Everything Is Connected:
Why is philosophy important? It is the primary underpinning of the behavior of individuals and societies, because what you believe determines how you act.
You may not have thought much about philosophy, but you still have one. You may be just so used to it that it has become invisible to you. However, it is very important to be aware of what your beliefs are, and how they compare with those of others. If you aren't, you can be manipulated by cults and other groups/individuals that want to use you.
Learning philosophy helps you live. Knowing who you are and living that truth helps you find understanding and peace in a tumultuous world. Nevertheless, you should never think that you have the final solution, and you shouldn't be afraid to change your mind if you find that you were wrong. The search for truth is a neverending quest. That which stops growing and changing dies.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Environmental Philosophy: Deep Ecology
Rather than envisioning human beings as the pinnacle of creation, Deep Ecology recognizes us as just one of many creatures on planet earth who all have the right to exist, and who need each other.
Introduction to Deep Ecology (www.context.org/ICLIB/IC22/Zimmrman.htm) Explains the basics of this way of thinking about the human relationship with the earth. Article published by In Context.
Envirolink: Deep Ecology (http://www.envirolink.org/topics.html?topic=Deep+Ecology
&topicsku=2002116191714&topictype=subtopic) Index of articles, links, and other information related to Deep Ecology. Envirolink is a nonprofit organization that specializes in indexing links to other nonprofit environmental organizations.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Environmental Philosophy: Ecofeminism
Ecofeminism examines the connections between the oppression of women and environmental destruction. They both result from a social hierarchy that allows, if not encourages, the abuse or destruction of anything or anyone who is low status. Ecofeminist philosophy also has strong ties to religion and spirituality. (See my essay Jewish Feminism and the Environment and the feminist theology section.)
Ecofeminist Resources (www.ecofeminism.net) Here you will find a plethora of links and books on subjects related (some more closely than others) to ecofeminism.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Environmental Philosophy: Social Ecology
Social ecology also theorizes that environmental destruction is a consequence of our society's hierachical structure.
The Green Fuse (www.thegreenfuse.org) The Green Fuse has sections that go into detail describing and contrasting all of the above three philosophies. The name is take from a poem by Dylan Thomas.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Daniel Quinn
War! Pollution! Overpopulation! Why are so many people so miserable, and why do they do such terrible things? Most people in our culture think it's because something is wrong with us--with human beings.
Daniel Quinn shows that it's because something is wrong with our beliefs or myths, and the way society is organized around them.
What is our present social organization called? Civilization. Yet, civilization has only been
around for about 10,000 years. Humans were around for a long time before that. (Our understanding of the exact chronology is always being revised, but anatomically modern humans date back about 120,000 years, and different forms of hominids have existed for millions.)
All social animals have social organizations. Birds form flocks; bees live in hives, and humans were tribal. It wasn't a perfect system, but it worked a lot better for us than anything else. That's why tribalism lasted for so many millennia and still continues in some parts of the world. Our civilization is an attempt to improve on tribalism, and it has certainly spread quickly, but is it really as successful as we have been led to believe?
Ours was not the only civilization. There have been other civilizations, such as the Maya. The difference between us and them is that when things weren't working out, they were willing to abandon their civilizations. The very idea is almost unthinkable to us.
The idea that civilization is the last, best way to live, and other related beliefs, are what made our version of civilization spread so fast and far. Unfortunately, it is these same ideas that will ultimately destroy us unless we change them. Problems like pollution and overpopulation are the results of the mistaken ideas our social organization is based on, and not the fault of human nature itself. Humans are no more defective than eagles or daisies are.
Our civilization's mistaken beliefs are like lethal genes. You could also compare them to deadly disease(s). Lethal genes, and even deadly diseases, don't always kill you immediately. AIDS is the perfect example. It spread worldwide because its victims die slowly. Civilization has also spread worldwide, but it doesn't have to kill us.
The Maya melted back into the forest. We can't do that anymore because there are few wilderness areas left, but there are other alternatives. We can't go back, but we can go forward by creating new ways to live. We can find alternatives that work better before it's too late.
