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The Axis of Philosophy
by   Richard   Rieben
Written April 2003. Previously published as a pamphlet by BPI.
 
Part One

There is an "axis of evil" in the world, but it is not composed of "an affiliation of two or more nations to promote and ensure mutual interest, cooperation, and solidarity in their foreign relations."1

The "axis of evil" is composed of philosophy, that is, of ideas. These ideas, as philosophical principles, reinforce one another. In line with the primary definition of the word "axis," they are the "parts of a body or thing" which "may be supposed to rotate" around a central line.2 The central line is the basic view or basic philosophical perspective. It is in the "mutual interest" of the ideas to "cooperate," support and sustain the whole view.

There is also, of course, an "axis of good," similarly anchored upon a philosophical system, with component ideas or categories which support and sustain the whole view.

Philosophy is a unified understanding of the nature of man and existence. It is unified by consistency within its parts or branches. Those branches, such as ethics, politics, or epistemology, derive from a basic view or understanding – the central line – of man and existence.

For purposes of study and classification, the branches of philosophy may be considered separately. However, in regard to any basic philosophical view or system, they are interrelated. They affect one another. They support one another, as they support the whole.

In recorded history, there are two basic systems of unified philosophy - or two basic philosophies (which are unified and consistent within their own branches). These can be classified as "good and evil," "health and disease," "pro-life and anti-life," and so forth. We will examine these standards in Part II of this article.

Mixed systems of philosophy – composed of various components of both the "good" and the "evil" premises – strengthen the "evil" philosophy and weaken the "good" philosophy over time. This is same observation that a compromise between or a "mixture" of health and disease, tips the scales to the benefit of disease at the cost of health.

This is not an argument for human perfection, nor for philosophical perfection. It is not even, necessarily, an argument for consistency. The important point is to be aware that when we apply philosophical ideas, helter-skelter, we end up strengthening those which are least beneficial to our well-being as a species – and weakening those which are most beneficial.

Why would we do such a thing? Partly through ineptitude – by being ignorant of the consequences of such mixture. But mostly through weakness, laziness, resentment, greed, power-lust ... and because we come from (have been raised within) a world that is muddled with both philosophical views, helter-skelter, such that we start our lives compromised by unhealthy ideas, which lead to further compromise, and a further weakening.

Occasionally we are liberated, as with the Renaissance or the Declaration of Independence, and pro-life ideas surge through the world, giving hope and life to people everywhere. But, such events are like a booster shot of B vitamins to an anemic person. They reanimate humanity with positive energy, but do nothing to correct the negative ideas that people continue to practice – thinking perhaps that, since they feel fine now, such ideas obviously can't do them any harm. The anti-life ideas often take credit for the boost of positive energy, even as they strive to reign it in and subvert it.

It is not a benign process, but an unwitting one. To counter it requires knowledge and education. Just as proper nutrition for healthy existence cannot be assumed from what is culturally provided, but requires the conscious self-education of every individual to provide themselves with healthy, life-sustaining fuel – so the cultural ideas that we are born and bred to cannot be accepted without examination, upon the responsibility of each individual for his own well-being.

A "culture," in the anthropological meaning of "the sum total of the attainments and learned behavior patterns of any specific period, race or people,"3 is an application (realization, fruition) of philosophical ideas – of our basic understanding of the nature of man and existence – for a given group of people, usually of a given nation or region.

A culture contains many applications of specific solutions in the matter of survival, often depending upon the natural geography of the inhabitants, such as igloos or windmills or tortillas or rattan furniture. A culture also contains a blend of philosophical solutions, which either aid or retard the development of individual capacities for reason and creativity. Accordingly, some cultures will be more advanced than others in their tools and technology – and/or in their social arrangements and political structures. Because cultures are haphazard blends of pro-life and anti-life philosophies, the specifics of application will vary from culture to culture, such that one may be more advanced in eating utensils, while another may be more advanced in marriage customs.

When reason (epistemology), for example, is limited by anti-life ethics, politics, and metaphysics, then it may turn to purely material, mechanical matters and become blinkered in regard to social, personal, ethical, political or metaphysical applications. Furthermore, the anti-life forces of such a compromise provide only a limited, weakened epistemology, such that reason is feeble and not wholly sound even in regard to technology or physical sciences.

