Saturday, April 22, 2006

An Ideal Idea

The fantasy that the Platonic forms are “ideas” in the mind of God is so seductive that I have come close to opening myself up to it during psychologically dangerous periods of my life. I resist, however, confusing creativity with the truth, even if it promises to preserve my sanity.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Roots and Shoots

If human history seems to be following a certain course, are we obligated to maintain it and not to set a different one if we can? Human nature itself, as it exists in individuals, compels the development of human society. Are there seeds of ethical growth in each of us, that spontaneously take root and push out their shoots and over time entwine with those of others into a mass of supernatural vegetation that speaks to us like the burning bush? We do not even have a working definition of morality. How can we believe in something as presumptuous and supernatural as moral progress? We are making a wager at stakes we are unable to afford, because it is the penalty, not the reward, that is potentially infinite.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Moral Persuasion

Human beings will not believe the truth if to do so conflicts with their will to be well perceived. Moral teaching has always been more effective to the extent that it has persuaded than to the extent that it has been true.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Minister's Aura

The moral philosopher of today is a scholar and therefore a minister of his institution. He gives himself an aura by developing increasingly complex methods of argumentation, which only he and his colleagues are able to comprehend; but his conclusions are predetermined and predictable.


Discovery and inventiveness have built upon themselves throughout human history. At what moment, however, did man suppose that he had found morality in a universal form? Did he stumble upon it without knowing what it was at first, or did he already know what he was looking for?

To a Greater Degree

A degree from a university gives you the right to question the truth. An advanced degree gives you the credentials to refute it.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Natural Inability

When we as individuals are physically or psychologically incapable of performing a particular act, we are more likely to call it unnatural if others are able to do it than we are if it is something truly beyond the reach of human nature.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Happy Return

The opportunity to tell others about your unhappiness is the compensation for being unhappy.

Recovered Identity

An intelligent man once said to me that early Christians were spectacular because they were willing to die for their faith. I reminded him that they received recognition and renown for their acts and also counted on an enormous reward from their savior. The archaic warrior, by contrast, was willing to die for honor, reputation, and glory without the promise of everlasting life. Odysseus actually refuses the immortality offered to him by the goddess Calypso, preferring to return to his homeland and his wife and thereby to recover his lost identity. He remains mortal, but he is the true custodian of his own nature. For that reason he is more spectacular in my eyes and more worthy of admiration.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Dawn of Comprehension

Thoreau remarked that the greater part of what his neighbors called good, he believed in his soul to be bad, and that if he repented of anything, it was very likely to be his good behavior. Still today we are far from comprehending his point, but Thoreau was a prophet. He was putting into words his sense of a moral crisis, which we too will sense the day it dawns on us that good is bad.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


It is a fact that men invent gods, but it is also a fact that men invent falsehoods, especially when they want to give life to things they have seen with their imagination but not with their eyes.


If for some reason we come to see through our most significant beliefs, do we harm ourselves by giving them up, especially when they are the foundation of our society and our relation to people absolutely necessary for our well-being? Do we become hypocrites of a different sort if we deceive these people into trusting that we ourselves are still believers? What are our options after all, if it is really a question of fitness and survival? Either we deceive ourselves, deceive others, or go to the cross and hope for posthumous martyrdom.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sign of the Times

The sign above the gate that opens into this modern world of ours ought to read: Abandon all masculinity, ye who enter here.

Pride of Possession

If we recognize in another person a particular quality that we ourselves also happen to possess, even to a much less degree, we are far more likely to praise the person for it than we would be if we did not possess it at all.

Monday, April 03, 2006

It's Only Temporary

Can we admit to ourselves, even without making a confession to somebody else, that without the promise of salvation we would not find it difficult to give up the New Testament? Where after all would Pascal’s celebrated wager be without the bait of infinite happiness, offered to individuals who desire personal happiness as an end above everything else? Could it be that God made his creature eternally selfish for the purpose of giving it the motivation to become temporarily selfless?