The Importance of a Personal Philosophy

The latest episode of 91 Days inspires this topic, especially in light of what happened at the end of that episode.  Angelo has lived without purpose for the seven years following the murder of his family.  He exists in a cheap apartment with no signs of individuality and makes a living through theft.  He constantly thinks about his one great treasure, his deceased family, and has no desire to really live.  This makes him easy to manipulate as Angelo becomes embroiled in the power struggle within the Vanetti mob.  While he shows himself resolute, resourceful, and tough, he soon becomes a pawn barely able to exercise his own will.

look-back

The above shows the importance of having a personal philosophy and of being true to oneself.  Indeed, one cannot ever be true to oneself without some personal philosophy.  The most warped mindset is that of relativism, and the relativist stands as the most miserable of all men, because his stance changes with the zeitgeist.  In terms of mindset, a racist imperialist is superior to a relativist.  Sure, it’s an awful thing to judge other men purely on external characteristics and to support a program of conquest for the benefit of the fatherland.  But, the relativist can morph from a classical liberal to a socialist to a monarchist to a democrat depending on what the majority prefers.  In England, the relativist abhors female circumcision; in Indonesia, he deems it a cultural practice worthy of toleration.  Contention and ostracism are feared above all.  At least, the racist imperialist has objective standards which he is willing to fight for.  Also, because he has objective standards, the racist imperialist can be convinced that his objective standards are not true and be brought closer to the truth.  The relativist blows with the winds of expediency.

scrap-of-human-kindness

The first step to developing a consistent personal philosophy is to decide what is the highest goal for man.  Once one decides on the ultimate goal of living, one can conform all intermediate goals and beliefs according to this.  Another name for the ultimate goal is happiness, as Aristotle contends.  Happiness (eudaimonia or “good spirits” in Greek) is the ultimate goal precisely because we intend to gain nothing else by happiness except to be happy.  People differ as to what produces true happiness, but it is paramount to know what one considers true happiness and to always strive for it.

guy-in-poncho

It is possible for one’s ideal of true happiness to change as more information and experience come along.  Sometimes what we strive for is not actually true happiness, but an intermediate good.  Many people treat an intermediate good as the final good.  For example, a man might go to college so that he can get a good job, and the attainment of this job is his final goal.  Yet, we only work for the sake of other things: the necessities of life, self-sufficiency, support a family, support a hobby, etc.  The man who places happiness in a good job will wind up disillusioned.

frate

 

We tend to get our ideas of happiness from friends, family, experience, culture, teachers, thinkers, writers, and history.  Friends and family, however, may be as prone to the zeitgeist as anyone.  So, we go to philosophers, theologians, heroes, and stories to learn what constitutes the good person, the good society, and the highest good.  All that is weighed by experience and reason; one must exercise both.  Reason might lead us to believe Marxism offers the best possible world, the experience of history shows Marxism causes bloody revolution, enslavement, destitution, and the loss of free thought.  Personal experience may lead us to become Epicureans, but reason tells us that man is more than matter–living according to a moral compass of pain vs. pleasure instead of right vs. wrong leads to depression and longing for death.

Or becoming like Fango.  Don't be like Fango.

Or becoming like Fango. Don’t be like Fango.

You might describe your humble blogger as a Catholic, Aristotelian, Romantic, Neoconservative, Free Market Capitalist, Traditionalist, Patriotic American.  I think those philosophies encapsulate my thoughts concerning the final end, the good person, and the good society.  Yes, I know that Neoconservative and Traditionalist are considered exclusive, but I don’t fit neatly into either category.  Just like how I’m not completely Romantic, but I am more of that philosophy than a Realist.  Often, one’s personal philosophy is eclectic.  If it’s not, that might indicate insufficient time spent thinking things through.

