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"I do not insist that my argument is right in all other respects, but I would contend at all costs both in word and deed as far as I could that we will be better men, braver and less idle, if we believe that one must search for the things one does not know, rather than if we believe that it is not possible to find out what we do not know and that we must not look for it."
January 2002, I began writing a column for the Gorean Voice, an online magazine that deals
with Gorean issues. My column consists of a series of articles that deal with a myriad of
aspects of the philosophy of Gor. These articles have covered a wide spectrum of
philosophical issues, ranging from general topics such as metaphysics and epistemology to
more specific topics such as virtue ethics and Platos The Republic. These articles were intended
to make people think, to contemplate questions related to Gorean philosophy. The articles
might even convince a few people to consider adopting a Gorean philosophy into their
lives. I am now placing these articles onto my website. The essays are largely unchanged
except for some minor revisions. Additional essays from the Gorean Voice will be added in
the future as well. It is also possible that some of these essays will see a more
substantial expansion in the future.
"Philosophy begins when one learns to doubt--particularly to doubt one's cherished beliefs, one's dogmas and one's axioms. Who knows how these cherished beliefs become certainties with us, and whether some secret wish did not furtively beget them, clothing desire in the dress of thought? There is no real philosophy until the mind turns round and examines itself."
The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant
What is the Gorean philosophy?
Let us break that question down. What is Gorean? What is philosophy?
Before we can begin to discuss this fascinating subject, we must first try to define our terms. Without a common definitional basis, there might be confusion and misinterpretation. It is far better to try to circumvent those potential problems at the start. Socrates was an ardent advocate of the great importance of defining terms when discussing philosophical issues. Please also understand that these definitions are geared specifically to pertain to the subject matter at hand. As such, these definitions may not be appropriate in a different context.
We shall begin our discussion by first trying to define philosophy. The term philosophy is derived from two Greek words that literally translates as lover of wisdom. The proper definition of philosophy though remains a bone of contention even to modern day philosophers. Thus, many different definitions exist, varying from the simple to the complex. So, what are we to do? Which definition would be best for our purposes? Well, if we are to discuss a Gorean philosophy, then maybe we should consult Norman, a philosophy professor, for his own definition of philosophy. But, that is not to be found within the Gorean series. Fortunately, Norman's book "The Cognitivity Paradox" (published under his real name John Lange) provides us with just such a definition. This book also points out the weaknesses of numerous other definitions of philosophy and is highly recommended for anyone interested in Gorean philosophy or philosophy in general.
Norman defines philosophy simple as "a proposal," something essentially offered for consideration, a matter to be discussed and examined. In general, a proposal would not be considered to have a truth-value in the ordinary sense. It is not something we would commonly assess as either just true or false. But, nearly all philosophers would contend that philosophy can be cognitive, that it can have a truth-value, so they might contest Norman's definition. They would see philosophy as having far greater worth than merely being a proposal. But, Norman avoids this criticism by choosing to extend the meaning of truth-value to create a derivative cognitivity that is applicable to such proposals. Obviously some proposals are better than others and it is possible that some proposal can even be considered the best. Thus, if a set of conditions are devised to judge a proposal, based on some ideal, then those conditions could be used to assess its truth-value. We shall return to Norman's definition later in this series to assess the cognitivity of the Gorean philosophy.
Academically, philosophy has four primary components: logic, metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. Logic is essentially concerned with correct methods of reasoning, how we prove certain statements, including such matters as deductive and inductive reasoning. We shall mostly ignore this aspect of philosophy when we are exploring Gor except in as so much that we shall rely on logic when making our points. Metaphysics concerns explanations about the general aspects of reality such as the nature of our minds, bodies, God, space, time, the world and universe. We shall explore this topic as it applies to Gor, especially concerning the fabricated metaphysics imposed upon the Low Castes, also known as the Double Knowledge. We will also explore how different Gorean cultures, the barbarian peoples, have their own metaphysical beliefs. Epistemology concerns the nature and extent of human knowledge, asking why we believe what we believe and whether true knowledge is possible. We shall explore this aspect as well as it applies to Gorean philosophy. Though some cultures may differ in this respect as well, there is more commonality here than in the area of metaphysics. Ethics concerns the proper way to conduct one's life and issues of morality. We shall spend the most time discussing this subject as it applies to Gorean philosophy. When people generally refer to the Gorean philosophy, this is the topic they mean. They are most concerned about how to properly live according to this philosophy.
There are also derivative forms of philosophy, subjects that are more specific in nature such as political philosophy and aesthetics. It has even spread in modern times to cover such areas as the philosophy of sports, sex, health, business and many more. We may touch on a few of these derivative forms where they are applicable to Gor. For example, we shall examine some aspects of political philosophy such as the relation of Plato's "The Republic" to the structure of the Gorean city. We may even touch upon some aspects of aesthetics as beauty is very important on Gor.
