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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dumbo's surprising responsibility


It's not a genuine choice unless it's presented by our context. If I believe in a flying Elephant that's in charge of the rotation of Pluto, it isn't a personal (genuine?) belief for me. I could hold that belief or try to hold that belief if that's what I mean by "choose" a belief but what would that mean, what would it look like in life? (e.g. is it just a thought or something that comes up in passing conversation or does the belief actually demand something substantial?)


RE: 7/2/2007 (Which still seems unclear.)

marketing and the genuine choice

A lot of marketing attempts to create a need and then meet it. Christianity is often presented in this way.

questionable questions

Some philosophical problems are artificial. When I work on unearthing prejudices I ask myself, "am I working on an area that's adequately personal? Does this question really matter?"

philosophical turn

For most students of philosophy a moment comes when a perspective or prejudice they've held for quite a while gets overturned. Like Hume's problem of induction hits you just right and you think, "oh great, so logic can't even help with my belief in the uniformity of nature?"

In any case, which belief gets changed isn't the point. The point is, from there on you have to face the personal fact that along with the expression I know is the expression I thought I knew (Wittgenstein). What separates philosophers from others is that they live in the perpetual possibility of the turn.

Q: And what of so-called philosophers?


I'm just relieved I didn't limit the set to only those who perpetually pursue the turn.

the thick of calamity

Cliché Reality mottos (so far):
Facts, no matter how convincing, rarely trump a good solid dose of repetition.

Ask Better Questions. Get Better Answers.

“The wise man can pick up a grain of sand and envision a whole universe. But the stupid man will just lie down on some seaweed and roll around until he’s completely draped in it. Then he’ll stand up and go, ‘Hey, I’m Vine Man.’” -Jack Handey

"You are in quest of what is. Why on earth do you set out to walk that road with a man who has neither pace nor style?" -Michel de Montaigne

"I will unravel things as best I may. What I shall say is neither fixed nor certain: I am no Pythian Apollo; I am a little man seeking the probable through conjecture." -Montaigne

"A lot of people were opposed to it. A lot of people were for it. I myself think about it as little as possible." -Kurt Vonnegut

"No man is exempt from saying silly things; the mischief is to say them deliberately." -Montaigne

"There is no possible salvation for the man who feels real compassion." -Albert Camus

"Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons, It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Whitman

"The longing for rest and peace must itself be thrust aside; it coincides with the acceptance of iniquity." -Camus

"I believe more and more, that God must not be judged on this earth. It is one of His sketches that has turned out badly." -Van Gogh

Wisdom is just the ability to recognize how stupid you are a bit faster.

Everything in moderation, especially ideologies.

"It is in the thick of a calamity that one gets hardened to the truth—in other words, to silence." -Albert Camus

"It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane." -Philip K. Dick

Truth is counterintuitive.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

new job

So my new job has been pretty stressful and it will certainly be an uphill climb. It's got me reading Sun Tzu's The Art of War.

Friday, May 22, 2009

the wanderer and his shadow

In Charlie's new book he takes a stab at interpreting the intro and outro to Nz's The Wanderer and His Shadow. Does anyone else out there care to share their take on it? I've thought about it a few times before but I'm fairly baffled. My guess is it's one way of interpreting Nz, and not "the shallow reading" and maybe a different type of false reading but somehow he comes to grips and agreement with it and promotes a collective effort with the help of the shadow.

But really I know nothing and even that I don't know well (I'm more of a dime store nihilist). Any insights would be welcome.

on Orwell writing 1984

Just came across this interesting short biographical piece on Orwell in the Guardian.
The circumstances surrounding the writing of Nineteen Eighty-Four make a haunting narrative that helps to explain the bleakness of Orwell's dystopia. Here was an English writer, desperately sick, grappling alone with the demons of his imagination in a bleak Scottish outpost in the desolate aftermath of the second world war. The idea for Nineteen Eighty-Four, alternatively, "The Last Man in Europe", had been incubating in Orwell's mind since the Spanish civil war. His novel, which owes something to Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopian fiction We, probably began to acquire a definitive shape during 1943-44, around the time he and his wife, Eileen adopted their only son, Richard. Orwell himself claimed that he was partly inspired by the meeting of the Allied leaders at the Tehran Conference of 1944. Isaac Deutscher, an Observer colleague, reported that Orwell was "convinced that Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt consciously plotted to divide the world" at Tehran.
(emphasis mine) h/t Arts and Letters Daily

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

turning the skeptical gaze inward

hospital room
Elberry has a couple recent posts worth reading (again).

