I am a pessimist. When I was a 17 year old hippie, I was an ardent
romantic, and I still have that streak in me. But then reality hit,
and I became a pessimist. Generally speaking, its not a philosophy I
would recommend to anyone. It has one advantage though: Hardly
anything surprises me, and when it's a good surprise, I am very
pleased to be wrong.
Things I've learned after 40-plus years of studying psychology:
1. Qualities are in the world, not just in our brains. Just like
"round" and "square" are presented to us by our environment, so are
"blue", "B flat", "salty", "floral", etc. Even things like pain are
external to the brain, albeit within our bodies. On the other hand,
moods and emotions are qualities present in the mind-brain itself.
2. Consciousness is not terribly mysterious (although it is indeed
amazing). It is a matter of experiencing the world while at the same
time experience ourselves. Anticipation in particular gives
experiences a continuity. We view the world "through" our
anticipations, which arise continuously and are continuously
affirmed or, if not, adjusted by learning.
3. We are animals, and as animals we come equipped with numerous
instincts. Not everything is culture and learning! We may be more
apt to subdue these instincts than other creatures, but they are
always there. Because they evolved long ago, they are not always
practical in the modern world, making us misfits of sort, by our own
cultural and technological progress.
4. Which course of action we attempt to take is based upon how much
we value a that course of action, and nothing more. Those who tell
you to use willpower are those who never needed willpower to do what
they are telling you you need willpower to do.
5. In fact, will does not exist. All changes to the self come from
outside the self, whether it be trauma, education, drugs,
medications, your friends, family, or heros, books, movies, or
whatnot. "Pull yourself up by your bootstraps" is a stupid
6. Morality is not transcendent. It is rooted in nurturant and other
pro-social instincts, and broadened by social learning and reasoned
self-interest. It can be best summarized as compassion. However, it
does not correlate strongly with religion, as many so strongly
7. There is nothing outside of nature. No God or gods, no heaven or
hell, no afterlife, no reincarnation, no ghosts or demons, no esp or
clairvoyance or precognition. Just nature. Nature is incredibly
complex and beautiful, but one should never forget that she has a
heart of stone.
8. There is no reason for anything. There are "laws of nature" (and
even these may be more local than universal!), but no grand purpose.
It is what it is, and shit happens.
Perhaps you think this is a dismal philosophy and a good explanation
for my bouts of depression. But don't forget the joys of art, music,
books, movies, friends and family, a good meal, a good laugh, making
love, and beer.
So, as a now quite ancient hippie, I wish you peace, love, and
© C. George Boeree 2013