THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND THE ALBUM & FILM
from the mind of ignis
Virtues are a set of standards and ideals used to evolve oneself beyond a current set of circumstances. This phenomenon allows for an ability to connect and expand beyond what we see and believe we know, allowing one to be more than what they are told they are, more than the empirical options presented. It is a form of excellence anchored by firm principles that we may choose to uphold daily.
Although many names are associated with this practice of values (ex. honor, chivalry, integrity and the biblical virtues), I believe virtue is ultimately a necessity for true growth of our natures and those around us.
WE HAVE A HISTORY OF OFTEN JUDGING OURSELVES BY WHAT WE HAVE OR DO NOT HAVE. FOR GENERATIONS THIS HAS BEEN ACCOMPANIED BY A MENTAL RUBRIC THAT INCLUDES THE BENEFITS OF MATERIAL POSSESSIONS, AS WELL AS QUALITIES DEEMED ACCEPTABLE ON SOCIETAL TERMS. THROUGH THIS ETHOS IT IS DECIDED WHETHER WE ARE POWERFUL OR WEAK.
Man’s history of attempting to connect with nature and one another has been a learning process through centuries of trials and tribulations. We have had golden eras of advancements in discovering new components about the world around us, and have used the information to continually redefine our humanity. Our search has taken us through the inner workings of what it means to be and operate as discerning beings with moral consciousness and judgement, or to be human. These discoveries are also relevant to any innate responsibility that comes with being born as such.
As concepts in the existentialist lens, values such as love, grace, and virtue transcend the physical and observed experience, and serve as a way to preserve our beings, and moral consciousness, beyond the mental constructs created in society. Philosophers have described the temptations of power overtaking oneself when we have too much invested in worldly possessions, alongside having a lack of such “power” and attempting to recover one’s value.
We must analyse the impact of WESTern individualism as well as the philosophies and thought processes that have complimented the rise of industry– revealing the disconnect that may result from a lack of spirit: an intuitive force channeled through virtue.
Decision-making and choice are the difference-makers in both circumstances if one desires to actualize what they wish to be. To be virtuous is to make decisions that manifest our potential to be more than our vanity that restricts us from embracing the true worth that lays within our humanity. Each individual is given a chance to be more than what they currently are.
An evaluation of the morals and ethics of both the essentialists and the existentialists brings us closer to finding a balance between the spiritual and scientific perceptions that reveal a role where humans can thrive within both the world and the universe alike.
The universal implications of this thesis has the power to prove how the value of virtue contains the ability that will allow man to evolve into what we can and must be for the sustainable growth of both collective and individual humanity.
Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher during the 19th century, a founding father of existentialism who rose alongside the industrial revolutions of the time. As society used more science to enhance standards of living, work, and production in our everyday lives, Nietzsche’s philosophies sought to deconstruct the social mechanism that is “man” to prepare us for the new prospective society we were to experience moving forward. In order to define what he believed humans could be, he began to question and critique everything we believed we were. His pursuit was fueled by uncovering any inaccurate preconceived notions that we may have followed blindly:
During this time there had been growing attitudes in the west about the subjectivity of the good. Nietzsche believed that, in a “Godless” universe, we would be able to focus on the material and obtain more power and freedom. He defined power as “the will to power.” There would be no restrictions keeping us from the “good”, which he defined as anything we liked or wished to obtain. He saw religious institutions as false masters keeping us from obtaining “good” power; forcing us to remain slaves by entrusting the institutions with our freedom instead of using it ourselves.
According to Nietzsche, this would serve no purpose other than enabling the weak to feel better by giving them a purpose they do not actually have. This is why he critiqued ideas of revolutions led by the poor, and denounced virtues for keeping us from our desires; this being supposedly of no use to increase our social, sensible and empirical power.
The premise of his belief in the ‘superman’, also known as ‘overman’ or ‘ubermensch’, is that we made it this far in our development while surviving off of falsehoods created by over analytical and psychological philosophers who did not understand what we actually were or could be. We gave ourselves concepts to feel safer and perform acts that we rationalize for a God that we gave little proof of, whilst the ability to move forward as humans exists in various other aspects. But the restraint Nietzsche deems as a weakness is also a necessary element for the evolution he discusses precisely because of where we need to go.
How does one get to a state they have never been before without doing things they have never done? How does one achieve a higher state without taking actions towards the higher state?
“Honor, pleasure, intellect, and every virtue we choose on their own account- for even if nothing resulted from them,
we would choose each of them-but we choose them also for the sake of happiness, because we suppose that, through them,
we will be happy.”(Aristotle, pg.11)
Virtuous actions, as acts within themselves, compliment a future that we haven’t been to yet. It connects us and brings us closer to this unraveling future, while removing us from desires that keep us only in ourselves, and only in the moment. By searching for growth and power in our animalistic instincts, we would be going backwards on Nietzsche’s bridge. The growth in science must be accompanied with the growth in spirit that fuels our venture to uncharted territory.