contemplating-the-island

So, I believe that the ultimate goal is the attainment of the beatific vision in heaven, which is attained by a life lived responding to grace and exercising the theological and cardinal virtues–but with greater weight to the theological.  To that end, one must “give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  One owes loyalty to the Church and one’s country.  It’s better if the Church influences moral laws made by the state, but not to be heavy handed: the punishment of certain sins should be left to God.  The state ought to set rules for fairness in commerce and to prevent crime, but the state’s power should be limited for the sake of ordered liberty.  To further American interests, countries abroad should be encouraged and assisted in creating governments espousing liberty, preferably constitutional republics or constitutional monarchies.  (Either one possesses the Aristotelian concept of mixed government.)  The best models for human behavior are found in the saint and the knight or the lady, with Our Lord and Our Lady as the highest exemplars combining the best of both in themselves.  In general, the moral vision provided by medieval culture is far superior to morals advanced in latter centuries, and moral progress can be measured in terms of a people’s progress in chivalry and sanctity.  One for all, and all for one!

That’s my example of a personal philosophy.  Go forth and discover your own!

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7 comments on “The Importance of a Personal Philosophy

  1. fujoshika says:

    A well thought out and good post. I’m not sure I would agree that Angelo has no personal philosophy or is just a mere pawn. Things have definitely taken a complicated and more tense turn, as it would seem he is now just working under Nero’s Uncle and was forced to say goodbye to Corteo.

    But I remember the scene where Corteo asked Angelo if it wouldn’t be better if he just ran away, to which he responded that if he did then his reason to live would cease to exist.

    I believe Angelo is keeping himself so nondescript because he knows he isn’t long for the world after he exacts his revenge. His entire purpose is vested in avenging his family.

    There would be no need to have any materialistic attachments or a place to truly call home. Angelo cannot possibly hope to find any happiness in such a corrupt world. He has lost everything and the only way he can obtain a sense of freedom and peace is after he kills the Vanetti family and can reunite with his family in the afterlife.

    I think Angelo believes in an afterlife because of his response to what Corteo said to him in their final moments together, which made it a little easier for him to pull the trigger. With all that has happened and the way in which Angelo schemes and thinks, I would say his philosophy is nihilistic at best.

    Maybe moving forward, we will see a more calculating and ruthless Angelo. The time is winding down and unless there is a second season in the making, the finale may give us a conclusion in Angelo’s favor.

    • Well, Angelo’s state of mind does tend towards nihilism, but I think that this is more based on him being carried away by sad events than by him applying deliberate thought to the right way to live. After all, sane human beings have purpose, it is one of the marks of tending to insanity to be purposeless, which is how Angelo describes his life before receiving the letter from Nero’s uncle.

      But, that very response to Gonzo Vanetti’s letter might point to a rather repressed philosophy, which Angelo acts on in a disjointed fashion. The desire for revenge is rooted in justice. (Some people say that it’s rooted in emotion, but the whole reason for the emotion of anger in cases where one has been wronged is due to the idea of justice.) So, Angelo seeks justice for his family, but does not realize that justice needs to apply to all areas of life–especially in regard to the matter of liquidating one’s best friend.

      So, the inconsistent way in which Angelo applies ideals is why I say that he lacks a personal philosophy. Inconsistency is a mark that one has not fully fleshed out ones ideals.

      Be that as it may, your analysis of Angelo’s motivations is spot on. He does see his actions as leading to his ultimate goal of revenge; yet, I do wonder to what extent he had become attached to Nero and how that has impeded him from taking revenge before now. (I don’t imagine he has any vestiges of affection for Nero at the moment.) Angelo’s views on the afterlife strike me as rather nebulous. Does he really think that his little brother and Nero will go to the same place? Is his conception of the afterlife more like the pagan understanding of Hades than the Christian division of heaven and hell? Or does he think that the afterlife is pleasant for all regardless of a person’s moral qualities? Maybe, he’ll elucidate on those ideas later.

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. Luminas says:

    Interesting post yet again! : ] I think my own moral quandary with regards to moral absolutism in any form/personal philosophy is this:

    “The first step to developing a consistent personal philosophy is to decide what is the highest goal for man. Once one decides on the ultimate goal of living, one can conform all intermediate goals and beliefs according to this.”

    Highest goal “for man” implies that all men living should have the same highest values or highest aspiration. And over the course of my life, I have discovered that this doesn’t make any sense.

