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As a Working Hypothesis

The origin of our own ideas. Socrates, the Beatitudes and conscience. Thomas Arnold: every man his own doctor of divinity. Grammatical theses in philosophy.

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Context: these are logic of language -- which expression in my jargon means: methods by which language with meaning can be distinguished from language without meaning in philosophical discussions -- as well as historical studies.


The soul as a "working hypothesis"

Dietrich Bonhoeffer described his notion "God as a working hypothesis", that is: when men could find no explanation for a natural phenomenon, they attributed it to an action under the direct control of God. But as phenomenon after phenomenon was accounted for by natural causes, God was more and more dismissed as a hypothetical explanation.

And so I was reading a report in the public prints, that it seems the scientists are able to identify by brain phenomena when a human being is thinking about quantities (more and less, calculations, things like this). And so I thought about "the soul as a working hypothesis". When men are unable to explain mental phenomena by referring to natural causes (e.g. events in the central nervous system), they introduce the soul or, more often now, "the mind" as a hypothetical explanation.

But then I thought: that is not religion's concept 'soul'. For even if it were possible some day to account for all mental phenomena as if the brain were a computer program, i.e. a step-by-step mechanical processes ("tracing a mechanism"), should that affect religious belief at all? As if the soul might not e.g. be immortal because of that scientific accounting.

What is the place of the soul in Plato's Phaedo -- is it that of a "working hypothesis"? Plato asks: "Have you ever seen any of these things with your eyes?" (65d) and then he accounts for man's knowledge of those things by means of the soul's pre-existence to the body.

The 'soul' and the "Theory of Descriptions"

G.E. Moore gives an account of lectures Wittgenstein gave in spring 1932. And this is related to Russell's "theory" and the grammar of the word 'God'; in both cases, the word is used in many different "grammatical senses" (I though I had invented the expression 'grammatical sense' for my account of Wittgenstein's meaning of 'meaning', but as this quotation shows, I did not).

The picture of the soul as a ghostly human being

Similarly, he said of the expression 'the soul', that sometimes people so use that expression that 'the soul is a gaseous human being' has sense, but sometimes so that it has not. To explain what he meant by 'grammatically' different senses, he said we wanted terms which are not "comparable", as e.g. 'solid' and 'gaseous" are comparable, but which differ as, e.g. 'chair' differs from 'permission to sit on a chair', or 'railway' from 'railway accident'. (PP iii, p. 312)

At that time Wittgenstein said that many controversies could be resolved by saying, "I am not using [so-and-so] a word in the sense in which you can say [such-and-such]" (Note that the "can" here indicates grammatical/logical possibility, i.e. what is or is not defined language). So that as Socrates uses the word 'soul', the question of the soul's, as it were, ontological nature -- as if the word 'soul' were the name of an object of some kind or other -- cannot even arise without uttering nonsense.

As Plato uses the word 'soul' it does mean something like "a gaseous human being" (Phaedo 64c) -- except that a gas is sensible/perceptible, whereas the soul is not; but as Socrates uses the word 'soul', what for Plato is a use is for Socrates an undefined combination of words (Socrates and "care of the soul").


"Philosophy begins -- and ends -- with me"

According to a review of a biography by Sten Andersson published in Sweden, at the time Wittgenstein was writing the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus he said, "Philosophy starts with me" (Filosofin börjar med mig). I will take this as 'starts' = 'begins' (either translation is possible) ... although even then the statement might have other meanings than "Before our time, nothing [of] much [interest] happened" (Plato), or "Those who philosophized before me did not understand what philosophy really is". As counter-examples: "Were I to describe the world as I found it ..." and "What the solipsist means is correct ..." To the review's account (which I am unable to verify with another source, nor have I seen the biography itself) it can be added that after he had written the TLP, indeed in that very book, Wittgenstein said that Philosophy ends with me (i.e. my book).

Wittgenstein, and of philosophy what remains?

Philosophy consists of logic and metaphysics: logic is its basis. (Notebooks 1914-1916, 2nd ed., tr. Anscombe, p. 106)

And ethics? It belongs to "the mystical". And metaphysics? It is impossible. And logic? It is unimportant. And philosophy? It merely treats "mental discomforts". (Maybe you could say that Wittgenstein had kidnapped the word 'philosophy'? rather than become its heir (BB p. 28). But is this a case of a persuasive definition made to deprecate the word it defines?)

