Archive for category Wisdom

Caputo’s Upcoming Letter to the Ephesians

Would anyone care to send me to this event? I’d much appreciate it!

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What do you believe?

What do you believe?

  1. Do you believe that the world’s climate is being radically altered in large measure because of human activity?
  2. Do you believe that climate change is a very significant issue?
  3. Do you believe that vaccinations for serious diseases such as measles and mumps do not cause autism?
  4. Do you believe that every child (barring extraordinary medical reasons for not doing so) should be vaccinated against chickenpox, diptheria, measles, mumps, polio, rubella, tetanus, etc.?
  5. Do you believe that there is no evidence that tax cuts for the wealthy result in job creation?
  6. Do you believe that the earth revolves around the sun?
  7. Do you believe that the theory of evolution in its most current articulation is our best explanation for the origin and diversity of species?
  8. Do you believe that the recent rapid expansion of the gap between the wealth possessed by the world’s 80 richest people, on the one hand, and the other 7+ billion people, on the other, is a sign of a sick and unjust economic/political system?

If you answered “no” to any of the questions above, you can help me with my efforts to use my time more efficiently and, thus, to be more productive. If you answered “no” to any of these questions, please note that I will no longer spend any time considering any of your views about these issues – or any others issues, for that matter. Your judgment is so suspect that it is extremely unlikely that any of your views will be credible or justifiable, and so I need not waste my time on them. Thank you for your assistance.

P.s., this arrangment is mutually beneficial. As your “no” answers demonstrate your unwillingness to listen to reason, weigh evidence, or think clearly, you do not need to waste any of your valuable time considering my views. They will be pearls before swine.

Please also note, lest you think you detect a degree of arrogance here, that by “my” views I do not mean anything idiosyncratic or particular to me, nor do I mean that I, myself, am responsible for discovering all the insights that make up my considred views. I simply mean that my views on these key matters are consistent with those that are held by the overwhelming majority of sane, intelligent, honest, and objective persons. The endorsement of such persons is to a significant degree a very good reason for holding the views I do. They are very good reasons for anyone to hold such views.

Of course I realize that a majority’s holding a view does not constitute proof of that view, not even if that majority consists purely of sane, intelligent, honest, and objective persons. But because the majority I have in mind (for the key issues I’ve enumerated here) is sane, intelligent, honest, and objective, they, themselves, have come to their views as a result of examining evidence, considering alternatives, weighing arguments, and then committing themselves to the best explanations for the issue at hand. This is a very good way for anyone to come to their views. The alternative would be to…I don’t know…believe that anything that comes into your head, simply because it came into your head, is GOOD, TRUE, and BEAUTIFUL. This, obviously (to any sane, intelligent, honest, and objective person), is utter nonsense for which there is no justification.

So, please answer the questions to see whether we can save each other some precious time. Thank you.

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A Defense of Reason | New Republic

There are people who prefer ardent thought to clear thought, and loyal thought to strict thought. There are people who mistrust thought altogether and prefer the unarguable authenticities of the heart—the individual heart and the collective heart. There are people who regard thought […] as an activity of an elite…. Yet the ideal of ‘clear and intelligent thought,’ stripped of its condescension and its indifference to the non-rational dimensions of human life, deserves to be defended. We need not be a nation of intellectuals, but we must not be a nation of idiots.

Read the rest of Leon Wieseltier’s reflections: Reason and the Republic of Opinion.

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Karl Barth’s Failure by Matthew Rose | Articles | First Things

 But we are living through the unraveling of the Christian metaphysic, which began with a rejection of classical theism, proceeded to abolish purpose from the material world, and is now eliminating the rational and moral nature of man. In order to recognize this metaphysical demolition for what it is—one can scarcely repair what one misunderstands—Christians are no more helped by Barth than by theological liberalism. Both collude with secular reason in denying our capacity to attain knowledge of the highest things. We will be immeasurably better served by recognizing, as John Paul II wrote in Fides et Ratio, that our “crisis of meaning” stems from failing to defend the ability of reason to know “the ultimate and overarching meaning of life.”

Read more from this thoughtful essay on Barth: Karl Barth’s Failure by Matthew Rose | Articles | First Things.

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BBC News: Why short men make better husbands

Yeah, baby!

But the conclusion of the paper, once one has weeded through, is striking and well documented. It is simply that short men make stable marriages. They do this in circumstances of difficulty and against the odds and consistently over ages and income groups, and they do it with the shorter women they often marry, but also with the taller women they sometimes land. Short men marry late but, once they do get married, tend to stay married longer and, by social science measures, at least – I assume this means they ask the short men’s wives (I hope so anyway) – they stay happily married, too.

via BBC News – A Point of View: Why short men make better husbands.

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More overheard conversation

Sometimes, it starts to seem simple.

What does?

Everything.  All of it.

Simple?

Yeah.  Sometimes I think I see the simple pattern of all the struggles that our common life together seems to bring.