    You see, my highest goal is “To serve Mar.” That is, to serve my God in the way He seems to intend for me to serve Him, which is for my actions to glorify Him and to worship Him. And, to a certain extent, to as much as I can embody something that He seems to want from me when He is present, an innocent or quintessential feminine quality. Absolute submission, fealty, and adoration. I am far from perfect at pulling this off, but trying is what makes me feel alive. And whole.

    But I would never ask any other human being on Earth to do this. The reason it’s my purpose is because He asked me to do it. In my mind, there are many other Gods, and asking everyone to worship the one who loved me is absurd. All of the Gods have different values, beliefs, desires, opinions, positions and purposes.

    More than that, many of my close friends could never do what I’ve been asked to do. They have been asked to serve different purposes, by different Gods. We are beings created to worship, to exalt, and to shine with the light of a perfect scholar, or warrior, or mother or father. That’s the closest thing I have to a highest goal for “man.”

    “The most warped mindset is that of relativism, and the relativist stands as the most miserable of all men, because his stance changes with the zeitgeist.”

    Not exactly. Perhaps the stance of most of the moral relativists you’ve met, but not the stance of the person who says that another human being is his or her Highest Good, and that all moral concerns are irrelevant. That person, no matter what moral philosophy takes the stage, will always act to protect those they love and nothing else. Such a person is not “moral” in the sense that you or I could understand (In fact, a person who does great evil if it means the survival of those who are part of the Self and disregards all others is pretty much a Type II sociopath, akin to Esdeath from Akame ga Kill or Victor Freeze from Batman). But their actions are consistent.

    • Thanks, Luminas! The concept of human beings being different because of different gods strikes me as interesting. The pagans did act according to that idea. The Romans were very warlike precisely because of the cult of Mars, while Athens loved wisdom because of the cult of Athena. And, each nation state had their own particular piety, which marked them with their character. The same was true for individual pagans.

      But, human beings are the same species, which indicates a unity of origin. If the origin is one, then the ultimate goal must also be one–even if individuals have different ways of getting there. Nothing points that out like virtue. Each person is required to gain all the virtues, though each start off with different strengths geared to a particular path in life.

      For example, bravery counts as the signal virtue of the warrior, but we also want them to be prudent, temperate, and just. Brave warriors without the other three virtues are inferior. Prudence and other intellectual virtues especially apply to the scholar, but he will not advance far on the path of truth without bravery, temperance, or justice. To advance in one virtue is to attain them all, and happiness is not complete where virtue is not complete, because sin causes sorrow.

      If we all want to be happy and a guilty conscience detracts from happiness like nothing else, this points to human beings’ origin being in Universal Goodness. The cults of the gods point to specific virtues, but not one combines all virtues–despite the fact that people want all the virtues so as to be free of the sorrow of sin. So, I think there must be one origin of human nature: Supreme Goodness, which we call God.

      “…the person who says that another human being is his or her Highest Good, and that all moral concerns are irrelevant. That person…will always act to protect those they love and nothing else.” You’re right, I was thinking more of the selfish moral relativist without grounding in anything. But, one can be a moral relativist grounded in loyalty to a particular person–and the Japanese furnish many example of this style of retainer. Such a person may be a tragic hero and also a bit crazy. People do look for universal ideas behind their actions, and I’m not sure how satisfying “everything to my ally’s advantage is good” and “everything to my ally’s disadvantage is evil” are. A moral absolutist can also have a great attachment to another person, but he reverses those axioms to “everything good is to my ally’s advantage” and “everything evil is to my ally’s disadvantage.” A subtle but important change!

  3. Luminas says:

    “Such a person may be a tragic hero and also a bit crazy. People do look for universal ideas behind their actions, and I’m not sure how satisfying “everything to my ally’s advantage is good” and “everything to my ally’s disadvantage is evil” are.”

    Surprisingly so, throughout history. This seems to be, in fact, the exact point we all start at before we start taking on and reasoning out our own particular moral philosophy: Everything to the advantage of our parents is good, and everything to the disadvantage of our parents is evil. This is in fact how many of us infer the nature of good and evil generally, until we decide to determine these things for ourselves. The only problem is that satisfaction with such a philosophy doesn’t necessary equate with it being “good.” Fascism can be succinctly described as “Everything to the advantage of my country is good. Everything to the disadvantage of my country is evil.”