Logic is the foundation of philosophy, only in the sense that 'logic' = 'the study of sound reasoning' is the tool of philosophy -- although it might as truly be said that language is the foundation of philosophy, because philosophy's only method is to hold discourse with itself.

I recall hearing many years ago that A.N. Whitehead (or maybe it was someone else) had said something like: "All philosophy is a footnote to Plato." I can well imagine Wittgenstein taking issue with that claim: "I am not a footnote."

... the safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato. (Alfred North Whitehead, quoted by Robert D. Cumming in his Introduction to F.J. Church's translation of Plato's dialogs Apology through Phaedo)

I don't see how Descartes' "new way of ideas" is a footnote to Plato, unless maybe we want to say that Plato's innate ideas are Plato's Forms, now not residing on the other side of the sky but in the human mind, placed there by God. Although that comparison can be made, I can't help but doubt that is was the origin of Descartes' notion.


Thomas Arnold

At first looking at Strachey's "Dr. Arnold" in Eminent Victorians (1918), I did not know what to think ... until I came to this passage:

[Arnold could not much appreciate music, but he considered himself] amply recompensed by his love of flowers: "They are my music," he declared.... As for the animal world, his feelings toward it were of a very different cast. "The whole subject," he said, "of the brute creation is to me one of such painful mystery, that I dare not approach it."

And that I thought is a deep thought, to be pained by this mystery, the mystery of the beasts wanting discourse of reason: what is the meaning of their existence? (E.g. man may be seen in the midst of a morality play, so to speak, i.e. a meaning for his life can be proposed in philosophical or religious terms (i.e. in human terms). But the beasts, which after all suffer mightily, what of their life?)

Pascal: Man's inability to understand

It is incomprehensible to man both that God should exist and that God should not exist. (Pascal, Pensées iii, 230)

Both that there should be an explanation (for what would one look like?) and that there should not be an explanation, one comprehensible to the humanities, of our existence (for that would be hellish). Meanwhile, Scientism speaks: Come, come; there's nothing for man to find incomprehensible in how or that he exists.

Of Thomas Arnold's death, Strachey writes: "... Dr. Arnold had passed from his perplexities forever." Now how does Lytton Strachey know that? Well of course he does not know that. "... a transfer from this place to some other" might well be to a place full of perplexities rather than to a place of solutions to our perplexities. Unless Strachey is presuming that death is a sleep without dreams, which would be to presume to know what he did not know. (Philosophy and Death)

Every man his own doctor of divinity

In Arnold's view "the Scriptures were as fit a subject as any other book for free inquiry and the exercise of the individual judgment ..." W.G. Ward, who is remembered in connection with the Oxford Movement and thoroughgoing Catholic ratiocination, was opposed to Arnold's view (for who knew where it might lead a man, to heresy, even to atheism), and called on Dr. Arnold armed with "first principles, syllogisms, and dilemmas", which disturbed the doctor of divinity such that he took to his bed for thirty-six hours after Ward's visit.

"All authority was scoffed at ... every man was his own Pope ..." (Bruce Marshall. The Stooping Venus [c. 1926], ix, 3

If every man is to be his own doctor of divinity, you may not like where this leads -- even you. Call the historicity of but one pericope into question -- and you call them all into question. Dispute the meaning of but one text, and you call into question the meaning of all texts. Wittgenstein to Drury: "[very sternly] You mustn't pick and choose just what you want in that way" (Recollections p. 170). Why did he say this? I don't know; Wittgenstein did not explain why to Drury.

Pericopes and Faith

Many years ago I wrote the following remarks apropos of Schweitzer's view of religion and its affect on my own thinking. Does it need to be amended, as the paragraph that follows it does?

My own thought is that, it was Catholic Christianity that took Jesus away from me, by turning him into the Incarnation of God and replacing his kingdom of God with a Heaven to which souls go at death; it was Schweitzer's reverence for reason and his historical-critical theology that gave him back to me.

Or so I thought. For if one pericope is myth, then so are all, and the historical Jesus is nothing more than hypotheses. And then what of our Christian faith? But Albert Schweitzer is not a peddler of doctrinaire Christianity, for even of religion he demands a rational treatment. Religion in Schweitzer's thinking comes at the end of a line of reasoning: it does not take the place of rational thought; as such, it cannot give to anyone the Jesus Christ of faith.

Ridicule, Arnold, Dostoyevsky. Epictetus and habit.