Really?

Yes.  Let me explain.  I read the following sentences in a book:

 In what measure and by what means can individuals accept themselves as mortal without any imaginary instituted compensation; in what measure can thought hold together the demands of the identitary logic which are rooted in the Legein and the exigencies of what is (which is surely not identitary without becoming for that reason incoherent); in what measure, finally and especially, can society truly recognize in its institution its own self-creation, recognize itself as institution, auto-institute itself explicitly, and surmount the self-perpetuation of the instituted by showing itself capable of taking it up and transforming it according to its own exigencies and not according to the inertia of the instituted, to recognize itself as the source of its own alterity?  These are the questions, the question of revolution, which not only go beyond the frontier of the theorizable but situate themselves right away on another terrain…the terrain of the creativity of history.  [Cornelius Castoriades, cited by Dick Howard, The Marxian Legacy, 298-299.]

Say what, now?

Yeah, dense, isn’t it?  But what is the simple meaning?  To me, this  goes back to Aristotle, at least.  What is the good life?  It is the life that is best for us to lead.  How do we know it?  How do we learn it?  We learn it by watching others and forming habits.  But what if the habits we form by watching others whom society says are worth imitating, what if that leads us to vice, not virtue?  What if the whole society is corrupt?  Is there any hope?  Yes, because although moral virtue is very important, there is more to being a human than moral virtue.  There is what Aristotle calls intellectual virtue, which is being able to see what is—even past the habits and practices and institutions of our own society.  With those intellectual virtues, we always have access to the other, to the unexpressed, to the not-now visible possibilities.  Indeed, this goes further back, to Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” in which the prisoner somehow slips his bonds (but how?) and gets out of the darkness of illusion and can see what is in its truth.  But the prisoner does not—cannot—live in this “realm” because he is human.  He needs his institutions in order to live.  Those institutions make life possible AND impossible at the same time.  To say this in a formula:  I am in society, but not wholly of it.  I carry my alterity with me.  I need the bonds of identitary logic to live AND I am always more and other than how that logic “identifies” me, how it turns me into a (mere) identity.

Perhaps that goes even further back to the very edge of thought:  the many and the one, identity and difference, analysis and synthesis.

Indeed, it does.  The truth is in the middle and the margin, in the in-between and at the edges.

But is what you claimed, right?  Is what you just tried to say simple?

Yes.  It is just that simple.

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Do I contradict myself?

Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.

Walt Whitman, Song of Myself

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Another world was possible

Some ancient wisdom for today…

 

THE CONFUCIAN LITERATI SAY: “Heaven gave birth to the people and then set rulers over them.” But how can High Heaven have said this in so many words? Is it not rather that interested parties make this their pretext? The fact is that the strong op­ pressed the weak and the weak submitted to them; the cunning tricked the innocent and the innocent served them. It was because there was submission that the relation of lord and subject arose, and because there was servitude that the people, being powerless, could be kept under control. Thus servitude and mastery result from the struggle between the strong and the weak and the contrast between the cunning and the innocent, and Blue Heaven has nothing whatsoever to do with it.

When the world was in its original undifferentiated state, the Nameless (wu-ming, i.e., the Tao) was what was valued, and all creatures found happiness in self-fulfillment. Now when the cinnamon-tree has its bark stripped or the var­ nish-tree is cut, it is not done at the wish of the tree; when the pheasant’s feathers are plucked or the kingfisher’s torn out, it is not done by desire of the bird. To be bitted and bridled is not in accordance with the nature of the horse; to be put under the yoke and bear burdens does not give pleasure to the ox. Cunning has its origin in the use of force that goes against the true nature ofthings, and the real reason for harming creatures is to provide useless adornments. Thus catching the birds of the air in order to supply frivolous adornments, making holes in noses where no holes should be, tying beasts by the leg when nature meant them to be free, is not in accord with the destiny of the myriad creatures, all born to live out their lives unharmed. And so the people are compelled to labour so that those in office may be nourished; and while their superiors enjoy fat salaries, they are reduced to the direst poverty.  

It is all very well to enjoy the infinite bliss of life after death, but it is preferable not to have died in the first place; and rather than acquire an empty reputation for in­tegrity by resigning office and foregoing one’s salary, it is better that there should be no office to resign. Loyalty and righteousness only appear when rebellion breaks out in the empire, filial obedience and parental love are only displayed when there is dis­cord among kindred.  

