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14 December 2013

“Why Are You Working?” A Philosophical Conversation, Part 1

Bust of Socrates in the Vatican
Museum. Picture by Wilson
Delgado. Image part of public
domain. For more info,
click this.
An Elenchus
Elenchus (Ancient Greek: ἔλεγχος elengkhos) is an  “argument of disproof or refutation; cross-examining, testing, scrutiny esp. for purposes of refutation” (1). Elenchus  is the central technique of the Socratic method (2)

(Verses are numbered for quick reference)
  1. Why am I working?
  2. To earn money
  3. Why do I have to earn money?
  4. To have money to buy the necessities in life like food, clothes, drinks, shelter and other stuff.
  5. Why do I have to buy food? Why can’t I just make my own food?
  6. Because you need land to plant or take care of animals, and you need seeds to plant vegetables or trees
  7. Why can’t I just go to an empty space of land and plant?
  8. Because some people already own that land, if not, the government owns that land
  9. Why do people have to own land? Why can’t it be the property of all?
  10. Because that will create much chaos
  11. Why would it create much chaos?
  12. Because there are so many people in the world now; for example, in the Philippines, there are almost a hundred million of us so if all land belongs to everyone, then we will constantly argue how to use the land
  13. Why are there so many of us?
  14. Because people get married and have kids, or some just live together and still have kids
  15. Why do we need to have kids?
  16. Because we want part of ourselves to continue to live even after we pass away, it is like being immortal. We also want to be loved and love, and share our existence in this world
  17. Let’s break it down. First, why do we want to have part of ourselves to continue to exist?
  18. Because we want to live long, and perhaps feel that we are part of life. Life is rare in the universe, we have to preserve it
  19. There are more almost 7 billion people in the world now, so we have enough to preserve life. If half of those people suddenly die, we still have enough people left. So why continue to have kids, perhaps we should stop having kids, that will give Mother Nature a break and people will have enough resources so fewer people will be hungry or prostitute themselves just to survive.
  20. Because people have free will. You can’t order them to stop having kids. Some people want to have kids and love and take care of them. It is part of the nature of love.
  21. So if you do not have kids, you are not part of love so to speak
  22. No, you can also take care and love other people, like your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your friends, or just humanity as a whole, sometimes even helpless animals.
  23. I can understand why some people cannot love humanity as a whole. However, why do I have to take care of my family?
  24. Because they raised you, clothed you, gave you food, gave you an education, gave you life!
  25. I didn’t ask to be given life.  My parents just had me. They decided to have kids, and place responsibilities on me without asking if I want to be born.
  26. Yes, but that is the paradox of life. You didn’t ask for life, but now you are alive. Life is an unsolicited gift
  27. A gift from who? From God?
  28. If you are religious, yes, life is a gift from God, but if you are not, even from a scientific point of view, life is a gift because life is so rare despite the immensity of space. And if the prevailing scientific theory about the universe is true, that we do not have one universe, but multiple universes, then our realm has even gotten bigger. Yet life remains to be elusive and rare. Yes, life is a gift.
  29. But like any other gift, you can take it back.
  30. You are talking about suicide?
  31. Yes.
  32. Then yes, one can discontinue receiving the gift of life. But it is your choice and some people think it is a wrong choice. If you kill yourself, you bring pain and suffering to those who love you.
  33. But what if no one loves you.
  34. Everyone is loved, even by a single person, a mother loves her child. And, one life lost is one life lost too many. As I have said, life is a rare gift.
  35. The use of the word “gift” is problematic for me because it carries with it many assumptions. “Life as gift” is an ideology. What if I say “Life is a random occurrence?” Life is just one of the many possibilities in the universe. Why is the earth the third planet in the Solar System when there is no scientific rule that says the earth should be there? The position of the earth is just one of the many countless possibilities. Therefore, life is not a rare gift but just one of the many options in the universe.  To say that “life is a gift” is an ideology not objective truth.  The statement has religious or spiritual undertones, and religion is always subjective.
  36. Yes, but we must have an ideology. People must believe in something. You know the saying, “if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.”
  37. Absolutely, that is why I believe that “life is not rare but just another option.” When you say life, you mean “human life,” and that includes other organic life. The universe is so big. We have stars, comets, planets, black holes, dark matter, gases and the universe contain so many other rare creations, maybe even rarer than human life. Those are created in our universe, or universes, and I think a big galaxy is not inferior to a living human, especially if that person uses his life to do harm.  
