Category Archives: Social Change

Taking Liberties with Tolerance

Heart and Courage

The media is often criticized for content that is perpetually saturated with bad news. We often hear accusations of “fear mongering” and at the same time we hear that what people really want from their news sources are the juicy tidbits and the shocking stories. The unfortunate side effect of an emphasis on disasters, accidents, murders, and wars is widespread social anxiety, fear, and even terror. As our focus becomes fear, we don’t often see stories on the remedy.

This remedy is often described in terms of bravery and heroic acts, but it is actually the day-to-day courage that we must learn to cultivate in stressful times.  Courage strengthens and emboldens us; it shines a light upon our actions, and provides ethical and moral justification for our choices; courage  allows us to be effective and to have confidence in ourselves.

The etymological root of the English word courage is the Latin cor (heart). To have courage is to have the heart to face fear, danger, or pain in defense of hearth, home, life, livelihood, family, culture or beliefs.

What seems particularly and increasingly difficult for our politicians on either side of the aisle is moral courage. In moral courage one stands for what one knows is right even when one risks social shame, exclusion, gossip, scandal, or disappointment. Moral courage in turn emboldens a civil courage in which individual citizens have the courage to stand up against injustice despite the likelihood that their actions may lead to loss of freedom, life, or reputation (or, in the case of politicians, failure to get re-elected).

Having the heart to stand against social atrocities (the resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto), the heart to stand for political freedoms (against the tank in Tienanmen Square), or the heart to speak out against tyranny, (Civil Rights Movements), requires courage as a primary ingredient. We don’t often see  examples of this civil courage from our politicians who are usually ruled by polls, money, lobbyists, and the overarching desire to get re-elected.

This makes really remarkable President Obama’s recent decision to speak against what would appear to be his party’s interests, and in favor of the erection of a mosque near Manhattan’s Ground Zero. We are approaching midterm elections and the political wisdom emphasizes playing it safe. Politicians are masters at saying a “whole lot of nothing”. In the face of a growing swell of racial, ethnic, and religious intolerance that appears to be viewed as an acceptable political position among those candidates who choose to embrace what increasingly seems to have the backing of significant numbers of short-sighted bigots, the President’s decision to speak for the Constitutional rights of Muslims is risky and somewhat surprising.

Defending the Constitution

It’s odd when it becomes surprising for the President to defend the Constitution. There seems to be a fair amount of that going around. Why, at this rate we might even see justice become blind to the genders of individual couples wishing to marry! After all, without doing a panty check it’s really just two people who apply for a license to enter into a marriage contract–not two opposite sex individuals. Perhaps one day we’ll have a President who supports the constitutional rights of any couple to marry regardless of gender. In the meantime, we’ve witnessed a very big step towards tolerance.

The arguments against building a mosque near the site of the September 11 attacks, while cloaked in a veil of sensitivity for the families of the victims of September 11th, are actually not only unfounded but truly dangerous to what is often characterized as “The American Way of Life”. They are a threat not just to religious freedom but to everything we have come to treasure about America.

‘We feel that it (site of the towers) is a cemetery and sacred ground and the dead should be honored,’ is one common argument against the mosque. I fail to see how the building of an American Muslim mosque in a country that has suffered an attack by fundamentalist terrorists seeking to defeat our values of freedom and tolerance does not actually honor the dead! It is not a monument to terror to build this mosque. On the contrary, it is a monument to the beauty of America where places of minority religious belief can be built regardless of intolerance and ignorance.

The argument against the mosque seems to go something like: ‘The September 11 terrorists were Islamic, and therefore all Muslims are terrorists.’


Huh?! The hijackers were fringe terrorists and their ideas were not representative of the teachings of Islam, they were actually a stark example of the dangers of fundamentalism. Fundamentalist thinking clearly occurs in all sorts of religions and systems of belief.

This rising tide of fury about Muslims in New York who wish to build a mosque close to the hallowed ground of the fallen towers goes hand in hand with our own home grown and dangerous fundamentalism. There seems to be an increasing willingness to accept intolerance, demonization of the other, and general hate speech.

What’s really dismaying is that some people are using the deaths of loved ones on September 11 as if these deaths give them some sort of justification to hate indiscriminately. They seem blind to the underlying similarity between the thinking of the terrorists and their current actions and mindsets. In their hurt and anger they appear to have lost the ability somewhere along the way to sort out the difference between feelings and ideas.