First, he got sick and ended up in the hospital. I hope he feels better.

Second, he wrote this short critique of old Bertrand. I really like this sentiment:
His cowardice again – he would risk prison to attack social problems (as he saw them) but he refused to discipline himself; so he acted on his lusts without hesitation or remorse. He would have done better to turn that skeptical gaze on himself, his own behavior. But then i suspect he felt his great social conscience excused him from such scrutiny.
I'm not sure the extent to which this genuinely applies to Russell but I agree that even the noblest pursuits can be devices we use to hide from ourselves.

Monday, May 18, 2009

crazy guy on the bus

There were three crazy guys on the bus with us yesterday but one was exceptional. When we got on the bus he was already talking out loud (to nobody?). He seemed intent on telling us the world is going to end with a tinge of "praise Jesus and pass the ammunition". I'll try to give a feeling for it:
The world is going to end.
Oil and gas.
The world is going to end.
Jesus is coming back soon.
The world is going to end.
I'm looking for Jesus.
See the signs; the world is going to end!
Why not start world war three? Might as well.
The world is going to end.
You probably think I need a doctor; I've already seen the doctors.
The world is going to end.
He went on and on like that for a while. He got off the bus where we did and once he got off he was looking at the sky and talked about looking for Jesus. I asked Sarah about it shortly after we passed him, "When did his world end?"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Charlie's book

I just finished reading Charlie Huenemann's recently self-published book Nietzsche: Genius of the Heart. This little book is excellent for a number of reasons not the least of which being: it is readable and "therapeutically treats human suffering" (Epicurus). It provides a human introduction to Nietzsche and incorporates current Nietzsche research without losing a non-academic reader. For those of us who have read a bit of Nietzsche it provides a unique biographic angle which emphasizes Nz's physical and spiritual illnesses (especially loneliness) and Nz's philosophical treatments. The book explores approaches we can take from Nietzsche and evokes a number of the crucial issues his philosophy forces us to face.

Friday, May 15, 2009

vigilante justice from the internets

If you've gotten a call to renew your auto warranty (and don't have an auto, like me) you may know what this wsj article is talking about. I've gotten a few calls from these asshats. I don't always condone vigilante justice but ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

on happiness

From David Brooks' commentary on this interesting Atlantic essay on happiness:
The men were the subject of one of the century’s most fascinating longitudinal studies. They were selected when they were sophomores, and they have been probed, poked and measured ever since. Researchers visited their homes and investigated everything from early bed-wetting episodes to their body dimensions.
[I]t’s the baffling variety of their lives that strikes one the most. It is as if we all contain a multitude of characters and patterns of behavior, and these characters and patterns are bidden by cues we don’t even hear. They take center stage in consciousness and decision-making in ways we can’t even fathom. The man who is careful and meticulous in one stage of life is unrecognizable in another context.

Shenk’s treatment is superb because he weaves in the life of George Vaillant, the man who for 42 years has overseen this work. Vaillant’s overall conclusion is familiar and profound. Relationships are the key to happiness. “Happiness is love. Full Stop,” he says in a video.
Brooks strikes a surprisingly Nietzschean tone in that second paragraph.

there are no educators

There are no educators.— As a thinker one should speak only of self-education. The education of youth by others is either an experiment carried out on an as yet unknown and unknowable subject, or a leveling on principle with the object of making a new being, whatever it may be, conform to the customs and habits then prevailing: in both cases therefore something unworthy of the thinker, the work of those elders and teachers whom a man of rash honesty once described as nos ennemis naturels.— One day, when one has long since been educated as the world understands it, one discovers oneself: here begins the task of the thinker; now the time has come to call on him for assistance—not as an educator but as one who has educated himself and thus knows how it is done.

