Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Fit for Life

If we claim that without natural law standards of behavior would be arbitrary and therefore potentially evil, we presuppose goodness, which we then force upon nature for our own purposes. All human behavior is natural however. We are the only ones who make any distinctions about it. Nothing beyond our species itself, for instance, has ever insisted that human beings by nature should not simply drive themselves into extinction. It is only up to us to decide whether or not we desire such a thing, and whether or not we can stop ourselves even if we want to. The human will to be well perceived is stronger than the will to survive. Let us bear in mind how many of our number have committed suicide over the course of our history, before we convince ourselves that every day we are more fit to live.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

It's Under This One

Morality is a shell game. Now you see it, now you don't.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Inquiry -- Conclusion

In time ideas would begin to cross boundaries. Rebellious thinkers, unheeded in their own groups, would look anywhere for allies whom they could persuade to believe the latest transfigurations of the solution. They would set tradition or progress itself as a premise, hoping that minds primed by initial agreement would be willing to follow the rest of their argument. But of the two, progress would prove the more successful, because those attached to tradition would be less willing by definition to abandon their idolized explanations. The followers of progress, by obvious contrast, would be on the lookout always for the change that would represent a validating improvement. In this environment a clever notion would take seed. It would say that all perspectives on the question were equally sound, and that the strife and suffering caused by the competition among them ought to cease. The word “tolerance” would come to epitomize this, the final solution. All other solutions, though equal to one another, would be subordinated to it. Institutions of learning would raise this new idea as their standard and would grant to their researchers and teachers the license to pursue their respective disciplines enthusiastically, in the name of the progress of knowledge, provided they did not threaten the standard itself. The young would be educated to become believers, and believers would be numbered among the informed and enlightened. They would tolerate and forgive the intellectually simple who persisted in holding one of the other solutions above theirs, but they would insist upon laws that would keep these others in check. As their confidence grew, they would get more aggressive in their legislation, and the ever-widening circles of their influence and coercion would lead them to imagine that the universal agreement, which once seemed impossibly out of reach, was now on the horizon.

And then one fine morning, a pure fool would come along and say, “Has anybody noticed that the original search was for something that didn’t exist?”

Monday, November 21, 2005

Contested Order

The preferred state of entropy is its maximum. It can be decreased in one location only at the cost of an increase in another. Physical laws insist upon a contest for order.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Pure Distortion

Human opinion will never change what is true. Plato built a doctrine upon that fact, but the doctrine was falser even than human opinion. The truth does not need, because of people, to exist separately in a realm of its own, accessible only to the purest of minds. It is contained in everything that lies before our eyes. What does the distorted nature of human observation have to do with it, except insofar as it is made hazy by the desire to be the source of truth?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Inquiry -- Part Two

As the associations that had formed around the various solutions to the great question continued to contend with each other, quarrels would begin to take place as well between individual members within the leagues. Some would attempt to reinterpret and recreate their solutions to make them stand up better to the competition or even to raise their own personal standing in relation to the others of their own group. Over time the solutions would go through an evolution, mutations being selected or rejected based on their persuasiveness or ability to coerce. Some would be so successful that they would form the foundations for new associations entirely, and these would be as likely to become the enemies as to become the allies of their own parental groups. As mutations and reinterpretations asserted themselves more and more aggressively, people across groups would find themselves, depending upon the perspective and direction of their own loyalties, attached to a notion of tradition or of progress. And the belief in one or the other as an idea would become as strong as the belief in the very principle, which the idea of tradition or progress was defending. The two beliefs in fact would probably mix into a new solution. As an odd but logical result, leagues in conflict with each other would now share an article of faith.

(To be continued.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

Ultimate Indifference

Claiming indifference to worldly things and swallowing swords are both done to win applause from an audience. There are levels of status in a monastery after all. Truly seeking indifference, however, is arguably another matter, if the intent is only to relieve the distress and torment caused by the friction between oneself and one’s surroundings. Those of us who have ever endured severe psychological dislocation would be in a position to make the honest assertion that our detachment from a defective world gave us an inner calm otherwise unachievable. And a few at least would not face the charge of hypocricy that would be warranted against those who registered the adulation of others and felt an even greater spiritual thrill as a result. Is there one of us, though, who is not left with himself as a spectator? To be inwardly indifferent toward something is in fact to lower its value covertly in our own eyes. As long as we care about it, we have to deal with its significance in regard to our own worth. Remove it, and the downward pressure it puts upon us is removed along with it. As far as we are concerned, our standing in the world improves, without our having to acquire confirmation and substantiation from a single other source.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Inquiry -- Part One

If you were involved in an inquiry, together with many others, into something that did not exist, but you had all accepted as a premise that it did, universal accord over what this thing was would be next to impossible. More than likely, varied insight would take you down various paths. You would form associations and leagues of agreement and begin to contest one group against another. Politeness would give way to insult and ultimately to physical violence. Each member of each group would see himself as the champion of his group’s solution to the question, and the solution itself would take on an essence and being of its own. For those who believed in it, it would become materially real and would subordinate all other reality. Perhaps at times one association would be more powerful than the rest and would dictate to a large extent the course of events. But then it would lose its grip and another would take its place, or there would be a precarious balancing of authority among a number of them, with the inevitable threat of widespread war. Unless one group were to eliminate the others completely, malice, animosity, malignity, and spite would go on for a very long time, even indefinitely.

(To be continued.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Uniform Chaos

A physical system as it ages becomes less changeable, less varied, more blended, and more uniform. These are symptoms of growing disorder, increasing degeneration, advancing deterioration, and blossoming chaos.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Greater Reward

Why did Epicurus want to convince his disciples that the gods did not care about them and therefore were irrelevant to human life? Perhaps he believed it himself, and perhaps the belief gave him a tranquility that he wanted to share. But the Greek gods, right down to Hades, were abstractions of a multiform reality that Epicurus was asking others to relinquish. From there he was only a short step away from unifying their perspective and making himself their one and only god.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Truly Trapped

What makes philosophy fascinating to me is not so much in what way each philosopher was right, as it is in what way he was misleading, especially when his traps are now generally accepted as truths.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Particular Expression

Customs and laws are an expression and definition of the people who create them and live by them. To violate them is not to transgress an abstract principle but to mock the people defined by them, in a particular location at a particular point in time. It makes no difference what the customs and laws are, and therefore it is not inconsistent or contradictory for something to be permitted in one place and forbidden in another. It is the assumed requirement of universality that lacks justification.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Cloak and Dagger

The most effective way to cloak deceit is with the truth.