Home | Site Map | Bibliography

Graybeard Presumption

You should not have grown old before you grew wise. "Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise" (King Lear i, 5). I am old and not wise. After fifty years of thinking about philosophy I know no more than when I began about life's meaning. I may at most know a little about logic-philosophy.

The background of these remarks -- maybe said better elsewhere, although it is said differently here -- is "logic of language" (or how the distinction between sense and nonsense is made), and why logic = grammatical rules (of meaning, not syntax).

Also on this page: Arthur Stanton of Holborn, and other sheep have I who are not of this fold.

Query: is analogy a language game?

Nothing is in itself a language-game, but any language used by following rules [grammar] can be compared to a game [played according to rules]. Nothing is anything in itself: to be is to be conceived as something ("percepts without concepts are blind") [cf. Bishop Berkeley] .


Topics on this page ...


Babble of words

Query: when did humanity start to question things? Language is the essence of man.

When humanity's ape-like ancestor, if man had an ape-like ancestor, became human. When man ceased to be an animal. When man was divided from the animals, somehow (who knows how) becoming a creature endowed with reason and knowing good and evil -- if such an event can be imagined, which of course it can't (Just try to describe it). Question: how can what is not a logical possibility be a real possibility? Well, it can't. And this tells us that the proposed picture (evolution) isn't the correct picture, but instead that the query is a "question without answer" akin to the question of the origin of human language. As to the defining common nature (essence) of man -- is this a grammatical or a metaphysical question? If "language" in the query = discourse of reason and if reason is the specific excellence proper to man (or, in Socrates' view, rational moral virtue is that excellence) -- neither of which propositions is beyond doubt (question), because it is possible to reason without words, as in the solving of a practical problem in the kitchen or workshop (and not every choice man makes has to do with good and evil, i.e. moral virtue).

Query: ignorance is no defense.

On the contrary, it is presumption (thinking you know what you don't know, thinking yourself wise when you are not) that is no defense. Knowing that you are ignorant is the only defense in philosophy: in the words of Augustine, "He only errs who thinks he knows what he does not know." Philosophy is a school of humility. And it is a course that only a Socrates will not fail.


"Discourse of reason" means "discourse of words"

Query: why must we put a philosophy into words?

Because what we call by the name 'philosophy' isn't nebulous and untested -- which means that a philosophy must be put into words so that it can subjected to Socratic cross-questioning, to discover whether it is sense or nonsense -- We can't very well test the "meaning" (in the sense of 'meaning' Wittgenstein's later logic uses) of what is not put into words -- and then, if it's not nonsense, whether true or false. Within the limits of philosophy means within the limits of language.

The phrase 'discourse of words' is now redundant, 'discourse' meaning 'discussing in words'. But in Shakespeare's play 'discourse of reason' means 'having the ability to reason', and in that context 'discourse of words' would mean 'the ability to use language'.

Query: concept of knowledge? according to Socrates.

How will philosophy define the word 'knowledge', for we mean various things by that word, not all of which are useful to philosophy. If we are to know in philosophy, we must select a criterion for when we know and when we do not, for, to distinguish between concepts, unlike 'belief', 'knowledge' must be objective if there is to be a distinction made between 'being true' and 'merely seeming correct'.

What is philosophy? Deciding that philosophy is cross-questioning the discourse of human reason, Socrates set this test in philosophy: to know = to be able to tell and defend before others what you know (Xenophon, Memorabilia iv, 6, 1; Plato, Laches 190c).

Query: according to Socrates what was the aim in talking to people?

There are two answers. In Plato's Apology 21c the aim is to find a man who is wiser than Socrates in order to refute the oracle's words that "none is wiser than Socrates". But in Xenophon it is this: that "those who don't know are themselves misled and mislead others" (Memorabilia iv, 6, 1), and to be misled about what it is most important for man to know, namely "no small matter, but how to live" our life, is very grave indeed.

And therefore in order to "know thyself" for himself and to help his companions and friends, Socrates "never gave up considering with his companions" (ibid.). They talked in order to test what they thought they knew, for "If two go together, one perceives before the other. If one alone perceives [Iliad 10.224], he goes off at once looking for someone to whom he can show his idea and with whom he can confirm it" (Plato, Protagoras 348c-d, tr. Guthrie). That "confirmation" is by the Socratic tests of reason and experience, the cross-questioning of propositions in Socratic discourse, in order to either refute or accept [Socrates' method of step-by-step agreement].