When we are willing to transgress against the rights of all people of another religion regardless of their actual beliefs, we have become our own enemies. To do this because we were attacked by fundamentalists reminds me of the psychological observation that the children of abuse so often grow up to become abusers themselves.

One family member of a fallen fireman who died in the towers, recently told the New York Times that “People are being accused of being anti-Muslim and racist, but this is simply a matter of sensitivity.”

Why is it lacking in sensitivity to build a sacred cultural center for cross religious dialog near the site of an atrocity rooted in intolerance. Is it not sensitive to the memory of those who died that a group of Muslims wish to take actions which might defuse some of the misunderstandings and lead to peace and communication between previously alienated peoples? It was, after all, a climate of misunderstanding and alienation that led to those attacks in the first place.

It seems appropriate to reiterate the words of an Islamic relative of another fireman who died in those same falling towers who remarked in frustrated response to the intolerance: ‘Maybe if a mosque were built you guys would know what Islam is about!’

It defies rationality to label a religious structure intended to promote understanding and dialog as a “monument to terrorism”. In fact, a building intended to educate Muslims in tolerance and peace is a structure that supports the exact opposite of terrorism. There is no doubt that there is a growing element of intolerance around the world that exploits Islam.

Opposing Intolerance

What we are dealing with here is not really an appeal for “sensitivity” but fear mongering and hate. One of those opposed to the mosque, for example, is the Reverend Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Florida. He is planning to host a “burn the Qur’an” day on September 11 with the argument that he is “exposing Islam for what it is”. Sporting a sign on the church lawn reading “Islam is the Devil”, he describes Islam as “a violent and oppressive religion that is trying to masquerade itself as a religion of peace, seeking to deceive our society…”

I find it odd that Reverend Jones fails to see that by his reasoning his religion must then be equally tarred with the obvious Nazi-like action of book burning.

How does burning the Qur’an help fight Islamic intolerance?

What is truly scary about this current increase in hate and intolerance is that it is being exploited by politicians as we approach the mid-term elections.

Sarah Palin opposes the building of the mosque saying that while President Obama is right that Muslims have the right to build in lower Manhattan, he fails to address the question as to whether they should. Of course they should! It provides us all with the chance to explore causes of polarization and intolerance and to have the courage to stand up for religious freedom! Having the courage to stand up for the right of Muslims to build this mosque is exactly what we all should be encouraging. The mosque is an opportunity!

Newt Gingrich, possibly a future candidate for President Obama’s job, has gone so far as to warn that American Muslims are a mortal threat to freedom and are attempting to impose sharia law in the US.

I find it ironic that there is such narrow interpretation inherent in this sort of thinking. After all, if we are going to extrapolate, why limit the extrapolation to Muslims?

When you think about it, arguing against a mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in Manhattan is roughly equivalent to an argument that there should be no Republican Party or NRA offices near the site of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. After all, our home grown terrorist Timothy McVeigh was both a Republican and he joined the NRA. Come to think of it, he was also Christian.

Perhaps there should be no sushi bars or Zen centers in Hawaii. Too close to Pearl Harbor, right? Or possibly there should be no Catholic churches in California because of the murder and enslavement of the descendants of the First People of that state. Come to think of it, that goes for Manhattan also, perhaps the presence of any Christian churches in Manhattan should be questioned because of contemporary Christian justifications for the exploitation and displacement of the first inhabitants of that island.

The potentially absurd and hateful extrapolations are endless. I found a bumper sticker I saw once funny, it read: “US Out of North America”, but while it made me laugh, it fails to consider that we are all of us, all people of the world, in this together. The tendency to hate and foster bigotry is a social and psychological disease. It needs to be quickly addressed when it crops up or it spreads like the plague. Hateful intolerance also presents us with an ethical and moral problem.

Thankfully, we are not having to deal with the sorts of daily insanity (at least not yet) that the people of Israel and Palestine are wrestling with, and hopefully we don’t choose to go down a further similarly polarized road of mutual intolerance. We haven’t been around as a nation for very long, and history is rife with awful examples of what happens when civilizations embrace this sort of thinking.

It seems so much easier to hate than to forgive, particularly when the people we need to forgive are different from us. During WWII it was the Japanese-Americans who were incarcerated in concentration camps in America, and not the German-Americans. When we demonize the other we risk becoming exactly what we hate and fear. Our intolerance blinds us from the paradoxical nature of our thoughts. If we judge all Muslims by the actions of crazed and intolerant fundamentalists, if we then oppose the building of a mosque near Ground Zero for those sorts of reasons, we are ourselves the ones threatening American freedom and democracy.

