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ALL 90 TOPICS IN ONE WEBPAGE

(INDIVIDUAL TOPIC WEBPAGES PLUS SOME THEORY)

(TOPIC NAMES IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)

Select one of the three categories of quotes/aphorisms below by clicking on it. (Each category consists of a chain of paired quotes, with each pair corresponding to a link in the chain.) To continue in that category, click repeatedly on “GO TO next pair” at the top left-hand corner of the webpage. When you arrive at the last pair, the next click will take you back to the beginning of the chain. If any of the selected aphorisms leave you dissatisfied or restless, you can browse above or below to see if there’s anything better. However, you have to return to the original pair if you want to pick up where you left off. Otherwise you may find yourself in a different category. For best results read the aphorisms in a strong clear voice, letting the words flow over you like water. If you do it often enough, the “magic” of acquisition will occur. Click HERE for theory. Click HERE for a sample of aphorisms selected from the material below.


INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

(14 pairs of quotes)


23 FAVOURITE TOPICS

(3 pairs of quotes per topic)



66 ADDITIONAL TOPICS

(1 pair of quotes per topic)



What Do We Agree On?

In all communication there has to be a shared body of knowledge that is taken for granted. We have to agree on what you don’t have to define.

David Cayley

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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Few maxims are true in every respect.

Marquis de Vauvenargues

Any general statement is like a cheque drawn on a bank. Its value depends on what is there to meet it.

Ezra Pound

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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In all pointed sentences some degree of accuracy must be sacrificed to conciseness.

Samuel Johnson

There is an accuracy that defeats itself by the overemphasis of details. I often say that one must permit oneself, and quite advisedly and deliberately, a certain margin of misstatement.

Benjamin N. Cardozo

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.

Bertrand Russell

Very few sentences can withstand analytical criticism because language is not a logical system.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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Equality is essential to conversation.

G. K. Chesterton

Every man has a right to be wrong in his opinions. But no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.

Bernard Baruch

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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It doesn’t pay to tell someone they are wrong.

Dale Carnegie

When you object to someone’s attitude or opinion on moral grounds, it invariably causes bad feeling.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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The art of pleasing consists in being pleased.

William Hazlitt

The most important trait in determining a person’s attractiveness is the degree of their negativity: the more negative, the less attractive.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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We often irritate others when we think we could not possibly do so.

La Rochefoucauld

The degree to which a person is loved and accepted is in exact proportion to his or her ability to give enjoyment to others—family sometimes excepted.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

People who haven’t received much emotionally usually can’t give much emotionally.

A loving person lives in a loving world. A hostile person lives in a hostile world: everyone you meet is your mirror.

Ken Keyes

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

The irrational is not necessarily unreasonable.

G. K. Chesterton

In the human psyche things rarely achieve the simplicity of rational categories.

Ignace Lepp

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

Common sense is a form of insight, but it’s not infallible.

We seldom attribute common sense except to those who agree with us.

La Rochefoucauld

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

Not every word can be defined.

As nothing can be proved but by supposing something intuitively known, and evident without proof, so nothing can be defined but by the use of words too plain to admit a definition.

Samuel Johnson

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

Just because we can’t define something as a truth doesn’t mean we can’t feel it as a fact.

G. K. Chesterton

Nobody can define blue, or explain how blue differs from yellow. But, unless we were born blind, that doesn’t mean that we are unacquainted with blue, or unacquainted with the difference between blue and yellow.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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All explanations come to an end somewhere.

Thomas Nagel

It is not every question that deserves an answer.

Publilius Syrus

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

Any premises that are capable of being put into words are also capable of being verbally questioned. Any argument whatsoever can thus be made into an infinite regress.

Christopher Derrick

Rival philosophers can undermine one another’s arguments indefinitely. Hence the importance of the medieval maxim: No useful discussion is possible unless both parties to the discussion start from the same premise.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

If a creed makes a man feel happy, he almost inevitably adopts it. Such a belief ought to be true, he reasons, therefore it is true.

William James

A belief is not necessarily false because it happens to be consoling.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

We demand strict proof for opinions we dislike, but are satisfied with mere hints for what we’re inclined to accept.

John Henry Newman

It’s not a controversial proposition that people tend to believe what they want, and that the strength of their conviction is usually proportional to their self-interest.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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Desire is the very essence of man.

Spinoza

The search for an outside meaning that can compel an inner response must always be disappointed: all ‘meaning’ must be at bottom related to our primary desires, and when they are extinct no miracle can restore to the world the value which they reflected upon it.

Bertrand Russell

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing.

John Henry Newman

It is impossible to make any intellectual headway against the steady resistance of a strong negative conviction.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

What is reasonable for people to do in the face of new evidence depends on what they previously had good reason to believe.

Anthony Flew (Interview)

PARAPHRASE: What is reasonable for people to regard as evidence depends on what they previously thought they had good reason to believe.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

Most of what we take for granted is exceedingly difficult to validate, and much of it impossible.

Bryan Magee

It is impossible to accept or reject a world view on the basis of purely rational arguments.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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Arguments that don’t satisfy us emotionally usually don’t satisfy us intellectually. Everyone weighs certain kinds of evidence differently depending on what they want or don’t want to believe.

The closest we can get to impartiality is admitting we are partial.

G. K. Chesterton

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

You can always use logic to get round common sense.

Increasing the speed limit on our highways is not necessarily going to make our roads unsafe.

Al Palladini (Minister of Transport under

Ontario Premier Mike Harris and former car salesman)

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.

G. K. Chesterton

Logic is always an ‘if. . . then. . .’ process which proceeds from the known to the unknown. But if nothing is known at the beginning of the process, then nothing can ever be known. You can’t use logic to generate knowledge from a state of total ignorance.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. There are some premises that can’t be reached as conclusions.

C. S. Lewis

No argument can establish the truth of its premises, since if it tried to do so it would be circular; and therefore no argument can establish the truth of its conclusions.

Bryan Magee

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

All knowledge must be built up upon our instinctive [or intuitive] beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left.

Bertrand Russell

Everything that logic can tell us about the world is ultimately founded on something other than logic, and that something, call it instinct or intuition or insight, can only be accepted as a matter of faith or common sense.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

It is not certain that everything is uncertain.

Pascal

It is brilliantly silly to ask whether anything can be known for certain—for the simple reason that no amount of argument can ever get you an inch closer to an answer. All that argument can do is to go on repeating the question forever. On the other hand, any conceivable answer to the question implies that at least one thing is known for certain.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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We can be certain without being logically certain. As well as logical certainty there is the certainty of experience.

We can be certain that we exist, that we’re alive, that we’re awake, that we’re sane, even though we can’t demonstrate our certainty. After all, it would be insincere to pretend that we’re not absolutely certain that some people try to evade income tax, or that politicians don’t always keep their promises.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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The case for any world view cannot be based on a mathematical certainty—as in the proposition, ‘Things which are equal to the same thing are equal to one other.’

Arnold Lunn

The attempt to establish the truth of any particular philosophy through purely intellectual processes is absolutely hopeless—and for purely intellectual reasons.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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Every philosophical position has its own difficulties. The question one must decide is not whether the answers to the difficulties of some particular philosophy are completely satisfying, but whether they are more satisfying than the answers to the difficulties inherent in alternative philosophies.

Arnold Lunn

We must abandon the search for an argument so powerful and so incontrovertible that it will destroy the philosophical opposition once and for all.

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

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Philosophical argument, strictly speaking, consists mainly of an endeavour to cause the hearer to perceive what has been perceived by the speaker. The argument, in short, is not of the nature of proof, but of exhortation: Look, can’t you see what I see!

Bertrand Russell

Metaphysics is the only thoroughly emotional thing.

G. K. Chesterton

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

All of us must hold metaphysical beliefs about the world, whether we like it or not. An example of a metaphysical belief would be the belief that the laws of nature really are laws, and not just weird repetitions.   NEW LINK (May 30/24)

I do not for my part know what is meant by the word “metaphysics.” The only definition I have found that fits all cases is: ‘a philosophical opinion not held by the present author.’

Bertrand Russell

INTELLECTUAL PRINCIPLES

All intelligent ideas are narrow in the sense that they cannot be broader than themselves.

G. K. Chesterton

An atheist can’t believe that god exists and continue to be an atheist, just as a Christian can’t believe that atheism is true and continue to be a Christian. There’s no such thing as unbounded intellectual freedom.

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Is America a Unique and Special Country?

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Is America a Unique and Special Country?

There is nothing wrong with Americans except their ideals. The real American is all right; it is the ideal American who is all wrong.

G. K. Chesterton

America is not only essential to the existence of Europe, it is also an essential part of Western civilization without which the survival of the latter is hardly conceivable. But though it forms part of Western civilization it is not a part of Europe, and endless misunderstandings have been caused by a failure to observe this distinction. For the civilization of the United States has a dual character. On the one hand, it is a Western extension of European culture—on the other, it is the civilization of a New World: a world which is highly conscious of its individuality, and which feels itself to be separate and different from the Old World—not only from the world of Asia, but from the world of Europe and of Western Europe too. This dual character is deeply rooted in American history: indeed it may almost be described as the root of American history.

Christopher Dawson (from Understanding Europe, 1952)

Europe will never be like America. Europe is a product of history. America is a product of philosophy.

Margaret Thatcher

AMERICA

I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government are foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labour, property, and lives of their people. On our part, never had a people so favourable a chance of trying the opposite system of peace and fraternity with mankind, and the direction of all our means and faculties to the purposes of improvement instead of destruction.

Thomas Jefferson (from a letter to President Monroe in 1823)

America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success.

Sigmund Freud

AMERICA

For many Americans business is the business of life. It is also the romance of life. We shall admire or deplore this spirit, accordingly as we are glad to see trade irradiated with so much poetry, or sorry to see so much poetry wasted on trade. But it does make many people happy, like any other hobby; and one is disposed to add that it does fill their imaginations like any other delusion. For the true criticism of all this commercial romance would involve a criticism of this historic phase of commerce. These people are building on sand, though it shines like gold, and for them like fairy gold. Half the financial operations they follow deal with things that do not even exist; for in that sense all finance is a fairy tale. Many of them are buying and selling things that do nothing but harm; but it does them good to buy and sell them . . . Business really is romance; for it is not reality.

G. K. Chesterton (from What I Saw in America, 1922)

As one digs deeper into the national character of the Americans, one sees that they have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: how much money will it bring in?

Alexis de Tocqueville

AMERICA

Speaking of his father, publisher Frank Sheed, Wilfrid Sheed writes: ‘On the way home, he breezed through the United States on a lecture tour—anyone could give a lecture tour in the U.S. back then. You only had to ask. Henceforth, his life would somewhat resemble a pool hustler’s, as he paid his way from coast to coast playing the speaking game, but there was always something 1920s about his view of America: a very lawless country, an alcoholic country, he would say. Also poorly educated, unmodulated voices. Beautiful young people but no real faces among the middle aged. Fat. For a future apostle to this country, Frank took his sweet time about liking it, and even longer about respecting it. But then, as he might say, who knows what Saint Patrick really thought of the Irish?’

Individualism is the death of individuality. It is so, if only because it is an “ism.” Many Americans become almost impersonal in their worship of personality. Where their natural selves might differ, their ideal selves tend to be the same... There is not quite enough un[self-]consciousness to produce real individuality.

G. K. Chesterton

AMERICA

In a democratic political order there’s always the danger that independent thought might be translated into political action. So it is important to eliminate the threat at its root. Debate cannot be stilled and indeed should not be stilled in a properly functioning system of propaganda. The reason is that it has a system reinforcing character if it is constrained within proper bounds. What is essential is to set the bounds firmly. Controversy may rage as long as it adheres to the presuppositions that define the elite consensus. And it should furthermore be encouraged within these bounds. That helps establish these doctrines as the very condition of thinkable thought, and it reinforces the belief that freedom reigns.

Noam Chomsky

In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.

Alexis de Tocqueville

AMERICA

Once when Churchill was staying at the White House, Mrs. Roosevelt attacked him for his colonialist views on India. “The Indians,” she charged, “have suffered for years under British oppression.” Churchill replied, “Well, Mrs. R., are we talking about the brown-skinned Indians in India who have multiplied under benevolent British rule, or are we speaking about the red-skinned Indians in America who, I understand, are now almost extinct?”

Intellectually, I know that America is no better than any other country; emotionally I know she is better than every other country.

Sinclair Lewis

AMERICA

America is the greatest, freest and most decent society in existence. It is an oasis of goodness in a desert of cynicism and barbarism. This country, once an experiment unique in the world, is now the last best hope for the world.

Dinesh D’Souza

In 1842 Charles Dickens wrote in a letter back to England, ‘I tremble for a Radical coming here [to America], unless he is a Radical on principle, by reason and reflection, and from the sense of right. I fear that if he were anything else he would return home a Tory... I say no more on that subject for two months from this time, save that I do fear that the heaviest blow ever dealt at liberty will be dealt by this country, in the failure of its example on the earth.’

AMERICA

The Belgenland docked at San Diego to a scene straight out of bedlam. There were crowds at the dock, led by the usual phalanx of reporters, cameramen and the newsreel crews. This was the landfall where Einstein received his honour guard of cheerleaders, five hundred of them, chanting his name as he and Elsa strolled by... Given his loathing for uniform and his deep belief that “the herd as such remains dull in thought and feeling,” it beggars the imagination to guess Einstein’s thoughts as he passed along the row of roaring girls.

Thomas Levenson (from Einstein in Berlin, 2003)

America had often been discovered before Columbus, but it had always been hushed up.

Oscar Wilde




Thoughts about America

America abides, the only truly great nation in the world, endearingly almost unaware of its economic, military, and popular cultural supremacy.

Conrad Black

England recognizes a criminal class at the bottom of the social scale. America also recognizes a criminal class at the top of the social scale. In both, for various reasons, it may be difficult for the criminals to be convicted; but in America the upper class of criminals is recognized.

G. K. Chesterton

AMERICA

America has never been an empire. We may be the only great power in history that had the chance, and refused—preferring greatness to power and justice to glory.

George W. Bush

While there is no materialism so crude or so material as American materialism, there is also no idealism so crude or so ideal as American idealism.

G. K. Chesterton

AMERICA

America is . . . the land of the future, where, in the ages that lie before us, the burden of the World’s History shall reveal itself.

Hegel

AMERICA

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By and large the United States is run by the corporations and they hire lawyers from Whittier and actors from Warner Brothers to impersonate presidents, but the actual governing of the United States is done in the board rooms of America.

Gore Vidal

Perhaps the simultaneously most profound and silliest words ever written were: “We hold these truths to be self-evident...

M. Scott Peck

AMERICA

I knew it [his second marriage] would be well received. America loves a redeemed sinner.

Hugh Hefner

It is the great glory of Americans that they are not cynical.

G. K. Chesterton

AMERICA

In the US Constitution, the state is, by implication, a necessary evil: in the Soviet Constitution, it is a necessary good.

Peter Ustinov

The hatred Americans have for their own government is pathological, if understandable. At one level it is simply thwarted greed: since our religion is making a buck, giving a part of that buck to any government is an act against nature.

Gore Vidal

AMERICA

The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.

Alexis de Tocqueville

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.

Winston Churchill

AMERICA

There is something very wonderful about this country, but not for me. In no country that I’ve been in have I felt so completely an outsider as here.

Malcolm Muggeridge

While lecturing in America Hilaire Belloc wrote the following in a letter back to England: ‘The utter foreignness of that mechanical life, even to me who knows the place so well and for so many years and who admires the simplicity and huge generosity of its strange people is a burden beyond bearing...’

AMERICA

We are being swallowed up by the popular culture of the United States, but then the Americans are being swallowed up by it too. It’s just as much a threat to American culture as it is to ours.

Northrop Frye

Far worse things have been done by American cultural and commercial influence than were ever done by the Nazis in the long run in changing European society.

George Woodcock

AMERICA

What the United States does best is to understand itself. What it does worst is understand others.

Carlos Fuentes

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Is a Destructive Emotion Like Anger Always Wrong, Usually Wrong, or Never Wrong?

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Is a Destructive Emotion Like Anger Always

Wrong, Usually Wrong, or Never Wrong?

[Ibsen] was a specialist in anger, a man to whom irascibility was a kind of art form in itself. He even treasured its manifestations in nature. While he was writing his ferocious play Brand, he later recorded, ‘I had on my table a scorpion in an empty beer glass. From time to time the brute would ail. Then I would throw a piece of ripe fruit into it, on which it would cast itself in a rage and inject its poison into it. Then all was well again’... In a terrifying letter he wrote in 1867 to Bjornstjerne Bjornson, his fellow writer, whose daughter later married Ibsen’s son, he wrote: ‘Anger increases my strength. If there is to be war, then let there be war! . . . I shall not spare the child in its mother’s womb, nor any thought nor feeling that may have motivated the actions of any man who shall merit the honour of being my victim. . . Do you know that all my life I have turned my back on my parents, on my whole family, because I could not bear to continue a relationship based on imperfect understanding.’

Paul Johnson (from Intellectuals, 1988)

Nothing annihilates an inhibition as irresistibly as anger does it; for, as Moltke says of war, destruction pure and simple is its essence.

William James

ANGER & HATRED

[At the age of 56 George Bernard Shaw fell ‘violently and exquisitely in love’ with Mrs. Patrick Campbell (Stella as he was to call her), an attractive and youthful-looking (she was 47) actress of his acquaintance. The affair was very brief, and it was Stella who ended it. Between Shaw’s appalling emotional disabilities, the fact that he was already married, and that she was intending to marry George Cornwallis-West, she had no choice really. Shaw’s wife, Charlotte, was out of the country, and feeling there would never be another opportunity like this he joined Stella—against her will—at the Guildford Hotel on Sandwich Bay, where she was trying to learn her lines for Barrie’s play The Adored One. After putting up with the love-sick playwright for several days, she dumped him. As Michael Holroyd makes clear in his superb biography, The Pursuit of Power Vol. 2, Shaw took it very badly.]

He kept mailing letters to Stella wherever she was: again that night, then next morning, and after he had returned to London. It seemed to him that she had been more gratuitously cruel than a child, and he turned all the blame on her. She was a ‘one-part actress.’ She used her sex appeal irresponsibly, furtively, without discrimination, blundering about after life then huddling up and screaming when it opened its arms to her. She was a man’s disgrace and infatuation. He felt the need of some monstrous retribution. ‘I have not said enough vile things to you. . . Come round me all the good friends whom I have neglected for her. Even her slanderers shall be welcome. . . give me anything that is false, malicious, spiteful, little, mean, poisonous or villainous, and I will say it if only it hurts you. I want to hurt you because you hurt me.’

ANGER & HATRED

[The following passage is from Evelyn Waugh’s popular novel Brideshead Revisited. The protagonist, Charles Ryder, has traveled to Venice with his rich, charming friend, Sebastian, to meet Sebastian’s father, Alex. While Sebastian and his father are out playing tennis, the father’s clear-sighted continental mistress, Cara, explains the emotional realities of Sebastian’s broken family to her young and naive visitor. This episode can be seen in the second half of the youtube clip of the TV production of Brideshead Revisited by clicking HERE.]

“I know of these romantic friendships of the English and the Germans. They are not Latin. I think they are very good if they do not go on too long.”

She was so composed and matter-of-fact that I could not take her amiss, but I failed to find an answer. She seemed not to expect one but continued stitching, pausing sometimes to match the silk from a work-bag at her side.

“It is a kind of love that comes to children before they know its meaning. In England it comes when you are almost men; I think I like that. It is better to have that kind of love for another boy than for a girl. Alex you see had it for a girl, for his wife. Do you think he loves me?”

“Really, Cara, you ask the most embarrassing questions. How should I know? I assume. . .”

“He does not. But not the littlest piece. Then why does he stay with me? I will tell you; because I protect him from Lady Marchmain. He hates her; but you can have no conception how he hates her. You would think him so calm and English—the milord, rather blasé, all passion dead, wishing to be comfortable and not to be worried, following the sun, with me to look after that one thing that no man can do for himself. My friend, he is a volcano of hate. He cannot breathe the same air as she. He will not set foot in England because it is her home; he can scarcely be happy with Sebastian because he is her son. But Sebastian hates her too.”

“I’m sure you’re wrong there.”

“He may not admit it to you. He may not admit it to himself; they are full of hate—hate of themselves. Alex and his family. . . Why do you think he will never go into Society?”

“I always thought people had turned against him.”

“My dear boy, you are very young. People turn against a handsome, clever, wealthy man like Alex? Never in your life. It is he who has driven them away. Even now they come back again and again to be snubbed and laughed at. And all for Lady Marchmain. He will not touch a hand which may have touched hers. When we have guests I see him thinking, ‘Have they perhaps just come from Brideshead? Are they on their way to Marchmain House? Will they speak of me to my wife? Are they a link between me and her whom I hate?’ But, seriously, with my heart, that is how he thinks. He is mad. And how has she deserved all this hate? She has done nothing except to be loved by someone who was not grown-up. I have never met Lady Marchmain; I have seen her once only; but if you live with a man you come to know the other women he has loved. I know Lady Marchmain very well. She is a good and simple woman who has been loved in the wrong way. When people hate with all that energy, it is something in themselves they are hating.”

All great hatred is self-hatred.




Thoughts about Anger & Hatred

A love can grow to be nine-tenths hatred and still call itself love.

C. S. Lewis

ANGER & HATRED

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A large part of mankind is angry not with the sins, but with the sinners.

Seneca

Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way—that is not easy.

Aristotle

ANGER & HATRED

Anger is a product of a hurt ego rather than of others’ wrongs or sufferings. What one was angry about was one’s own capacity to be beguiled. This is the fallacy of anti-Communism, or anti-anything.

Malcolm Muggeridge (from Many Winters Ago in Moscow)

An intellectual hatred is the worst.

W. B. Yeats

ANGER & HATRED

Getting angry about human affairs is as ridiculous as losing one’s temper in a traffic jam.

Malcolm Muggeridge

ANGER & HATRED

Hatred is settled anger.

Cicero

The philosophers of the Middle Ages used to teach that sadness leads to hatred.

ANGER & HATRED

It is a great mistake to suppose that love unites and unifies men. Love diversifies them, because love is directed towards individuality. The thing that really unites men and makes them like to each other is hatred.

G. K. Chesterton

Movements born in hatred very quickly take on the characteristics of the thing they oppose.

J. S. Habgood

ANGER & HATRED

It is a sin peculiar to man to hate his victim.

Tacitus

It doesn’t much matter what a man hates, provided he hates something.

Samuel Butler

ANGER & HATRED

Men hate more steadily than they love.

Samuel Johnson

Most people are more conscious of their dislikes than of their sympathies. The latter are weak while hatreds are strong.

Ernest Dimnet

ANGER & HATRED

Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life.

Eric Hoffer

In 1923 Hitler told Goebbels, “God’s most beautiful gift bestowed on us is the hate of our enemies, whom we in turn hate from the bottom of our hearts.”

ANGER & HATRED

People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday School, but it’s true.

Richard Nixon

There is not a more mean, stupid, dastardly, pitiless, selfish, spiteful, envious, ungrateful animal than the public.

William Hazlitt

ANGER & HATRED

The hatred of relatives is the most violent.

Tacitus

The very same conditions of intimacy which make affection possible also make possible a peculiarly incurable distaste; a hatred as immemorial, constant, unemphatic, almost at times unconscious, as the corresponding form of love.

C. S. Lewis

ANGER & HATRED

To be angry is to be wrong.

Hugh Kingsmill

It’s not anger that’s wrong, it’s being angry at the wrong thing that’s wrong. It’s not hatred that’s wrong, it’s hating the wrong thing that’s wrong.

ANGER & HATRED

We are full of odd hates and dislikes.

C. S. Lewis

There was no way to dissuade [Evelyn] Waugh from an irrational hatred once contracted.

Martin Stannard (biographer)

ANGER & HATRED

Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?

Bertrand Russell

Hitler was able to win the loyalty of an advanced European nation, and hold it against all circumstances, by pouring out hatreds deeply felt within himself, and stoking the hate of others.

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Should the Primary Purpose of Argument be to Show that You're Right or to Show How You Think?

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Should the Primary Purpose of Argument be to
Show that You’re Right or to Show How You Think?

The character and history of a man can be related to his ideas in two ways: genetically, as a merely accidental element, as a condition; and by way of an inner relevance by which the historical and the trans-historical spheres are related to one another. To consider the first kind of relationship as the only possible one is the basis of all psychologism [the tendency to interpret events or arguments in subjective terms, or to exaggerate the relevance of psychological factors]. . . Indeed, there is no getting away from the world of personal motives as a conditional cause. Schopenhauer would not have developed a certain set of ideas if his mother had been a different person. This is psychologically interesting but not more; we shall always be aware of its relative significance. And yet to point it out is necessary for the plenitude of insight. Jaspers emphasizes the necessity of knowing one’s entire position, including one’s personal psychological background, to give fullness, as it were, to one’s philosophy. He was particularly wary of the pitfalls of psychologism, and his statement does not imply a simple reduction of philosophical ideas to conscious or unconscious motives, as it had with Nietzsche. It rather implies an added dimension, a rounding-off of insight.

Karl Stern (from The Flight from Woman, 1965)

It may be that twelve hundred men in Tottenham are down with smallpox; but we want to know whether this is stated by some great philosopher who wants to curse the gods, or only by some common clergyman who wants to help the men. . . Granted that he states only facts, it is still essential to know what are his emotions, what is his motive.

G. K. Chesterton

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

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I have learned that arguments, no matter how watertight, often fall on deaf ears. I am myself the author of arguments that I consider rigourous and unanswerable but that are often not so much rebutted or even dismissed as simply ignored.

Daniel Dennett (from Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, 1995)

Religious (or simple) fundamentalism is the inability to see that words can’t do what we thought they could do, namely, establish truth with authority and without ambiguity. Philosophical (or sophisticated) fundamentalism is the inability to see that arguments can’t do what we thought they could do, namely, establish truth authoritatively and unambiguously.

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

If you have a God already whom you believe in, these arguments [such as the cosmological argument] confirm you. If you are atheistic, they fail to set you right. . . The fact is that these arguments do but follow the combined suggestions of the facts and of our feeling. They prove nothing rigourously. They only corroborate our preexistent partialities.

William James

The closest we can get to impartiality is admitting we are partial.

G. K. Chesterton

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

[The following was inspired by William James’ statement, ‘In all sad sincerity I think we must conclude that the attempt to demonstrate by purely intellectual processes the truth of the deliverances of direct religious experience is absolutely hopeless.’]

The attempt to prove (in the ordinary wide sense), to the satisfaction of every honest, intelligent, well-informed person, the superiority of either the religious or the irreligious view of life is intellectually hopeless. (Or, alternatively, it is not possible to establish by purely intellectual processes the greater plausibility, probability, rationality, etc. of either theism or metaphysical naturalism.)

We must abandon the search for an argument so powerful and so incontrovertible that it will destroy the philosophical opposition once and for all.

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

No argument can establish the truth of its premises, since if it tried to do so it would be circular; and therefore no argument can establish the truth of its conclusions.

Bryan Magee

Not all houses are equal. Some are palaces and some are hovels: some are elegant and some are charmless: some are well constructed and others are thrown together. But each one has its good and bad points. So also with arguments. Every argument, like every structure, has some good points, some usefulness. And being enlightened involves being open to every argument, however strongly we reject its conclusions. More particularly it means going out of our way to discover its usefulness, never being dismissive, and sometimes being indulgent.




Thoughts about Argument & Belief

Arguments that don’t satisfy us emotionally usually don’t satisfy us intellectually.

If a creed makes a man feel happy, he almost inevitably adopts it. Such a belief ought to be true, he reasons, therefore it is true.

William James

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.

John Stuart Mill

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from his angle as well as your own.

Dale Carnegie

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

I dislike arguments of any kind. They are always vulgar, and often convincing.

Oscar Wilde

There is a certain amount of trauma involved in changing any long or deeply-held belief.

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

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Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out.

Sydney Smith

Many people like their beliefs, opinions and prejudices more than they like reason.

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

No useful discussion is possible unless both parties to the discussion start from the same premise.

Mediæval Maxim

It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them.

Pierre Beaumarchais

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

Nobody will admit without a struggle that he is prejudiced against anything. Such an admission is distressing to one’s vanity. One likes to believe that one’s views on all subjects are the product of calm, dispassionate reasoning on the available evidence.

Arnold Lunn

What probably distorts everything in life is that one is convinced that one is speaking the truth because one says what one thinks.

Sacha Guitry

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

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People only see what they are prepared to see.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man has his beliefs: his arguments are only his excuses for them . . . we only see what we look at: our attention to our temperamental convictions produces complete oversight as to all the facts that tell against us.

George Bernard Shaw

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

Philosophical argument, strictly speaking, consists mainly of an endeavour to cause the hearer to perceive what has been perceived by the speaker. The argument, in short, is not of the nature of proof, but of exhortation: Look, can’t you see what I see!

Metaphysics is the only thoroughly emotional thing.

G. K. Chesterton

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence.

G. K. Chesterton

It is as absurd to argue men, as to torture them, into believing.

John Henry Newman

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

The analogy is a particularly tricky form of rhetoric when it becomes the basis of an argument rather than merely a figure of speech.

Northrop Frye

A drop of water is not immortal; it can be resolved into oxygen and hydrogen. If, therefore, a drop of water were to maintain that it had a quality of aqueousness which would survive its dissolution we should be inclined to be sceptical.

Bertrand Russell (arguing against immortality)

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

The first condition of right thought is right sensation.

T. S. Eliot

The mind is always the dupe of the heart.

La Rochefoucauld

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.

Bertrand Russell

Every man who attacks my belief diminishes in some degree my confidence in it, and therefore makes me uneasy, and I am angry with him who makes me uneasy.

Samuel Johnson

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

The voice of the intellect is a soft one, but it does not rest till it has gained a hearing.

Freud

Not everybody can be converted to some viewpoint by reason. But some people can be converted by reason.

Arnold Lunn

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

There is nothing purely rational which is strong enough to bind the heart of man.

Karl Stern

A man convinced against his will,
Is of the same opinion still.

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

Very few people listen to argument.

G. K. Chesterton

Time makes more converts than reason.

Tom Paine

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

We are not won by arguments that we can analyse but by tone and temper, by the manner which is the man himself.

Samuel Butler

Men become susceptible to ideas, not by discussion and argument, but by seeing them personified and by loving the person who so embodies them.

Lewis Mumford

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

We demand strict proof for opinions we dislike, but are satisfied with mere hints for what we’re inclined to accept.

John Henry Newman

It’s not a controversial proposition that people tend to believe what they want, and that the strength of their conviction is usually proportional to their self-interest.

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

What ardently we wish, we soon believe.

Edward Young

People believe lies, not because they are plausibly presented, but because they want to believe them. So, their credulity is unshakeable.

Malcolm Muggeridge

BELIEF & ARGUMENT

You cannot win a man from his belief, political or religious, unless you can see why it attracts him and can almost imagine holding it yourself.

Frank Sheed

The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent. Each of them tacitly claims that “the truth” has already been revealed, and that the heretic, if he is not simply a fool, is secretly aware of “the truth” and merely resists it out of selfish motives.

George Orwell (from The Prevention of Literature, 1946)

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Do you Agree with Oscar Wilde, or Should Art be Subservient to Some System of Morality?

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Do you Agree with Oscar Wilde, or Should Art

be Subservient to Some System of Morality?

There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

Oscar Wilde

In ‘cultured’ circles art-for-art’s-saking extended practically to a worship of the meaningless. Literature was supposed to consist solely in the manipulation of words. To judge a book by its subject matter was the unforgivable sin, and even to be aware of its subject matter was looked on as a lapse of taste. About 1928, in one of the three genuinely funny jokes that Punch has produced since the Great War, an intolerable youth is pictured informing his aunt that he intends to ‘write.’ ‘And what are you going to write about, dear?’ asks the aunt. ‘My dear aunt,’ says the youth crushingly, ‘one doesn’t write about anything, one just writes.’

George Orwell

It is simply expression that gives reality to things.

Oscar Wilde

ART & LITERATURE

Ibsen not only invented modern drama but wrote a succession of plays which still form a substantial part of its entire repertoire. He found the Western stage empty and impotent and transformed it into a rich and immensely powerful art form, not only in his own country but throughout the world. Moreover, he not only revolutionized his art but changed the social thinking of his generation and the one that came after. What Rousseau had done for the late eighteenth century, he did for the late nineteenth century. Whereas Rousseau persuaded men and women to go back to nature and in so doing precipitated a collective revolution, Ibsen preached the revolt of the individual against the ancien régime of inhibitions and prejudices which held sway in every small town, indeed in every family. He taught men, and especially women, that their individual conscience and their personal notions of freedom have moral precedence over the requirements of society. In doing so he precipitated a revolution in attitudes and behaviour which began even in his own lifetime and has been proceeding, in sudden jumps and spasms, every since.

Paul Johnson (from Intellectuals, 1988)

Ibsen has throughout, and does not disguise, a certain vagueness and a changing attitude as well as a doubting attitude towards what is really wisdom and virtue in this life—a vagueness which contrasts very remarkably with the decisiveness with which he pounces on something which he perceives to be a root of evil, some convention, some deception some ignorance. We know that the hero of Ghosts is mad, and we know why he is mad. We do also know that Dr. Stockman is sane; but we do not know why he is sane. Ibsen does not profess to know how virtue and happiness are brought about, in the sense that he professes to know how our modern sexual tragedies are brought about. Falsehood works ruin in The Pillars of Society, but truth works equal ruin in The Wild Duck. There are no cardinal virtues of Ibsenism. There is no ideal man of Ibsen. All this is not only admitted, but vaunted in the most valuable and thoughtful of all the eulogies upon Ibsen, Mr. Bernard Shaw’s “Quintessence of Ibsenism.” Mr. Shaw sums up Ibsen’s teaching in the phrase, “The golden rule is that there is no golden rule.” In his eyes this absence of an enduring and positive ideal, this absence of a permanent key to virtue, is the one great Ibsen merit. I am not discussing now with any fullness whether this is so or not. All I venture to point out, with an increased firmness, is that this omission, good or bad, does leave us face to face with the problem of a human consciousness filled with very definite images of evil, and with no definite image of good. To us light must be henceforward the dark thing—the thing of which we cannot speak. To us, as to Milton’s devils in Pandemonium, it is darkness that is visible. The human race, according to religion, fell once, and in falling gained the knowledge of good and of evil. Now we have fallen a second time, and only the knowledge of evil remains to us.

G. K. Chesterton (from Heretics, 1905)

ART & LITERATURE

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We talk of art as something artificial in comparison with life. But I sometimes fancy that the very highest art is more real than life itself. At least this is true: that in proportion as passions become real they become poetical; the lover is always trying to be the poet. All real energy is an attempt at harmony and a high swing of rhythm; and even if we were only real enough we should all talk in rhyme.

G. K. Chesterton

Without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable.

George Bernard Shaw




Thoughts about Art & Literature

All writers are vain, selfish and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon, whom one can neither resist nor understand.

George Orwell

It is the nature of the artist to mind excessively what is said about him. Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.

Virginia Woolf

ART & LITERATURE

Art is like morality. Both consist in deciding where to draw the line.

G. K. Chesterton

Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame . . . The artist loves his limitations: they constitute the thing he is doing. The painter is glad that the canvas is flat. The sculptor is glad that the clay is colourless. It is impossible to be an artist and not care for laws and limits.

G. K. Chesterton

ART & LITERATURE

As I see it, in the twentieth century the genius of man has gone into science and the resultant technology, leaving the field of mysticism and imaginative art and literature almost entirely to charlatans and sick or obsessed minds.

Malcolm Muggeridge

A man’s artistic faculty is merely the means by which he communicates his vision of life, and however brilliant or complex it cannot purify a corrupted vision or deepen a shallow one.

Hugh Kingsmill

ART & LITERATURE

As the mythic and metaphorical language spoken by literature is primary language, and the only means of reaching any spiritual reality beyond language, then, if such reality exists, works of literature themselves represent a practically untapped source of self-transforming power.

Northrop Frye

Literature is a luxury, fiction is a necessity.

G. K. Chesterton

ART & LITERATURE

Good art is still the best means human beings have devised to train perception.

Philip Marchand

The success of any work of art is achieved when we say of any subject, a tree or a cloud or a human character, “I have seen that a thousand times and I never saw it before.”

G. K. Chesterton

ART & LITERATURE

Great poetry always consists of ordinary words transfigured by extraordinary emotion.

Hugh Kingsmill

The majority of poems one outgrows and outlives, as one outgrows and outlives the majority of human passions: Dante’s is one of those which one can only just hope to grow up to at the end of life... Shakespeare gives the greatest width of human passion; Dante the greatest altitude and greatest depth.

T. S. Eliot

ART & LITERATURE

I believe the artistic sense to be the true basis of moral rectitude.

George Bernard Shaw

Why is it . . . that in the broad spectrum of humanity writers should be the meanest, the pettiest, the most jealous, mudslinging, backstabbing, self-centered, conceited people who ever lived?

Ian Frazier

ART & LITERATURE

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Literature is preoccupied with the significance of life while journalism is preoccupied with the phenomena.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Literature is news that stays news.

Ezra Pound

ART & LITERATURE

One of the ironies of the post-modernist school for depreciating literacy is its adherents are all people whose careers depend on the ability to sustain complex written arguments.

Robert Fulford

ART & LITERATURE

Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. For art establishes the basic human truths which must serve as the touchstone of our judgement.

John F. Kennedy

ART & LITERATURE

Poets utter great and wise things which they do not themselves understand.

Plato

No writer fully understands the implications of his own words.

George Woodcock

ART & LITERATURE

The primary and highest function of art is to deliver a message to the soul of man.

Ethelwyn M. Avery

Art is a continuation of politics by other means.

Adolf Hitler

ART & LITERATURE

The public does not like bad literature. The public likes a certain kind of literature and likes that kind of literature even when it is bad better than another kind of literature even when it is good.

G. K. Chesterton

The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good—in spite of all the people who say he is very good.

Robert Graves

ART & LITERATURE

The immature artist imitates. The mature artist steals.

Lionel Trilling

Originality is undetected plagiarism.

W. R. Inge

ART & LITERATURE

The whole meaning of literature is simply to cut a long story short.

G. K. Chesterton

ART & LITERATURE

There is no kind of evidence or argument by which one can show that Shakespeare, or any other writer, is ‘good.’ Ultimately there is no test of literary merit except survival, which is itself an index to majority opinion.

George Orwell

ART & LITERATURE

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To interest is the first duty of art; no other excellences will even begin to compensate for failure in this, and very serious faults will be covered by this, as by charity.

C. S. Lewis

It is taken as basic by all the culture of our age that whenever artists and audience lose touch, the fault must be wholly on the side of the audience. (I have never come across the great work in which this important doctrine is proved.)

C. S. Lewis

ART & LITERATURE

Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness.

Georges Simenon

Why did I write? whose sin to me unknown
Dipt me in ink, my parents’ or my own?

Alexander Pope

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Are Beauty & Pleasure Values? Are They Treated as Values or as Things to be Exploited?

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Are Beauty & Pleasure Values? Are They

Treated as Values or as Things to be Exploited?

The perception of beauty is a moral test.

Henry David Thoreau

[In the following passage from his autobiography C. S. Lewis describes a distant cousin whose family helped raise him and his brother after his mother’s death.]

As for the youngest, G., I can only say that she was the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, perfect in shape and colour and voice and every movement—but who can describe beauty? The reader may smile at this as the far-off echo of a precocious calf-love, but he will be wrong. There are beauties so unambiguous that they need no lens of that kind to reveal them; they are visible even to the careless and objective eyes of a child.

Beauty is a form of genius—is higher indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. People say sometimes that beauty is only superficial, but at least it is not so superficial as thought. It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances.

Oscar Wilde

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

Of Psyche’s beauty—at every age the beauty proper to that age—there is only this to be said, that there were no two opinions about it, from man or woman, once she had been seen. It was beauty that did not astonish you till afterwards when you had gone out of sight of her and reflected on it. While she was with you, you were not astonished. It seemed the most natural thing in the world. As the Fox delighted to say, she was “according to nature”; what every woman, or even every thing, ought to have been and meant to be, but had missed by some trip of chance. Indeed, when you looked at her you believed, for a moment, that they had not missed it. She made beauty all round her.

C. S. Lewis (from Till We Have Faces, 1956)

I had a passionate desire to find some link between the true and the beautiful, so strong that beauty gave me intense pain from the constant sense of this unfulfilled requirement of harmony between it and fact. I read Alastor [a poem by Shelley] after I had lived some time in this state, and there I found the exact mood I had experienced, vividly described. It was only gradually, as I came to care less and less for beauty, as I got through the natural period of morbidness, only as I became more purely intellectual again, that I ceased to suffer from this conflict.

Bertrand Russell

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

Unsuspectedly from the bottom of every fountain of pleasure, as the old poet said, something bitter rises up: a touch of nausea, a falling dead of the delight, a whiff of melancholy, things that sound a knell, for fugitive as they may be, they bring a feeling of coming from a deeper region and often have an appalling convincingness. The buzz of life ceases at their touch as a piano-string stops sounding when the damper falls upon it. Of course the music can commence again;—and again and again—at intervals. But with this the healthy-minded consciousness is left with an irremediable sense of precariousness. It is a bell with a crack; it draws its breath on sufferance and by an accident.

William James

The pleasure of the moment begins to wither almost as soon as it blossoms; our pleasures are soon swallowed up in time’s relentless torrent.

Fr. Michel Quoist

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

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That unchecked indulgence in the more obvious types of pleasure is unsatisfying, is the unanimous teaching of those who have had the leisure and opportunity to try them in all ages. It is the more unfortunate that it is a truth which nobody believes to be true until he has discovered it for himself. . . . You cannot take the kingdom of pleasure, any more than you can take the kingdom of beauty, by storm.

C. E. M. Joad

There are very voluptuous appetites and enjoyments in mere abstractions—like mathematics, logic, or chess. But these mere pleasures of the mind are like mere pleasures of the body. That is, they are mere pleasures, though they may be gigantic pleasures; they can never by a mere increase of themselves amount to happiness.

G. K. Chesterton

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

What do men mean by the desire to be dissolved and to enjoy the spirit free and without attachments? That many men have so desired there can be no doubt, and the best men, whose holiness one recognizes at once, tell us that the joys of the soul are incomparably higher than those of the living man. In India, moreover, there are great numbers of men who do the most fantastic things with the object of thus unprisoning the soul, and Milton talks of the same thing with evident conviction, and the Saints all praise it in chorus. But what is it? For my part I cannot understand so much as the meaning of the words, for every pleasure I know comes from an intimate union between my body and my very human mind, which last receives, confirms, revives, and can summon up again what my body has experienced. Of pleasures, however, in which my senses have had no part I know nothing.

Hilaire Belloc

Pleasures are shafts of God’s glory as it strikes our sensibility. As it impinges on our will or understanding, we give it different names—goodness or truth or the like. But its flash upon our senses and mood is pleasure.

C. S. Lewis

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty, a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show. The true spirit of delight, the exaltation, the sense of being more than Man, which is the touchstone of the highest excellence, is to be found in mathematics as surely as in poetry.

Bertrand Russell

There are, of course, many different kinds of beauty in mathematics. In number theory it seems to be mainly the beauty of the almost infinite detail; in abstract algebra the beauty is mainly in the generality. Various areas of mathematics thus have various standards of aesthetics.

R. W. Hamming

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

Once, as he had sat writing near an open window in Cambridge, he had looked up and shuddered to see, as he supposed, a many coloured beetle of unusually hideous shape crawling across his paper. A second glance showed him that it was a dead leaf, moved by the breeze; and instantly the very curves and re-entrants which had made its ugliness turned into its beauties.

C. S. Lewis (from Out of the Silent Planet)

No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.

Oscar Wilde

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

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Nobody who adores beauty in any one of her many manifestations can fail to doubt the dogmatic negations of the materialist, for every lover of beauty must be influenced consciously or unconsciously by the doctrine that beauty in its many manifestations is a reflection of the eternal beauty which time cannot corrupt.

Arnold Lunn

Beauty is the promise of happiness.

Stendhal




Thoughts about Beauty & Pleasure

BEAUTY: The adjustment of all parts proportionately so that one cannot add or subtract or change without impairing the harmony of the whole.

We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its end; which stands related to all things; which is the mean of many extremes.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

Beauty deprived of its proper foils and adjuncts ceases to be enjoyed as beauty, just as light deprived of all shadows ceases to be enjoyed as light.

John Ruskin

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

Beauty of whatever kind, in its supreme development, invariably excites the sensitive soul to tears.

Edgar Allen Poe

It is in rare and scattered instants that beauty smiles even on her adorers, who are reduced for habitual comfort to remembering her past favours.

George Santayana

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

Beauty must be defined in terms of pleasure or satisfied taste. It is, indeed, nothing more than pleasure taken directly in the contemplation of an object.

Newton P. Stallknecht

The test of pleasure is the memory it leaves behind.

Jean Paul Richter

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

Every religion of the beautiful ends in orgy.

Benjamin Disraeli

What begins as the love of life and beauty often ends in the worship of eroticism or force.

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

Fair tresses man’s imperial race ensnare,
And beauty draws us with a single hair.

Alexander Pope

Beauty and folly are old companions.

Benjamin Franklin

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

It makes no moral sense that beauty should erase sin. And yet, in this world at least, it does.

Jonathan Kay

It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness.

Tolstoy

Beauty is indeed a good gift of God; but that the good may not think it a great good, God dispenses it even to the wicked.

St Augustine

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

Talking about serious questions is a pleasure; it is perhaps the greatest mere pleasure known to man... But in our time it is a secret pleasure; it is enjoyed in dark corners, like a vice.

G. K. Chesterton

There is much pleasure to be gained from useless knowledge.

Bertrand Russell

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

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Those who are now pursuing pleasure are not only fleeing from boredom, but are acutely suffering from it.

G. K. Chesterton

Instant gratification is bad psychology. Pleasure must be earned because part of its very intensity comes from resistance or self-control. To gratify every impulse at once destroys this intensity, as the breaking of a dam reduces all water to the same level.

BEAUTY & PLEASURE

To a happy soul, pleasures are no longer necessary; to a pleasure-seeking soul, happiness is not yet possible.

People feel joy, as opposed to mere pleasure, to the extent that their activities are creative.

Ivan Illich

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Is Boredom one of the Greatest of the Unacknowledged Evils of Human Life?

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Is Boredom one of the Greatest of

the Unacknowledged Evils of Human Life?

BOREDOM: the desire for desires.

Leo Tolstoy

I think that this feigning, this ceaseless pretence of interest in matters to me supremely boring [namely, school athletics], was what wore me out more than anything else. If the reader will picture himself, unarmed, shut up for thirteen weeks on end, night and day, in a society of fanatical golfers—or, if he is a golfer himself, let him substitute fishermen, theosophists, bimetallists, Baconians, or German undergraduates with a taste for autobiography—who all carry revolvers and will probably shoot him if he ever seems to lose interest in their conversation, he will have an idea of my school life... Never, except in the front line trenches (and not always there) do I remember such aching and continuous weariness as at Wyvern [his boarding school, Malvern].

C. S. Lewis

Nothing is as fatiguing as boredom.

Fulton Sheen

BOREDOM

In the eighteenth century Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria, had stated one human dilemma—we are naturally lazy and hate having anything to do: but we are easily bored and cannot bear having nothing to do. So we are forever inventing things to do which are equal to nothing. Coleridge notes among such no-things, reading the advertisements in railway waiting rooms, and spitting over a bridge. Everybody can make his own list—playing cards, smoking, watching television—all ways of escaping the intolerable boredom of our own company.

Frank Sheed

When people are bored, it is primarily with their own selves that they are bored.

Eric Hoffer

BOREDOM

Among those who are rich enough to choose their way of life, the particular brand of unendurable boredom from which they suffer is due, paradoxical as this may seem, to their fear of boredom. In flying from the fructifying kind of boredom, they fall a prey to the other far worse kind. A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy can live.