Query: Ludwig Wittgenstein, the limits of language.

... are the limits of philosophy, as "conceived" -- in this case a 'conception' means [a set of] rules of a game (although not if the game simile suggests idling) -- by Socrates. That is [an example of] logic [logical limits].

Now, as to [an example of] metaphysics [metaphysical limits], according to Wittgenstein's TLP the limit of language is sense perception: "the world" is the world perceived by, or in principle perceptible to, the senses, the world which is the subject of natural science, and it is only that "world" that can be put into words ("said"). [In contrast, Wittgenstein's later "logic of language" sets logical limits, as Socrates does.]

Stunning question. Genius metaphor.

Query: how to seek the logic of language?

What are you seeking (what do you mean by 'logic of language')? My own first thought (based on what I mean by 'logic of language', that logic = rules of meaning, not necessarily syntax): If you begin with this question "How do I know whether 'x' is sense or nonsense?" the quest seems utterly baffling, and that means, or seems to mean, that you don't understand the question, for if you did, it wouldn't be that it left you like one stunned (Plato, Meno 79e-80c: Socrates' questions have the effect of the torpedo fish on those who do not know what they think they know), having no idea at all how to answer it -- or does it? The query may be seeking Aristotle's and the Stoics' studies where it seems that logic = form (in contrast to meaning) ... in contrast to Socrates both in Xenophon and Plato where logic = use in the language (in contrast to form) or Wittgenstein's later rules of semantic grammar. (How do we distinguish sense from nonsense? Wittgenstein introduced the simile of playing a game. And it is only after the torpedo fish's sting -- "How do I know whether 'x' is sense or nonsense?" -- that the genius of Wittgenstein's seemingly obvious simile strikes you.)

Two kinds of metaphysics

Query: did Thales ask, what is truth?

What picture do we form of Thales for ourselves, for we know little about him? Do we imagine him setting a standard as Socrates does, or setting out rules of logic as Aristotle does, or do we picture him purely as a speculative physicist? (It is of course possible to use natural language logic without thinking about logic as such. Not "illogical metaphysics", but simply metaphysics alone as the subject of interest.)

Query: different philosophers' conceptions of metaphysics.

What is 'conception' to mean here: the nature of the investigation (Kant, Wittgenstein), or the results of the investigation (the pre-Socratics)?

Query: what was the first question raised by the ancient philosopher?

I don't imagine Thales beginning by questioning his question. That question would come later. "All metaphysics is a critique of metaphysics", but that needn't be self-consciously so: Thales asks a question and suggests an answer, or as possibly, begins by being struck by a thought, an unsummoned proposition, rather than a question.


Deep ruts of thought

Query: history of meaning of "philosophy".

Wittgenstein, a bit more than a bit pretentiously referred to his work as "an heir of philosophy" [BB p. 28] because, according to him, traditional philosophy was dead (Ethics is non-rational, Metaphysics is nonsense, and Logic is mere conceptual clarification). But has the meaning of the word 'philosophy' changed between its origin and now? If it has, I don't see that it has: for what has changed since the time of Socrates? -- The "death of philosophy" keeps being indefinitely delayed, not only by "the eternal questions" that refuse to fade away, but also because of what Wittgenstein himself does, namely re-conceptualization of what the problems of philosophy and the methods for resolving them are. But of possible re-conceptualizations there is no limit. [Three "conceptions of philosophy" | "The death of metaphysics and other fairy tales".]

Query: the categories of philosophical questions.

There are the categories of the Stoics, but that is only one set of categories, and there is no limit to others that might be invented -- all that is limited is our ability to break out of our accustomed grooves of thought (Z § 349), although that limit is only broken by philosophers, of whom there have been very few.

Query: philosophy confuses rather than clarifies.

Well, that was the accusation made against Socrates in Plato's dialogs, that discussion with him was like being stung by a torpedo fish (Meno 79e-80c). But what was the reason Socrates' questions so confused his companions in discussion? It was that the questions showed that his companions did not know what they thought they knew.