The choice of choosing to be virtuous gives freedom to those who wish to become more than what the persisting and current material world defines them to be.
The supposed self-made illusions identified by Nietzsche are not meant only to coddle us, but to entrust us with a gift of growing further into an evolution; becoming one with the universal virtue that transcends us long past our time comes to an end- through the trials of our subjective and unique paths as humans.
Science has assisted in identifying the universality of Virtue with the discovery of the Fibonacci Sequence, also known as the golden mean. This sequence and equation was discovered as early as 1202 AD as a series of numbers, starting with one and ending at infinity, and is used to predict growth and decay as the next number found was always the product of the previous 2 numbers. The actual ratio was 1.618034. Many years before this, Aristotle had also similarly described virtue as a golden mean.
The rectangular shape of the golden ratio in geometry is the physical manifestation of Aristotle’s golden mean for humanity, finding the right balance of excellence within ourselves. It is theorized that we usually will find it harder to do good than bad as humans with desires that induce us into reaching for selfish worldly pleasures. It is for this reason that the golden mean of the rectangle isn’t perfectly in the middle, but slightly closer to one end; for we must overcome the animalistic side that threatens our ability in this imperfect world.
It is considerably easier to give into our worldly desires and pleasures than to maintain this form of excellence consistently, but the very difficulty of this venture is a necessity to discover the next version of ourselves. What is needed for genuine evolution and growth.
Within nature and man is a blueprint showing us how maintaining balance will connect us with the world and the universe. Additionally, this is how harmony and cycles of growth are preserved within cycles of life in the animal kingdom. Although an animal may not have the humane consciousness to make moral decisions as it kills to survive, it takes just what is necessary for its survival, which is exhibited by the food cycle that sustains ecosystems for all animals to keep living.
The classic story and film, The Lion King, gives a brief explanation of these natural virtues in what they call, The Circle of Life. The grown Lion and current King of the land explains to his son, “when we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass, and so we are all connected in the great circle of life” If a lion overindulges and eats all antelopes, it will be full and pleased momentarily but there will be nothing left to eat for the rest of the lions, or for even itself in the following days.
The connection that allows them all to exist from generation to generation would be broken because when that lion dies, so will its family perish from starvation, and there will be no antelopes to eat the grass that their body becomes when its nutrients are absorbed by the ground.
Even the most vicious predators eat enough to get them through the day because too much is not necessary, and in fact, would have too many repercussions.
“The right amount” is a standard of excellence for all to continue their own purposeful lives, within this circle of life.
Furthermore, the golden mean is a way to elevate ourselves within this cycle of life as we build on top of the fibonacci sequence of our humanity.
Our vices keep us in our vanity so that we may not be anything more than the material we wish to obtain.
If we aren’t conscious of the maxims we hold, we are at risk of slipping into just one interpretation of ourselves,
and giving the power to define us to others. To slip into just one interpretation of ourself
does no justice to who we’re meant to be in completion,
in the many other worlds we exist in, and this is when we become absorbed in vanity.
Vanity and vice are the results of a lack of balance between two extremes. This imbalance is what corrupts the true value of one’s nature, as well as their results, when performing an action. If one has a goal that they never accomplish or execute, then that idea has no considerable value and remains as potential only. But if someone is willing to abandon their beliefs for the sake of a physical object, then they give their value over to that object instead of having it themselves. Virtue is meant to be the bridge to connect these worlds, to bring the most out of the physical while staying true to the purity of the intent and idea.
Vice is not the opposite of Virtue, but instead it is an extreme that results from a lack of it. To remain solely in only the idea of something or in only the physical benefits might be comfortable for some, but it would be limiting the potential of what that action could be- it would be disconnecting said person from a whole other part of themselves and more.
With Virtue also comes understanding, because it is not rejecting either side, but accepting both ends as reality. It is a form of connection, and for this reason, Virtue is about being more than oneself and what is perceived.
We live our current reality in the present and therefore understand most of what we know in this tense, but virtuous actions connect us to the past that we hope to amend, as well as the future we hope to make better.
The past is full of ancestors and forefathers who had contributed to cycles of entrapment,
a rift created from a lack of understanding that we now hope to amend. But our past also contains many triumphs that are evident in the future we now hold, along with the ability to make the pain undergone worth it,
as we carry their energy and legacy.
By having this understanding we make room to sow a more beautiful place we can manifest.
As a black man in America, I can’t help but personally think about the history of slavery and my ancestors who endured. Their physical surroundings told them that they were less than human and trapped, but their life and faith was still passed down into the many beautiful people of color that walk free today, people with the potential to cause true rupture. Our connection to them makes us stronger than we know, and our existence is proof of a power they had beyond what their physical conditions told them they were.
Now their will is in us. And sometimes, I also feel that we personally owe it to those who endured and those who lost their lives to continue to make the most out of our life and our potential, beyond what our physical conditions tell us what we can or should be.
Virtue is a way for us to keep this spirit alive, and it is the love that allows for the will to be passed down and manifested.