Bertrand Russell

Those who are now pursuing pleasure are not only fleeing from boredom, but are acutely suffering from it.

G. K. Chesterton

BOREDOM

For thirty years I have not been in a church for other than architectural reasons or to witness a marriage or funeral, and it is partly because I associate them to this day with torture. In Chartres, the Sainte Chapelle, Cologne, Winchester, and the great Hindu temple in Coimbatore, I have traced a vague uneasiness to the thought that I might be trapped by Elder Slauson. To this day, I never sit down to listen to a speech or a lecture without making a mental calculation as to when it will be over. That was the question that was in one’s mind when those terrible sermons began, and one knew, despite whatever resources in optimism on which he might draw, that for all practical purposes they never would be. By half-closing my eyes during a dull lecture, I can to this day see the spare, dark and highly undistinguished features of that Dunwich Township divine. Once when I was eight or nine, my father gave me a dollar watch. According to local lore, they did not last long. For many months I kept mine in the box and carried it only once a month to church. This was not vanity. The sermon was a form of punishment beyond anything that hell had to offer. But it was heaven itself to look at the watch and learn that two or sometimes even three minutes had passed.

John Kenneth Galbraith

I am convinced that boredom is one of the greatest tortures. If I were to imagine Hell, it would be the place where you were continually bored.

Eric Fromm

BOREDOM

A certain amount of excitement is wholesome, but, like almost everything else, the matter is quantitative. Too little may produce morbid cravings; too much will produce exhaustion. A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.

Bertrand Russell

One must choose in life between boredom and suffering.

Mme de Staël




Thoughts on Boredom

A bore is a man who has nothing to say and says it anyway.

Bores bore each other too; but it never seems to teach them anything.

Don Marquis

BOREDOM

A healthy male adult bore consumes each year one and a half times his own weight in other people’s patience.

John Updike

The capacity of human beings to bore one another seems to be vastly greater than that of any other animal.

H. L. Mencken

BOREDOM

Boredom always precedes a period of great creativity.

Robert M. Pirsig

BOREDOM

Boredom is a vital problem for the moralist since at least half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.

Bertrand Russell

Idle people are often bored and bored people, unless they sleep a lot, are cruel. It is no accident that boredom and cruelty are great preoccupations in our time.

Renata Adler

A man who experiences no genuine satisfaction in life does not want peace. People court war to escape meaninglessness and boredom, to be relieved of fear and frustration.

Nels F. S. Ferre

BOREDOM

Boredom is a common condition of school teachers as well as children.

John Taylor Gatto

If we remember that children are bored, not only when they don’t happen to be interested in the subject or when the teacher doesn’t make it interesting, but also when certain working conditions are out of focus with their basic needs, then we can realize what a great contributor to discipline problems boredom really is.

Fritz Redl

BOREDOM

Contrary to what pacifists and other humane persons would like to believe, wars, when they break out, tend to be popular. They offer the illusion of an escape from the boredom which is the lot of, particularly, technological man.

Malcolm Muggeridge

The chief product of an automated society is a widespread and deepening sense of boredom.

C. Northcote Parkinson

BOREDOM

It is one of the essentials of boredom that one’s faculties must not be fully occupied.

Bertrand Russell

BOREDOM: God’s way of telling you that you’re wasting time.

BOREDOM

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Nothing is worse for your health than boredom.

Mignon McLaughlin

People who bore one another should meet seldom, people who interest one another, often.

C. S. Lewis

BOREDOM

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One can only be bored if the spiritual power to be leisurely has been lost.

Josef Pieper

The enlightened person is not easily bored. Nonetheless the enlightened person knows when he or she is being bored and knows for sure when she or he is not. No amount of spectacle or surface glamour should ever persuade you that you are not being bored when, in fact, you are.

Lister Sinclair (of CBC’s Ideas)

BOREDOM

Procrastination avoids boredom; one never has the feeling that there is nothing important to do.

Anyone can do any amount of work provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.

Robert Benchley

BOREDOM

The two enemies of human happiness are pain and boredom.

Arthur Schopenhauer

I think that the word bored does not get the attention it deserves. We speak of all sorts of terrible things that happen to people, but we rarely speak about one of the most terrible things of all: that is, being bored, being bored alone and, worse than that, being bored together.

Erich Fromm

BOREDOM

Uncertainty and mystery are energies of life. Don’t let them scare you unduly, for they keep boredom at bay and spark creativity.

R. I. Fitzhenry

It is the unknown that excites the ardor of scholars, who, in the known alone, would shrivel up with boredom.

Wallace Stevens

What on earth would a man do with himself, if something did not stand in his way.

H. G. Wells

BOREDOM

Underlying my poor tolerance for boredom lies an even deeper gift or curse: a thirst for meaning. As far back as I can remember, any activity that seemed meaningless to me bored me figuratively—and sometimes even literally—to tears.

M. Scott Peck

BOREDOM

We often forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive those who find us boring.

de La Rochefoucauld

Boredom, after all, is a form of criticism.

Wendell Phillips

BOREDOM

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When a thing bores you do not do it. Do not pursue a fruitless perfection.

Eugène Delacroix

A former female associate of a prestigious Manhattan law-firm had this to say about her work: “At best it’s tedious, and at worst the tedium will kill you. It deadened my senses. I’d go out at lunch and find myself envying people who scooped ice cream for a living. At least they could daydream all day.”

BOREDOM

When I get real bored, I like to drive downtown and get a great parking spot, then sit in my car and count how many people ask me if I’m leaving.

Steven Wright

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Can a Wildly Successful Economic System like Capitalism be Morally Flawed? If so, How?

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Can a Wildly Successful Economic System like

Capitalism be Morally Flawed? If so, How?

[Adam] Smith was not the proponent of any one class. He was a slave to his system. His whole economic philosophy stemmed from his unquestioning faith in the ability of the market to guide the system to its point of highest return. The market—that wonderful social machine—would take care of society’s needs if it was left alone. Don’t try to do good, says Smith. Let good emerge as the by-product of selfishness.

Robert L. Heilbroner

CAPITALISM

It had been held that the economic system, any capitalist system, found its equilibrium at full employment. Left to itself, it was thus that it came to rest. Idle men and idle plant were an aberration, a wholly temporary failing.

John Kenneth Galbraith

[Keynes’ book The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money] was revolutionary: no other word will quite do. It stood economics on its head for the book had a startling and dismaying conclusion. There was no automatic safety mechanism after all! Rather than a see-saw which would always right itself, the economy resembled an elevator: it could be going up or down, but it could also be standing perfectly still. And it was just as capable of standing still on the ground floor as at the top of the shaft. A depression, in other words, might not cure itself at all; the economy could lie prostrate indefinitely, like a ship becalmed.

Robert L. Heilbroner

CAPITALISM

Capitalism has never anywhere provided good houses at moderate cost. Housing, it seems unnecessary to stress, is an important adjunct of a successful urban life. Nor does capitalism provide good health services, and when people live close together with attendant health risks, these too are important. Nor does capitalism provide efficient transportation for people—another essential of the life of the Metropolis. In Western Europe and Japan the failure of capitalism in the fields of housing, health and transportation is largely, though not completely, accepted. There industries have been intensively socialized. In the United States there remains the conviction that, however contrary the experience, private enterprise will eventually serve.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Then came the second Amsterdam discovery, although the principle was known elsewhere. [Bank] deposits...did not need to be left idly in the bank. They could be lent. The bank then got interest. The borrower then had a deposit that he could spend. But the original deposit still stood to the credit of the original depositor. That too could be spent. Money, spendable money, had been created. Let no one rub his or her eyes. It’s still being done—every day. The creation of money by a bank is as simple as this, so simple, I’ve often said, that the mind is slightly repelled.

John Kenneth Galbraith

CAPITALISM

The very idea of a government that can create money for itself allowing banks to create money that the government then borrows and pays interest on is so preposterous that it staggers the imagination. Either everyone in government in charge of the procedure is deficient in intelligence or they have been bought and paid for by those who profit from their venality and infidelity to the public interest.

William F. Hixson

Until the control of the issue of currency and credit is restored to government and recognized as its most conspicuous and sacred responsibility, all talk of sovereignty of Parliament and of democracy is idle and futile... Once a nation parts with control of its credit, it matters not who makes the nation’s laws... Usury once in control will wreck any nation.

William Lyon Mackenzie King

CAPITALISM

Capital movements are no longer necessarily related to the production of goods and services. Through the financial markets of the world, capital movements today are overwhelmingly concerned with the capture of and trade in property rights, the ownership of assets that magnify a corporation’s wealth, power, and control. It is what John Maynard Keynes described as “a casino world”—wealth without worth.

Eric Kierans

Consider the hypothesis that the world is being steered by moneyed interests with special access to governments. This would have obvious implications for democratic reforms. It would mean that it is nearly useless to resort to reasoned arguments of a kind that the powers-that-be understand very well but consider not in their interests to recognize.



Thoughts about Capitalism

A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste.

Dorothy L. Sayers

CAPITALISM

A tight-money policy reinforces inequality in two ways. Its high interest rates disproportionately reward the rich, and the resulting unemployment disproportionately punishes the poor.

Linda McQuaig

Behind the abstraction known as “the markets” lurks a set of institutions designed to maximize the wealth and power of the most privileged group of people in the world, the creditor-rentier class of the First World and their junior partners in the Third.

Doug Henwood (from Wall Street: How it Works, and For Whom, 1998)

CAPITALISM

Capitalism is the only society in human history in which neither tradition nor conscious direction supervises the total effort of the community; it is the only society in which the future, the needs for tomorrow, are entirely left to an automatic system.

Robert L. Heilbroner

Capitalism is the philosophy of greed. It breaks down the bonds of solidarity in a society.

Bob Rae

CAPITALISM

Capital, never concerned with distribution, is now less and less concerned with production. Capital is driving for power, for the control over markets, lands, resources. Capital, in corporate hands, can move anywhere and thus demand and get the utmost in concessions and privileges as well as the freedom to operate in the interest of ever-increasing wealth and assets.

Eric Kierans

Economic growth has no limits. If you hear anyone tell you that there’s a limit to growth, they’re wrong and we should avoid those kinds of people. That’s why we’re so successful in the Conservative government.

Deputy Economic Minister under Mulroney

CAPITALISM

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I think that capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight, but that in itself is in many ways extremely objectionable.

Maynard Keynes

Normally speaking, it may be said that the forces of a capitalist society, if left unchecked, tend to make the rich richer and the poor poorer and thus increase the gap between them.

Jawaharlal Nehru

CAPITALISM

The chief safeguard of personal freedom in a democratic society is the anarchy and disorder of capitalist individualism.

Christopher Dawson

The logic of consumerism and the growth economy destroys culture.

CAPITALISM

The multinational corporation...puts the economic decision beyond the effective reach of the political process and its decision-makers, national governments.

Peter Drucker

The payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Albert Einstein

CAPITALISM

The tendency of advanced capitalism has been to enlarge the middle class and not to wipe it out, as it once seemed likely to do.

George Orwell, (from England Your England, 1941)

There is hardly anything in the world that some man can’t make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man’s lawful prey.

John Ruskin

CAPITALISM

There is no intrinsic reason for the scarcity of capital.

John Maynard Keynes

This is the standard procedure for corporate growth these days; one company buys up another on loans that are floated on the basis of future earnings, and the monopoly or oligopoly created in this way produces the necessary funds by squeezing out competition, and passing the costs along to the consumer. The bucket that holds the new wealth is called a corporation.

Eric Kierans

CAPITALISM

Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists.

G. K. Chesterton

What banks loan “for the most part” is money they create—nonpreexisting money.

William F. Hixson

CAPITALISM

What counts in a market-intensive society is not the effort to please or the pleasure that flows from that effort, but the coupling of labour with capital, however useless or damaging the result.

What kind of society isn’t structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm; capitalism is that kind of system.

Milton Friedman

CAPITALISM

When market dependence reaches a certain threshold it deprives people of their power to live creatively and to act autonomously. And precisely because this new impotence is so deeply experienced, it is expressed with difficulty.

Ivan Illich

When well-divided property has disappeared and Capitalism has taken its place, you cannot reverse the process without acting against natural economic tendencies.

Hilaire Belloc

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Is Western Civilization in Decline?

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Is Western Civilization in Decline?

Does Civilization Equal Modernity & What is Modernity?

To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilisation.

Bertrand Russell

[The unattributed quotes below are from Sir Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, 1969.]

I am standing on the Pont des Arts in Paris. On one side of the Seine is the harmonious, reasonable facade of the Institute of France, built as a college in about 1670. On the other bank is the Louvre, built continuously from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century: classical architecture at its most splendid and assured. Just visible upstream is the Cathedral of Notre Dame—not perhaps the most lovable of cathedrals, but the most rigourously intellectual facade in the whole of Gothic art. The houses that line the banks of the river are also a human and reasonable solution of what town architecture should be, and in front of them, under the trees, are the open bookstalls where generations of students have found intellectual nourishment and generations of amateurs have indulged in the civilised pastime of book collecting. Across this bridge, for the last one hundred and fifty years, students from the art schools of Paris have hurried to the Louvre to study the works of art that it contains, and then back to their studios to talk and dream of doing something worthy of the great tradition.

What is civilisation? I don’t know. I can’t define it in abstract terms—yet. But I think I can recognise it when I see it; and I am looking at it now. Ruskin said: ‘Great nations write their autobiographies in three manuscripts, the book of their deeds, the book of their words and the book of their art. Not one of these books can be understood unless we read the two others, but of the three the only trustworthy one is the last.’ On the whole I think this is true. Writers and politicians may come out with all sorts of edifying sentiments, but they are what is known as declarations of intent. If I had to say which was telling the truth about society, a speech by a Minister of Housing or the actual buildings put up in his time, I should believe the buildings.

Architecture is a very good test of the true strength of a society, for the most valuable things in a human state are the irrevocable things—marriage, for instance. And architecture approaches nearer than any other art to being irrevocable, because it is so difficult to get rid of. You can turn a picture with its face to the wall; it would be a nuisance to turn that Roman cathedral with its face to the wall. You can tear a poem to pieces; it is only in moments of very sincere emotion that you tear a town-hall to pieces.

G. K. Chesterton

CIVILIZATION

The translations of the Bible, by Calvin into French, by Tyndale and Coverdale into English, were crucial in the development of the western mind; and if I hesitate to say to the development of civilisation, it is because they were also a stage in the growth of nationalism, and as I have said, and shall go on saying, nearly all the steps upward in civilisation have been made in periods of internationalism.

Every great movement in the history of Western civilization from the Carolingian age to the nineteenth century has been an international movement which owed its existence and its development to the cooperation of many different peoples.

Christopher Dawson

CIVILIZATION

I suppose it is debatable how far Elizabethan England can be called civilised. Certainly it does not provide a reproducible pattern of civilisation as does, for example, eighteenth-century France. It was brutal, unscrupulous and disorderly. But if the first requisites of civilisation are intellectual energy, freedom of mind, a sense of beauty and a craving for immortality, then the age of Marlowe and Spenser, of Dowland and Byrd, was a kind of civilisation.

It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs.

CIVILIZATION

For almost a thousand years the chief creative force in western civilisation was Christianity. Then, in about the year 1725, it suddenly declined and in intellectual society practically disappeared. Of course it left a vacuum. People couldn’t get on without a belief in something outside themselves, and during the next hundred years they concocted a new belief which, however irrational if may seem to us, has added a good deal to our civilisation: a belief in the divinity of nature. . . The first stage in this new direction of the human mind was very largely achieved in England—and perhaps it was no accident that England was the first country in which the Christian faith had collapsed. In about 1730 the French philosopher Montesquieu noted: ‘There is no religion in England. If anyone mentions religion people begin to laugh.’

In the last resort every civilization depends not on its material resources, but on the spiritual vision of its greatest minds and on the way in which this experience is transmitted to the community by faith and tradition and education. Where unifying spiritual vision is lost the civilization decays.

Christopher Dawson

CIVILIZATION

Rousseau sent a copy [of his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality] to Voltaire, who replied in a letter which is a famous example of Voltairean wit: ‘No one has ever used so much intelligence to persuade us to be stupid. After reading your book one feels that one ought to walk on all fours. Unfortunately during the last sixty years I have lost the habit.’ It was a dialectical triumph, but no more, because belief in the superiority of natural man became one of the motive powers of the next half-century; and less than twenty years after Rousseau had propounded his theory, it seemed to have been confirmed by fact. In 1767 the French explorer Bougainville arrived in Tahiti, and in 1769 Captain Cook stayed there for four months in order to observe the transit of Venus. Bougainville was a student of Rousseau. It isn’t surprising that he should have found in the Tahitians all the qualities of the noble savage. But Captain Cook was a hard-headed Yorkshireman, and even he couldn’t help comparing the happy and harmonious life that he had discovered in Tahiti with the squalor and brutality of Europe. Soon the brightest wits of Paris and London were beginning to ask whether the word civilisation was not more appropriate to the uncorrupted islanders of the South Seas than to the exceptionally corrupt society of eighteenth-century Europe.

Like most of his contemporaries [John] Wesley was a whole-hearted believer in the myth of the noble savage. The idealization of the primitive, which finds its most complete expression in the works of Rousseau, was, of course, the normal reaction against the more artificial features of the age. In religion, this tendency was responsible for an artless confidence in the inspiration of the illiterate. The Anabaptists of Zwickau conscientiously refused to open the commentaries of learned divines on the Bible, and applied to ignorant peasants to explain to them the hidden meanings which lurked behind the gospel text. Wesley entertained a similar hope. The Red Indian, he trusted, would prove to be the ideal exegete.

“They have no comments to construe away the text (of the gospel),” he wrote, “no vain philosophy to corrupt it; no luxurious sensual, covetous, ambitious expounders to soften its unpleasing truths. They have no party, no interest to serve, and are therefore fit to receive the Gospel in its simplicity. They are as little children, humble, willing to learn, and eager to do, the Will of God.” Two years later, he penned a more accurate description of these same Indians whom he summed up as “gluttons, thieves, dissemblers, liars, murderers of fathers, murderers of mothers, murderers of their own children.”

Arnold Lunn (from John Wesley, 1929)

CIVILIZATION

I hold a number of beliefs that have been repudiated by the liveliest intellects of our time. I believe that order is better than chaos, creation better than destruction. I prefer gentleness to violence, forgiveness to vendetta. On the whole I think that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and I am sure that human sympathy is more valuable than ideology. I believe that in spite of the recent triumphs of science, men haven’t changed much in the last two thousand years; and in consequence we must still try to learn from history. History is ourselves. I also hold one or two beliefs that are more difficult to put shortly. For example, I believe in courtesy, the ritual by which we avoid hurting other people’s feelings by satisfying our own egos. And I think we should remember that we are part of a great whole, which for convenience we call nature. All living things are our brothers and sisters. Above all, I believe in the God-given genius of certain individuals, and I value a society that makes their existence possible.

If, as I suppose, sympathy with all sorts and conditions of men and tolerance of human diversity be an attribute of civilised life, then Rembrandt was one of the great prophets of civilisation.

CIVILIZATION

Our generation has been forced to realize how fragile and unsubstantial are the barriers that separate civilization from the forces of destruction. Barbarism is not a picturesque myth or a half-forgotten memory of a long-passed stage of history, but an ugly underlying reality which may erupt with shattering force whenever the moral authority of a civilization loses its control.

Christopher Dawson

It is arguable that the non-existence of a clear, concrete German prose has been one of the chief disasters to European civilisation.

CIVILIZATION

The West has become increasingly detached from its spiritual roots in Christian culture, but has at the same time advanced in material and scientific power, so that it has extended its influence over the rest of the world until it has created a cosmopolitan technological world order. But this world order possesses no spiritual foundation and appears to the ancient civilizations of the East and the new peoples of the developing world [and now Russia and Islam] as a vast organization of material power which has been created to serve the selfish greed for power of Western man.

Christopher Dawson (from The Crisis of Western Education, 1961)

CIVILIZATION

Let us begin by looking at some of the characteristics that we generally associate with the word ‘modern,’ especially in the arts. ‘Modern,’ in itself, means simply recent; in Shakespeare’s day it meant mediocre, and it still sometimes carries that meaning as an emotional overtone. In its ordinary colloquial sense it implies an advanced state of technology and the social attitudes of a highly urbanized life. But ‘modern’ has also become a historical term like ‘Romantic,’ ‘Baroque,’ or ‘Renaissance.’ It would be convenient if, like ‘Romantic,’ the colloquial uses of the word were spelled in lower case and the cultural term with a capital, but this is not established. Like ‘Romantic’ again, ‘modern’ as a cultural term refers partly to a historical period, roughly the last century, but it is also partly a descriptive term, not a purely historical term like ‘medieval’. . . So we feel that ‘modern’ is in part a style or attitude in recent culture.

Northrop Frye (from The Modern Century, 1967)

CIVILIZATION

A margin of wealth is helpful to civilisation, but for some mysterious reason great wealth is destructive. I suppose that, in the end, splendour is dehumanising, and a certain sense of limitation seems to be a condition of what we call good taste.

Increased means and increased leisure are the two great civilizers of man.

Benjamin Disraeli

CIVILIZATION

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Civilization in the best sense merely means the full authority of the human spirit over all externals. Barbarism means the worship of those externals in their crude and unconquered state.

G. K. Chesterton

All science, all art, even human reason itself must serve the will of nature. And nature is fundamentally aristocratic.

Adolf Hitler

CIVILIZATION

Disinterested intellectual curiosity is the life blood of real civilization.

G. M. Trevelyan

No man who is in a hurry is quite civilised.

Will Durant

CIVILIZATION

The civilization we live in is a gigantic technological structure. It looks impressive, except that it has no genuine human dignity.

Northrop Frye

Civilization is, at least in part, about pretending that things are better than they are.

Jean Vanier

CIVILIZATION

The civilized are those who get more out of life than the uncivilized, and for this the uncivilized have not forgiven them.

Cyril Connolly

In the race between civilization and barbarism, the outcome will always be too close for complacency.

(unattributed)

CIVILIZATION

Very few civilizations fell beneath the blows of an invading conqueror; by far the majority acted as their own executioners, gradually rotting from inside and finally collapsing.

Fr. Michel Quoist

People sometimes tell me that they prefer barbarism to civilisation. I doubt if they have given it a long enough trial. Like the people of Alexandria they are bored by civilisation; but all the evidence suggests that the boredom of barbarism is infinitely greater.

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Is it Safe to Assume that Most People have Some Taste for Cruelty, though Usually Unacknowledged?

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Is it Safe to Assume that Most People have Some

Taste for Cruelty, though Usually Unacknowledged?

Scarce anything awakens attention like a tale of cruelty.

Samuel Johnson

[Many people—perhaps a majority—are acquainted with cruelty in the form of bullying. A bully does not typically select a victim to avenge a wrong, or a perceived wrong, but rather to enjoy the pleasures of inspiring fear in another and making them miserable. Such being the case, it stands to reason that the bully will select victims on the simple and practical basis of weakness and vulnerability. These facts are well known. However, in the passage below we find a deeper analysis of the phenomenon. The excerpt is from the first critical account of the elite public schools to appear in Britain. First published in 1914 in the form of a novel, The Harrovians was based on a diary kept by Arnold Lunn while he attended England’s second most prestigious public school from 1902 to 1906. The small, unattractive, unathletic boy, called ‘Peter’ in the book, is the author himself. The school was organized into ‘Houses,’ each of which consisted of a mix of boys of all ages. Each House had a name and its own internal organization and hierarchy, and they competed against one another in intramural sports called ‘games.’ The term ‘privs’ meant either the privilege to ‘fag’ (i.e. force younger boys to do chores and run errands) and ‘whop’ (i.e. cane or beat younger boys), or the possessors of those privileges.]

The story of a House is the story of certain dominant personalities. In Lee’s Cayley was the one factor that counted. At footer [rugby] Bending was comparatively mild in his absence, but inspired to ferocious zeal when he was playing. Cayley ruled the House, and Fairbanks and his brother privs counted for nothing. He possessed a certain animal magnetism, and it was something more than the tangible discomfort of crossing him that made his sway irresistible. He had redeeming features. There was nothing underhand about his methods. Like many bullies, he was quite fearless. With a certain rough and coarsely engaging humour he waged an open warfare on all forms of authority.

The psychology of the bully would repay more careful study than it has so far attracted. The subject has been obscured by sweeping generalizations more picturesque than accurate. It is often said that bullying has died out in Public Schools. And yet there is probably not one big school which does not have a serious case of bullying to handle for every generation of boys that passes through its portals. A distinct advance has been made in that public opinion no longer tolerates bullying, and that cases which were universal in bygone days are now the exception. The bully has a short-lived reign. He may flourish in a House that has fallen on evil days, but sooner or later public opinion will drive him out of the school and the House will recover with amazing rapidity from his influence. Bullying is usually the child of a stunted imagination, and is therefore rare among clever boys. It is the exception to find it allied to brains, and when so allied it is rather the product of unhealthy appetite and a morbid imagination than of cruelty pure and simple. Such cases are fortunately rare. The average school bully is usually good at games, and, contrary to received notions, is rarely a coward. Nor does he wear a hangdog expression that betrays him to casual observers. The bully is often an unconscious wrongdoer, and cruelty is by no means abnormal. It is one of the primitive instincts. It is a phase of a certain type of growing boyhood; it is the product of the rush of animal vigour that seeks an object for its self-realization. It is common to all children and boys whose intellect develops more slowly than their physical power. The same defective imagination that makes them blind to the sufferings of their victim is often the mainspring of that physical courage which is merely an incapacity to visualize danger and possible pain. To the confusion of moral tales, the bully often develops into the best type of virile manhood. As a boy he has only been half developed, and the school tradition of muscle worship does its best to check the recovery of balance.

Cayley himself was responsible for one of those reigns of terror whose memory is handed down from boy to boy, while myth and legend gather round the name of the oppressor. For Peter and his like the only hope lay in obscurity. No boy dared venture into the yard for fear of attracting his attention. In Hall they sat quietly and did not speak above a whisper when Cayley was present. They bolted their food and fled at the earliest opportunity. And because one boy was more likely to attract attention than a group, they silently made up small parties to slink out together. If detected they ran the risk of being placed on a form and required to sing under a bombardment of sugar. Sometimes Cayley, like Saul when the evil spirit possessed him would sit and scowl at the head of the table. Great and small would shudder, and there would be silence in the Hall.

Cruelty, like every other vice, requires no motive outside of itself; it only requires opportunity.

George Eliot

CRUELTY

[The following passage is from Thomas Levenson’s Einstein in Berlin, 2003. By the 1920s there were two more or less authorized biographies on Einstein. Both authors, Dimitri Marianoff, who was briefly married to Elsa’s younger daughter, thereby making him Einstein’s stepson-in-law, and Antonina Vallentin, another literary friend of the family, presented Einstein’s second marriage (to his cousin Elsa) in a more idyllic light than was actually the case.]

But even these highly sympathetic witnesses revealed some of the cracks in this veneer of domestic bliss. Vallentin wrote that Elsa “knew better than anyone else some of the great man’s weaknesses and certain dark sides of his great qualities.” Strikingly, Vallentin characterized Elsa herself as someone who “had allowed herself to age prematurely, either through laziness or resignation, as though she had deliberately wanted to put an end to her life as a woman.” Marianoff, meanwhile, provided fairly sharp hints that Einstein had no desire to cease living as a man. He told of a conversation with him about “an incident that had been bothering Elsa to the extent of involving her health.” Marianoff wrote that “it was a delicate matter, one that should have been sent into pure oblivion for all concerned.”

On that occasion, Marianoff urged Einstein not to discuss the issue with Elsa again, and he agreed. But as soon as the two men met up with Elsa, Einstein burst out with the whole story, to her evident anguish. Marianoff was “stunned and speechless at this moment.” The two men walked in the garden after dinner, and Marianoff asked Einstein why he had told Elsa something he knew would hurt her. Einstein did not answer immediately, walking on. Then, slowly, he said, “We do things but we do not know why we do them.” And that, Marianoff said, was what truly troubled Einstein: “He was not embarrassed at what he had done, but he suffered much embarrassment because he could not fathom the cause of why he did it.”

People who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty.

Richard J. Needham

CRUELTY

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The Calvinists took the Catholic idea of the absolute knowledge and power of God; and treated it as a rocky irreducible truism so solid that anything could be built on it, however crushing or cruel. They were so confident in their logic, and its one first principle of predestination, that they tortured the intellect and imagination with dreadful deductions about God, that seemed to turn Him into a demon.

G. K. Chesterton

Cruelty is, perhaps, the worst kind of sin. Intellectual cruelty is certainly the worst kind of cruelty.

G. K. Chesterton

CRUELTY

[While attending the elite Jesuit Colegio de Belén in Havanna] I remember long sermons for meditation on hell—its heat and the suffering, anguish and desperation it caused. I don’t know how such a cruel hell as the one that was described to us could have been invented, because such severity is inconceivable, no matter how great a person’s sins may have been. Moreover, the punishment for venial sins was way out of proportion. Even to doubt something that wasn’t understood regarding a certain dogma was a sin. You had to believe it, because if you didn’t and had a fatal accident or died for any other reason while in that state of sin, you could be condemned to hell. There was really no proportion between the individual’s sins and eternal punishment.

Fidel Castro

The most cruel people are those who don’t realize that they are cruel.

CRUELTY

[A news item from the November 28, 2008 issue of The Star]

Iranian newspapers say a court has sentenced a man who blinded a woman with acid to suffer the same fate under Islamic law. The reports said the 27-year-old man confessed to making the 2004 attack to dissuade others from marrying the woman he loved.

When we think of cruelty, we must try to remember the stupidity, the envy, the frustration from which it has arisen.

Edith Sitwell




Thoughts about Cruelty

All cruelty springs from weakness.

Seneca

CRUELTY

Cruelty isn’t softened by tears, it feeds on them.

Publilius Syrus

CRUELTY

The healthy man does not torture others—generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.

Carl Jung

CRUELTY

The impulse to cruelty is, in many people, almost as violent as the impulse to sexual love—almost as violent and much more mischievous.

Aldous Huxley

This strange admiration for the person who imposes his will on others, however ignorant and ugly and even cruel that will may be, is an obsession which has been growing on G.B.S. [George Bernard Shaw].

Beatrice Webb

CRUELTY

The infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell.

Bertrand Russell

The outlines of both his intellect and his feeling are sharp, hard and permanent. He is a good hater . . . I have no sense of sin, and no desire to see it punished. Bertrand, on the other hand, is almost cruel in his desire to see cruelty revenged.

Beatrice Webb (on Bertrand Russell)

CRUELTY

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.

George Bernard Shaw

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Is the Desire for Immortality a Healthy Desire?

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Is the Desire for Immortality a Healthy Desire?

Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down.

On the surface I seemed to have everything I could reasonably want—good health, energy, an adventurous life, rewarding friendships, exhilarating love affairs, success in my work, exciting travel, the sustained nourishment of music, theatre, reading—but in the middle of it all I was overwhelmed, almost literally so, by a sense of mortality. The realization hit me like a demolition crane that I was inevitably going to die. This feeling, when it came, was not an ordinary fear or anxiety but was hyper-vivid and preternaturally powerful. As in a nightmare, I felt trapped and unable to escape from something that I was also unable to face. Death, my death, the literal destruction of me, was totally inevitable, and had been from the very instant of my conception . . . I felt—as I imagine a lot of the people who have confronted firing squads must have felt—engulfed by mind-numbing terror in the face of oblivion. For several years this was my normal mode of existence, a nightmare from which it was impossible to awake because I was awake already.

Bryan Magee

A wish for death superseded, and in intensity vastly outmatched, the wish to grow up. The attraction has remained with me ever since. I was not unhappy. There was nothing morbid about it. There is nothing morbid now. But over the past forty-five years I do not think it has been out of my mind for as long as a single day. Earlier I had seen in growing up the means to emancipation; in 1916 I saw in death the means to a more significant emancipation. It is just that I do not much like living.

Dom Hubert van Zeller (artist-monk)

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

There are two attitudes towards Death which the human mind naturally adopts. One is the lofty view, which reached its greatest intensity among the Stoics, that Death ‘doesn’t matter,’ that it is ‘kind nature’s signal for retreat,’ and that we ought to regard it with indifference. The other is the ‘natural’ point of view, implicit in nearly all private conversations on the subject, and in much modern thought about the survival of the human species, that Death is the greatest of all evils: Hobbes is perhaps the only philosopher who erected a system on this basis. The first idea simply negates, the second simply affirms, our instinct for self-preservation; neither throws any new light on Nature, and Christianity countenances neither.

C. S. Lewis

I must die, and if immediately, then immediately. If in a few hours, I will dine first and then die. How shall I meet death? As befits a man who restores that which is not his own . . . Never say of anything, ‘I have lost it,’ but ‘I have restored it.’

Epictetus

Because of death human existence has no meaning. All the crimes that men could commit are nothing in comparison with that fundamental crime which is death.

Albert Camus

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

[Below are the final two paragraphs of philosopher John Gray’s book, The Immortalization Commission: Science and the Strange Quest to Cheat Death, 2011.]

While most people may never give up dreaming of immortality, individuals here and there can loosen the hold of the dream on their lives. If you understand that in wanting to live forever you are trying to preserve a lifeless image of yourself, you may not want to be resurrected or to survive in a post-mortem paradise. What could be more deadly than being unable to die?

The afterlife is like utopia, a place where no one wants to live. Without seasons nothing ripens or drops to the ground, the leaves never change their colours or the sky its vacant blue. Nothing dies, so nothing is born. Everlasting existence is a perpetual calm, the peace of the grave. Seekers after immortality look for a way out of chaos; but they are part of that chaos, natural or divine. Immortality is only the dimming soul projected on to a blank screen. There is more sunshine in the fall of a leaf.

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

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If human existence obeyed the laws of rational logic, it would seem that those who live most intensely and love life most passionately would most fear death. For wouldn’t death terminate something very precious to them? On the other hand, the tired and discouraged, all those who find life a painful burden should welcome it as a deliverance from their miseries. But experience shows this not to be the case.

Ignace Lepp (psychiatrist)

Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer? It means stripping off that body which is tormenting you. What are you afraid of? Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret?

C. S. Lewis

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

Your brother, Jesus said to her, will rise again. Martha said to him, I know well enough that he will rise again at the resurrection, when the last day comes. Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and life; he who believes in me, though he is dead, will live on, and whoever has life, and has faith in me, to all eternity cannot die.

Jesus of Nazareth (before raising Lazarus)

Religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end.

Richard Dawkins




Thoughts about Death & Immortality

Death is something so strange that in spite of our experience of it we do not think it is possible for those we cherish; it always surprises us as something unbelievable and paradoxical.

Goethe

According to the almost unanimous testimony of the ethnologists, primitive peoples rarely consider death the natural end of life. It is generally attributed to more-or-less fortuitous causes—the machinations of sorcerers, the ingratitude of a son, or malevolent spirits.

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

I am a temporary enclosure for a temporary purpose; that served, my skull and teeth, my idiosyncrasy and desire, will disperse, I believe, like the timbers of a booth after the fair.

H. G. Wells

As for future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague possibilities.

Charles Darwin

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

I believe in life everlasting; but not for the individual.

George Bernard Shaw

[Shaw] calls the desire for immortality a paltry selfishness, forgetting that he has just called the desire for life a healthy and heroic selfishness. How can it be noble to wish to make one’s life infinite and yet mean to wish to make it immortal?

G. K. Chesterton

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.

Stephen Hawking

Does the brain survive death? Clearly not. But does that then mean we don’t survive? Only if we accept a dogma that, though it is constantly drilled into us, the members of cultures past were not at all as sure about as we are: The brain produces thought.

Ptolemy Tomkins

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

It is not death I fear, but dying.

Montaigne

Death must be distinguished from dying, with which it is often confused.

Sidney Smith

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

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Life is a great surprise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.

Vladimir Nabokov

Many people assume too easily that with five senses and a rather limited though remarkable intellect we can comprehend everything that happens and that ever will happen, and that there will never be a surprise for us.

Robertson Davies (Interviewed by Adrienne Clarkson)

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

No one has ever touched a soul or seen it in a test-tube; and what can be neither touched nor seen and so eludes objective verification must be dismissed as non-existent.

Robert Watson

There is no direct evidence to prove if and how neurons in the brain produce the subjective essence of our consciousness.

Pim Van Lommel

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

People who think much of the next world rarely prosper in this.

Winston Churchill

Where we go hereafter depends on what we go after here.

John Henry Newman

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Thomas Gray

If some persons died, and others did not die, death would indeed be a terrible affliction.

La Bruyère

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

The question for man most momentous of all is whether or no his personality involves any element which can survive bodily death. In this direction have always lain the greatest fears, the farthest-reaching hopes, which could either oppress or stimulate mortal minds.

Frederic W. H. Myers

Millions long for immortality who do not know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Susan Ertz

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

There is only a single supreme idea on earth: the concept of the immortality of the human soul; all other profound ideas by which men live are only an extension of it.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

In response to a question about his reaction to the evidence that the human spirit survives death, T. H. Huxley said, “It may all be true, for anything that I know to the contrary, but really I cannot get up interest in the subject.”

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

To philosophize is to learn how to die.

Cicero

If you would have peace prepare for war, and if you would have life prepare for death.

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

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“We are all,” said Victor Hugo, “under sentence of death, but with a kind of indefinite reprieve.” We murmur, “How true,” but in normal times we remain unconvinced, and continue to plan our life on the assumption that we shall live for ever.

Arnold Lunn

Jung said the psyche doesn’t pay any attention to whether you’re going to die or not. It goes on as if you were going to live forever.

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

What man is capable of the insane self-conceit of believing that an eternity of himself would be tolerable even to himself?

George Bernard Shaw

Asked whether he believed in life after death the English writer William Golding replied, “No. I couldn’t bear the thought of being myself forever.”

DEATH & IMMORTALITY

When life is intolerable the mind can be relieved by thoughts of death.

William St Clair

O, let him pass! He hates him
That would upon the rack of this tough world
Stretch him out longer.

King Lear (Kent)

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Is the Fulfilment of One's Deepest Desires an Essential Ingredient for a Happy Life?

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Is the Fulfilment of One’s Deepest Desires

an Essential Ingredient for a Happy Life?

A thing is good insofar as it is desirable.

Aquinas

Our desires never die; they never even slacken except in so far as all our vitality slackens and dies. We want material ease and comfort, and perhaps a little display, and we want wealth as a means of securing these; we want satisfaction of our bodily appetites, and a renewal and enlivening of our power of appetite; we want the esteem and affection of others, and their recognition of our own excellence, and the acclaim of success; we want knowledge of various sorts, and the conquest of material forces; finally we want the sense of achievement in the management of our resources, and perhaps some measure of dominion, great or small, over other men. We want all these things because they satisfy our native desires and because we believe with a pathetic faith that in the satisfaction of our desires we shall find happiness. Yet day after day harsh experience proves to us that we have not the vital force, the physical and mental and moral energy which we absolutely need to carry out our purposes and realize our desires. And even in our greatest success, there is still an element of frustration.

W. Kane, S.J. (from Paradise Hunters, 1947)

The pleasure of expecting enjoyment is often greater than that of obtaining it, and the completion of almost every wish is found a disappointment.

Samuel Johnson

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

[After eight years of toil on the English Dictionary, during which he lost his wife, Samuel Johnson found he was no better off financially than when he began the enormous project. So when he came to write the preface to that great work he was at some pains to impress on posterity the fact that he was a disappointed man, as you may see for yourself in the following excerpts:]

It is the fate of those who toil at the lower employments of life, to be rather driven by the fear of evil, than attracted by the prospect of good; to be exposed to censure, without hope of praise; to be disgraced by miscarriage, or punished for neglect, where success would have been without applause, and diligence without reward. Among these unhappy mortals is the writer of dictionaries... I have, notwithstanding this discouragement, attempted a dictionary of the English language...and though no book was ever spared out of tenderness to the author, and the world is little solicitous to know whence proceeded the faults of that which it condemns; yet it may gratify curiosity to inform it, that the English Dictionary was written with little assistance of the learned, and without any patronage of the great; not in the soft obscurities of retirement, or under the shelter of academic bowers, but amidst inconvenience and distraction, in sickness and in sorrow... I have protracted my work till most of those whom I wished to please have sunk into the grave, and success and miscarriage are empty sounds: I therefore dismiss it with frigid tranquillity, having little to fear or hope from censure or from praise.

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

Buddha proposed a way of escaping from all this recurrent sorrow; and that was simply by getting rid of the delusion that is called desire... If once a man realised that there is really no reality, that everything, including his soul, is in dissolution at every instant, he would anticipate disappointment and be intangible to change, existing (in so far as he could be said to exist) in a sort of ecstasy of indifference. The Buddhists call this beatitude and we will not pause to argue the point; certainly to us it is indistinguishable from despair. I do not see, for instance, why the disappointment of desire should not apply as much to the most benevolent desires as to the most selfish ones. Indeed the Lord of Compassion seems to pity people for living rather than for dying.

G. K. Chesterton

As the hog to the trough, so the fool to the womb.

Old Buddhist Saying

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

The grown-ups with whom I came in contact had a remarkable incapacity for understanding the intensity of childish emotions... On one occasion I heard one of the grown-ups saying to another “When is that young Lyon coming?” I pricked up my ears and said “Is there a lion coming?” “Yes,” they said, “he’s coming on Sunday. He’ll be quite tame and you shall see him in the drawing-room.” I counted the days till Sunday and the hours through Sunday morning. At last I was told the young lion was in the drawing-room and I could come and see him. I came. And he was an ordinary young man named Lyon. I was utterly overwhelmed by the disenchantment and still remember with anguish the depths of my despair.

Bertrand Russell

The sudden disappointment of a hope leaves a scar which the ultimate fulfillment of that hope never entirely removes.

Thomas Hardy




Thoughts on Desire & Disappointment

BOREDOM: the desire for desires.

Leo Tolstoy

It is the very mark of a perverse desire that it seeks what is not to be had.

C. S. Lewis

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

Desire for the good is its own fulfilment.

Simone Weil

We don’t know God enough to desire Him.

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

Desire is the very essence of man.

Spinoza

When you have a fierce desire for a thing that’s within your grasp, it can be a considerable spiritual achievement to admit you don’t have a right to it, and a great one to abide by that admission.

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

Disappointment is a sort of bankruptcy—the bankruptcy of a soul that expends too much in hope and expectation.

Eric Hoffer

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.

Henry David Thoreau

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

Don’t consider any desire useless or wrong—someday each one will be fulfilled.

Deepak Chopra

Maybe a thing that you do not like is really in your interest. It is possible that a thing that you may desire may be against your interest.

Abu Bakr

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

E. B. White

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

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In a world of flying loves and fading lusts
It is something to be sure of a desire.

G. K. Chesterton

I am past all serious desire for anything.

Gore Vidal

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it. The last is much the worst; the last is a real tragedy!

Oscar Wilde

A desire satisfied is not a desire any more, and it is a pity.

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

It belongs to the imperfection of everything human that man can only attain his desire by passing through its opposite.

Soren Kierkegaard

Man must be disappointed with the lesser things of life before he can comprehend the full value of the greater.

Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

Limited in his nature, infinite in his desire, man is a fallen god who remembers heaven.

Alphonse de Lamartine

A conflict arises within each of us from the fact that our desires are infinite, whereas our ability to realize them is strictly limited.

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.

Robert Frost

Shaw represented the partiality of romantic love as a perversion of our deepest desire.

Michael Holroyd (biographer)

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, unless laughter can be said to remedy anything.

Kurt Vonnegut

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

Some desire is necessary to keep life in motion, and he whose real wants are supplied must admit those of fancy.

Samuel Johnson

The variation in human affairs is generally brought into them, not by life, but by death; by the dying down or breaking off of their strength or desire.

G. K. Chesterton

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

The search for an outside meaning that can compel an inner response must always be disappointed: all ‘meaning’ must be at bottom related to our primary desires, and when they are extinct no miracle can restore to the world the value which they reflected upon it.

Bertrand Russell

You are what your deep, driving desire is.
As your desire is, so is your will.
As your will is, so is your deed.
As your deed is, so is your destiny.

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad IV. 4.5

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

The slow compromise, or even surrender, of our fondest hopes is a regular feature of normal human life.

Lester L. Havens

Enough we live—and if a life,
With large results so little rife,
Though bearable, seem hardly worth
This pomp of worlds, this pain of birth.

Matthew Arnold

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

There are some desires that are not desirable.

G. K. Chesterton

The form of the desired is in the desire. It is the object which makes the desire harsh or sweet, coarse or choice, “high” or “low.” It is the object that makes the desire itself desirable or hateful.

C. S. Lewis

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Perhaps all our loves are merely hints and symbols and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.

Evelyn Waugh (from Brideshead Revisited)

DESIRE & DISAPPOINTMENT

When we look back, the only things we cherish are those which in some way met our original want; the desire which formed in us in early youth, undirected, and of its own accord.

Willa Cather

A man can do what he wants, but not want what he wants.

Schopenhauer

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Is Dogma Always Detestable?

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Is Dogma Always Detestable?

“My real difficulty,” a friend of mine recently remarked, “is that I detest all dogma.”

Now the word “dogma” is derived from the Greek word “it seems.” In the classical authors it means an opinion which seems true to the person concerned, and thus, by a natural transition, the tenets of a particular school of philosophers.

“Queen Anne is dead,” is a dogma in the first sense. It seems true to most of us that this royal lady is deceased. “It is wrong to burn people alive for their religion,” is a dogma in the second sense, for this is a tenet of a school of thought to which most people belong.

My friend, on inquiry, admitted that she did not “hate” either of these dogmas, from which it would seem that what she hated was not dogmas in general but the dogmas of institutional religion.

Arnold Lunn

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

I do not believe that a decay of dogmatic belief can do anything but good. I admit at once that new systems of dogma, such as those of the Nazis and the Communists, are even worse than the old systems, but they could never have acquired a hold over men’s minds if orthodox dogmatic habits had not been instilled in youth.

Bertrand Russell

Dogma is the basis of all personal and political liberty because it represents a shared premise—as in the dogmas of the American declaration of independence: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

He [William F. Buckley] finds that Yale has sometimes professed to have no teaching “orthodoxy.” “Objectivity” is its shibboleth. He finds also that Yale has an unadmitted orthodoxy; it does attempt to inculcate values. And what are these values? Mr. Buckley finds that they are agnostic as to religion, “interventionist” and Keynesian as to economics, and collectivist as applied to the relation of the individual to society and government.

John Chamberlain (from Intro to God & Man at Yale, 1951)

You don’t avoid holding the assumptions by which you live just because you decline to give them explicit dogmatic status.

Michael Mason

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

The purpose of this chapter [‘Fact, Belief, Truth, and Knowledge’] is to state in dogmatic form certain conclusions which follow from previous discussion, together with the fuller discussions of “An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth.” More particularly, I wish to give meanings, as definite as possible, to the four words in the title of this chapter. I do not mean to deny that the words are susceptible of other equally legitimate meanings, but only that the meanings which I shall assign to them represent important concepts, which, when understood and distinguished, are useful in many philosophical problems, but when confused are a source of inextricable tangles.

Bertrand Russell (from Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, 1948)

If there be such a thing as mental growth, it must mean the growth into more and more definite convictions, into more and more dogmas. The human brain is a machine for coming to conclusions; if it cannot come to conclusions it is rusty.

G. K. Chesterton

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

[During the hey day of analytic philosophy] Oxford philosophers of all sorts seemed to take it for granted that we think in words. So it seemed to them self-evident that the most solidly based way of addressing a philosophical problem was first of all to get it clearly formulated in language and then to set about analysing the formulation. The result was that what they were addressing was never direct experience but always a linguistic formulation.

Bryan Magee (from Confessions of a Philosopher)

An unconscious dogma is the definition of a prejudice.