Query: ancient origin of philosophy of ethics.

Is there a subject Ethics and then also a subject Philosophy of Ethics ("meta-ethics": what is the subject Ethics about)? When Socrates says the Ethics is rational reflection and Wittgenstein says that Ethics is about "absolute value" and therefore non-rational, is that Philosophy of Ethics? In contrast when Socrates sharply reproves Critias is that Ethics? (Is this a distinction you find useful to make in some context, because that is the only reason to make distinctions?)


Where is "the spirit of the Lord" found? The Keys of the Kingdom

As the motto for his book Arthur Stanton: a memoir (Longmans, Green and Co., 1917) George W.E. Russell uses Paul's words (Latin).

Ubi Spiritus Domini, ibi libertas. S. Paul.

Where there is the spirit of the Lord, there is freedom. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2 Corinthians 3.17)

And I think the following two letters are apropos of Paul's words, for Stanton wrote on 18 May 1874, "I think it is deplorable when any young Englishman becomes a papist and associates himself with a system which can never be English or liberal" (iv, p. 146), and on 8 July 1873, "There is great ecclesiastical excitement now about [the practice of the sacrament of] Confession [in the Church of England] ... I am so used to being in hot water that it does not affect me much; only being an Englishman I claim a right to hold my own opinions" (iv, p. 138). This was just before the time of the Public Worship Regulation Act (P.W.R. Act) directed against "ritualism" of 1874 (iv, p. 143-144), which was six times unsuccessfully opposed by William Gladstone (iv, p. 148n2), who was the leader of the Liberal Party.

Question: why, despite rejecting papal authority, did Arthur Stanton call his Christianity and himself Catholic? In a letter a Jesuit, in the immoderate language of those days, reproved Father Stanton for so representing himself: "You are before God a mere Protestant and the Minister of a Miserable schism. Imitation can never produce Identity" (iv, p. 152n1).

Question: and if he was unwilling to submit to the authority of the pope, why was Stanton willing to submit to the authority of the Bishop of Rochester (iv, p. 156, 160) -- the latter had sent a formal Inhibition against preaching in any church of his diocese, which Stanton characterized as having wrecked "my reputation in the Ministry to which I had devoted my life" (vi, p. 214-215), as had the bishops of Gloucester and Llandaff, as further the Chaplain-General had forbidden Stanton from preaching to soldiers (vii, p. 265-266), and the bishop of London had prohibited him from preaching in any church outside St. Alban's, Holborn -- all authorities of the Church of England?

What did Arthur Stanton mean by 'Catholic'? When he spoke to an informal Oxford society in the Hilary Term of 1906 or 1907, he said, "Some people think our religion began with Henry VIII. Oh no" (shaking his head); "we want a religion older than that. We want the old Catholic Church. We want to go right back to Lord Jesus Himself -- "foreordained before the foundation of the world"" (vi, p. 251, 253). But the forms of worship, the rituals, Stanton used come from the Roman Catholic, the Latin, Church rather than from the days of the disciples and apostles of Jesus. But he did say what he thought were the foreordained truths.

For in 1904 Stanton wrote the preface to a book of Catholic Prayers for Church of England People (he did not write the book itself), and when the Bishop of London described the book as "a thoroughly disloyal work", Stanton withdrew his preface to the book in deference to his bishop (vii, p. 259-260). But he said that he told the bishop the following.

You may think Catholic Prayers disloyal to the principles of the Reformation and to the Advertisements of Elizabeth, but this I will say to you about the book -- there is not one single word in it against the inspiration of the Word of God -- there is not one word in it against the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary -- there is not one word in it against the Atonement of our Blessed Lord and Savior on the Cross, or His Resurrection; nor is there a word in it against the Sacraments or the Saints. (vii, p. 267)

Belief that Christ is an actual historical event

To me the Virgin Birth, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, and the Sacraments, are very real indeed.... I do not regard them in any mystic or subjective sense. I believe heartily and without reservation that Jesus Christ was born of a Virgin and that He rose again from the dead, and that He is present in the Sacrament of the altar. These to me are actual historical facts. The Resurrection of Christ is a fact of history ... In fact, I go further. I say that the whole of our religious faith is bound up in an honest belief in these things as actual occurrences. If they are not true -- why, then, all we could do would be to break down our altars, put aside our Orders, and cease to preach to the people. (vii, p. 278, November 1909)

Stanton wrote on 16 August 1899 that he had spent the day with James Duggan, a Roman Catholic priest (vi, p. 239), and he gave G.W.E. Russell the following account of their meeting.