The ideas that power a culture are philosophical in nature. That is, they derive from a view of man and existence that is thought to be unified and culturally characteristic. This cultural blend, however, is only characteristic as a given jumble of pluses and minuses in any given culture. It also, usually, represents a stumbling, blind quest for a pro-life view, which is held-back – or, worse, degraded – by the equally valued ideas of an anti-life view.

When I say "equally valued," I do not mean to imply that both views are of equal value, but that, within a given culture, they have been given equal standing in people's social education, such that both kinds of ideas, jumbled in a unique cultural mix, are generally accepted by most people of that culture. In a similar manner, many culinary tastes are developed socially, such that individuals may lose their natural discernment of what is healthy food and what is junk – and such that they eat a unique cultural diet, and which, as a mixture of healthy foods and unhealthy foods, gives them a level of health (and of disease) which is considered "normal" within their culture.

Within any given culture, our understanding of ideas – of philosophy – is further muddled by our characteristic cultural applications. We fail to identify, recognize or acknowledge the ideas – the philosophical view – that powers our applications.

Recently, in a discussion with a friend, I was describing the source of our culture's social weakness as philosophical, specifically the ethical philosophy of altruism, which is incompatible with a pro-life philosophy of political liberty.

My friend asked, "What do you mean by philosophy?" I described the principles of altruism, and provided, as a historical source, the formulations of Immanuel Kant's concept of duty vs. the rational concept of obligation.

Her response was, "You're getting close. I think the source of the problem is religion."

That stumped me, but I adjusted the conversation to her terms, and we continued. What she had failed to understand was that religion, specifically the Christian religion as practiced in the United States, is an application of ideas, holding altruism as an ethical ideal.

Very often, from within a given culture, people can only see the discrete applications, or the historical/cultural origins of such applications – not what actually powers the applications.

My friend's view was correct that Christianity, derived historically from the events of Christ's death and structured by Saul such as to misrepresent most of what Christ taught (which was spiritual and political liberation), and further reinforced by a number of philosophical formulations through the years, does embody anti-life philosophy – as do all organized religions. The good ideas that gave rise to any given religion are retrofitted by the more dominant evil ideas. This is the degradation of the "good" when it compromises with "evil" – the mix becomes, over time, increasingly toxic, philosophically.

In regard to applications, this is as true in education (epistemology), politics, metaphysics, or aesthetics – as it is in ethics/morality. The mixture – compromise – of good with bad, degrades the good.

Just as political liberty – as an application of a pro-life political philosophy – cannot coexist with the ethics of altruism without deteriorating over time, so will any single branch of a pro-life philosophy be battered and degraded by coexistence (compromise) with any other single branch of an anti-life philosophy. The two fundamental philosophical views cannot be mixed-and-matched without detriment to the pro-life side. This is not because a pro-life philosophy is inherently weaker than an anti-life philosophy – indeed, it is much more vital, as witness our continued survival despite a broad range of anti-life applications on this planet.

Just as health is stronger than disease, but will be weakened and can be destroyed by disease if it is compromised – such as by smoking or poor hygiene or poor diet – so will pro-life philosophy be weakened and destroyed by compromise with components of anti-life philosophy.

Consistency is a key factor, but, in regard to philosophy, it is not as straightforward or simple as maintaining physical health – not even in a culture where smoking, poor hygiene and poor diet are considered acceptable. Maintaining simple health, in such a culture, is bucking the tide. Attaining philosophical health, in a philosophically mixed culture, can be like trying to buck a tidal wave.

More to the point, consistency cannot be attained without understanding and knowledge – in regard to either physical health or philosophical health. Of the two, philosophy is more difficult to see, touch and taste, but it has far greater impact on the quality of our lives – affecting our ability to think (epistemology), to act (politics), to feed ourselves (economics), to motivate ourselves (metaphysics), to enjoy ourselves (aesthetics), and to interact with one another (ethics). These are not merely all interrelated, they impact one another. If they are consistently pro-life, they will reinforce one another – and support the central line. If they are compromised by a mixture of pro-life and anti-life ideas, the anti-life ideas will weaken the pro-life ideas, and will degrade the quality of our lives overall.