There is no doubt that we need to be sensitive to those who have lost loved ones in the September 11 attacks. Sensitivity however should not be confused with supporting fear and hatred. A good way to remember and memorialize the deaths on that awful day in Manhattan is to focus upon preserving the beauty the terrorists were attacking. What better way than to honor that unique document which truly set in motion such amazing and beautiful ideas about equality, truth and justice. To do anything less than take a stand against bigotry is truly “Un-American”.


All material included here is copyright Maerian Morris and Westernesste. All rights reserved.

Pt.4-Magic 299-Grounding Earth religions & Human Potential philosophies

Wow! This Has Been Getting Interesting!

I’ve been working  for awhile now on this project. I don’t think I realized how interesting it would be for me personally to approach the wide-ranging material on Classical Western philosophy with a specific focus and intent rather than considering it more broadly. I find myself following tangential informational paths of interest, and then having to reel myself back in to seek the specific threads that relate to the two axioms that prompted this exploration. I have been spending my early mornings, some of my lunches and most of my nights and weekends in a sea of amazing ancient writings, thoughts and information.

When I began this project it was almost on a whim that grew out of a periodic “pet peeve” I have with credulity, blanket statements, and claims about “truth” or “what is”. I had also noticed a general tendency among many modern Pagans and New Age thinkers to base their actions, including spiritual, religious, and magical practices, upon a cluster of significant ideas without necessarily knowing where those ideas come from. I realized that we can use a pen without knowing how ink is made; we can type on our computers without needing any understanding of motherboards and electrons, but I also knew that information specific to an understanding of where our ideas come from can be enriching and powerful. I also knew that I was uncomfortable with the two axioms I’ve chosen to explore here, again, these are: the belief or assertion that we “create our own realities” and the claim that each individual is 100% responsible for all occurrences in their lives. I even knew, albeit rather foggily, why I had these concerns, and I had some unrefreshed memory about where the ideas come from, possible alternative interpretations, useful aspects in spiritual or magical practice, and risks and logical fallacies. However, as I said this understanding was “foggy” and the context was “unrefreshed”. Cleaning the philosophical spectacles has been very inspiring.

What’s personally been really entertaining is the focused revisiting and the discovery of new ( to me) information about early metaphysical and Pagan philosophy. I have to say, I’m loving it. Philo Sophia.


At the same time, part of me is feeling impatient–I know I need to get the underlying and foundational ideas out there and into some sort of perspective before I can begin to really think about and discuss aspects of these two axioms, but I keep wanting to jump ahead to the analysis and I haven’t even gotten out of the Classical era yet. And there are all those German philosophers who weighed in on this, and then there are the more recent roots of modern esoteric thought! However, I will keep plugging away at this, get the hereditary roots of magical philosophy onto the page and then, I get the feeling I’ll have a wild adventure synthesizing the meanings.

So, without further ado, the next installment:

Neoplatonism and the Rise of Christianity

This post is the fourth in a discussion and criticism of the roots, context, spiritual and philosophical significance of the widespread related axioms of reality formation, i.e. “We create our own realities” and “responsibility assumption”, or the belief that all individuals are 100% personally responsible for what happens in their lives. I will again provide links for further detail from Wikipedia and elsewhere.

The previous post examined later Hellenic and Hellenistic Classical thinking that can be seen as related in a foundational manner to our two topics, particularly looking at Stoicism and Skepticism. Towards the later period in question, the rise of Christianity in Rome dramatically impacted the previously poly- and pantheistic Western perspectives.

was last in the line of Classical Pagan philosophies. Synthesizing the work of Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics and the esoteric interpretations of classical Hellenic mathematics and practices from Pythagoras, Neoplatonic thought blended philosophical, mythical and metaphysical concepts and served as a last bastion of Hellenic Paganism during the rise of an increasingly hostile monotheistic and Christian dominance. Neoplatonic thought can be seen as not just an eclectic approach to Hellenic philosophical concepts but a synthesis of many of the most important ideas. Aristotle’s logic and philosophical method are oddly countered by a Skeptism particularly of empirical knowledge. Neoplatonism’s desire to aspire to goodness and virtue through a metaphysical dialectic is derived from Plato’s Socratic Dialogs. Neoplatonic thought also draws from Stoic ethics while sharing the Stoic perspective of the action of the Divine in Nature as well as Stoic interpretations of the origin of matter. Neoplatonic thought is important to a discussion of the roots of our two axioms of reality formation and 100% personal responsibility for outcomes in our lives, partly because of ways in which Neoplatonism informed the much later development of Theosophy which will be addressed in another post. Of specific importance to modern ideas about reality formation and personal responsibility for individual outcomes are the Neoplatonic ideas about the relationship of the Soul to extrinsic reality.