G. K. Chesterton

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

Tennyson, a very typical nineteenth-century man, uttered one of the instinctive truisms of his contemporaries when he said that there was faith in their honest doubt. There was indeed. Those words have a profound and even a horrible truth. In their doubt of miracles there was a faith in a fixed and godless fate; a deep and sincere faith in the incurable routine of the cosmos. The doubts of the agnostic were only the dogmas of the monist.

G. K. Chesterton

There are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogmas and know it and those who accept dogmas and don’t know it.

G. K. Chesterton

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

The essence of the Liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held, but how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment. This is the way opinions are held in science, as opposed to the way they are held in theology. Science is empirical, tentative, and un-dogmatic; all immutable dogma is unscientific. The scientific outlook, accordingly, is the intellectual counterpart of what is, in the practical sphere, the outlook of Liberalism.

Bertrand Russell

Dogma can afflict every belief system, including secularism. Witness much of Western Europe today. There, people are calcifying the Enlightenment principles of social tolerance and individual liberty into an orthodoxy according to which anything goes. What is being tolerated includes the tolerance-trashing bigotry of Muslim fundamentalists.

Irshad Manji

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

Somebody complained to Matthew Arnold that he was getting as dogmatic as Carlyle. He replied, “That may be true; but you overlook an obvious difference. I am dogmatic and right, and Carlyle is dogmatic and wrong.” The humour of the reply should not blind us to its everlasting common sense.

G. K. Chesterton



EXAMPLES OF ‘DOGMA’ IN CURRENT ENGLISH USAGE

[The primary meaning of dogma is received truth of a religious nature.]

The reigning dogma of our time is equality.

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

Throughout Western Europe, diversity is the new dogma.

But Republican dogma is not troubled by this contradiction.

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

Gordon Brown has told us that this is not the time for outdated dogma.

The dogma of woman’s complete historical subjection to men must be rated as one of the most fantastic myths ever created by the human mind.

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

Every man who repeats the dogma of [John Stuart] Mill that one country is not fit to rule another country must admit that one class is not fit to rule another class.




Thoughts about Dogma & Dogmatism

Dogma does not mean the absence of thought, but the end of thought.

G. K. Chesterton

Dogmatism is puppyism come to its full growth.

Douglas Jerrold

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

Faith, by its nature, is secure enough to handle questions. Dogma, on the other hand, is threatened by questions. By definition, dogma is rigid, brittle, often brutal, and therefore deserves to be threatened by questions.

Irshad Manji

It is rare for the Church to define doctrines [or dogmas] which have not been attacked or questioned. The divinity of Christ, for instance, was taught by the Church from the first, but was only solemnly defined at the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325.

Arnold Lunn

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

Is it belief in God we need to get rid of, or is it dogmatism?

M. Scott Peck

Almost everyone believes in God—provided they have the right to define him.

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

It’s a dogma eat dogma world.

The postulate that Christendom in the first nine centuries was occupied in unimportant theological discussion, which can be treated as comic or irrelevant, is the negation of the truth. On the contrary, this gradual definition of the Faith and exclusion of heresy was the very core of the whole process. It informed all men’s minds.

Hilaire Belloc

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

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The cardinal doctrine or dogma of Western intellectual culture is that God has not revealed himself and that therefore no revealed religion is true.

A dislike of defined dogmas really means a preference for unexamined dogmas.

G. K. Chesterton

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

The gateway to Christianity is not through an intricate labyrinth of dogma, but by a simple belief in the person of Christ.

Norman Vincent Peale

From the age of fifteen, dogma has been the fundamental principle of my religion: I know no other religion; I cannot enter into the idea of any other sort of religion; religion, as a mere sentiment, is to me a dream and a mockery.

John Henry Newman

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

The salient characteristic of dogmatists is their adherence to dogma in the face of overwhelming evidence that contradicts it.

Steve Aplin (Nuclear Energy Consultant)

The truth of our faith becomes a matter of ridicule among the infidels if any Catholic, not gifted with the necessary scientific learning, presents as dogma what scientific scrutiny shows to be false.

Aquinas

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

There is a self-satisfied dogmatism with which mankind at each period of its history cherishes the delusion of the finality of existing modes of knowledge.

Alfred North Whitehead

It is in the uncompromisingness with which dogma is held, and not in the dogma or want of dogma, that the danger lies.

Samuel Butler

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

When people are least sure they are often most dogmatic.

John Kenneth Galbraith

No one is fanatically shouting that the sun is going to rise tomorrow. They know it’s going to rise tomorrow. When people are fanatically dedicated to political or religious faiths or any other kinds of dogmas or goals, it’s always because these dogmas or goals are in doubt.

Robert M. Pirsig

DOGMA & DOGMATISM

You can’t teach an old dogma new tricks.

Dorothy Parker

Dogmas are definite convictions articulated in clear sentences.

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What is the Ultimate Goal of Liberal Education?

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What is the Ultimate Goal of Liberal Education?

It is the mark of the educated man not to confuse his categories.

Hilaire Belloc

Education is only truth in a state of transmission; and how can we pass on truth if it has never come into our hand? I know that certain crazy pedants have attempted to counter this difficulty by maintaining that education is not instruction at all, does not teach by authority at all. They present the process as coming, not from outside, from the teacher, but entirely from inside the boy. Education, they say, is the Latin for leading out or drawing out the dormant faculties of each person. . . There is, indeed, in each living creature a collection of forces and functions; but education means producing these in particular shapes and training them to particular purposes, or it means nothing at all. Speaking is the most practical instance of the whole situation. You may indeed “draw out” squeals and grunts from the child by simply poking him and pulling him about. But you will wait and watch very patiently indeed before you draw the English language out of him. That you have got to put into him; and there is an end of the matter.

G. K. Chesterton

Education, in the sense in which I mean it, may be defined as the formation, by means of instruction, of certain mental habits and a certain outlook on life and the world. It remains to ask ourselves, what mental habits, and what sort of outlook, can be hoped for as the result of instruction?

Bertrand Russell

EDUCATION

Education in the modern world is intimately associated with work. Not surprisingly, education is considered to be a necessary preparation for employment and is, itself, one of the largest employers in a modern economy.

We produce a higher education system which is more and more separated, more and more divorced from the intellectual function. What I see out there is an enormous public hunger for high quality, general propositions of an intellectual kind, something that isn’t journalism, isn’t the sound byte culture, isn’t entertainment, is ideas.

Michael Ignatieff

EDUCATION

The highest marks [at Oxford] tended to go to examinees who were good at doing what was expected of them and these tended to be unoriginal people. More independent-minded students did not usually behave like this; and the more imaginative they were, and the more distinctive their intellectual personalities, the less likely they were to behave in his way. What these tended to do was to pursue with unusual intensity those subjects that interested them while neglecting those that did not, often with little regard for examination results. The consequence was that first-class degrees went to students with the mentality and temperament of high-grade civil servants... Someone in the English school pointed out that of the outstanding living authors who were educated at Oxford—W. H. Auden, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Robert Graves, Anthony Powell, William Golding—none had firsts, and half got thirds. The head of one of the colleges once said to me: ‘I understand why we’re teaching the students, but I don’t understand why we’re examining them.’

Bryan Magee

EDUCATION

Compulsory schooling teaches a hidden curriculum that is much more powerful than its overt subjects. This curriculum produces estrangement between students, frustration, weak powers of expression, alienation from tradition, and a sense that one can only learn under duress from certified experts. There is an elimination of curiosity and concentration; there is a difficulty connecting the present to the future and the past; there is a taste for cruelty and moral numbness that is cumulative; there is an uneasiness with intimacy and candour; there is a disloyalty to family and friends; children become excessively materialistic; and finally they become dependent, passive and timid in the face of new situations. All of these effects are the product of schooling, but they are also extremely useful in making a highly organized and highly layered commercial civilization self justifying.

John Taylor Gatto

Education is never neutral. It either liberates people or it dominates and oppresses them.

EDUCATION

The classical view of learning is that you learn from the experiences you have and from the company you keep—especially from the people you identify with. Learning is easy and the most natural thing in the world, and it’s predominantly a social activity.

The official view of learning and all its apparatus should be abolished and the classical view re-established. Then the way people naturally are would become an advantage instead of a disadvantage.

EDUCATION

Education has as one of its primary objects to teach us how to stop and be still and look, how to concentrate our gaze till things begin to reveal their mystery to us. It must teach us to preserve and heighten our sense of wonder, which is the womb of poetry and of philosophy alike; for otherwise, no matter what our book-learning, beauty and life will pass us by.

Gerald Vann O.P.

The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one’s mind a pleasant place in which to spend one’s time.

Sydney J. Harris




Thoughts about Education & Schooling

A great deal of education is simply passing on culture.

Education is a word like “transmission” or “inheritance”; it is not an object, but a method. It must mean the conveying of certain facts, views, or qualities to the last baby born. They might be the most trivial facts, or the most preposterous views, or the most offensive qualities; but if they are handed on from one generation to another they are education.

G. K. Chesterton

EDUCATION

A genuine liberal education is often uncharted, unpredictable, hesitant, and even leisurely.

The age-old idea of education as the quiet pursuit of wisdom is being replaced by a utilitarian scramble to acquire knowledge of facts, and especially material facts, and above all, commercially rewarding facts.

Christopher Derrick

EDUCATION

Aristotle said that the purpose of education is to make the pupil like what he ought and dislike what he ought.

It is a fact of experience and common-sense that education has to be governed by some set of human values, however sharply we may disagree about the content of these.

Christopher Derrick

EDUCATION

Compulsory education has a hidden agenda to turn the citizenry into a pliable, unthinking mass. That’s why the schools so often seem to inhibit their students intellectually.

University presidents are a nervous breed who praise independence of thought on all occasions of public ceremony; and worry deeply about its consequences in private.

John Kenneth Galbraith

EDUCATION

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Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know; it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.

John Ruskin

Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.

Robert Frost

EDUCATION

Education frees the intellect and imagination from its bondage to unexamined ideologies or beliefs.

David Cayley

Everybody agrees education is a good thing—for other people.

EDUCATION

Education is nothing if it is not the methodical creation of the habit of thinking.

Ernest Dimnet

Education cannot produce the wish to think where it does not exist, but, given this indispensable germ, it ought to provide the necessary conditions to bring it to maturity.

EDUCATION

For every person who wants to teach there are approximately thirty who don’t want to learn—much.

W. C. Sellar

It is futile and vastly expensive to try to teach people things they are not motivated to learn.

EDUCATION

Most people do not care to be taught what they do not already know; it makes them feel ignorant.

Mary McCarthy

The strongest human instinct is to impart information, the second strongest is to resist it.

Kenneth Grahame

EDUCATION

No teaching is worth doing unless it has a militant quality to it.

Northrop Frye

It is quaint that people talk of separating dogma from education. Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated from education. It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply a teacher who is not teaching.

G. K. Chesterton

EDUCATION

Real education must ultimately be limited to men who insist on knowing, the rest is mere sheep-herding.

Ezra Pound

Every age has its folly, and the folly of the twentieth century is probably a desire to educate.

George Moore

EDUCATION

School—I define “school” as an age-specific, teacher-related process requiring full-time attendance at an obligatory curriculum—is an institution built on the axiom that learning is the result of teaching. And institutional wisdom continues to accept this axiom, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Ivan Illich

Real knowledge is always acquired in the pursuit of real goals.

EDUCATION

School prepares you for just one thing: School. It doesn’t prepare you for life. As a result School is utterly future oriented. The present is awful, but the future will be wonderful.

EDUCATION

The longer each person is in the grip of [institutional] education the less inclination he will have for self-directed learning.

Ivan Ilich

It’s nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled youthful curiosity. For this delicate plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.

Albert Einstein

EDUCATION

The two predominant activities of liberal education are reading and conversation.

Reading after a certain time diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.

Albert Einstein

EDUCATION

You can lead a man to the university, but you can’t make him think.

Finley Peter Dunne

The University brings out all abilities, including stupidity.

Anton Chekhov

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How Can Liberal Arts Education be Reformed?

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How Can Liberal Arts Education be Reformed?

The university, as I would like it, does not exist.

Northrop Frye (Interview)

[Before attempting to reform liberal arts education, we must examine how liberal arts are currently taught at most universities. In general, would it be true to say that university education is open to the criticisms and falls short of the objectives found below?]

What distinguishes education from the fact that people have always been able to learn a large number of things? According to Ivan Illich, education is learning under the assumption of scarcity, learning under the assumption that the means for acquiring something called knowledge are scarce, and therefore education is a marketable and expensive commodity.

The classical view of education is that you learn from the experiences you have and from the company you keep—especially from the people you identify with. Learning is easy and the most natural thing in the world, and first and foremost it is a social activity.

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

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Education, to be successful, must not only inform but inspire.

T. Sharper Knowlson

The primary purpose of a liberal education is to make one’s mind a pleasant place in which to spend one’s time.

Sydney J. Harris

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

What is more wonderful than the delight which the mind feels when it knows? It is the satisfaction of a primary instinct.

Mark Rutherford

Happiness consists principally in the act of the intellect, and not in an act of the will.

Aquinas

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.

Robert Frost

Education does not mean teaching people to know what they do not know; it means teaching them to behave as they do not behave.

John Ruskin

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

It can never be repeated often enough that nothing intellectual can be achieved in a field that does not attract us. Working in our vein, without a sense of effort, and, on the contrary, with a sense of ease and freedom, is the fundamental condition of a healthy mental operation.

Ernest Dimnet

Real interest is essential for concentration and creates it in an instant.

Ernest Dimnet

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Education is nothing if it is not the methodical creation of the habit of thinking.

Ernest Dimnet

University presidents are a nervous breed who praise independence of thought on all occasions of public ceremony; and worry deeply about its consequences in private.

John Kenneth Galbraith

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Education cannot produce the wish to think where it does not exist, but, given this indispensable germ, it ought to provide the necessary conditions to bring it to maturity.

Ernest Dimnet

You can lead a man to the university, but you can’t make him think.

Finley Peter Dunne

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Aristotle considered education the occupation of leisure.

Education in the modern world is intimately associated with work. Education is not only considered to be a necessary preparation for employment, it is, itself, one of the largest employers in a modern economy.

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Education frees the intellect and imagination from its bondage to unexamined ideologies or beliefs.

David Cayley

A thinker must think about his theories rather than simply with them. Everybody thinks with their theories in the sense of using those theories as organizing devices for understanding the world, but most people do so at an implicit level.

Diana Kuhn

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

The two predominant activities of liberal education are reading and conversation.

There must be a proper balance between written and spoken forms of language. An exclusive emphasis on texts can devalue the spoken word.

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Reading after a certain time diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.

Albert Einstein

Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.

Arthur Helps

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

One can’t be right until one has first conceived the possibility of being wrong.

Diana Kuhn

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition. It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

G. K. Chesterton

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

The simple realization that there are other points of view is the beginning of wisdom. Knowing what they are is a big step. The final achievement is understanding why they are held.

When a subject is highly controversial one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one’s audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker.

Virginia Woolf

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Education, in the sense in which I mean it, may be defined as the formation, by means of instruction, of certain mental habits and a certain outlook on life and the world. It remains to ask ourselves, what mental habits, and what sort of outlook, can be hoped for as the result of instruction?

Bertrand Russell

Civilized people can talk about anything.

Clive Bell




Is the University Too Much like School?

Ivan Illich defines “school” as an age-specific, teacher-related process requiring full-time attendance at an obligatory curriculum.

School is an institution built on the axiom that learning is the result of teaching. And institutional wisdom continues to accept this axiom, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Ivan Illich

Real knowledge is always acquired in the pursuit of real goals.

It is futile and vastly expensive to try to teach people things they are not motivated to learn.

Once the mechanical teach and test cycle was established it tended to perpetuate itself. If it doesn’t work it must be because either the students or the teachers are doing it wrong.

One professor defined a lecture as the process by which information passes from the notebook of a speaker to the notebook of a student without encountering resistance in the minds of either. If the purpose of a university is to teach and that of a student to learn, why do we still use the method least likely to satisfy either objective?

The official view of learning and all its apparatus should be abolished and the classical view re-established. Then the way people naturally are would become an advantage instead of a disadvantage.

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Education is never neutral. It either liberates people or it dominates and oppresses them.

Compulsory education has a hidden agenda to turn the citizenry into a pliable, unthinking mass. That’s why the schools so often seem to inhibit their students intellectually.

Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, church or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality; and a faculty for idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of personal identity.

Robert Louis Stevenson

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

The longer each person is in the grip of [institutional] education the less inclination he will have for self-directed learning.

Ivan Illich

It’s nothing short of a miracle that modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled youthful curiosity. For this delicate plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom.

Albert Einstein

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Someone in the English school pointed out that of the outstanding living authors who were educated at Oxford—W. H. Auden, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Robert Graves, Anthony Powell, William Golding—none had firsts, and half got thirds. The head of one of the colleges once said to me: “I understand why we’re teaching the students, but I don’t understand why we’re examining them.”

Bryan Magee

The highest marks [at Oxford] tended to go to examinees who were good at doing what was expected of them and these tended to be unoriginal people. More independent-minded students did not usually behave like this; and the more imaginative they were, and the more distinctive their intellectual personalities, the less likely they were to behave in his way. What these tended to do was to pursue with unusual intensity those subjects that interested them while neglecting those that did not, often with little regard for examination results. The consequence was that first-class degrees went to students with the mentality and temperament of high-grade civil servants.

Bryan Magee

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Schools are becoming career factories.

School prepares you for just one thing: School. It doesn’t prepare you for life. As a result School is utterly future oriented. The present is awful, but the future will be wonderful.

The age-old idea of education as the quiet pursuit of wisdom is being replaced by a utilitarian scramble to acquire knowledge of facts, and especially material facts, and above all, commercially rewarding facts.

Christopher Derrick

We produce a higher education system which is more and more separated, more and more divorced from the intellectual function. What I see out there is an enormous public hunger for high quality, general propositions of an intellectual kind, something that isn’t journalism, isn’t the sound byte culture, isn’t entertainment, is ideas.

Michael Ignatieff

EDUCATIONAL REFORM

Healthy students often redouble their resistance to teaching as they find themselves more comprehensively manipulated. This resistance is due not to the authoritarian style of a public school nor the seductive style of some free schools, but to the fundamental approach common to all schools—the idea that one person’s judgment should determine what and when another person must learn.

Ivan Illich

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Which Intellectual Values, Principles or <a href="preceptslike.htm">Precepts</a> Would Help the Cause of Liberal Education?

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Which Intellectual Values, Principles or Precepts
Would Help the Cause of Liberal Education?

It is a fact of experience and common-sense that education has to be governed by some set of human values, however sharply we may disagree about the content of these.

Christopher Derrick

Historically, almost all education systems, at all levels, had quite explicit points of view on values.

Fred

A thing cannot be true in theory and yet false in practice. Practice is the empirical check on theory, and if practice confutes theory, theory must be revised.

Arnold Lunn

The problem with Wikipedia is that it only works in practice. In theory, it can never work.

Miikka Ryökäs

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

All explanations come to an end somewhere.

Thomas Nagel

It is not every question that deserves an answer. For example: How do we know that other people aren’t zombies?

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

All knowledge must be built up upon our instinctive beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left.

Bertrand Russell

I do not think it is possible to get anywhere if we start from scepticism. We must start from a broad acceptance of whatever seems to be knowledge and is not rejected for some specific reason.

Bertrand Russell

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

All science requires faith in the inner harmony of the world.

Albert Einstein

He who wishes to learn must believe.

Aristotle

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Being fair to the philosophical opposition means conceding that honest, intelligent, well informed people can be found in the opposing camp.

The Catholic and the Communist [among others] are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent. Each of them tacitly claims that “the truth” has already been revealed, and that the heretic, if he is not simply a fool, is secretly aware of “the truth” and merely resists it out of selfish motives.

George Orwell (from The Prevention of Literature, 1946)

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition. It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

G. K. Chesterton

One can’t be right until one has first conceived the possibility of being wrong.

Diana Kuhn

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Every man has a right to be wrong in his opinions. But no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.

Bernard Baruch

All who accept reason as the criterion to distinguish between true and false beliefs are entitled to describe themselves as “rationalists” in contrast to “fideists” who consciously or unconsciously assume that they are entitled in an argument to appeal to their personal intuitions about the nature of ultimate reality.

Arnold Lunn

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Everything is vague to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it precise.

Bertrand Russell

PARAPHRASE: Everything is complicated and subtle to a degree you do not realize till you have tried to make it simple and straightforward.

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Carl Sagan

Facts are often part of a web of evidence—facts may or may not be evidence, depending on the context—but the same set of agreed facts can be taken as evidence in support of different interpretations or theories of the overall situation.

Fred

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Fundamental scepticism, where it is fully believed, is a pathological condition and calls for intervention and help of the psychiatric kind.

Christopher Derrick

The arguments of the sceptic are, says Hume, valid. But only theoretically. Having conceded their validity as arguments he drives home the point that it is impossible for anyone actually to live as a sceptic.

Bryan Magee

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.

John Stuart Mill

The more knowledge we possess of the opposite point of view, the less puzzling it is to know what to do [or say].

Winston Churchill

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

It’s irrational to beg the question, i.e., to assume what it is one’s business to prove.

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional consent.”

Stephen Jay Gould

One thing we are sure of, and that is the reality and substantiality of the luminiferous ether.

Lord Kelvin

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. There are some premises that can’t be reached as conclusions.

C. S. Lewis

It is notoriously impossible to prove that the external world exists.

Bryan Magee

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Just because we can’t define something as a truth doesn’t mean we can’t feel it as a fact.

G. K. Chesterton

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

No useful discussion is possible unless both parties to the discussion start from the same premise.

Mediæval Maxim

No argument can establish the truth of its premises, since if it tried to do so it would be circular; and therefore no argument can establish the truth of its conclusions.

Bryan Magee

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Not every word can be defined.

As nothing can be proved but by supposing something intuitively known, and evident without proof, so nothing can be defined but by the use of words too plain to admit a definition.

Samuel Johnson

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Objectivity means that we can separate facts from our thoughts and feelings about those facts.

It is important to concede everything which should be conceded because it is not only bad policy but intellectually dishonest to defend the indefensible.

Arnold Lunn

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

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The attempt to establish the truth of any particular philosophy by purely intellectual processes is absolutely hopeless—and for purely intellectual reasons.

Philosophical argument, strictly speaking, consists mainly of an endeavour to cause the hearer to perceive what has been perceived by the speaker. The argument, in short, is not of the nature of proof, but of exhortation: Look, can’t you see what I see!

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Religious (or simple) fundamentalism is the inability to see that words can’t do what we thought they could do, namely, establish truth with authority and without ambiguity. Philosophical (or sophisticated) fundamentalism is the inability to see that arguments can’t do what we thought they could do, namely, establish truth authoritatively and unambiguously.

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

The analogy is a particularly tricky form of rhetoric when it becomes the basis of an argument rather than merely a figure of speech.

Northrop Frye

A drop of water is not immortal; it can be resolved into oxygen and hydrogen. If, therefore, a drop of water were to maintain that it had a quality of aqueousness which would survive its dissolution we should be inclined to be sceptical.

Bertrand Russell (arguing against immortality)

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

The closest we can get to impartiality is admitting we are partial.

G. K. Chesterton

Arguments that don’t satisfy us emotionally usually don’t satisfy us intellectually.

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

The first step in escaping fundamentalism is to distinguish between what a sentence says and what it means.

When you say that the earth is round, do you mean it? No, you don’t mean it. But it’s true. In fact, most of the sentences we regard as true reflect facts and opinions that are much more complicated than the explicit meaning of the sentence.

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

The simple realization that there are other points of view is the beginning of wisdom. Knowing what they are is a big step. The final achievement is understanding why they are held.

When a subject is highly controversial one cannot hope to tell the truth. One can only show how one came to hold whatever opinion one does hold. One can only give one’s audience the chance of drawing their own conclusions as they observe the limitations, the prejudices, the idiosyncrasies of the speaker.

Virginia Woolf

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

There is such a thing as irrational scepticism just as there is such a thing as irrational belief. They are just opposite sides of the same logical coin.

Any premises that are capable of being put into words are also capable of being verbally questioned. Any argument whatsoever can thus be made into an infinite regress.

Christopher Derrick

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

To [John] Hick it has at once to be conceded: that it is one thing to say that a belief is unfounded or well-founded; and quite another to say that it is irrational or rational for some particular person, in his particular time and circumstances, and with his particular experience and lack of experience, to hold or to reject that belief.

Anthony Flew

In the Summa Theologica Thomas Aquinas poses the question of whether heretics can be endured, tolerated. And his answer is that heretics can not be tolerated. If it was just to condemn counterfeiters to death, then surely it was necessary to put to death those who had committed the far worse crime of counterfeiting the faith.

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

True science is never philosophically partisan. It is open to any new knowledge or understanding whatever the metaphysical implications.

Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.

T. H. Huxley

EDUCATION: INTELLECTUAL VALUES

Without sympathy there can be no effective criticism.

Arnold Lunn

You cannot win a man from his belief, political or religious, unless you can see why it attracts him and can almost imagine holding it yourself.

Frank Sheed

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What Practical Values & Precepts Ought, in Your Opinion, to be Part of Liberal Education?

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What Practical Values & Precepts Ought, in

Your Opinion, to be Part of Liberal Education?

[It stands to reason that there should be education for living as well as education for making a living. So, why isn’t there? Part of the answer, in my opinion, is because of the failure to reach even a rough consensus on a set of values. Christopher Derrick was stating a truism when he wrote, ‘It is a fact of experience and common-sense that education has to be governed by some set of human values, however sharply we may disagree about the content of these.’ And my friend Fred was merely stating fact when he wrote in an email, ‘Historically, almost all education systems, at all levels, had quite explicit points of view on values.’ Theoretically then, it should be possible to find some values and precepts that enough people can agree on to justify teaching them to a child. It turns out to be remarkably problematic. Why is that? Does it, for instance, have anything to do with the state-sponsored, university-disseminated secular liberalism of Western societies? Whether or not you believe this to be the case, which practical values, starting with the following, would you put forward as candidates for a broad consensus? (Note that the italicized theme quotes are unavoidably vague and mainly function as mnemonics.)]

The art of pleasing consists in being pleased.

William Hazlitt

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

There are many people who know how to love and yet don’t know how to please.

I shouldn’t be surprised if the greatest rule of all weren’t to give pleasure.

Molière

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

The most important trait in determining a person’s attractiveness is the degree of their negativity: the more negative, the less attractive.

Good criticism combines the subtle pleasure in a thing being done well with the simple pleasure in it being done at all.

G. K. Chesterton

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

Always try to fall in with the suggestions of family or friends unless a) doing so would violate an important principle of yours, or b) doing so would almost certainly cause you to feel resentment for some reason or other.

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

It would seem as if a living creature had to be taught, like an art of culture, the art of protesting when it is hurt. It would seem as if patience were the natural thing; it would seem as if impatience were an accomplishment like bridge.

G. K. Chesterton

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

Fredrick Douglass

The pleasure of the moment begins to wither almost as soon as it blossoms; our pleasures are soon swallowed up in time’s relentless torrent.

Fr. Michel Quoist

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

That unchecked indulgence in the more obvious types of pleasure is unsatisfying, is the unanimous teaching of those who have had the leisure and opportunity to try them in all ages. It is the more unfortunate that it is a truth which nobody believes to be true until he has discovered it for himself. . . . You cannot take the kingdom of pleasure, any more than you can take the kingdom of beauty, by storm.

C. E. M. Joad

Instant gratification is bad psychology. Pleasure must be earned because part of its very intensity comes from resistance or self-control. To gratify every impulse at once destroys this intensity, as the breaking of a dam reduces all water to the same level.

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

A certain amount of excitement is wholesome, but, like almost everything else, the matter is quantitative. Too little may produce morbid cravings; too much will produce exhaustion. A certain power of enduring boredom is therefore essential to a happy life, and is one of the things that ought to be taught to the young.

Bertrand Russell

Those who are now pursuing pleasure are not only fleeing from boredom, but are acutely suffering from it.

G. K. Chesterton

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

[Amrita Sher-Gil was one of India’s most emminent painters, a glamourous and tragic woman who died at the age of 28 under mysterious circumstances. Six years earlier she and British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge were having an affair. In the passage below from his diary entry for June 16, 1935, the magic or wonder is still present in some aspects of her person, but already he realizes that it will fade with time. Is there any value in telling the young (and even the not-so-young) that there is no sensual, emotional, or aesthetic pleasure that can’t be made tedious by repetition, and therefore to maximize your enjoyment you must not drink too deeply at any one source?]

At a quarter to seven I took a bath, and changed into a light grey suit and put on a blue tie and bright shirt, because this was how Amrita liked me to be dressed. She came at eight, in a green sari with a gold and red border. She talked about her lovers, her terrible obsession with herself very apparent. Then, she took off her jewels and let down her hair. It was like a third performance of a marvellous play, all the fascination, the sense of wonder at it, remains; all the same, you realize that though you might like to see it ten or twenty more times, there’ll come a time when you don’t want to see it any more, when it’ll be wearisome.

What makes life dreary is want of motive.

George Eliot

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

People feel joy, as opposed to mere pleasure, to the extent that their activities are creative.

Ivan Illich

Play writing gave [George Bernard Shaw] ‘moments of inexplicable happiness’ and when he tried to explain it to himself he was taken ‘out of the realm of logic into that of magic and miracle.’

Michael Holroyd (biographer)

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

In the eighteenth century Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria, had stated one human dilemma—we are naturally lazy and hate having anything to do: but we are easily bored and cannot bear having nothing to do. So we are forever inventing things to do which are equal to nothing.

Frank Sheed

When market dependence reaches a certain threshold it deprives people of their power to live creatively and to act autonomously. And precisely because this new impotence is so deeply experienced, it is expressed with difficulty.

Ivan Illich

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

Reading after a certain time diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.

Albert Einstein

Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.

Arthur Helps

When a thing bores you do not do it. Do not pursue a fruitless perfection.

Eugène Delacroix

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

The enlightened person is not easily bored. Nonetheless the enlightened person knows when he or she is being bored and knows for sure when she or he is not. No amount of spectacle or surface glamour should ever persuade you that you are not being bored when, in fact, you are.

Lister Sinclair (of CBC’s Ideas)

A former female associate of a prestigious Manhattan law-firm had this to say about her work: “At best it’s tedious, and at worst the tedium will kill you. It deadened my senses. I’d go out at lunch and find myself envying people who scooped ice cream for a living. At least they could daydream all day.”

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

I have tremendous likes and dislikes. I know exactly what I’m going to enjoy and what I can’t be bothered to plod through.

John Gielgud

Most people are deeply conditioned to distrust themselves.

Real knowledge is always acquired in the pursuit of real goals.

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

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It can never be repeated often enough that nothing intellectual can be achieved in a field that does not attract us. Working in our vein, without a sense of effort, and, on the contrary, with a sense of ease and freedom, is the fundamental condition of a healthy mental operation.

Ernest Dimnet

Real interest is essential for concentration and creates it in an instant.

Ernest Dimnet

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

It is futile and vastly expensive to try to teach people things they are not motivated to learn.

Everyone knows that you can cram the material you need for an examination, but the moment you take the exam then you start to forget it.

As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.

Josh Billings

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

As soon as by one’s own propaganda even a glimpse of right on the other side is admitted, the cause for doubting one’s own right is laid.

Adolf Hitler

Propaganda cannot succeed without the complicity of those at whom it is aimed.

Jacques Ellul

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of the truth—that error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it has been cured of one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

H. L. Mencken

It is folly to expect people to do all that you would reasonably expect them to do.

Archbishop Whately

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul.

George Bernard Shaw

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

I believe that force, mitigated as far as may be by good manners, is the ultima ratio [last resort, final argument], and between two groups of men that want to make inconsistent kinds of world I see no remedy except force. . . It seems to me that every society rests on the death of men.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

In 1816, US Naval Commander Stephen Decatur raised a glass at a banquet held in his honour and spoke the famous words, “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.”

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

There is no doubt that people with money tend not to get charged, not to get investigated, not to get tried, and not to get convicted. All along the line, the discretions get exercised in their favour.

Clayton Ruby

You get only the amount of justice you can afford, no more, no less.

Wilfrid Sheed

EDUCATION: PRACTICAL VALUES

We are condemned to rub shoulders with injustice all our lives, and we are often judged by our acceptance of this fact. The spirit in which we manage it can even be said to be a measure of our maturity.

Peter Ustinov

It’s a sign of maturity not to be scandalized.

Flannery O’Connor

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Do You See the World as Einstein Sees It?

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Do You See the World as Einstein Sees It?

[The following excerpts are from The World As I See It, 1935, a book containing Albert Einstein’s thoughts on a variety of subjects, taken from his speeches, letters, etc. Some of his better-known quotes may be found HERE.]

EINSTEIN


Is the Meaning of Life a Religious Question?

What is the meaning of human life, or of organic life altogether? To answer this question at all implies a religion. Is there any sense then, you ask, in putting it? I answer, the man who regards his own life and that of his fellow-creatures as meaningless is not merely unfortunate but almost disqualified for life.


EINSTEIN


Is the Purpose of Daily Life to be of Service to Others?

What an extraordinary situation is that of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he feels it. But from the point of view of daily life, without going deeper, we exist for our fellow-men—in the first place for those on whose smiles and welfare all our happiness depends, and next for all those unknown to us personally with whose destinies we are bound up by the tie of sympathy. A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labours of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving.


EINSTEIN


Can Disbelief in Authentic Human Freedom be a ‘Consolation’?

In human freedom in the philosophical sense I am definitely a disbeliever. Everybody acts not only under external compulsion but also in accordance with inner necessity. Schopenhauer’s saying, that “a man can do as he will, but not will as he will,” has been an inspiration to me since my youth up, and a continual consolation and unfailing well-spring of patience in the face of the hardships of life, my own and others’. This feeling mercifully mitigates the sense of responsibility which so easily becomes paralyzing, and it prevents us from taking ourselves and other people too seriously; it conduces to a view of life in which humour, above all, has its due place.


EINSTEIN


Should Ease and Happiness be Ends in Themselves?

I have never looked upon ease and happiness as ends in themselves—such an ethical basis I call more proper for a herd of swine. The ideals which have lighted me on my way and time after time given me new courage to face life cheerfully, have been Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Without the sense of fellowship with men of like mind, of preoccupation with the objective, the eternally unattainable in the field of art and scientific research, life would have seemed to me empty. The ordinary objects of human endeavour—property, outward success, luxury—have always seemed to me contemptible.


EINSTEIN


Is Emotional Detachment from Others a Strength or a Disability?

My passionate sense of social justice and social responsibility has always contrasted oddly with my pronounced freedom from the need for direct contact with other human beings and human communities. I gang my own gait and have never belonged to my country, my home, my friends, or even my immediate family, with my whole heart; in the face of all these ties I have never lost an obstinate sense of detachment, of the need for solitude—a feeling which increases with the years. One is sharply conscious, yet without regret, of the limits to the possibility of mutual understanding and sympathy with one’s fellow-creatures. Such a person no doubt loses something in the way of geniality and light-heartedness; on the other hand, he is largely independent of the opinions, habits, and judgments of his fellows and avoids the temptation to take his stand on such insecure foundations.


EINSTEIN


Should We, like Einstein, Exalt Individual Sensitivity and Creativity
while Disdaining Patriotism, the Military, and the Vulgar Herd?

The really valuable thing in the pageant of human life seems to me not the State but the creative, sentient individual, the personality; it alone creates the noble and the sublime, while the herd as such remains dull in thought and dull in feeling. This topic brings me to that worst outcrop of the herd nature, the military system, which I abhor. That a man can take pleasure in marching in formation to the strains of a band is enough to make me despise him. He has only been given his big brain by mistake; a backbone was all he needed. This plague-spot of civilization ought to be abolished with all possible speed. Heroism by order, senseless violence, and all the pestilent nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism—how I hate them! War seems to me a mean, contemptible thing: I would rather be hacked in pieces than take part in such an abominable business.


EINSTEIN


Are You Deeply Religious in Einstein’s Sense?

The fairest thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science. He who knows it not and can no longer wonder, no longer feel amazement, is as good as dead, a snuffed-out candle. It was the experience of mystery—even if mixed with fear—that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which are only accessible to our reason in their most elementary forms—it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man.


EINSTEIN


Would You Risk Divine Judgement for the Chance of Life after Death?

I cannot conceive of a God who rewards and punishes his creatures, or has a will of the type of which we are conscious in ourselves. An individual who should survive his physical death is also beyond my comprehension, nor do I wish it otherwise; such notions are for the fears or absurd egoism of feeble souls. Enough for me the mystery of the eternity of life, and the inkling of the marvellous structure of reality, together with the single-hearted endeavour to comprehend a portion, be it never so tiny, of the reason that manifests itself in nature.


EINSTEIN


Is the Urge to Create or to Understand the Hallmark of
the Noblest and Most Beneficent Individuals?

It is right in principle that those should be the best loved who have contributed most to the elevation of the human race and human life. But, if one goes on to ask who they are, one finds oneself in no inconsiderable difficulties. In the case of political, and even of religious, leaders, it is often very doubtful whether they have done more good or harm. Hence I most seriously believe that one does people the best service by giving them some elevating work to do and thus indirectly elevating them. This applies most of all to the great artist, but also in a lesser degree to the scientist. To be sure, it is not the fruits of scientific research that elevate a man and enrich his nature, but the urge to understand, the intellectual work, creative or receptive. It would surely be absurd to judge the value of the Talmud, for instance, by its intellectual fruits.


EINSTEIN


Is the Rapid Technological Advance of our Civilization
Responsible for its ‘Symptoms of Decadence’?

In my opinion, the present symptoms of decadence are explained by the fact that the development of industry and machinery has made the struggle for existence very much more severe, greatly to the detriment of the free development of the individual. But the development of machinery means that less and less work is needed from the individual for the satisfaction of the community’s needs. A planned division of labour is becoming more and more of a crying necessity, and this division will lead to the material security of the individual. This security and the spare time and energy which the individual will have at his command can be made to further his development. In this way the community may regain its health, and we will hope that future historians will explain the morbid symptoms of present-day society as the childhood ailments of an aspiring humanity, due entirely to the excessive speed at which civilization was advancing.


EINSTEIN


Does Humanity Need the ‘Example of Great and Pure Characters’
Much More than it Needs Wealth?

I am absolutely convinced that no wealth in the world can help humanity forward, even in the hands of the most devoted worker in this cause. The example of great and pure characters is the only thing that can produce fine ideas and noble deeds. Money only appeals to selfishness and always tempts its owners irresistibly to abuse it. Can anyone imagine Moses, Jesus, or Gandhi armed with the money-bags of Carnegie?



EINSTEIN

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Does the Awareness of a Superior Intelligence Behind the Harmony
of Natural Law Mark ‘the Profounder Sort of Scientific Minds’?

You will hardly find one among the profounder sort of scientific minds without a peculiar religious feeling of his own. But it is different from the religion of the naive man. For the latter God is a being from whose care one hopes to benefit and whose punishment one fears; a sublimation of a feeling similar to that of a child for its father, a being to whom one stands to some extent in a personal relation, however deeply it may be tinged with awe. But the scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. The future, to him, is every whit as necessary and determined as the past. There is nothing divine about morality, it is a purely human affair. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection. This feeling is the guiding principle of his life and work, in so far as he succeeds in keeping himself from the shackles of selfish desire. It is beyond question closely akin to that which has possessed the religious geniuses of all ages.

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Are Reason and the Intellect our Ultimate Authority, or Certain Feelings and Emotions?

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Are Reason and the Intellect our Ultimate
Authority, or Certain Feelings and Emotions?

One can never fathom an emotion or divine its dictates by standing outside of it. From within it, however, all incomprehensibilities are solved, and what was so enigmatic from without becomes transparently obvious. Each emotion obeys a logic of its own, and makes deductions which no other logic can draw. Piety and charity live in a different universe from worldly appetites and ambitions, and form another centre of energy altogether. A supreme love may turn sacrifices into joys; a supreme trust may render normal precautions despicable; and in certain transports of generosity it may appear unspeakably mean to retain hold of personal possessions.

William James

[We often hear] about the necessity of keeping all emotion out of our intellectual processes—“you can’t think straight unless you are cool.” But then neither can you think deep if you are. I suppose one must try every problem in both states. You remember that the ancient Persians debated everything twice: once when they were drunk and once when they were sober.

C. S. Lewis

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

A great intensity of aesthetic response is common in adolescence and youth, but much less common thereafter: many adults, from whose real experience “the glory and the dream” has long departed, feel socially and psychologically obliged to pretend that it hasn’t, that they are still ploughed up by poems and paintings and plays and the rest, as most of us were in fact ploughed up by such things during the brief personal Renaissance that normally follows upon the completion of puberty. In fact, such things now leave them almost completely cold. Frank enquiry, among your more candid friends, will make it clear that these generalizations are amply justified.

Christopher Derrick

The following anecdote from Bertrand Russell’s autobiography concerns Crompton Llewelyn Davies, a friend he acquired during his first term at Cambridge: ‘One of my earliest memories of Crompton is of meeting him in the darkest part of a winding College staircase and his suddenly quoting, without any previous word, the whole of ‘Tiger, Tiger, burning bright.’ I had never, till that moment, heard of Blake, and the poem affected me so much that I became dizzy and had to lean against the wall.’

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

It is notorious that facts are compatible with opposite emotional responses, since the same fact will inspire entirely different feelings in different people, and at different times in the same person; and there is no rationally deducible connection between any outer fact and the sentiments it may happen to provoke. These have their source in another sphere of existence altogether, in the animal and spiritual region of the subject’s being. Conceive yourself, if possible, suddenly stripped of all the emotion with which your world now inspires you, and try to imagine it as it exists, purely by itself, without your favourable or unfavourable, hopeful or apprehensive response. It will be almost impossible for you to realize such a condition of negativity and deadness.

William James

The search for an outside meaning that can compel an inner response must always be disappointed: all ‘meaning’ must be at bottom related to our primary desires, and when they are extinct no miracle can restore to the world the value which they reflected upon it.

Bertrand Russell

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Feeling is private and dumb, and unable to give an account of itself. It allows that its results are mysteries and enigmas, declines to justify them rationally, and on occasion is willing that they shall even pass for paradoxical and absurd. Philosophy takes just the opposite attitude. Her aspiration is to reclaim from mystery and paradox whatever territory she touches. To find an escape from obscure and wayward personal persuasion to truth objectively valid for all thinking men has ever been the intellect’s most cherished ideal.

William James

Feeling can’t be directly conveyed by words at all.

Northrop Frye




Thoughts about Emotions & Feelings

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Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.

Dale Carnegie

To wrestle with a bad feeling only pins our attention on it, and keeps it still fastened in the mind; whereas if we act as if from some better feeling, the old bad feeling soon folds its tent and silently steals away.

William James

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Anyone who says he’s not emotional is not getting what he should out of life.

The logician, like every other man on earth, must have sentiment and romance in his existence; in every man’s life, indeed, which can be called a life at all, sentiment is the most solid thing.

G. K. Chesterton

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

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Detached intellectualism is (in the exact sense of a popular phrase) all moonshine; for it is light without heat, and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world.

G. K. Chesterton

The practically real world for each of us, the effective world of the individual, is the compound world, the physical facts and emotional values in indistinguishable combination. Withdraw or pervert either factor of this complex resultant, and the kind of experience we call pathological ensues.

William James

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Desire is the very essence of man.

Spinoza

If we resist our passions, it is more because of their weakness than because of our strength.

La Rochefoucauld

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Half our mistakes in life arise from feeling where we ought to think, and thinking where we ought to feel.

J. Churton Collins

All violent feelings produce in us a falseness in all our impressions of external things.

John Ruskin

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

It takes time to process our feelings.

It is so many years before one can believe enough in what one feels even to know what the feeling is.

W. B Yeats

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Man is not a rational animal, but an animal capable of reason.

Reason is always a kind of brute force; those who appeal to the head rather than the heart, however pallid and polite, are necessarily men of violence.

G. K. Chesterton

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Most emotion originates on the level of sense experience.

I have heard with admiring submission the experience of the lady who declared that the sense of being well-dressed gives a feeling of inward tranquillity which religion is powerless to bestow.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

No emotion is, in itself, a judgement: in that sense all emotions and sentiments are alogical.

C. S. Lewis

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Nothing is serious except passion. The intellect is an instrument on which one plays, that is all.

Oscar Wilde

I would rather end the day having had one clear thought than one strong feeling.

Thomas Mallon

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Our emotional energy is meant to flow in a certain direction, and if we impede that flow or try to redirect it unhappiness and dissatisfaction are sure to follow.

Speaking of the family parties of his boyhood, C. S. Lewis wrote, ‘My party manner, a deliberate concealment of all that I really thought and felt under a sort of feeble jocularity and enthusiasm, was assumed as consciously as an actor assumes his role, sustained with unspeakable weariness, and dropped with a groan of relief the moment my brother and I at last tumbled into our cab for the drive home.’

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Our persistent emotional response is first and foremost a fact to be accepted and not a phenomenon to be explained.

Emotional experience is confusing, not because it’s vague but because it’s cyclical. Our emotional response often goes back and forth like a pendulum; for example, it may swing from not liking to not minding, and then back to not liking again.

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Passion and prejudice govern the world; only under the name of reason.

John Wesley

Human beings are creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.

Dale Carnegie

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

People don’t ask for facts in making up their minds. They would rather have one good, soul-satisfying emotion than a dozen facts.

Robert Keith Leavitt

If you can engage people’s pride, love, pity, ambition (or whatever is their prevailing passion), on your side, you need not fear what their reason can do against you.

Lord Chesterfield

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

People who haven’t received much emotionally usually can’t give much emotionally.

Some people have great intellectual gifts, but are emotionally deprived, just as the opposite may be the case. According to George Bernard Shaw’s biographer, Michael Holroyd, ‘[Shaw’s] own mind was astonishingly fast, but emotionally he was lame. The result was that women found themselves continually out of step with him.’

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

Sentimentality is only sentiment that rubs you (up) the wrong way.

Sommerset Maugham

Any sentiment will seem incredible (and often repellant) to the person who stands outside it.

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

The heart has its reasons which reason does not understand.

Pascal

Thinking should come before feeling. It may be that the heart has reasons of which the head knows nothing, but why should the reasons of the heart, which lead so many people into the wrong bed, necessarily lead anybody to the right conclusions.

Arnold Lunn

EMOTIONS & FEELINGS

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This is the greatest paradox: the emotions cannot be trusted, yet it is they that tell us the greatest truths.

Don Herold

All the settlement and sane government of life consists in coming to the conclusion that some instincts, impulses or inspirations have authority, and others do not.

G. K. Chesterton

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Is Our Belief in Equality & Democracy Rational, Pragmatic, or Mystical?

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Is Our Belief in Equality & Democracy

Rational, Pragmatic, or Mystical?

Our present science lends little support to an inherent ‘dignity of man’ or to his ‘perfectibility.’ It is wholly possible that the science of the future will lead us away from democracy towards some form of aristocracy. The millennial expectations that [Walt] Whitman built upon science and democracy, we are now well aware rested upon insecure foundations... The perfection of nature, the natural goodness of man, ‘the great pride of man in himself’ offset with an emotional humanitarianism—these are the materials of a structure only slightly coloured with modernity.

Norman Foerster

The cheap anti-democrat of today will tell you solemnly that there is no equality in nature. He is right, but he does not see the logical addendum. There is no equality in nature; also there is no inequality in nature. Inequality, as much as equality, implies a standard of value. To read aristocracy into the anarchy of animals is just as sentimental as to read democracy into it.

G. K. Chesterton

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

[It is estimated that at the height of Father Coughlin’s popularity in the 1930s, the anti-capitalist, anti-Semitic, Masonry-obsessed firebrand radio priest attracted an audience of twenty million. Arnold Lunn interviewed him in the early 1940s and commented as follows:]

Father Coughlin began to inveigh against democracy. “Not that your British system is democratic. Nor is our American system.” Like many Americans, he unconsciously assumes as axiomatic the major premise—democracy is perfect, and the minor premise—America is not perfect, which leads to the conclusion that America is not democratic. It would be convenient if we could all agree on a universally recognized label for a system of government based on regular elections, adult suffrage and free speech. So long as we all make the same noise when we mean the same thing it does not much matter what noise we make, and if Father Coughlin wishes to reserve the word “democracy” for that perfect state which has never existed, and will never exist, on earth, he must persuade the world to adopt a new word to describe what has hitherto been described as “democracy.”