Part Two

In part one of this article, I described two fundamental philosophical views, designated "pro-life" and "anti-life," as the axes that are fighting for control over the world. An "axis of evil" and an "axis of good," where the component branches of philosophy rotate around a central view – anti-life or pro-life.

These are opposing systems. Philosophy is the fundamental arena in which all issues are either/or: black or white, good or evil. Within the branches of philosophy, these criteria also hold. In epistemology, metaphysics, politics, and ethics, there is one side that is good, appropriate, health-promoting – and one side that is evil, nonappropriate, debilitating. Any compromise between them benefits evil and weakens good.

The standard of "good" is the standard of health. It is manifested by confidence, responsibility, honor, dignity, integrity, self-esteem, creativity, joy, courage, independence, exuberance, enthusiasm, energy, benevolence (goodwill), and a love of life.

The standard of "evil" is the standard of disease. It is manifested by uncertainty, irresponsibility, deceit, shame, corruption, humility, sterility, sorrow, cowardice, dependence, ennui, apathy, laziness, resentment, and contempt for life.

These are loose assemblages of descriptive terms intended to communicate robust human health or deflated human angst. Political liberty will generate the former; political tyranny (slavery) will generate the latter. Rationality will generate the former; mysticism will generate the latter. Self-interest will generate the former; altruism (self-sacrifice) will generate the latter.

The discernment of what is healthy – of the condition of health itself – is only approximately defined, according to our experience with relative health as culturally suppressed humans. We are built to quest for health, but that condition is not always self-evident – as, for example, a feel-good guideline may lead us to drugs which debilitate our health. This is true physically, ethically, politically and epistemologically (our mental efficacy).

Philosophy, as a written compendium of study on the nature of man and existence, is intended to provide us with an understanding by which we can guide our behavior. Philosophers are meant to describe things as true (accurate) and appropriate for human beings. Thus, we gain the rules of logic from Aristotle for the efficacious use of our mental processes. These are pro-life philosophical formulations. We also have the theory of logical positivism to muddle our mental processes – as anti-life philosophical formulations. We have The Declaration of Independence (or Locke's Two Treatises of Government), opposed by Marx's Communist Manifesto (or Hobbes' Leviathan).

Philosophical formulations (the works of philosophers, as such) are not philosophy. They are formulations of philosophical understanding by men and women, in one branch or several, ably or ineptly, supporting one view of human existence or its opposite. Moreover, they derive from men and women who were, themselves, affected by and influenced by the mixed philosophies of their own cultures.

Historically, with these formulations, we have taken many steps forwards and backwards. As manifestations of these efforts, we have had a variety of cultural – mixed – applications, some predominantly healthy and cheerful, most of them predominantly unhealthy and miserable. The formulations come out of these personal experiences and, with either a feeling of cynicism or acceptance, promote anti-life formulations, such as a one-world slave-state, as solutions to the eternal conflict. Others, perhaps based on some personal experience or perhaps arising out of protest of the way things are, promote pro-life formulations, such as the laws of logic or the Constitution of the United States.

In either case, it seems that most philosophers, however wonderful or disastrous the consequences of their formulations may have been, were sincere in their efforts to describe reality and man's nature realistically, appropriately, truthfully, and to increase the general understanding of our condition on this planet. Some were motivated by spite, bitterness, hatred of life, and a malevolent view of the universe. But they sincerely believed they were justified in their view and attempted to demonstrate its truth ... and perpetuated a lot of misery to whatever degree they were able to convince others of their view.

The problem – and glory – of philosophy has to do with its application, by every individual human being in every culture. The pro-life applications – and these are few and far between in a slave-state – keep us alive, give us strength, motivation and hope. The anti-life applications create suffering, weakness, bitterness and resignation.

Some people say, "If philosophy is such a pain, why not just ignore it all and lead a simple, healthy existence?" Well, humanity did just that for thousands of years, but pro-life and anti-life philosophy still dominated their lives. Philosophy is knowledge and understanding. Without the laws of logic, we would be much less capable of thinking coherently. Without a bill of individual rights, we would be much less able to define and defend our personal boundaries – or to have anything approaching individual freedom. Ignoring philosophy defaults to anti-life philosophy.

Philosophy is based upon observation and thought – our own, or that of someone who lived a thousand years ago, or both. The process of studying the philosophical formulations of someone else, helps us to understand what to look for, even if we disagree with whomever we happen to be reading or listening to.