When we were parting I said, "Now tell me straight. I have made a complete mess of my life in our Church. Should I have done any better in your Church? Now straight." And what do you think the fellow said? "Well, if you ask me, I don't think you could have been a success in any Church where obedience was required." And I don't think he was wrong. (vi, p. 240)

In 1903 Stanton wrote that in the spring of 1862 he had "walked with Cardinal Manning to the station at Oxford" and Manning had invited Stanton to come along to his church, about which Stanton said as follows.

I have thought very often lately, as the shadows [of old age] creep up, that I might have made a better thing of it if I had. My fellow-curate here doesn't think so. He says, "They'd have sacked you in a month," and perhaps he's right. (vi, p. 240n1)

I hope we shan't be Papists and Anglicans in Heaven. (Letter to F.E. Sidney, 16 August 1899, vi, p. 240; cf. p. 253)

All authority is contrary to freedom unless it is in agreement with one's own reasoning (in which case it isn't authority). Arthur Stanton and Albert Schweitzer would have been acceptable in very few places even of their respective Churches (Church of England, Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace), but would either have found any place at all in the Roman Catholic Church?

[Thomas Arnold and the difficulty of "Every man his own doctor of divinity", but I don't see an alternative, if the spirit of the Lord is freedom of thought, or if an individual cannot think religiously any other way, as I for example cannot.]

The keys and the sheepfold

"My kingdom is not of this world", Stanton quotes our Lord's words to Pilate (vii, p. 282), but the Lord gave the keys of his kingdom to Peter (Matthew 16.19), and so I'd think the sole question is whether the pope is the apostolic successor of Peter, because that is the foundation of the Catholic Church. As to the charge of worldliness and the historical persecution of heretics (which Stanton believed refuted papal infallibility (vi, p. 240), although Gilson said that the Church is not to be judged by its failure or success in this world, and I don't think that papal infallibility has anything to do with that), there is John Henry Newman's reply: that Christ promised to be with his Church until the end of time, and that means that if the Church goes off course, it will right itself, and therefore we should stay faithful to her throughout.

In the The English Church (1942), Bishop G.K.A. Bell gives the Archbishop of Canterbury the status more rather than less of pope of the Church of England (St. Anselm was called "the Pope of another world" by Pope Urban II, although the author does not explain Urban's meaning), of whom there had been, at the time of Bishop Bell's writing, ninety-nine dating back to St. Augustine [Austin] [p. 33], the Apostle of the English (sent to England from Rome by Pope St. Gregory the Great in 597) [p. 8].

There has to be a standard if there is to be truth, as Father Stanton says there is, in religion -- and that standard has to be an individual someone's speaking for the Holy Ghost, not a council or assembly's vote (unless the truth is decided democratically by taking a vote (the Holy Ghost apparently having the ear of the majority)!), and not a something (e.g. a book) which is subject to interpretation (Plato's Phaedrus: a text cannot defend itself against false interpretation).

Father Stanton preaching in the Churchyard of Painswick on 'Clipping Sunday', photograph by H. Chappelow, 42 KB

"Where there is the spirit of the Lord, there is freedom", but the Lord gave the keys of the kingdom to Peter, not Paul. Private opinions (iv, p. 165) ... I think the Catholic Church would say: the path to Hell is paved with "private opinions". On the other hand.