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

Winston Churchill

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

The difference between the dictatorships and the democracies is not so much one between the totalitarian and the non-totalitarian as between a Community-State that has made a deliberate breach with the old liberal tradition and is aggressively conscious of its totalitarian character, and a Community-State which has evolved gradually from the Liberal State without any violent cataclysm and which disguises its totalitarian character by a liberal ideology... We must remember that it was actually under democratic auspices that the totalitarian State made its first appearance nearly 150 years ago in France, and as that farseeing Liberal, de Tocqueville, pointed out more than a century ago in his study of democracy in America, the power of mass opinion exercises a more universal and irresistible tyranny over the individual mind in a democratic society than the most authoritarian dictatorships.

Christopher Dawson (from Beyond Politics, 1939)

Democracy is only one form of representative government, and liberalism in its historical sense was an insurance against rather than a guarantee for democracy. As late as 1866 Mr. Gladstone defended himself with great eloquence against the accusation that he was promoting democracy by his appeal to extend the suffrage. “You will exclaim that ‘this is democracy.’ I reply that it is nothing of the kind.”

Arnold Lunn

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

I cannot understand any democrat not seeing the danger of so distant and indirect a system of government [as world government]. It is hard enough anywhere to get representatives to represent. It is hard enough to get a little town council to fulfil the wishes of a little town, even when the townsmen meet the town councillors every day in the street, and could kick them down the street if they liked. What the same town councillors would be like if they were ruling all their fellow-creatures from the North Pole or the New Jerusalem, is a vision of oriental despotism beyond the towering fancies of Tamberlane.

G. K. Chesterton

It’s a hoary superstition that democratically elected governments invariably function as instruments of the collective will.

Dorothy L. Sayers




Thoughts about Equality & Democracy

A democracy is a government in the hands of men of low birth, no property, and vulgar employment.

Aristotle

Democracy is a charming form of government, full of confusion and variety and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.

Plato

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

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A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

Thomas Jefferson

The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections.

Lord Acton

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom.

Alexis de Tocqueville

I have no respect for the passion of equality, which seems to me merely idealizing envy.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.

Gore Vidal

Since being able to turn a government out is almost the only advantage parliamentary democracy offers, one might as well enjoy it as often as possible.

Malcolm Muggeridge

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

Democracy arose from men’s thinking that if they are equal in any respect, they are equal absolutely.

Aristotle

To say that all people are equal is true in some senses, but it needs to be complemented by recognition of the complementary hierarchical principle within the universe.

Christopher Derrick

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

Democracy means not “I’m as good as you are,” but “you’re as good as I am.”

Theodore Parker

In America everybody is of the opinion that he has no social superiors, since all men are equal, but he does not admit that he has no social inferiors, for, from the time of Jefferson onward, the doctrine that all men are equal applies only upwards, not downwards.

Bertrand Russell

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.

George Bernard Shaw

Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated.

G. K. Chesterton

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

Democracy...while it lasts is more bloody than either [aristocracy or monarchy]. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.

John Adams (2nd President of the United States)

The danger of democracy is not anarchy; on the contrary, it is monotony.

G. K. Chesterton

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

It is a strange fact that freedom and equality, the two basic ideas of democracy, are to some extent contradictory. Logically considered, freedom and equality are mutually exclusive, just as society and the individual are mutually exclusive.

Thomas Mann

Our country’s founders cherished liberty, not democracy.

Ron Paul

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

My political ideal is that of democracy. Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized. It is an irony of fate that I myself have been the recipient of excessive admiration and respect from my fellows through no fault, and no merit, of my own.

Albert Einstein

There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man. Every other basis is a sort of sentimental confusion... The idea of the equality of men is in substance simply the idea of the importance of man.

G. K. Chesterton

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

There is nothing more unequal than the equal treatment of unequal people.

Thomas Jefferson

That all men are equal is a proposition to which, at ordinary times, no sane individual has ever given his assent.

Aldous Huxley

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

The majority never has the right on its side. Never I say! That is one of the social lies that a free, thinking man is bound to rebel against. Who makes up the majority in any given country? Is it the wise men or the fools? I think we must agree that the fools are in a terrible overwhelming majority, all the wide world over.

Henrik Ibsen

The mass of people, who are never quite right, are never quite wrong.

C. S. Lewis

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

Two cheers for democracy: one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism.

E. M. Forster

Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time.

E. B. White

EQUALITY & DEMOCRACY

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Thomas Jefferson

The world of antiquity was quite at ease with the idea that all men were by no means equal in the sight of God.

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Is There any Pleasure to Compare with Eros?

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Is There any Pleasure to Compare with Eros?

[By eros is meant the state of “being in love,” a state where sexual or romantic infatuation is a necessary but not sufficient condition.]

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The passion of love is the most familiar and extreme example of the importance of the inner element in experience. If it comes, it comes; if it does not come, no process of reasoning can force it. Yet it transforms the value of the creature loved as utterly as the sunrise transforms Mount Blanc from a corpse-like grey to a rosy enchantment; and it sets the whole world to a new tune for the lover and gives a new direction to his life.

William James

I have every reason to love you. What I lack is the unreason.

Robert Mallet

EROS (Romantic Love)

When rationalism makes people sceptical of all absolutes, their incurable romanticism leads them to idealise their finer emotions. Thus, in materialistic societies sex passes beyond its natural function and becomes an outlet for all the unsatisfied cravings of the psychic life. But the romantic idealisation of sexual passion fails as completely as the rationalist attempt to reduce it to a mere appetite.

Christopher Dawson

He [Bertrand Russell] was enough of a puritan and a very conscious intellectual to have to explain to himself every sexual call of nature as a fated invitation to a mystical union of souls, an incurable form of rationalization that got him into perpetual trouble.

Alistair Cooke (speaking of his friend Russell)

EROS (Romantic Love)

[The following is from Bertrand Russell’s autobiography and concerns events in 1911 when Russell’s first marriage was breaking up.]

The [aesthetic] atmosphere of Ottoline’s house fed something in me that had been starved throughout the years of my first marriage. As soon as I entered it, I felt rested from the rasping difficulties of the outer world. When I arrived there on March 19th, on my way to Paris, I found that Philip [Ottoline’s husband] had unexpectedly had to go to Burnley [Philip’s constituency], so that I was left tête-a-tête with Ottoline. During dinner we made conversation about Burnley, and politics, and the sins of the Government. After dinner the conversation gradually became more intimate. Making timid approaches, I found them to my surprise not repulsed. It had not, until this moment, occurred to me that Ottoline was a woman who would allow me to make love to her, but gradually, as the evening progressed, the desire to make love to her became more and more insistent. At last it conquered, and I found to my amazement that I loved her deeply, and that she returned my feeling... For external and accidental reasons, I did not have full relations with Ottoline that evening, but we agreed to become lovers as soon as possible. My feeling was overwhelmingly strong, and I did not care what might be involved. I wanted to leave Alys [his wife], and to have [Ottoline] leave Philip. What Philip might think or feel was a matter of indifference to me. If I had known that he would murder us both (as Mrs. Whitehead assured me he would) I should have been willing to pay that price for one night.

Bertrand Russell

We must not give unconditional obedience to the voice of Eros even when he speaks like a god. But neither must we ignore or attempt to deny the god-like quality.

C. S. Lewis

EROS (Romantic Love)

Freud and his followers considered emotional energy to be specifically sexual in nature. According to this hypothesis the only really authentic form of emotional communication between people would be sexual love. Jung, on the other hand, had a much truer view of the matter. Emotional energy is essentially undifferentiated and can be put to different uses by the will provided circumstances allow.

Fr. Ignace Lepp (psychotherapist)

Friendship may, and often does, grow into love, but love never subsides into friendship.

Lord Byron

EROS (Romantic Love)

[Hesketh Pearson was a British writer whose biographies sold well in the 1930s and ’40s.]

Throughout the Thirties what Pearson called ‘the most vital part of my life’ was a dark, vivacious Jewish actress named Dorothy Dunkels. She was nearly twenty years younger than he and, because of that, he at first avoided sexual intimacy. But after six weeks of ‘a gradually weakening resistance’ they became lovers and remained intermittently so for nine years. ‘Fascinating, infuriating, seductive, aloof, shameless, sensitive, cruel, tender: she could play all the emotional notes in quick succession, and leave me quivering with lust or quiescent with love or tingling with admiration or coldly critical.’

Gladys [Pearson’s wife] could no more help making scenes over Hesketh’s infidelities then he could help repeating them. She eventually found out about Dorothy which led to ‘agonizing emotional scenes’ when Hesketh swore that he would break it off. There followed the cowardly letters trying to rupture from a distance what one wishes only to nurture when together; the feeling of utter emptiness when all the lights seem to have gone out and only one person can illuminate the darkness; the desolating loneliness in which he would see her or telephone her or write to her once again, and the cycle would start over. Although capable of decisiveness (as his military record attests) he was irresolute when at the mercy of sensuality. Like many men, when lust was in the ascendancy, common sense flew out of the window.

Richard Ingrams

To be always with a woman and not to have intercourse with her is more difficult than to raise the dead.

St Bernard of Clairvaux

EROS (Romantic Love)

The event of falling in love is of such a nature that we are right to reject as intolerable the idea that it should be transitory. In one high bound it has overleaped the massive wall of our selfhood; it has made appetite itself altruistic, tossed personal happiness aside as a triviality and planted the interests of another in the centre of our being. Spontaneously and without effort we have fulfilled the law (towards one person) by loving our neighbour as ourselves. Simply to relapse from it, merely to “fall out of” love again is—if I may coin the ugly word—a sort of disredemption.

C. S. Lewis

Love is what we call the situation which occurs when two people who are sexually compatible discover that they can also tolerate one another in various other circumstances.

Marc Maihueird

EROS (Romantic Love)

Both young men [Christopher Dawson and Edward Watkin]...were seekers of beauty, truth and knowledge... After a long discussion they had about love which took place during a visit to Christoper’s home in 1911, Edward Watkin wrote: ‘We agreed that it (mutual attraction) had been a matter very much neglected by thinkers. Plato and Schopenhauer alone seem to have dealt with it. We were reluctantly obliged, I at least was most reluctant to admit that the basis of love was always physical.’

Christina Scott (Dawson’s biographer)

To our bodies turn we then, that so
Weak men on love reveal’d may look;
Love’s mysteries in souls do grow,
But yet the body is his book.

John Donne

EROS (Romantic Love)

On the whole women tend to love men for their character while men tend to love women for their appearance. In this respect, it must be said, men show themselves the inferiors of women, for the qualities that men find pleasing in women are on the whole less desirable than those that women find pleasing in men.

Bertrand Russell

The pleasure of love is loving, and we get more happiness from the passion we feel than from the passion we inspire.

La Rochefoucauld




Thoughts about Eros

Around my love there is always a mystery: why, in a world that seems to make so little sense otherwise, did something so inevitably right happen?

Northrop Frye

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

Midsummer Night’s Dream (Helena)

EROS (Romantic Love)

Friendship is a disinterested commerce between equals; love, an abject intercourse between tyrants and slaves.

Oliver Goldsmith

To love is to suffer, to be loved is to cause suffering.

Countess Diane

EROS (Romantic Love)

In how many lives does love really play a dominant part? The average taxpayer is no more capable of a ‘grand passion’ than of a grand opera.

Israel Zangwill

True love is like ghosts, which everyone talks about and few have seen.

de La Rochefoucauld

EROS (Romantic Love)

Love is a gross exaggeration of the difference between one person and everybody else.

George Bernard Shaw

We must not ridicule a passion which he who never felt was never happy, and he who laughs at never deserves to feel.

Samuel Johnson

EROS (Romantic Love)

Love is a state in which a man sees things most decidedly as they are not.

Friedrich Nietzsche

There is, indeed, nothing that so much seduces reason from vigilance, as the thought of passing life with an amiable woman.

Samuel Johnson

EROS (Romantic Love)

O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day,
Which now shows all the beauty of the sun,
And by and by a cloud takes all away!

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Proteus)

Love is a fire. But whether it is going to warm your hearth or burn down your house, you can never tell.

Joan Crawford

EROS (Romantic Love)

She who would long retain her power must use her lover ill.

Ovid

Women should never show a man that she loves him too much... Indifference is the great stimulus of love.

Fidel Castro

EROS (Romantic Love)

Sudden love takes the longest time to be cured.

La Bruyère

Where both deliberate, the love is slight:
Who ever lov’d, that lov’d not at first sight?

Christopher Marlowe

EROS (Romantic Love)

The man’s desire is for the woman; but the woman’s desire is rarely other than for the desire of the man.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

They that marry where they do not love, will love where they do not marry.

Thomas Fuller

EROS (Romantic Love)

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They do not love that do not show their love.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Julia)

He who loves without jealousy does not truly love.

The Zohar, 13th century

EROS (Romantic Love)

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To put it in a rather crass way, falling in love is a trick that our genes pull on our otherwise perceptive mind to hoodwink or trap us into marriage.

M. Scott Peck

Eros may unite the most unsuitable partners; many unhappy, and predictably unhappy, marriages were love-matches.

C. S. Lewis

EROS (Romantic Love)

When love grows diseased, the best thing we can do is to put it to a violent death; I cannot endure the torture of a lingering and consumptive passion.

George Etherege

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Can Any Definite Meaning be Ascribed to the Popular Declaration "I Love You"?

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Can Any Definite Meaning be Ascribed to the
Popular Declaration “I Love You”?

Since I don’t really know what other people mean by love, I avoid the word.

Gore Vidal

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[When people say “I love you,” they often mean “I need you” or “I want you” or “You satisfy me” or “You fulfill my desires” or “You give me what I want.” But without sexual or romantic chemistry—which depend on sense experience—is it possible to feel the kind of love that John Keats felt for Fanny Brawne? The following is from a letter (October 13, 1819)—one of hundreds of notes and letters—that the poet wrote to her when he was 23 and she was 19.]

My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you—I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again—my Life seems to stop there—I see no further. You have absorb’d me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving—I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. . . I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion—I have shudder’d at it—I shudder no more—I could be martyr’d for my Religion—Love is my religion—I could die for that—I could die for you.

Romantic love used to be thought of as a kind of temporary madness. Right into the early 19th century the two things that were thought to be very poor grounds for choosing a marriage partner were sexual passion and romantic passion.

EROS II (“I love you”)

[The following passage is from one of Heloise’s (1101–1164) letters to her disgraced lover (and former tutor) Peter Abelard (1079–1142). After the scandalous affair she was more or less forced into a religious life for which she had no vocation.]

The pleasures of lovers which we cultivated together were too sweet to displease me, and can scarcely fade from my memory. Wherever I turn they are always there before my eyes, bringing with them reawakened desires. Not even when I sleep am I spared these illusions. Even during the celebration of the Mass, when our prayers should be purer, lewd fantasies of those pleasures take such a hold upon my unhappy soul that I think more on these turpitudes than on my prayers. I should be groaning over the sins I have committed, but I can only sigh for what I have lost.

Susannah M., a college student, was President Kennedy’s lover shortly after he was elected: “I thought I loved him. Absolutely! To be as bowled over as this, this must be love! Because my best day dreams were literally at their limit in having a love affair with John Kennedy.” (start at the 57 minute mark)

EROS II (“I love you”)

[The first time Canadian broadcaster and media personality Betty Kennedy (of Front Page Challenge) saw Gerhard Kennedy, it was across a room at a party in Montreal. Apparently it was a case of love at first sight, although Gerhard was 14 years older and married with three children. After 27 years of marriage to Betty and another four children, Gerhard died of colon cancer in 1975. The following is from Gerhard: A Love Story, her memorial to a man of whom she wrote, ‘I have never met any other person in my entire life with the power to kindle such excitement in me.’ I guess you could say she was lucky in love.]

He took me home that evening, and from then on there was no other person for either of us. Some years later when we saw “South Pacific” on Broadway, the lyrics of “Some Enchanted Evening” sounded as though they had been written about us. . . Our life has not been always smooth, without problems; we have suffered reverses, disappointments, failures. But the one constant thing has been our feeling for each other. There has not been a morning in our lives together when we did not waken in one another’s arms, or reach out for each other and say, “I love you.” That is quite literally true. Yet there was nothing mundane or routine about the words, always a sense of wonder in what we knew in each other. I honestly don’t know why we were so blessed. I only know we were.

Who can explain it?
Who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons
Wise men never try.

Oscar Hammerstein

EROS II (“I love you”)

A perfect woman could have no personality. Hélène [his third wife] is a harmony of delightful imperfections, which is the most flattering thing I could say about anyone. I only hope my imperfections seem half as delightful to her. It is so easy to give if there is someone willing to take; it is so easy to take if there is someone with so much to give. She has made me into something approaching the man I once hoped to be, privately and secretly. She came to my rescue at a turning-point during that exhausting, terrifying and magnificent journey of self-discovery we call life. And for that, I am endlessly grateful.

Peter Ustinov (from his autobiography Dear Me, 1977)

You want to know what you see in another person because that’s what fuels your passion: it’s when your mind, the knowing intellect, and your passions are aroused in unison.

(from CBC Ideas program Instant Intimacy, by Suanne Kelman)

EROS II (“I love you”)

[In his sexual memoir, Scoring, 1971, Dan Greenburg describes an affair he had with a seventeen-year-old when he was an “elderly” 28. The passages below are from the beginning, middle and end of that affair.]

I suppose I gaped at her rather transparently, because she returned my gaze with a moist, somewhat amused smile. I had never desired anyone so immediately or so powerfully in my life, never wanted to abandon myself so completely to nakedness and... I loved her with mind and heart and body and I would cheerfully have written out a proposal of marriage to her on the spot in exchange for even one night in bed with her. . . She started to cry for the first time since I’d met her. I had never expected her to say anything about loving me—I hadn’t spoken much about love to anyone at that point in my life—and it really rocked me. I held her and I told her how much she meant to me, because suddenly she did mean a great deal to me, and I told her that I guessed I probably loved her too and that I would call from Chicago and to take care. Then I walked out the door and ran out onto the street to hail a taxi. . . . I telephoned Shelley from my parents’ home in Chicago and...my parents, though forbidden by me for many years to inquire about my plans for marriage, were trying so hard to keep from asking me anything about the girl I had just spoken to and said “I love you” to that they were in almost physical pain. . . . Obviously, the only true thing she had ever told me was that she was pregnant—and I wouldn’t even be sure of that if my own internist hadn’t verified it. But pregnant by whom? Joe, the stoned felon? Peter, the former lover and alleged present “friend”? Cliff, the cocky entrepreneur who’d allegedly never made it into bed with her? Or perhaps she was pregnant by one of her many lovers I didn’t even know by name and who couldn’t afford to pay for an abortion as I could. To think that I’d believed her when she said she loved me! Bitch! . . . . Suddenly I didn’t know anything at all about what had really happened between me and my teenaged mistress, because now any of it or all of it, including her loving me, could just as likely been the truth or not. The only thing I did know for sure was that it was now too late to matter.

There may be those who have first felt mere sexual appetite for a woman and then gone on at a later stage to “fall in love with her.” But I doubt if this is at all common. Very often what comes first is simply a delighted pre-occupation with the Beloved—a general, unspecified pre-occupation with her in her totality. A man in this state really hasn’t leisure to think of sex. He is too busy thinking of a person. The fact that she is a woman is far less important than the fact that she is herself.

C. S. Lewis (from The Four Loves, 1960)

EROS II (“I love you”)

[Eros may be absent from this relationship, but need love and the fulfilment of desire are only too evident.]

A moment of disillusion came when Goebbels suffered through a crude and bombastic two-hour Hitler speech at a party conference in February 1926. His hero was suddenly revealed to be “amazingly clumsy and uncertain,” his political program “dreadful,” and Goebbels himself felt “devastated.” It was “one of the greatest disappointments of my life. I no longer fully believe in Hitler. That’s the terrible thing: my inner support has been taken away.” But Hitler, a skilled party infighter, retrieved the situation. The February meeting had served his purposes, helping him consolidate his control of a party still prone to factions; and with that end now in hand, he turned to the cultivation of key subordinates, above all, the messiah-hungry Goebbels. At the climactic reconciliation meeting, Hitler spoke for three hours, and this time Goebbels was transported. “I love him,” he wrote in his diary, and shortly thereafter, “I believe he has taken me to his heart like no one else . . . Adolf Hitler, I love you.”

Thomas Levenson (from Einstein in Berlin, 2003)

EROS II (“I love you”)

[This passage, although from a work of fiction, shows the tremendous emotional power of the romantic/erotic experience. In Henry Morton Robinson’s 1950 best-seller, The Cardinal, an Irish-American priest, Stephen Fermoyle, has been sent to Rome where he is being groomed for Vatican diplomacy. It is shortly before Mussolini comes to power. Against his better judgement Fermoyle attends an early season society ball where he meets the cousin of his high-born clerical buddy. Widowed by the recent war, Ghislana Falerni is beautiful, intelligent, stylish, and well-bred. The contessa also happens to be ‘heroically built,’ and Fermoyle makes the mistake of spending the entire evening in her company. He pays a steep price for his imprudence. It takes the rest of the long hot Roman summer to get her out of his system. But the plot reunites them at a Tuscan villa in September where his commitment to his priestly vocation is tested to the max. Presumably the ‘words never to be spoken’ were “I love you.”]

Stephen’s surprise was genuine. “Did the Cardinal Secretary visit you at Capri?”

“Everyone visits me there.” Rebuke, light as a petal, lay on the contessa’s lips. “Had you paid me a courtesy visit in Rome last spring, I would have invited you for a holiday.”

Stephen said nothing.

“And you,” she went on, “would have refused the invitation.”

“How could I do otherwise? I am neither your cousin—nor an aging Cardinal.”

Night turned on a noiseless axle. “Does that mean you cannot be a friend?”

Ghislana Falerni’s question was an honest proffer of human regard. By the timbre of her voice Stephen recognized it as a sincere bid from an emotional equal to share with her some part of his isolation and loneliness. As a man Stephen could not lightly reject the offer; as a priest he could not rise to it. He was familiar with the advice of those saintly counselors, Chrysostom and Jerome: flee relationships with unattached women. He knew, moreover, that his feelings for Ghislana Falerni were not the stuff of which friendship is ordinarily made. Yet illusion beckoned; hope soared on rosy wing. The thing was possible! Aided by the pure fires of discipline, and skill sprung of extra grace, might one not transform forbidden clay into a vessel of singular devotion?

“I should like to be your friend . . .”

A light breeze, distilling hints of rain, lifted the ends of the contessa’s chiffon scarf about her shoulders. Her hands caught at the fluttering fabric. Too late. A loosened end of the scarf flicked Stephen’s cheek and sent a shivering charge along his facial nerves.

Field scents surged across the terrace in a perfumed wave; midnight was about to dissolve in urgencies of rain. On Stephen’s arm lay the unretrieved end of the contessa’s scarf—gossamer testimony of a truth too heavy for denial, unerasable even if withdrawn.

From the terrace Stephen could see an orchard of pear trees in the moonlight, their low boughs heavy with fruit. To say, “Walk with me in the orchard . . . once . . . for remembering,” and to hear Ghislana Falerni whisper, “Yes . . . for remembering always,” would have been happiness enough. But such fulfillment was denied. The only possible relief was the utterance of her name.

“Ghislana.”

“Stephen . . . I have so longed to call you by name.”

“I have called you by name a thousand times.”

Along the grass, tiny winds curled in rising overtures to rain. “How did I reply?”

Stephen’s voice was barely audible. “In words never to be spoken—except on grass beneath a pear tree.”

The first raindrop fell, a full period to their conversation.

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What do You Think was in the Box?

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What do You Think was in the Box?

[The excerpt below is from the first critical account of England’s elite “public” schools. First published in 1914 in the form of a novel, The Harrovians was ‘based on a very careful and full diary’ kept by Arnold Lunn while he attended England’s second most prestigious public school from 1902 to 1906. On the religious side, Harrow was an Anglican institution, and it is clear from the passage that at that time—shortly after the death of Queen Victoria—sex was still a taboo subject. So perhaps the “box” in the sermon was invented by the preacher to avoid getting down to specifics: each schoolboy could put into the box the contents of his own sexual imagination. The ‘Peter’ in the book is the author himself.]

The sermons which attracted the most attention were those dealing with the fundamental problems of sex. None of these provoked more comment than the problem sermon of a certain Canon Rail. The preacher was an eloquent man with a dark, impressive countenance. He seemed to feel his subject intensely. He sketched with great power the slow degradation of an undergraduate whose vice was in some way stimulated by a dreadful thing which he kept locked up in a box. The School woke up. This was getting interesting. “He would take this terrible thing out, glance at it, shudder, and replace it.” Canon Rail then proceeded to draw a fine picture of the boy’s suicide. “Good,” nodded the School, “please go on.” The unhappy father was then lightly sketched. He visits his boy’s room. He sees in the corner the box. He opens it, and then he starts back. The School, on the contrary, leant forward. But their curiosity was to remain unsatisfied. “And then he understood what had caused his son’s downfall; and in this story, my dear young Christian brethren, we have a terrible illustration . . .” etc. The peroration [concluding inspiring words of a speech] followed conventional lines, and if the School could have risen to a man and hooted, I dare say they would have done so.

Kendal voiced the general sense of injury in Peter’s study: “What an irritating old blighter he was! I was fearfully keen to know what was that in the bally box. Why the deuce didn’t he tell us?”

“It’s all that rotten hencoop [the hencoop was where the women sat in chapel],” said Peter angrily; “the thought of the women always pulls a man up just as he’s getting interesting. I wish they’d boot the women out of chapel.”

“I wonder what was in the box,” mused Kendal; “perhaps it was ‘The Awful Confessions of Maria the Nun’?”

Various solutions were put forward, with which we need not concern ourselves. The problem was debated fiercely by the entire School.

“I wonder,” said Peter, “what good they think they do? Of course, everybody knows that if you’re a rip it isn’t exactly good for your health. But all this bosh about men committing suicide don’t seem much to the point.”

“Oh, they’ve got to jaw like that,” said Kendal; “they’ve got to pretend than only an occasional man goes on the burst, and that he’s a kind of vampire. Such rot. My brother, who’s up at the Varsity, says that most men go on the bend sooner or later. He jolly well does.”

“The important thing,” said Perry sententiously, “is to go on the bend like a gentleman.”

“What one feels about it all,” said Peter thoughtfully, “is that all the jaw about purity, and so forth, doesn’t really seem real. They pretend such a lot of things which they can’t believe themselves. They pretend that every chap who is a bit of a rip is a low skulking blackguard [a man who behaves in a contemptible way]. Now, we know that most of the men one meets, who are grown up, have been on the bend occasionally, and yet they’re not vampires, but just like you and me.”

“The average sensual man,” said May, who wished to air Matthew Arnold, whom he had begun to read with more pride than understanding, “constitutes the great bulk of our population.”

“Dry up,” said Peter, who was jealous of this display of literary knowledge; “we all know you’ve been reading Matthew Arnold. And it’s not only that,” he continued; “they have to pretend, like they do in school stories, that boys get into corners and whisper nasty stories, and look up when anybody passes, and drop their voices and giggle furtively. Not much furtive about us. And why the devil shouldn’t one discuss it? It’s the most interesting thing in life. It crops up in every page of history. We wouldn’t be here but for it. And they call it nasty conversation. There’s nothing nasty in being born, so why is it nasty to discuss why one’s born?”

“Oh, they’d tell you,” added May, “to come to them if you wanted to know anything about it, not to discuss it with other boys.”

“What rot!” put in Kendal; “I don’t want to talk about it to my governor [i.e. his father]. It would make me feel a fool and he’d look an ass, too. Besides, he wouldn’t tell me anything interesting. He’d just say, ‘Keep off women, my boy; bad for your health and bad for your pocket.’ ”



EROS III (taboos & nonsense)

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Pre-Vatican II Catholic Nonsense about Sex

[The following passages are from Catholic publisher Frank Sheed’s The Church and I, 1974, written around the peak of the crisis that followed the Second Vatican Council.]

Inside the Church as outside, one got the same impression that no one ever actually used his mind on [the subject of] sex. There was plenty of feeling about sex, for and against: within the walls of the Catholic Church and school it was wholly against. We had a book jacket showing Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. A priest preached against it as too overtly genital. I wrote to remind him that it was from the ceiling of the Pope’s own chapel, the Sistine. He answered, “If the Pope had heard as many confessions as I have, he would know better.” The ordinary Catholic could hardly help feeling there was something necessarily nasty and brutish about sex. Some of our teachers seemed to feel it faintly shocking of God to have created a race which could propagate itself only by sexual intercourse. Indeed there have been Catholic writers who tried to clear God’s character by teaching that intercourse was a result of the Fall: if Adam and Eve had not sinned, generation would have occurred without bodily contact! Even where this particular oddity was not taught, there was a sense of uncleanness about sex. One heard of girls taught that they must somehow wash their bodies without actually uncovering them, lest they be an occasion of sin to their guardian angels.

EROS III (taboos & nonsense)

Just forty years ago [about 1935] I approached an archbishop about the numbers of Catholics who married without any knowledge of the mechanics, so to speak, of the marriage act. There were plenty of non-Catholic manuals available, but they all had chapters on birth control. So the archbishop told me to go ahead and have a book prepared. We translated from French a most admirable book, in which the bodily union was explained and the spirituality of marriage wonderfully shown. The archbishop said he could not possibly grant his imprimatur: it was too outspoken: could I not “modify” it? I answered that this would mean leaving out sex altogether: but as God had not left sex out of marriage, I didn’t see how we could. The book was not published. Soon after that we did publish one, by Dr. Halliday Sutherland. It was banned in Ireland, though it carried the imprimatur of Cardinal Hinsley [head of the Catholic Church in England from 1935 to 1943].

[Sheed’s own wife, Maisie Ward, had to have the facts of life explained to her the night before her wedding. In her midthirties by then, she reportedly took them in stride.]




EROS III (taboos & nonsense)

Post-Vatican II Catholic Nonsense about Sex?

Sex does not live on illusion but illusion is what it tends to breed. As Shaw says: “There is less difference between one young woman and another young woman than the average young man thinks.” This has always been so, but among today’s believing Christians there is one illusion sex has not often bred before. I must have read hundreds of articles and letters written by Catholics in protest against the papal encyclical on Contraception. What interested me most was what the writers thought not about the encyclical but about sex itself. For the most part they struck me as of a purity so refined I felt coarse and earthy in comparison. The sex act they saw as love’s highest expression. The ruling purpose in their own intercourse seemed to be the enrichment of their partner’s personality. One wondered how refinedly they bore the discovery that she did not want her personality enriched that night. I mentioned this particular point to a couple of thousand women at a luncheon in Los Angeles. They laughed and laughed. . . .

I have returned more than once to the fine art of kidding oneself. In no area is autokiddery so active as in the sexual. One marvels how anyone can think that bodily union is love’s highest expression. The essence of love is precisely the giving of oneself to the other. But in bodily union the body’s own need for physical release can be urgent to the point of anguish, so clamorous that it is hard to remember the other person as a person at all. A full rich bodily union is possible, with a true balance of delight for oneself and love for the other—this last not drowned in the excitement without which the act can hardly happen at all. This sort of union can be worked for, grown towards, but only if the whole of a shared life is experienced in it. Mere bodily release need be no more emotionally valuable than vomiting after seasickness.

Frank Sheed




EROS III (taboos & nonsense)

Secular Liberal Nonsense about Sex?

[The following is from A. C. Grayling’s book Russell: A Very Short Introduction, 2003. Was Russell also a victim of the ‘autokiddery’ that Frank Sheed spoke about?]

Sex of course must be governed by an ethic, just as business or sport has to be, but it should not be based on ‘ancient prohibitions propounded by uneducated people in a society totally unlike our own’—by which Russell means the teachings of the Church fathers long ago. . . . A new morality, premised on rejection of traditional Puritanism, must be based on the belief that instinct should be trained, not thwarted. A freer attitude to sexual life does not imply that we can simply follow our impulses and do as we like. . . .

The general principles on which Russell thinks sexual morality ought to be founded are therefore simple and few. First, sexual relationships should be based on ‘as much as possible on that deep, serious love between man and woman which embraces the whole personality of both and leads to a fusion by which each is enriched and enhanced.’ And secondly, if children result, they should be adequately cared for physically and psychologically. Neither of these principles is particularly shocking . . . but together the principles imply certain important adjustments to the conventional moral code.

One is that it permits a measure of what is usually called ‘infidelity.’ If people were not brought up to think of sex as hedged about by taboos, and if jealousy did not have the sanction of moralists, then people would be capable of more wholehearted and generous attitudes towards each other. Jealousy makes couples keep one another in a mutual prison, as if it gave each a right over the other’s person and needs. . . .

‘It may, I think, be hoped,’ Russell wrote, ‘that with the right education from the start this respect for the personality and freedom of others may become comparatively easy; but for those of us who have been brought up to think that we have a right to place a veto upon the actions of others in the name of virtue, it is undoubtedly difficult to forgo the exercise of this agreeable form of persecution.’

In my second marriage I tried to preserve the respect for my wife’s [sexual] liberty which I thought my creed enjoined. I found however that my capacity for forgiveness and what may be called Christian love was not equal to the demands I was making on it. Anyone else could have told me this in advance, but I was blinded by theory.

Bertrand Russell

He [Bertrand Russell] was enough of a puritan and a very conscious intellectual to have to explain to himself every sexual call of nature as a fated invitation to a mystical union of souls, an incurable form of rationalization that got him into perpetual trouble.

Alistair Cooke (speaking of his onetime friend Russell)

None of us know what exactly is the sexual code we believe in, approving of many things on paper which we violently object to when they are practised by those we care about.

Beatrice Webb

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How Far do Ethics & Morality Depend on Environment, Heredity and Culture?

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How Far do Ethics & Morality Depend on

Environment, Heredity and Culture?

I think we have some very serviceable intuitions about what good and evil are, and what constitutes an ethical life.

Sam Harris

Ethics is essentially a product of the gregarious instinct, that is to say, of the instinct to co-operate with those who are to form our own group against those who belong to other groups. Those who belong to our own group are good; those who belong to hostile groups are wicked. The ends which are pursued by our own group are desirable ends, the ends pursued by hostile groups are nefarious. The subjectivity of this situation is not apparent to the gregarious animal, which feels that the general principles of justice are on the side of its own herd. When the animal has arrived at the dignity of the metaphysician, it invents ethics as the embodiment of its belief in the justice of its own herd.

Bertrand Russell

A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.

C. S. Lewis

ETHICS

Until modern times no thinker of the first rank ever doubted that our judgements of value were rational judgements or that what they discovered was objective. It was taken for granted that in temptation passion was opposed, not to some sentiment, but to reason. Thus Plato thought, thus Aristotle, thus Hooker, Butler and Doctor Johnson. The modern view is very different. It does not believe that value judgements are really judgements at all. They are sentiments, or complexes, or attitudes, produced in a community by the pressure of its environment and its traditions, and differing from one community to another. To say that a thing is good is merely to express our feeling about it; and our feeling about it is the feeling we have been socially conditioned to have.

C. S. Lewis

Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory.

Michael Ruse

ETHICS

[In the famous 1948 BBC radio debate on the existence of God between Bertrand Russell and Fr. Frederick Copleston, S.J., the two participants grappled with the problem of good and evil. Here is an excerpt from the part entitled “The Moral Argument.”]

RUSSELL: You see, I feel that some things are good and that other things are bad. I love the things that are good, that I think are good, and I hate the things that I think are bad. I don’t say that these things are good because they participate in the Divine goodness.

COPLESTON: Yes, but what’s your justification for distinguishing between good and bad or how do you view the distinction between them?

RUSSELL: I don’t have any justification any more than I have when I distinguish between blue and yellow. What is my justification for distinguishing between blue and yellow? I can see they are different.

COPLESTON: Well, that is an excellent justification, I agree. You distinguish blue and yellow by seeing them, so you distinguish good and bad by what faculty?

RUSSELL: My feelings.

COPLESTON: By your feelings. Well, that’s what I was asking. You think that good and evil have reference simply to feeling?

RUSSELL: Well, why does one type of object look yellow and another look blue? I can more or less give an answer to that thanks to the physicists, and as to why I think one sort of thing good and another evil, probably there is an answer of the same sort, but it hasn’t been gone into in the same way and I couldn’t give it [to] you.

About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after.

Ernest Hemingway

ETHICS

[Is this a fair, although crudely expressed, statement of “consequentialism,” the theory that the goodness or badness of any action is never inherent, but is dependent solely on the perceived consequences of that action?]

I suppose we can say that there are some things that are wrong because we have agreed to act as if they are wrong for such a long time, and the acting as if they are wrong appears to be right. That’s what an ultimate truth is to me, to be really philosophical here. When something, over and over again, generation after generation, turns out to be destructive and to be perceived as wrong, and rightfully perceived as wrong, meaning everybody agrees to act as if it’s wrong and it works to act as if it’s wrong for 10,000 years, that begins to look like an ultimate truth.

Psychotherapist

To preach morality is easy, but to provide a foundation for it is hard.

Bryan Magee

ETHICS

To understand the Eskimo, one must understand and share his life. He lies and steals, believing it will help him survive. He murders because of fear, or for what he believes to be necessity. He suppresses his baby daughters, not through wanton cruelty, but because he sincerely believes he is serving the general good. If, one day, he kills himself, it is because he feels he has become a burden upon the community, a useless mouth. “Primo vivere,” the philosopher wrote. “First, live!” To live. The entire Eskimo code of conduct is conditioned by that primary objective, and to it his morality has been adapted. “Primo vivere, deinde philosophare.” The Eskimos have neither the time nor the means to go beyond the first two words. And perhaps they would ask you how many caribou a system of philosophy would help you kill.

Fr. Roger P. Buliard (Oblate missionary)

Blaming or scapegoating someone always implies the claim that we would have done better in their shoes. It’s a way of protesting our innocence and brightening our self-esteem.

David Cayley

ETHICS

Culture is not instinctive to human beings. It has to be conquered by a continuous moral effort which involves the sublimation of natural instinct, and the subordination and sacrifice of individual impulse to the social purpose. It is the fundamental error of the liberal humanist to believe that man can abandon moral effort and spiritual discipline, and yet preserve all the achievements of culture.

Christopher Dawson

Practically all advanced Victorian minds proceeded on the assumption that you could destroy the religious beliefs of a nation without affecting its moral standards.

ETHICS

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Professional moralists have made too much of self-denial, and in so doing have put the emphasis in the wrong place. Conscious self-denial leaves a man self-absorbed and vividly aware of what he has sacrificed; in consequence it fails often of its immediate object and almost always of its ultimate purpose.

Bertrand Russell

If your morals make you dreary, depend on it, they are wrong.

Robert Louis Stevenson




Thoughts about Ethics & Morality

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Aristotle said that only those who have been well brought up can usefully study ethics: to the corrupted man, the man who stands outside the Tao, [natural law or traditional morality or the first principles of practical reason] the very starting point of this science is invisible.

The most dangerous person in society is the thinker who questions fundamental moral and sentimental values.

ETHICS

He who would live must fight. He who does not wish to fight in this world, where permanent struggle is the law of life, has not the right to exist.

Adolf Hitler

The ethical progress of society depends not on imitating the cosmic process but in combating it.

T. H. Huxley

ETHICS

Life is livable because we know that wherever we go most of the people we meet will be restrained in their actions toward us by an almost instinctive network of taboos.

Havelock Ellis

I am very doubtful whether history shows us one example of a man who, having stepped outside traditional morality and attained power, has used that power benevolently.

C. S. Lewis

ETHICS

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.

Oscar Wilde

I was glad when I found Celia (his wife) was unfaithful. I felt it was all right for me to dislike her.

Charles Ryder (to Julia in Brideshead Revisited)

ETHICS

Morality is the theory that every human act must be either right or wrong and that ninety-nine per cent of them are wrong.

H. L. Mencken

Art is like morality. Both consist in deciding where to draw the line.

G. K. Chesterton

ETHICS

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One is apt to think of moral failure as due to weakness of character: more often it is due to an inadequate ideal.

Richard Livingstone

None of us know what exactly is the sexual code we believe in, approving of many things on paper which we violently object to when they are practised by those we care about.

Beatrice Webb

ETHICS

One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils of this world can be cured by legislation.

Thomas Reed

All reform except a moral one will prove unavailing.

Thomas Carlyle

ETHICS

Political correctness becomes a code word for a new form of moral tyranny.

Michael Ignatieff

The worst tyranny is that which imposes a higher standard of conduct than is natural.

George Bernard Shaw

ETHICS

The Christian Church speaks for the control of sexual appetite and a general restraint of the appetites.

Nothing shocked Victorian rationalists more than the charge that they were undermining Christian morality, for they professed the greatest concern for the purity of the English home. The modern sceptic is more intelligent. He has no use for the restraints of a creed whose consolations he rejects.

Arnold Lunn

ETHICS

The sex trade in much of Asia is on a different moral plane from that in the West, and it takes a little getting used to.

Ethical advances that are made in one generation are very often lost in the next.

John Gray

ETHICS

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

Frederic Bastiat

There is no villainy [evil] to which education cannot reconcile us.

Anthony Trollope

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Why are Many People Afraid to Admit that Some Moral Problems may Not have a Solution?

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Why are Many People Afraid to Admit that

Some Moral Problems may Not have a Solution?

There are some people who think that it must be immoral to admit that there are any doubtful cases of morality, as if a man should refrain from discussing the precise boundary at the upper end of the Isthmus of Panama, for fear the inquiry should shake his belief in the existence of North America.

G. K. Chesterton

ETHICS II

[Is it morally reprehensible for a German pilot to machine-gun a British pilot who has baled out of his burning Spitfire over friendly territory and is floating slowly down to earth? Would your opinion be influenced if you knew that the British pilot was a fighter ace? (You should know that the U.S. Air Force discovered during World War II that less than 1 percent of its military pilots became “aces”—five kills in aerial combat—and that these men accounted for roughly 30 to 40 percent of all enemy aircraft destroyed in the air.) In the following passage from his 1942 book, And the Floods Came, Arnold Lunn raises this awkward business with his old skiing and climbing companion, Hugh Dowding, chief of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain.]

I remember one evening we were discussing the machine-gunning by Nazis of British pilots who had baled out over England. If the logic of war be unqualified by the conventions which we owe to chivalry, we cannot criticise the Nazis for shooting down pilots who have baled out. For such pilots are not in the position of prisoners who have surrendered, but of prisoners who are escaping.

I asked one of our pilots whether we had ever machine-gunned Nazis parachuting down behind the Nazi lines in France or in Flanders. “We should have been entitled to,” he replied; “particularly if the Nazis had set a precedent. But it was only an occasional tough who had the heart to machine-gun a defenseless man floating slowly down to earth.”

I quoted this to Dowding. “Well,” he replied, “there are also Germans who do not find it easy to machine-gun defenseless pilots. One of our pilots was forced down the other day on the seashore. He saw the Nazi diving down on top of him and expected to be shot. But the Nazi just leaned out of the cockpit to wave him goodbye, and disappeared again across the sea.”

ETHICS II

[Is it immoral to enjoy war or enjoy killing the enemy, even when war is justifiable or unavoidable?]

War is the most violent form of controversy, and though it is criminal to make war because one delights in war, it would be idiotic to criticise a soldier because he enjoyed fighting. Certainly Lord Montgomery did not regard his war service as a distasteful duty. While my first wife, his first cousin, was alive he spent some weeks at Mürren every winter, and I am proud to possess an autographed copy of his book El Alamein to the River Sangro inscribed ‘To Arnold Lunn in the hopes that he will enjoy this tale of human endeavour by the soldiers of the Empire.’ What emerged very clearly from the book was how much Monty himself had enjoyed this ‘human endeavour.’ ‘It was a wonderful experience,’ he wrote in the Foreword, ‘to command such an Army in the days of its greatest success.’ Monty told me the story of his reception of the German delegation who had come to surrender. Monty came out of his caravan and said to his A.D.C., “And who are these gentlemen, pray?” “These, sir, are the German generals.” “And what do they want with me?”, asked Montgomery. “They want to surrender, sir.” “What a pity. I was just beginning to enjoy this war!”

Arnold Lunn (from And the Floods Came, 1942)

There is such a thing as a “natural soldier”: the kind of man who derives his greatest satisfaction from male companionship, from excitement, and from the conquering of physical and psychological obstacles. He doesn’t necessarily want to kill people as such, but he will have no objection if it occurs within a moral framework that gives him a justification—like war—and if it is the price of gaining admission to the kind of environment he craves. Whether such men are born or made, I do not know, but most of them end up in armies (and many move on again to become mercenaries, because regular army life in peacetime is too routine and boring). But armies are not full of such men. They are so rare that they form only a modest fraction even of small professional armies, mostly congregating in the commando-type special forces. In large conscript armies they virtually disappear beneath the weight of numbers of more ordinary men.

Gwynne Dyer (from War, 1985)

ETHICS II

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[Does it seem very unfair that the wretched of the earth run a much higher risk of addiction or ill health when they use food, sex, drugs and alcohol as a medication against the misery of their lives? If G. K. Chesterton’s ‘rule’ for the drinking of alcohol holds, is it likely to apply to other forms of pleasure?]

The sound rule in the matter would appear to be like many other sound rules—a paradox. Drink because you are happy, but never because you are miserable. Never drink when you are wretched without it, or you will be like the grey-faced gin-drinker in the slum; but drink when you would be happy without it, and you will be like the laughing peasant of Italy. Never drink because you need it, for this is rational drinking, and the way to death and hell. But drink because you do not need it, for this is irrational drinking, and the ancient health of the world.

There are no rewards or punishments—only consequences.

Dean Inge

ETHICS II

[Given ordinary human feeling, would it have been possible to canonize Joan of Arc if she had fought and killed in the Battle of Patay? For the answer to this question to be non-trivial, assume that you belong to the second school of thought about war. To decide the question according to reason it may help to keep in mind C. S. Lewis’s observation, ‘The human mind is generally far more eager to praise or blame than to describe and define. It wants to make every distinction a distinction of value.’]

There are four schools of thought on the subject of war:

1) There are the Prussians, who regard war as the most glorious activity of man.

2) There are the Realists, who regard war as an evil. But they realise that there are circumstances in which war is the lesser of two evils.

3) There are the quasi-Pacifists, who would make almost any concession to avoid war.

4) And there are the extreme Pacifists, who regard war as the ultimate evil, and who hold all participation in war as unacceptable—and certainly un-Christian.

ETHICS II

The Battle of Patay, a French victory, may have been even more lopsided than the Battle of Agincourt where English casualties were 112 dead and French casualties amounted to between seven and ten thousand. At Patay the French suffered practically no casualties—three men, according to Perceval de Boulainvilliers, one, according to Thibaut d’Armagnac. One of the French commanders, Dunois, estimated the English dead at 4000, while the Burgundian mercenary, Wavrin, and the Journal du Siege, sources on the side of the English, put the English dead at 2000, and prisoners at 200. Unlike Agincourt, however, which had little strategic impact, the lesser known Battle of Patay was a major turning point in the Hundred Years War.

Now here is the problem. Joan, usually the hawk in military councils, was insistent that her fellow captains fight an open field engagement (where the English excelled) because her voices assured victory. Her co-commanders reluctantly agreed, though, having had a run of luck and knowing how fickle were the fortunes of war, they must have felt that they were tempting fate. Perhaps their way of getting back at her was to let the mercenary captain La Hire lead the advance guard, “which greatly annoyed Joan, who liked to command it herself,” according to her page Louis de Coutes.

