Philosophy and theology are often known for their obfuscation. By that I mean, people who have tried to dip their toes into the works of 19th and 20th century philosophers frequently find themselves lost and frustrated. The concepts are too abstract, the writing too oblique. Ultimately, this is a pretty sad thing. In the Western world, we frequently trace the origins of philosophy back to ancient Greek civilization. While there were some philosophers (and their pupils) who fell into the abyss of abstraction, many philosophers didn’t. Instead, they often saw the development of their critical and logical thinking as the first stepping stone to pursuing the “good life.” Understanding how and what we can know and the nature of reality itself was supposed to lead to a better understanding of human nature and what constitutes proper action.
Now, I could spend a million blog posts writing about what Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the rest thought about these things. But instead, I want to focus on that simple phrase: the good life.
For the good life to truly be the good life, it must be universally and objectively obtainable. In other words, we must be able to live the good life in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and everyone must have access to it, regardless of intelligence, social standing, or wealth. Otherwise, there are only two options: 1) There is an inequality built into the fabric of reality (i.e., some people can obtain the good life, and some people cannot). 2) The good life is not a “real” thing. Instead, it’s just a made-up way some humans try to create meaning out of objectively meaningless lives.
Now, 1 and/or 2 may very well be true. The question is, can we know or have relatively certain confidence that they aren’t true? And if we get to that point, the next step ought to be determining how we obtain the good life.
I didn’t start this blog post with the intention of starting a blog post series, but I may very well do so. I’ve thought for a while that it would be fun and interesting if I could start at the bottom of things — as far down as I could go — and see if I could build out a systematized philosophy for how I think I ought to live. Or perhaps it won’t be a series, but a long reflection on what it means to find life meaningful. Of course, that could very well take my entire life.
I guess we’ll see.