Philosophistry / Philip Dhingra's Ideals

by phil on Wednesday Jan 28, 2004 9:22 PM

We have one life to live. I'm not going to live it sitting down. I want to advance life's potential as much as I can, and I've developed certain ideals to help me achieve that. Below is a list of philosophies that shape who I am now and who I want to become.

Independent Thinking

The picture of life presented by our parents, peers, and institutions is inaccurate. Rules handed down are not too far from counterexamples. They say that school is supposed to enlighten you and yet you will find students who treat school as a prison sentence. They say that you cannot start a business without experience, and then some kid down the hall becomes a multimillionaire with his computer science hobby. Mathematicians can't be artists and women are the weaker sex. We are also urged to ignore these "exceptions" as part of fantasy land. But when exceptions spring up thousands of times, and especially in proximity to us, the exceptional becomes the rule.

In addition, "they" usually argue from a worldview that only spans the last 20 years. Open your history books, and there you will find societies with polygamy and polyandry. You'll encounter societies with patriarchies and matriarchies. And you'll find societies that switch back and forth. Change is the norm, and so are you going to trust what has "always been" as an indicator for what "will be"?

There is a class of people who live outside these rules. They don't follow traditional careers, mating-schemes, or mission statements. And they're often not particularly extraordinary people. They are just those that naturally trust their own experience before they trust another's. They take their own independent path as the norm and don't let the foreboding of others discourage them.

Synthetic Thinking

All universities have been progressively organized for ever finer specialization. Society assumes that specialization is natural, inevitable, and desirable. Yet in observing a little child, we find it is interested in everything and spontaneously apprehends, comprehends, and coordinates an ever expending inventory of experiences. Children are enthusiastic planetarium audiences. Nothing seems to be more prominent about human life than its wanting to understand all and put everything together. (Buckminster Fuller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth)

Comprehensive resourcefulness is a greater skill than technical aptitude. This is why you will constantly see the technical workhorses of a company stagnate while the less technical, but more synthetic thinkers promoted all the way up to CEO.

I attach great importance to general literature for the enlargement of the mind and for giving business capacity. I think I have noticed that technically educated boys do not make the most successful businessmen. The imagination needs to be cultivated and developed to assure success in life. A man will never construct anything he cannot conceive. (Leland Stanford)

You can only hypothesize in domains you are familiar with. Your assumptions derive from your field of expertise. Widen you range and you won't miss precious gems.

Constant Evolution

We must not remain static in our current set of habits of thinking. If your year remains the same as it was last year, you have to ask yourself whether repeating the cycle another twenty-five times over isn't redundant. If not, hell it must be boring.


Irrationally motivated decisions are a major waste of time. Too often do we go straight to hacking at the trees without realizing that we may be in the wrong forest. Not only did we waste the time and energy, we have to repair what we've damaged and back track.

It's too embarrassing to observe others stabbing forward so triumphantly and proudly with their great claims. It's ridiculous to see our President Bush use his cavalier, home-spun, stubborn "decisiveness" to fill the holes created by logical fallacies. Or just recall the last time you or someone else stressed something with so much urgency and import, only to have to retract it later and apologize.

Rational thinking is what makes us human; it earns us the right to that glorious "free will." The opposite of free will is determinism. Living a life determined by statistical generalities and natural tendencies to do things that we would otherwise wish we didn't is idiotic.

For example, when somebody gives you advice, you may naturally be defensive and reject it. Or if you find your best friend's girlfriend attractive, it feels natural to flirt. Or if your friends are voting for a particular candidate, it feels natural to fall in line. Rigidly following our natural tendencies makes us more machine-like, more animal-like.

I'm arguing against reckless self-surrender in favor of reasonable self-control.


One must embrace the breadth of human experience in order to truly "live life."

epicureanism - the embracing of life's pleasures and man's multitude desires

asceticism - rejecting the material world in favor of goals and values out of this world.

Asceticism is a disease that doesn't kill physically, but emotionally. I feel sad when I hear someone try to half-boast, half-earn sympathy by saying, "I worked 100-hours this week." For what? Or when I hear people say that, "life is not roses for everybody" as if suffering were an obligation this person had to fulfill.

Existentialism teaches us that man's existence precedes his essence. In other words, there are no external "shoulds" beyond us that have to be satisfied a priori. We invent our own boundaries and define sins ourselves. Hence, we shouldn't be apt to arbitrarily restrain ourselves from what can otherwise be maximum life fulfillment.

Yes, I'm advocating the unpopular philosophy of hedonism. Counter-arguments to hedonism usually run the story of how a hedonist will rot like in Oscar Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Gray." But if one were to rot by being a hedonist, that would be a contradiction, since to me, hedonism implies a maximizing of happiness.

Pursuit of Passion

The pursuit of passion invigorates one's life. Imagine if your moments were colored with a natural zest for a project you care about. Imagine what life would be without "work" (as work and play have become synonymous)? We spend half our waking lives in labor, why not resurrect it from slavery and turn it into an adventure?

Pursuing one's passions is also an effective method for maximizing one's productive possibilities. By focusing ourselves to projects of inspiration, we are constantly motivated to seek creative solutions. When our activities are a labor of love, we try to optimize the time we spend enjoying it. We pay more attention to detail and are more careful to defend our production because we are so emotionally attached to it. The positivity that emanates from this kind of lifestyle builds confidence and inspires others.


serendipity - The faculty of making fortunate discoveries by accident

Luck plays an important role in life; no one has access to their destiny. In my personal experience, the largest changes to my life often have often come from a random book someone gave me or a random situation I encounter. Luck will determine who you will marry and luck will determine when you will die. So respect luck.

That said, one wants to seek serendipity, and dabbling in many fields is a great way to find it. Driving down random streets, listening to random music, talking to random people, all seed your life with disorder. By cracking open the dams that line your habits you can let in a flood of opportunity. I learnt that when I decided one day to pick up a paint brush, or on another day when I decided to take a class on Existentialism.


In summary, the ideals embody a striving to enrich one's life with color. First, by tearing down walls of habit, irrationality, and artificial limitations one resurrects himself from the darkness of black and white. Then, by having curiosity and temerity, the philosophist can open his eyes and appreciate life's splendors.

NB: This is post 1001, the first post in the second millennium of posts on Philosophistry. Hopefully this sets a good keynote for the articles that will proceed henceforth.

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