Worthy of existence – teleology – reasonable philosophy


For the past … say, twenty years or so I have been in the habit of believing I must constantly prove that I, Brand Smit, am worthy of existence, that my birth was not an error of judgement, that I have to prove – constantly – that I am indeed worthy of the blood flowing in my veins. Whatever the reason for this, it is going to drive me into an early grave.

FRIDAY, 13 MAY 2005

Born from incredible self-loathing, a conviction that you should prove the validity of your life.



If an adult (a parent or teacher) is not strict with a child, his or her encouragement and praise will have no credibility.

* * *

I have to let go. I have to accept that my life will end sooner or later, that the world will continue without me, almost … almost as if I had never been here.

See the true relationship between things, and your own place in the Greater Reality.

I must recognise that my life is not nearly as valuable as I would like to think. (Can a suicide-of-sorts be incorporated into this concept?)


A case therefore of recognising that your greatest fear is to a large extent true? There is certainly a pleasant element to this kind of acceptance …

SUNDAY, 15 MAY 2005


All the understanding that I can muster at this moment about human beings and our existence is the end result of observation and data processing – about three decades’ worth, or more than that if it is counted from day one.

Thus I thought this morning at the tea stall: Consider the results of 15,000 plus years of observation and processing the data of billions of people. Could that be God? Can we ever comprehend such a “god”? Can we ever give expression to such an existence with our limited vocabulary?


“Aristotle came more and more to think of the universe as a vast complex of organisms each striving to attain the end assigned by Nature to it. […] The Aristotelian system is often described as ‘teleological’.” ~ From the introduction to Aristotle’s Ethics


“A teleology is an account of a given thing’s purpose. For example, a teleological explanation of why forks have prongs is that this design helps humans eat certain foods; stabbing food to help humans eat is what forks are for.

A purpose that is imposed by a human use, such as that of a fork, is called extrinsic. Natural teleology contends that natural entities have intrinsic purposes, irrespective of human use or opinion. For instance, Aristotle claimed that an acorn’s intrinsic telos is to become a fully grown oak tree.

Though ancient atomists rejected the notion of natural teleology, teleological accounts of non-personal or non-human nature were explored and often endorsed in ancient and medieval philosophies, but fell into disfavor during the modern era (1600-1900).

In the late 18th century, Immanuel Kant used the concept of telos as a regulative principle in his Critique of Judgment. Teleology was also fundamental to the speculative philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.

Contemporary philosophers and scientists are still actively discussing whether teleological talk is useful or accurate in doing modern philosophy and science. For instance, in 2012, Thomas Nagel proposed a neo-Darwinian account of evolution that incorporates impersonal, natural teleological laws to explain the existence of life, consciousness, rationality, and objective value.”


MONDAY, 16 MAY 2005


The Greek philosophers, or then specifically Aristotle, did not claim authority from the outset on theological grounds which they had assumed everyone, or the majority of the population, accepted. Their foundation was one of reason, of a group of people sitting around a proverbial table saying, “Let us agree that we are intelligent beings, that we are aware of our existence and that we are capable of good actions, and also capable of the opposite of good actions. Let us continue to define what ‘good’ means, in practice, and what ‘bad’ means, how we can pursue the former, and the reason why it is better.”

In this regard my own modest efforts of the past few years can be considered closer to the Greek philosophers of more than 23 centuries ago than to modern preachers and theologians.


Am I simply another random fusion of sperm and egg that has so far survived for 33 years and a few months, and who struggle every day with billions of others on this planet, or millions on this island, or thousands in this city for food, shelter, a little comfort and some entertainment every now and then – in short, who struggle for a place in the sun, OR … can I make a contribution to other people’s lives, something that will transcend the value of my own life beyond this time and place?

[31/12/2015: The answer to the first part of the question is, yes. The answer to the second part: it would be good if you can.]

* * *

“[William of Normandy’s] aim was simply to overcome insecurity and construct a strong basis of power and wealth; to achieve this end he pragmatically used any form or institution which he encountered and which he felt capable of molding to his will.”

Also: “… exploitation of the lower orders by their predatory lords was the general rule.”

Source: “William – From Bastard To Conqueror”, by Brent A. Riley and Joe Bageant, Military History, April 2002, Vol. 19 Issue 1