The Mountain from VIRTUE: The Manuscript
Illustrated by MUSO
The transition from one lived world to another manifested one is done through ages of growth and learning. The journey of creating or experiencing the essence of this new world is also debated among the essentialists and the existentialists of philosophy who wish to understand its nature. Aristotle’s teacher, Plato, believed that essence was an element that connected our material world of imitations with the abstract and pure world of ideas we access to create these imitations.
Living in an imperfect world, it is essence that gives us the ability to create towards the ideal once we are able to properly view it. The purity of these ideals lay within ourselves and the building blocks of the universe, existing currently, before us, and after us in its most basic form. We also use our knowledge of pure things as a reference to identify the imperfect forms and imitations we come across. Therefore, through essence we are able to bring our world closer to purity because it is the bridge; it is both more than us and within us as well.
“in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual;”(PLATO, 376)
We are able to manifest our natures that existed in the pure world before we were conceived.
However, Existentialists believe in what we are able to experience over what is abstract, hence they believe that essence and our natures are merely constructs and explanations we develop after our creations. Jean-Paul Sartre defends this case in his book Existentialism is a Humanism, identifying what he deems as our responsibility in the reality of our material world:
“there is no human nature since there is no God to conceive of it. Man is not only that which he conceives himself to be, but that which he wills himself to be, and since he conceives of himself only after life exists, just as he wills himself to be after being thrown into existence, man is nothing other than what he makes of himself.”(SArTRE, 22)
It is interpreted that a pure world of ideas cannot actually exist to us until we ourselves are brought into the world to learn and develop. Thus, Existentialists would not deem it necessary to conform to entities such as virtue or destiny, supposedly connecting us with a world of pure forms we have no material access to in our subjective human experiences. If there is no meaning, then our only purpose in life would be the ones we give ourselves.
Despite the influence of these sole perspectives on our view, there is a biological component that does indeed provide us a connection with a world beyond what we believe we are.
Our DNA, the genetic make-up that is in existence before us and will probably be passed down after our time, demonstrates the connection between conceptions of ancestors and descendants that flow through the pure world.
Aside from culture, DNA is the essence that takes us out of our subjective and material forms when understanding that this strand is an acknowledgement; we were once a concept for those before us, and were within this essence until being formed with the ability to now live out our life paths presently.
Man has always existed with the purpose of growing and evolving since the beginning of time, and this is a meaning that has existed before we even fully understood it.
We were part of the world of ideas and pure forms even if we don’t believe we could have recalled it through our current lens.
Our offspring are also part of this essence before being brought into fruition, the same as how our next evolution for humanity also lies currently within this same world of ideas.
Our access to this world of pure forms includes the responsibility to manifest as “representatives of the race” (Sartre), maintaining virtues to bring us closer with the lineage of humanity that will stand long past our time.
Virtuous actions will connect us with the future as we choose to be more than ourselves and merge with this spirit. We will each play our role in pushing our whole race forward through golden equations that many will disregard due to the rise of newer nuanced temptations.
As we move forward, it is important to acknowledge the balance of spirit with science that is necessary to propel mankind forward as a whole.
Although it is possible to be caught in one side and believe there is no necessity for the other, an overindulgence of almost any one thing can result in regression or even a comfortable stagnation. Universally, there may be a way for all of us to access the necessary ratio, but it is up to each individual to decipher and take action towards the trials that have manifested within them specifically.
We must know the power we hold in taking a step forward in what is more than ourselves,
for this future beyond sight.
Humanity has grown and survived by adapting with each discovery, learning to be the best versions of ourselves. We must have the courage to accept the responsibility of being consistently virtuous, and strengthen our connection with this evolutionary entity; that will develop the human race and our society as a whole.
It is then that we may connect and find true understanding-
between any extremes we may face along our journey to who we’re meant to be.
And it is then that we tap into the true essence of our humanity,
and find the spirit needed to remain virtuous.
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Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals. Edited by Allen W Wood. Translated by Allen W Wood, Yale University Press, 2002.
Hume, David, and Selby Bigge L. A. A Treatise of Human Nature. Oxford University Press, 1991.
The Republic. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.idph.net/conteudos/ebooks/republic.pdf
A. (2011). ARISTOTLE’S Nicomachean Ethics (R. C. Bartlett & S. D. Collins, Trans.).
Sartre, J.-P., Cohen-Solal, A., & Elkaïm-Sartre Arlette. (2016). Existentialism is a Humanism (C. Macomber, Trans., J. Kulka, Ed.). Winnipeg: Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning, Alternate Formats.
Sartre, J.-P., Cohen-Solal, A., & Elkaïm-Sartre Arlette. (2016). Existentialism is a Humanism = (LExistentialisme est un humanisme) ; including, a commentary on The stranger (Explication de LÉtranger). (C. Macomber, Trans., J. Kulka, Ed.). Winnipeg: Manitoba Education and Advanced Learning, Alternate Formats.
Nietzsche, F. (1883). Thus Spoke Zarathustra.
Nietzsche, F. W. (1886). Beyond Good and Evil.