This discourse has intended to distinguish philosophy from philosophers and their formulations, without discounting their affect upon our affairs. Philosophical formulations are used as guides, blueprints, and justification on both sides of the fence. They give rise to applications that did not exist before they were formulated and/or strengthen (by justifying) applications that had already existed without foundation. The philosophers' formulations are stepping stones from ideas to applications of those ideas.

But, in another sense, the ideas exist inherent to man and existence anyway. Understanding ourselves and our relationship to the universe aids us in living more healthy lives, whether in regard to personal political boundaries, ethical behavior, or logical thinking. The application of philosophy is always a practical matter, but it is not always or necessarily a beneficial one – in the case that we are mistaken in our understanding.

Applications of philosophy are also a personal matter.

You may be wondering, "But how can people support, defend or justify anti-life philosophy? Why would they do that, when the consequences are so disastrous?" I have already mentioned their own cultural conditioning within mixed philosophical systems, wherein the anti-life aspects are as acceptable to them as the pro-life aspects – and, in some respects, valued by them as integral to their culture and their personal identity.

One part of this accepted defense/support of evil is the widely held view that evil is powerful, strong and potent. This is a fallacy – and it is part of the anti-life philosophy itself. This view encourages compromise with evil, and a fatalistic acceptance of its – necessary – existence.

Pro-life philosophy holds an opposite metaphysical view. It maintains that evil is impotent and powerless. Without the compromise of the good, evil will wither away. Evil is a parasite that gains its strength from the host (the good), while weakening the host. At its fullest fruition, evil will kill the host. Whole civilizations have disappeared through this fruition, for when evil comes to full power, there is nothing left – it is anti-life and anti-existence.

The people who believe in the power of evil, act to sustain it – even if they claim they are opposing it and fighting it. The people who believe evil is impotent, make no concessions to evil, allow no compromise, give no support and waste no energy – and vanquish it merely by standing firm.

In a world of mixed philosophy, there is no culture that is predominantly pro-life. The pro-life philosophy is fading fast and people who think they are defending it, are up to their necks in compromise. They are as mixed as their culture, and defend the mixture of good and evil ... and wonder why things continue to turn to crap all around them.

Part Three (Conclusion)

In the first two parts of this article, I have characterized the two fundamental philosophical positions as "pro-life" and "anti-life," or "good" and "evil."

These value-judgment terms are approximate. They depend upon another layer of enquiry: of value to whom and by what standards? People who are raised in mixed-philosophy cultures (that would be all of us), accept the dominant ideas of their culture – even if these are harmful or impractical – because they are seldom shown alternatives by their culture. Or, if they are shown alternatives, these are represented by that culture in such a manner as to make them socially repugnant and subject to ridicule – regardless of their inherent practicality or sensibility.

To culturally adept people and by the standards which they have accepted, many pro-life ideas are distasteful. They reject them without considering them, because their culture has taught them to do so. Perhaps their culture has placed a group (religious) taboo on such ideas. Perhaps it merely ridicules them. Or perhaps it ignores them. It is also not unusual for a philosophically mixed culture to be rather weak in epistemology (mental efficacy), such that the educational system discourages independent thought and provides few tools for thinking conceptually. It makes the process of thought, for those who have little training, experience or tools with the process of thinking, difficult and laborious.

The defense of their philosophical ideas, mixed-up in a characteristic cultural brew, is second-nature to collectivized, indoctrinated, weakened human beings.

The pro-life philosophical ideas in their culture, such as, perhaps, individual rights, will wither over time, as the anti-life ideas become increasingly dominant. As their quality of life deteriorates, they will strive, first, to defend the mix as a whole – "the way things were." As the quality continues to deteriorate, they will try to give their support to what they sense or feel (thinking is not easy for them) is the most important, relevant, personal issues and ideas.

Thus, political liberty, which defines their boundaries and enables them to live at peace with their fellows, is disregarded because it is a conceptual solution. It requires thought to understand how we benefit from these boundaries – and how it creates a free and peaceful society – and how we will never attain a free and peaceful society without such individual boundaries.