"Other sheep have I, which are not of this fold", Our Lord said. Arthur Henry Stanton [1839-1913, Curate St. Alban's] of Holborn [London] was a saint. So was Albert Schweitzer [of Alsace and Lambaréné (1875-1990)]. (Bruce Marshall, Peter the Second (1976), xxi; John 10.16)

Photograph: Father Stanton preaching in the Churchyard of Painswick on 'Clipping Sunday' (H. Chappelow)

The constant -- indeed the invariable -- topics of his preaching were sin and forgiveness; the love of God towards the sinner, and the sinner's need of the cleansed heart; the guaranteed access to the Lord through the Sacrament of the Altar, and the reverent love due to the Blessed Mother of God. "People," he would say, "who are not Marian are often Arian." (vi, p. 230)

It's true that I've never understood devotion to Mary. Or the idea of Christ's divinity. I already have a mother, and I don't see how the Lord's being God incarnate would make his wisdom any more or less wise (I think that the Holy Ghost is only Reason itself, that God's goodness is not arbitrary (as Wittgenstein thinks), that thinking things all the way through is the only way to find the path to salvation = the good for man). I am very limited religiously; there is so much that I cannot absorb.

Arthur Stanton at School

The Rev. J.H.D. Matthews writes: "Father Stanton was in my House just before my time, and I have frequently heard my House-master speak of him: almost always as "one of the most stupid boys who ever left Rugby!" Now, the good House-master (Robert Bickersteth Mayor), though not at all in sympathy with Father Stanton's views, was a very kindly man, and not a harsh judge of boys; and I should think that in this case he judged correctly from the school-master's point of view." (i, p. 13)

... it would appear that Arthur Stanton at Oxford was very much the same as Arthur Stanton at Rugby -- deeply religious, keenly interested in everything that affected the Church, indifferent alike to study and to sport, and living a life quite unlike, and apart from, that of the ordinary undergraduate. (i, p. 19)


Summation before sentencing

That "school report" might be of some comfort to me were it not for the Rev. J.H.D. Matthews' concluding words: "Anyhow, I have, since Father S.'s death, spoken of him as example of marvelous development." I don't think there has been anything "marvelous" about my development in "after-life" (after life at school, that is, and there was nothing marvelous about my life there). I find nothing in myself of Stanton's clarity about what is good.

"Virtue is knowledge" (Experience, not only reason, shows)

My own youth was misdirected by "this world and all it loves", misinformed by uneducated musicians masquerading as prophets (tools of the entertainment industry seizing hold of the child's soul in order to seize the child's money), abandoned to that by the absence of sound counsel, either my own or anyone else's. If I were to characterize my own youth, quite apart from the ignorance and consequent foolishness that characterizes it, the word that would first come to mind is 'conformist', the second 'hurtful to others' (I think lighthouses were made for anyone like me to be hid away in), and the rest of the words -- actually, all of the words except 'harmful' -- that come to mind belong to vanitas vanitatis (shame that isn't really shame but only humiliation and embarrassment). I seem to have needed thirty-three years (if 53 - 20 = 33, which I think it does) post-childhood to begin to come to an understanding of our life, but I am still far away from the end.

You should not have grown old before you grew wise.

Presumption. Presuming to see specks in other eyes. Presuming yourself wise when you are not. Presuming to give counsel. You are now a graybearded fool.

... and shall be taken from this place ... and hanged by the neck until dead.

Stanton often says to remember that we are dust and that not too much can be expected of dust, but that God remembers that we are dust (vii, p. 294, 295). But I think, maybe there is dust that falls from heaven and dust that rises from the earth, and that I am of the second sort.

"I tell you I do not know the man!" And after the third betrayal the cock crowed, as the Lord said it would. (Luke 22:56-62)

If only I "wept bitterly" as Simon Peter did for my betrayals rather than felt "It doesn't really matter". Of course I only feel that way when I betray, not when others betray me. Few men are saintly, and even fewer desire to be saints. "You're a better man than I am, Mr. Ford" (Schweitzer, Out of my Life and Thought, Chapter 14). Sentiment is cheap.

Stanton wrote in a letter to one who was preparing for the priesthood.

My dear fellow! who is fit? "DOMINE, non sum dignus," we say, and then we receive the Host. I hope you will always feel unfit; then all your fitness will be in your Saviour.

All the fitness he requireth
Is to feel thy need of Him ...

(vii, p. 296, 28 August 1911)

Pope Francis speaking in Rome on 4 January 2018 to orphans and wards of the state said more or less the following.

