A Brief History of…

History is my worthy co-author’s discipline, and I would not presume to step on her toes, but this is an eye on part of the history of myself and so unproblematic. My discipline is Philosophy, and so much within it aims to present itself as objective, disinterested and ahistorical. It is not. This is the story (and we are all stories we tell to ourselves) of how I became a philosopher.

I am an atheist. I always was, not withstanding those nine or so initial years when I thought some kind of deity presided over us, mostly because the large, wise and authoritative creatures surrounding me displayed the reality of this deity as if it were merely an ultimate court or level of government.

I am an atheist. I am not one because of clever argument or sophistry, I am not one even because of the utterly overwhelmingly convincing weight of evidence against any theistic view. I will argue for my position, and I will gather this evidence in my hands, where that is my only way of presenting my position, but it is a sideshow. In truth my atheism is in itself a kind of faith, in that it justifies itself.

I was young when I dispensed with any notion of the supernatural, around nine, as indicated. The supernatural explained nothing, had no support, and was hopelessly contradictory. Yet do not think too harshly of a child: I had no answer to every consequence of such a view. To paraphrase another philosopher, I did creep to the graveside of god when night fell and wept. As a child, because I was rejecting fabulous fantasy realms, and later because so much justification for valuation was not replaced by the worldly knowledge that explained so much else.

And so, years spent. Years spent, in a sense lost, but with hindsight so richly used, devoid of anything approaching certainty, exploring every position or thought process I could find, yet ultimately paralysed, unable to satisfy myself as to why anything I might value or choose was any more worthy or justified than any other viewpoint. A period, I might add, that every person would likely benefit from. Even if later one comes to a settled place of belief of whatever kind it allows a tentativeness and a window of understanding into differences.

Being so paralysed is not a viable position, however, especially for one who had to resent it, knowing somehow there was a justification for those things he wished to assert. And it was collision with the work of a philosopher. A work, and a philosopher, not in the tradition of bloodless analysis and logic, but in affirmation and unapologetic synthesis. How I had floundered, unable yet to articulate what I (I now tell myself) was striving toward. That divinely-derived meaning was not only empty, it was depreciatory. It would be humiliating. It was derogatory to the intellect, it was a tyranny imposed by the smallest among us on false behalf of something non-existent. To choose, to evaluate, to decide, was justified on one’s own terms and life to be lived as best one can as an aesthetic phenomenon.


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