Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

What Is …

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Socrates famously asked – ‘What is Justice?’

It is easy to define what Justice is. Just grab a dictionary, look for the definition of Justice and you would have answered a classic ancient philosophical question.

Not so easy.

Socrates wasn’t interested with the definition or meaning of Justice but rather the nature of justice. Socrates knew it is not easy to describe the nature with words.

Now, let’s define what is justice – According to dictionary : The quality of being just or fair.

So, is it fair to say punishing people who murder someone else is justice? An eye for an eye. Yes it is. Then, if i kill someone who is deemed evil and doing it for the sake of humanity, is it also a justice? Yes it is. So, is it fair to punish me? Perhaps not.

Why not?

If i kill someone, which i think is the sake for justice but many people do not agree on, is it still justice? Maybe not. Therefore, it seems justice is what the majority define and agree on, not the definition itself.

Socrates does not accept this reasoning as final, and points out that doing harm is far worse than receiving harm, for ‘doing injustice harms yourself internally’. In turn, to harm any person is the act of the unjust, and the just man will not harm another, because by doing so the just man will prove himself the opposite of what he claims to be.

The argument will go round and round, and i can easily present a counterexample to counter every single point. That’s exactly what Socrates did which earned him the nickname The Instigator.

What is Courage? We Don’t Know Yet We Know.

In the dialogue with Laches, an Athenian general, Socrates asked – What is Courage? Laches defined courage as standing firm in battle without fear and giving up. Courage is a sort of endurance of the soul.

Socrates came out with a counterexample for this definition. A general might stand firm in battle but simply out of foolish persistence, putting himself and others around him in danger. A brilliant and intelligent general should know when to stand firm and when to retreat.

Laches agreed and then separated courage into two groups – Wise Courage and Foolish Courage. Socrates asked for the differences between them, and Laches described that the former is something noble while the latter is described as hurtful and should not be considered as courage. Socrates then asked, why shouldn’t Foolish Courage be considered as courage despite fulfilling the definition of courage?

You may see people who practice blind courage as foolish but these people may see themselves as being honourable. Suddenly, the whole conversation became paradoxical. So, What is Courage?

After several more attempts by Laches to define courage, Socrates concluded that we can come out with any definitions to describe courage or pointing out the common and peculiar features of courage. But we will always remain ignorant about what the essential feature is. Even though Laches is courageous himself, he was unable to define what courage actually is. It seems that even to him, the ‘essence’ of courage is hidden.

Yet the counterexamples method Socrates employed suggested that, at some level, we do possess this knowledge of courage. Laches was able to recognize that someone who has foolish persistence in battle is not truly courageous. If Laches did not know what courage was, how would he able to recognize that he has been confronted with a counterexample?

Hence, Socrates argued that courage is already a knowledge that we possess in our mind from birth. It is innate. We are just unable to bring this knowledge to surface and make it clear and explicit. We basically, can’t use words to describe it.

What is Beauty?

Forget about FHM 100 Sexiest or Maxim Hot 100. You will never ever get all the 6.6 billion people in the world to agree with you that Jessica Alba is the hottest girl in the world at the moment. Never. Beauty itself is subjective and as described by Socrates, something which we will never understand the underlying essence of it.

I did some soul-searching and this is how i interpret Beauty. Beauty is a feeling we get when invoked by our sense of pattern matching.

I was playing around with the piano in my friend’s house… for fun. Having no knowledge with the instrument, what i did was just simply poking around the keys and see what tune i could come out with. But it was utterly boring and meaningless. That’s when i realised something cool – you can’t compose a good piece of music with a piano by just randomly jumble up the tunes and call it .. “music”. A beautiful piece of music has a smooth constant flow of patterned rhythm and tunes. It is a flux which leads us from start to end and matches certain patterns inside us – An indescribable pattern which we already understand from start.

It is the same when looking at girl’s beauty. A typical desirable qualities of a girl are – long healthy hair, sharp and pointed nose, curvy body figure, shiny eyes, sharp chin, etc. There seem to be a systematic pattern which we will use to define beauty within us. I do not know how to explain it.

Something which i believe but cannot prove – There are 2 reasons why we perceive certain things as ugly or undesirable. One, it is too peculiar to our pattern-matching senses. And two, I believe we perceive certain animals or things as ugly because our inner mind tell us that it may be harmful to our body. Generally, we perceive snake, scorpion, spider, cockroach, corpse, feces, blood, as ugly or disgusting because there’s a high chances of us getting poisoned or infected when contacting them. So, by making us thinking that they are ugly, we will automatically avoid contact with them for our safety purposes – Evolution at work. Why do we think a panda looks better than a cockroach? Perhaps our instinct tell us that panda will be a safer meal to eat than a cockroach? I don’t eat panda of course, but i can imagine that since human is omnivorous by nature.

The ability to perceive beauty is an innate ability. No words can define what beauty is all about. What is beautiful to someone may not necessary be beautiful to other people. Therefore, nothing is pretty or ugly by default. It is up to the experience of the beholder to subjectively judge it. So, at the end of the day, what is the definition of beauty? I don’t know. I could describe it with my feelings, but not words.

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Written by elan85

February 26, 2008 at 4:07 am

Posted in Philosophy

One Response

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  1. Dont like it. It needs more about measuring beauty!!!!!!

    Mag

    June 11, 2008 at 7:57 pm


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