The pope said that no one knows why our lives, our circumstances in life, begin as they do, but that we believe we know how God wants our lives to end, that is in knowing Christ's love for us. And that our Lord is like the good shepherd who never stops looking for his lost sheep. It does not matter how dirty with sin his lost sheep are; he embraces them, kisses them, and puts them on his shoulders to carry back home.


Arthur Stanton at Grantham Tower and Spire, 58 KB

Photograph: Grantham Tower and Spire. Father Stanton is looking up at what he considered to be the most beautiful tower and spire in the world: Sept. 1912.


"Before we begin the next section we'd like to say that in our opinion it is not suitable for children or for those of you who may have a nervous disposition."

Reflections on the Present Year

I'm tired beyond tiredness, weary beyond weariness. I think if the Lord offered me Paradise, I would answer, "Please, no more; only let me fall asleep, into an endless sleep without dreams."

Come away to a quiet place and rest awhile. (Mark 6.31)

Existence is superfluous to need. There is a relationship between existence and want. The relationship is between existence and want.

Existence itself as such

Growing older, the more indifferent I grow to my own stupidity. And that I will never know anything [metaphysical that is] "worth knowing" (Apology 21d), that I will leave this world just as ignorant of what all this is about as when I entered it. And meanwhile that I will never have lived in this world at all (for it hurts to lose even what was never one's to lose. It means the loss of hope. And sometimes the fear of losing hope is simply so great as to prevent hope from ever being put to the test. And so one loses what may or may not have been one's to lose).

I often think that for me death means simply the end of humiliation, the humiliations of ignorance, and I don't believe that there will be an afterlife, but if there is I don't think that it will have any more meaning than this life, because existence itself is without meaning, any existence, my existence and the existence of all and anything else.

There was neither God nor hell. There was only the world where we lived and the holes people lowered you into when you died. You were alive or you were not alive. That was philosophy in a nutshell. (Marshall, The Little Friend (1928), iv, 1, p. 51)

... and prayed that the Lord might receive all those poor bewildered souls into everlasting dwellings. (Marshall, To Every Man a Penny (1949), lix, p. 314)

"... or, as we are told ..." (Plato, Apology 40c) That's all there are, stories, ancient visions, which were they told today, we would not credit.

Play-acting, observing oneself from outside, "a walking shadow", were it not that pain is real. Exhaustion, fear and death are real -- and one other thing maybe is real.

The weariness of it all

The character Quatermain in Rider Haggard (whose books I haven't read), despite remembering the good things he has seen in the world, nonetheless concludes, "But I should not wish to live again." (Quoted by Graham Greene in his essay "Rider Haggard's Secret" (1951))

The time of hope and dreams is long past

I have been watching the movies.
"Women get old and fat, but money is always money, always the same."
"An older man holds no attraction for a young and lovely girl."
"A woman old enough to be his wife."

"Why are you putting makeup on me."
"To make you look pretty."
"Why do I need to look pretty?"
"Don't you want people to like you?"

"Earthly love comes from seeing a liking someone." (Pérez Galdós) "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may" because it seems romantic love is all appearances.

One falls in love with a natural phenomenon (No one chooses his height, his eyes, his voice, but they are created for him as an acorn develops into an oak). For which one has created a soul after one's own heart, for who looks at a woman soul-side out? Who has the insight to be able to?

An attraction which functions in youth to foster procreation and the nurture of children becomes dysfunctional when it continues into old age. (Everything functional is also dysfunctional.)

"Grammar" and way of life (way of thinking)

We say 'She is beautiful', not 'Her body is beautiful' -- that is, we do not normally make the distinction between body and soul, not a first glance, sometimes not ever. Imagine a language where the word 'beautiful' was only applied to bodies, where 'It is beautiful' were defined language, but 'She is beautiful' were nonsense.

We identify a human being with the body and with its patterns of behavior. But we do regard bodies as belonging to the essence of the individual. Imagine a language in which an individual is identified only with its patterns of behavior, and a sharp distinction is made between the collection of patterns, which is called 'the soul', and the body.

We also use the form of expression 'She is beautiful to look at', but this also identifies the girl with her body. But a body is an object, and so shouldn't we say "It is beautiful"? Even over a corpse we say "She was beautiful". It would be a very different kind of life if our grammar = way of thinking were different.

