I've come a long way in this blog's quest to know thyself. There's still much to come concerning others, things, placesideas, and some fun with philosophers, but I'm just about done with posts concerning the self. I've looked in the past (where did I come from?), and the present (where am I?, what am I?). Now it's time to look to the future. Where am I going? As I indicated in the comments of last week's blog post, philosophers don't like to speculate about the unknown. Perhaps the definitive quote about this is this one:

"What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence."
-- Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophus, 1921

So rather than make predictions about any of the number of directions your or our future could go, I prefer to state all that we really know, that our future holds some life and then death. Beyond that, it's hard to say anything more specific. Rather than stop there in Wittgensteinian silence though, I thought this would be the place to talk about "the meaning of life," a topic that most academic philosophers nowadays regard as taboo or unprofessional. But if you've read my statement of purpose, you know I consider this root of the discipline something that desperately needs to be taken up once again. And so, I've made a modest beginning to come up with some broad aphorisms about life to help guide a future towards happiness and goodness through the use of some philosophical wisdom. Much more will be said in the future in my novels and stories and essays, but here are the first 9 statements that I came up with:

1. Life was hard throughout most of our evolutionary history. Beings that evolved feelings of enjoyment during hard work coped better with this difficulty. This is fortunate because living an examined life, finding happiness, and ensuring the survival of the species is hard work, but we must undertake it. It is good to know we will enjoy it.

2. Positive psychologists find four categories of life goals: 1) work and achievement; 2) relationships and intimacy; 3) spirituality and religion; 4) generativity / legacy leaving. Find the goals that you can best achieve. Find balance among them. Include philosophy in the list of goal number three and use it as a guide to do all of this. Happiness comes from coherence among the three levels of personality traits towards ones life goals. Explore the world. Explore yourself. Find the intersection between your interests, your strengths, and your opportunities to find a fulfilling purpose. Know thyself and strive for life-long happiness.

3. There are six time perspectives you can have on your life: 1) past - positive events; 2) past - negative events; 3) present - hedonism; 4) present - fatalism; 5) future - goal oriented; 6) future - worry oriented. Recognize the benefit of focusing predominantly on 1 and 5 with some 3 for energizing enjoyment. Learn from 2 when it happens. Do not believe in 4; it is irrational. When 6 arises, use 5 to make a plan, and 1 to believe you will achieve it.

4. Balancing safety vs. exploration is regulated by a “thermostat” of your genes x your environment. Stable and enduring feelings of safety come from stable and enduring attachment figures. Parents, then friends, then romantic partners play these roles of attachment figures throughout one's life. Three patterns emerge for finding safety (which leads to exploration): 1) avoidance - too reliant on self; 2) clinging - too reliant on others; 3) secure - just right. Work on your emotional behavior to become a stable and enduring attachment figure for others. Feel safe from your secure attachments. Explore the world to bring more to your life and the lives of others.

5. Happiness can also be understood as the absence of pain – pain of body, confusion, scorn, worry, unfulfilled desire. Avoid pain not by sitting still, but by actively seeking life. Remember the Buddhist mantra while seeking; pain in life is unavoidable, suffering over that pain is a choice. Choose your cognitive appraisals and your focus to stop wallowing in the emotion of suffering.

6. Nurtured childhoods train empathy, reciprocity, cooperation. Stressful childhoods train fending for yourself, watching your back, competition. Both skills are needed in a society where tit-for-tat behavior strategies must lead with cooperation but punish transgressions.

7. Cooperation, subsuming to groups, means not giving in to the instant gratification of the self. Self-control / delayed gratification correlates strongly with personal success. It can be improved with stable, predictable environments, building the mental capacity to control your attention and thoughts, and gaining wisdom about which actions balance the needs of self and society in the short term and the long term.

8. Adversity may be required for growth - it is certainly an opportunity. Do not try to cope with adversity by avoidance, by denying events, or blunting emotions through substance abuse or distraction - the adversity will only return in the long term. You must cope with crises by direct action to fix them, or reappraisal to get your thoughts right. You emerge from introspection when you develop internal consistency / reflective equilibrium. You triumph over adversity when you get your thoughts right.