About the following, Arnold shared Dostoyevsky's view as to the most powerful weapon employed against our humanity:

Nowhere is Satan's work more evidently manifest than in turning holy things to ridicule.

As to the next point, however, Arnold's experience came into conflict with Epictetus' rule, for Strachey writes:

... that early rising continued to be a daily effort to him, and that in this instance he never found the truth of the usual rule, that all things are made easy by custom.

"Either God is good. Or God is not God."

Strachey's book also has an essay titled "The End of General Gordon". And if you believe that what happens in this world is the direct will of God (of God's playing god) -- i.e. that it is God's design that it happen -- then, unless I am wrong, I think you must think as C.G. Gordon did, if you are to believe that God is all-good and deserving of all our love:

Either I must believe He does all thing in mercy and love, or else I disbelieve His existence, there is no half way in the matter. (Journal entry, or maybe a letter to his sister (dated 15 March), from the last year of Gordon's life, before his death in Khartoum)

"If gods do evil, they are not gods," Euripides said.

God doesn't play god

Is this a statement of belief or a grammatical rule 'God does not play god'? (Can't it be both; can't that proposition simultaneously do more than one kind of work?) That God plays god is a picture that is not consistent with what we know of this world, which tells us that God cannot both be all-good and play god -- not because that picture is logically inconsistent, but because it is empirically inconsistent. (Jesus' Father is not an empirically-known god.) If God is good, then what happens in this world is not God's will -- from our ethical point of view.

But in the Catholic "Profession of Faith", God is "the Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth", and nothing is said about God being good. The profession is that "The good is whatsoever God commands" -- i.e. God sets the standard of good and evil, just as the meter standard says what a meter is: both God and the meter standard make rules that do not apply to themselves: God is neither good nor not good, just as everything that has extension is measurable except the meter standard itself.

... the great big world kept turning, caring neither for prince nor for peasant, kept turning as it did when Pilate washed his hands and Jesus moved to Calvary. (The Stooping Venus, xiii, 7

Between the devil and God

In his essay Ethnic Cleansing in the Bible (2002), Michael Prior has a quotation from Thomas Arnold.

The Israelites' sword in it bloodiest executions, wrought a work of mercy for all the countries of the earth ... they preserved unhurt the seed of eternal life.

Of course it is very hard to know or understand someone else's religion, for example the Christian Zionist doctrine that "God gave them that land" of those who read the Bible as if it were a history book rather than a religious text. Because I can only say that if God would demand the dispossession of a native population of its home, not mere ethnic cleansing, but actual genocide both physical and cultural (Deuteronomy 7.1-6) -- if God would demand that, then what would the devil demand? What on earth or in heaven that monstrous doctrine could have to do with the religion Jesus taught us, I can't imagine. I can't imagine at all.

"... and at the hour of our death"

The kingdom of God does not belong to those who can pass an exam in religious dogma and theology. I don't think the Lord will ask us to recite the Creed, but did you love God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself, sheltering the homeless and the stranger, feeding the hungry, comforting the lonely, being merciful and seeking peace, and so on -- that is the exam the Lord will set us. The rest is pretension to knowledge of mysteries we do not even begin to understand.


A return to rationality

I say to myself, Be who you are! You somewhat understand how to go about things in philosophy (or at least in "logic of language"), whereas in religion, although each time you imagine you have discovered the right way (i.e. the correct understanding), you wake up in the same wrong place (i.e. misunderstanding; there are bad habits not only of deeds, but also bad habits of ways of thinking, that one can fall back into), and have to suffer the consequent disillusionment: religion simply muddles you, as has every entanglement in the irrational throughout your whole life.

These "bumps on the head" (PI § 119) are not caused by disguised nonsense (ibid. § 464), however, but by imagining that the irrational contains rational elements (as e.g. the notion of an historical Jesus who can be the object of faith presumes); but the irrational cannot be tamed (e.g. 'God' is not a concept of rationality); it cannot be made rational.

Socratic ethics on the other hand is rational, the thoroughgoing use of reason as the guide to how to live our life, and it is all that is needed to know how to live our life. Thoroughgoing reason -- i.e. reason applied to every aspect of our life -- and the "Questions without Answer", treated philosophically, not religiously, is all that I have: my reason and my sense of wonder (i.e. perplexity). (Mourning the loss of the irrational would itself be irrational, in this case madness.)