  38. You have a point, but I say “life is a gift.” And your statement that life is just one of the many options is also problematic because things do not have options. A star or a rock does not have a choice. A rock does not sit and say, “Should I stay or roll?” Only people have free will.
  39. But it is possible that there are other forms of life in the universe very different from human life, and these life forms also have the gift of choice.
  40. In that case, any life form that has free will must still choose. Otherwise, free will becomes useless. So in the case of people, we can choose to live or not to live. To have kids or not have kids?
  41. Wouldn’t it be easier for a person not to have kids so that he can just enjoy his own life? His salary and time will just be his own.  If he does not choose to have kids, then he can have a regular salary and use his income to eat what he likes, wear what he likes, and travel the world to see all the wonders of nature. If he has kids, then he has to work harder to raise that kid, and maybe become miserable doing it and then resent his kids. Then, he will raise angry, insecure or sad children: the perfect ingredients for a criminal or a sociopath.  Like I said, it’s a life used to destroy life and not create life.
  42. Then if you resent your kids, and maybe your spouse, because you have to work hard to take care of them, then you shouldn’t have gotten married or had kids in the first place.
  43. That’s true, but the problem is many people expect you to get married and have kids. They constantly tell you that if you do not have a family, your life is worthless. The hypocrisy of it all is some people, like gays and lesbians, want to have a loving family and raise kids but society does not permit them.
  44. Then you should not listen to people. You should not obey the dictates of society. You make your own life.
  45. So you’re saying that I can quit my job, abandon my family and live a life of my own. Give society the middle finger!
  46. If you choose, then so be it. It is your choice.
  47. I can do whatever I want.
  48. Yes, but freedom has limits.
  49. So if I can’t do anything that I want then that’s not freedom. That’s restrictions, selected freedom.
  50. Doing anything that you want is “false freedom,” that is more like slavery.
  51. Slavery? I am free. I can do what I want. I am not beholden to any person or God. I am free. Why is that similar to slavery?
  52. Because you are slave to yourself. You are slave to your freedom. You put self-autonomy high up on a pedestal that you forsake other things that make us human.  You value freedom above all else, above love.
  53. Who says that love is higher than freedom?
  54. I can’t give you names, and if I do, we can always discredit them. They are not part of the argument. Ideas are the issues here.  To go back to the topic, loving is part of being human, that is what separates us from animals. Even some animals display some form of affection and compassion. Human beings have to feel as well as think.  We can’t just think all the time; we can’t just feel all the time. Thinking and feeling are two of the greatest abilities of human beings. There are people we think we should love but somehow, our hearts won’t cooperate. If we force ourselves, we become miserable in the end. There are people we love so passionately but they destroy us, and turn us into monsters. Thinking and feeling must go together.
  55. So, based on your arguments, I can do whatever I want but I shouldn’t do everything that I can and want.
  56. In my opinion, anyone can do whatever he wants, and this includes stopping other people from physically, emotionally, psychologically hurting other people.  You have the freedom to hurt as I have the freedom to stop you from hurting others.
  57. And if I win?
  58. Then we live in a society where pain dominates. Is that a place worth living? I say no.
  59. Isn’t that our world now? People take more than what they need. We hurt other people intentionally. We disregard human life and other forms of life for the sake of amassing wealth. Everyone wants to be rich. We want this and that. We desire material things because we will have more power. Our need for material possession cause pain and make business people even richer because we want, want and want, and buy, buy and buy. However, most of these rich individuals do not share their wealth. They hide under the principles of capitalism and all that market economy BS. Business people bribe government officials to gain advantage. Government officials steal people’s money. Companies sell products that they know are harmful to people.  We are brainwashed into believing we cannot live without this item. We will be loved more if we have this and that.
  60. What is your point then?
  61. Well let me go back to my original question, “Why am I working?”
  62. Yes?
  63. I think I should rephrase that question. It should be “Why am I working honestly?” I just realized that I have free will and I can freely exploit people for personal gain. Of course, other people can stop me, but then again, if you look at the track record of our justice system, thieves can get away, especially thieves in suits and ties. My chances of succeeding by exploiting people are high, especially in this country.

To be continued...

(1) Liddell, Scott and Jones, Greek-English Lexicon, 9th Edition.
(2) Webster's New World College Dictionary, 4th Edition;Oxford English Dictionary.

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