Recently I was delighted to read in Boing Boing posts by a modern Stoic. The delight was because it put into words something I had been grappling with for years and never really grasped: people have replaced philosophy with religion.
It used to be that someone would call himself a stoic, or a cynic, or a hedonist, or whatever, and others would understand that he was telling them the principles that rule his life.
A life philosophy! You could choose, from the buffet of the last 3000 years of thought, what you thought made most sense, and try to use it as a beacon to guide you through a (hopefully) happy life.
Nowadays, society seems to have rejected that idea, and the closest thing most people have is religion, following what his sect says, or atheism, defined by rejection of religion.
The main difference (as I see it) between a life philosophy and a religion is that a religion usually implies the others are wrong. If you are not of my sect, you will not be in heaven with me.
If you don't share my philosophy... well, I expect you will take a different path through your life than I would have taken. But if it works for you and doesn't hurt others, why should I give a damn?
So here's my life philosophy as I see it today. It's not how I saw it yesterday, and surely is not the same it will be tomorrow.
From now on, when I say I "believe" something, it's shorthand for "my personal life philosophy implies that". It should be obvious why such a shorthand is needed.
I am a materialist. No, that doesn't mean what you think it does, at least not in this context. What I mean is that I am not a dualist, or a spirituallist, I am not an idealist or a vitalist, and not a phenomenalist.
What it means is that I believe that reality is material. I don't accept that immaterial things have any sort of "reality". Or at least that their reality is of a totally uninteresting kind.
This means that I don't believe in souls. I believe the Turing test is a reasonable test for consciousness. I believe if there was an entity that acted like a human, we ought to treat it like a human. I believe I am not intrinsically different from a robot that could do what I do.
I believe the purpose of life is to have a good time. I believe everyone is as entitled to a good time as I am. I believe part of having a good time is being surrounded by happy people. I believe people that hurt others are a buzzkill and shouldn't be allowed to do it.
I believe in purpose, and I believe I create my own purposes and that makes them better than if they were given to me. I believe in being kind to others because they are all I have.
I believe in learning, because we are surrounded by wonders. I believe the Egyptians piled up lots of very heavy rocks. I believe Saturn is pretty. I believe giving the merit of those things to aliens or gods is an insult to the Egyptians and adds nothing to Saturn.
I believe in making things and fighting against local entropy. I believe that a certain end makes things better and more precious. I believe in love, because I know I feel it and it's precious.