Tuesday, July 13, 2010
To Think for Oneself
Let us examine the three purposes of writing: to inform, entertain, and enlighten. To me, the second one is bottom of the list, though it is instrumental in the achievement of the two others. Every great teacher knows this intimately and readily laces his teachings with relevant and interesting stories, and humor. The first purpose, to inform, comes second in my mind, whereas the last, to enlighten, comes first. To explain my attitude, I think it appropriate to draw your attention to my book A REASON FOR LIVING, where both of these purposes are pursued. Part of my book relays factual or theoretical information about things like human physiology, nutrition, and universal evolution. This information relates to the current perception of reality in scientific circles. I am just a vehicle for it. Now, for two reasons, my role as a writer who informs his readers about scientific facts and theories comes second in my mind to my role as a philosopher who strives to enlighten his readers. My main reason is that I regard wisdom as paramount, whereas the knowledge of the material world (i.e., the constituents, structure, and workings thereof) is not equally important, however useful it is on a practical level. Conscience comes before science, which in itself is incapable of providing humans with a sense of what is good, right, or sacred – in a word, with moral principles. An example of science without conscience is the destruction of nature and the violation of human rights by rogue companies who are efficient in their use, or rather abuse, of their environment and their workers to satisfy their greed. My other reason is that my role as a writer who informs his readers about scientific facts and theories is indeed that of a mere vehicle. It is very much secondary to the role of researcher, which drives the scientific enterprise thanks to advanced instrumentation plus skillful, scholarly, and clever observations and rationalizations. By contrast, my role as a philosopher who strives to enlighten his readers is in the driver's seat, so to speak. Not only is it concerned with everything that makes life worth living and gives humans a sense of purpose, but also it does more than mirror the light of wisdom; it generates it by force of thinking on the basis of experience and study. Truth to tell, my readers can likewise think for themselves. They themselves can be philosophers and create their own wisdom while discovering and evaluating mine. Therefore, the light shining through in my book is there to help my readers see a range of weighty matters on which they can meditate to form their own thoughtful opinions about them. And since they can do so, I venture to argue that they should.