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Welcome to James' Philosophical Agora - James' Meeting Place On-Line. (Updated June 2017)

James' Philosophical Agora’ is an on-line archive for various pieces of personal writing on mostly fairly serious subjects; yet hopefully with a few amusing or curious items and anecdotes along the way as well. Many pieces were primarily written to share with individual friends, but are made available here for any others who might find the points discussed interesting or helpful, or who are 'treading the same path' and may wish to comment or add to them.

I have a separate blog where I share my enthusiasm for the specific philosophical tradition of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle at: Socrates 4 Today

As well as leaving comments on any of the blog posts, you can also contact me personally if you would like to discuss any particular items further: jamesdelphi2000@gmail.com

Thursday, June 9, 2016

01 - Thoughts and Ideas from Greece - June 2016 - Brexit and Know Thyself


Thoughts and Ideas from Greece

June – 2016

Most people vote in elections according to what they think is best personally for them - or rather what is best for themselves.   So what is best for the one’s self in the English referendum this June 2016 – to vote for Britain to stay in the European Union (EU), or to vote to leave the EU and ‘Brexit’ ?   I think Socrates would say that it all depends on what the ‘self’ actually is. (Know Thyself)

I have just attended the wedding of an old friend of mine in Poland. It was a wonderful few days – and on the last night I was there – a small group of wedding guests went out for a final drink together. One young man, who I had not met previously, persisted in asking me which way I would vote in the Brexit EU vote – and seemed to get more and more angry when I continued to say when asked that I was not that bothered either way about the vote, and that it would not make a lot of difference to me whatever the result.

It seems to be normal (or fashionable) these days to be on one end of the spectrum of opinion on any debate – either very much for something or very much against it. I think the media encourages us to have polarised opinions. However, most things, including the EU stay or Brexit vote have pros and cons either way. There are advantages and disadvantages of Britain staying in the EU; and there are advantages and disadvantages of leaving - or at least this is what I tried to explain to the young man. The sensible position, as far as I was and indeed am concerned, was on the fence – and that probably it would not make a great deal of difference in the end either way. (Don’t worry – you will still be able to go to France for you holidays and buy German cars if we leave the EU - and you will not have to drink Greek coffee if we stay...)

In the end we both agreed – most people will vote for what they believe or perceive is best for them selves…… Unfortunately, the media coverage of this EU Brexit vote, like so many other important issues, is a marketing exercise to vote one way or another, and very dependent on soundbites. People might vote to leave the EU because: ‘… the immigrants are taking all the jobs’, and other people might vote to stay in the EU because: ‘… we won’t be able to play European cup football if we leave’ or ‘… the French security services won’t tell us about terrorists if we leave…’  So most of the ideas and soundbites we are getting from the media are complete nonsense anyway: just take your pick on the soundbites and vote as you see fit...

The young man seemed at a complete loss at my outlook – how could anyone be so uncaring and not have a strong view at either end of the spectrum on such an important issue as whether Britain should stay in the EU or not. He then began to try and bolster his position by mentioning the important ‘ethics’ of the matter – and that people must and should care about such things – and that since we were in Krakow (just a short drive from Auschwitz) I was obliged to take a moral stance on the matter. Personally, I could not see how the inhumanity perpetrated at Auschwitz was related to the EU Brexit vote – but if it was – surely that was a convincing reason to stay in the EU? (I should have mentioned that this young man was vehemently in favour of Britain leaving the EU. )

I tried to explain to the young man that the EU Brexit vote did not concern me much because I was more interested in questions like whether I had a soul or not, whether it was immortal, and whether the kind of life I live with this human body makes any difference at all to what happens to my soul when my human body dies. Well, this really got his feathers ruffled – and he informed me with complete certainty that we had no soul and it was all to do with science, and that we were just an electrical network in the brain….. Friends who know me well will see the trap he had just fallen in to…..

So I asked him just to clarify the discussion so far….


- What you actually are, according to you, is a bundle of electrical networks in the brain?
- Yes, he replied
- And in the EU Brexit vote you will be voting, like most other people, for what is best for you?
- Yes, he agreed

- So is it better for your bundle of electrical networks in the brain to vote for Britain to leave the EU or to stay?

He did not answer, and walked off in a huff; but I believe he began to understand why I do not think it makes a lot of difference what happens (to me or anyone else) on June 23 rd when the British people ‘supposedly’ vote to stay in the EU or leave.

The above piece is no indication of whether I will vote to leave or stay – since as I suggest I am on the fence and can see advantages and disadvantages of voting either either way. I do however feel that Angela Merkel and her German colleagues have got too powerful within the EU power base – and I am coming around to voting for Britain to leave the EU simply in order to re-set the balance of power within the European corridors of power. This I feel is very important in the longer term for 'everyone' in Europe – including the Greeks, Italians, Spanish etc as well as the people of Britain; and after all the above conversation did take place in Krakow. And in a way... maybe the young man was right; we should care - but we must not allow the media to trivialise and confuse the discussion with its inane soundbites dished out every evening on the news channels as we eat our evening meals.