Whereas everything went right for the English at Agincourt fourteen years earlier, everything went wrong for them at Patay, though they used exactly the same tactics. A stag burst out of the woods and bolted into the main body of the English, who raised a loud cry thereby alerting French scouts. In short order 1500 mounted men-at-arms (i.e. knights) descended on the 500 lightly armed English long bowmen who were still driving their stakes. Panic ensued, which was transmitted to the main body through mis-communication, followed by a rout and a bloodbath. Now if Joan had had her way, instead of arriving when the battle was all but over—a circumstance that gave her the opportunity to comfort a dying English prisoner and hear his confession—she would have been faced with four possible options, all either implausible or unpalatable.

ETHICS II

1) Abandon the field rather than witness the slaughter. However, that would have been totally out of character given her past behavior. Moreover, she was firmly in the second school of thought on the subject of war.

2) Stand idly by while the slaughter unfolded around her. But if she refused to do any of the bloody work herself, this may have caused some resentment in her comrades, since they were killing at her (or her voices) behest.

3) Try to stop the slaughter. That’s an absurdity since she preached the necessity of this battle and made it happen. Moreover, armies in those days had no means to house and feed prisoners until hostilities ceased. The rich were ransomed and the poor were killed. That was the rule generally adhered to.

4) Take a hand in the slaughter. Many observers, military and non-military, testified than Joan wielded sword and lance like a professional soldier, and if she had truly participated in the battle she wouldn’t have been able to say at her trial “I have never killed anyone.”

ETHICS II

It is doubtful that popular sentiment would have allowed the Church to canonize a person, however virtuous in every other respect, who had blood on their hands, despite the fact that the job of a soldier is to “kill, kill, and kill.” If killing is sometimes necessary and right, then somebody has to do it. Logically, if that somebody is a saint, it is still necessary and right. And it may have been necessary for Joan if she had got her way. The circumstance didn’t arise, but it could have arisen. Should we, or could we, try to retrain our emotions to accept that an appealing young woman could lead a life of heroic virtue—the condition for sainthood—while at the same time knowing she had run her sword or lance through half a dozen helpless enemies during the Battle of Patay? That’s the problem.

ETHICS II

[Near the end of World War II, General Curtis LeMay was placed in charge of all strategic air operations against the Japanese home islands. According to Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb, ‘LeMay was a wild man, hard-driving and tough, a bomber pilot, a big-game hunter, a chewer of cigars, dark, fleshy, smart. “I’ll tell you what war is about,” he once said bluntly—but he said it after the war—“you’ve got to kill people, and when you’ve killed enough they stop fighting.” ’ In the passage below LeMay explains why he condoned the systematic laying waste of Japanese cities. Joan may well have agreed. When she was asked at her trial if God hated the English she replied, “Of the love or hatred God has for the English, I know nothing, but I do know that they will all be thrown out of France, except those who die there.” George Bernard Shaw wrote in the introduction to his play Saint Joan, ‘She was the first French practitioner of Napoleonic realism in warfare.’]

ETHICS II

We were going after military targets. No point in slaughtering civilians for the mere sake of slaughter. Of course there is a pretty thin veneer in Japan, but the veneer was there. It was their system of dispersal of industry. All you had to do was visit one of those targets after we’d roasted it, and see the ruins of a multitude of houses, with a drill press sticking up through the wreckage of every home. The entire population got into the act and worked to make those airplanes or munitions of war . . . men, women, children. We knew we were going to kill a lot of women and kids when we burned [a] town. Had to be done.

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Is Evil ‘Real' or Just the Sum Total of the Endlessly Varied Things & States of Affair we Agree to Call ‘Evils'?

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Is Evil ‘Real’ or Just the Sum Total of the Endlessly

Varied Things & States of Affair we Agree to Call ‘Evils’?

The effects which follow too constant and intense a concentration upon evil are always disastrous. Those who crusade not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes even perceptibly worse than it was before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself.

Aldous Huxley

Strangely enough, evil people are often destructive because they are attempting to destroy evil. The problem is that they fail to see where evil is situated. Instead of destroying others they should be destroying the sickness within themselves.

M. Scott Peck

EVIL I

The great purges were just beginning and [the American philosopher Sidney] Hook, raising the cases of Zinoviev and Kamenev, asked [Bertolt] Brecht how he could bear to work with the American communists, who were trumpeting their guilt. Brecht said that the US communists were no good—nor were the Germans either—and that the only body which mattered was the Soviet Party. Hook pointed out that they were all part of the same movement, responsible for the arrests and imprisonment of innocent former comrades. Brecht: “As for them, the more innocent they are, the more they deserve to be shot.” Hook: “What are you saying?” Brecht: “The more innocent they are, the more they deserve to be shot.” Hook: “Why? Why?” He repeated the question but Brecht did not answer. Hook got up, went into the next room and brought Brecht’s hat and coat. ‘When I returned he was still sitting in his chair, holding a drink in his hand. When he saw me with his hat and coat, he looked surprised. He put his glass down, rose and with a sickly smile took his hat and coat and left.’

Paul Johnson (from Intellectuals)

EVIL I

[Shortly after the Srebenica massacre in 1992, American investigative reporter Randall Sullivan left Yugoslavia where he had been looking into the reported Marian apparitions in the small town of Medjugorje. On his way home he stopped off in Rome where, as he recounts in the resulting book, The Miracle Detective, he and the devil crossed paths in the Piazza Navona.]

I left the newspaper on a café table with the dregs of my seven-dollar beer and circled the Fountain of Four Rivers, weaving through throngs of tourists, T-shirt vendors, and street performers, stopping finally to perch on the back of a bench by the lesser fountain at the piazza’s south end. I had been sitting for perhaps five minutes when an elegantly dressed man with silver hair came walking in my direction out of the narrow street nearby. He wore a beautifully cut blue blazer with cream linen trousers, a bright yellow cravat, and sharp-toed shoes polished to a high gloss. “Quite the gent,” I thought, then saw the man’s face and drew a quick breath. His expression was one of the strangest I had ever seen, a sort of malevolent drollery that did not entirely conceal the suffocating rage beneath it. Though all by himself, the man began to speak in a loud voice as he drew near me, in a language that was not Italian. My heart was pounding. I looked around at the tourists nearby, baffled by the fact that not one of them seemed to notice this oddity. It was as if, in some way, the silver-haired man and I were isolated from the scene surrounding us. Suddenly, he let loose with a mad cackle and turned his head to fix me with one eye.

In that moment, I knew he wasn’t human. An unearthly calm came over me almost immediately. I clutched the scapular medal that was still around my neck and stared back at him, thinking, “You can’t touch me.”

He responded with the most obscene leer I had ever seen, and this time I understood exactly what he said: “I’ll catch you later.”

Some evils, indeed, are ministerial to higher forms of good; but it may be that there are forms of evil so extreme as to enter into no good system whatsoever, and that, in respect of such evil, dumb submission or neglect to notice is the only practical resource.

William James

Because I made friends among the locals, I heard a story every few days that reminded me how proximate to the horror [of the war in Yugoslavia] I was... One of the priest confided that he had nearly suffered a nervous breakdown after hearing the confessions of more than a dozen nuns who had been gang-raped by the Serbs, held in captivity until they were impregnated, then released with three choices: Give birth to a bastard child fathered by a Serbian rapist, get an abortion, or commit suicide; nearly every one of these women had pleaded for permission to kill herself, the priest said.

Randall Sullivan

EVIL I

I have seen cases in which an individual made an evil choice for no apparent reason other than the pure desire to exercise the freedom of his or her will. It is as if such people say to themselves, “Were I to do the good thing, it would be because it is good. But if I do the bad thing, it will be solely because I want to. Therefore I shall do the bad, because it is my freedom to do so.”

M. Scott Peck

It may be doubted if any man ever really said, ‘Evil, be thou my good.’

Thomas Henry Huxley




Thoughts about Evil & Wickedness

Evil always has something to do with lies.

M. Scott Peck

As for truth, [the devil] has never taken his stand upon that; there is no truth in him. When he utters falsehood, he is only uttering what is natural to him; he is all false, and it was he who gave falsehood its birth.

Jesus of Nazareth

EVIL I

Evil deeds do not an evil person make. Otherwise we should all be evil, because we all do evil things.

M. Scott Peck

It is common knowledge that the good and the wicked do not constitute two distinct human categories. Rather, good and evil are inextricably commingled in our hearts.

Ignace Lepp

EVIL I

Evil has no capital of its own. It is a parasite on goodness.

Fulton Sheen

Few men are sufficiently discerning to appreciate all the evil they do.

La Rochefoucauld

EVIL I

Generally speaking those who carry most guilt will acknowledge least.

I came to carry out the struggle, not to kill people. Even now, and you can look at me: Am I a savage person? My conscience is clear.

Pol Pot (Interview, Oct 1997)

EVIL I

Hinduism as a religion does not have the theological doctrine of evil, and is satisfied with relegating it to the domain of ethics.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri

According to Eastern philosophies evil is not in man’s will, but is essentially bound up with the existence of the body and the material universe.

Christopher Dawson

EVIL I

Human nature is corrupt at the source because it has grown out of material nature.

Northrop Frye

EVIL I

If all evil were prevented, much good would be absent from the universe.

Aquinas

Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it.

C. S. Lewis

EVIL I

It is a sin to believe evil of others, but it is seldom a mistake.

H. L. Mencken

The matter with mankind is not incorrigible natural depravity but just ignorance—flat earth ignorance.

George Bernard Shaw

EVIL I

Men do not differ much about what things they will call evil; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable.

G. K. Chesterton

EVIL I

Men in association are capable of wickedness from which each individually would shrink.

Evelyn Waugh

Two starving men cannot be twice as hungry as one; but two rascals can be ten times as vicious as one.

George Bernard Shaw

EVIL I

One may smile, and smile, and be a villain.

Hamlet (Hamlet)

EVIL I

The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.

Joseph Conrad

It is easier to denature plutonium than to denature the evil spirit of man.

Albert Einstein

EVIL I

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The central defect of evil is not sin but the refusal to acknowledge sin.

M. Scott Peck

It is not sin per se that characterizes those who are evil, rather it is the subtlety and persistence and consistency of their sin.

EVIL I

The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.

Merchant of Venice (Antonio)

Oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
Win us with honest trifles, to betray
In deepest consequence.

Macbeth (Banquo)

EVIL I

The spirit of evil is one of unreality, but it itself is real. It really exists.

M. Scott Peck

Christian doctrine holds that evil is real. Eastern religions do not consider it to be real. They consider it to be illusion or false knowledge, what they call maya.

EVIL I

The wickedness of others becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in our own hearts.

Carl Jung

It was my first glimpse of authentic evil, and—as always happens with evil—infected me, evil being the most infectious, and even contagious, of all sicknesses.

Malcolm Muggeridge

EVIL I

There is no wicked side [of life]: life is all one.

George Bernard Shaw (from Major Barbara)

Shaw believed that what we have learned to call evil is technically an error in the experimental process of trial and error by which evolution must advance.

Michael Holroyd (biographer)

EVIL I

We must give up the simple notion that we can effectively conquer evil by destroying it.

One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils of this world can be cured by legislation.

Thomas Reed

EVIL I

While the evil seem to lack any motivation to be good, they intensely desire to appear good. Their “goodness” is all on a level of pretense. It is, in effect, a lie.

M. Scott Peck

I was completely enchanted by Stalin, by his foresight, his attentiveness, his concern for me. Everything that I saw and heard from Stalin wove a spell over me.

Nikita Kruschev

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Is the Existence of an Omnipotent Benevolent God Incompatible with Natural Evil in the World?

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Is the Existence of an Omnipotent Benevolent God
Incompatible with Natural Evil in the World?

Nature is a horrible horrible thing.

Ronald de Sousa (U of T philosophy professor)

[The two experiences below, which could be multiplied a million times over, represent that portion of reality wherein life takes on a nightmarish quality. The first experience concerns the Rudraprayag leopard, which was probably the most publicized man-eater of all time. Operating over a five hundred square mile area encompassing scores of villages, this animal imposed an eight-year-long state of terror on the 50,000 inhabitants of Garhwal, and the 60,000 pilgrims who annually passed through the area on their way to visit the shrines of Kedarnath and Badrinath. The terror intensified when, five years into its career, the leopard hit on the idea of trying to break into people’s houses—and sometimes succeeding—rather than just lurking about villages after dark and waiting with a leopard’s patience for some brave soul to break the rigidly observed dusk to dawn curfew. (Man-eating leopards only hunt at night.) Several hundred people were killed and eaten, and many more wounded, often fatally, by the time the famous Anglo-Indian hunter, Jim Corbett, avenged these victims in 1926. But even from Corbett the man-eater exacted a price. Physical and emotional exhaustion required him to abandon his long campaign (spanning 1925 and ’26) for over three months, a decision he knew would attract public criticism. He also knew that during this period of rest and recuperation the leopard would continue to claim men, women and children at the rate of about one every ten days. The second experience was visited on the physicist Niels Bohr and came to him at the height of his fame. Tragedy is no respecter of persons.]

On many moonlit nights, when sitting in an uncomfortable position physical endurance had reached its limit, and when sitting where it would have been easy for the leopard to have got at me I had no longer been able to keep my eyes open. I had for hours walked the roads which were alone open to me and to the leopard, trying every trick I knew of to outwit my adversary, and the man-eater had, with luck beyond his deserts or with devilish cunning, avoided the bullet that a press of my finger would have sent into him, for on retracing my steps in the morning after these night excursions I had found from the pug-marks on the road that I was right in assuming I had been closely followed. To know that one is being followed at night—no matter how bright the moon may be—by a man-eater intent on securing a victim, gives one an inferiority complex that is very unnerving, and that is not mitigated by repetition.

Tired out in mind and in body, my longer stay at Rudraprayag would not have profited the people of Garhwal, and it might have cost me my own life. Knowing that the temporary abandonment of my self-imposed task would be severely criticized by the press, but that what I was now doing was right, I plodded on towards my distant home, having assured the people of Garhwal that I would return to help them as soon as it was possible for me to do so.

Jim Corbett (from The Man-Eating Leopard of Rudraprayag, 1947)


EVIL II

In 1932 the Danish Academy offered Niels Bohr lifetime free occupancy of the Danish House of Honour, a palatial estate in Pompeiian style built originally for the founder of Carlsberg Breweries and subsequently reserved for Denmark’s most distinguished citizen (Knud Rasmussen, the polar explorer, was it previous occupant). Bohr and his wife, with their five handsome sons, moved to the mansion beside the brewery, the best address in Denmark after the King’s. Two years later an accident took the Bohr’s eldest son, Christian, nineteen years old. Father, son and two friends were sailing on the Öresund, the sea passage between Denmark and Sweden, when a squall blew up. Christian “was drowned by falling over[board] in a very rough sea from a sloop,” Robert Oppenheimer reports, “and Bohr circled as long as there was light, looking for him.” But the Öresund is cold. For a time Bohr retreated into grief. Exhausting as it was, the refugee turmoil helped him. [Bohr played a critical role in saving more than 7000 Danish Jews from the Nazis.]

Richard Rhodes (from The Making of the Atomic Bomb, 1986)

There’s nothing more outrageous than the pain of losing a child . . . you want to rip your heart out when you lose a child.

Margaret Trudeau




Thoughts about the Problem of Evil in Nature

People are often shocked when somebody says, “Well, maybe rape is just a successful evolutionary strategy, and that’s why men are tempted to rape.” Now that’s only shocking if you assume there is something lovely about nature. But nature is a horrible horrible thing. And indeed that’s why people invented religion, to try and placate those horrible horrible gods that were doing all these awful things to us, to try to pretend to think they’re nice. That is my very very amateurish explanation for monotheism and the idea that god is good. God is obviously bad if god exists. When you have a really nasty boss you kind of suck up. That seems to me to be all there is to the long and the short of this complicated story.

Ronald de Sousa (from his 2011 debate with Jordan Peterson)


EVIL II

Do we live in a world that was created by a god who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all good? Christians think we do. Yet a powerful reason for doubting this confronts us every day: the world contains a vast amount of pain and suffering. If God is all-knowing, he knows how much suffering there is. If he is all-powerful, he could have created a world without so much of it—and he would have done so if he were all good. . . The evidence of our own eyes makes it more plausible to believe that the world was not created by any god at all. If, however, we insist on believing in divine creation, we are forced to admit that the God who made the world cannot be all-powerful and all good. He must be either evil or a bungler.

Peter Singer (from his 2008 article The God of Suffering)


EVIL II

Stephen Unwin [the author of The Probability of God] thinks the existence of evil, especially natural catastrophes such as earthquakes and tsunamis, counts strongly against the likelihood that God exists. Here, Unwin’s judgement is opposite to mine but goes along with many uncomfortable theologians. ‘Theodicy’ (the vindication of divine providence in the face of the existence of evil) keeps theologians awake at night. The authoritative Oxford Companion to Philosophy gives the problem of evil as ‘the most powerful objection to traditional theism.’

Richard Dawkins (from The God Delusion, 2006)

[From what Dawkins says below, he seems to agree with Stephen Unwin that natural evil is an argument against the existence of God. Does he not?]

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored.

In a universe of....blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

Richard Dawkins (from “God’s Utility Function,” 1995)


EVIL II

If one is to base one’s decision exclusively on the biological facts, then it would be wildly irrational to believe in God. However, there are other considerations: cosmological considerations, religious experience, and so on. Perhaps the existence of God could be justified by one of these. I’m not persuaded by any of them. Then there is negative evidence to consider: the problem of evil. I find this one extremely powerful. It’s probably the main reason why I’m an atheist.

Prof. James Robert Brown

[On the March 27, 2007 edition of The Agenda, evolutionary biologist and naturalist, Jerry Coyne, told host Steve Paikin that, “We don’t know how life started and it’s a really thorny problem.” Despite that persistent mystery, U of T philosophy professor James Robert Brown makes it sound as if the biological facts alone disprove God’s existence. But if there were no evil in the natural world, which Brown concedes is ‘probably the main reason why I’m an atheist,’ would his claim that it would be ‘wildly irrational to believe in God’ be plausible, given the mind boggling complexity of the simplest cell? The passage above is from an email Prof. Brown sent to me in connection with Darwinian evolution.]


EVIL II

[Russell] thought that the existence of [a deity] is highly improbable, and moreover, that if there were such a thing—especially if it were anything like the God of Christian orthodoxy—the moral repugnance of the universe would be even greater than it is, because then we would have to accept either that an omnipotent being allows, or that it wills, the existence of natural and moral evil in the world (‘natural evil’ denotes disease, catastrophes such as earthquakes and hurricanes, and the like). On Russell’s view, a visit to the wards of any children’s hospital should be enough to make one feel either that there cannot be a deity, or that if there is one, it is a monster.

A. C. Grayling (from Russell: A Very Short Introduction, 2002)


EVIL II

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[On May 4th 2010, a Markham mother ran over her two-year-old son while backing out of her driveway, killing him. About a week later a two-year-old Hamilton girl died after she was accidentally run over in the family’s driveway by a van driven by her aunt, who was babysitting. The ten line article that reported this story ended by saying, ‘Tragically such incidents are not uncommon, striking two to three times a day across the continent, according to studies.’ Famous philosophers have been known to make hugely important inferences from tragedies of this kind. For example, in his book Russell: A Very Short Introduction, A. C. Grayling writes, ‘On Russell’s view, a visit to the wards of any children’s hospital should be enough to make one feel either that there cannot be a deity, or that if there is one, it is a monster.’ However, Russell and many others not only ‘feel’ that there is no personal benevolent God because of such evils, but definitely conclude it. But is such a conclusion a triumph of reason over emotion, or the reverse? Suppose that a visiting extraterrestrial, observing that a dozen or so children were killed by their parents’ cars every day of the year, concluded that the human race must be a monster species because it caused this kind of unspeakable tragedy by inventing cars, and then allowed it to continue by refusing to abandon them. Would you accept that conclusion, and if not, what arguments would you counter with? Does the passage below from C. S. Lewis make you more hesitant to blame God for creating a world in which the potential for tragedy is inherent, and in which tragedy occurs with the incidence that we observe?]

As long as one is a Naturalist, “Nature” is only a word for “everything.” And Everything is not a subject about which anything very interesting can be said or (save by illusion) felt. One aspect of things strikes us and we talk of the “peace” of Nature; another strikes us and we talk of her cruelty. And then, because we falsely take her for the ultimate and self-existent Fact and cannot quite repress our high instinct to worship the Self-existent, we are all at sea and our moods fluctuate and Nature means to us whatever we please as the moods select and slur. But everything becomes different when we recognize that Nature is a creature, a created thing, with its own particular tang or flavour. There is no need any longer to select and slur. It is not in her, but in Something far beyond her, that all lines meet and all contrasts are explained. It is no more baffling that the creature called Nature should be both fair and cruel than that the first man you meet in the train should be a dishonest grocer and a kind husband. For she is not the Absolute: she is one of the creatures, with her good points and her bad points and her own unmistakable flavour running through them all.

C. S. Lewis (from Miracles, 1947)

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Can a 'Scientific' Theory of Evolution be Inherently Atheistic, or merely Capable of Atheistic Interpretation?

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Can a ‘Scientific’ Theory of Evolution be Inherently
Atheistic, or merely Capable of Atheistic Interpretation?

Another curious aspect of the theory of evolution is that everybody thinks he understands it.

Jacques Monod

Although there was much that led up to it, I guess you could say I lost the last remnants of my faith in God during biology class in high school. So profound was the experience that I could take you back to the very seat where I was sitting when I first was taught that evolution explained the origin and development of life. The implications were clear: Charles Darwin’s theory eliminated the need for a supernatural Creator by demonstrating how naturalistic processes could account for the increasing complexity and diversity of living things.

Lee Strobel (from The Case for Faith, 2000)

In November 2009 the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation did a four part series celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s, On the Origin of Species. At the beginning of Part I, program host Paul Kennedy commented, “Darwin showed us . . . that over time all living things adapt and evolve or perish, and above all, [that] this is a natural process, not the result of divine intervention.”

EVOLUTION

It’s easy to find examples of religion and/or theism with which evolutionary biology is clearly incompatible. And I would argue that it’s not that difficult to find examples of them which are compatible. Clearly, there are examples of people who claim to hold this position. So now the question becomes whether or not these people are deeply mistaken in some way about either the implications of their version of religion or theism or about the implications of evolutionary biology. There seems to be a number of people who hold that evolutionary biology implies metaphysical naturalism [aka materialism] and a number of people who hold that it does not.

Fred

The more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed away from the agnostic position and towards atheism.

Richard Dawkins

One of the web pages at www.talkorigins.org—an extensive website dedicated to the discussion and defense of evolutionary biology—is entitled “God and Evolution.” In answer to the question ‘Does evolution deny the existence of God?’ it states, ‘No. There is no reason to believe that God was not a guiding force behind evolution.’ (see Q5)

EVOLUTION

In his Research and Progress Professor Max Westenhofer writes in 1937: ‘All the larger groups of animals, e.g., fishes, amphibians, reptiles, mammals seem to have appeared suddenly on the earth, spreading themselves in an explosive manner in their various shapes and forms. Nowhere is one able to observe or prove the transition of one species into another, variation only being possible within the species themselves.’

The fossil record does not convincingly demonstrate a single transition from one species to another.

Steven M. Stanley (paleontologist)

EVOLUTION

In 1931 Professor H. F. Osborn of the United States, described by Britain’s Royal Society as the greatest palaeontologist of the day, made the following statement to a congress of the British Association: “We are more at a loss than ever to understand the causes of evolution. One after another, the Buffonian, Lamarckian, Darwinian, Weissmannian, and De Vriesian theories of causation have collapsed. . . All that we can say at present is that Nature does not waste time or effort with chance or fortuity or experiment, but that she proceeds directly and creatively to her marvellous adaptive ends of biomechanism.”

(Nature, September 28, 1931)

Some leading Darwinists now acknowledge that new creatures appear suddenly in the fossil record, and with a few possible exceptions are not preceded by transitional creatures. Moreover, once they appear, they remain unchanged, except for variations within narrow limits, until they go extinct. There are so-called ‘living fossils’ on earth today, such as the horseshoe crab, that have not altered significantly for hundreds of millions of years.

EVOLUTION

[Karl Popper is famous for asserting that empirical falsifiability, rather than empirical verifiability, was the criterion of demarcation between science and non-science. So when that atheist philosopher remarked that ‘Evolution is nothing but a metaphysical research project,’ he was not denying evolution as a fact, but only denying the scientific status of any theory that purports to be a complete explanation of the origin of life.]

Life itself has very little survival value in comparison with the inorganic matter from which it sprang. A rock survives for hundreds of millions of years, whereas even a tree lasts only a thousand years. If ‘survival’ was what Nature aimed at, why should life appear at all? Again, why should the trend of evolution be upward, so that higher and higher types are evolved? The upward trend cannot be due to the influence of the environment, for the lower types are just as well adapted to their environment as are the higher types. In fact the higher types, particularly man, actively attack their environment.

I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all “design” anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection.

Richard Dawkins

EVOLUTION

[Is it fair to say that, with respect to the explanatory power of Darwinian natural selection, Daniel Dennett is a man of much greater faith than Noam Chomsky?]

Why couldn’t the most important thing of all be something that arose from unimportant things? Why should the importance or excellence of anything have to rain down on it from on high, from something more important, a gift from God? Darwin’s inversion suggests that we abandon that presumption and look for sorts of excellence, of worth and purpose, that can emerge, bubbling up out of “mindless, purposeless forces”. . . If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I’d give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning, and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law.

Daniel Dennett (from Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, 1995)

While it’s true in a very vague sense that the systems that we now have have developed through evolution, through natural selection, it’s important to recognize how little we are saying when we say that. For example, it is certainly not necessarily the case that every particular trait that we have is the result of specific selection. In fact there are striking examples to the contrary, or apparently to the contrary. Take, for example, our capacity to deal with abstract properties of the number system.

Noam Chomsky (Interview with Bryan Magee)

EVOLUTION

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The emergence of life from lifeless matter necessarily involves the kind of process which may roughly be described as a miracle. The reader can choose between a grotesquely improbable miracle, and a rational miracle. He can believe, if he wishes, that the complicated structure of a cell, with the power to reproduce itself, floated off the primeval seas as the result of pure chance, or alternatively that this cell was created by a supernatural act of God.

Arnold Lunn (from Now I See, 1933)

The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going.

Francis Crick

EVOLUTION

Those who think the human mind is nonalgorithmic should consider the hubris presupposed by that conviction. If Darwin’s dangerous idea is right, an algorithmic process is powerful enough to design a nightingale and a tree. Should it be that much harder for an algorithmic process to write an ode to a nightingale or a poem as lovely as a tree? Surely [Leslie] Orgel’s Second Rule is correct: Evolution is cleverer than you are.

Daniel Dennett

The Darwinians are trying to prove Darwinism by hypothesis. The Anti-Darwinians are not trying to prove anything; except that the Darwinians have not proved it.

G. K. Chesterton (from Fancies versus Fads, 1923)

EVOLUTION

It’s almost a paradox that Darwin’s book is called The Origin of Species because, in fact, Darwin deconstructs species. One of the things the book shows is that species disappear. This common sense category disappears as some kind of ontologically special level of reality. That is, there is no such thing as dog. Dogs are part of a grade of environmental expressions of certain genetic properties. . . And so all creatures start to grade one into the other. Species are simply snapshots of the world given to us by the fact of our mortality.

Scott Atran (Interview)

Evolution does not especially deny the existence of God; what it does deny is the existence of man.

G. K. Chesterton

Why did it take so long for a Darwin to arrive on the scene?. . . For [Ernst] Mayr, the culprit was the ancient philosophical doctrine of—to give it its modern name—essentialism. The discovery of evolution was held back by the dead hand of Plato.

Richard Dawkins (from The Greatest Show on Earth, 2009)




More Thoughts about Evolution

Certainly it’s hard to believe that our reasoning power was brought by Darwin’s process of natural selection to the perfection which it seems to possess.

Eugene Wigner

The difference between the Darwinian and the intelligent supernaturalist is not that one thinks evolution true and the other thinks it false. Rather it is that one believes evolution to be a complete explanation and the other is quite sure that it isn’t.

EVOLUTION

Evolution is a religion. It was true in the beginning and it is still true today.

Michael Ruse

Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

Richard Dawkins

EVOLUTION

Evolution is accepted by zoologists not because it has been observed to occur or . . . can be proved by logically coherent evidence to be true, but because the only alternative, special creation, is clearly incredible.

D. M. S. Watson

After reading his copy of the Origin Darwin’s elder brother Erasmus wrote back, ‘The a priori reasoning is so entirely satisfactory to me that if the facts won’t fit in, why so much the worse for the facts is my feeling’

(Darwin’s Life and Letters, ii, 223).

EVOLUTION

It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism.

Anthony Flew

The problem of the origin of life has turned out to be much more difficult than I, and most other people, envisioned.

Stanley Miller

EVOLUTION

It is not even possible to make a caricature of evolution out of the paleobiological facts. The fossil material is now so complete that the lack of transitional series cannot be explained by the scarcity of the material. The deficiencies are real, they will never be filled.

N. Heribert Nilsson (botanist, geneticist)

I have been reluctant to admit it, but . . . the synthetic theory [neo-Darwinism] . . . is effectively dead, despite its persistence as text-book orthodoxy.

Stephen Jay Gould

EVOLUTION

Problems with Darwin’s ‘gradualism’ prompted Stephen Jay Gould and Niles Eldridge to propose, in 1971, ‘punctuated equilibria,’ a theory which attempts to account for the sudden evolutionary spurts apparent in the fossil record.

Why should not the origin and evolution of species have been the result partly of natural and partly of supernatural agencies?

Arnold Lunn

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Should Experience or Thought be Our Touchstone for the Ultimate Nature of Reality?

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Should Experience or Thought be Our

Touchstone for the Ultimate Nature of Reality?

THOUGHT: an idea (esp. a philosophy or system of ideas) or opinion produced by thinking or occurring suddenly in the mind

TOUCHSTONE: a standard or criterion by which something is judged or recognized

We all start from “naive realism,” i.e., the doctrine that things are what they seem. We think that grass is green, that stones are hard, and that snow is cold. But physics assures us that the greenness of grass, the hardness of stones, and the coldness of snow, are not the greenness, hardness, and coldness that we know in our own experience, but something very different. The observer, when he seems to himself to be observing a stone, is really, if physics is to be believed, observing the effects of the stone upon himself.

Bertrand Russell (from An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth, 1950)

I was nineteen at the time. I was just returning from a glorious day among the mountains. The rope had been discarded and we were smoking a quiet pipe on a little pass a few thousand feet above the valley plunged in the rich gloom of an Alpine twilight. The evening breeze served as a soft pedal to the music of a glacier stream which faded into piano when the wind rose. Sixty miles away the white bar of the Oberland snows saluted the setting sun. The golden glow of evening subdued the strong lines of the mountains, and confused the issue of separate and successive slopes. A white speck that was Chillon showed against the purple of the lake. The whole vast shadowed landscape seemed to be haunted by an all-pervading sense of something of which visible beauty was only the sacramental expression. I thought of Haeckel’s dusty nonsense and laughed aloud. And from that moment I discarded materialism forever.

Arnold Lunn

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

The theist, like the moralist, may believe that his experiences are cognitive experiences, but, unless he can formulate his “knowledge” in propositions that are empirically verifiable, we may be sure that he is deceiving himself. It follows that those philosophers who fill their books with assertions that they intuitively “know” this or that moral or religious “truth” are merely providing material for the psycho-analyst. For no act of intuition can be said to reveal a truth about any matter of fact unless it issues in verifiable propositions. And all such propositions are to be incorporated in the system of empirical propositions which constitutes science.

A. J. Ayer (from Language Truth and Logic, 1936)

With our moral convictions, as with our belief in logic, or in the reality of the external world, few of us arrive at our actual conclusions by a rational process. It is not that we discover what the correct rules of inference are and then apply them, and come up with our conclusions. On the contrary, in logic and morals at least we derive our notion of what the correct rules of inference are from our convictions about what is the case. This means that we can no more prove that our moral convictions are valid than we can prove that the rules of logic are valid, just as we cannot prove that there is a reality external to ourselves.

Bryan Magee (from Confessions of a Philosopher, 1997)

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

Oxford philosophers of all sorts seemed to take it for granted that we think in words. So it seemed to them self-evident that the most solidly based way of addressing a philosophical problem was first of all to get it clearly formulated in language and then to set about analysing the formulation. The result was that what they were addressing was never direct experience but always a linguistic formulation.

Bryan Magee (from Confessions of a Philosopher, 1997)

It seems to me a mistake to think that our experience in general can be communicated by precise and literal language and that there is a special class of experiences (say, emotions) which cannot. The truth seems to me the opposite: there is a special region of experiences which can be communicated without Poetic language, namely, its ‘common measurable features,’ but most experience cannot. To be incommunicable by Scientific language is, so far as I can judge, the normal state of experience. All our sensuous experience is in this condition, though this is somewhat veiled from us by the fact that much of it is very common and therefore everyone will understand our references to it at a hint.

C. S. Lewis

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

[Bertrand] Russell had always, from the beginning, had a tendency to say and do idiotic things when it came to practical matters, and always for the same basic reason: he treated practical problems as if they were theoretical problems. In fact I do not think he could tell the difference. Really, the explanation of how it came about that this man who was a genius in some ways could be so foolish in others was relatively simple. His whole genius was for solving theoretical problems, and—no doubt partly for that reason—he tended to see all problems as theoretical. When a problem really was theoretical he was masterly, but when it was not theoretical but a problem of private or public life he was a blunderer. And because he had so little practical intelligence he learnt almost nothing from the experience.

Bryan Magee

In my second marriage I tried to preserve the respect for my wife’s [sexual] liberty which I thought my creed enjoined. I found however that my capacity for forgiveness and what may be called Christian love was not equal to the demands I was making on it. Anyone else could have told me this in advance, but I was blinded by theory.

Bertrand Russell

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

It seems to me increasingly that what gives one the beliefs by which one lives is of the nature of experience: it is a sudden realisation, or perhaps a gradual one, of ethical values which one had formerly doubted or taken on trust; and this realisation seems to be caused, as a rule, by a situation containing the things one realises to be good or bad. But although I do not think philosophy itself will give anything of human interest, I think a philosophical training enables one to get richer experiences, and to make more use of those that one does get.

Bertrand Russell (from letter dated July 20, 1904)




Thoughts about Experience & Thought

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A few observations and much reasoning lead to error; many observations and a little reasoning to truth.

Alexis Carrel

It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have all the evidence. It biases the judgement.

Arthur Conan Doyle

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

A thinker must think about his theories rather than simply with them. Everybody thinks with their theories in the sense of using those theories as organizing devices for understanding the world, but most people do so at an implicit level.

Diana Kuhn

Think before you think!

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

Everyone is a prisoner of his own experiences.

Edward R. Murrow

One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.

Jane Austen

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

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Experience comes before thought and if you can’t trust any of your experience then you can’t trust any of your thought.

Experience may not be the highest authority, but it is the first. It’s also the bedrock of authority, the thing that should support all other forms of authority.

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

Experience comprises illusions lost, rather than wisdom gained.

Joseph Roux

Experience takes away more than it adds; young people are nearer ideas than old men.

Plato

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

It is difficult, if not impossible, for most people to think otherwise than in the fashion of their own period.

George Bernard Shaw

Observe how the greatest minds yield in some degree to the superstitions of their age.

Henry David Thoreau

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

It is often said that second thoughts are best. So they are in matters of judgement, but not in matters of conscience.

John Henry Newman

Conscience is thoroughly well-bred and soon leaves off talking to those who do not wish to hear it.

Samuel Butler

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

Many philosophers have subordinated the authority of experience [e.g. of a core self that persists through time] to the authority of thought.

I think, therefore I am.

Descartes

When I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or pleasure. I never can catch myself without a perception, and never can observe any thing but the perception.

David Hume

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

Nature hates Mind. Thinking is the most unhealthy thing in the world, and people die of it just as they die of any other disease.

Oscar Wilde

Sixty minutes of thinking of any kind is bound to lead to confusion and unhappiness.

James Thurber

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

No one is more liable to make mistakes than the man who acts only on reflection.

Marquis de Vauvenargues

It is sometimes better not to think at all than to think intensely and think wrong.

George Bernard Shaw

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

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Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced—even a proverb [e.g. Life is short] is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it.

John Keats

A man must have grown old and lived long in order to see how short life is.

Arthur Schopenhauer

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

Sophisticated people can hardly understand how vague experience is at bottom, and how truly that vagueness supports whatever clearness is afterwards attained.

George Santayana

The danger of thought is that it can lead away from reality as well as towards it.

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

Unless you’ve got some background theoretical understanding, anything is as different from anything else as you like.

Bernard Williams

It is to be observed that, without the introduction of principles, no suggested collection of facts, or supposed facts, is either coherent or inconsistent, since no two facts can either imply or contradict each other except in virtue of some extralogical principle.

Bertrand Russell

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

We arrive at truth through experience more often than we arrive at it through deduction.

Experience is a good teacher, but she sends in terrific bills.

Minna Antrim

EXPERIENCE & THOUGHT

When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.

Mark Twain

What a man knows at fifty which he didn’t know at twenty is, for the most part, incommunicable.

Adlai Stevenson

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Can Faith be an Intellectually Valid Category of Belief, or is it Always Intellectually Deficient?

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Can Faith be an Intellectually Valid Category of Belief

Or is it Always Intellectually Deficient?

Faith is such a successful brainwasher in its own favour, especially of children, that it is hard to break its hold. But what, after all, is faith? It is a state of mind that leads people to believe something—it doesn’t matter what—in the total absence of supporting evidence. If there were good supporting evidence then faith would be superfluous, for the evidence would compel us to believe it anyway. It is this that makes the often-parroted claim that ‘evolution itself is a matter of faith’ so silly. People believe in evolution not because they arbitrarily want to believe it but because of overwhelming, publicly available evidence... There is no way of deciding...no way of preferring one article of faith over another, because evidence is explicitly eschewed. Indeed the fact that true faith doesn’t need evidence is held up as its greatest virtue; this was the point of my quoting the story of Doubting Thomas, the only really admirable member of the twelve apostles.

Richard Dawkins

FAITH I

‘I believe in order to understand.’ In the light of my early mental development, this would appear to be the strangest confession for me to make at the end of my life. If anyone had told me when I was twenty-one that I would do so, I should have felt insulted. I was then an aggressive unbeliever. I felt violently repelled by any view of life which was not established and justified by the intellect, and by it alone. I was born and brought up in Hinduism...but I lost faith in the gods and tenets of Hinduism by the time I was eighteen...and aired that arrogantly even before my elders. They only replied with contempt: ‘Let the hot blood of youth cool, and we shall see.’ Instead of being abashed by that I replied: ‘Perhaps I shall also walk with crutches. But would that be anything to be proud of, or would it prove anything?’

Faith has not come to me as a result of physical decay. Of course, I have seen that happening to others. Most of the early acquaintances of my life, who then swore by Comte, Marx, or even Trotsky and Bertrand Russell, have made ample amends. Some of them have not only taken shelter at the feet of Krishna, which would not have been dishonourable, but grovelled at the feet of imposters who could be easily recognized as such, and should have been. I have not followed their example in recovering faith. I not only persist in my disbelief in Hindu religious tenets, but have gone further and lost faith in all the great established religions. I did not reject Hinduism as religion in order to believe in Buddhism, Christianity, or Islam. My recovery of faith is not recantation.

It became necessary with a painful realization of the inability to live in hope without it. I began to suffer for my loss of faith almost with the loss itself, and yet remained incapable of going back to any of the existing forms of it. I could not retrace my way and yet I saw no road before me. I suffered for decades, and through that suffering discovered that all living faith has to be acquired. That can be done only by passing through mental experiences which either revalidate one or other of the old faiths, or create a new one. I was not able indeed to return to the old religions, but I learned from them that faith is as necessary for a man’s mind as food is necessary for his body; of course if he has the true human nature.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri

FAITH I

The absolute element in culture is always provided by some positive faith, whether that faith is religious in the full sense, or is intellectualist (eg. Buddhism, Platonism, or any system derived exclusively or principally from pure reason), or takes the form of a social idealism (eg. Comptism, Marxism or Nazism). If that positive faith disappears the vitality of a society disappears with it.

FAITH I

Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact. The ‘scientific proof’ that you are right may not be clear before the day of judgment (or some stage of being which that expression may serve to symbolize) is reached. But the faithful fighters of this hour, or the beings that then and there will represent them, may then turn to the faint-hearted, who here decline to go on, with words like those which Henry IV greeted the tardy Crillon after a great victory had been gained: ‘Hang yourself, brave Crillon! we fought at Arques, and you were not there.’

William James (from Is Life Worth Living?)



Thoughts about Faith

All science requires faith in the inner harmony of the world.

Albert Einstein

If we have better grounds for believing something to be true than for believing it not to be true, it is not irrational to invest a certain degree of faith in it. There is nothing unscientific about such an attitude because the question at issue, concerning as it does the untestable, is not a scientific question. It is not a matter of possible knowledge.

Bryan Magee

FAITH I

Atheism requires as much faith as belief in God since, obviously, proof is not available for God’s non-existence.

Faith is the free element in thought, logic the necessary element.

FAITH I

Belief mean[s] being able to feel the existence of the spiritual, to know God and not just to know about him.

Douglas Hyde

Purely human conviction is not faith. Faith is supernatural certainty, the gift of God.

Arnold Lunn

FAITH I

Everything that logic can tell us about the world is ultimately founded on something other than logic, and that something, call it instinct or intuition or insight, can only be accepted as a matter of faith or common sense.

You can’t live on reason. However you can live on faith, even false faith. But to live a fully human life you need both reason and faith.

FAITH I

Faith begins as an experiment and ends as an experience.

W. R. Inge

According to Simone Weil faith is the experience that the intelligence is enlightened by love.

FAITH I

Faith declares what the senses do not see, but not the contrary of what they see.

Pascal

I define Faith as the power of continuing to believe what we once honestly thought to be true until cogent reasons for honestly changing our minds are brought before us.

C. S. Lewis

FAITH I

Faith is a kind of knowledge.

Aquinas

There is a kind of Knowledge which does not exclude Faith; and a kind of Faith that does not exclude Knowledge. Man needs this balance between his Knowledge and his Belief in order to ‘live’ humanly.

Jean Charon

FAITH I

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Faith is intense, usually confident, belief that is not based on evidence sufficient to command assent from every reasonable person.

Walter Kaufmann

A man who has faith must be prepared not only to be a martyr, but to be a fool.

G. K. Chesterton

FAITH I

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable.

H. L. Mencken

Reasonable faith doesn’t mean believing in spite of the evidence or in the absence of evidence: it means believing on the basis of indirect and non-conclusive evidence.

FAITH I

Faith, to my mind, is a stiffening process, a sort of mental starch, which ought to be applied as sparingly as possible.

E. M. Forster

It is better to doubt than to believe.

Bertrand Russell

FAITH I

He who wishes to learn must believe.

Aristotle

Everybody has faith. But not everybody is conscious of having faith.

FAITH I

Intellectual discipline is the purgatory through which a man must pass in order to reach the paradise of faith, and the passage can be, in fact it often is, a torture.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri

The brute necessity of believing something so long as life lasts does not justify any belief in particular.

George Santayana

FAITH I

Life requires love, since love is the source of life both physically and spiritually. But love requires faith. So the loss of faith ultimately means the loss of both love and life.

Christopher Dawson

How passionately I long that one could break through the prison walls in one’s own nature. I feel now-a-days so much as if some great force for good were imprisoned within me by scepticism and cynicism and lack of faith. But those who have no such restraint always seem ignorant and a little foolish. It all makes one feel very lonely.

Bertrand Russell (from letter to lover)

FAITH I

Reason must be perfected by faith.

Karl Stern

Faith is necessary to sanity because logic alone can never anchor the mind, and the mind, to remain sane, must be anchored.

FAITH I

The conception of truth as the end of knowledge is dependent on faith, and nothing else.

Nirad C. Chaudhuri

Faith is the most important qualification for the pursuit of truth. Indeed, one soon discovers that faith is necessary to believe that something called ‘truth’ even exists.

FAITH I

We may define “faith” as a firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith.” We do not speak of faith that two and two are four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence.

Bertrand Russell

‘Blind faith’ stands for something that’s intellectually deficient. It means arbitrarily believing something because you want to believe it, without benefit of evidence or rational reasons. But many people talk as if all faith were intellectually deficient.

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Does Reason Need to be Enabled by Something that Could be Called Faith?

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Does Reason Need to be Enabled by

Something that Could be Called Faith?

In a letter to her husband Charles, Emma Darwin wrote: ‘May not the habit in scientific pursuits of believing nothing till it is proved influence your mind too much? There are other things which cannot be proved in the same way, and if true are likely to be above our comprehension.’

The concept of faith is a broad one: at its most general “faith” means much the same as “trust.” This discussion is specifically concerned, however, with the notion of religious faith—or, rather (and the difference is important), the kind of faith exemplified in religious faith. Philosophical accounts are almost exclusively about theistic religious faith—faith in God—and they generally, though not exclusively, deal with faith as understood within the Christian branch of the Abrahamic traditions. But, although the theistic religious context settles what kind of faith is of interest, the question arises whether faith of that same general kind also belongs to other, non-theistic, religious contexts, or to contexts not usually thought of as religious at all. It may perhaps be apt to speak of the faith of—for example—a humanist, or even an atheist, using the same general sense of “faith” as applies to the theist case.

[The following passage is from Atheism in Our Time, by Ignace Lepp, 1963. In his book the author, a Marxist turned priest-psychoanalyst, dissects the modern varieties of unbelief.]

Even rationalist atheism is more often motivated by the emotions than by reason. But this does not imply, in our opinion, a depreciation of this form of unbelief. Still less do we want to discredit reason in any way. We do not criticize rationalism because of its trust in reason, but because it takes reason to be absolutely autonomous, endowed with an absolute objectivity, and capable of judging everything in a sovereign manner exclusive of other influences. Such a conception of reason does not bear up experimentally. Man is a whole; in the life of his spirit and soul* we observe an interaction of all his faculties. The flesh influences the spirit; the spirit influences the flesh. It is not only normal but desirable that reason be influenced by the emotions; otherwise, reason would be demonically cold and incapable of understanding human reality. On the other hand, it is also normal and good that man’s emotions and sensibility be controlled, in varying degrees, by reason; otherwise, the irrational and chaotic would reign.

* In conversations, and perhaps also in my writings [as a Marxist], I frequently used the word “soul.” But I did not see in this “soul” and “substance.” It was merely a convenient term to designate the totality of man’s psychic faculties. I adopted the position of all materialists: the soul and what we call the spiritual are not essentially different from the biological or physical; they merely represent a superior level of the evolution of matter.

FAITH II

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[FAITH: 1) complete trust or confidence in someone or something: this restores one’s faith in politicians. 2) strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof: her religious faith sustained her in times of adversity. 3) a system of religious belief: the Christian faith. 4) a strongly held belief or theory: the faith that all life will ultimately become one.

The atheist cohort (Bertrand Russell, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, A. C. Grayling, etc.) seem to believe that faith is always and everywhere a bad thing, intellectually contemptible and morally pernicious. The human race, on the other hand, seems to think that faith is fundamentally a good thing, notwithstanding the fact that faith may be, and often is, blind, arbitrary or superstitious. The first four quotations below concentrate on the second of the four dictionary definitions of faith, while the next seven concentrate on the fourth definition.]

FAITH II

We may define “faith” as the firm belief in something for which there is no evidence. Where there is evidence, no one speaks of “faith.” We do not speak of faith that two and two is four or that the earth is round. We only speak of faith when we wish to substitute emotion for evidence.

Bertrand Russell

FAITH II

Faith is a state of mind that leads people to believe something—it doesn’t matter what—in the total absence of supporting evidence. If there were good supporting evidence then faith would be superfluous, for the evidence would compel us to believe it anyway.

Richard Dawkins

FAITH II

Faith is nothing more than the license that religious people give one another to believe, when reasons fail, such propositions as that Jesus was born of a virgin, or that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse.

