At my Indian wedding, the ceremony referred at length to becoming gṛhastha: that is, entering the householder stage of life. This turned out to be truer than intended: my wife and I are in the final stages of buying a house. We will close, and move, over the next couple of weeks, and I will be taking a break from writing Love of All Wisdom during that time. I expect to return near the end of September.
Until then I’d like to leave you with this. I recently stumbled on a wonderful old post of Skholiast’s where, in response to a query from Gary Smith, he lists a number of short and pithy theses about what it is he believes. It looked to me like a useful exercise. I’d like to try it here myself. Most of this has been said elsewhere, by me or by someone else or both, with actual argument to justify it. But I thought it might be helpful to attempt a pithy summary in a single place.
1. There is truth in everything.
2. There are no easy answers. Or self-evident truths.
3. The world is filled with perennial questions that recur over and over in separate times and places. It is also perennially filled with multiple different answers to those questions.
4. Finding the right answers to contested questions requires a process of transcending and including.
5. We must always start our inquiries from where we are. That doesn’t mean we should end there.
6. If you endorse a contradiction you are endorsing something false. You’re not likely to create the effects you want either.
7. To a question like “Is there a God?”, the answers of which we should be most suspicious are “Yes” and “No”.
8. Good and bad are real, not imaginary. That much is clear. What makes them real is a harder question.
9. Some truths are universal, but if we can ever find them, it will be by means of our cultural particularity.
10. The world is always more complex than anything we can say about it, but to understand is always to simplify.
11. Certain concepts, like “religion”, “Hinduism”, and “phlogiston”, obscure more than they clarify. For this reason, these particular concepts are generally better off not used. This is not the case for most concepts.
12. The rapid discoveries of natural science stand to change and modify many of the great ideas put forth over the centuries. They stand to invalidate far fewer of them.
13. The idea that all true or legitimate knowledge must be empirically testable is not itself empirically testable, and it is therefore self-refuting. This cannot be stressed enough.
14. To the questions of what is genuinely good and bad and what makes empirical knowledge possible, our best guides are the various traditions of philosophical inquiry that have endured for centuries – as long as we bear in mind that they all disagree with each other.
15. Virtues are means between vices, but a specific kind of mean. A virtue is a synthesis of the truth in the vices. A mere compromise between vices can be still more vicious than either vice by itself.
16. Justice is just as much a mean as any other virtue. Taking too little can be as serious a problem as taking too much.
17. One can lead a good and flourishing life without participating in politics. Political participation can make a life better, or worse.
18. The philosophers have only interpreted the world. The point is to change yourself. But that’s not the only point.
19. Active questioning is the path to truth. It is not necessarily the path to happiness. Both matter.
20. 20% of everything I believe is wrong. I just don’t know which 20%.