Friday, May 26, 2006

Too Dull

In the ethical arena the bare truth is a dull weapon. It consistently loses in the duel against untruth, because its point does not penetrate to the source of decision, which is the instinctive will to believe, not reason. When behavioral norms are at stake, reason is an accessory target.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Periodic Rereading

A great book deserves to be read and reread periodically, not only because as we mature we will see things in it that we missed as younger readers, but also because we will gain a nobler understanding of ourselves and our own process of aging by comparing the effects the book has on us at the various stages of our lives.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Either It's Universal Or It Isn't

The individual in contemplation of a universal that transcends the manifest world is still cultivating worldly universalism. Consider Kierkegaard. As an extreme protestant he advocated the solitary worship of Christ for the sake of individual salvation. Was it something else, however, that led in the first place to the worldly conditions that he detested? What could the purest of Christianity have produced but the all-too-human Church, once it had achieved mass conversion? Would Kierkegaard have preferred that it had been unsuccessful and had remained a local and curious representation of defiance and renunciation? He himself would never have come to know of it. What about the success of his own philosophy? His greatest claim to fame is as the inspiration for secular existentialism, which has given its support to ideals that he himself would have held in abomination.

The Real Unknown

Moralists of this age insist that the human species must be united if it is to surive. Yet our species has never come close to being united, and to date it has survived. In this case do we not have cause to fear the unknown?

Monday, May 22, 2006

Modern Perverts

The words “ethics” and “morality” have their roots in Greek and Latin words, respectively, that mean custom. Does our perversion of the meaning of these words give us any insight into the perversion of our culture?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Complex of Interpretation

Scholars are poor self-observers, but they are very confident in their interpretations of people far more complex than themselves.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Can We Thicken This a Bit?

Every recipe for universal morality is idealistic and unrealizable, no matter what ingredients from the material or empirical world are added to give it content and substance.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Beyond Words

If ever I use obscure and incomprehensible language, please understand that I have had a vision into a previously unseen realm of reality and need to create new units of meaning in order to describe it.

Prior Matter

Any institution, such as the church or a system of secular education, that seeks to instill uniform moral principles into peoples of different localities necessarily presupposes universalism as a material concept and assumes its priority to localism of any form.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

State of Agreement

Questions of morality arise because people disagree about what constitutes correct, proper, virtuous, decorous, pleasurable, or beneficial behavior. If everyone were disposed by nature to agree, there would be no morality as we, through the context of disagreement, have come to understand it. I wonder, if a system of ethics became universally accepted, would we be in a state of total morality or total amorality?

Intelligent Promotion

What are all those scholarly publications doing out there other than serving as advertisements for the institutions that pay the people who produce them?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Holy Control

Why do we search in amazement for the source of morality and not the source of immorality? If we presuppose the existence of the first, we presuppose the existence of the second. Why do we not marvel over immorality and call ourselves wonderful because of it? Why morality? Is it because morality coerces, and we worship our sources of control over others?

The Accepted Exception

How much has modern philosophy been directed by the fact that so many modern philosophers have been or are professors at colleges and universities? Are all those men really philosophers? Does exceptional insight come with tenure? Doesn't it bother anybody that the work of these philosophers has to be accepted by their peers before it is considered exceptional?

Looks So, Sounds So, Feels So, Smells So, Tastes So -- Is It So?

Is it possible to observe the truth in terms so simple that the observation does not require a scholar’s interpretation?

He Says Green, but We Know He Means Yellow

The metaphysician who professes to cure man’s mistaken perception of reality is like the literary scholar who claims that an author is saying the exact opposite of what he is obviously saying.

Forbidden Fruit

The one thing that our universities' scholars do not have the license to learn is that universalism is undesirable.

Deadly Insight

Someday the few great powers that be will have an epistemological court of professors who will produce and maintain an approved list of methods for arriving at the truth, and the expression of any belief found otherwise, especially through rare and unusual insight, will be punishable by death and the confiscation and redistribution of property.

Binary Bliss

Plato’s vision of mathematics as the paradigm of universal ethics will become a reality when everybody ceases to be a human being and becomes an appendage to a computer.

Can't Take it With You

The only way we can at last force our species to conform to our universal ideal of equality is to kill it.