Sam Harris

FAITH II

Faith is a commitment to belief contrary to evidence and reason.

A. C. Grayling

FAITH II

All science requires faith in the inner harmony of the world.

Albert Einstein

FAITH II

It has been an act of faith on the part of scientists that the world can be explained in the simple terms that mathematics handles.

R. W. Hamming

FAITH II

Faith doesn’t have to be unreasonable, and often is not.

Salmon Rushdie (Interview with Bill Moyers)

FAITH II

If we have better grounds for believing something to be true than for believing it not to be true, it is not irrational to invest a certain degree of faith in it. There is nothing unscientific about such an attitude because the question at issue, concerning as it does the untestable, is not a scientific question. It is not a matter of possible knowledge.

Bryan Magee (from Confessions of a Philosopher, 1997)

FAITH II

A very great deal of what we all unquestioningly accept as knowledge depends upon testimony, and testimony, in turn, depends upon the belief that there are other minds besides our own. To common sense, the existence of other minds does not appear open to doubt, and I do not myself see any reason to disagree with common sense on this point. But, undoubtedly, it is through experiences of my own that I am led to believe in the minds of others; and, undoubtedly, as a matter of pure logic, it would be possible for me to have these experiences even if other minds did not exist.

Bertrand Russell

FAITH II

[On April 15, 1945, three days after the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Robert Oppenheimer, the man in charge of the Manhattan Project, spoke at a memorial service to the assembled scientists who were shortly to bring into existence the atomic bomb.]

When, three days ago, the world had word of the death of President Roosevelt, many wept who are unaccustomed to tears, many men and women, little enough accustomed to prayer, prayed to God. Many of us looked with deep trouble to the future; many of us felt less certain that our works would be to a good end; all of us were reminded of how precious a thing human greatness is . . .

In the Hindu scripture, in the Bhagavad-Gita, it says, “Man is a creature whose substance is faith. What his faith is, he is.” The faith of Roosevelt is one that is shared by millions of men and women in every country of the world. For this reason it is possible to maintain the hope, for this reason it is right that we should dedicate ourselves to the hope, that his good works will not have ended with his death.

FAITH II

Everything is moods—love, hate, convictions—when you have no belief.

Malcolm Muggeridge




Do You Agree with Any of these Maxims?

FAITH II

[For intellectual purposes it seems to me that we need to accept the concept of “valid faith,” just as we accept the concept of “valid reasoning” (i.e. rational inferences from plausible premises). Without recognizing that every philosopher is, at some level, a man of faith, it is impossible to create a level playing field for competing world views.]

Without faith—or something very like it—reason can’t get any traction.

Everything that logic can give us is ultimately founded on faith.

Faith makes convictions possible.

Just as truth has to do with the value of the things we know, so faith has to do with the value of the things we believe.

Faith is the free element in thought, logic the necessary element.

Faith is a kind of knowledge.

Secular humanists have too much faith in reason and not enough faith in faith.




Are These Examples of Implicit Faith?

A miracle is a violation of the laws of Nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established those laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined.

David Hume

FAITH II

I believe, but I cannot prove, that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design’ anywhere in the universe is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection.

Richard Dawkins

FAITH II

I believe that the acquisition of knowledge is one of the fundamental aims of man; that truth will, in the long run, prevail, and is always to be preferred to expediency.

Julian Huxley

FAITH II

Those who think the human mind is nonalgorithmic should consider the hubris presupposed by that conviction. If Darwin’s dangerous idea is right, an algorithmic process is powerful enough to design a nightingale and a tree. Should it be that much harder for an algorithmic process to write an ode to a nightingale or a poem as lovely as a tree? Surely [Leslie] Orgel’s Second Rule is correct: Evolution is cleverer than you are.

Daniel Dennett

FAITH II

It is no exaggeration to say that science contains the future of humanity and that it alone can say the last word on human destiny and teach mankind how to reach its goal... Science is only valuable in so far as it can take the place of religion.

Ernest Renan (ex-seminarian & modernist)

FAITH II

There must be a Creator even if there is no Day of Creation. Looking at Being as it is now...it looks secondary and dependent. Existence exists; but it is not sufficiently self-existent; and would never become so merely by going on existing. The same primary sense which tells us it is Being, tells us that it is not perfect Being; not merely imperfect in the popular controversial sense of containing sin or sorrow; but imperfect as Being; less actual than the actuality it implies.

G. K. Chesterton

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Where does Fanaticism Come from?; Is it Closer to Mysticism or to Enthusiasm?

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Where does Fanaticism Come from?

Is it Closer to Mysticism or to Enthusiasm?

All invasive moral states and passionate enthusiasms make one feelingless to evil in some direction. The common penalties cease to deter the patriot, the usual prudences are flung by the lover to the winds. When the passion is extreme, suffering may actually be gloried in, provided it be for the ideal cause, death may lose its sting, the grave its victory. In these states, the ordinary contrast of good and ill seems to be swallowed up in a higher denomination, an omnipotent excitement which engulfs the evil, and which the human being welcomes as the crowning experience of his life. This, he says, is truly to live, and I exult in the heroic opportunity and adventure.

William James

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

No one understands the psychology of a religious fanatic better than I do, for the simple reason that I used to be one myself. Twenty years ago, when I was newly converted from Confucianism to Christianity, I felt so cocksure of my religious beliefs that whenever I was introduced to a new friend, my first question invariably was, May I ask whether you are a Christian? If the answer was yes, I felt as though I had got one more companion in Heaven. But if the answer was in the negative, I felt as though I saw before my eyes a man on the point of drowning—and of course eternal drowning was an infinitely more serious case than simply drowning in the river. What could be more logical under such an emergency than to raise an alarm? “So, you are not a Christian!” I would exclaim: “It is too bad! You must read the Bible and be converted!”...But the thing is that with the advent of doubt, I have lost my peace forever. I have never been so happy as when I was trying to save people’s souls.

John Wu (1899-1986)

The secularist and the sceptic have denounced Christianity first and foremost, because of its encouragement of fanaticism; because religious excitement led men to burn their neighbours and to dance naked down the street. How queer it all sounds now. Religion can be swept out of the matter altogether, and still there are philosophical and ethical theories which can produce fanaticism enough to fill the world. Fanaticism has nothing at all to do with religion... And if any one doubts this proposition—that fanaticism has nothing to do with religion, but has only to do with human nature—let him take this case of Tolstoy and the Doukhabors. A sect of men start with no theology at all, but with the simple doctrine that we ought to love our neighbour and use no force against him, and they end in thinking it wicked to carry a leather handbag, or to ride in a cart. A great modern writer who erases theology altogether, denies the validity of the Scriptures and the Churches alike, forms a purely ethical theory that love should be the instrument of reform, and ends by maintaining that we have no right to strike a man if he is torturing a child before our eyes. He goes on, he develops a theory of the mind and the emotions, which might be held by the most rigid atheist, and he ends by maintaining that the sexual relation out of which all humanity has come, is not only not moral, but is positively not natural. This is fanaticism as it has been and as it will always be... The truth is that Tolstoy, with his immense genius, with his colossal faith, with his vast fearlessness and vast knowledge of life, is deficient in one faculty and one faculty alone. He is not a mystic: and therefore he has a tendency to go mad. Men talk of the extravagances and frenzies that have been produced by mysticism: they are a mere drop in the bucket. In the main, and from the beginning of time, mysticism has kept men sane. The thing that has driven them mad was logic.

G. K. Chesterton

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

Belief in a cause is a source of happiness to large numbers of people. I am not thinking only of revolutionaries, socialists, nationalists in oppressed countries, and such; I am thinking also of many humbler kinds of belief. The men I have known who believed that the English were the lost ten tribes were almost invariably happy, while as for those who believed that the English were only the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, their bliss know no bounds.

Bertrand Russell

If Mr. Balfour [British Prime Minister, 1902-05] could be converted to a religion which taught him that he was morally bound to walk into the House of Commons on his hands, and he did walk on his hands, if Mr. Wyndham could accept a creed which taught that he ought to dye his hair blue, and he did dye his hair blue, they would both of them be, almost beyond description, better and happier men than they are. For there is only one happiness possible or conceivable under the sun, and that is enthusiasm—that strange and splendid word that has passed through so many vicissitudes, which meant, in the eighteenth century the condition of a lunatic, and in ancient Greece the presence of a god.

G. K. Chesterton

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

In this description of George Bernard Shaw in old age, Leonard Woolf may have identified something central in fanaticism, namely, self-absorption: ‘...he would come up and greet one with what seemed to be warmth and pleasure and he would start straight away with a fountain of words scintillating with wit and humour... But if you happened to look into that slightly fishy, ice-blue eye of his, you got a shock. It was not looking at you...it was looking through you or over you into a distant world or universe inhabited almost entirely by G.B.S., his thoughts and feelings, fancies and fantasies.’




Thoughts about Fanaticism & Enthusiasm
(along with some plausible examples)

A fanatic is a person who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.

Winston Churchill

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

An anyonymous reviewer, known as Philonous, had this to say about the book, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence: ‘In this remarkable book, the South African philosopher David Benatar attempts to solve, in a most unusual way, some related moral problems concerning matters of life and death. Benatar claims, inter alia, that deliberate procreation is immoral; that abortion is morally mandatory if possible before approximately 30 weeks of gestation; and that the morally optimal size of the human population is ZERO. On the face of it, this may strike the reader as absurd, or even insane, but Benatar is most certainly not a madman, as any reader who gives this book a fair chance will soon acknowledge.’

Generally speaking, human beings are extremely tolerant of nonsense.

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

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Fear those prepared to die for the truth, for as a rule they make many others die with them, often before them, at times instead of them.

Umberto Eco

We’re invincible. And if they have to kill our entire people to crush the Revolution, then the people—behind their party and their leaders—are ready to die. We’re ready to water our ideas with our blood.

Fidel Castro (1993 speech)

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

If I were to give an award for the single best idea anyone has ever had, I’d give it to Darwin, ahead of Newton and Einstein and everyone else. In a single stroke, the idea of evolution by natural selection unifies the realm of life, meaning, and purpose with the realm of space and time, cause and effect, mechanism and physical law.

Daniel Dennett

We are all exact and scientific on the subjects we do not care about. We all immediately detect exaggeration in an exposition of Mormonism or a patriotic speech from Paraguay. We all require sobriety on the subject of the sea serpent. But the moment we begin to believe a thing ourselves, that moment we begin easily to overstate it; and the moment our souls become serious, our words become a little wild.

G. K. Chesterton

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

In a broadcast to the nation after the defeat at Stalingrad Hitler said, ‘What is life? Life is the nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the individual is the nation.’

The vanity of ideas is even more dangerous than the vanity of the ego.

Ian Hunter

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

Insanity in individuals is rare—but in groups, parties, nations, and epochs, it is the rule.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Men will always be mad and those who think they can cure them are the maddest of all.

Voltaire

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

It is only the language of symbol that can express a faith which is pure vision, and has no wish to attack or improve on anyone else’s faith. In short, the language of symbols is the language of love, and that, as Paul reminds us, will last longer than any other form of human communication.

Northrop Frye

Every one is more or less mad on one point.

Rudyard Kipling

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Superficially one would imagine that the railer would be the reformer; that the man who thought that everything was wrong would be the man to put everything right. In historical practice the thing is quite the other way; curiously enough, it is the man who likes things as they are who really makes them better. A man like Rousseau has far too rosy a theory of human nature; but he produces a revolution. A man like David Hume thinks that almost all things are depressing; but he is a Conservative, and wishes to keep them as they are.

G. K. Chesterton

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

Physicist Raymond LaFlamme says he would work every hour of every day if it weren’t for his children (and, we presume, for his wife).

I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success... Such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.

Nikola Tesla

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

Putty is exactly like human nature...you can twist it and pat it and model it into any shape you like; and when you have shaped it, it will set so hard that you would suppose that it could never take any other shape on earth... the Soviet Government has shaped the Russian putty very carefully...and it has set hard and produced quite a different sort of animal.

George Bernard Shaw

There is such a thing as human nature, with its norms which every reformer and every specialist will be tempted to distort, unless restrained by the broad sanity of public opinion.

G. K. Chesterton

FANATICISM & ENTHUSIASM

The [scientific] knowledge exists by which universal happiness can be secured; the chief obstacle to its utilization for that purpose is the teaching of religion. Religion prevents our children from having a rational education; religion prevents us from removing the fundamental causes of war; religion prevents us from teaching the ethic of scientific co-operation in place of the old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment. It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.

Bertrand Russell

The more fervent opponents of Christian doctrine have often enough shown a temper which, psychologically considered, is indistinguishable from religious zeal.

William James

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Has Feminism Created More & Worse Problems Between the Sexes than it has Solved?

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Has Feminism Created More & Worse Problems

Between the Sexes than it has Solved?

Serious feminists of every generation have advocated financial self-sufficiency as a prerequisite for independence, personal fulfillment and socialization of womankind.

Miriam Schneir

Any consideration of equality focusing on employment and income statistics misses the real sources of equilibrium between the sexes.

George F. Gilder

FEMINISM

True emancipation of women is not possible except through communism.

Lenin

Women’s liberation, if it abolishes the patriarchal family, will abolish a necessary substructure of the authoritarian state, and once that withers away Marx will have come true willy-nilly, so let’s get on with it.

Germaine Greer

FEMINISM

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The sum of the matter is that unless Woman repudiates her Womanliness, her duty to her husband, to her children, to society, to the law, and to everyone but herself, she cannot emancipate herself.

George Bernard Shaw

The Queen is most anxious to enlist everyone who can speak or write to join in checking this mad, wicked folly of ‘Woman’s Rights’ with all its attendant horrors on which her poor, feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feeling and propriety.

Queen Victoria

FEMINISM

Their radicalism was right down to the bone: with no equivocation they [19th century feminists] knew the heart of the matter was marriage and the family and woman’s fixed and central role in those institutions.

Woman in Sexist Society Intro

The opponents of female suffrage lamented that woman’s emancipation would mean the end of marriage, morality and the state... When we reap the harvest which the unwitting suffragettes sowed we shall see that the anti-feminists were after all right.

Germaine Greer

FEMINISM

The sins of the authoritarian family will be visited on all of us by leaders with the need to control and destroy. Feminism creates democratic families, and they in turn create leaders with healthy self-esteem, and the only new paradigm for the state.

Gloria Steinem

Feminism is going off towards the Rousseauist or Wordsworthian view, ‘We’re born good and sex is this wonderful thing over here and agression is something over there that’s nasty. Therefore anything like rape and battery are coming from “The Patriarchy.”’ It’s absurd! Sexuality is a dark power that feminism is being totally simplistic about.

Camille Paglia Interview

FEMINISM

Since men will pretend to adopt any known doctrine in order to get on a woman’s good side long enough to get her between the sheets, recent years have seen the growth in numbers of that pathetic hypocrite, the male feminist. Yet, in the long term, male feminism has also failed: No woman really wants a spineless dink around for very long, no matter how sensitive he is.

Norman Snider (book review)



Thoughts about Feminism

A woman, especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

Jane Austen

I do not think women understand how repelled a man feels when he sees a woman wholly absorbed in what she is thinking, unless it is her child, or her husband, or her lover.

Rebecca West

FEMINISM

Birth control is the means by which woman attains basic freedom.

Margaret Sanger

Voluntary motherhood implies a new morality—a vigorous, constructive, liberated morality. That morality will prevent the submergence of womanhood into motherhood.

Margaret Sanger

FEMINISM

Feminism is being utterly reactionary and puritanical. ‘No always means NO!’ Nonsense!

Camille Paglia Interview

Sexual relations are basically a comedy, not a tragedy. I think it’s absolutely deplorable to give young women the sense that their heritage is nothing but victimization.

Camille Paglia Interview

FEMINISM

Feminism means living up to your full potential.

Naomi Wolf

Feminists advance the preposterous idea that we are all just individual ‘human beings,’ only secondarily identified by sex or family. It is a myth, and once accepted makes them unable to comprehend what is important in motivating men and women.

George F. Gilder

FEMINISM

Girls and boys would play harmlessly together, if the distinction of sex was not inculcated long before nature makes any difference.

Mary Wollstonecraft

The ‘normal’ sex roles that we learn to play from our infancy are no more natural than the antics of a transvestite.

Germaine Greer

FEMINISM

How are women to advance in a man’s world and not become like men?

Betty Friedan

Raising baby humans and being a home-maker is intrinsically very creative. The problem is that it’s economically dependent and it’s not valued by society. [There is also] the likelihood of being replaced by a younger worker. And there’s not even a pension.

Gloria Steinem Interview

FEMINISM

I was never duped by sex as a basis for permanent relations, nor dreamt of marriage in connection with it.

George Bernard Shaw

The marriage bargain offers what cannot be delivered if it is thought to offer emotional security, for such security is the achievement of the individual.

Germaine Greer

FEMINISM

Many women do not recognize themselves as discriminated against. No better proof could be found of the totality of their conditioning.

Kate Millett

Taught from infancy that beauty is woman’s sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.

Mary Wollstonecraft

The institution of marriage makes a parasite of woman, an absolute dependent. It incapacitates her for life’s struggle, annihilates her social consciousness, paralyzes her imagination, and then imposes its gracious protection.

Emma Goldman

FEMINISM

Men have as exaggerated an idea of their rights as women have of their wrongs.

Ed Howe

A man is in general better pleased when he has a good dinner upon his table, than when his wife talks Greek.

Samuel Johnson

All men are rapists and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, their codes.

Marilyn French

One hell of an outlay for a very small return with most of them.

Glenda Jackson

FEMINISM

Political equality for women is not going to remedy the radical disjunction between the sexes that begins and ends in the body. The sexes will always be jolted by violent shocks of attraction and repulsion.

Camille Paglia

FEMINISM

Sexism, like any other cultural characteristic, lives through institutions—those that blindly perpetuate it and those that depend upon it for their very life. And the greatest of these is marriage.

Woman in Sexist Society Intro

FEMINISM

That women are ‘other,’ meaning different from men, is one of the great maxims of the feminists... But men must not say so, for with men the notion of difference implies a value judgement: women are not like us, therefore they must be inferior to us.

Anthony Burgess

FEMINISM

The attributes of masculinity and femininity are cultural fabrications, rooted in a caste system in which one sex serves the other.

Jill Johnston

If we are to insist on the contingency of feminine characteristics as the product of conditioning, we will have to argue that the masculine-feminine polarity is actual enough, but not necessary.

Germaine Greer

An explosion of research over the last ten years has convinced scientists that dissimilar brain layout biases men and women to differing abilities and skills.

Brain Sex

FEMINISM

The male sex still constitute in many ways the most obstinate vested interest one can find.

Society considers the sex experiences of a man as attributes of his general development, while similar experiences in the life of a woman are looked upon as a terrible calamity.

Emma Goldman

FEMINISM

The relation between husband and wife is very like that between lord and vassal, except that the wife is held to more unlimited obedience than the vassal was.

John Stuart Mill

Any philosophy about the sexes that begins with anything but the mutual attraction of the sexes, begins with a fallacy.

G. K. Chesterton

FEMINISM

Women exist in the main solely for the propagation of the species.

Schopenhauer

A man of sense only trifles with them [women], humours and flatters them, as he does with a sprightly and forward child; but he neither consults them about, nor trusts them with, serious matters.

Lord Chesterfield

FEMINISM

Women get more unhappy the more they try to liberate themselves.

Brigitte Bardot

Women must recognize in the cheap ideology of being in love the essential persuasion to take an irrational and self-destructive step.

Germaine Greer

When a women’s desire for a home, family, and loving mate is satisfied, she is far happier than the man who is similarly blessed. Men tend more toward restlessness and dissatisfaction.

David Fink Psychiatrist

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Foolish Opinions & Unenlightened Attitudes

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How Could They have Been So Foolish?

We think our fathers fools, so wise we grow;
Our wiser sons, no doubt will think us so.

Alexander Pope

[But are our predecessors quite so foolish as they appear? And if so, is their foolishness partially excusable due to such extenuating factors as cultural attitudes, philosophical axioms, or utopian ideals? Have you noticed any blatant examples of folly recently?]

A nation could be the best of families: one that creates independence, not dependence: whose purpose it is to nurture self-esteem in all its members.

Gloria Steinem

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

After having sought for truth, with some diligence, for half a century, I am, at this day, hardly sure of anything but what I learn from the Bible.

John Wesley (from a sermon)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Northrop Frye recalled hearing a clergyman who resolutely insisted that “if the Bible had said that Jonah had swallowed the whale he would still believe it.”

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Anyone who says that the Roman Pontiff can and ought to reconcile himself and come to terms with progress, liberalism, and modern civilization—let him be anathema.

Pius IX (pope from 1846-1878)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straight forward and trustworthy and we had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul.

George W. Bush (speaking of Vladimir Putin)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

I have never met a man more candid, fair and honest. I had thought before I saw him that he might be where he was because men were afraid of him, but I realize that he owes his position to the fact that no one is afraid of him and everybody trusts him.

H. G. Wells (speaking of Josef Stalin)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

In 1955, William F. Buckley started National Review as a voice for “the disciples of truth, who defend the organic moral order.”

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

In a republic which can only be based on virtue, any pity shown towards crime is a flagrant proof of treason.

Louis Antoine de Saint-Just (friend of Robespierre)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Long ago I set about systematically changing the experience (of free will). I now have no feeling of acting with free will, although the feeling took many years to ebb away. . . As for giving up the sense of an inner conscious self altogether—this is very much harder. I just keep on seeming to exist. But though I cannot prove it, I think it is true that I don’t.

Susan Blackmore

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Scholasticism [i.e. Mediaeval philosophy] is simply nothing else but scientific thought, and it is merely perpetuating an unwarranted prejudice when it is thought that this part of the general history of science should be designated by a special name.

Adolf von Harnack (Protestant theologian, 1851-1930)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Neither the criminal nor the criminal code had any respect for the sanctity of human life [in 18th century England]. In those days, there were no less than a hundred and sixty offences which were expiated on the gallows. Theft from a person of an article one shilling in value, or from a shop of an article five shillings in value, sending threatening letters, illegally cutting down trees, cutting hopbinds or breaking down the banks of a fish-pond were all punishable by death.

Arnold Lunn (from John Wesley, 1929)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

No organism, human or non-human, is ever more or less in touch with reality than any other organism.

Richard Rorty

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

One thing we are sure of, and that is the reality and substantiality of the luminiferous ether.

Lord Kelvin

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation or remission of sins. Therefore we declare, say, determine and pronounce that for every human creature it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the authority of the Roman pontiff.

Boniface VIII (pope from 1294-1303)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Poetry is the parent of superstition.

T. Sprat (from History of the Royal Society)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Putty is exactly like human nature. . . you can twist it and pat it and model it into any shape you like; and when you have shaped it, it will set so hard that you would suppose that it could never take any other shape on earth...the Soviet Government has shaped the Russian putty very carefully. . . and it has set hard and produced quite a different sort of animal.

George Bernard Shaw

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

The English are destined by moral and natural law to be subjected to the French and not contrariwise.

Suger (abbot-stateman, 1081-1151)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

The good Lord gave me my money.

John D. Rockefeller (Address, University of Chigago, 1894)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

[This passage from Fr. P. J. Kelly’s 1968 book, So High the Price, presents the traditional argument for justifying the horrific torments of hell as the appropriate punishment for sin. Whether the reasoning makes you laugh or shudder, it is interesting to note the explicit appeal to logic.]

The optimists object: “Can it be possible that God punishes a momentary sinful pleasure with an eternity of pain?” It is not only possible, but it is right and just. The offence given by the sinner to God when he transgresses His holy laws involves infinite malice, since it is an offence to infinite Majesty. Therefore, it deserves an infinite punishment. But since man, being finite, is incapable of undergoing punishment that is infinite in intensity, God punishes him with a chastisement infinite in duration. In acting thus, God acts justly.

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

[In the passage below a famous Oxford historian, J. A. Froude, having just attended an evangelical meeting in the 1850s, spells out the implications of the doctrine of justification by faith.]

We are left face to face with a creed which tells us that God has created us without the power to keep the commandments,—that He does not require us to keep them; yet at the same time that we are infinitely guilty in His eyes for not keeping them, and that we justly deserve to be tortured for ever and ever, to suffer, as we once heard an amiable clergyman express it, ‘to suffer the utmost pain which Omnipotence can inflict, and the creature can endure, without annihilation.’

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

We believe, though it is incomprehensible, that it is just to damn such as do not deserve it.

Beza (Calvin’s lieutenant)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

That the saints may enjoy their beatitude and the grace of God more abundantly they are permitted to see the punishment of the damned in hell.

Aquinas

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

I do wish those people who deny the reality of eternal punishment would understand their own dreadful vulgarity.

Lionel Johnson

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Social psychologists have always been painfully aware that their field is in desperate need of a general theory of social behaviour.

(from a paper from Equity Theory and Intimate Relationships)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Socialism is love.

Bob Rae

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

The hope of understanding the world is itself one of those daydreams which science tends to dissipate. There is little but prejudice and habit to be said for the view that there is a world at all.

Bertrand Russell

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

The personality of Jesus has no importance for the kerygma either of Paul or of John . . . Indeed the tradition of the earliest Church did not even unconsciously preserve a picture of his personality. Every attempt to reconstruct one remains a play of subjective imagination.

Rudolf Bultman

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

The sole cause of man’s unhappiness is that he does not know how to stay quietly in his room.

Pascal

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

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The state is the world which mind (Geist) has made for itself; its march, therefore, is on lines that are fixed and absolute. How often we talk of the wisdom of God in nature! But we are not to assume for that reason that the physical world of nature is a loftier thing than the world of mind. As high as mind stands over nature, so high does the state stand over physical life. Man must therefore venerate the state as the Divine upon Earth (das Irdisch-Göttliches) and observe that if it is difficult to comprehend nature, it is infinitely harder to understand the state. . . The March of God in the world, that is what the state is.

Hegel

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Today computers hold out the promise of a means of instant translation of any code or language into any other code or language. The computer, in short, promises by technology a Pentecostal condition of universal understanding and unity. The next logical step would seem to be, not to translate, but to bypass languages in favour of a general cosmic consciousness which might be very like the collective unconscious dreamt of by Bergson. . . [a] condition of speechlessness that could confer a perpetuity of collective harmony and peace.

Marshall McLuhan

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Too many children and people have been given to understand “I have a problem, it is the Government’s job to cope with it!” or “I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!” “I am homeless, the Government must house me!” and so they are casting their problems on society and who is society? There is no such thing? There are individual men and women and there are families and no government can do anything except through people, and people look to themselves first.

Margaret Thatcher

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

We are survival machines—robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes. . . The argument of this book [The Selfish Gene] is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes.

Richard Dawkins

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

We shall soon, with the help of God, be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this nation.

Herbert Hoover

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

War is a male solution to international problems. In a non-patriarchal world, there would be no wars, and no victims of wars, either male or female.

(from a letter to the editor, Star)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

What is life? Life is the nation. The individual must die anyway. Beyond the individual is the nation.

Adolf Hitler (from a broadcast after the defeat at Stalingrad)

FOOLISH OPINIONS & UNENLIGHTENED ATTITUDES

Progress is not an accident but a necessity. What we call evil and immorality must disappear. It is certain that man must become perfect.

Herbert Spencer

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Is it "Sensible" to Deny Free Will to Satisfy the Logical Requirements of some Metaphysical System?

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Is it “Reasonable” to Deny Free Will to Satisfy

the Logical Requirements of a Metaphysical System?

Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective positions of the beings which compose it, if moreover this intelligence were vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in the same formula both the movements of the largest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atom; to it nothing would be uncertain, and the future as the past would be present to its eyes.

Pierre Simon Laplace

A deterministic world is one in which the future is already contained in the present (just as the present was contained in the past) and nothing genuinely new ever happens. The ‘unfolding’ of the future is nothing more than the outworking of pure logic through the laws of dynamics.

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

We do not think we were necessarily not free in the past, merely because we can now remember our past volitions. Similarly, we might be free in the future, even if we could now see what our future volitions were going to be. Freedom, in short, in any valuable sense, demands only that our volitions shall be, as they are, the result of our own desires, not of an outside force compelling us to will what we would rather not will. Everything else is confusion of thought, due to the feeling that knowledge compels the happening of what it knows when this is future, though it is at once obvious that knowledge has no such power in regard to the past. Free will, therefore, is true in the only form which is important; and the desire for other forms is a mere effect of insufficient analysis.

Bertrand Russell

What the Naturalist believes is that the ultimate Fact, the thing you can’t go behind, is a vast process in space and time which is going on of its own accord. Inside that total system every particular event (such as your sitting reading these words) happens because some other event has happened; in the long run, because the Total Event is happening. Each particular thing (such as this page) is what it is because other things are what they are; and so, eventually, because the whole system is what it is. All the things and events are so completely interlocked that no one of them can claim the slightest independence from “the whole show.” None of them exists “on its own” or “goes on of its own accord” except in the sense that it exhibits, at some particular place and time, that general “existence on its own” or “behaviour of its own accord” which belongs to “Nature” (the great total interlocked event) as a whole. Thus no thoroughgoing Naturalist believes in free will: for free will would mean that human beings have the power of independent action, the power of doing something more or other than what was involved by the total series of events. And any such separate power of originating events is what the Naturalist denies. Spontaneity, originality, action “on its own,” is a privilege reserved for “the whole show,” which he calls Nature.

C. S. Lewis (from Miracles)

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

Foreknowledge is not the same as predeterminism (in the sense of determinism). If it is possible for a being, let us say a God, to know what is going to happen in the future there is no more of a problem about his knowing that at some particular time in the future I am going to decide, entirely of my own free will, to do a particular thing than there is about his knowing any other kind of future event. Future free decisions, future free choices, are neither more nor less future than other future events: if there can be knowledge of future events at all then no special problem is raised about knowledge of future choices.

Bryan Magee (from Confessions of a Philosopher, 1997)

If we accept the dubious premise that an omnipotent, omniscient God exists, then free will is merely an illusion.

(from website JR’S Free Thought Pages)

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into a world of limits. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature. You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes. Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel. Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end.

G. K. Chesterton

Women get more unhappy the more they try to liberate themselves.

Brigitte Bardot




Thoughts about Freedom, Free will & Determinism

A liberal may be roughly defined as someone who, if he could stop all the deceivers from deceiving and all the oppressors from oppressing merely by snapping his fingers, wouldn’t snap his fingers.

All that makes existence valuable to anyone depends on the enforcement of restraints upon the actions of other people.

John Stuart Mill

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

Freedom is a good horse, but you must ride it somewhere.

Matthew Arnold

The emancipation of the self requires commitment.

Reinhold Niebuhr

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

Freedom is not simply doing what you want. Freedom is wanting to do what you have to do. And this kind of freedom is always rooted in practised habit.

The mode in which the inevitable comes to pass is through effort.

Oliver Wendel Holmes

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

Half of knowing what you want is knowing what you will have to give up in order to get it.

Every act of will is an act of self-limitation. To desire action is to desire limitation. In that sense every act is an act of self-sacrifice. When you choose anything, you reject everything else.

G. K. Chesterton

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

Institutions make freedom possible in the same way that a routine does. Destroy them and some form of totalitarian autocracy becomes inevitable.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Mental and emotional liberty are not so simple as they appear. They require almost as careful a balance of laws and conditions as do social and political liberty.

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.

George Bernard Shaw

We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe.

John Henry Newman

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

Once and for all, we are not born free; and we never can be free. When all the human tyrants are slain or deposed there will still be the supreme tyrant than can never be slain or deposed, and that tyrant is Nature.

George Bernard Shaw

Civilization in the best sense merely means the full authority of the human spirit over all externals. Barbarism means the worship of those externals in their crude and unconquered state.

G. K. Chesterton

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

Necessity is the argument of tyrants and the creed of slaves.

William Pitt

All science, all art, even human reason itself must serve the will of nature. And nature is fundamentally aristocratic.

Adolf Hitler

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

Our system of social arrangements must always be such that we do call people to account. Even if it’s unfair in the sense that they’re not free agents, we have to treat them as if they are free agents. Otherwise society would degenerate into chaos.

Richard Lewontin

Most Monist moralists simply said that Man has no choice; but he must think and act heroically as if he had. Huxley made morality, and even Victorian morality, in the exact sense, supernatural. He said it had arbitrary rights above nature; a sort of theology without theism.

G. K. Chesterton

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

The human will is free, otherwise there would be no room for agonized feelings of struggle and responsibility, since the physical instincts wouldn’t meet with any resistance.

B. F. Skinner is regarded as the grandfather of behaviourial psychology. He theorized that all human behaviour is a series of responses to external, or environmental stimuli and that the soul, free will and the inner man do not exist. The only way to change human behaviour is to change and control the environment.

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

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There is no such thing as a condition of complete freedom, unless we can speak of a condition of nonentity. What we call freedom is always and of necessity simply the free choice of the soul between one set of limitations and another.

G. K. Chesterton

Any conception of reality which a sane mind can admit must favour some of its wishes and frustrate others.

C. S. Lewis

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

To be free is to know who we are.

Jean Vanier

We act as we do because we are what we are: and what we are is the result very largely of the use we have made of our freedom to act as we will.

Gerald Vann O.P.

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

We cannot do good, or even evil, unless we do it freely.

Hilaire Belloc

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

We have to believe in free will. We’ve got no choice.

Isaac Bashevis Singer

You can’t exercise your freedom to deny your freedom. If free thought is possible then free will is a fact.

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

We live on the borders of multiple determinisms, and it’s that which gives us the sensation of freedom when we’re acting. Those determinisms are shaping the way in which we act and respond at any given moment. But they are not free will in the Cartesian sense.

Stephen Rose

You can’t say that you’re advancing freedom when you use free thought to destroy free will. The determinists come to bind, not to loose.

G. K. Chesterton

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

We think our way along by choosing between right and wrong alternatives, and the wrong choices have to be made as frequently as the right ones.

Lewis Thomas

The man who has never made a mistake will never make anything.

George Bernard Shaw

FREEDOM, FREE WILL & DETERMINISM

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other.

Eric Hoffer

Look at America. That must be the greatest and noblest experiment in collective freedom known to man, and yet when such advantages are officially and traditionally encouraged, individuals seem to acquire cold feet, and to spend their time imitating a collective image of averageness, and their one ambition seems to be to disappear inconspicuously into a human mass as typical and as free as themselves.

Peter Ustinov

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Is Friendship a Kind of Love? Do you rank Friendship above or below Eros?

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Is Friendship a Kind of Love?

Do you rank Friendship above or below Eros?

Friendship must be willed. But more than this is necessary. A few years ago I worked on the same project with a man close to me in age and cultural interests. I had high respect for both his intelligence and his emotional qualities. We also found ourselves in perfect accord on ideological and spiritual matters. I have rarely so intensely desired to become anyone’s friend; I confided my desire to him and from all evidence he had an identical desire. We made meritorious efforts to meet one another, endeavoured to achieve as intimate a dialogue as possible and acted in all things like friends. It was all in vain; the emotional spark was not forthcoming. We had to resign ourselves to being good companions, friends in the broad sense of the term. We got along marvellously on the intellectual plane, but our emotional accord left something to be desired.

Ignace Lepp

FRIENDSHIP

Suppose you are fortunate enough to have “fallen in love with” and married your friend. And now suppose it possible that you were offered the choice of two futures: “Either you two will cease to be lovers but remain forever joint seekers of the same God, the same beauty, the same truth, or else, losing all that, you will retain as long as you live the raptures and ardours, all the wonder and the wild desire of Eros. Choose which you please.” Which should we choose? Which choice should we not regret after we had made it?

C. S. Lewis

FRIENDSHIP

Contrary to general belief, I do not believe that friends are necessarily the people you like best, they are merely the people who got there first. Most of my friends have faults which are all the more blatant because of their proximity, and yet they are people you are never out for if they ring. Even with your drunk, you [his alter ego] let him into your dressing-room on three different occasions because you were animated by ancient and guilty feelings of friendship. And yet there are many people you meet casually with whom you could be the best of friends if only you had met them sooner. All in all, I don’t believe you choose your friends any more than you choose your parents. After all, if you were able to choose your friends with the same application and caution with which you choose your wife, you’d have antagonized most of them years ago, and lost them. No, no, you drift into friendships, and there is no divorce. You are stuck with most of them for life. And friendship revives quickly even after a long absence, often with people who are entirely reprehensible, unreliable and even spiteful.

Peter Ustinov



Thoughts about Friendship

A certain likeness must exist between friends, a more or less essential community of interests.

Too great an identity of character or temperament often proves to be an obstacle to friendship.

FRIENDSHIP

A friend is a person with whom I may be sincere. Before him I may think aloud.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence. True friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.

George Washington

FRIENDSHIP

A true friend is the most precious of all possessions and the one we take least thought about acquiring.

La Rochefoucauld

Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel.

Hamlet (Polonius)

FRIENDSHIP

FRIENDLESS: Having no favours to bestow. Destitute of fortune. Addicted to utterance of truth and common sense.

Ambrose Bierce

Friends are God’s apology for relations.

Hugh Kingsmill

FRIENDSHIP

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Friendship can exist in the absence of agreement, but not in the absence of sympathy.

I declare friendship to be the most precious thing in life. But it’s like a plant that withers if it is not heedfully fostered and tended. It’s only by constant thought, by visits, by little services, and by abundant sympathy at all times that friends can be kept.

Sidney Cockerell

FRIENDSHIP

Friendship is almost always the union of a part of one mind with a part of another; people are friends in spots.

George Santayana

Friendship, like eros and affection, has its source in emotional energy.

Ignace Lepp

FRIENDSHIP

I have no duty to be anyone’s friend and no man in the world has a duty to be mine.

C. S. Lewis

In friendship ‘Do you love me?’ means ‘Do you see the same truth?’ —or at least, ‘Do you care about the same truth?’ The person who agrees with us that some thing is of great interest or importance can be our friend.

FRIENDSHIP

If we were all given by magic the power to read each other’s thoughts, I suppose the first effect would be to dissolve all friendships.

Bertrand Russell

It is well, when one is judging a friend, to remember that he is judging you with the same godlike and superior impartiality.

Arnold Bennett

FRIENDSHIP

In the misfortune of our friends we find something which is not displeasing to us.

La Rochefoucauld

FRIENDSHIP

It is in and by friendship that we experience ourselves.

Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.

Aristotle

Without friendship life is nothing.

Cicero

FRIENDSHIP

Life is to be fortified by many friendships. To love, and to be loved, is the greatest happiness of existence.

Sydney Smith

FRIENDSHIP

Love demands infinitely less than friendship.

The perfect friend to my mind is one who believes in you from the start and never requires explanations and assurances.

Dame Laurentia McLachlan

FRIENDSHIP

Never speak ill of yourself, your friends will always say enough on that subject.

Tallyrand

Give me the avowed, the erect, the manly foe,
Bold I can meet—perhaps may turn his blow;
But of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send,
Save, save, oh save me from the Candid Friend.

FRIENDSHIP

Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can; this is the service of a friend.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

The unconscious seems to divine sometimes not only what the other already is, but what he is capable of becoming, perhaps precisely because of our friendship.

FRIENDSHIP

People not qualified to enter a circle of friends must be excluded or the circle will be transformed into something else.

C. S. Lewis

In friendship no standard applies except the standards of friendship. That is why it is the most delightful of all human relationships.

Malcolm Muggeridge

FRIENDSHIP

The bond of companionship, both in marriage and friendship, is conversation.

Oscar Wilde

The proper concern of friendship is fundamental things.

FRIENDSHIP

There are bad friendships as there are bad marriages.

To find a friend one must close one eye. To keep him—two.

Norman Douglas

FRIENDSHIP

We only know someone through friendship.

St. Augustine

Love comes from blindness, friendship from knowledge.

Roger de Rabutin, Comte de Bussy

The most profound and beautiful thing is friendship.

Jean Vanier

FRIENDSHIP

Without the experience of a solid and deep friendship we can only have a pessimistic vision of human nature.

He was my friend, faithful and just to me.

Julius Caesar (Antony speaking of Caesar)

FRIENDSHIP

You cannot be friends upon any other terms than upon the terms of equality.

Woodrow Wilson

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How Much of our Happiness Depends on Circumstances Beyond our Control?

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How Much of our Happiness Depends on

Circumstances Beyond our Control?

Happiness is relative. Just as the boiling point of water changes according to the atmospheric pressure, so the boiling point of happiness changes according to the pressure of external circumstances. In passing through bad circumstances to better ones, one feels the external pressure lightened, while the mind still retains the power of resistance appropriate to the former situation: and there arises the boiling point of happiness. But if the worse circumstances weren’t fresh in memory, the better ones might pass unnoticed.

Just think how happy you would be if you lost everything you own right now, and then got it back five minutes later.

Frances Rodman

HAPPINESS

[Samuel Johnson is probably the most famous and most loved unhappy man who ever lived. Mrs. Hester Thrale, a close friend who became estranged from Johnson after her second marriage, recounts the following story of Johnson in her memoirs.]

Mr. Johnson did not like any one who said they were happy, or who said any one else was so. “It is all cant (he would cry), the dog knows he is miserable all the time.” A friend whom he loved exceedingly, told him on some occasion notwithstanding, that his wife’s sister was really happy, and called upon the lady to confirm his assertion, which she did somewhat roundly as we say, and with an accent and manner capable of offending Mr. Johnson, if her position had not been sufficient, without anything more, to put him in very ill humour. “If your sister-in-law is really the contented being she professes herself Sir (said he), her life gives the lie to every research of humanity; for she is happy without health, without beauty, without money, and without understanding.” This story he told me himself; and when I expressed something of the horror I felt, “The same stupidity (said he) which prompted her to extol felicity she never felt, hindered her from feeling what shocks you on repetition. I tell you, the woman is ugly, and sickly, and foolish, and poor; and would it not make a man hang himself to hear such a creature say, it was happy?”

The happiest people seem to be those who have no particular reason for being happy except that they are so.

W. R. Inge

HAPPINESS

[In 1933, after seven months as the (Manchester) Guardian’s Moscow correspondent, Malcolm Muggeridge left Russia in a state of utter disillusionment. Before returning home he met with his family for a holiday in the Swiss resort town of Montreux, just weeks after Hitler had achieved dictatorial powers.]

Montreux Station in the very early morning waiting for Kitty seemed about as far away from the USSR and Oumansky [the press censor], from Berlin and the storm-troopers out in the streets, as it was possible to be. The coffee so hot and fragrant, the rolls so crisp, the butter so creamy; the waiter so obliging, his hair so sleek and black, his face so sallow, his coat so fresh and spotlessly white. Everything and everyone so solid and so durable. Even Kitty’s train, roaring in exactly on time, was part of the omnipresent orderliness.

We extravagantly hired a car to take us to Rossiniere, where our chalet was, climbing up the still snow-covered valley under a blue sky and in bright sunshine. I took stock of our new son, very robust and hearty, and renewed my acquaintance with the older one. There we were, reunited, in the seemingly secure peace and security of the Canton de Vaud, with the rumblings of the wrath to come that I had unmistakably heard, well out of earshot. It was a moment of great happiness; as though, having found each other, we should never again be separated. As though, having found a blue sky, there would be no more grey ones; breathing in this fresh, clear mountain air, no more smog.

Such moments of happiness, looked back on, shine like beacons, lighting up past time, and making it glow with a great glory. Recollecting them, I want to jump up and shout aloud in gratitude at having been allowed to live in this world, sharing with all its creatures the blessed gift of life. Alienation is to be isolated and imprisoned in the tiny dark dungeon of the ego; happiness to find the world a home and mankind a family, to see our earth as a nest snugly perched in the universe, and all its creatures as fellow-participants in the warmth and security it offers. Its very components, the very twigs and mud of which it is made, likewise participating. Then, indeed, all the world in a grain of sand, eternity in an hour, infinity grasped in one’s hand. So, such moments of happiness comprehend a larger ecstasy, and our human loves reach out into the furthermost limits of time and space, and beyond, expressing the lovingness that is at the heart of all creation.

Real happiness stands outside time, it is part of eternity.

Fr. Hubert Van Zeller

HAPPINESS

Not long after [his 89 year-old father’s death in a fire that the elderly smoker seems to have accidentally started, Northrop] Frye experienced a curiously radiant personal vision which seemed to eradicate any harsh view of death. Frye remembers waking up [at the Guild Inn] and opening the curtains to find a blazing vision of snow and ice. Icicles hung down on two branches outside. On one sat a cardinal and on the other, a blue jay. It was a perfect balance but had no particular meaning. Frye confessed, “If I could have died then, I would have died a happy man.”

John Ayre (from Northrop Frye, A Biography)

Happiness is the most difficult of all things to convey. Tolstoy, I should say, comes nearest; for instance, in his description in War and Peace of Natasha’s visit to the huntsman’s house; how she and the others listened to stories, then danced, then rode back in their sledge through the frosty starlit night.

Malcolm Muggeridge

HAPPINESS

Human beings expect immortal satisfactions from mortal conditions, and lasting and perfect happiness in the midst of universal change. To encourage this expectation, to persuade mankind that the ideal is realisable in this world after a few preliminary changes in external conditions, is the distinguishing mark of all charlatans.

Hugh Kingsmill

Knowledge of what is possible is the beginning of happiness.

George Santayana

HAPPINESS

[Merula was the wife of the British actor Alec Guinness, whom she married in 1938.]

Towards the end of the war, Merula told her brother Eusty “that our month [with her husband and her son Matthew] together in Middle Lodge was worth the whole of the rest of my life—almost—and one or two days or weeks have been as important as whole years: length of time doesn’t really count.”




Thoughts about Happiness

Allow children to be happy in their own way, for what better way will they ever find?

Samuel Johnson

Mankind are always happy for having been happy; so that if you make them happy now, you make them happy twenty years hence by the memory of it.

Sydney Smith

HAPPINESS

Happiness is a byproduct of liking what you do.

Robertson Davies

If a man has important work, and enough leisure and income to enable him to do it properly, he is in possession of as much happiness as is good for any of the children of Adam.

Richard H. Tawney

HAPPINESS

Happiness is a how, not a what; a talent, not an object.

Hermann Hesse

Two University of Minnesota researchers claim to have discovered that an individual’s capacity for happiness is genetically pre-set. And while day-to-day experience will cause it to fluctuate, sooner or later it always returns to its programmed level.

HAPPINESS

Happiness is a monstrosity. Those who pursue it are punished.

Gustave Flaubert

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.

Eric Hoffer

HAPPINESS

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Happiness is a mystery like religion, and should never be rationalized.

G. K. Chesterton

Play writing gave [George Bernard Shaw] ‘moments of inexplicable happiness’ and when he tried to explain it to himself he was taken ‘out of the realm of logic into that of magic and miracle.’

Michael Holroyd (biographer)

HAPPINESS

Happiness may be defined as the satisfaction that continues to be satisfactory.

Happiness is not smug, peaceful or contented. It doesn’t bring peace but a sword. It shakes you like rattling dice. It breaks your speech and darkens your sight. Happiness is stronger than oneself and sets its palpable foot upon one’s neck.

(from G. K. Chesterton’s letter to his fiancé)

HAPPINESS

Happiness must be a form of contemplation.

Aristotle

Happiness lies in conquering one’s enemies, in driving them in front of oneself, in taking their property, in savouring their despair, in outraging their wives and daughters.

Genghis Khan

HAPPINESS

Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords.

Samuel Johnson

The happiest time in any man’s life is when he is in red-hot pursuit of a dollar with a reasonable prospect of overtaking it.

Josh Billings

HAPPINESS

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

Abraham Lincoln

Merely wanting to be happy is like merely wanting to be fit—totally ineffective unless you go into training.

HAPPINESS

The belief that youth is the happiest time of life is founded upon a fallacy. The happiest person is the person who thinks the most interesting thoughts, and we grow happier as we grow older.

William Lyon Phelps

Youth is vivid rather than happy.

Bernard Lovell

HAPPINESS

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The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

Robert Louis Stevenson

To be happy you must organize your time around the things that are true priorities in your life, and not allow the things that matter most to be at the mercy of those that matter least.