What lethal ideas does modern civilization have? Read more.
Tribal people also have/had better nutrition and health than we do. How could this be? We have a greater quantity of food available to us, but very poor quality. Learn more.
See also The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race by Jared Diamond, posted at Iowa State University.
Daniel Quinn's Books
An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit
by Daniel Quinn
What if we have been lied to all of our lives and noone knows it? What if those lies are destroying the human race? A man answers an ad in the newspaper for a...Read more.
More book reviews coming soon.
The Ishmael Community (www.ishmael.com) Daniel Quinn's official website. It's quite comprehensive. It includes a number of Mr. Quinn's unpublished essays and speeches, study guides for teachers, a question and answer section with hundreds of entries, an itinerary of Daniel Quinn's appearances, related news and scientific discoveries, recommended books and websites, and ways to connect with other interested people.
Friends of Ishmael Society (www.friendsofishmael.org) Small website by a group formed to promote the ideas in Daniel Quinn's books. Basically provides some advice for people who want to spread the word.
Sacred Lands (www.sacredlands.org) Mostly based on Daniel Quinn's worldview. Website includes a nice collection of interesting articles on related subjects, and even some pretty good poetry.
Ishcon (www.ishcon.org) Organization that runs yearly conventions and offers news and information about the movement. Includes links, chatrooms, and surveys. You can not access all parts of the website without registering.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Spirituality and Religion
Spirituality and Religion
I want to start this section by explaining my beliefs, so that the reader can understand where I'm 'coming from'. I am an agnostic, which means that I question the existence of God. (No, this doesn't mean that I don't believe that god/gods exists at all. That's atheism.) In fact, I believe that if God does exist, it will not be exactly as described in any religious book. The universe and any existing deity are infinite, and it is impossible for us, finite, mortal humans to understand infinity. Thus, every religion is both right and wrong. It tells you something about a particular group's comprehension of the divine, but it also tells you about their frailties. In fact, it tells you more about the believers than about the divine. Personally, I see the human attempt at religion as resembling the old Indian fable of The Blind Men and the Elephant. We can't see it in its entirety, so we don't completely understand it. The elephant is not shaped like a snake(tail); it isn't flat and thin(ears); it isn't large and cylindrical(legs); but it is something like all of them. (Here is a Buddhist version and the famous poem by John Guthrie Saxe) However, just because we can't completely understand doesn't mean we should stop trying. This is just a case of the trip being more important than the destination.
Unfortunately, many people also see a conflict between religion and science. Yet, religion and science are both similar in that they are attempts to make sense of the world. Religion is an attempt to understand the nonphysical or metaphysical, and science is an attempt to understand the physical. Science can not prove or disprove the existence of God since scientists can only study things that can be directly observed and measured. Religious believers think they already know the ultimate truth; scientific knowledge is always being updated. A scientific theory is only valid until another, more accurate/comprehensive theory takes its place. When viewed this way, it becomes clear that they are complimentary.
(For more information, look at Religion and Sciences: Irreconcilable? by Albert Einstein, From Galileo to Kansas: The Feud Between Science and Religion, and the Science page.)
Humans need religion. There is no society that does not have some form of spiritual belief. It gives us comfort in times of uncertainty and provides a way to celebrate marriages, births, deaths, and other life-changing events. The problem is when people decide that their version of religion is the only correct one and try to force it on others. Throughout history, this has, of course, resulted in great suffering and loss of life. Yet, the absence of religion creates a gap in our lives that must be filled. Otherwise, in times of pain and uncertainty, people often return to the most restrictive, fundamentalist versions because they have not considered any other alternatives.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Daoism/Taoism
Daoism/taoism is as much a philosophy as a religion. The first known Daoist/Taoist was supposedly a person named Lao Tzu who wrote the Tao Te Ching, a short book of verses describing the way to live. (However, it is not certain if he was a real person or if this is a compilation of much older teachings.) There were other, later scholars, but the Tao Te Ching is the bible of taoism/daoism.