Nietzsche - The Wanderer and His Shadow §267

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

passive-agressive book review

Methods of Projection notes this NDPR review of David Kishik's Wittgenstein's Form of Life. I'm glad Newton Garver points out some of the flaws with the text so I don't need to spend my time reading it but it felt like I was reading something off the passive-agressive (and just plain agressive) blog. Garver uses phrases like "touches none of the critical issues", "It is absurd to think", "Ignoring this powerful insight", and "thoroughly inadequate". The bottom line:
In spite of its sometimes apt and erudite citation of Wittgenstein's texts, and its inclusion in the prestigious Continuum Studies in British Philosophy, Kishik's volume will be of little value to students of Wittgenstein.

conversations at work

C1: It looks like someone just ordered materials but specified zero quantity. What's that supposed to mean?

C2: Oh, I can't remember, ask the DBA. I know it has some special significance.

M: Nihilism shows up where you least expect it.

C1: I don't read much. I've never really liked to read.

M: That's like someone telling me they don't really like to breathe.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

more Tolkien news

Christopher Tolkien is publishing another of his father's poems.

The 500-stanza poem is closely modelled on the Elder Edda, a collection of Norse myths preserved in a 13th-century manuscript, a pedigree Christopher Tolkien described as "unknown territory" for most people.

"I dare say that a good many will be instantly put off by the very idea of 'long narrative poems in verse' and pursue it no further," he said. It was equally possible that their form will lend them an "unexpected impact," he continued.

"My hope is that some of those who appreciate and admire the works of my father will find it illuminating in respect of Old Norse poetry in general, in his own treatment of the fierce, passionate and mysterious legend, and in this further and little known aspect of him as both philologist and poet. Above all I hope they will take pleasure in this poetry."

Tolkien's Sigrun Gudrun (the guardian)
btw, the hunt for gollum is really well done.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

on Paul, Christianity, marketing and globalization

Rob Sica pointed out this somewhat rambley but interesting article in the April issue of The Atlantic. It's titled One World, One God (by Robert Wright) but it could also be called "Paul the apostle-marketer". Paul the apostle-marketer has a bit to teach us about how to thrive in an increasingly connected (globalized) world. Apparently the situation he (and others) faced is not so different from our own.
When people open a local franchise—a McDonald’s, a Pizza Hut—they do so because they expect to get something in return. What did people get in return for making their homes Christian franchises? In some cases, no doubt, it was mainly the benefit of the gospel; Lydia presumably found Paul’s initial teachings gratifying, and what additional benefits she got—social, economic, whatever—from hosting a church, we’ll never know. But as the franchising continued, and the church expanded to more and more cities, it offered new benefits to church leaders.

In particular: reliable lodging. Tents were adequate for overnight stays on the road, but when you reached the big city, nicer accommodations were desirable—especially if you planned to stay awhile and do business. Paul’s letters to Christian congregations often include requests that they extend hospitality to traveling church leaders. Such privileges, as the scholar E.A. Judge put it, were increasingly “extended to the whole household of faith, who [were] accepted on trust, though complete strangers.” This extension was a revolution of sorts, since “security and hospitality when traveling had traditionally been the privilege of the powerful.” The Roman Empire had made distant travel easier than at any time in history, and Christianity exploited this fact. The young church was, among other things, the Holiday Inn of its day.
[H]istory expands the range of non-zero-sum relationships—relationships in which two parties can both win if they collaborate, or lose if they don’t. Technological evolution (wheels, roads, cuneiform, alphabets, trains, microchips) has placed more and more people in non-zero-sum relationship with more and more other people at greater and greater distances—and often across ethnic, national, and religious bounds.
[E]ither people of different faiths, ethnicities, and nationalities get better at seeing the perspective of one another, and acknowledging the moral worth of one another, or chaos ensues

The main trick seems to be the extension of familial hospitality to any inside the church. I find the arbitrary trust in Christian communities both warm and unsettling. Warm because I like to give people (especially strangers) the benefit of the doubt. Unsettling when I see people manipulated by someone they trust because s/he claims to be Christian (they don't often become aware of the manipulation). For Paul that whole familial-trust thing was very useful. A distrust of people because they aren't exactly like us isn't warranted. Beyond that though, trust still needs to be earned.

the hunt for gollum

A short independently made film based on LOTR and the Hobbit. Should be released shortly. ETA 1600 GMT.

The Hunt for Gollum

(h/t 10 Zen Monkeys)