HAPPINESS

To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.

Albert Camus

He that has no one to love or confide in, has little to hope. He wants the radical principle of happiness.

Samuel Johnson

HAPPINESS

To be happy you need community, authenticity, and energy.

If we could have just one thing, it would be energy.

John F. Kennedy

HAPPINESS

To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.

Bertrand Russell

Always leave something to wish for; otherwise you will be miserable from your very happiness.

Baltasar Gracian

HAPPINESS

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We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.

Charles Kingsley

I have known some quite good people who were unhappy, but never an interested person who was unhappy.

A. C. Benson

HAPPINESS

Zest is the most universal and distinctive mark of happy men.

Bertrand Russell

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Can You be Happy Without Being Healthy?

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Can You be Happy Without Being Healthy?

Cheerfulness is the principal ingredient in the composition of health.

[The following passage is from Paul Brand’s Pain: The Gift Nobody Wants, 1988. The son of English missionaries working in India, Brand went on to become a surgeon who developed new, innovative techniques for hand surgery. He also revolutionized our understanding of leprosy: the disfigurement is caused by the lack of respect for the body that results from the condition of painlessness (which is caused by the disease) and not because the disease causes the flesh to become “non-healing” or to change in any way.]

The reason I encourage gratitude is that one’s underlying attitude (a product of the mind) toward the body can have a major impact on health. If I regard the body with respect, wonder, and appreciation, I will be far more inclined to behave in a way that sustains its health. In my work with leprosy patients, I could make repairs to hands and feet, but these improvements, I soon learned, amounted to nothing unless the patients themselves assumed responsibility for their limbs. The essence of rehabilitation—indeed, the essence of health—was to restore to my patients a sense of personal destiny over their own bodies.

When I moved to the United States, I expected to find that a society with such high standards of education and medical sophistication would foster a strong sense of personal responsibility in health. I have found exactly the opposite. In Western countries, an astounding proportion of the health problems stem from behavior choices that show disregard for the body’s clear signals.

We doctors know this truth, but we shy away from interfering in our patients’ lives. If we were fully honest, we might say something like this: “Listen to your body, and above all listen to your pain. It may be trying to tell you that you are violating your brain with tension, your ears with loudness, your eyes with constant television, your stomach with unhealthy food, your lungs with cancer-producing pollutants. Listen carefully to the message of pain before I give you something to relieve those symptoms. I can help with the symptoms, but you must address the cause.”

Health is identical with the degree of lived freedom.

Ivan Illich

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Given medicine’s history of magic poultices, blood-letting, ice-cold baths, and other “cures,” we should be grateful that at least doctors had the placebo effect working in their favour. Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer (who gave us the epigram mesmerize) “cured” patients with his animal Magnetism theories. . . . Two nineteenth-century French physicians advocated directly contradictory methods of treatment. Dr. Raymond at Salpetriere in Paris suspended his patients by their feet to allow blood to flow to their heads. Dr. Haushalter at Nancy suspended his patient’s head upward. Their results: exactly the same percentage of patients showed improvement. Norman Cousins has remarked, “Indeed, many medical scholars have believed that the history of medicine is actually the history of the placebo effect. Sir William Osler underlined the point by observing that the human species is distinguished from the lower order by its desire to take medicine. Considering the nature of nostrums taken over the centuries, it is possible that another distinguishing feature of the species is its ability to survive medication.”

Paul Brand

Time and time again, throughout the history of medical practice, what was once considered as “scientific” eventually becomes regarded as “bad practice.”

David Stewart

HEALTH & DOCTORS

I tell you, the old-fashioned doctor who treated all diseases has completely disappeared, now there are only specialists, and they advertise all the time in the newspapers. If your nose hurts, they send you to Paris: there’s a European specialist there, he treats noses. You go to Paris, he examines your nose: I can treat only your right nostril, he says, I don’t treat left nostrils, it’s not my specialty, but after me, go to Vienna, there’s a separate specialist there who will finish treating your left nostril.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (from The Brothers Karamazov, 1880)

There is one advantage of being poor—a doctor will cure you faster.

Kin Hubbard




Thoughts about Health & Doctors

A cartoon shows a witch doctor standing dejectedly over the body of his late patient and saying to the grieving widow, “There is so much that we still don’t know!”

Doctors put drugs of which they know little into bodies of which they know less for diseases of which they know nothing at all.

Voltaire

HEALTH & DOCTORS

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Beyond a certain level of intensity, medicine engenders helplessness and disease.

Ivan Illich

Nothing is more fatal to health than an over care of it.

Benjamin Franklin

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Cheerfulness is the best promoter of health and is as friendly to the mind as to the body.

Joseph Addison

He who laughs, lasts, but the surly bird catches the germ.

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Diseases have a character of their own, but they also partake of our character.

Oliver Sacks

The mind has great influence over the body, and maladies often have their origin there.

Molière

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Diseases of the soul are more dangerous and more numerous than those of the body.

Cicero

Mental health problems do not affect three or four out of every five persons, but one out of one.

Karl Menninger

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Each patient carries his own doctor inside him.

Norman Cousins

The doctor of the future will be oneself.

Albert Schweitzer

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Formerly, when religion was strong and science weak, men mistook magic for medicine; now, when science is strong and religion is weak, men mistake medicine for magic.

Thomas Szasz

One of the first duties of the physician is to educate the masses not to take medicine.

Sir William Osler

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Health is the soul that animates all the enjoyments of life, which fade and are tasteless without it.

Seneca

The greatest of follies is to sacrifice health for any other kind of happiness.

Arthur Schopenhauer

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

Redd Foxx

If I’d known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself.

Leon Eldred

HEALTH & DOCTORS

I have never yet met a healthy person who worried very much about his health, or a really good person who worried much about his own soul.   NEW LINK (Apr 11/24)

J. B. S. Haldane

The mere pursuit of health always leads to something unhealthy. Physical nature must not be made the direct object of obedience; it must be enjoyed, not worshipped.

G. K. Chesterton

HEALTH & DOCTORS

If the pain wanders, do not waste your time with doctors.

Mignon McLaughlin

Most things get better by themselves. Most things, in fact, are better by morning.

Lewis Thomas

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Illness is the most heeded of doctors: to goodness and wisdom we only make promises; pain we obey.

Marcel Proust

Health is not valued till sickness comes.

Thomas Fuller

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.

Hippocrates

It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.

Margaret Mead

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.

Hippocrates

God heals, and the doctor takes the fees.

Benjamin Franklin

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Nearly all men die of their remedies, and not of their illnesses.

Molière

No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.

Maimonides

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Plato said that the body’s problems proceed from the soul, and that unless the soul or mind is satisfied first the body can never be cured.

It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.

Sir William Osler

HEALTH & DOCTORS

The miserable have no other medicine,
But only hope . . .

Measure for Measure (Claudio)

The best healer is the most ingenious inspirer of hope.

HEALTH & DOCTORS

The preservation of health is a duty. Few seem conscious that there is such a thing as physical morality.

Herbert Spencer

The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind.

G.K. Chesterton

HEALTH & DOCTORS

There is a great difference between a good doctor and a bad one; yet very little between a good one and none at all.

Our doctor would never operate unless it was absolutely necessary. He was just that way. If he didn’t need the money, he wouldn’t lay a hand on you.

Herb Shriner

HEALTH & DOCTORS

Those obsessed with health are not healthy; the first requisite of good health is a certain calculated carelessness about oneself.

Sydney J. Harris

Attention to health is the greatest hindrance to life.

Plato

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In these "Enlightened" Times Should the Concept of Hell be Dismissed as Outmoded?

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In these “Enlightened” Times Should the
Concept of Hell be Dismissed as Outmoded?

I hold it to be the inalienable right of anybody to go to hell in his own way.

Robert Frost

I think only cruel people could have invented hell. People with humane feelings would not have liked the thought that those who do on earth things which are condemned by the morality of their tribe will suffer eternally without any chance of amendment. I don’t think decent people would ever have adopted that view... The essence of what you might call a stern morality is to enable you to inflict suffering without a bad conscience, and therefore I think it’s a bad thing.

Bertrand Russell (Interview)

Father Healy was, in short, my good priest, without whom it is impossible to get a toehold on Peter’s rock: a man of such archaic integrity that younger readers will just have to take my word for it. He taught Sunday school pretty much by the book, as he had to. He didn’t weasel about hell or purgatory or the terrifying risks of mortal sin: if the Lord ordered up brimstone, brimstone it was. But his manner completely undercut this part of the message. He could deliver the most hair-raising information in such a kind, it’s-going-to-be-all-right voice that it still seemed like a religion of love.

Wilfrid Sheed

HELL

[The first passage from Fr. P. J. Kelly’s 1968 book, So High the Price, follows the old traditional reasoning in trying to justify the horrific torments of hell as the appropriate punishment for sin. Whether the reasoning makes you laugh or shudder, it is interesting to note the explicit appeal to logic. The second passage from Fr. Groeschel takes a much more recent—and vastly different—approach. It is also less explicitly logical. How does it compare with the old argument in terms of plausibility?]

The optimists object: “Can it be possible that God punishes a momentary sinful pleasure with an eternity of pain?” It is not only possible, but it is right and just. The offence given by the sinner to God when he transgresses His holy laws involves infinite malice, since it is an offence to infinite Majesty. Therefore, it deserves an infinite punishment. But since man, being finite, is incapable of undergoing punishment that is infinite in intensity, God punishes him with a chastisement infinite in duration. In acting thus, God acts justly.

Fr. P. J. Kelly

What you must know about hell is that hell is part of Divine Mercy. God does not make hell. God cannot make anything bad. Hell is a place where those, who are turned away from God forever, hide from Him. They are least miserable in hell: not most but least.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel

HELL

[In hell] will the condemned in cruel rage and despair turn their fury against God and themselves, gnawing their flesh with their mouth, breaking their teeth with gnashing, furiously tearing themselves with their nails, and everlastingly blaspheming against the judge. . . Oh wretched tongues that will speak no word save blasphemy! Oh miserable ears that will hear no sound but groans! Oh unhappy eyes that will see nothing but agonies! Oh tortured bodies that will have no refreshment but flames. . . We are terrified when we hear of executioners scourging men, disjointing them, dismembering, tearing them in pieces, burning them with plates of red-hot metal. But these things are but a jest, a shadow compared with the torments of the next life.

Fray Luis De Granada (1505-1588, author of The Sinner’s Guide)

I certainly could not have become a Catholic if I had been forced to accept as de fide the highly-coloured and to my mind repulsive views of the torments of hell which [C. E. M.] Joad quoted in our correspondence from Catholic writing in an older and vanishing tradition.

Arnold Lunn

HELL

[The New England Puritan, Jonathan Edwards (1703–58), is famous for his 1741 sermon in Enfield, Conneticut, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (MP3 file format), which is a classic of the genre. (If, like some unfortunate individuals, your temperament is such that you are pathologically suspectible to the fear of divine punishment you might want to give this sermon a pass, because it is relentless.) Though typical of the sermon, the following quote is from one of his written works.]

The pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive the wicked: the flames do now rage and glow. The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much in the same way as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked. He will trample them beneath His feet with inexpressible fierceness; He will crush their blood out, and will make it fly, so that it will sprinkle His garment and stain all His raiment.

Jonathan Edwards

We are not punished for our sins but by them.

Anne Perry

HELL

It was long believed that punishment was a particularly efficacious means of education. Religion itself was thought to contribute to the education of children and the maintenance of the social order because its teachings contained terrible threats of punishment for the “wicked.” I have heard altogether reasonable men say, “If the Bible didn’t teach the existence of Hell, we would have to invent it to preserve social order and peace.” We have only to look at the paintings and sculptures of our cathedrals to realize the primordial role threats of hellfire played in the education of our ancestors.

Nor is it necessary to go back to the Middle Ages. In the very recent past, Lenten preachers and parochial missionaries hoped to convert the lukewarm and sinful with detailed descriptions of the torments of Hell. Fire, cauldrons of boiling oil, and Satan and his demon helpers were taken as fundamental religious truths. Most ministers of religion today follow the general direction of modern pedagogy and no longer believe in the moral efficacy of fear. Thus they no longer preach on Hell. Yet the concept continues to haunt many imaginations. Certain Protestant sects such as the Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses still hold the fear of Hell to be the best means of converting sinners.

Fr. Ignace Lepp (psychologist)

[Educated at the elite Jesuit run Colegio de Belén in Havanna, Fidel Castro was deeply influenced by his teachers who, he says, ‘valued character, rectitude, honesty, courage and the ability to make sacrifices.’ He did not, however, respect ‘the mechanical, dogmatic, irrational methods that were employed’ in their approach to religious education. His description of a retreat, which he gives in this excerpt from a series of interviews with Brazilian priest Fr. Frei Betto, will unfortunately ring familiar with many who passed through Catholic schools before Vatican II.]

When we were 16, 17 or 18, our spiritual exercises included meditation. During those three days of the religious retreat, we meditated on philosophical and theological topics, but usually the theme was punishment—which was most likely, according to all indications, in the circumstances—and reward. The reward didn’t inspire our imagination, but the punishment was described in such a way as to do just that.

I remember long sermons for meditation on hell—its heat and the suffering, anguish and desperation it caused. I don’t know how such a cruel hell as the one that was described to us could have been invented, because such severity is inconceivable, no matter how great a person’s sins may have been. Moreover, the punishment for venial sins was way out of proportion. Even to doubt something that wasn’t understood regarding a certain dogma was a sin. You had to believe it, because if you didn’t and had a fatal accident or died for any other reason while in that state of sin, you could be condemned to hell. There was really no proportion between the individual’s sins and eternal punishment.

The idea was to arouse the imagination. I still remember an example that was often given in those spiritual exercises... We were told, “so you may have an idea of eternity, my children, imagine a steel ball the size of the world [and I tried to imagine a steel ball the size of the world, with a circumference of 40,000 kilometres] whose surface is grazed by the proboscis of a fly once every 1,000 years. Well, the fly will wear away the steel ball—that is, that steel ball the size of the world will disappear as a result of the fly’s slight touch once every 1,000 years—before hell ends, and, even after that, it will go on forever.” That was the nature of meditation. I’d describe it as a form of mental terrorism; sometimes those explanations turned into mental terrorism.

It’s near the end of the twentieth century, and, not so long—only 40 years (I’m amazed at what a relatively short time)—ago, one of the best schools in our country provided this kind of an education. I don’t think it was a good way to foster religious feeling.

Fidel Castro (from Fidel and Religion, 1987)




Thoughts about Hell

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All sins tend to be addictive, and the terminal point of addiction is what is called damnation.

W. H. Auden

Hell is not a punishment imposed externally by God, but the condition resulting from attitudes and actions which people adopt in this life.

Pope John Paul II

HELL

I will tell you a great secret my friend. Don’t wait for the Last Judgement. It happens every day.

Albert Camus

Every action is a judgement.

HELL

Many might go to Heaven with half the labour they go to hell.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If there were only some shorter and more direct route to hell it would save an awful lot of time and trouble.

HELL

No hell, no dignity.

Flannery O’Connor

A God all mercy is a God unjust.

Edward Young

HELL

Presumably the suffering of hell is something that people are able to bear because they have chosen it.

Where we go hereafter depends on what we go after here.

John Henry Newman

HELL

Strange as it may appear, I am quite content to live without believing in a bogeyman who is prepared to torture me for ever and ever if I should fail in coming up to an almost impossible ideal.

C. S. Lewis (before conversion)

It doesn’t matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the soul away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick... The safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

C. S. Lewis (after conversion)

HELL

The most frightening idea that has ever corroded human nature—the idea of eternal punishment.

John Morley

Nothing burneth in hell but self-will; therefore it hath been said, “Put off thine own will, and there will be no hell.”

Theologia Germanica (Anonymous, circa 1350)

HELL

The self one has to live with can be one’s own greatest punishment. To be left forever with that self which we hate is hell.

Fulton Sheen

Hell is oneself; Hell is alone, the other figures in it merely projections. There is nothing to escape from and nothing to escape to. One is always alone.

George Eliot

HELL

The Son of Man will give charge to his angels, and they will gather up all that gives offence in his kingdom, all those who do wickedly in it, and will cast them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping, and gnashing of teeth.

Matt 13:41-42

There is a dreadful Hell
A place of aches and pains,
Where sinners must with Devils dwell,
In fires and shrieks and chains.

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Why do the Ancient Values of Honour & Glory Have so Little Resonance in Secular Societies?

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Why do the Ancient Values of Honour & Glory

Have so Little Resonance in Secular Societies?

Praise of other men is only tolerable in so far as each man in the audience thinks that he too could perform the exploits which are being praised. Anything which goes beyond these limits incites his envy and his scepticism.

Pericles (495–429 BC)

HONOUR: high respect; esteem: his portrait hangs in the place of honour; a person or thing that brings credit: you are an honour to our profession; adherence to what is right or to a conventional standard of conduct: I must as a matter of honour avoid any taint of dishonesty; a privilege: the great poet of whom it is my honour to speak tonight; an exalted position: the honour of being horse of the year; a thing conferred as a distinction, esp. an official award for bravery or achievement: the highest military honours.

GLORY: high renown or honour won by notable achievements: to fight and die for the glory of one’s nation; praise, worship, and thanksgiving offered to God: glory be to God; magnificence; great beauty: the train has been restored to all its former glory; (often glories) a thing that is beautiful or distinctive; a special cause for pride, respect, or delight: the glories of Paris; the splendor and bliss of heaven: with the saints in glory.


There is no getting away from the fact that [the idea of glory] is very prominent in the New Testament and in early Christian writings. Salvation is constantly associated with palms, crowns, white robes, thrones, and splendour like the sun and stars. All this makes no immediate appeal to me at all, and in that respect I fancy I am a typical modern. Glory suggests two ideas to me, of which one seems wicked and the other ridiculous. Either glory means to me fame, or it means luminosity. As for the first, since to be famous means to be better known than other people, the desire for fame appears to me as a competitive passion and therefore of hell rather than heaven. As for the second, who wishes to become a kind of living electric light bulb?

When I began to look into this matter I was shocked to find such different Christians as Milton, Johnson and Thomas Aquinas taking heavenly glory quite frankly in the sense of fame or good report. But not fame conferred by our fellow creatures—fame with God, approval or (I might say) “appreciation” by God. And then, when I had thought it over, I saw that this view was scriptural; nothing can eliminate from the parable the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” With that, a good deal of what I had been thinking all my life fell down like a house of cards.

C. S. Lewis

God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.

Machiavelli

HONOUR & GLORY

[The] selective or undemocratic quality in Nature, at least in so far as it affects human life, is neither good nor evil. According as spirit exploits or fails to exploit this Natural situation, it gives rise to one or the other. It permits, on the one hand, ruthless competition, arrogance, and envy: it permits on the other, modesty and (one of our greatest pleasures) admiration. A world in which I was really (and not merely by a useful legal fiction) ‘as good as everyone else,’ in which I never looked up to anyone wiser or cleverer or braver or more learned than I, would be insufferable. The very ‘fans’ of the cinema stars and the famous footballers know better than to desire that!

C. S. Lewis

The tragedy of life is in what dies inside a man while he lives—the death of genuine feeling, the death of inspired response, the awareness that makes it possible to feel the pain or the glory of other men in yourself.

Norman Cousins

HONOUR & GLORY

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There now appeared on the ravaged scene an Angel of Deliverance, the noblest patriot of France, the most splendid of her heroes, the most beloved of her saints, the most inspiring of all her memories, the peasant Maid, the ever-shining, every glorious Joan of Arc.

Winston Churchill

No habit is so important to acquire as [the ability] to delight in fine characters and noble actions.

Aristotle

HONOUR & GLORY

This admirable heroine, to whom the more generous superstition of the ancients would have erected altars, was, on pretense of heresy and magic, delivered over alive to the flames, and expiated by that dreadful punishment the signal services which she had rendered to her prince and to her native country.

David Hume

[David Hume, as befits a deep philosophical sceptic, is more restrained in his praise of Joan of Arc than Winston Churchill, who wrote, ‘Joan was a being so uplifted from the ordinary run of mankind that she finds no equal in a thousand years.’ Nevertheless, if pressed, I doubt that Hume would have disputed the appropriateness of the word ‘glorious’ in her connection. Joan, herself, was as free of modern scepticism or cynicism about honour and glory as was Shakespeare’s Henry V or Theodore Roosevelt. The following exchange is from the trial record.]

INTERROGATOR: Did they not wave your standard round the head of your King when he was consecrated at Reims?

JOAN: No, not that I know of.

INTERROGATOR: Why was it taken to the Church of Reims for the consecration and given preference over those of other captains?

JOAN: It had shared in the pain, it was only right it should share in the honour.

HONOUR & GLORY

[In July 1429, shortly after Joan had raised the siege at Orleans, Jean Chartier, who was in some senses the official historian of the court, exalted her in poetic prose:]

Behold her there, she who does not seem to have come from any place in the world, but to have been sent from heaven to raise up the head and shoulders of a Gaul beaten down into the earth. . . O singular virgin, worthy of all glories, of all praises, of divine honours, you are the greatness of the kingdom, you are the light of the lily, you are the brilliance, you are the glory, not only of the French, but also of all Christians.

There’s no glory like those who save their country.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

HONOUR & GLORY

Shortly after he was appointed assistant secretary of the navy, Theodore Roosevelt spoke at the Naval War College: “Cowardice is the unpardonable sin. No triumph of peace is quite so great as the supreme triumphs of war. The nation must be willing to pour out its blood, its treasure, and its tears like water rather than submit to the loss of honour and renown.”

There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell.

William Tecumseh Sherman




Thoughts that Involve Honour & Glory

A life spent in making mistakes is not only more honourable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.

George Bernard Shaw

In great attempts, it is glorious even to fail.

Cassius Longinus

HONOUR & GLORY

A victory without danger is a triumph without glory.

Pierre Corneille

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.

Molière

HONOUR & GLORY

Created half to rise, and half to fall;
Great lord of all things, yet a prey to all;
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurled;
The glory, jest, and riddle of the world!

Alexander Pope (from An Essay on Man)

All of these [Shakespearean] tragedies start out with the humanist assumption that life, although full of sorrow, is worth living, and that Man is a noble animal.

George Orwell

HONOUR & GLORY

Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.

William Barclay

After Judas had left, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man’s glory is revealed; now God’s glory is revealed through him. And if God’s glory is revealed through him, then God will reveal the glory of the Son of Man in himself, and he will do so at once.”

John 13:31

HONOUR & GLORY

Glory follows virtue as if it were its shadow.

Cicero

Act well your part, there all the honour lies.

Alexander Pope

HONOUR & GLORY

Glory gives herself only to those who have always dreamed of her.

Charles de Gaulle

He will have true glory who despises it.

Livy

HONOUR & GLORY

How friendly all men would be one with another, if no regard were paid to honour and money! I believe it would be a remedy for everything.

St Teresa of Avila

Our society honours the powerful and punishes the weak.

Jean Vanier

HONOUR & GLORY

I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
Loved I not Honour more.

Richard Lovelace

Nothing ever perplexes an adversary so much as an appeal to his honour.

Benjamin Disraeli

HONOUR & GLORY

Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet, and blossom in their dust.

James Shirley

Grace is but glory begun, and glory is but grace perfected.

Jonathan Edwards

HONOUR & GLORY

Science is bound, by the everlasting vow of honour, to face fearlessly every problem which can be fairly presented to it.

Lord Kelvin

I grow daily to honour facts more and more, and theory less and less. A fact, it seems to me, is a great thing.

Thomas Carlyle

HONOUR & GLORY

The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.

Johann Sebastian Bach

HONOUR & GLORY

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave,
Awaits alike the inevitable hour:
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Thomas Gray

Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever.

Napoleon

HONOUR & GLORY

The chief glory of every people arises from its authors.

Samuel Johnson

The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.

Albert Einstein

HONOUR & GLORY

The noblest spirit is most strongly attracted by the love of glory.

James A. Baldwin

If it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.

Henry V (Henry)

HONOUR & GLORY

To be ambitious of true honour, of the true glory and perfection of our natures, is the very principle and incentive of virtue.

Walter Scott

I was made to understand . . . my glory would consist in becoming a great saint! This desire might seem presumptuous, seeing how weak and imperfect I was and still am . . . yet I always feel the same fearless certainty that I shall become a great saint.

St Thérèse of Lisieux

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Should our Attitude to the Cosmos be one of Calm Despair or Defiant Hope?

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Should our Attitude to the Cosmos be one of

Calm Despair or Defiant Hope?

The early Greeks are continually held up to us in literary works as models of the healthy-minded joyousness which the religion of nature may engender. There was indeed much joyousness among the Greeks—Homer’s flow of enthusiasm for most things that the sun shines upon is steady. But even in Homer the reflective passages are cheerless, and the moment the Greeks grew systematically pensive and thought of ultimates, they became unmitigated pessimists. The jealousy of the gods, the nemesis that follows too much happiness, the all-encompassing death, fate’s dark opacity, the ultimate and unintelligible cruelty, were the fixed background of their imagination. The beautiful joyousness of their polytheism is only a poetic modern fiction. They knew no joys comparable in quality of preciousness to those which we shall erelong see that Brahmans, Buddhists, Christians, Mohammedans, twice-born people whose religion is non-naturalistic, get from their several creeds of mysticism and renunciation.

William James

The pagan was (in the main) happier and happier as he approached the earth, but sadder and sadder as he approached the heavens. The gaiety of the best Paganism, as in the playfulness of Catullus or Theocritus, is, indeed, an eternal gaiety never to be forgotten by a grateful humanity. But it is all a gaiety about the facts of life, not about its origin. To the pagan the small things are as sweet as the small brooks breaking out of the mountain; but the broad things are as bitter as the sea. When the pagan looks at the very core of the cosmos he is struck cold. Behind the gods, who are merely despotic, sit the fates, who are deadly. Nay, the fates are worse than deadly; they are dead. And when rationalists say that the ancient world was more enlightened than the Christian, from their point of view they are right. For when they say “enlightened” they mean darkened with incurable despair. It is profoundly true that the ancient world was more modern than the Christian. The common bond is in the fact that ancients and moderns have both been miserable about existence, about everything, while mediaevals were happy about that at least. I freely grant that the pagans, like the moderns, were only miserable about everything—they were quite jolly about everything else. I concede that the Christians of the Middle Ages were only at peace about everything—they were at war about everything else. But if the question turn on the primary pivot of the cosmos, then there was more cosmic contentment in the narrow and bloody streets of Florence than in the theatre of Athens or the open garden of Epicurus. Giotto lived in a gloomier town than Euripides, but he lived in a gayer universe.

G. K. Chesterton

HOPE & DESPAIR

That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins—all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair can the soul’s habitation be safely built.

Bertrand Russell (from A Free Man’s Worship, 1903)

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth (Macbeth)

HOPE & DESPAIR

Optimists have no need of hope because they know that history, reason, luck, or whatever, is on their side. But they are ill-equipped to deal with the real world of disappointment. Hope, on the other hand, is familiar with disappointment and is ready to meet it again. Hope is more a religious than a psychological category. It’s the need for optimism that many people have that prevents them from finding hope.

Despair is the one emotion that it is truly a pity to have missed.

Soren Kierkegaard




Thoughts about Hope & Despair

A calm despair, without angry convulsions or reproaches directed at heaven, is the essence of wisdom.

Alfred de Vigny

Cast a cold eye
On life, on death
Horseman, pass by!

(Epitaph on W. B. Yeats’s tombstone)

HOPE & DESPAIR

Console yourselves that for the greater part of your life you have been happy, and remember that what remains will be short. Comfort yourself with the thought that in your useless old age you will enjoy the respect of your neighbours.

Pericles (addressing the parents of dead soldiers)

Cheer up, there’s no hope.

HOPE & DESPAIR

Despair and the incapacity for leisure are twins—a revealing thought that explains, among other things, the hidden meaning of that very questionable saying, ‘work and don’t despair.’

Josef Pieper

Work is a product of misery, and discontent. I only work because I’m unhappy. If I was happy I should never work.

Malcolm Muggeridge

HOPE & DESPAIR

Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim.

Graham Greene

HOPE & DESPAIR

Faith is the reality of hope, and of illusion.

Northrop Frye

Many people identify hope with illusion.

HOPE & DESPAIR

God made everything out of nothing. But the nothingness shows through.

Paul Valery

I no longer wished for a better world, because I was thinking of the whole of creation, and in the light of this clearer discernment I had come to see that, though the higher things are better than the lower, the sum of all creation is better than the higher things alone.

St. Augustine

HOPE & DESPAIR

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Hope in every sphere of life is a privilege that attaches to action. No action, no hope.

Peter Levi

Hope is the basic ingredient of all vitality.

Erik Erikson

HOPE & DESPAIR

Hope is itself a species of happiness, and, perhaps, the chief happiness which this world affords.

Samuel Johnson

“You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but I don’t know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in.”

Oliver Edwards (to Samuel Johnson after a church service)

HOPE & DESPAIR

It is absolutely incredible how futile life can be; and if one doesn’t become engrossed in its futility, I don’t see that there is anything to stop one going mad.

Leonard Woolf

Perhaps the most despairing cry of the pessimistic mind is that the world is never quite as bad as it ought and should be for intellectual purposes.

Bernard Berenson

HOPE & DESPAIR

Man, at least when educated, is a pessimist. He believes it safer not to reflect on his achievements; Jove is known to strike such people down. Dangers, uncompleted tasks, failures remain in his mind.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Because pessimism appeals to the weaker side of everybody the pessimist drives as roaring a trade as the publican.

G. K. Chesterton

HOPE & DESPAIR

The mind which renounces, once and forever, a futile hope, has its compensation in ever-growing calm.

George Gissing

If you do not hope, you will not find what is beyond your hopes.

St. Clement of Alexandria

HOPE & DESPAIR

The miserable have no other medicine,
But only hope...

Measure for Measure (Claudio)

The best healer is the most ingenious inspirer of hope.

HOPE & DESPAIR

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true.

James Branch Campbell

If optimism means a general approval, it is certainly true that the more a man becomes an optimist the more he becomes a melancholy man. If he manages to praise everything, his praise will develop an alarming resemblance to a polite boredom. He will say that the marsh is as good as the garden; he will mean that the garden is as dull as the marsh.

G. K. Chesterton

HOPE & DESPAIR

The world itself is but a large prison, out of which some are daily led to execution.

Sir Walter Raleigh

The real world is a place I’ve never felt comfortable in.

Woody Allen

HOPE & DESPAIR

Why shouldn’t things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together.

George Santayana

Cynicism is often really about hope: fear of it, fear of being seduced by it.

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What do You Hate Most about Human Nature?

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What do You Hate Most about Human Nature?

[C. S. Lewis taught as a fellow at Oxford from 1925 to 1954. Among those he tutored was the poet John Betjeman and the critic Kenneth Tynan.]

I had a pupil who was certainly a socialist, probably a Marxist. To him the ‘collective,’ the State, was everything, the individual nothing; freedom, a bourgeois delusion. Then he went down and became a schoolmaster. A couple of years later, happening to be in Oxford, he paid me a visit. He said he had given up socialism. He was completely disillusioned about state-control. The interferences of the Ministry of Education with schools and schoolmasters were, he had found, arrogant, ignorant, and intolerable: sheer tyranny. I could take lots of this and the conversation went on merrily. Then suddenly the real purpose of his visit was revealed. He was so ‘browned-off’ that he wanted to give up schoolmastering; and could I—had I any influence—would I pull any wires to get him a job—in the Ministry of Education?

There you have the new man. Like the psalmists he can hate, but he does not, like the psalmists, thirst for justice. Having decided that there is oppression he immediately asks: ‘How can I join the oppressors?’

Among those who dislike oppression are many who like to oppress.   NEW LINK (Apr 22/24)

Napoleon

HUMAN FRAILTY

The Matabele, an offshoot of Shaka’s zulus, regularly engaged in the practice of “washing the spears in blood” when they invaded the lands of the neighbouring Shona. A missionary who had entered a Shona village attacked by the Matabele reported: “Fastened to the ground was a row of bodies, men and women, who had been pegged down and left to the sun’s scorching by day and cold dews by night; left to the tender mercies of the pestering flies and ravenous beasts.”

[Though not a cruel man, Albert Einstein was capable of stunning brutality where his first wife was concerned: ‘an unfriendly humourless creature who...undermines others’ joy of living through her mere presence.’ He reassured his cousin, whom he was to marry, ‘I treat my wife as an employee I cannot fire.’ Granted, she had bleak moods and, for whatever other reasons, made it impossible for him to enjoy life. Even so, it’s hard to believe she deserved so much hostility. It’s been said that the most cruel people are those who don’t realize that they are cruel.]

In July, 1914, Albert Einstein wrote to his first wife, Mileva Maric, the mother of his two sons, laying down a series of conditions under which he would agree to continue their marriage: ‘A. You will see to it (1) that my clothes and linen are kept in order, (2) that I am served three regular meals a day in my room. B. You will renounce all personal relations with me, except when these are required to keep up social appearances.’ And: ‘You will expect no affection from me... You must leave my bedroom or study at once without protesting when I ask you to.’

HUMAN FRAILTY

In August of 1980 a dynamic, young preacher, James Robison, spoke to an assembly of Evangelical Christian leaders in Dallas, Texas. The meeting had been organized for the political benefit of presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, who was in attendance. Robison wrapped up his homily as follows: “If the righteous, the pro-family, the moral, the biblical, the godly, the hard-working and the decent individuals in this country stay out of politics, who on this earth does that leave to make the policies under which you and I live and struggle to survive. I’m sick and tired of hearing about all of the radicals, and the perverts, and the liberals, and the leftists, and the Communists coming out of the closets. It’s time for God’s people to come out of the closet and the churches and change America. We must do it!” (Applause)

Self-righteousness is the inevitable fruit of simple moral judgments.

Reinhold Niebuhr

HUMAN FRAILTY

The world always makes the assumption that the exposure of an error is identical with the discovery of the truth—that error and truth are simply opposite. They are nothing of the sort. What the world turns to, when it has been cured of one error, is usually simply another error, and maybe one worse than the first one.

H. L. Mencken

It is folly to expect men to do all that you would reasonably expect them to do.

Archbishop Whately




Thoughts about Human Frailty

Bigotry is an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition. It is not bigotry to be certain we are right; but it is bigotry to be unable to imagine how we might possibly have gone wrong.

G. K. Chesterton

Never try to reason the prejudice out of a man. It was not reasoned into him, and cannot be reasoned out.

Sydney Smith

HUMAN FRAILTY

Despite a flattering supposition to the contrary, people come readily to terms with power.

John Kenneth Galbraith

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.

Fredrick Douglass

HUMAN FRAILTY

Everyone wants to have the truth on their side, but not everyone wants to be on the side of truth.

As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand.

Josh Billings

HUMAN FRAILTY

Few men are sufficiently discerning to appreciate all the evil they do.

La Rochefoucauld

I came to carry out the struggle, not to kill people. Even now, and you can look at me: Am I a savage person? My conscience is clear.

Pol Pot (Interview Oct 1997)

HUMAN FRAILTY

Fortunate people seldom mend their ways, for when good luck crowns their misdeeds with success they think it is because they are right.

La Rochefoucauld

For nothing can seem foul to those that win.

King Henry IV (King Henry)

HUMAN FRAILTY

Human beings are creatures of emotion, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.

Dale Carnegie

If you can engage people’s pride, love, pity, ambition (or whatever is their prevailing passion), on your side, you need not fear what their reason can do against you.

Lord Chesterfield

HUMAN FRAILTY

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Men hate more steadily than they love.

Samuel Johnson

Most people are more conscious of their dislikes than of their sympathies. The latter are weak while hatreds are strong.

Ernest Dimnet

HUMAN FRAILTY

Men in association are capable of wickedness from which each individually would shrink.

Evelyn Waugh

Two starving men cannot be twice as hungry as one; but two rascals can be ten times as vicious as one.

George Bernard Shaw

HUMAN FRAILTY

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.

Oscar Wilde

Men are disliked not for what they do, but for what they are.

Hugh Kingsmill

HUMAN FRAILTY

Most people don’t see the light without feeling a bit of heat first.

Human beings cling to their delicious tyrannies and to their exquisite nonsense, till death stares them in the face.

Sydney Smith

HUMAN FRAILTY

Most people fancy themselves innocent of those crimes of which they cannot be convicted.

Seneca

Crime expands according to our willingness to put up with it.

Barry Farber

HUMAN FRAILTY

GO TO next pair

People believe lies, not because they are plausibly presented, but because they want to believe them. So, their credulity is unshakeable.

Malcolm Muggeridge

It’s not a controversial proposition that people tend to believe what they want, and that the strength of their conviction is usually proportional to their self-interest.

HUMAN FRAILTY

People only see what they are prepared to see.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man has his beliefs: his arguments are only his excuses for them . . . we only see what we look at: our attention to our temperamental convictions produces complete oversight as to all the facts that tell against us.

George Bernard Shaw

HUMAN FRAILTY

People who are brutally honest get more satisfaction out of the brutality than out of the honesty.

Richard J. Needham

It is in the ability to deceive oneself that one shows the greatest talent.

Anatole France

HUMAN FRAILTY

The chief use to which we put our love of truth is in persuading ourselves that what we love is true.

Pierre Nicole

Sometimes the surest way to upset people is to tell them the truth.

Margaret Wente

HUMAN FRAILTY

GO TO next pair

The love of justice is, in most men, nothing more than the fear of suffering injustice.

La Rochefoucauld

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend upon the support of Paul.

George Bernard Shaw

HUMAN FRAILTY

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them; that’s the essence of inhumanity.

George Bernard Shaw

We are all strong enough to bear the misfortunes of others.

La Rochefoucauld

HUMAN FRAILTY

There are people into whose heads it never enters to conceive of any better state of society than that which now exists.

Henry George

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.

Aldous Huxley

HUMAN FRAILTY

There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labour of thinking.

Sir Joshua Reynolds

Our minds are lazier than our bodies.

La Rochefoucauld

HUMAN FRAILTY

Very few people listen to argument.

G. K. Chesterton

Many people like their beliefs, opinions and prejudices more than they like argument.

HUMAN FRAILTY

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anaïs Nin

We always deceive ourselves twice about the people we love—first to their advantage, then to their disadvantage.

Albert Camus

HUMAN FRAILTY

What makes equality such a difficult business is that we only want it with our superiors.

Henry Becque

What men value in this world is not rights, but privileges.

H. L. Mencken

HUMAN FRAILTY

Why is propaganda so much more successful when it stirs up hatred than when it tries to stir up friendly feeling?

Bertrand Russell

People react to fear, not love; they don’t teach that in Sunday School, but it’s true.

Richard Nixon

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Why Do Gifted Comedians and Humourists so Often Suffer from Melancholy?

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Why Do Gifted Comedians and Humourists so

Often Suffer from Melancholy?

Of course it is perfectly evident, were we concerned with what is perfectly evident, that a sense of humour has enormous advantages. It gives us delicacy and a secret independence of mind. It makes a man elvishly quick and accurate. But there is one thing to be said against a sense of humour, a thing that has to be said most seriously and most decisively; it does not assist, it rather hinders, the joy of life. The two elements of joy and humour, of exaltation and amusement, are commonly combined in one eudemonistic theory, in one worship of pleasure. But they are in truth vitally antagonistic. If the hedonist asks, “Where is the glory that was Greece? Where are the gods and priests of delight?”, it ought to be easy to answer him. They have vanished at the first whisper of modern humour. It was not the monks nor the saints that slew them; it was the jesters.

This vital kinship between gravity and pleasure is one of those principles which, once they are realized, explain a perpetually increasing mass of facts. To take one man out of a thousand. Whether or no Gladstone was the best or the cleverest or greatest or most statesmanlike of any particular body of men, there can be no doubt as to one supreme fact about him—he was certainly about the happiest man that ever lived. And this was considerably due to the fact that he was not tormented by any very strong sense of humour. To have splendid talents, to move in a thrilling theatre of events, to plan vast remedies, to defend them with dramatic pronouncements, to believe with equal intensity in one’s own capacity and one’s own cause, to enjoy clean habits and heroic health, to live to a pleasant old age in a glow of fame and personal dignity; this seems an almost legendary life, but this was his. But laughter would have spoilt it. It is only necessary to make one remark about Gladstone’s great rival. No one who has enjoyed the wit and laughing wisdom of Disraeli and really understood its essence, would be surprised to hear that he was an unhappy man. Let us rather pray for that appalling gravity which marks the happiest of all human creatures, lovers in ecstasy and children at play.

G. K. Chesterton

The secret source of Humour itself is not joy but sorrow. There is no humour in heaven.

Mark Twain

HUMOUR & WIT

[Someone said that wit without employment is a disease. Frank Sheed would probably have appreciated the remark. As an outdoor speaker for the Catholic Evidence Guild, the quick-witted Sheed was only too aware of the temptation to use wit rather than argument in dealing with hecklers. In a memoir of his parents, Wilfrid Sheed expresses his gratitude for his father’s decision to eschew a weapon which wounds much more easily than it persuades.]

John’s [Frank’s father] contribution here was more saturnine. He was witty all right, but with that overlay of sarcasm that Sheeds tend to put on everything, like those pitchers who can’t help throwing curves. My father was as busy rejecting this as he was absorbing it, and this was to be a lifetime struggle for him. At law school, he made one of those resolutions of his, akin to his leaving literature to Shakespeare. A fellow grind had just said to him that he found the law an “ungrateful mistress,” to which my father retorted, “In your case, I can’t see that a mistress would have much to be grateful for.”

This may seem harmless enough to a nonaddict—we hit harder than that in my crowd—but for a Sheed, it was the fatal glass of beer. You either practice custody of the tongue at all times, or it is down the slippery path for you, making wisecracks and enemies till there is nobody left. I cannot express my gratitude for my father’s decision that day. His tongue could be rough enough as it was, and it was best to handle him with care in certain moods. Unbridled, his tongue would have been a deadly weapon, equipped with nuclear capacity—and he would never have made a single convert from his soapbox.




Thoughts about (and examples of) Humour & Wit

Cleverness kills wisdom; that is one of the few sad and certain things.

G. K. Chesterton

Shaw, like many witty men, considered wit an adequate substitute for wisdom. He could defend any idea, however silly, so cleverly as to make those who did not accept it look like fools...like Tolstoy, he couldn’t believe in the importance of anything he didn’t know.

Bertrand Russell

HUMOUR & WIT

Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.

Peter Ustinov

ESKIMO: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”
MISSIONARY: “No, not if you did not know.”
ESKIMO: “Then why did you tell me?”

HUMOUR & WIT

ENGLISHMAN: According to the official life of Michael Collins not more than 200 men were engaged in any of the battles of this so-called Anglo-Irish war, and yet some of you people have managed to persuade yourselves that you beat the British by force of arms.

IRISHMAN: ___________________________________. (1)

For sheer speed Ronald Knox could outwit even Chesterton. Lutyens, the architect of the monstrous Imperial Palace at Delhi, had a habit, on being introduced, of saying something entirely meaningless. It amused him to note the other person’s surprise. Introduced to Knox he said, “Did you know that if you chop vegetables, the temperature rises?” Ronnie answered, “___________________________________.” (2) That seems to me the speed of light.

Frank Sheed

HUMOUR & WIT

Great wits are sure to madness near allied.
And thin partitions do their bounds divide.

John Dryden

Humour is reason gone mad.

Groucho Marx

HUMOUR & WIT

Humour can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing dies in the process.

E. B. White

HUMOUR & WIT

Humour is all about distance.

P. J. O’Rourke

Someone who makes you laugh is a comedian. Someone who makes you think and then laugh is a humourist.

George Burns

HUMOUR & WIT

Humour is the great leveller and the great disarmer.

There are three things that are real... God, human folly and laughter. Since the first two are beyond our comprehension, we must do the best we can with the third.

John F. Kennedy

HUMOUR & WIT

Never say a humorous thing to a man who does not possess humor. He will always use it in evidence against you.

Herbert Beerbohm Tree

People who lack a sense of humour are now being termed ‘the comically challenged.’

HUMOUR & WIT

No mind is thoroughly well organized that is deficient in a sense of humour.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

I sometimes lie awake at night trying to think of something funny that Richard Nixon said.

Lyn Nofziger (a Nixon aide)

HUMOUR & WIT

Nothing spoils a romance so much as a sense of humour in the woman.

Oscar Wilde

The witty woman is a tragic figure in American life. Wit destroys eroticism and eroticism destroys wit, so women must choose between taking lovers and taking no prisoners.

Florence King

HUMOUR & WIT

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.

Oscar Wilde

True wit is nature to advantage dressed,
What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed.

Alexander Pope

HUMOUR & WIT

The atheist Robert Ingersoll had a habit of taking out his watch and giving God ten seconds to strike him dead. Frank Sheed went on to imagine Ingersoll’s arrival at the gate of heaven and God saying to him, “___________________________________?” (3)

HUMOUR & WIT

GO TO next pair

Melancholy men are of all others the most witty.

Aristotle

A humourist is a person who feels bad, but who feels good about it.

Don Herold

HUMOUR & WIT

THE EARL OF SANDWICH: You, Mr. Wilkes, will die either of the pox or on the gallows.

JOHN WILKES: ___________________________________. (4)

HUMOUR & WIT

There was the man at Hampstead Heath who said to me [while he was speaking for the Catholic Evidence Guild], one night when I had a bad cough, “Excuse me, sir. I think there’s something wrong with your throat. If I were you I’d get it cut.” “______________________ _____________.” (5)

HUMOUR & WIT

To be witty is not enough. One must possess sufficient wit to avoid having too much of it.

André Maurois

Wit is so shining a quality that everybody admires it; most people aim at it, all people fear it, and few love it unless in themselves. A man must have a good share of wit himself to endure a great share of it in another.

Lord Chesterfield

HUMOUR & WIT

You can pretend to be serious; you can’t pretend to be witty.

Andreas Gryphius

All human race would fain be wits,
And millions miss for one that hits.

Jonathan Swift

HUMOUR & WIT

When Frank Sheed used to speak outdoors for the Catholic Evidence Guild in England—typically to hostile audiences—there would often be exchanges. On one occasion an atheist by the name of Murphy ended a long catalogue of what was wrong with the universe by saying, “I could make a better universe than your God made.” Sheed replied, “__________________________________?” (6)

HUMOUR & WIT

Wit is a sword; it is meant to make people feel the point as well as see it.

G. K. Chesterton

He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire. (Winston Churchill)   He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends. (Oscar Wilde)   I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial. (Irvin S. Cobb)   He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others. (Samuel Johnson)   He had delusions of adequacy. (Walter Kerr)   He loves nature in spite of what it did to him. (Forrest Tucker)

HUMOUR & WIT

Wit is the salt of conversation, not the food.

William Hazlitt



1) We say that sort of thing partly to amuse ourselves and partly to annoy you.   2) Yes. And if you cut acquaintances there’s a coolness.   3) Have you brought your watch?   4) That depends, my lord, whether I embrace your mistress or your principles.   5) After forty years I have not been able to think up a snappy retort.   6) I won’t ask you to make a universe. But would you make a rabbit, just to build confidence?

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Which Has More Potential for Harm: Poetry or Logic, Imagination or Analysis?

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Which Has More Potential for Harm:

Poetry or Logic, Imagination or Analysis?

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Albert Einstein

[To speak of an “excessive faith” in the power of analytical reasoning is to suggest a partiality for some philosophy other than reductive materialism. You may wish to argue that this partiality leads to a prejudicial view (or a balanced one) of the analytical habit of mind that has long dominated Western intellectual culture.]

