I just read a post on the WP blog “ANTILOGICALISM” at https://antilogicalism.com/2018/05/15/the-problem-of-atheism/. It is a fairly philosophical post, but I enjoyed reading it quite a bit, and enjoyed responding to it even more. So, I keyed on a certain 2 quotes from this post, and here is my response…
Keiji Nishitani — “The seriousness of this new humanism is that such a restoration is possible only through a denial of God.”
rawgod — In my philosophy, although the concept of a god, or gods, or a super-being, or super-beings, is something that can be spoken to, a denial of same is absolutely not necessary to speak of life. Since all above concepts are inventions of humans, they will, like all human inventions, eventually pass into non-being, and there will come a time someone reading such a composition will have few points of reference. To deny something is to give that something value, but I personally see no value in any of these concepts at this time and in this place. I am an atheist, I do not accept the beingness of the objects of these concepts, and this is the total of my dealing with them.
However, I am not just an atheist, I am a spiritual atheist. I personally am aware of other states or planes of existence, forms of beingness that do not and cannot exist on this plane, or in this state. Some are places for After-Death, which can be equal to places Before-Birth, when contemplating thoughts about life and being on this worldly, or even universal plane. Others are states or planes of existence that could pre-date our plane, but definitely there are planes that post-date our plane. But I am not about to deal with them here, since the subject of the post is life on Earth, so the commentary should focus on life on Earth. To wit:
One of humanity’s biggest problems is that it sets itself apart, for the vast majority of humans, from all other forms and species of life. This gives rise to the idea that all other things, living or non-living, exist only to serve the purposes of humanity. The writer, Keiji Nishitani, has offered up some Buddhist principles to help differentiate certain western ideas from other ideas, hoping to widen the field of play to incorporate other ways of considering the world. They may or may not accomplish his goal, that is not for me to say. However, I prefer to widen the field of play to incorporate other ways of considering life. Humanism is only one part of life, albeit I am human. Before being human, I am a living being–no species necessary.
Keiji –“Involved in the problem of the essence of human being are the questions, “What is a human being?” and “By what values should one live?”
rawgod–Being human does not mean to individualize humanity to all other living beings, but rather to find where we fit in that order, if there were such a thing as order–I do not believe there is, except the order to which we try to force life into. We are a very egotistical species, we who call ourselves human. We look at all other forms of life, and judge those lifeforms in human terms. This is not a long-viable approach to life. It has lasted for thousands of years, I grant you, but thousands of years are not even a blink in the eye of Earth, and much less in the eye of the universe. If you can consider the cosmos at all, thousands of years are not even a microsecond in our concept of time. To have value to the cosmos, humans must successfully exist for at least millions of years, but this is not assured.
Therefore, let me move on to the second question asked above, “By what values should one live?” This question pre-supposes the concept there is a way that we “should” live.” Should is a loaded word, full of obligation, and refers to an attempt to make life orderly. Life is not orderly, and never has been, though many believe it can be made that way. Order precludes accidents, and accidents happen all the time. By their very definition, accidents are things “not expected to happen, not part of order.” If there were a way humans should live, we should not ever have accidents. But since we do have accidents, there can be no order, no matter how much we try to make life so.
So let us reword the question to “By what values will we live?” The word values is also a loaded word, but not in the same way as the word should is. Values also implies an attempt at order, but this word is not so absolute. Using the plural word “values,” we are not restricting the possibilities of how a being will live, but more “hoping” a being will live by values that have a positive affect on oneself, as well as others. But again, humans being who they are, generally only want to apply any such values to human life, and to hell with any other kinds of life. Human life is the only kind of life that matters. But human life cannot exist without other kinds of life. Life feeds upon life. Humans need food to exist, and except for vitamin pills and mineral pills, and suchlike man-made foods, humans exist and survive on the carcasses of once-living plants and animals. All life, except some of the most basic beings in the world, survive to some extent on what was once living matter. The higher up the food chain one goes, the more true that statement becomes. But this only speaks to values in an indirect way. We value other living things by the matter they leave behind when they die, OR ARE KILLED.
Let us look at other types of values, in general, rather than in specifics. How we treat others, respect, compassion, empathy, love, hatred, bigotry, murder, infliction of pain, healing of injuries, and oh so many more, these are values that we use in our relationships to others, and with others. Generally, we feel it is important to treat others as we wish to have others treat ourselves. But how often do we throw these values aside according to the time and place of where we are, or where we recently were, or where we want to be. Values are easy to talk about, but they are very difficult to live by. What is even the use of having them in the first place? Because we want to feel superior to those who do not act in ways we feel our values give us precedence for having. But yet, one of the values many of us have is the value of all being equal in our basic being. Equality, while possibly real in certain ways, is a joke in most ways. What is the value of being equal if we do not live equally? We do not live equally! There is no value at all!
The same can be said for almost every value humans can think of. Values are merely concepts of ideas of actions we would like others to take so as not to hurt us.
But those values, worthless as they are, are seldom put into play when thinking of other species, or other lifeforms. Remember, we are the top of the food chain. Right? Wrong! Our dead bodies are eaten by all kinds of insects, bacteria, viruses, and especially maggots. There is no top of the food circle, biologically speaking. It goes round and round and round.
But were we to look at our spiritual beings, that which exists inside of us, but outside of physical reality, what would we see? Again, humans like to see themselves at the top of the spiritual ladder, if they even entertain the concept of a spiritual anything. But we are again not at the top of anything. Because, spiritually-speaking, all living beings really are equal. They have what we call the spirit of life, and because we are all alive, we are equal at our deepest cores. We are not the only beings on Earth, in the universe, or as part of the cosmos to have spirit. Life is spirit.