Let's now define Gorean, an often controversial term online. There is often debate and disagreement on defining this term and many people have their own definitions of such. My definition is intended to be limited to the context of Gorean philosophy. I intend Gorean to be an expansive term, encompassing nearly all of the societies and cultures of Gor, from the cities such as Ar and Ko-ro-ba, to the barbarian lands of Torvaldsland and the Barrens. What unites these disparate peoples is an underlying set of philosophical principles. This is what makes those people Gorean by nature as opposed to Gorean simply by their place of birth. Though their societal and cultural institutions vary, often quite significantly, these peoples are still united philosophically in many ways. Their metaphysics may vary, as well as their epistemology, but the foundation of their ethics is the same. And it is the ethical aspects that are of the greatest importance to those who wish to live by a Gorean philosophy. A few Gorean societies and cultures may try to repudiate these principles but they are not the norm. They are rare exceptions, such as the Panther Girls, who are unwilling to accept all of the principles, though very often they succumb to them in the end.
So, essentially this series will cover the commonalities and differences in three philosophic aspects among the disparate peoples of Gor. Metaphysics and epistemology will be dealt with briefly as they are of lesser importance to our interests and objectives. The area of ethics though will be central to our discussions. We shall also cover a number of other philosophically related matters. The primary objective of this series will be to help people understand the underlying principles of the Gorean philosophy, that apply to nearly all the peoples of Gor, and how they can impact upon societal and cultural institutions. We shall also better comprehend how a Gorean philosophy can be adopted and followed in our own lives.
Though understanding the Gorean philosophy, once it is presented, should not prove too difficult, enacting its principles in one's life can be more problematic. This is because many of the philosophical principles of Gor are antithetical to the standards we are used to on Earth. We have been socially and culturally conditioned against these natural principles. And such conditioning can be very difficult to overcome. It is not an easy matter to cast it off and to embrace a philosophy so counter to it. It takes a massive effort of will, a true test of self-discipline and self-examination. Not everyone can or is willing to do this. But it can be done. Living according to a Gorean philosophy is a definite possibility.
There is a popular quote from the books that is often quoted as a proposition of how to
live one's life in a Gorean manner. "Do not ask the stones or the trees how to live; they cannot tell
you; they do not have tongues; do not ask the wise man how to live, for, if he knows, he
will know he cannot tell you; if you would learn how to live do not ask the question, its
answer is not in the question but in the answer, which is not in words, do not ask how to
live, but instead proceed to do so." (Marauders of Gor, p.9) Though this is a fine
quote, its applicability to those on Earth is very limited. Its primary applicability is
to the Goreans of the books who have been raised since birth to believe and understand the
basic philosophy of Gor. It thus comes naturally to them and they do not need to engage in
lengthy meditations over their philosophic choices. We on Earth, due to the strong
societal and cultural conditioning we receive since birth, cannot simply "just
live" as Goreans do. We have forgotten how to do so. We must awaken to the realities
of nature and that requires intensive self-examination to overcome our life-long
conditioning. We must ask the stones and trees how to live. Thus, we must make take an
active role to study and understand the Gorean philosophy. We would be much better off
following the advice of Socrates: "The unexamined life is not worth living."
If the Gorean philosophy is a positive philosophy, which I believe it to be, then it seems obvious that it should be promoted and encouraged. What reason is there not to promote a positive philosophy? In the Gorean books, Norman holds out a slim chance that those of Earth will one day "awaken" to the natural truths of the Gorean philosophy. He does not indicate that only a select few should follow the philosophy. It seems evident that he feels the entire planet could benefit from such a philosophy. He hopes for a future that has regained a connection to the natural world. Thus, it makes sense to promote such a philosophy, to encourage people to learn and understand it. Turning people away from such a philosophy does a disservice to our society. Maybe the information presented here might help even a few comprehend the philosophy and choose to follow it in their lives.
Finally, I cannot stress enough that all education about Gor, including the philosophy, begins with the Gor books. If you wish to properly understand Gor, you must read the Gor books. There is no real substitute. Reading websites and message boards is insufficient for a proper understanding of Gor. They may help you better understand what you have read, but you should have the foundation of having read the books first. Otherwise, you will be unable to discern the errors from the truth. And numerous websites do contain inaccuracies concerning the books. Without the books, you might be able to acquire a passing knowledge of Gor, but true comprehension will likely elude you. And if one truly cares about Gor, enough to want to live according to its philosophy, then reading the books should be a given.
"...love of learning, which can be one of the deepest and most honest of loves."
(Tarnsman of Gor, p.38)
From the Gorean Voice, January 2002