Thoreau made me do it

Philosophy is good for you.

Over the years I have read a quite a bit of philosophy. I was thinking about this today. Discuss

Plato -Poetry and Unreality- Approx 310 BC

Since poetry deals with appearances, it appeals to – and fattens up – the lower part of the mind, not the rational part. It makes us indulge in emotional feelings which hamper reason, even when we would not normally sanction those feelings. Reason uses n
measurement to combat some illusory appearances, and calculation of benefit to combat unnecessary feelings. In short, poetry does nothing to establish an ordered, moral inner constitution, and if one is already established, it threatens to subvert it. Until or unless it can be proven that feelings foster philosophy, rather than hinder it, we must be extremely wary of them.

The Ruba’iyat of Omar Khayam -approx 1080

I saw a man working on a building site,
He was stamping down the clay;
The clay protested,
‘Stop it, you like me will be stamped on by many a foot.’

Nietzsche- Words, Reality and Thoughts- Approx1880

Essay ‘On Truth and Fasity in their Extra- Moral Sense’, first published in 1873. Here Nietzsche suggests that all language is inevitably ‘metaphorical’. The essay begins with yet another critical account of the contrasting differences between Dionysian creativity and Apollonian intellect. The human intellect must always be fundamentally deceitful because individuals have to live together. Social and intellectual life depends on common consent, and this gives birth to shared consensual reality in which concepts as ‘knowledge’ inevitably emerge. These concepts are reinforced by language. Such limited human ‘truths’ are harmless enough, because they make social life possible. Unfortunately, they can also lead to a futile hunt for spurious and illusory metaphysical ‘truths’ that just don’t exist. Either way, human language has no coherent correspondence, with the ‘real’ world. language can never be ‘literal’ in the sense that it can describe the reality of the world to us. Concepts like ‘truth’ and ‘knowledge’ are relative to language, or ‘metaphorical’, and can only ever lie within language – they can tell us nothing about the world. Nietzsche’s radical view of the relationship between language and the world pre-echoes many of the central ideas of the 20th century philosophers like Wittgenstein and Derrida.
Nietzsche also saw language as the key player in a continual process of human self-deception. Words are useful to us because we can use them to simplify and ‘freeze’ the chaos and complexities of our surroundings, but that is all they can do. Not only will our grammar control the ways in which our thoughts are organised, but more drastically, it will determine what sorts of thoughts it is possible for us to have. So the subject predicate grammar we think means that we impose an object framework onto the world, and this encourages us top believe, for example, that there is an ‘ego’ or an ‘I’ that exists as a transcendent Cartesian entity somehow inside us, separate from our physical existence

Bertrand Russell- In Praise of Idleness 1935

We have made no attempt at economic justice, so that a large proportion of the total produce goes to a small minority of the population, many of them who do no work at all. Owing to the absence of any central control over production, we produce a host of things that are not wanted. We keep a large percentage of the working population idle, because we can dispense with their labour by making the others overwork. When all those methods prove inadequate, we have a war: we cause a number of people to manufacture high explosives, and a number of others to explode them, as if we are children who have just discovered fireworks. By a combination of all these devices we manage , though with difficulty, to keep alive the notion that a great deal of severe manual work must be the lot for the average man.

Bertrand Russell – Marriage and Morals 1929
It was not surprising that, having once broken their vows and begun to live what they deemed a life of habitual sin, the clergy should soon have sunk far below the level of the laity. We may not lay much stress on such isolated instances of depravity as that of Pope John XXIII, who was condemned for incest, amongst other crimes, and for adultery; or the abbot-elect of St Augustine, at Canterbury, who in 1171 was found on investigation, to have seventeen illegitimate children in a single village; or an abbot of St Pelayo, in Spain, who in 1130 was proved to have kept not less than seventy concubines; or Henry III, Bishop of Liege, who was deposed in 1274 for having sixty-five illegitimate children; but it is impossible to resist evidence of along chain of Councils and ecclesiastical writers, who conspire in depicting far greater evils than simple concubinage. It was observed that when the priests actually took wives, the knowledge that these connections were illegal was peculiarly fatal to their fidelity, and bigamy and extreme mobility of attachments were especially common among them. The writers of the Middle Ages are full of accounts of nunneries that were like brothels, of the vast multitude of infanticide within their walls, and of that inveterate prevalence of incest among the clergy, which rendered it necessary again and again to issue the most stringent enactments that priests should not be permitted to live with their mothers or sisters. Unnatural love, which it had been one of the great services of Christianity almost to eradicate from the world, is more than once spoken of as lingering in the monasteries; and shortly before the Reformation, complaints became loud and frequent of the employment of the confessional for the purposes of debauchery.


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