The closest English translation of the word tao/dao would be 'the way'. Daoism/Taoism is basically about how to succeed by living in tune with the universe/nature--although it can never be completely described on paper and must be experienced. One of the major differences between Daoism--and other eastern philosophies--and western thinking is that westerners try to conquer nature, and easterners try to understand and live in balance with it.
Union of Opposites
Taoism/daoism has a much different view of opposites. Rather than seeing them as enemies as westerners do, they see them as pairs that are both essential.
For example, you can not have up without down. They see being and nonbeing as necessary and supportive of each other. Another example from Lao Tzu's book would be that of a cup or vessel. You shape the clay(being) into a vessel or cup, but it is the emptiness(nonbeing) inside that you use.
Daoism/taoism also emphasizes wu-wei, which is often translated as 'not doing', although it doesn't actually mean not doing anything. It means being so in tune with the tao/dao, or so understanding of the situation, that your actions just flow.
The Yak Rider (www.yakrider.com/Tao)The Yak Rider provides an open-minded comparison of eastern religion/philosophy and Christianity. It has a very good explanation of taoism/daoism.
English Translations of the Tao Te Ching (http://www.clas.ufl.edu/users/gthursby/taoism/ttc-list.htm) The Tao Te Ching was written in a way that can have many different meanings, and all of them can be valid. Remember that there is no way to completely describe the tao/dao in words. Here is a page of English translations that are available on the internet.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Daoism/taoism: Review: Tao Te Ching: A New English Version
Tao Te Ching: A New English Version
by Stephen Mitchell
A particularly beautiful translation of the Tao Te Ching. Published in a small book you can carry around in your pocket. Something you can not do with a computer printout. Here is a taste of the translator's work......read more.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Agnosticism/Atheism
As mentioned previously, agnostics question whether God/gods exists. Atheists don't believe in God/gods.
About.com: Agnosticism and Agnostics (http://atheism.about.com/cs/aboutagnosticism1) About.com has an excellent page of links to sites explaining what agnosticism is and how it is different from atheism.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Pantheism
Pantheists do not believe in a personal god, but they do believe the universe is sacred/divine. There are different versions of pantheism. (It's interesting to note that Albert Einstein was a pantheist. See Einstein on Religion and Science from the Pantheist Index.)
The World Pantheist Society (www.pantheist.net) Members of the World Pantheist Society believe pantheism is the world's most ancient religion. This site has links to a variety of different pantheist philosophies, including those relating to taosim/daoism.
The Pantheist Index (www.pantheist-index.net) This site also contains a variety of links related to Pantheism, including elements of Pantheism in other religions.
World Pantheist Movement: Scientific Pantheism (http://members.aol.com/Heraklit1/basicpri.htm) Discusses the ethics and philosophy of this version of pantheism.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Panentheism (Different)
Panentheists believe that the universe is sacred/divine, but that the divine also transcends it.
What is Panentheism? (http://atheism.about.com/library/FAQs/religion/blrel_theism_panen.htm)A short explanation of Panentheism from About.com.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Feminist Theology/Thealogy
The Judaeo-Christian religious tradition is largely based on hierarchical, patriarchal ideas of the superiority of male to female. Nowhere is this so obviously expressed than in the identification of God as male. Think, for example, about the common reference to God as the 'man upstairs'. Some will argue that this is just for convenience, but if that were true, the substitution of she for he, or goddess for god would be considered unimportant and not cause such an uproar. Feminist theology or thealogy examines religion without patriarchy.
Thealogy: The Politics and Sociology of Gender and Religion
Feminist Theology Page of Links
The Chalice and the Blade
Our History, Our Future by Riane Eisler
A Review and Comparison with Daniel Quinn.
Vision of a society based on cooperation instead of competition, developed in part from archaeological evidence of similar societies.
Our civilization is founded on domination and heirarchy. Although the women's movement has ...Click here to read more.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Unitarian Universalism
One of the major principles of Unitarian Universalism is freedom of religion, so UU's don't have a creed. It's basically a nonsectarian religion that encourages members to develop their own philosophies and religious beliefs. Some members are Christians, but others are agnostics or even pagans.