In the earliest times, there was neither lord nor subjects. Wells were dug for drinking-water, the fields were plowed for food, work began at sunrise and ceased at sunset; everyone was free and at ease; neither competing with each other nor schem­ing against each other, and no one was either glorified or humiliated. The wastelands had no paths or roads and the waterways no boats or bridges, and because there were no means of communication by land or water, people did not appropriate each other’s property; no armies could be formed, and so people did not attack one another. Indeed since no one climbed up to seek out nests nor dived down to sift the waters ofthe deep, the phoenix nested under the eaves of the house and dragons dis­ported in the garden pool. The ravening tiger could be trodden on, the poisonous snake handled. Men could wade through swamps without raising the waterfowl, and enter the woodlands without startling the fox or the hare. Since no one even began to think of gaining power or seeking profit, no dire events or rebellions occurred; and as spears and shields were not in use, moats and ramparts did not have to be built. All creatures lived together in mystic unity, all of them merged in the Way (Tao). Since they were not visited by plague or pestilence, they could live out their lives and die a natural death. Their hearts being pure, they were devoid of cunning. Enjoying plenti­ful supplies of food, they strolled about with full bellies. Their speech was not flow­ery, their behavior not ostentatious. How, then, could there have been accumulation of property such as to rob the people of their wealth, or severe punishments to trap and ensnare them? When this age entered on decadence, knowledge and cunning came into use. The Way and its Virtue (Tao te) having fallen into decay, a hierarchy was established. Customary regulations for promotion and degradation and for profit and loss proliferated, ceremonial garments such as the [gentry’s] sash and sac­rificial cap and the imperial blue and yellow [robes for worshiping Heaven and Earth] were elaborated. Buildings of earth and wood were raised high into the sky, with the beams and rafters painted red and green. The heights were overturned in quest of gems, the depths dived into in search of pearls; but however vast a collection of pre­cious stones people might have assembled, it still would not have sufficed to satisfy their whims, and a whole mountain of gold would not have been enough to meet their expenditure, so sunk were they in depravity and vice, having transgressed against the fundamental principles of the Great Beginning. Daily they became further removed from the ways of their ancestors, and turned their back more and more upon man’s original simplicity. Because they promoted the “worthy” to office, ordi­nary people strove for reputation, and because they prized material wealth, thieves and robbers appeared. The sight of desirable objects tempted true and honest hearts, and the display of arbitrary power and love of gain opened the road to rob­bery. So they made weapons with points and with sharp edges, and after that there was no end to usurpations and acts of aggression, and they were only afraid lest crossbows should not be strong enough, shields stout enough, lances sharp enough, and defences solid enough. Yet all this could have been dispensed with if there had been no oppression and violence from the start.  

Therefore it has been said: “Who could make scepters without spoiling the un­blemished jade? And how could altruism and righteousness (jen and i) be extolled un­less the Way and its Virtue had perished?” Although tyrants such as Chieh and Chou were able to burn men to death, massacre their advisers, make mince-meat of the feudal lords, cut the barons into strips, tear out men’s hearts and break their bones, and go to the furthest extremes of tyrannical crime down to the use of torture by roasting and grilling, however cruel they may by nature have been, how could they have done such things if they had had to remain among the ranks of the common people? If they gave way to their cruelty and lust and butchered the whole empire, it was because, as rulers, they could do as they pleased. As soon as the relationship between lord and subject is established, hearts become daily more filled with evil de­signs, until the manacled criminals sullenly doing forced labour in the mud and the dust are full of mutinous thoughts, the Sovereign trembles with anxious fear in his ancestral temple, and the people simmer with revolt in the midst of their poverty and distress; and to try to stop them revolting by means of rules and regulations, or con­trol them by means of penalties and punishments, is like trying to dam a river in full flood with a handful of earth, or keeping the torrents of water back with one finger.

 

BaoJingyan: “Neither Lord Nor Subject” (300 CE)

[From Anarchism: A Documentary History of Libertarian Ideas, Volume 1.]

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Advice from John Searle – Find the questions you are passionate about

In an interview with John R. Searle, there was this exchange (edited):

 Searle: That’s my main objection to contemporary philosophy: they’ve lost sight of the questions. …

Interviewer: … But what advice would you give to a young philosopher starting out to not lose sight of the questions?

Searle: Well, my advice would be to take questions that genuinely worry you. Take questions that really keep you awake at nights, and work on them with passion. I think what we try to do is bully the graduate students. The graduate students suffer worse than the undergraduates. We bully the graduate students into thinking that they have to accept our conception of what is a legitimate philosophical problem, so very few of them come with their own philosophical problems. They get an inventory of problems that they get from their professors. My bet would be to follow your own passion. That would be my advice. That’s what I did.

Indeed! The idea is to find the questions that matter, at least to you and pursue them doggedly.

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kripke’s unfinished business » 3:AM Magazine

Scott Soames:

I wrote an essay every week, which he [Dagfinn Føllesdal] spent an hour talking to me about. During one session, he gave me one of the two best pieces of advice about writing philosophy I ever received. He said “Mr. Soames, you should write so that if you make a mistake, anyone who knows the subject will immediately be able to identify it.” The other piece of good advice, later given by Judy Thomson, was “Don’t be afraid of mistakes; if you never make mistakes, you’ll never be a success.” Not to worry.

via kripke’s unfinished business » 3:AM Magazine.

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