Sunday, November 26, 2006
Our temporal pride is reaching its summit. We have become good simply because of the age into which we have been born, and without any qualification other than the ability to listen to the moral zeitgeist, as Richard Dawkins calls it, or perhaps the ability to listen to Dawkins himself, we can sit in judgment of those who have lived before us. Let’s try a metaphor, for metaphors are the best teachers when the truth is elusive. We are singing the final aria of the opera known as human progress, and as long as we trust in science and reason, overcome our selfish replicators, and methodically wipe away any traces of our past misbehavior, we will hit every note. O tempora, O mores!
Friday, November 24, 2006
Men hate women and women hate men. We might therefore imagine a perfect situation in which we are safely segregated from each other, with an unqualified sharing of resources and overall power. There is Men’s World and there is Women’s World. We are of equal status; we are at peace; and nothing is threatened by our having to deal with each other on a day to day basis. We would have carefully regulated centers of reproduction of course, where we would discretely perpetuate our species in test tubes. What do you think? What would you suggest as the penalty for those who would inevitably get caught sneaking across the borders and coupling under the cover of night? Death? Exile? Marriage?
Polytheism was the religion of organic abstractions. It was life-preserving insofar as it worshiped those aspects of nature, including war, which were eternally recurring. Ultimately the attempt to attack and remake those abstractions attacks what is eternal in life and thus life itself.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
Caesar's greatest rival was Pompey, and Pompey's was Caesar. Neither struck the blow that killed the other, but both did it in their way from a distance. For a while, however, in their rise to power, they were allies. Pompey, though the elder, was Caesar's son-in-law. As we attempt in this day and age to find a larger morality developed from the kin selection and reciprocal altruism that evolved in our hunter-gatherer ancestors, we should never lose track of the individual stakes involved and forget that certain men, like Richard Dawkins, are playing for a much larger pot than most.
Polytheism is the worship of the abstract and eternal in the sensible world. People have always lusted and loved, so let there be Aphrodite. Platonism, on the other hand, wants to know, what is love? And when it gets in reply only examples instead of a universal definition, it locates the abstraction in another realm; and other-worldly philosophies, abhorrent to the sensible world, are born. Today we are attempting to graft back onto the sensible world the abstractions originally removed from it. But the abstractions have been so totally altered by their stay in the other world that they bear no resemblance to the world they are supposed to represent. Our only recourse is to change the world so that it resembles the abstractions. Do we wonder why we can no longer recognize the obvious?
It is not lack of purpose but lack of fulfilled purpose that kills us. This is a subtle but profound difference. Our society is set up in such a way that our plainest purposes are obstructed, and we are sent on a mission of complicated redefinition of purpose as a result. But we are not as complicated as all that. We are forced into complexities and complexes that we would never meet under circumstances simpler and more human.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
It is commonly held among modern philosophers that we human beings do not really have free will. Every choice that we make, so they say, is dictated by a personal nature that we did not choose and by circumstances beyond our control. From this premise comes the argument that we ought not to punish criminals, because they cannot act otherwise than they do and are therefore not responsible for their actions. Do you see a flaw in this? Why do we as punishers have an option when the criminal does not? Wouldn’t we simply punish him or pardon him according to our circumstances and our unchosen nature? If we are able to choose, so is he. The premise cannot withstand the argument.
Even if you believe in the truth and believe that there is an eternal truth, you are still left with the question, is truth living or is it mechanical? Let us say that the answer does not really matter. In either case biological reality is subordinate to it. The fear behind a truth more mechanical than alive is the fear of randomness and purposelessness. But life and death themselves are fixed and regular. Mechanical truths are no more random in their manifestations than living ones. Your purposefulness lies in your will. No theory of where it came from can either add to it or take away from it.
I am a modern Western man. I am weak. I have neither people nor property. Please give me an occupation that will sustain me and possibly enrich me, and I will live out my life in obedience to your ideals rather than to the volition which is my only personal possession.
Is there a relation between mathematics and ethics? If two and two make four, does it follow that everybody is equal? If you think that I have asked a ridiculous question, you do not understand the games that idealistic philosophers have been playing with human life.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Will it ever be recognized that philosophies of freedom, tolerance, and equality have been conceived in order to convince people to submit to a centralized authority? Will we ever be able to look back in wonder and ask ourselves how human beings could have come to believe that they wanted nothing else than to be uselessly uniform, at the inestimable cost of themselves as unique societies?
The world will never be completely united, but perhaps someday it will be divided into just two groups, those who want to preserve the human species and are not afraid to offend, and those who say what everybody wants to hear in order to preserve their personal security. The former will be superior in valor, the latter in number.
Pragmatically speaking, the imperative to 'live and let live' is false over the course of time. We are too dependent upon one another. As Europe is beginning to discover, individualism is an evolutionary impasse. True survivors follow a different trail.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
You can talk all you like, but I suspect that you are nothing but an insignificant spectator. The game that will determine what we are as a species is being played only by those, like Richard Dawkins, with natural talent and the motivation to develop that talent into an intimidatingly muscular condition.