There is a notion adrift everywhere that imagination, especially mystical imagination, is dangerous to man’s mental balance. Poets are commonly spoken of as psychologically unreliable; and generally there is a vague association between wreathing laurels in your hair and sticking straws in it. Facts and history utterly contradict this view. Most of the very great poets have been not only sane, but extremely business-like; and if Shakespeare ever really held horses, it was because he was much the safest man to hold them. Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad; but creative artists very seldom. I am not, as will be seen, in any sense attacking logic: I only say that this danger does lie in logic, not in imagination. Artistic paternity is as wholesome as physical paternity. Moreover, it is worthy of remark that when a poet really was morbid it was commonly because he had some weak spot of rationality on his brain. Poe, for instance, really was morbid; not because he was poetical, but because he was specially analytical. Even chess was too poetical for him; he disliked chess because it was full of knights and castles, like a poem. He avowedly preferred the black discs of draughts, because they were more like the mere black dots on a diagram. Perhaps the strongest case of all is this: that only one great English poet went mad, Cowper. And he was definitely driven mad by logic, by the ugly and alien logic of predestination. Poetry was not the disease, but the medicine; poetry partly kept him in health. He could sometimes forget the red and thirsty hell to which his hideous necessitarianism dragged him among the wide waters and the white flat lilies of the Ouse. He was damned by John Calvin; he was almost saved by John Gilpin... The general fact is simple. Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion. To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain. The poet only desires exaltation and expansion, a world to stretch himself in. The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

G. K. Chesterton

The Prophets describe what they saw in Vision as real and existing men whom they saw with their imaginative and immortal organs; the Apostles the same; the clearer the organ the more distinct the object. A Spirit and a Vision are not, as the modern philosophy supposes, a cloudy vapour or a nothing: they are organized and minutely articulated beyond all that the mortal and perishing nature can produce. He who does not imagine in stronger and better lineaments, and in stronger and better light, than his perishing mortal eye can see, does not imagine at all. The painter of this work asserts that all his imaginations appear to him infinitely more perfect and more minutely organized than anything seen by his mortal eye.

William Blake

IMAGINATION & VISION

It is a favourite proposition of mine which I often discussed with Hughie [Hugh Kingsmill] and with which he largely agreed, that highly imaginative people are invariably miserable when they are young, and on the whole grow progressively happier. . . It seems to me that the general rule is that the imagination makes for unhappiness when young and can produce serenity when old. Its first struggles with appetite are painful and leave many bruises, and its first realisation that the world of time is irretrievably imperfect, whereas delight is only in perfection, cannot but create much anguish. Once this period is passed, the imagination becomes an even greater solace, until now, in middle age, I feel that it alone makes life worth living, and that to be deprived of it, whatever compensations there might be, would drain life of its delight.

Malcolm Muggeridge

The imagination is the faculty where the soul and the body are unified.

IMAGINATION & VISION

Society attaches immense importance to saying the right thing at the right time. In society’s eyes the virtue of saying the right thing at the right time is more important than the virtue of telling the whole truth, or sometimes even of telling the truth at all. So when George Bernard Shaw remarks that a temptation to tell the truth should be just as carefully considered as a temptation to tell a lie, he’s appealing to social standards beyond the merely intellectual standard of truth and falsehood, which have power of final veto and which only the imagination can grasp.

Northrop Frye

Imagination rules the world.

Napoleon

IMAGINATION & VISION

Mathematics and the stars consoled me when the human world seemed empty of comfort. But changes in my philosophy have robbed me of such consolations. It seemed that what we had thought of as laws of nature were only linguistic conventions, and that physics was not really concerned with an external world. I do not mean that I quite believed this, but that it became a haunting nightmare, increasingly invading my imagination.

Bertrand Russell

Where there is no imagination there is no horror.

Arthur Conan Doyle



Thoughts about Imagination & Vision

All powerful imaginations are conservative.

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

Imagination is only a new configuration of old things.

IMAGINATION & VISION

As I see it, in the twentieth century the genius of man has gone into science and the resultant technology, leaving the field of mysticism and imaginative art and literature almost entirely to charlatans and sick or obsessed minds.

Malcolm Muggeridge

A man’s artistic faculty is merely the means by which he communicates his vision of life, and however brilliant or complex it cannot purify a corrupted vision or deepen a shallow one.

Hugh Kingsmill

IMAGINATION & VISION

At the deepest level of the psyche reason serves the imagination. And one of the ingredients of the imagination is desire.

Rationalists set reason on the throne of power. The Romantics place their personal feelings at the centre of life and enter a world driven by the imagination.

IMAGINATION & VISION

I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the heart’s affections, and the truth of imagination.

John Keats

In ordinary life we almost never get a chance to use the intellect by itself. In practically everything we do it’s the combination of emotion and intellect we call imagination.

Northrop Frye

IMAGINATION & VISION

Imagination is the eye of the soul.

Joseph Joubert

Man consists of body, mind and imagination. His body is faulty, his mind untrustworthy, but his imagination has made him remarkable.

John Masefield

IMAGINATION & VISION

Imagination is the power of constructing possible models of human experience.

Northrop Frye

Human nature simply cannot subsist without a hope and aim of some kind; as the sanity of the Old Testament truly said, where there is no vision the people perisheth. But it is precisely because an ideal is necessary to man that the man without ideals is in permanent danger of fanaticism.

G. K. Chesterton

IMAGINATION & VISION

Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.

H. L. Mencken

The more my marriages gravitated towards the rocks, the more insanely idealistic did I become about the limitless possibilities of love, simply expressed and deeply felt.

Peter Ustinov

IMAGINATION & VISION

Man is a being born to believe. And if no Church comes forward with its title-deeds of truth to guide him, he will find altars and idols in his own heart and his own imagination.

Benjamin Disraeli

Education frees the intellect and imagination from its bondage to unexamined ideologies or beliefs.

David Cayley

IMAGINATION & VISION

Our imagination is what our whole social life is really based on.

Northrop Frye

You can’t depend on your judgement when your imagination is out of focus.

Mark Twain

IMAGINATION & VISION

The imagination, at however rudimentary a level, reaches into the future. So its works have a prophetic quality.

Malcolm Muggeridge

IMAGINATION & VISION

GO TO next pair

This Life’s dim Windows of the Soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole
And leads you to Believe a Lie
When you see with, not thro’, the Eye.

William Blake

The vision is always solid and reliable. The vision is always a fact. It is the reality that is often a fraud. As much as I ever did, more than I ever did, I believe in Liberalism. But there was a rosy time of innocence when I believed in Liberals.

G. K. Chesterton

IMAGINATION & VISION

Where there is vision the people perish. I admit they also perish where there is no vision. Either way, in fact, their situation appears to be damnably awkward.

Hugh Kingsmill

The old beliefs will be brought back to honour again: the whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, of the shapeless, the demonic. We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race.

Adolf Hitler

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Does Individuality Impair Objectivity? How Can Objectivity be Cultivated, or Can it?

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Does Individuality Impair Objectivity?

How Can Objectivity be Cultivated, or Can it?

[INDIVIDUALITY: the quality or character of a particular person or thing that distinguishes them from others of the same kind, esp. when strongly marked]

[OBJECTIVE: (of a person or their judgment) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts]

As the years passed, I ceased to make my personal tastes the criterion for my views of the social order. I discovered that the politically-minded may be divided into those who accept the facts of human nature and those who plan their programmes on the naive assumption that man is what they wish man to be. It is, perhaps, regrettable that man is a hierarchical animal, with an invincible tendency to create distinctions, but the realist starts from facts, and does not plan for the future on the assumption that a classeless society is realisable in this geological period.

Arnold Lunn

People without human passions, loyalties and appetites could undoubtedly handle the world’s problems with laughable ease: a restatement of the view held by Aristotle (and your grandfather) that human nature is our chief problem.

Wilfrid Sheed

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

Tolstoy begins by saying that throughout life Shakespeare has aroused in him “an irresistible repulsion and tedium.” Conscious that the opinion of the civilized world is against him, he has made one attempt after another on Shakespeare’s works, reading and re-reading them in Russian, English and German; but ‘I invariably underwent the same feelings; repulsion, weariness and bewilderment.’ Now, at the age of seventy-five, he has once again re-read the entire works of Shakespeare, including the historical plays, and ‘I have felt with an even greater force, the same feelings—this time, however, not of bewilderment, but of firm, indubitable conviction that the unquestionable glory of a great genius which Shakespeare enjoys, and which compels writers of our time to imitate him and readers and spectators to discover in him non-existent merits—thereby distorting their aesthetic and ethical understanding—is a great evil, as is every untruth.’ Shakespeare, Tolstoy adds, is not merely no genius, but is not even ‘an average author.’

George Orwell

The first condition of right thought is right sensation.

T. S. Eliot

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

Vanity is the most potent of forces in the shaping of life and in the choice of political creeds. We tend to think well of institutions which think well of us. The man who is born into a family with a long tradition of distinguished service to the State derives some reflected glory from England’s greatness, and tends to be a conservative. His instinct is to conserve a state of affairs which assigns to him high rank in the social hierarchy. And if, as a boy, he has reverently fingered an old sword hanging in the hall, if one of his uncles was a V.C., and one of his grandfathers a famous general, he will naturally accept without question the feudal scale of values which holds in high honour physical courage and the military virtues. If, on the other hand, your grandfather entered England in the 1850s as an immigrant from South-Eastern Europe, if you yourself are an intellectual with more brain than brawn, if you were kicked about at school by embryo Blimps, if you have no stomach for fighting and, in consequence, a detestation of war, you will naturally resent a criterion of values which assigns to you a low place at life’s table.

Arnold Lunn

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

In an early letter [Hugh] Kingsmill’s friend Hesketh Pearson inquired: ‘Why do you and I, who have so much in common as human beings, differ so widely in our artistic tastes?’ Kingsmill replied: ‘As a matter of fact, I think I do understand your frenzy. It’s pure religious fanaticism, a very fine quality, but out of place in the realm of literature... Your hatred of Christianity is proof that your religious sense is still active, and you pour it into your literary affections. My view of literature is that a man appreciates what he can, and should keep his appreciation supple by not conceiving fanatical hates and loves, and also by not straining it where it doesn’t arise naturally. Writers who don’t appeal to me I don’t bother about but I don’t mind my friends liking them.’

Richard Ingrams (from God’s Apology)




Thoughts about Individuality & Objectivity

After appetite human beings seem to be driven by aversion as much as by anything.

We often irritate others when we think we could not possibly do so.

La Rochefoucauld

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

At the heart of our friendly or purely social relations, there lurks a hostility momentarily cured but recurring in fits and starts.

Marcel Proust

We are full of odd hates and dislikes.

C. S. Lewis

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

Be sparing in praise, and more so in blame.

William Langland

We all have sharp likes and dislikes, and hand out praise and condemnation with equal ease.

Jean Vanier

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

Between a man’s emotional responses to some subject and his considered judgment upon it, the relationship will not necessarily be simple.

Christopher Derrick

Speaking of her neurotic brother Pedro St Teresa of Avila wrote, ‘I ought to be moved by his distress, but I confess I feel most uncharitable towards him.’

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

Everyone is guilty of enjoying the comfort of opinion without submitting himself to the discomfort of thought.

If we could add up all the minutes we have dedicated to a critical examination of one of our most deeply held beliefs, we would probably be shocked at the ridiculously small sum.

Ernest Dimnet

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

I can’t help detesting my relations. I suppose it comes from the fact that none of us can stand other people having the same faults as ourselves.

Oscar Wilde

She likes herself, yet others hates
For that which in herself she prizes.
And while she laughs at them, forgets
She is the thing that she despises.

William Congreve

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

It is a general mistake to think the men we like are good for everything, and those we do not, good for nothing.

Marquis of Halifax

The human mind is generally far more eager to praise or blame than to describe and define. It wants to make every distinction a distinction of value.

C. S. Lewis

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

It is in our private life that we find people intolerably individual.

G. K. Chesterton

The very same conditions of intimacy which make affection possible also make possible a peculiarly incurable distaste; a hatred as immemorial, constant, unemphatic, almost at times unconscious, as the corresponding form of love.

C. S. Lewis

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

Most people are more conscious of their dislikes than of their sympathies. The latter are weak while hatreds are strong.

Ernest Dimnet

[Evelyn] Waugh was a perfectionist; his dislike of ‘all things uncomely and broken’ was not merely an abstract aesthetic ideal but a governing passion.

Martin Stannard (biographer)

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

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Objectivity means that we can separate facts from our thoughts and feelings about those facts.

Feelings of antipathy are instinctive and have to be recognized as such. Since we can’t pretend we feel differently than we really do we simply have to accept our instinctive dislikes as an unavoidable trial.

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

Obviously, it is the degree to which life is seen objectively that it is interesting.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Truth, of course, must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.

G. K. Chesterton

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.

Jane Austen

A friend of Bertrand Russell’s, a professor of pure mathematics, informed him that if he could prove Russell was going to die in five minutes he would of course be sorry to lose him, but his sorrow would be quite outweighed by the pleasure afforded by the proof. A mathematician himself, Russell said he understood perfectly and immediately forgave him.

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

People are disliked not for what they do, but for what they are.

Hugh Kingsmill

All of us admire people we don’t like and like people we don’t admire.

Hesketh Pearson

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

There is a certain distance at which each person we know is naturally placed from us. It varies with each, and we must not attempt to alter it. We may clasp him who is close, and we are not to pull closer him who is more remote.

Mark Rutherford

A different taste in jokes is a great strain on the affections.

George Eliot

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

There is no such thing as objectivity in anything involving human interpretation.

We have a duty to be as objective as our limitations allow, limitations which include the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every individual necessarily suffers.

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anaïs Nin

It’s a seldom realised truth that those we know longest we often know least, and that a person will frequently understand a casual acquaintance better than the wife or friend whom his affection, vanity, or self-interest show not as they are but as he wishes them to be.

Hugh Kingsmill

INDIVIDUALITY & OBJECTIVITY

We resent offenses against our taste at least as much as offenses against our conscience or reason. If we are not careful criticism may become an excuse for taking revenge on things we dislike by erecting our temperamental antipathies into pseudo-moral judgements.

C. S. Lewis

Morality is simply the attitude we adopt towards people we personally dislike.

Oscar Wilde

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In Matters of Injustice & Persecution, Do You Agree with Malcolm Muggeridge?

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In Matters of Injustice & Persecution,

Do You Agree with Malcolm Muggeridge?

Getting angry about human affairs is as ridiculous as losing one’s temper in a traffic jam.

Malcolm Muggeridge

[C. S. Lewis taught as a fellow at Oxford from 1925 to 1954. Among those he tutored was the poet John Betjeman and the critic Kenneth Tynan.]

I had a pupil who was certainly a socialist, probably a Marxist. To him the ‘collective,’ the State, was everything, the individual nothing; freedom, a bourgeois delusion. Then he went down and became a schoolmaster. A couple of years later, happening to be in Oxford, he paid me a visit. He said he had given up socialism. He was completely disillusioned about state-control. The interferences of the Ministry of Education with schools and schoolmasters were, he had found, arrogant, ignorant, and intolerable: sheer tyranny. I could take lots of this and the conversation went on merrily. Then suddenly the real purpose of his visit was revealed. He was so ‘browned-off’ that he wanted to give up schoolmastering; and could I—had I any influence—would I pull any wires to get him a job—in the Ministry of Education?

There you have the new man. Like the psalmists he can hate, but he does not, like the psalmists, thirst for justice. Having decided that there is oppression he immediately asks: ‘How can I join the oppressors?’

Among those who dislike oppression are many who like to oppress.

Napoleon

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

Intellectuals, with many notable exceptions, are too often as reluctant to defy the intellectual fashions dominant in their milieu as social careerists the fashions of society. Consider, for instance, the reactions of the majority of intellectuals to persecution. It is right and fashionable to protest against the persecution of Jews. It is right and fashionable to protest against the persecution of Negroes. It is right and, unfortunately, increasingly unfashionable to protest against the persecution of Christians.

Arnold Lunn (from Unkilled For So Long, 1968)

Most logical positivists [the school of philosophy known as logical positivism was in vogue for a decade or two before and after the Second World War] have been vaguely leftist, not of course because they have any particular sympathy with the poor but because Conservatism in politics is associated in their minds with conservative morals. Because logical positivists are usually leftists they would not be embarrassed if challenged to reconcile their philosophy with such statements as “it is wrong for Communists to murder Catholic priests,” because in progressive circles there is a tendency to agree with the author of a book on the Civil War in Spain that “martyrdom is a professional risk for a Spanish priest,” and that “since civil war is a category of politics it is reasonable that a man should be liquidated for his opinions.” But the mere fact of being a Jew cannot be classified as a legitimate professional risk, and Professor A. J. Ayer, who, of course, feels strongly on anti-Semitism, was finally forced to revise his philosophy in order to allow for moral judgements condemning Hitler’s liquidation of the Jews.

Arnold Lunn (from And Yet So New, 1958)

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

People are easily moved to indignation by persecution of those of their own race, religion or political party, but the rarity of any but partisan protests against cruelty provokes an uneasy doubt. Is the hatred of injustice, as such, less common in the world today than in the world of our grandfathers?

Arnold Lunn

The love of justice is, in most men, nothing more than the fear of suffering injustice.

La Rochefoucauld

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

I believe that force, mitigated as far as may be by good manners, is the ultima ratio [final argument, last resort], and between two groups of men that want to make inconsistent kinds of world I see no remedy except force. . . It seems to me that every society rests on the death of men.

Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes

David Ben-Gurion, one of Israel’s founders and its first prime minister, once told Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress: “If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: We have taken their country. . . We come from Israel, but 2000 years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

By making justice subjective and arbitrary, every citizen can be plausibly arrested and charged at any time, with the result that they live in a permanent state of incipient guilt and fear; really feeling themselves to be miserable offenders, not just in the eyes of God, but of their earthly rulers as well. Hence the so easily procured confessions [during Stalin’s show trials], which do not need to be invented or extorted, but truly come from the heart.

Malcolm Muggeridge

Nothing is law that is not reason.

John Powell

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

The goal of affirmative action is employment equity. Employment equity means that no one is denied opportunities for reasons that have nothing to do with inherent ability. It means equal access free from arbitrary obstructions such as racial or gender discrimination. And yet this equal access is precisely what affirmative action legislates against. Affirmative action means creating injustice in the present in order to redress injustice in the past. But who’s to say that the resentment aroused by this fresh injustice won’t eventually lead to more and worse forms of injustice than the injustice being redressed? If two wrongs don’t make a right, then it’s especially true when the second wrong is not directed against those responsible for the first, but against an innocent third party.

We have to work to find where justice lies.

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

A vulgar philosophy laments the wickedness of the world, but when we come to think of it we realise that the confusion of life, the doubt and turmoil and bewildering responsibility of life, largely arises from the enormous amount of good in the world. There is much to be said for everybody; there are too many points of view; too many truths that contradict each other, too many loves which hate each other. Our earth is not, as Hamlet said, “an unweeded garden,” but a garden which is choked and disordered with neglected flowers. The eternal glory of Don Quixote in the literary world is that it holds perfectly even the two scales of the mysticism of the Knight and the rationalism of the Squire. Deep underneath all the superficial wit and palpable gaiety of the story there runs a far deeper kind of irony. . . that the battle of existence has always been like King Arthur’s last battle in the mist, one in which “friend slew friend not knowing whom he slew.”

G. K. Chesterton

We should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend.

John Henry Newman




Thoughts about Injustice, Persecution & the Law

Every country’s record of injustice is long and shameful.

No nation is fit to sit in judgement upon any other nation.

Woodrow Wilson

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

Government comprises a large part of the organized injustice in any society, ancient or modern.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

H. L. Mencken

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

In Adam Smith’s view it is better to have social peace than economic justice.

Behind the abstraction known as “the markets” lurks a set of institutions designed to maximize the wealth and power of the most privileged group of people in the world, the creditor-rentier class of the First World and their junior partners in the Third.

Doug Henwood (from Wall Street: How it Works, and For Whom, 1998)

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

In England, justice is open to all—like the Ritz Hotel.

James Mathew (Irish jurist)

Everyone knows that there is one law for the rich and another for the poor. But no one accepts the implications of this, everyone takes for granted that the law, such as it is, will be respected, and feels a sense of outrage when it is not.

George Orwell

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

Injustice is relatively easy to bear: what stings is justice.

H. L. Mencken

It’s hard to forgive someone you’ve wronged.

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

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Law and order is one of the steps taken to maintain injustice.

Edward Bond

I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Martin Luther King

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

Social justice is one of easiest virtues to talk about and the most difficult to practise.

I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.

Thomas Jefferson (Jefferson owned slaves)

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.

Anatole France

The height of justice is the height of injustice.

Roman Proverb

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

The only true way to make the mass of mankind see the beauty of justice is by showing to them in pretty plain terms the consequences of injustice.

Sydney Smith

People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage.

John Kenneth Galbraith

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

The prisons are full of those who have grown up poor and abused.

One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted; and a community is infinitely more brutalized by the habitual employment of punishment than it is by the occasional occurrence of crime.

Oscar Wilde

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

There is no doubt that people with money tend not to get charged, not to get investigated, not to get tried, and not to get convicted. All along the line, the discretions get exercised in their favour.

Clayton Ruby

You get only the amount of justice you can afford, no more, no less.

Wilfrid Sheed

INJUSTICE, PERSECUTION & THE LAW

We are condemned to rub shoulders with injustice all our lives, and we are often judged by our acceptance of this fact. The spirit in which we manage it can even be said to be a measure of our maturity.

Peter Ustinov

It’s a sign of maturity not to be scandalized.

Flannery O’Connor

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Why do Intelligent People often Think, Speak, and Behave Unintelligently?

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Why do Intelligent People often Think,

Speak, and Behave Unintelligently?

Intellectuals, far from being highly individualistic and non-conformist people, follow certain regular patterns of behaviour. Taken as a group, they are often ultra-conformist within the circles formed by those whose approval they seek and value. That is what makes them, en masse, so dangerous, for it enables them to create climates of opinion and prevailing orthodoxies, which themselves often generate irrational and destructive courses of action.

Paul Johnson

I do not think it will ever be possible to eliminate fashions in intellectual nonsense. They have existed for as long as human beings have existed because they meet so many strong human desires, including the desire for extravagant emotional self-indulgence. They give us all the answers—and this in turn gives us a sense of mastery of the problems that we see as confronting us, as well as a sense of superiority to the uninitiated. Real thinking is hard—not only labourious but more often than not unsuccessful, leaving us with a frustrating sense of our own inadequacy and our ignorance, not to mention exposing these to the raised eyebrows of others. It will always be easier to flee in the direction of what is safe, and safe because approved already. Our lack of self-confidence will always incline us to believe that if what we think is at odds with what a lot of intelligent people are saying then they are more likely to be right than we are. In practice it is not usually the case that the chief recommendation of abstract beliefs is their truth.

Bryan Magee

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

Today computers hold out the promise of a means of instant translation of any code or language into any other code or language. The computer, in short, promises by technology a Pentecostal condition of universal understanding and unity. The next logical step would seem to be, not to translate, but to bypass languages in favour of a general cosmic consciousness which might be very like the collective unconscious dreamt of by Bergson. The condition of “weightlessness,” that biologists say promises a physical immortality, may be paralleled by the condition of speechlessness that could confer a perpetuity of collective harmony and peace.

Marshall McLuhan

One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that—no ordinary man could be such a fool.

George Orwell

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

Marxism was a characteristic nineteenth-century philosophy in that it claimed to be scientific. ‘Scientific’ was Marx’s strongest expression of approval, which he habitually used to distinguish himself from his many enemies. He and his work were ‘scientific’; they were not. He felt he had found a scientific explanation of human behaviour in history akin to Darwin’s theory of evolution. The notion that Marxism is a science, in a way that no other philosophy ever has been or could be, is implanted in the public doctrine of the states his followers founded, so that it colours the teaching of all subjects in their schools and universities. This has spilled over into the non-Marxist world, for intellectuals, especially academics, are fascinated by power, and the identification of Marxism with massive physical authority has tempted many teachers to admit Marxist ‘science’ to their own disciplines, especially such inexact or quasi-exact subjects as economics, sociology, history and geography. No doubt if Hitler, rather than Stalin, had won the struggle for Central and Eastern Europe in 1941-45, and so imposed his will on a great part of the world, Nazi doctrines which also claimed to be scientific, such as its race-theory, would have been given an academic gloss and penetrated universities throughout the world. But military victory ensured that Marxist, rather than Nazi, science would prevail.

Paul Johnson

It is true, in a sense, to say that the mob has always been led by more educated men. It is much more true, in every sense, to say that it has always been misled by educated men. It is easy enough to say the cultured man should be the crowd’s guide, philosopher and friend. Unfortunately, he has nearly always been a misguiding guide, a false friend and a very shallow philosopher. And the actual catastrophes we have suffered, including those we are now suffering, have not in historical fact been due to the prosaic practical people who are supposed to know nothing, but almost invariably to the highly theoretical people who knew that they knew everything. The world may learn by its mistakes; but they are mostly the mistakes of the learned.

G. K. Chesterton

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

There is a real difference between highbrows and lowbrows, but intelligence has nothing to do with it. There are stupid highbrows, intelligent lowbrows—intelligence is pretty evenly distributed over the brows. Anything you can teach a highbrow you can teach a lowbrow, provided you can learn to say it in words the lowbrow understands.

Frank Sheed

Intelligence is contagious.




Thoughts about Intelligence & Intellectuals

A great deal of intelligence can be invested in ignorance when the need for illusion is deep.

Saul Bellow

Don’t part with your illusions; when they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.

Mark Twain

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

A man is not necessarily intelligent because he has plenty of ideas, any more than he is a good general because he has plenty of soldiers.

Nicolas Chamfort

Intelligence is derived from two words—inter and legereinter meaning ‘between’ and legere meaning ‘to choose.’ An intelligent person, therefore, is one who has learned ‘to choose between.’

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

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Intelligence is quickness to apprehend as distinct from ability, which is capacity to act wisely on the thing apprehended.

Alfred North Whitehead

It is a fact, and in some ways a melancholy fact, that massive works of the intellect do not spring from the abstract workings of the brain and the imagination; they are deeply rooted in the personality. Marx is an outstanding example of this principle... [his philosophy’s] actual content can be related to four aspects of his character: his taste for violence, his appetite for power, his inability to handle money and, above all, his tendency to exploit those around him.

Paul Johnson

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

If there is one class of men whom history has proved especially and supremely capable of going quite wrong in all directions, it is the class of highly intellectual men.

G. K. Chesterton

Putty is exactly like human nature...you can twist it and pat it and model it into any shape you like; and when you have shaped it, it will set so hard that you would suppose that it could never take any other shape on earth...the Soviet Government has shaped the Russian putty very carefully...and it has set hard and produced quite a different sort of animal.

George Bernard Shaw

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

It is one thing to suffer fools gladly; it is another to suffer clever people gladly.

If women are to effect a significant amelioration in their condition it seems obvious that they must refuse to marry. No worker can be required to sign on for life: if he did, his employer could disregard all his attempts to gain better pay and conditions.

Germaine Greer

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

Intellectuals are the most intolerant of all people.

Paul Duncun

In Paris, Marx’s editorial meetings in the Rue des Moulins had to be held behind closed windows so that people outside could not hear the endless shouting; and according to fellow revolutionary Karl Heinzen, Marx had a habit of saying: ‘I will annihilate you.’

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

Many highly intelligent people are poor thinkers. Many people of average intelligence are skilled thinkers.

Edward de Bono

Those who are most susceptible to propaganda and advertising are the intellectuals, while the hardest to reach and to budge are those who are rooted in traditions, whose ideas are fixed, and who live in a relatively stable environment.

Jacques Ellul

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

Men hold moral virtues of little account, and worship physical and intellectual gifts.

Jean de La Bruyere

Enthusiasm for computers is not based on the usefulness and efficiency of computers, but on the illusion they give of being intelligent. But real intelligence consists of efficient preoccupation with essentials.

Jacques Ellul

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

Perceiving truth doesn’t have that much to do with intelligence.

[George Bernard] Shaw got everything wrong—Shakespeare, Caesar, the Soviet Union, Mussolini, St. Paul. He had a sparkling intelligence but a low understanding; this enabled him to be very funny, but whenever he was serious he was absurd. In any event, he was too encased in his own narcissism, too remote from real life ever to do more than grimace at it through a long-distance telescope.

Malcolm Muggeridge

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

The gulf between the mind and the heart is usually wider in intellectuals than in simple, uneducated people.

In my second marriage I tried to preserve the respect for my wife’s [sexual] liberty which I thought my creed enjoined. I found however that my capacity for forgiveness and what may be called Christian love was not equal to the demands I was making on it. Anyone else could have told me this in advance, but I was blinded by theory.

Bertrand Russell

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

To be very stupid you have to be pretty bright. Normal stupidity only requires normal intelligence.

Fr. Benedict Groeschel

There is a kind of silliness—lets call it brilliant silliness—to which highly intelligent people are very susceptible.

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

What we call the intellectual world is divided into two types of people—those who worship the intellect and those who use it.

G. K. Chesterton

There is nobody so irritating as somebody with less intelligence and more sense than we have.

Don Herold

INTELLIGENCE & INTELLECTUALS

Without humility, intellect is the most destructive force in the world.

Karl Stern

Most of the great crimes of our century were perpetrated by people who regarded themselves as thoroughly emancipated from the superstitions of the past. They sacrificed human beings by the millions in the service of pseudo-scientific superstitions devised by aggressive and over-confident intellectuals.

Conor Cruise O’Brien

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Joan of Arc

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Who, if Anyone, Deserves our Admiration?

Would Joan of Arc Make your List of Admirable People?

Of the love or hatred God has for the English, I know nothing, but I do know that they will all be thrown out of France, except those who die there.

Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc Saved France [The patriotic poster on the left was commissioned by the United States Treasury Department at the time of the First World War. (Cynics have not failed to note that Joan saved France from America’s ally in WWI, the English.) More than a few men have fallen in love with a picture, and between the idealized generic beauty of her face and her form fitting armour Haskell Coffin’s heroine must have stolen the heart of many a young lad. But those who know her story, like Mark Twain, love her beyond any personal magnetism or physical allure she may have possessed.

In the photograph on the right we see one saint portraying another. St Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897) was another famous admirer, even writing poems and a play about her—though it should be remembered that Thérèse was a saint and not a poet, and that poems often lose something in translation.

If you watched all forty-odd films about Joan of Arc you would never suspect that we know more about her than any other medieval figure, more about her than just about anyone else until modern times. (Except with respect to the notions of its director the 1999 film, The Messenger, is exceptionally unhistorical.) And this wealth of information, combined with her brief but extraordinary career, has made her the third most studied and celebrated figure in Western culture after Jesus and Napoleon. As we acquaint ourselves with the facts and the stock image of Joan fades away—by her mere presence on the battlefield an illiterate peasant girl, shrouded in myth, spurs otherwise incompetent soldiers on to victory—our admiration is apt to be tinged at first with envy. At sixteen Joan spun wool and tended sheep, a pious girl who had never held a sword in her St Therese as Joan hand or probably even seen an Englishman. At seventeen she commanded the military forces of a nation: and she never lost a battle. One of those battles, the lifting of the Siege of Orleans, is found in Sir Edward Shepherd Creasy’s famous book, The Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World. After ninety-two years of engaging in dynastic and civil war the English were on the brink of achieving their goal: a dual monarchy. It took Joan just thirteen months to undo the victories of Poitiers, Crécy and Agincourt. The war continued on for another 22 years, but from the moment Joan arrived on the scene the English cause was doomed. It’s no wonder they thought she was a witch, a line they took for over 300 years. Being a witch, they insisted that she was ugly too. Yet the popular reappraisal of Joan began, not in France, but in England. Napoleon jumped on the bandwagon in 1803 and she’s been invoked by all and sundry ever since.

It should not be imagined that Joan was a mascot, a merely inspirational presence in the background of battle. On May 7, 1429, she took an arrow between her neck and shoulder during the assault on the fortified gateway called Les Tourelles. On June 11, during the battle of Jargeau, a stone projectile struck her helmet, knocking her off a scaling ladder. On September 8, during the assault on Paris, the bolt from a crossbow went through her thigh. (There are two schools of thought about these wounds: either they were much less severe than one would expect—the bolt from a crossbow was 9 inches long with a 3/4 inch diameter head of hardened steel while, according to Jean Dunois’ testimony, the arrow, shot from above, penetrated six inches—or Joan enjoyed God’s providential care.) Despite the military timidity, political indecision, and frequent opposition of others—she had many heated exchanges with Dunois in the war councils—her tactics and strategy invariably produced results. Many observers, but especially her comrades in the field, testified to her horsemanship, her skill with sword and lance (a weapon that was effectively used for the last time by British calvary against retreating Boers in 1899), her stamina, and, not least, her uncanny sense of where to place artillery. In the Rouen Trials she touchingly but naively remarked that she had “never killed any one.”

It is not generally known that Joan’s military genius was matched by her skillful defense—she had no advocate—before a court determined to “have her yet,” as Cauchon put it. Her presence of mind, subtle replies, and flawless memory must have driven them crazy. The trial lasted more than three grueling months while they wore her down with hardship and threats of torture. After trying every trick in the book the trained theologians and hand-picked prosecutors eventually had to resort to deception. Her biggest headache had always been how to avoid being seduced by her comrades or raped by the enemy. Rape was a weapon of war then as it is now, and although her close comrades professed that there was something about her that discouraged thoughts of seduction she had many enemies who had no such qualms. Hence the wearing of men’s clothing. It was the only chink in her armour, and eventually they found it. Her story is beyond improbable, beyond romantic, beyond tragic. If it wasn’t for the fact that we have complete records of the trial and the rehabilitation trial 24 years later—discovered in old archives in the nineteenth century and convergent with everything else that was known about her—she would be beyond belief.]

JOAN OF ARC

We declare that you are fallen again into your former errors and under the sentence of excommunication which you originally incurred we decree that you are a relapsed heretic; and by this sentence which we deliver in writing and pronounce from this tribunal, we denounce you as a rotten member, which, so that you shall not infect the other members of Christ, must be cast out of the unity of the Church, cut off from her body, and given over to the secular power: we cast you off, separate and abandon you, praying this same secular power on this side of death and the mutilation of your limbs, to moderate its judgment towards you, and if true signs of repentance appear in you to permit the sacrament of penance to be administered to you.

(from the sentence publicly read to Joan before she was burnt at the stake)

In the course of an interview Fr. Benedict Groeschel told investigative reporter and author of The Miracle Detective, Randall Sullivan: “And Joan of Arc, there’s a girl. She said she spoke to the saints, when what she really saw were statues. But they spoke to her. Was she crazy? I don’t know. I do know that she stopped the longest war in European history. Winston Churchill, no less, said of Joan, ‘Joan was a being so uplifted from the ordinary run of mankind that she finds no equal in a thousand years.’ Freud, on the other hand, called her a schizophrenic. Who’s right? You decide. Was she both mad and blessed? It’s entirely possible, my friend. Entirely possible.”

JOAN OF ARC

[Nobody could accuse Mark Twain of being well-disposed towards Christianity or of being on particularly friendly terms with the deity. Au contraire! Nevertheless, as with so many others, he fell under Joan’s spell. George Bernard Shaw claimed that he was infatuated by her—perhaps there’s something about a woman in armour—but then, as Bernard Levin remarked, Joan was ‘the only woman who ever managed to wipe the smirk from Shaw’s face.’ In point of fact, the fictionalized book that Twain wrote about her, Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, was solidly researched and much more reliable than Shaw’s great play. If the critics were unimpressed and the public suspected a joke, the book being so out of character, Twain was unperturbed. On his 73rd birthday, when all his major books were far behind and he could judge without prejudice, he gave his final verdict: ‘I like the Joan of Arc best of all my books; & it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others: 12 years of preparation & a year of writing. The others needed no preparation, & got none.’ The following passage is from the end of an essay on Joan that Twain wrote for Harper’s Magazine in 1904.]

JOAN OF ARC

She was deeply religious, and believed that she had daily speech with angels; that she saw them face to face, and that they counseled her, comforted and heartened her, and brought commands to her direct from God. She had a childlike faith in the heavenly origin of her apparitions and her Voices, and not any threat of any form of death was able to frighten it out of her loyal heart. She was a beautiful and simple and lovable character. In the records of the Trials this comes out in clear and shining detail. She was gentle and winning and affectionate, she loved her home and friends and her village life; she was miserable in the presence of pain and suffering; she was full of compassion: on the field of her most splendid victory she forgot her triumphs to hold in her lap the head of a dying enemy and comfort his passing spirit with pitying words; in an age when it was common to slaughter prisoners she stood dauntless between hers and harm, and saved them alive; she was forgiving, generous, unselfish, magnanimous; she was pure from all spot or stain of baseness. And always she was a girl; and dear and worshipful, as is meet for that estate: when she fell wounded, the first time, she was frightened, and cried when she saw her blood gushing from her breast; but she was Joan of Arc! and when presently she found that her generals were sounding the retreat, she staggered to her feet and led the assault again and took that place by storm.

There is no blemish in that rounded and beautiful character.

How strange it is!—that almost invariably the artist remembers only one detail—one minor and meaningless detail of the personality of Joan of Arc: to wit, that she was a peasant girl—and forgets all the rest; and so he paints her as a strapping middle-aged fishwoman, with costume to match, and in her face the spirituality of a ham. He is slave to his one idea, and forgets to observe that the supremely great souls are never lodged in gross bodies. No brawn, no muscle, could endure the work that their bodies must do; they do their miracles by the spirit, which has fifty times the strength and staying power of brawn and muscle. The Napoleons are little, not big; and they work twenty hours in the twenty-four, and come up fresh, while the big soldiers with the little hearts faint around them with fatigue. We know what Joan of Arc was like without asking—merely by what she did. The artist should paint her spirit—then he could not fail to paint her body aright. She would rise before us then, a vision to win us, not repel: a lithe young slender figure, instinct with “the unbought grace of youth,” dear and bonny and lovable, the face beautiful, and transfigured with the light of that lustrous intellect and the fires of that unquenchable spirit.

Taking into account, as I have suggested before, all the circumstances—her origin, youth, sex, illiteracy, early environment, and the obstructing conditions under which she exploited her high gifts and made her conquests in the field and before the courts that tried her for her life,—she is easily and by far the most extraordinary person the human race has ever produced.

A perfect woman, nobly plann’d,
To warn, to comfort, and command;
And yet a spirit still, and bright
With something of an angel light.

William Wordsworth

JOAN OF ARC

Yet Joan, when I came to think of her, had in her all that was true either in Tolstoy or Nietzsche, all that was even tolerable in either of them. I thought of all that is noble in Tolstoy, the pleasure in plain things, especially in plain pity, the actualities of the earth, the reverence for the poor, the dignity of the bowed back. Joan of Arc had all that and with this great addition, that she endured poverty as well as admiring it; whereas Tolstoy is only a typical aristocrat trying to find out its secret. And then I thought of all that was brave and proud and pathetic in Nietzsche, and his mutiny against the emptiness and timidity of our time. I thought of his cry for the ecstatic equilibrium of danger, his hunger for the rush of great horses, his cry to arms. Well, Joan of Arc had all that, and again with this difference, that she did not praise fighting, but fought. We know that she was not afraid of an army, while Nietzsche, for all we know, was afraid of a cow. Tolstoy only praised the peasant; she was the peasant. Nietzsche only praised the warrior; she was the warrior. She beat them both at their own antagonistic ideals; she was more gentle than the one, more violent than the other. Yet she was a perfectly practical person who did something, while they are wild speculators who do nothing.

G. K. Chesterton

Jeanne’s mission was on the surface warlike, but it really had the effect of ending a century of war, and her love and charity were so broad, that they could only be matched by Him who prayed for His murderers.

Arthur Conan Doyle




More Thoughts about Joan of Arc

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Consider this unique and imposing distinction. Since the writing of human history began, Joan of Arc is the only person, of either sex, who has ever held supreme command of the military forces of a nation at the age of seventeen.

Louis Kossuth (19th Century European Freedom Fighter)

JOAN OF ARC

As I wrote she guided my hand, and the words came tumbling out at such a speed that my pen rushed across the paper and I could barely write fast enough to put them down.... I do not profess to understand [her].

George Bernard Shaw

The history of this woman brings us time and again to tears.

Jules Michelet (19th Century French Historian)

JOAN OF ARC

There now appeared upon the ravaged scene an Angel of Deliverance, the noblest patriot of France, the most splendid of her heroes, the most beloved of her saints, the most inspiring of all her memories, the peasant Maid, the ever-shining, ever-glorious Joan of Arc.

Winston Churchill

Whatever thing men call great, look for it in Joan of Arc, and there you will find it.

Mark Twain

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Which is more Certain, Moral Knowledge or Scientific Knowledge? Which is more Important?

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Which is more Certain, Moral Knowledge or

Scientific Knowledge? Which is more Important?

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The chief difficulty in regard to knowledge does not arise over derivative knowledge, but over intuitive knowledge. So long as we are dealing with derivative knowledge, we have the test of intuitive knowledge to fall back upon. But in regard to intuitive beliefs, it is by no means easy to discover any criterion by which to distinguish some as true and others as erroneous. In this question it is scarcely possible to reach any very precise result: all our knowledge of truths is infected with some degree of doubt, and a theory which ignored this fact would be plainly wrong.

Bertrand Russell (from The Problems of Philosophy, 1912)

All knowledge must be built up upon our instinctive [i.e. intuitive] beliefs, and if these are rejected, nothing is left.

Bertrand Russell

[This assertion from Bertrand Russell is extremely controversial, for it strikes at the heart of empirical theories of knowledge. Because so much hangs on the acceptance or rejection of the primacy of intuition, it might be a useful exercise to discuss which of the following seem to be intuited (i.e. immediately known or directly perceived) and which seem to be inferred (i.e. known indirectly by means of a deductive, inductive, or common sense inference): 1) matter; 2) yellow; 3) that a dog itches when we see it scratching; 4) that every thing is what it is and not another thing—historically known as the first principle of logic, the ‘Law of Identity’; 5) the minds of other people; 6) one’s own mind; 7) the self or soul; 8) being]

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

[The following three passages come from Bertrand Russell’s illuminating book, Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits, 1948]

It is clear that knowledge is a sub-class of true beliefs: every case of knowledge is a case of true belief, but not vice versa. It is very easy to give examples of true beliefs that are not knowledge. There is the man who looks at a clock which is not going, though he thinks it is, and who happens to look at it at the moment when it is right; this man acquires a true belief as to the time of day, but cannot be said to have knowledge... There is the lucky optimist who, having bought a ticket for a lottery, has an unshakeable conviction that he will win, and, being lucky, does win. Such instances can be multiplied indefinitely, and show that you cannot claim to have known merely because you turned out to be right.

What character in addition to truth must a belief have in order to count as knowledge? The plain man would say there must be sound evidence to support the belief. As a matter of common sense this is right in most of the cases in which doubt arises in practice, but if intended as a complete account of the matter it is very inadequate. “Evidence” consists, on the one hand, of certain matters of fact that are accepted as indubitable, and, on the other hand, of certain principles by means of which inferences are drawn from the matters of fact. It is obvious that this process is unsatisfactory unless we know the matters of fact and the principles of inference not merely by means of evidence, for otherwise we become involved in a vicious circle or an endless regress. We must therefore concentrate our attention on the matters of fact and the principles of inference. We may then say that what is known consists, first, of certain matters of fact and certain principles of inference, neither of which stands in need of extraneous evidence, and secondly, of all that can be ascertained by applying the principles of inference to the matters of fact. Traditionally, the matters of fact are those given in perception and memory, while the principles of inference are those of deductive and inductive logic.

There are various unsatisfactory features in this traditional doctrine, though I am not at all sure that, in the end, we can substitute anything very much better. In the first place, the doctrine does not give an intensional definition [an intensional definition of a term specifies all the properties required to come to that definition] of “knowledge,” or at any rate not a purely intensional definition; it is not clear what there is in common between facts of perception and principles of inference. In the second place, as we shall see in Part III, it is very difficult to say what are facts of perception. In the third place, deduction has turned out to be much less powerful than was formerly supposed; it does not give new knowledge, except as to new forms of words for stating truths in some sense already known. In the fourth place, the methods of inference that may be called in a broad sense “inductive” have never been satisfactorily formulated; when formulated, even if completely true, they only give probability to their conclusions; moreover, in any possibly accurate form, they lack self-evidence, and are only to be believed, if at all, because they seem indispensable in reaching conclusions that we all accept.

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

The conclusion to which we seem to be driven is that knowledge is a matter of degree. The highest degree is found in facts of perception, and in the cogency of very simple arguments. The next highest degree is in vivid memories. When a number of beliefs are each severally in some degree credible, they become more so if they are found to cohere as a logical whole. General principles of inference, whether deductive or inductive, are usually less obvious than many of their instances. Towards the end of our inquiry I shall return to the definition of “knowledge,” and shall then attempt to give more precision and articulation to the above suggestions. Meanwhile let us remember that the question “what do we mean by ‘knowledge’?” is not one to which there is a definite and unambiguous answer, any more than to the question “what do we mean by ‘baldness’?”

Authority, however we may value it in this or that particular instance, is a kind of evidence. All of our historical beliefs, most of our geographical beliefs, many of our beliefs about matters that concern us in daily life, are accepted on the authority of other human beings, whether we are Christians, Atheists, Scientists, or Men-in-the-Street.

C. S. Lewis

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

Kant believed that for us to have the experiences we do have, objects must exist as their causes which are in some sense metaphysical. Locke also believed this, flagrantly though it breaches the fundamental principle of empiricism (which is that nothing about the world can justifiably be postulated that is not checkable by experience.)

Bryan Magee

Empiricism, as a theory of knowledge, is self-refuting. For, however it may be formulated, it must involve some general proposition about the dependence of knowledge upon experience; and any such proposition, if true, must have as a consequence that [it] itself cannot be known [empirically]. While, therefore, empiricism may be true, it cannot, if true, be known to be so.

Bertrand Russell

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

There is not a single science that has not been radically revised or extensively added to within living memory; and every well-known philosophy has familiar shortcomings. If we really do absorb into our thinking the fact that only fragmentary knowledge and partial understanding are available to us we shall stop making the mistake of supposing that everything can be explained in terms of categories of understanding that happen currently to be available to us.

Bryan Magee

When we know something, we bring it down to the level of our intelligence.

Fulton J. Sheen




Thoughts about Knowledge & Evidence

Everyone tends to assume that one’s pre-existing world view leaves the strength of the evidence, as it appears to us, unaffected. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I don’t think [the fine tuning argument] proves anything, but it is entirely reasonable for people who already have a belief in a creating God to regard this as confirming evidence. It’s a point of argument which I think very important: to see that what is reasonable for people to do in the face of new evidence depends on what they previously had good reason to believe.

Anthony Flew

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know.

Lao Tzu

I find myself believing...that truth and knowledge are different, and that a proposition may be true although no method exists of discovering that it is so.

Bertrand Russell

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

I have found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith.

Immanuel Kant

The best years of my life were given to the Principia Mathematica, in the hope of finding somewhere some certain knowledge. The whole of this effort, in spite of three big volumes, ended inwardly in doubt and bewilderment.

Bertrand Russell

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

If the plausibility of the evidence for a theory varies with one’s metaphysical beliefs, then there is good reason for supposing that the theory is in some sense metaphysical.

The very fact that the universe is creative, and that the laws have permitted complex structures to emerge and develop to the point of consciousness is for me powerful evidence that there is ‘something going on’ behind it all. The impression of design is overwhelming.

Paul Davies

The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.

Richard Dawkins

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

It is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone, to believe anything on insufficient evidence.

W. K. Clifford

To love involves trusting the beloved beyond the evidence. No person is our friend who believes in our good intentions only when they are proved.

C. S. Lewis

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

Man is the interpreter of nature, science the right interpretation.

William Whewell

Knowledge is a paradox. It is both subjective and objective; subjective because it requires a subject, the knower; objective because it requires an object, the thing known. The meeting and marriage of subject and object, of a receptive mind and a strange fact is what we mean by the word knowledge.

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

Most of what we take for granted is exceedingly difficult to validate, and much of it impossible.

Bryan Magee

Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.

Samuel Butler

KNOWLEDGE & EVIDENCE

We demand strict proof for opinions we dislike, but are satisfied with mere hints for what we’re inclined to accept.

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