What they can see, taste and touch is that their freedom is restricted and their society is conflicted, and that brotherhood (the consequence of enforced individual rights) is falling apart. Acting out of feelings, they call for greater brotherhood – wishing, hoping, praying to regain the benefit of brotherhood, without addressing the political source of it.

Having less security, they call for greater restrictions upon others. No longer being able to enforce or defend their rights with any confidence, they are quick to anger, to sue, and to seek solutions outside a justice system that has failed them – and perhaps to blame law and politics.

They do not see that the pro-life political system has been degraded by anti-life philosophy – by compromise ... with altruism, with collectivism, with statism, with mysticism, with corporatism, with empiricism – that it has been compromised. They can see that it has been corrupted, but cause and effect is a conceptual relationship – the consequence can be concretely observed; the cause requires thought and knowledge.

The same example can be followed through in the matter of education, or economics, or integrity (honesty). Whatever once had some level of cleanliness, health, competence, honesty and clarity ... has, by compromise, become tarnished, then befouled, and, finally, corroded ... beyond recognition and beyond repair.

Meanwhile, the ideas of altruism, mysticism, collectivism, statism and other applications of the philosophical axis of evil become more strident, and people become more defensive in regard to them. "If we are losing so much, let us not lose everything – let us hold fast to those remaining aspects of our culture which are still around, and seem solid."

In consequence of the degradation of pro-life aspects, the parts of the mix that caused the degradation – the contradictory elements – will gain a greater veneer of solidity. Thus, in desperation, people will hold fast to that which has caused them so much harm ... and many will turn to religion (fundamentalism – altruism/collectivism/mysticism), or some similar application, in a quest to "hang-on" to what remains of their culture. And the voices of their culture reinforce this by telling them that such ideas (the anti-life philosophy ideas) are what was really essential – was the cause of all those good things they see disappearing.

In philosophical terms, it is actually a very small lie. Par for the course. Standard operating procedure. Typical. Unsurprising. But – nonetheless – tragic.

Thus, in answer to the question "Of value to whom and by what standards?" I must stand outside of the cultural brew, which races to self-destruct.

In which case, my standards are not going to seem relevant to those within the mixture – who are determined to save the worse aspects of it.

To be able to formulate a healthy philosophy – appropriate for the human being – one must get outside of the altruist-collectivist culture – physically. One must be able to experience that free-range of individual sovereignty unaffected by and uninfluenced by culture. One must have the experience of it, first-hand, in order to be able to consciously formulate it. Even then, much of one's formulation is to do with stating that experience in contradistinction to the culture of one's origin – and to all altruist-collectivist culture.

Hence, the initial formulation is somewhat geared toward the ability of other people from that same culture to comprehend the distinction – it is accessible to them; it acknowledges their cultural reality. It shows what is possible by someone who has escaped and who is capable of showing others their path and their experience. But it will not be sufficient for others to merely read the conclusions of such a renegade, still stuck "safely" within their cultural context. It won't do any good at all, by itself. What is more important to those who remain "behind" is the example of self-liberation, as a path they can follow themselves, rather than the realizations of one individual.

However, that said, most people would not end up liberating themselves even if they physically separated themselves from their culture. It takes more than physical separation – it may be necessary, but it is not sufficient.

The standards that I have used to formulate my political philosophy are standards of human health. That is, they are not geared to cultural blends, but are postulated for the human being in any culture – for the health of that human being and for the health of a society of individual human beings.

This is more than the philosophical approach of Pragmatism (which holds that principles are irrelevant, and only what works has value). On the premises of Pragmatism, collectivism "works," dictatorship "works," corporatism "works," etc. That is, they can be made to function (unlike, say, communism, which is not a pragmatic application). But the condition of human life under such systems is slavery. I do not concede that slavery is healthy. Indeed, I do not concede that any current political applications are healthy.

The point, here, is that what "works" (Pragmatism) is not my criterion, although practicality is a key component of the criterion – i.e., a solution must be practical in reality, demonstrable by reason, and appropriate to the human being in a real-world context. "Appropriate to the human being" is the standard of health – of a condition that optimizes the capacity of the human being to live fully, freely and healthily.

There are philosophical issues remaining with this description of standards and criteria, many of which I address in my books. For this article, the statement "Assume nothing." may suffice as a way to get around cultural blinders and come up with standards that are appropriate to the human being.