9. Getting your thoughts right requires critical thinking. It requires rational data over intuition and emotion. It requires less dogma, less authoritarianism, more curiosity, more open-mindedness, more conscientiousness. It requires seeing past cognitive biases such as framing, priming, loss aversion, etc. It requires introspective ability, and being neither over- nor under-confident. Getting your thoughts right is hard work. This is why industriousness in childhood (jobs, chores, sports) is the best predictor of adult mental health. Getting your thoughts right leads to secure high self-esteem, confidence, success at meeting others needs, of bonding with groups, of wanting more cooperation. Coping by avoidance leads to insecurity, vulnerability to further crises, narcissistic facades, an inability to meet group needs, a fear of being left behind, less cooperation, more competition. Secure high self-esteem is bored by or detests low things. Secure high self-esteem admires other great things and studies them to become rich in cultural, social, moral, cognitive, and aspirational capital. It is driven by a desire to know, a love of wisdom, a philosophy. It is not driven by fear, by hope of evasion. In a life filled with secure high self-esteem, more and more becomes interesting and less and less becomes boring. In this world, life is worth living forever.

Do you have a favorite? Do you disagree with any of these? Do you have a candidate for a 10th, 11th, or 12th aphorism? Let me know in the comments below. I'm always looking for ways to hone and expand this Evolutionary Philosophy. I'm always looking for more ways that life can make sense.


03/22/2013 5:56pm

The Hockey Goalie Perspective on the 9 Tips

1. Gump Worsley had it bad - the last goalie not to wear a mask, so times were tough back then, but they paved the way for today. If you work hard in practice the games are the fun part.

2. There is no universal perfection only what you make perfect for yourself. Butterfly, hybrid, stand-up, etc are all roads to be explored. Once you explore them throw away the map and find your own path with the help of others and what is inside you. Once you do that you can make your mark.

3. Six perspectives you will always have - 1) I made a great save. 2) I let in a bad goal. 3) I am the best at what I do. 4) Nothing will ever go right again, it is over. 5) If I work hard I can achieve my goals as long as I adpat. 6) I will never get better. The same rules apply, focus on 1 and 5, toss in a little swagger (3). When 2 happens re-focus and remember all the 1's. 4 deserves a spot but tucked away during games. 6 is overcome by 1, 3, and 5.

4. A goalie cannot make every save, you must rely on your team to stop the rush, push the play to the outside, and clear the crease. Success is not measured by perfection by rather by continual improvement and learning. You must also rely on yourself and make sure you exude confidence for your teammates. If they see you down after a goal, they will play worse. If they cannot trust you, they will not play well. Trust in yourself, work hard, display confidence and success will come for you and for your team.

5. You are doing something that every fiber of your biological evolutionary being is telling you not to do - get in the way of something that is hard and coming at you fast. You must not only have muscles that are conditioned to react this way but you must also have a mind that is conditioned as well. You have chosen the hard road, one that can be painful both emotionally and physically. You must understand and embrace this and make it part of yourself.

7. Goalies are the leaders of the defense and must act that way. You have a different perspective on the ice surface and must work with and guide your defense so you perform in unison.

8. A goalie who gets a shutout but faces no shots cannot be considered to have won anything for the team. This goalie could be replaced by a block of wood and nothing would have been different. A goalie who follows the road of hardwork and dedication while continually striving to improve is a better goalie. It does not matter how many goals you gave up today, but that if you worked hard, learned something, and can apply it next time.

9. Goalies must have "owl eyes" when the puck is at the other end of the ice, watching and carefully observing the play and "eagle eyes" when the puck is inside the blue line, examining every player and their movements to determin a course of action. The same is true mentally. You must keep your thoughts sharp at all times, positive and focused on the task but not so much so that you lose sight of the joy of the sport and the enthusiasm you have for it.

Allow yourself the time to enjoy the play when your team is on the offensive but be preared to snap to when the puck moves toward you. There will be a day when you take your pads off for the very last time. If you can truly say that you worked hard, I learned a lot about yourself, the game, your teammates, opponents, made lots of close friends, and learned something about life then all those early morning practices, tedious skating drills, shots that that caught you between the pads will have been worth it. Enjoy the greatest game on ice!

03/25/2013 1:58am

Ha! Like engineering is applied science, this is great applied philosophy. Call it philosophockey? The love of hockey knowledge?

03/26/2013 3:12pm

great idea! Maybe I will start a philosophockey blog!

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