Michael Battalio

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Serious conversations... (part 5)

I apparently forgot to post the last serious conversation. Here it is:

A bit of a disclaimer, this is the fifth in series of serious blog posts about religion and philosophy. If you have ever chatted with me about philosophy and religion and very much disagree, be prepared for that to continue.
 These are my responses (Edited, of course, to offend as few people as possible; although offense is inevitable with me.) from a conversation I am having with an atheist friend of mine about the meaning of life, consciousness, physics, the kitchen sink, religion and a couple of moral issues thrown in to boot. 
 Before every single religious person starts chomping at the bit, let me say this is not an argument about whether there is a God. This is more philosophical in nature. Also let me say that my unnamed friend is one of the most moral, responsible and decent people I have ever met, so no one take the high ground until you’ve read the entire series, and still don’t take it then either. This fifth entry is about my individual purpose to life.

Some time ago I started to read (and still haven’t finished, you know me) The Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle. He set out his purpose of life as being for Eudaimonia. (Eudaimonia is usually translated as happiness, but a better translation is that of human flourishing.) Aristotle says Eudaimonia is the pursuit of virtue through rational activity. (Aristotle then goes on to explain the virtues he refers to: rationality, relationships, scientific knowledge, character, etc.) I am using this philosophy as the opposing crutch to my purpose relating to there being a God. Eudaimonia makes up for what I find purpose-lacking religiously. It's an interesting concept. All humans strive knowledge (most of us at least) and happiness. (I am realizing already that I'm not going to do as good a job as Aristotle at explaining this.) Those things aren't good enough; that's why most people feel unfulfilled. You need all the other virtues to get anything out of life. It's the combination of character, intellect and knowledge that makes life worth-while.
It's curious that we are the only creatures that have to have a purpose to life. We are a very goal oriented species, and we are very good at inventing reasons for life. I think a lot of this as to do with the fact we are one of a few species that has free time. We can provide more than our needs, so we have to find things to occupy our time. Animals don't care they might not have a purpose if there are too busy fending off the latest predator to think about it. If we can't find things to fill that time we wonder why we are here if we can't do things we want instead of need.
If you can have a purpose to life without religion, then that is very commendable and independent of you. I can't. I wouldn't say I envy you though because I do like and genuinely believe in my religious convictions, but I will say I don't see how people can subscribe to an existence where the only reason they wake up is to be one day closer to death and therefore heaven. I need more than just religion as a reason to wake up in the morning. If I were you, I wouldn't be embarrassed of it though. There's no reason to be, in almost the same way I'm not embarrassed because I'm Roman Catholic and not Greek Orthodox or Baptist or Muslim or Hindu. Subscribing to a faith is all concept is just as commendable as being able to live with no religion at all.
For me the fact remains that I need both faith and reason to survive. I find that at some point along the way my convictions fail with just one and without the other.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Change of Persuasion

After a lot of thought and deliberation, reading a lot of books, I have decided to amend my philosophic persuasion. Don't freak out on me; it isn't as drastic as you might be thinking. I will continue to be a Roman Catholic. While I am Catholic mostly because my grandparents were Catholic, I have come to independently believe in Catholicism as well, but as I get older I no longer have to live exactly by the tradition of the Battalio family. (Interestingly, I have an uncle who used to be a Dominican [I think] brother but left because he thought that the changes made by Vatican II were too extreme. He's still Catholic, just not a brother.) I have a more developed sense of self. And I think that I have become a more thoughtful person. As a consequence, I must include an extra identifier to my system of believes besides Catholic. But, do I still have faith? Yes. (Most of the time.) Am I still Catholic? Most certainly yes. However, I also must face what reason suggests.
For a theory to be scientific, it must have repeatable, testable outcomes (hence why string theory is very controversial). Scientifically, there is no way to prove God. God is not a scientific theory. (Although some may argue otherwise.) In this way I must also now face that I am an agnostic as well as a Catholic. I have faith that He exists, but I believe there is no way to scientifically verify this. Thus the term "agnostic Catholic" encapsulates both my religious affiliation and my scientific affiliation. I feel that any person of science or reason should, if they claim religious affiliation, also claim a scientific persuasion. Obviously you cannot claim a religious affiliation and also be an atheist, but you can differentiate yourself between Agnosticism, arguing that God cannot be proven, arguing that there is a way to prove God or believing that science and religion are two separate entities that have no business even considering one another.
Given my definition of Agnosticism, many of you are probably agnostic. In fact, I bet many of you consider all of this a statement of the obvious. Obvious or not, one needs to have a firm stance on where they are philosophically, even if it is just an expression of ignorance, as my philosophy usually is.
I have ideas for about seven or eight more blog posts, so I will hopefully get out at least that many before the semester begins.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

summer work

A quick update on what's been going on. I know it's been a while. I'm done with my eighth semester, and instead of graduating and doing something with my life, I'm staying a MSU for another year. I'm busy trying to get my fifth year paid for. You see you only get MTAG, MESG, and the ACT Academic scholarship for four years. Those paid for a sizable chunk of my expenses, so I'm working to get private scholarships to cover the deficit. Otherwise, I'm trying to find a job over the summer. The story is moderately long, so here goes...
Two months ago I called my boss at the Corps of Engineers, with whom I have worked for four years. He was no longer the boss; he was the "acting branch chief." He did tell me that most people had money to pay me and projects to work on, so I wasn't worried about a job for the summer. He said he would let the new chief know I wanted to come back. Well, I waited a few weeks with no response. I wasn't surprised, messages are rarely delivered in the government. I began calling the new boss about six weeks ago. I left her a voicemail and an e-mail. No response. After getting home I begin calling her office everyday, calling the secretary, calling people I know that work in my branch. The people I got a hold of told me she was out. So, I patiently waited. I apparently missed her several times, but despite my e-mails and voicemails, she didn't respond. I finally got tired of being ignored, so I asked the secretary for her home phone. I finally spoke with her and she told me that no one had any money or work currently. She also told me she meant to let me know a month earlier that I would not have a job, but she forgot. And that was that.
Had I found out several weeks ago, as I should have, I could have procured another job at the Corps before all the high school students got out of school. But now, there are very few spots open. I am frantically asking all the people I know that work for the Corps if they know of any jobs. I have a glimmer of hope, but it's very small. I hope I don't have to work some sort of retail or service job. But we'll see.
As an aside, I am proud of myself for not getting very angry with my new, ex-boss. I was furious with her when she told me, but I calmly accepted it. The fact remains though that at best she is rude and inconsiderate and at worst incompetent. It's like I'm living a Dilbert cartoon. I do not enjoy it.
2003-2016 Michael Battalio (michael[at]battalio.com)