Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Best of Times

Bringing about the end of our race would be a far, far better thing than we have ever done. How saintly would we be if, on behalf of the ideals that we revere above everything else, we should cease to replace ourselves through reproduction and cause our own extinction as a result?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Be Yourself?

When we seek individuality, do we try to be different from everybody else, or do we find a group of people similar to ourselves and achieve our unique identity through communal confirmation?

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Naturally Duplicated, Artificially Distinguished

Equality is a sophism. “Differences,” say the sophists, “are artificial. Nature is defined by sameness.”

Expensive Illusions

As individuals we are neither self-sufficient nor indispensable, in spite of the amount of energy we expend trying to become one or the other.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Just a Little Shot

Like an inoculation, virtue is vice taken in small doses. By moderating and calming our cravings, it reduces our susceptibility to the virus of overindulgence.

Measuring the Universe

“Man is the measure of all things.” Is Protagoras here making an argument for moral relativism? Actually, or at least in effect, no. “Man is the measure” directs us toward human universalism. “We should not,” it tells us, “search for the principles of universality in the physical world, but in man himself. What is it about our seemingly varied species that makes us unique and universally identical? There exists our cosmos. Is it simple self-interest and might-makes-right? Or can we find something less aggressive and more benevolent, like love, sympathy, duty, or equal rights?” The fact of the matter is, we we will discover nothing but empty definitions. It is a vain quest, doomed to failure from the start. Today, 2,500 years after Protagoras, we are floating in outer space, still plotting our course through the universe according to a gauge that never worked.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Inconsequentially Innocent

We never fully regret an action unless it results in consequences disadvantageous to us. We may feel guilty about something we’ve done out of fear of the consequences, but if the consequences never arrive, the guilt inevitably subsides.

Cosmic Concerns

The search for universal physical principles began in the Western tradition with philosophers we know as the Pre-Socratics. The Pre-Socratics were looking for what they they called the cosmos, a comprehensive order of things derived from the material substance or substances shared by all matter. From them came the impulse to do the same for the human species as a phenomenon disassociated from the rest of the physical world, to search in this case for the immaterial principle that made us all the same and would therefore serve as the foundation of universal human organization. To this day we continue this strange and presumptous quest, even though our much profounder understanding of the physical and biological world might suggest that the characteristics we share with a limited number of people embody our soundest principles of organization, precisely because of what is the same in all of us.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Who Really Knows?

A constant searching for new acquaintances is symptomatic of self-important mediocrity, because the less worth we have, the more likely we are to receive praise from those who see us superficially than from those who see beneath the surface.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Physically Fit

The justice of archaic and pre-philosophical Greece was physical. It was the uncompromising and courageous acknowledgment of transformation, transference, and mortality.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Theology Type One

Consider two theologies. In the first, you are warned that you are mortal, but within the confines of mortality you have almost no divinely mandated limitations or boundaries. In the second, you are directed to deny your mortality, but while you are alive your conduct is strictly circumscribed and restrained. The former, even if it is symbolized by unreal gods who represent the many manifestations of life in this world, is a realistic perspective. Man does not strive to be something he is not and cannot be, either during life or after, and therefore does not try to alter or limit himself. The second, which is perhaps symbolized by a god who many even today acknowledge as real, is idealistic. Man strives to become immortal and in the meantime attempts to transmute himself into something alien while alive. It is a religion that requires a system of spurious epistemology, because its goals are unrealizable. If we are bound and determined to deny our mortality, falsehood becomes a necessity. It takes over our process of thought and shapes our idea of mankind, in this world as well as the next.

A third theology starts with the second but abandons the symbolic god and the belief in immortality. It does not, however, give up the idealized vision of mankind in this world. Free of its symbol its priests assume divine power themselves.They see the human species as a fresh lump of clay, with no limit to its potential shape. They begin to mold monsters of all kinds and proudly call them the product of knowledge and enlightenment. If their creatures resist and try to resume a realistic shape, they squeeze, knead, and twist until the resistance subsides.

Today there is opposition and hostility between theology type two and theology type three and also between different versions of theology type two. The various disputes, however, are one of a kind, because they are invariably idealistic. That is to say, they rely on an idea, a mental image, of what man ought to be, and they regard what he is as something to be judged and overcome. We are as far away from a realistic discussion of ourselves as we are from Homer, where theology type one reigns supreme, and where people live and die within the full and unapologetic range of what it means to be human.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Societal Senility

When a society is young, it relies on the wisdom of the old. When it is old, it mistrusts it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Natural Behavior

It is unnatural for a man to accomplish what he cannot do and to become what he cannot be. But it is natural for him to walk, to talk, to run, to sing, to laugh, to sneer, to cry, to smile, to sleep, to fear, to live, to die, to lust, to despise, to envy, to admire, to accept, to reject, to scruple, to fantasize, to help, to harm, to beat, to caress, to steal, to give, to save, to kill, to symapathize with all of his heart, and to take mischievous delight in the misfortunes of others.

From Point A to Point B

Our human world has freqently been influenced by perceptive and productive people who have recognized the direction in which it was heading and taken it there in a creative way. Rarely, however, has anybody changed the direction itself.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Fateful and Faithful Imitation

The Olympian gods say to mankind, “You are mortal. You will live and die. If you strive to be like us, we will punish you.” The Christian god says, “You are mortal, but if you follow me and take me as your model, you will overcome your mortality and live forever. Otherwise I will punish you.”

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Reflexive Praise

Sometimes we exaggerate our praise of others not because we overestimate their merit but because we want to place emphasis on our own good judgment. If we make it known that we admire those who are generally admired, we capture a bit of admiration for ourselves.