Life Itself Our Philosophy

Life Itself: the Reason for our Existence – a Preliminary SCQH

Slides presented at the Art / Earth / Tech (Life Itself) sprint on 12 April 2017. This reflects early thinking on a more detailed explanation of purpose of Life Itself and the logic for its existence. Note these are my personal views and may not reflect those of everyone else!

Sketches of a Future Society – 12 April 2017 @ La Cheraille

Why? Why What?

Why Art / Earth / Tech?

This will take us on a much deeper journey

Asking Good Questions

SCQA = Situation, Complication, Question, Answer


We’ve never had it so good!

Things have got a lot better materially and science and technology mean we know a lot more about the material world

  • A good portion of humanity no longer want for food or shelter.
  • Consequence of dramatic material and technological growth of the last few centuries


But we’re still not that well/happy. Plus, progress is very unevenly distributed and we may even be going backwards (global warming, inequality etc)

  • Many remain poor and without basic security of sustenance or thought
  • Benefits of material abundance for the well-off seem relatively meagre — the Buddhist monk is happier than the billionaire
  • Greater wealth and power has not come with greater wisdom. Our errors now play out on a larger scale — from aggression exaggerated by biological and nuclear weapons to the tragedy of commons threatening the entire biosphere.
  • Things may even be going backwards: ecological damage, inequality, decline of community etc
    • though one must always be sceptical — "everything has been going to the dogs" is an old complaint

Complication II

Additionally: "end of vision / end of hope / end of utopia" — many traditional sources of hope for progress seem to have faded whether in religion and politics:

  • Decline of hopeful religion ~150y – death of god
  • Decline of hopeful politics ~30-40y – death of socialism
    • Politics reduced to managerialism for growth (but growth of what)
    • Postmodern disdain for vision and values (just leave me alone to choose, triumph of the "dispassionate" market)
    • Resurgence of a "selfish", resentful rightwing


  • Why is this? Specifically:
    • If you’re so rich, why aren’t you so happy …?
    • Why can’t we cooperate better
  • And: What is to be done?
    • Is there a powerful, unifying vision for humanity — both personally "the good life", and societally "the good society"?
    • How would we achieve that?
      • What is our theory of change?
      • How do we get started?


  • Situation: You’ve never had it so good!
  • Complication: But we’re still not that well/happy. Plus, progress is unevenly distributed and we may even be going backwards
  • Complication II: death of god, death of socialism aka "end of utopia" — many traditional sources of hope for progress have faded whether in religion or politics
  • Question: Why is this? What and How: What is to be done?


Spiritual version: We are all Buddha, but our minds are encrusted with delusion, hatred and anger.

Scientific version: evolution did not select for wellness or wisdom, but for survival fitness. Extraordinarily, and accidentally, we ended up with consciousness, self-reflection and enough cognitive capacity to develop language, culture and complex abstract thought — and meditation.

Why II

  • lot of stuff encrusts our mind that is tough to remove
    • impulsivity (thinking fast), heuristics, envy etc
    • illusion of self distinct from others, that "I" am my thoughts etc => attachment to views (I’m right, you’re wrong e.g. I’m a man, you’re a woman so I’m better than you; I’m white, you’re black etc)


  • Plus: all the errors of language and culture (erroneous but self-reinforcing (bad equilibrium)
    • e.g. institutionalized patriarchy
    • ritualized warfare
    • guilds
    • wearing suits


4 kinds of problems

  • Problems of science
  • Problems of self knowledge
  • Problems of self control
  • Problems of the collective

All our techno-scientific advance in recent centuries has only helped with first one.


Transformation of being

  • Wellness ourselves
  • Solve: collective action problems etc

But society/culture helps create being. + Material sustenance matters.

So transformation of being requires transformation of society.

What II – The Good Life

Yes, I believe there is a powerful unifying vision for humanity.

A. High level ends: Joy, freedom, love, wisdom, creativity, balance, peace, contribution … B. Conditions for that — as well!

Buddhism — 4NT. Basically correct.

However, for reasons just discussed this is hard individually.

What IIB

Second, hard culturally since a variety of successful, maladaptive cultures e.g. competitive, individualistic, capitalism.


Two Arms of Transformation

Culture and Ecosystem

A sustainable cultural ecosystem depends on a well-functioning (and interdependent) material and spiritual economies (spiritual = being, emotion, consciousness — nothing specifically religious)


To realise a wiser, weller world requires:

A Culture

  • Personally: a self-sustaining community that support self-development and material sustenance => a culture
  • Societally: a self-sustaining group dedicated to bringing about change on a long-term basis with a clear vision and strong values (resistance to corruption) => a culture


  • Values (and Vision)
  • Norms
  • Behaviours

Sketches of a Future Society => detailed picture of what this looks like.

Life Itself (Art / Earth / Tech)

We are such a community.

  • Being: living well and wise lives ourselves, developing our being
  • Research: work out where we need to go (in detail) and how to get there
  • Business: making a living, generating resources for investment
  • Politics: (not necessarily electoral) structured effort to effect change in the collective

Part of wisdom is to avoid sacrificing means to ends. Thus all activities are themselves part of the practice.



  • Need for change
  • Deep transformation needed
  • Opportunity
  • Culture
  • Art Earth Tech

Opportunity / Context

Metaphor of scientific revolution

… and possibility of psychic revolution


  • What’s new about us? (aka hasn’t this been done before?)