A critical Neoplatonic voice is that of Plotinus who felt that engaging in a dialectic allows the Soul to discover its status as an intimate governor of Nature. Plotinus discusses the relation of the individual soul to the All-Soul. He describes the individual soul as independent of the highest Soul to demonstrate how the forgetful soul can fall into an illusion of separation. In The Enneads however he specifically insists that the individual soul and the All-Soul are one and that Nature is the Soul’s expressive act. Plotinus posited that the Universe is an analogue of the experience of the Soul, and he developed a system by which the Soul naturally comes to know itself in relation to its acts, which results in the attainment of full self-consciousness.

Specifically, it is in Neoplatonism that we see an effort to clarify how individual souls can directly engage with Nature through dialectic. While some believed that is impossible to understand Divine Nature through reason, and the soul is therefore not capable of rising to a Platonic goal of perfect knowledge beyond change, Neoplatonic thinkers posited that it is through the dialectic that the soul attempts to recover from its forgetfulness of Divinity and once again know reality.

“God is not external to anyone, but is present within all things, though they are ignorant that he is so.” –Plotinus

Specifically, Plotinus’ description of the Soul as an essentially creative being which understands existence on its own terms, is of importance to the development of the axioms in question. It is clear that early ideas about reality formation are best expressed in Neoplatonic ideas such as that of Proclus who in Platonic Theology III stated that:

 “The thought of every man is identical with the existence of every man, and each is both the thought and the existence”.

The origins of Neoplatonism can be traced back to the era of Hellenistic syncretism which also spawned such movements and schools of thought as Gnosticism and the Hermetic tradition. A major factor in this syncretism, and one which had an immense influence on the development of Platonic thought, was the introduction of the Jewish Scriptures into Greek intellectual circles via the translation known as the Septuagint. The encounter between the creation narrative of Genesis and the cosmology of Plato’s Timaeus  set in motion a long tradition of cosmological theorizing.

Because this “Magic 299” discussion takes as its particular focus the philosophical context for modern eclectic and primarily non-montheistic individuals in the Neo-Pagan, Magical, New Age and Gaian communities, I am not going to spend a lot of time exploring monotheistic viewpoints unless they directly contribute to either of the two axioms in question. For those interested in that there’s a ton of information out there from Islamic, Christian and Jewish religious thinkers and teachers. A good place to start for those who do wish to explore the dominant religious viewpoints is the Pacific School of Religion. I will touch upon Western and Middle Eastern philosophies from around the time of the spread of Christianity that specifically contribute to or shed light upon the two axioms in question.

I closed Part Three with the following sentence:

“As skepticism influenced nearly all other Greek philosophies, Hellenic and later Roman philosophies came to take it for granted that certain knowledge is impossible and they turned to focus upon that knowledge which could be deemed to be true most of the time.”

While I just said above that I am not going to be spending a lot of time on monotheistic perspectives, there is an important issue that applies here. It also allows for a transition from the Paleo-pagan and Neoplatonic thought to later contributions to our topic.

Specifically, I want to talk about how early Christian thought drew upon or rejected the two schools of thought I discussed in part three. Much of the history of early Christian philosophy is an attempt to superimpose the new religion over Greek and Roman philosophical methods which had increasingly embraced Stoicism and Skepticism and the related idea of probable knowledge and uncertainty.

Early Roman Christians faced a dilemma as Christian philosophy was far more concerned with, and even demanded, an absolute and certain knowledge of the divine and of Christian ethical precepts, and this perspective directly contradicts Hellenic and Hellenistic ideas about probable knowledge. It became increasingly important to distinguish between “the true religion” and ideas rooted in various Pagan philosophies. One of the original Christian “missionaries”, Paul of Tarsus, addressed this problem by claiming that he was spreading the knowledge of God, while the knowledge of the Hellenes was “human knowledge” and therefore the knowledge of fools. Christian knowledge, which rejects the human reasoning which might lead to skepticism, was described as the wise knowledge. This approach resulted in Christianity taking a strong anti-rational position from its inception.