In the context of this article, I assert (and do not prove) that individual rights political liberty is appropriate (healthful) to the human being – that reason is appropriate (healthful) to the human being – that rational self-interest is appropriate (healthful) to the human being.

It is upon the criterion of health and practicality in effecting human well-being (health) that I stipulate a philosophical "axis of good."

It is upon the criterion of disease and the effectiveness in producing human suffering (disease) that I stipulate a philosophical "axis of evil."

Here is an outline the axes of these two, opposing philosophical systems. (Note: I am, in this arrangement, my own compiler, based upon my philosophical formulations in my books, and upon my studies, observations and experience.)


The Philosophical Axis of Good

Ethics:Self-interest
Morality:Respect (Do No Harm)
Society:Individualism
Politics:Individual rights
Economics:Laissez-Faire
Epistemology:Reason/Conceptual
Esthetics:Self-joy
Metaphysics:Objective Reality


The Philosophical Axis of Evil

Ethics:Altruism
Morality:Duty
Society:Collectivism
Politics:Statism*
Economics:Regulated/Corporate
Epistemology:Mysticism/Empiricism
Esthetics:Prostitution/Pandering
Metaphysics:Speculative/Agnostic

*Statism – "The principle or policy of concentrating extensive economic, political, and related controls in the state at the cost of individual liberty." [The American College Dictionary, 1957]


In theory, Reciprocia is a different sort of political solution, but even that, as with the U.S. constitution, could not be sustained in conjunction with a culture that favored the other aspects of an anti-liberty axis. And fighting to keep and/or gain political liberty in such a culture would be futile without also challenging and rejecting the cultural values that engender statism.

However – my original conception of the Reciprocian solution is that it could hold fast, regardless of cultural influence – and, therefore, regardless of anti-life ideas. I still think it could. Here's why:

The distinction of the Reciprocia Constitution is that it is designed from principle, not from historical example nor from pragmatic (whatever works) philosophy. As a political solution, it is not diluted with anti-life philosophical concessions. As it stands, it holds fast to the principle of individual political rights and disregards everything else.

It is not, for example, anti-religion – it simply focuses on the arena of individual political boundaries and ignores whatever does not fall within that arena. As religion is an individual choice, voluntarily made, it is protected inherent to the individual, but no particular religion or attitude toward religion is either protected or attacked. The government of the Reciprocia Constitution is only concerned with individual human beings; the law of the Reciprocia Constitution is only concerned with the rights of individual human beings.

As a political solution, in a world confounded by opposing axes of philosophy, the Reciprocia Constitution appears to be the best, and most consistent, pro-life political solution available.

If applied, and if it were not diluted or corrupted by "other" agenda, it has the potential to foster pro-life ideas throughout all the branches of philosophy, and in all applications of human endeavor.

In part two of this article, I maintained that evil is impotent. This is the metaphysical view of pro-life philosophy. Without sanction, support or compromise, evil withers away. It requires that one stand firm – and refuse to compromise. It requires awareness, knowledge – and, above all, integrity.

I do not suppose or imagine that people could ever be made sufficiently aware to opt for the Reciprocian solution. But if they did – even with the same blind fervor that they now protect the worst elements of their dying cultures – it would have the philosophical guts to stand firm, and to protect them while they sort out the mess of their philosophical muddle.

Once installed, the Reciprocia Constitution would, as a lone branch of pro-life philosophy, single-handedly and over time, vanquish the axis of evil altogether. It is designed to be incapable of compromise in the field of political philosophy. If that branch holds fast, in its own sphere, no other branch, idea or aspect of the anti-life philosophy will hold its power for long. The free and voluntary choices of individuals – secure in their rights – will choose health ... in every field, in every issue, in every case.

I'm not sure how we could ever get there, but it sure would be nice to have the essential boundaries (individual rights) protected, so we could disregard all this crap about self-sacrifice, communalism, faith, social welfare, duty, political correctness, race quotas, corporatism, preemptory warfare, born-again dictators, (mis)managed economies, wars on drugs, poverty, illiteracy and obesity, and other assorted cultural brainwashing.

Wouldn't it?

 

copyright © 2006 by Richard G. Rieben

1,2,3 – Definitions from Funk & Wagnall's, 1986