Head for the Ideal? Or Deal with the Practical?
How Should You Vote?
I read an article the other day by a philosopher who essentially said voting for third party candidates in the US is stupid. Politics, they ventured, was a practical game... praxis, not theoria… and it had no place for the ideal. He proposed since the political life is a form of the vita activa, not vita contemplativa, that those who vote for third-party candidates are almost in every instance wasting their vote.
I was gobsmacked, to be honest. Was this it? That’s the conclusion? Play their game, with nary another option in sight?
I wasn’t so sure.
Now, as a general rule, I don’t always like getting into politics. I’m more of an ‘us vs them’ rather than a ‘right vs left’ kind of gal. After all, if you’ve spent enough time living under different political systems (from theocracies and fragile democracies to overreaching republics and successful and unsuccessful ‘socialist’ models), they all sort of start to look the same. At least those in power do.
But I have been questioning this line of thinking. After all, in the words of the great Athenian general Pericles, just because you don’t take an interest in politics, doesn’t mean it doesn’t take an interest in you.
And ain't that the truth...
Plus, my recent conversation with Massimo Pigliucci on the Quest for Character has made me contemplate whether this fervent cynicism (in the modern sense) is just perpetuating the negative feedback loop. If we do have to get involved... how then can we make the change we want?
Which brings me to this week’s mailbag question, a moral and ethical question for the ages... one with real world consequences.
When going to the voting box... should we aim for representatives that might more closely align with our beliefs and philosophies, even if it’s ‘throwing away a vote’? Or make peace with the practical and accept flawed candidates that have a greater chance of winning?
Indeed, an equally important question is whether or not choosing the “Lesser of Two Evils” is ever moral? Is there something to be said about not being a party to evil at all? If enough people opt out, does it give those in power unrestrained authority... or take it away?
Essentially, when it comes to voting, should we head for the Ideal? Or deal with the practical?
Either way... whatever your candidate of choice is saying, if you vote for them, hold them accountable for what they say they are going to do. If you really want the change to happen, make them follow through.
This line of inquiry made me recall this 20+ year old rock clip, which I believe aged well:
As always, you can email me directly at email@example.com or reply to this email. I look forward to reading what you have to say!
In the meantime, there is still time to join our Members Only Roundtable Discussion on the Allegory of the cave. We’ll all be reading the original text (it’s only 8 pages long) and then discussing the ideas... whether they are physical, metaphysical, or indeed political.
Joining us will be Benjamin B. Olshin, former Professor of Philosophy, and author of many books including: Lost Knowledge: The Concept of Vanished Technologies and Other Human Histories as well as Deciphering Reality: Simulations, Tests, and Designs.
It will most definitely be an interesting conversation! If you aren’t a member yet, choose which subscription suits you best here:
Now, onto what makes you YOU? We have excellent, thought provoking responses (as always) that will certainly make you contemplate both time and yourself. It’s the Mind, Body, and Theseus ship... below.
All the best,
Founder and Director
What Makes you YOU? The Paradox of Theseus’ Ship
What makes you… you?
It’s an amalgam. There’s no one single thing, at any given time that defines you, by itself.
No one thing, that if dispensed with, would make you, not you.
It is an entire tapestry of things woven together. However, who you are is right now.
Picture the tapestry on the wall. It is comprised of thousands of threads, each individual. Take one out - it’s still the same tapestry. However, taken together as a whole, it hangs on the wall as a single entity, now, at the time you view it.
And you say… “That is the tapestry.”
That is how, “you,” works.
Very easy question to answer: I am not the man that I was. I am the man that I am. I will strive to be the man that I want to be. And who I want to be will evolve, as I should.
Considering this paradox, I think it's a mistake to confuse the material with the pattern, in the same way that a pulse of light is not the electromagnetic field, or a wave is not the ocean. The molecules that make up our bodies are just the medium upon which our dynamic pattern is carried. It's a bit more complicated than oscillating water molecules, but even down to the cellular level, no cell is made up of the same molecules moment-to-moment, and yet the cell-pattern carries onward. Our atoms are just blips in the quantum fields as they move from place to place.