The Christians were competing however with a very well-established and powerful cluster of beliefs and philosophies. As with the destruction, usurpation and re-purposing of Pagan sculpture, art, architecture and temples, what early Christians could not destroy they chose to preempt. Much of the history of early Christian theology and philosophy is therefore an attempt to superimpose the new religion over Greek and Roman philosophical methods which were based on Skepticism and probable knowledge.

So early Christian thinkers such as St. Augustine and Boethius adapted some of the Aristotelian, Platonic, and Stoic traditions of Greece and Rome to demonstrate that one could in fact arrive at certain knowledge, at least in matters of Christian religion and divinity.

While Stoicism was regarded by Christians as a pagan philosophy, nonetheless, they did “retool” certain important  terms from that philosophical viewpoint. This includes the use of language such as “virtue “, “spirit “, “conscience ” and “logos “. Additionally, the Christians did not simply borrow a useful terminology from the Stoics. They also embraced and created a synchretic religious perspective based upon shared philosophical beliefs such as the Stoic and Christian concept of an intrinsic free will in the face of extrinsic reality, assertions of a human kinship with God, and a belief in the innate weakness or “evil” of mankind. Both Stoicism and Christianity also advocated restraint of the passions and the “lower” emotions so that human potential could be developed.

This idea of “working on oneself for spiritual betterment” is also tied to modern ideas of personal responsibility and reality formation.

“Withdraw into yourself and look. And if you do not find yourself beautiful yet, act as does the creator of a statue that is to be made beautiful: he cuts away here, he smooths there, he makes this line lighter, this other purer, until a lovely face has grown from his work. So do you also: cut away all that is excessive, straighten all that is crooked, bring light to all that is overcast, labor to make all one glow or beauty and never cease chiseling your statue, until there shall shine out on you from it the godlike splendor of virtue, until you see the perfect goodness surely established in the stainless shrine” –Plotinus

All material included here is copyright Maerian Morris and Westernesste. All rights reserved.

Magic 299–Grounding Earth religions & Human Potential philosophies–Pt. 3

More Hellenic and Hellenistic Contexts for Responsibility & Reality Formation

This post is the third in a discussion and criticism of the roots, context, spiritual and philosophical significance of the widespread related axioms of reality formation, i.e. “We create our own realities” and “responsibility assumption”, or the belief that all individuals are 100% personally responsible for what happens in their lives.

The previous post examined early Classical thinking that is foundational to the question, this post will discuss some slightly more recent Hellenic thinking that also relates. Again, I will provide jump off links from Wikipedia and other useful sites for readers who may wish to explore aspects of these topics in greater detail.

The previous post touched upon intrinsic and extrinsic aspects of our perceptions of cause and reality. Plato placed knowledge in thought, and reality, therefore, in the ideal form. There is a reasonable tendency to perceive an inner and an outer reality, a reality of what is sensed externally–physical reality–and an inner reality of thoughts and feelings. It is not surprising that we conflate extrinsic, or physical reality with the intrinsic consciousness that experiences it. It is also not surprising that over the millennia we have attempted to reconcile deterministic ideas with free will and have argued over both the teleological and causal meanings of the conclusions we draw from our experiences.

In Western Classical thought regarding this, the Stoics directly explored the relationship between free will and determinism finding that the most desirable path is one that incorporates will that acts in accordance with laws of Nature. Philosophy then, became practice.

Of course, in order to act in accordance with Nature’s laws, one would have to know what they are. This would, the Stoics taught, require one to develop logic, ethics, and self control to bring negative thoughts and emotions under control and allow for accurate perception and interpretation of logos, or the divine animating principle pervading the Universe.

This divine animating principle of logos (which also to the ancient Greek meant language and reason) was seen to be a primordial and material element of fire. This tangible, material flame of being was combined by the Stoics with Hellenic pantheistic ideas and the fire came to be seen as an expression of a primal and causal divinity. All things were seen to be composed of this divine flame including the human soul.

At the same time, the Stoics saw this Divinity as reason. Reason was seen as the expression of the Divine Fire, or in other words the Fire is a rational element. Extrapolating from this pervasive divine reason, the Stoics determined that there is a harmonious, divine order and purpose to the universe and that this design is embodied in an absolute law of Nature. The Stoics therefore came down on the side of determinism over free will. Our acts may be chosen and voluntary but they are governed by a necessity born in Divine Nature.