Romantic love isn't only the love of a body, but it does appear to be principally that ("Earthy love comes from seeing and liking someone, and has nothing to do with whether they are like a saint or not"). The irrational -- and love of a body is irrational -- cannot be separated out of romantic love; it belongs to its essence.

We both do and don't identify people with their bodies. People have characters or personalities. If body A exchanged personalities with body B, we would say that person B is now inhabiting person A's body. But that doesn't happen except in old movies; it is logically possible, but we don't think much about that possibility. Body A and personality A make up person A. We are told that bodies and personalities are predetermined by DNA. So it seems that what we love is a natural phenomenon, like loving the ocean, the mountains or the sky. And what follows from this? I don't know, but it seems very strange -- and loving particular people very morally wrong. But it isn't clear to me why.

Another word for the irrational is 'instinct'. What portion of man is instinct, more or less than half?

Common Sense and Instinct

"You wouldn't love me if I got fat and my hair fell out," the girl said to the boy in Graham Greene's story. But the heart -- i.e. instinct -- does not think about these things. The longing in the old man's heart to caress a lovely young woman is also contrary to common sense. And so is this the victory of instinct over reason? Man also has an ethics which demands that he not ignore common sense. The longing is there (instinct), but its absurdity from many points of view is also there (common sense). And there is also ethics. (The diagnosis of problem is not necessarily its solution.)

Wein, Weib, und Gesang

"Few things matter. Nothing matters very much." (An elderly British politician)

He remembered once having heard a wit debate that wine, women, and song were the true agents of production, and not land, labor, and capital as stated by the orthodox economists. Wine, women, and song ... these three; but the greatest of these was women. (Marshall. The Stooping Venus [c. 1926], ix, 3)

Women are the lever for which Archimedes was searching ... (Sax Rohmer. The Bride of Fu-Manchu [1931], xxiii)

One sees a beautiful girl and the sap rises even in a nearly leafless tree. And the greatest of these is woman. That is the "one other thing" that is real.

Most men would not choose to be saints, even if they could be saints, and most men do not want the kingdom of God; they want "this world and all it loves". (And I? It is not possible to be a saint who wants this world. [What was Socrates? I don't know in this context.])

Then Augustine was wrong, then? Man is not "made for" God but for woman, and man's "heart is only at rest" when it rests in her?

At other times I think "all for the sake of a smile and something else" (romantic love is visual and tactile -- and aural (a woman's voice can be half her beauty)), and then I think it is clear to me that only a fool would center his life on an appetite rather than a noble ideal. (Socrates and flute-girls.)

"You wouldn't love me if I got fat and my hair fell out." (Greene, Loser Takes All)

Every woman seems like an arrival but in time proves herself to be only a way station. She is not the answer to the longing that is so deep and never fulfilled. And so if by 'God' we mean 'the noble ideal', then our hearts are indeed not at rest until -- who knows, for maybe they never are. (Of course if by 'God' we simply mean whatever it is that the heart rests at rest in, then we are saying nothing when we say that what the heart longs for is God.)

"My peace I give unto you not as the world knoweth peace ...."

"Is it some frustrated longing that makes a man mad?" (CV p. 44) And if the one thing one longs most for in this life is frustrated, then --

And so I live with these contradictions, "clouds without water, blown about by the wind".


The riddle and the afterlife

Is a riddle solved by the fact that I survive for ever? Is this eternal life not as enigmatic as our present one? (TLP 6.4312, tr. Ogden)

But then himself says:

The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside space and time. (ibid.)

But wouldn't survival after this life be survival "outside time and space"? And so was Plato wrong to look for the solution to the riddle of existence, the eternal enigma -- in other words, wisdom = truth -- in the afterlife (Phaedo 67e-68a)?


Site copyright © September 1998. Send Internet mail to Robert [Wesley] Angelo. Last revised: Ash Wednesday 2018 and Assumption 2019

The URL of this Web page:
https://www.roangelo.net/logwitt/graybeard-presumption.html

Back to top of page

Wittgenstein's Logic of Language - Introduction and Table of Contents | Bibliography | Site Map | Site Search