100 Questions That Nonmembers Ask About Unitarian Universalism (www.uunashua.org/100quest.shtml) Detailed explanation of the beliefs and customs of Unitarian Universalists.
Unitarian Universalist Association( www.uua.org) Includes information about news, programs, publications, and how to find a congregation.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Ethics
Foundation for Ethics and Meaning (www.meaning.org) This organization was founded to help people find meaning and community, and to eventually move society away from materialism by helping them to understand and obtain what they really want, instead of just trying to keep up with the Joneses. This process includes public education programs, local study groups and chapters (although the number of chapters is still very limited), and a think tank organized into task forces that study problems like the environment and healthcare.
Everything Is Connected: Philosophy: Politics
Declare Yourself (http://www.declareyourself.com) Register to vote online! This is the easiest way ever to register to vote. All you need is a copy of your driver's license, or some other type of photo id from the government with your address on it. You can also use the website to find the polling place closest to your home or get information about absentee ballots. It's powered by a nonprofit organization dedicated to getting young people involved in politics. (Contrary to what you probably heard, young voters did turn out in record numbers in 2004--but so did every other age group--so the proportions looked the same as 2000. For more information, see Youth Came Through With Big Turnout by David C. King at the Boston Globe.)
National Voting Rights Institute (www.nvri.org) Nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting and promoting voter rights, campaign finance reform, and increased democracy in the U.S. (Did you know that voting is NOT a constitutional right in the U.S.?) . Visit this website to find out more about these issues and the latest news about election reform.
Verified Voting Foundation (http://www.verifiedvoting.org) The Foundation is devoted to informing the public about the dangers of electronic voting. Computer voting machines are extremely vulnerable. They can be rigged like slot machines, and there are even fewer safeguards than in a casino. (To learn more about this and other election irregularities, read Election Fraud Continues in the U.S.: New Data Shows Widespread Vote Manipulations in 2004 by Peter Phillips, a Professor of Sociology at Sonoma State University.) The Foundation recommends going back to paper ballots that the voters themselves check for accuracy before they are cast.
Project Vote Smart (www.vote-smart.org) How do you find out the truth about political candidates? There are so many lies and half truths in the news media and commercials, it's unbelievable. Fortunately, a new solution is here. Project Vote Smart is an impartial, nonprofit organization that does the research that you don't have time for. They collect the facts about all of the candidates and government officials. You can read about their biographies, political positions, voting records, speeches, who finances their campaigns, and more. Then make up your own mind.
Progressive Secretary (www.progressivesecretary.org) Would you like your elected officials to know what you think about important issues but don't have the time to write letters? Progressive Secretary will write them for you. They will e-mail you suggested letters with links to information to help you make up your mind. Then you decide whether to send the letter or not. They will not send any letter without your permission.
League of Conservation Voters (www.lcv.org) Keeps records of how members of Congress vote on environmental issues. Tracks environmental records of the President, presidential candidates and other government officials. Also involved in activism. Posts all of this information on the website, or you can join this worthy organization and have it mailed to you.
Center for Voting and Democracy (www.fairvote.org) The Center researches and educates people about alternative voting systems that could be more democratic. For example, one option would be instant runoff elections where each voter would indicate at least a first and second choice on every ballot. Then if there is no majority (over 50% of votes), the ballots that list the last place candidate as the first choice automatically go to the second choice. The process continues until one candidate has the majority. This would have been very useful in the last presidential election, because voters who preferred a third party candidate could have picked a major party candidate as a second choice. We would also have been assured of a president elect with a majority of the popular vote. The site includes information about voting rights and turnout, proposed bills, and recent legislation.
Center for American Progress (www.americanprogress.org) This progressive, nonprofit group focuses on politics and economics, with a particular emphasis on social justice and civil rights. Regularly publishes articles about current events on their website. Interesting features include a daily list of talking points, political cartoons, and full-text first chapters of recently published books.
Also see the Alternative News section for reviews of and links to political news outlets like Open Democracy's electronic magazine and The Free Press.
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