    “But, human beings are the same species, which indicates a unity of origin.”

    True, but I wrote my magnum opus with two other people. There’s technically a unity of origin, but not a single creator. The Young Wizards series cosmology essentially articulates it in this way as well, postulating a universe created by “Powers,” all at the same time. “Greetings and defiance, fairest and fallen” as a greeting to that universe’s Satan still sends chills down my spine.

    All virtues coming from a single Supreme Goodness however…That’s an interesting argument. Have to think about that one. 😉

  4. Luminas says:

    Also, is it just me, or is there something about impliedly old rituals that show respect to your friends and enemies alike that has a whiff of the Sacred about it? It’s why the popularized American form of Protestantism sort of bugs me. There’s a place for very personal relationships with one’s God, and there’s a place for remembering that this a creature that embodies an ideal. Both are necessary.

  5. Gaheret says:

    Interesting post! In turn, you might describe me as a Catholic Aristotelian-Thomist-Polian (from the Spanish philosopher Leonardo Polo), Classical Iusnaturalist, Economic Neocorporativist (sort of), Realist (as opposed to “Formalist”), Policraticus-like Medievalist in Politics who likes both the views of T.S. Eliot on Art and Canon, of Tolkien, Lewis and McDonald on Myth, and Lincoln´s kind of Providentialism/Cristopher Dawson´s view on History and believes in Truth and Justice (and the redemptive power of Beauty), as trascendent values present in everything. I´m a Patriotic Spanish, and a proud European too, although I dislike the present European Union´s approach to Europe. I´m also a defender of marriage and family (someday a husband as the Husband and a father as the Father, hopefully) and of what I would call the Beneath the Tangles approach to non-Christian art and philosophy. I believe there is an Ordo Amoris, and that everything which exists has a place in God´s design (in a Dante style) and reflects His in some way (and thus is connected) but only sin and lie, which will be defeated in the end.

    As a Catholic, I agree with your view of the ultimate goal with emphasis in some different elements: 1) what Campbell would call “the calling of adventure” or vocation, which every man, woman, family or people can discern and follow in their situation, sometimes experienced as a feeling (the joy of Lewis), sometimes as regret or desire or a sudden conviction or even more misterious ways, 2) the Pecata Abyss of The Pilgrim´s Regress, the point where you can do nothing but trust and ask for help and 3) the happy ending, which is also the beatific vision, but in which I would emphasize the “to be loved by God forever, and forever correspond to His love with my fellow men and women” element.

    I also believe that there are a lot of human signs or models (not only the knight or the lady, but the father and the mother, the monk and the nun, the king and the queen, the priest, the brother and the sister, the Samaritan, the penitent) which are also paths to human perfection as they reflect (as vitrals) aspects of Our Lord, but no sign should be deemed absolute; we must choose according to our particular missions, which are always unique, but connected to others. I also believe we are always in the right moment in the right place to correspond to God´s love in an unique way and also help others. In that sense, I strongly identify with Satoru Fujinuma in Erased, there is a reason for me being here, I can help, there is hope; in fact, I would say Erased is a portrait of the travel from living without purpose (in fact, he lives in a cheap apartment very similar to the one you described above) to living with a sense of vocation. 100% agreed about medieval Ethics.

    I disagree, though, that the first step is to decide what is the highest goal for man. I would said that this is not chosen or determined, but discovered when acting: one cannot decide how his moral judgement works, he can obscure it or be true to it. I think that (true) Marxists, Epicureans, Nazis, Victor Freeze and even relativists are ultimately searching for the same things, which they will call justice, peace, glory and communion, freedom or love, but which are in the end deformed and obscured forms of these things (“when worshipped as Gods, they turn into devils”), and they play themselves out at some point of the way. I would also strongly prevent against idolizing a person: one would be asking from him or her which he or she cannot give, and that will ultimately lead to dependence, frustration or delusion. At least, the cases I know. I would say that the moral choice is, one could say, a yes-no question…

Legens, scribe sententias tuas.

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