We learn from Thucydides that the history of human morality and the reality of human psychology are the same story. I will be bold enough to assert that our scientific understanding of human psychology today is better than that of Thucydides, but our understanding of our personal psychology, and therefore of morality, is over two millennia behind.
Today we have two choices, individualism or universalism, which we might also call radical detachment and lifeless assimilation. It is a predicament created by philosophers, but by now it is ours. We are too meek and dependent to create a realistic alternative.
Independent peoples face grave problems when they have to defend themselves against large numbers of amalgamated enemies. The Greeks had to unite in order to defeat the Persians, but the unification that persisted thereafter destroyed them.
Philosophers argue from the known to the unknown and then back again. Does knowledge of the unknown place an obligation on the known? We are currently in a state of mind where we do not even bother to argue from the known to begin with but rather just make assumptions about the unknown and initiate debates over the known. Listen to people throw around the words good and evil, right and wrong, without the meagerest conception of the metaphysical baggage that goes with them. The popular perspective is unconsciously philosophical by now, and philosophy itself is becoming obsolete as a result.
Restrained by the limits of our universal ideals, we have to create artificial significance. Athletic contests are an obvious example. We might take it as a general rule that the more attention something receives in this society of ours, the less consequential it is.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Rule by the people is a phantom, because most human beings imitate. Doing what everybody else is doing is the safest and least exhausting way to perceive yourself well and, in the evolutionary model, to get your genetic material reproduced. In modern history rule by the people has come to mean rule by the representations of the people. These representations, which include not so much elected officials as centralized education and the popular media, do not mimic our behavior; they direct it. Almost all people, although unwilling to admit it, depend utterly upon others to tell them what to think and how to act. The citizens of this society of ours, including the elected officials themselves, could not possibly put themselves into motion without the stimulus of their scholars, their journalists, and their entertainers.
Millions of people in this society live life prepared at every moment to be piously offended at the speech and actions of others. Ironically, they all depend upon one another for their perception of themselves and greatly intimidate each other as a result.
In a world of institutionalized education, something unfortunate happens to an adolescent as he is turning into an adult. He loses his freedom of thought and ceases to have anything interesting to say, long before he has the wisdom to say anything important.
Generally speaking a man is an ignorant creature and is at the mercy of the more perceptive of his kind. In the era of universalism, however, he has no sense of his dependence. He happily believes that the dictates of others constitute his education and his initiation into intellectual independence.
We define wisdom as knowing what everybody else is doing. Anyone therefore who does not give a large part of his life to the popular media is considered either ignorant or suspect. “Where do you find the time to read literature?” a man asked me once, insisting that after he had read the newspapers and the magazines and had watched the news on television, he did not have time to pick up a book. I replied that I did not read the newspapers or the magazines and did not watch the news on television. His jaw dropped in disbelief. “How do you know what’s going on?” he cried. It crossed my mind that I might try to explain to him how literature opened your eyes to your surroundings and how the media blinded them by contrast; but my tongue tied as he stared superciliously at me. “I would rather not know,” I said in the end; “I do not have the courage to face it.”
The ideals of capitalism teach us that if someone is willing to pay us to perform a task, doing it will give us worth. Faithfully we expend ourselves in our attempt to attain the justification of our existence. But if someone is willing to pay us in return for our exertion, the task by itself must lack intrinsic value and without compensation would go undone. We earn money from it, that is all, and give up our only life to do it. We become petty occupations rather than ourselves and are fated to die as if we had never lived.
By now the words “oppressors” and “oppressed” symbolize many people who are neither, but nobody is free of his symbol. If you are marked by the former you must repent and seek forgiveness. If you are marked by the latter, you are one of the chosen and have attractive privileges, such as the right to redistributed wealth and the right to slander the oppressors. The oppressed demand Christian morality from the oppressors while permitting themselves an eye for an eye. How much longer will this literal evolution of Judaeo-Christian ethics give the Western world a good perception of itself?
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
People who talk about “family” and look for its foundation in Christianity sense that something in the human condition is unhealthy. Christianity as a solution is an illusion though. It is a universalizing agent, and universilization is our illness, no matter what its present mutation is. Families are the smallest and strongest of human groupings, and like atoms they resist division. They are strong by nature and do not need theoretical binding. They do not need to be defined or justified by something unseen to give them their identity and validity. Nothing tangible does. What weakens them is any belief in the unification of mankind based upon intangible and unprovable principles. When mankind attempts to unify, families split. If we look to the past and see evidence of more coherent families, it is naive to conclude that Christianity was the source of coherence, simply because it predominated at the time. Let us look beyond Christianity. In the ancient world families were stronger yet. Christ was not the champion of the earthly and temporal family. He was celibate and promoted the everlasting family of God. Marriage only merits secondary and inferior approval in the New Testament. How can we appeal to Christianity in our despair over familial disintegration? This disintegration has been steadily taking place over the course of our history in the West, and Christianity has made its contribution to it. We either embrace the disintegration and the present stage of universalism, whatever it might be, or we make a stand against universalism in any guise. To return to an earlier stage of it is not to contest it.