Remember, I changed the original second question above from “By what values should one live?” to “By what values will we live? I made this change because the verb should is basically meaningless. Life knows no order, and all attempts to impose order are, for the most part, useless. Accidents happen. Next, I challenged the use of the words values, and turned them into meaningless phrases that are only paid attention to when useful to the holder of said values. So where does that leave us?
We are left the the signifying verb, will. I am not using the word will here to discuss mental power, as in having the will to quit smoking. I am merely using the word will to express future action, as in, we will live however we want to live, or, we will go to the park this afternoon. It is an intentional verb of sorts, but really it only gives the possibility of intention, making it conditional on future events. So, when I ask the question By what values will we live? I am asking if, assuming everything goes according to our plans, how will we respond to them. So, if we were to make a list of values we perceive as meaningful to our lives, will we live by them? Based on humanity and the way it acts as we presently know it, the easy answer is, No, most will not. We may want to, we may try to, but situations will always come up where we will act against our best intentions. Mothers will defend their babies to someone’s death, even their own, if a perceived threat becomes potentially real. They see their child walk close to a wild bear, and they go on full alert. They remember their value, do not do any harm to anyone, but this is not an anyone, it is only a bear, and it is threatening my baby. This woman is a member of the American NRA, she will have a rifle ready, even if her only purpose of having it is target shooting. As she goes to get the gun, she is not thinking, My child was not supposed to go near bears, so it is his or her fault for disturbing the bear! No, she is thinking the bear might harm my child. Now she has the gun, loaded it, and readies herself to use it if necessary. Then she sees a bear cub come out of the bushes on the other side of her child from the bear. She knows bears will hurt anything that comes between her and the cub. She gives no thought at all to the idea that if the bear were to do anything, it would just be defending her own cub as best she knows how. Nor does she take into account most wildlife, even bears, realize that babies of any species are not generally threats to anyone. No, she will only remember hearing a story of a bear hurting a baby, and as soon as this bear takes one step towards her own cub, which means a step towards the woman’s child, she fires the gun, killing the mother bear, and orphaning the cub. But does she yet care? No, all she cares is her baby is safe, and she has to get away from this place of danger. She grabs her child, and drives quickly away.
Despite the woman’s value of not hurting anyone, she intentionally killed a mother bear. The bear did not even threaten the baby. All it did was take a step towards her own cub. But the mother did not see any of that, she thought only of protecting her child. She threw away her value for what she thought might happen, whether it might have happened her not. She will not live by her value. And neither will most people, not even in a potentially dangerous situation as this.
So do we humans forgive the mother for unnecessarily killing the bear? Most humans do. I will not. She had other choices, like making loud noises to chase the bear away, distracting the bear to lead it away from the child, walking up, without fear, picking her child up, and backing away, just for starters. But the mother is not thinking, she is acting on the same instinct the mother bear might be acting on. Does any of this absolve her of guilt? No! But most humans, as I said before, will look at her humanness, and forgive the killing of a non-human. This is unacceptable. The bear has as much right to life as does the mother, or even the child. In fact, in this situation, the bear has more right to live. The woman, though acting through instinct as is the mother bear, is awake, sentient, and able to reason, all she has to do is shrug off the instinct. The bear, as far as we know, is awake, is possibly sentient, but as far as we know, not able to reason. But now we can never know, the bear is dead. The cub has no mother to teach it. Chances are good the child still being a baby in looks, would have been by-passed by the bear, there was no visible threat as far as she could see. We again will never know. The bear is dead. She cannot be brought back to life…
Will we act according to our values? Now we get to the we. The original question used the singular pronoun, one. One individual might be able to live by a particular value, maybe even two individuals might. But unless the above mother is one of those individuals, which she obviously was not, the bear might still be alive. But does talking about individuals really answer the intent of the question, “By what values will one act?” By referring to the previous question, “What is a human being?”, it could appear Nishitani is asking, “What is one human being?”, but really he is asking about all human beings. Human beings are all alike biologically, and according to some psychologists, even mentally. So “What is one human being,” can easily be understood to be, “What are human beings–all human beings.” After all, “We’re all one.” So this now changes the second question to, “By what values should all humans act?” All humans includes all of us, living, dead, or still to live. So, the 1st person plural pronoun we can easily replace the third person singular, one.” Having already changed the obligation-loaded verb should to the futuristic form of “be,” will, the question in its simplest term becomes, “By what values will we live?”
As I have shown above, we likely will not live by any values if the opportunity to not live by those values forces itself upon us. Why not? Because we are human. We think of our selves first, or extensions of our selves such as children, maybe spouses, other loved ones. Anyone else is, first by virtue of not being connected to the self, next by not being human (in whatever way you choose to define human), not worthy of our consideration. Does this really make us human? Is this what humanism (that which constitutes the essence of the human, by species or by individuals) is all about, being better, more important, than anything or anyone else? If it is, I want no part of it. I may be human, but I am no more important than the fly that lays the eggs from which will hatch the maggots that would eat my dead body, were I not intending to be cremated.
All life is equal, in my opinion.
All in all, the questions asked at the start of this comment by the writer, Keiji Nishitani, may be important, but to me their importance lies in the difference between humanism, and spiritual atheism. I cannot, and do not, speak for anyone else. For myself, humans are but a link in the endless chain of life, and values need to be something you cannot only believe in, but something you can and will abide by. Otherwise it’s value is zero.