Was Schweitzer wrong, then? No, but watering down the strict standard of rationality he set would be wrong. So long as you keep to the path (i.e. the standard) that Schweitzer laid down, you do not go wrong. But if you step off that path, you wander into the irrational, and then you are wrong.

There is a pattern. The danger of sentimentality -- followed by a rebellion of vague critical-theological doubts. I want to say, as Schweitzer did, "A Christian is one who has the spirit of Christ. This is the only theology." But that self-confident enthusiasm is soon assailed, as though Jesus' picture of God the Father were impossible to shoulder, and as if without it there were no Christian religion.

The irrationality of music

Refusing to silence reason is very different from letting oneself sink under the waves of irrationality. (Music is irrational, but its irrationality is distinction. For instrumental music is without an as it were philosophical world-picture (thought-world) and program music may be appreciated as fantasy or myth or simply as sound, as if it were instrumental music, the human voice being itself an instrument.)

I have often to say to myself: "You must learn to appreciate the picture without imagining that you can own it: you have neither "a freehold farm in poesy" (E.T.A. Hoffmann) nor in religion. That is the way it is with you."

Forms of Religion and Limits

Why am I not a religious man ... Would that I could say that it was for this reason, that there is no place in my life where I would want to say, "Here I do not use reason"; and that is precisely what religious faith is, a place where "Here I do not use reason".

However, that is not the reason. The reason is that every time in my life, a life far closer to its end than its beginning, I have become entangled with the irrational or "non-rational" -- no, better: irrational, because 'non-rational' seems a dodge, as if to say "A is not really A"; but, no, A really is A: 'irrational' is the antithesis of 'rational' -- which is what faith is an example of, I have learned to my cost that I am not well served by the irrational, quite the contrary, that it is always and seems always to do harm rather than good. And so I have learned that I must keep religion at arms length.

Rush Rhees wrote that Wittgenstein "found it hard to bend the knee" (cf. CV p. 56). I, on the other hand, would have no difficulty bending the knee, if it were genuine. But for me it would be theatrics, play-acting.

And although I may wish that I were a religious man, and I am indeed envious of those who can be religious in external forms, I myself cannot be. Wittgenstein spoke to Drury of how a person's religion may be very dry, as e.g. his aunt whose only external observance was to maintain silence and fast on Good Friday (Recollections p. 129). And it is that way with me. Anything else, e.g. attending church, even visiting a church building, participating in a procession or a religious pilgrimage even if quietly and secretly, is just not the form that my religion could take. Even my visits to the cemetery on All Souls Day (as well as on Totensonntag for my father's mother) are not religious, and I mustn't pretend that they are. (The concept 'piety' is not simple.)

What matters above all in religion is that it be genuine. (Reverence for truth must be both in words and deeds.)

This is what I must finally accept, that all that is of use to my soul (i.e. ethical aspect) in this life is the thoroughgoing reason (that is to say rationality) of Socratic philosophy, of my portrait of Socrates. I cannot live in any other way without doing profound emotional harm to myself.


Theses in Philosophy

Query: Wittgenstein, tried to advance theses in philosophy.

"If anyone tried to advance theses in philosophy ..." But isn't that itself a thesis? "... everyone would agree to them" (PI § 128: "If one tried to advance theses in philosophy, it would never be possible to debate them, because everyone would agree to them". Why? Because a rule of "grammar" (in Wittgenstein's jargon) -- a description of how we use our language -- is simply "what anyone knows and must admit" (Z § 211; PI § 599). However, although in Socratic dialectic there must be step by step admission if the discussion is to proceed, there is nothing that anyone "must" admit: anyone may try to refute even a grammatical account, for inasmuch as such an account consists of propositions about our experience (i.e. statements of facts) it consists of theses.

Of course that is not the only use we make of the word 'thesis', for often by that word we mean 'a generalization' (or, a statement about ALL rather than about SOME or ONE). And would no one try to refute Wittgenstein's own theses in that sense of the word 'thesis', for taking the query as it stands, Wittgenstein did try to "advance theses" in philosophy -- theses about the nature of philosophy, about its essence or what it is? And it is not "impossible to debate" those, as indeed Bertrand Russell did when he claimed about Wittgenstein's later "doctrines" that they were "either trivial or unfounded". But enough of that.