What makes us "us" is our unique pattern of activity, which, like a wave, changes as it is piled up by the wind, travels across the ocean, crosses a bar, and breaks onto the shore. It crosses other waves to form peaks and valleys, gets ripped by the wind and punctured by ships bows, and carries on. Some end in a crash against a rocky shore, others dwindle to nothing over vast distances. This, I believe, is the "soul" of a person, the pattern of behavior that lives on in our memories and ripples through time by its small yet unique action upon the universe.
How about the modern version, the warship Aurora. That was the boat that provided cover for the Bolsheviks during the revolution. Turns out that the boat, continually tied up as a museum piece at the St. Petersburg harbor, became so rotted that the Soviets took it away and found it was too damaged to repair. So they duplicated the hull, and the alleged Aurora still stands proudly in St. Petersburg as a symbol of the October Revolution. That was one of the revelations after the Soviet Union collapsed.
What makes a person?
It's their thoughts and feelings. What makes me say this is how often do you see someone who is irrevocably changed from a physical illness or accident and their spouse/ partners says to them "Don't worry. You are still the person I love." Yet, we see a spouse have a really difficult time when their spouse/partner may have Dementia or Alzheimers, in which their personality is no longer there. Their partner is essentially "gone." It's extremely sad and troubling.
Our thoughts, attitudes, feelings, beliefs, etc. make us who we are.
Regarding this bit of text: Moreover, which you is ‘who’? The person you are today? Ten years ago? Or in the future?
There is only now; Ten years ago no longer is; The future is not; Only now is, was and will be. We are the collective infinities of parts and thoughts, at every present moment, moving through life as we experience time thanks to a few of said parts.
There is real wisdom in living the present moment in full consciousness.
This is good thinking about a thinking exercise. Is the ship Theseus' or not, after much rebuilding and replacement? So, if one has a hip replacement, a pacemaker, etc., who are we? Here is my response: I am whoever I am reflecting off, as a mirror. In my past I had many mirrors with different reflections, and as each mirror has a different distortion of the reflection with a trace of truth. I have only caught glimpses of who I am/was, as we can never see ourselves, but only through the mirror image of others, the Other being a mirror. As a result, we become the narratives we create, but they never really happened in the way we say them and with each recitation of the narrative it changes a little--we really do not know what happened.
The ship of Theseus is a kind of mirror, ever changing but never the reality of the battle, so we see traces of truth, and with the ever changing traces, we create new narratives, which we believe, but it is good to believe if it gives us identity regarding purpose. Without purpose there is no life. Thank you for your newsletter. I really enjoy them.
Herman H., San Francisco
What makes me is what I clearly physically am- young, tallish, etc, but also what I decide I am, hardworking, funny, etc. it's probably just as simple as that. If theseus' ship is still remembered as the one gone sailing with all the heroes, then what's that it (probably) is.
It's all about the TRANSFIGURATION process isn’t it?
Who are you? What makes you YOU?
As per Hindu Sanatani philosophy, one anecdote states that when Saint Dayananda Saraswati visited his Guru (Teacher+Master+Guide) for the first time, his Guru asked the same very question when he knocked the door, " Who are you?" Swami ji replied,"I came to you to know this only."
We are souls. We are what; the fruit of our karma; of this and of previous birth.
Moreover, which you is ‘who’? The person you are today? Ten years ago? Or in the future?
We are what we are today in physical form but what we were since the birth as soul never changes; it accumulates karma.
And which aspect of you is ‘I’? Are you your thoughts and feelings? Your physical body? Or the culmination of your actions?
I, is nothing but our soul. Our thoughts and feelings are the manifestation of our karma and the actions performed through our body and consciousness by our soul.
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