Inconspicuous Censorship

Literary scholars have the job of purifying through benign interpretation what is potentially harmful to the progressing perspective of Western man, and the educational system in general works to guarantee that nobody be predisposed in the first place to assent to the wrong message. Given the many many years that we all spend in the hands of these people, an independent reader is the rarest creature we know.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Intellectual Evangelists

The universal ideals of academia are well protected and well evangelized, because a scholar’s dignity depends on the preeminent position of the academy. Unless he is unusually rebellious, his work will tacitly or explicitly support its code, and he will be compensated with a life of enviable prestige. There was a time when intellectuals depended on the church and backed it therefore with the full weight and force of their intelligence. A change in name, but strikingly similar otherwise.

Cui Bono?

In our age we have forgotten that exceptional writers do not write for the sake of scholars but for the sake of themselves and therefore those predisposed by nature to be influenced by their insight.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Master and His Flatterers

To the proportion that someone puts his time and energy into the total mastery of a single craft, he remains more completely a novice in other things. Society, however, has a tendency to believe that one exceptional skill is a mark of wisdom in every regard and is capable of flattering the master into believing it himself. When this happens, he begins to play the fool, and society adoringly follows his lead.

The Level of Law

Stephen Hawking says this: “. . . suppose one starts with two boxes, one containing oxygen molecules and the other containing nitrogen molecules. If one joins the boxes together and removes the intervening wall, the oxygen and nitrogen molecules will start to mix. At a later time the most probable state would be a fairly uniform mixture of oxygen and nitrogen molecules throughout the two boxes. This state would be less ordered, and hence have more entropy, than the initial state of two separate boxes.”

Let’s move from the molecular level to the societal. Suppose one starts with two peoples kept distinct by their discrete customs. If one removes the customs in favor of a universal morality, the peoples, like the molecules, will start to mix and in time will become fairly uniform. Fortunately, however, the human world has its own laws. This later state would not be less ordered and would not have more entropy than the intial state. It would be culturally evolved and morally advanced.

No In-Between

We learn from Aristotle that any man who is wholly self-sufficient must be either a beast or a god, which is to say that he does not exist.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Fatal Oversight

All the knowledge in the world will be of no use to us if we forget to reproduce.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

It's All Academic

A classical scholar makes the following observation: “Plato emancipated himself from the tyranny of custom.” This is instructive. You have Plato on the one hand, founder of the Academy and inventor of the universal ideal, and you have custom on the other, the morality of time and place. Here is true antithesis. The opposite of Platonism is not sophism, but custom. Note also the innocently assured lack of objectivity in the phraseology. Our enlightened scholar leaves no doubt about the righteouness of one side over the other, that is to say, about his own bias. Does Plato really represent the West’s first great step toward some sort of cosmic freedom, for which it is necessary to reject the local in favor of the universal? Or has the time come to reconsider this moment in our intellectual history as being perhaps the most fateful and fatal of them all? One thing does seem certain to me. After Plato the holy vocation of scholarship, the ministry of universalism, became an historical inevitability.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Universal Worship

Universities are the churches of the universal. It is no coincidence that they are medieval by origin.

Always for the Masses

In response to what he saw as the degradation and emasculation of Europe, Nietzsche advocated the law of nature as defined by Callicles in Plato’s Gorgias, the self-interested and unconditional dominion of the strong over the weak. However, because the essence of sophistic teaching is actually human sameness, the distinction between strong and weak has no place within it; and even the doctrine of Callicles must eventually reinterpret itself as self-interest for the masses. Nietzsche’s mistake here was critical. Logically he was trapped. In an unwitting attempt to escape he created a man-god of his own, ill-defined, ironically idealistic, and as readily reshaped, appropriated, massified and idolized as the idol he so boldly opposed. Consider Plato and Aristotle. How easily have moralists done away with the aristocratic aspects of their doctrines, while putting the universalizing ideas into the service of such equalizing systems as democracy and communism. Universality by definition embraces the many to the detriment of the few. It insists upon sameness and urges the leveling of mankind to its lowest manifestation. Had Nietzsche realized that Christianity was actually sophism for the masses, his positive teaching might have been as effective as his negative.