If by 'theses in philosophy' we mean grammatical accounts, what would an example of a thesis about rules of grammar that someone might think to refute -- what would be an example? That we can see another human being's emotions, fear e.g. Indeed, a grammatical account may be disputed (Wittgenstein himself disputed the grammatical account that before him was held to be true, e.g. about the grammar of the word 'mind', that it is the name of an object of some kind in a place of some kind). And sometimes the account that someone wants to refute may not be easily shown to be true -- because, as the many links in these paragraphs may suggest -- there is a lot of background to learn before one comes to see the logic of our language aright, or, rather, to see language as Wittgenstein looked at it, the most fundamental question of which is "What is the meaning of a word?" (or, How can we in philosophy objectively distinguish between sense and nonsense?)

What does "anyone" -- what do I know and must admit? Socrates sets a criterion for answering: If I know something then I am able to give an account of what I know to others, one which I can offer to them and to myself for refutation. If my account stands up to being refuted in dialectic (cross-questioning), then it appears that my thesis is something we (not just I, for knowledge is objective) know -- "appears" because no thesis in philosophy is ever finally beyond the test of refutation .... Or must it always be the case that fresh doubts (cross-questions) may arise later? As I asked elsewhere: Is it possible that all games really do have a defining common nature which until now everyone has overlooked (Note that this common nature must not be so general as to make it unclear what is and what is not included in the category 'game'; cf. 'philosophy' defined as 'love of wisdom')? That is a different question from asking if the question may not be reconceived -- i.e. looked at in a new (i.e. an as yet uninvented) frame of reference -- in such a way as to identify a defining common nature. What "anyone knows and must admit" applies to the present context (i.e. the "Wittgenstein's logic of language" context). What "anyone must admit" about a grammatical-rule thesis is: (1) Yes, that is the rule, or (2) No, that is not the rule, or (3) There is no rule in this case ("conceptual fluidity").

A thesis about a rule of grammar -- i.e. a description of how we use our language in this world, or can be described to use language in a fictional world -- a grammatical account of our concepts, may well be a statement of fact. But a 'statement of fact' is a proposition that can be "significantly negated" -- that is, of any statement of fact we must (This is a definition) be able to describe circumstances in which it is true and circumstances in which it can be false (Thus a tautology is not a Socratic thesis, because it cannot be refuted. A definition we create to serve a particular purpose, e.g. By 'concept' I will mean 'rules for using a word', is an example of a grammatical tautology). And what would it be like if all games did have a defining common nature (which in fact games don't have)? Well, cf. 'simile' = 'a comparison using 'like' or 'as', a metaphor of that particular type' versus metaphors that do not use any particular word-formula in making comparisons. And for games, suppose everything we called a 'game' used a net and a ball ... That supposition is counter-factual, but we can describe cases of where there is or would be a defining common nature, and that is why the proposition 'Games do not have a defining common nature' can be "significantly negated".

"... no thesis in philosophy is ever finally beyond the test of refutation." But would it not be strange to say, "As far was we know, games do not share a defining common nature" or "It appears that games do not share a defining common nature"? To say of any statement of fact that its negation must be logically possible is very different from saying of any statement of fact that its negation must be plausible -- i.e. a statement we regard as a real possibility (real versus logical possibility). We would not say of every statement of fact that grounds for doubt might later arise as a real rather than only a logical possibility (Many statements of logical possibility are not only contrary to specific facts but also contrary to very general facts of nature). Cf. If the distinction between sense and nonsense were called into question in every case, that distinction would collapse: something must stand firm for us in every investigation -- and our language is just such a thing. Although of course we may doubt (i.e. call into question) the meaning of a particular word (or combination of words), we cannot simultaneously question the definition of every word, as Cratylus may have done, not if our language is to be a tool for us, as it ceased to be for Cratylus. (Note that as we normally use our language it would only be "strange to say" -- it would in fact be nonsense -- to prefix every statement of fact with the words 'As far as we know or 'It appears that'. This is not because of Ockham's razor, but because, prefixed to every statement of fact, those combinations of words would have no function to play as an instrument of language.)

"What do I know?" We must each of use ask ourself this again and again -- and use this as a motto in philosophy: Every explanation I can give myself, I can give you too. And when I do this, I do not tell you less than I know myself (PI §§ 210, 208). It is the very same requirement set by Socrates.


Old Queries find a Response

With the drying up of logged visitor queries, as indeed the drying up of visitors altogether, I am forced back onto whatever inner resources I can muster, or onto visitor queries I saved (site privacy policy) from years past, a few of which I will respond to below.