Stoic ethics then, are composed of two principles:

One, that there are no exceptions to the governing Law of the Universe;
Two, that human nature is based in reason.

These principles are both articulated in the important Stoic maxim: “Live according to Nature.” This was seen to mean that humans should conform themselves to the laws of the universe and learn to pay attention to and act upon their own essential nature to be found in and through reason.

An important stoic contribution to ethics and to our ultimate topic of personal responsibility and reality formation can be found in the Stoic belief that it is an individual’s responsibility to be virtuous and that this virtue arises out of reason in harmony with Nature.

In criticisms of stoicism we can also find ideas that will be of use later in our discussion of reality formation and personal responsibility.

One problem with Stoicism involves the logical paradox to be found in their concepts of free will and determinism particularly when expressed in terms of a belief in predestination. If all is predestined then arguments to personally develop or to cultivate indifference seems paradoxical.

Another problem can be found in the question of the social consequences of a widespread Stoic encouragement of a cultivated indifference and a concern that such indifference defies reason. Indifference if practiced widely would appear heartless: a father would not appear affected by death of his child, and for all of us to encourage within ourselves an apparent uncaring, even sociopathic callousness seems paradoxical with what we see in natural law. A likely outcome might be an apathetic approach to life which might manifest in neglect of family or social responsibility. It is often because we love and care and suffer when we see others suffer that we are motivated to take action to protect ourselves and others.

There is some indication in Stoic texts which suggest that the Stoics did attempt to address the paradoxical conflict between a deterministic universal causality and free will. There is an excellent discussion that delves more deeply into these issues and Stoic ethics and philosophy of mind at The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy . They point to the following texts which indicate a mitigated or “soft” determinism:

“Chrysippus used the illustration of a cylinder rolling down a hill as an analogy for actions that are within our control (Cicero and Gellius, 62C-D). It is true that the force that starts its motion is external to it. This is analogous to the impressions we have of the world. But it rolls because of its shape. This is analogous to our moral character. When our actions are mediated by our characters, then they are ‘up to us’. Thus, if I see an unattended sandwich and, because I am a dishonest person, steal it, then this is up to me and I am responsible. All things come about by fate but this is brought about by fate through me(Alex. Aphr. 62G). When, however, I trip and fall, knocking your sandwich to the floor, this is not up to me. The chain of causes and effects does not flow through my beliefs and desires.”

This analysis is also important in our later consideration of ideas about total personal responsibility for all outcomes.

There were also contemporary criticisms of Stoic philosophy. A great examination of this and of Stoicism in general can be found at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy which points to the arguments of Galen, Posidonius, and Cicero:

“The medical writer and philosopher Galen defended the Platonic account of emotions as a product of an irrational part of the soul. Posidonius, a 1st c. BCE Stoic… (criticized) …the psychology of emotions, and developed a position that recognized the influence in the mind of something like Plato’s irrational soul-parts. The other opposition to the Stoic doctrine came from philosophers in the Aristotelian tradition. They,like the Stoics, made judgment a component in emotions. But they argued that the happy life required the moderation of the passions, not their complete extinction. Cicero’s Tusculan Disputations, books III and IV take up the question of whether itis possible and desirable to rid oneself of the emotions.”

Disputes over knowledge and truth in ethics and philosophy gave birth to the Skeptic tradition (Stanford Encyclopedia discusses Skepticism here and Wikipedia’s entry is here. The Skeptic tradition can be traced back to Pyrrho of Elis who found himself frustrated and overwhelmed by the attempt to sort out rationally which school of thought had the right approach. Developing  distrust of the lofty and complicated language involved in trying to understand issues of causation Skeptics decided to drop the nonsense and advocate instead the seeking of ataraxia, or peace of mind. They claimed that as it did not appear to matter whether you believed in a particular tradition or not, as people who were unaware of the disputes appeared to get along quite well without knowing the details about them. They also pointed out that faith and belief in intelligible realities is not required in order for them to “work” and that as it is impossible to directly perceive causation or purpose, it was therefore a waste of time to try.

There are two basic precepts that arose out of this thinking: that there is no such thing as certainty in human knowledge, and that all human knowledge is only probably true, that is, it might not be true, or it might be true much of the time, but not always.

As skepticism influenced nearly all other Greek philosophies, Hellenic and later Roman philosophies came to take it for granted that certain knowledge is impossible and they turned to focus upon that knowledge which could be deemed to be true most of the time.

All material included here is copyright Maerian Morris and Westernesste. All rights reserved.