and a strong moral compass are critical here, but the reward is a full life including a final connecting of your primal or ontological self with the unity of the cosmos awaits.

External and cultural reality require particular care as misperception and bias permeate our interpretation. Consultation of multiple authoritative sources of information offers the safest method for justification of beliefs, but we must always entertain the possibility of error with continual reappraisal and openness to amendment. An excellent guide in ethical action towards others is William Frankena’s prioritization model: in complex situations: first avoid and eliminate evil, next promote good, and third, never choose any evil unless there is a clear excess of good from the choice. Societal ethics is further defined by the notion of duty. My table of prioritized duties is presented in the Appendix (.

Science offers the best system of understanding cosmic reality or the physical world and should be discounted only in rare circumstances, although it too must be carefully scrutinized. Nonetheless absolute certainty is not possible although a high degree of confidence is a reasonable justification in situations demanding action. The calculus of confidence is referred to as practical wisdom by the ancients, but in any case an approach that minimizes the consequences of potential error, while accommodating the largest number of possibilities is the wisest course.

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