Drying up, too, of problems in philosophy, and why is this? I need ideas from outside to respond to (even if the response comes years later). So I am now revisiting old questions, hoping to see something new in them, because the books I am reading are not suggesting philosophical thoughts. There have been the ideas of Wittgenstein, Socrates, and Schweitzer -- but what will come next? I hope it will be soon (1) because even one dry day seems an eternity, and (2) because I seem to be stranded where I was five years ago, when my thinking about logic, ethics and religion converged and coalesced into a coherent view of our life, although my life is better now because of that. And I am somewhat -- somewhat -- at peace.

[Later note. Logic of language (Wittgenstein), Ethics and the philosophical way of life (Socrates), Religion, rational (Schweitzer). But what is missing from the Stoic chart? Yes, after that drying up, came Metaphysics: Kant and Berkeley. But it's true: even a single day without a worthwhile thought is worrying, the fear of an eternal drying up, death in life (Apology 37e-38a).]


The Greek Philosophers and the Beatitudes

Query: church view of Socrates' philosophy of man.

Do the Beatitudes belong to the excellence that is proper to man? Is it the function of the good man to harm anyone? (What is Socratic ethics?)

Query: would Socrates accept the Beatitudes?

According to Matthew 5.3-11 (cf. Luke 6.20-22), these are the blessed according to Jesus: (1) the poor in spirit (you poor); (2) those who mourn; (3) the meek; (4) those who hunger and thirst for righteousness (you that hunger); (5) the merciful (you that weep now); (6) the pure in heart; (7) the peacemakers; and (8) those who are persecuted for righteousness sake.

The trouble right from the start would appear to be that at least some of the Beatitudes presuppose the world-picture of the prophesied coming supernatural kingdom of God, e.g. "you poor" are blessed, because you rely on God alone, rather than on the riches of this world; those who mourn (you who weep now) are blessed, because they shall (in the kingdom of God) be comforted; and the meek (i.e. those who are gentle, patient, not presumptuous) are blessed, because the way they live shows that they belong to the kingdom (i.e. to a kingdom of God the Father ruled by the ethics of love that Jesus describes, rather than to a kingdom ruled by Caesar or by a tyrant god -- i.e. rather than to a kingdom ruled by the maxim "Power makes right").

That partly, I think, is Schweitzer's reading, but Pope Francis, on the other hand, says, I think, that each Beatitude has three parts, the blessing, who is blessed, and why they are blessed -- or rather, why they will be blessed in the kingdom of heaven, not that they are blessed now.

As to what Plato would have thought, is it possible to say -- given the difference in world-pictures? Would it not be like asking a man who believes that the sky is a dome to accept that men had walked on the moon? Or isn't the clash of world-pictures that profound? But if the blessed are the morally virtuous, then Plato might recognize the groups the Beatitudes identifies as blessed, or, happy in the philosophical sense of 'happy' -- i.e. following the way of life that is the good for man.

Is religious virtue a moral excellence?

Pope Benedict XVI called John 20.29 "the beatitude of faith" (which has its model in the Virgin Mary (Luke 1.45)) "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe", and I believe he would call Matthew 16.17 "the beatitude of revelation" (This is when Jesus says that Simon-Peter is blessed because it has been revealed to him that Jesus is the Messiah).

That now apropos of the Beatitudes and the Greek Philosophers (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle), and I think this shows the difference between philosophy and religion, that those two beatitudes, the one of faith and the one of revelation -- The oracle does reveal Apollo's thought, but again note: Socrates puts the meaning of the revelation to the test: belief in the revelation belongs to religion; questioning the revelation's meaning belongs to (Socratic) philosophy -- would not be regarded as natural excellences, and divine excellences of course are not philosophy but religion. (Would the Greek philosophers have thought faith (and hope)to be a moral virtue?)

Is a pig happy? Only if ignorance of the good = happiness (which it doesn't)

Socrates said that every man had the choice of being a porco contento ["contented pig"] or a filosofo scontento ["discontented philosopher"]. (Marshall, Vespers in Vienna or The Red Danube, (1947), xviii)

I wonder if himself would have said that, although we could say that the philosopher, because he loves wisdom but knows that he is not wise, is 'unhappy' = 'discontented' -- because he does want to be wise; that is why he seeks, as a lover seeks the beloved, wisdom (... although the quote seems to me of the kind: "This is a wise saying; Socrates was a wise man; therefore, Socrates said this.") Is that why we study philosophy: "in hopes to be made (Burns wrote: 'mair' = 'more') wise" ("more" if we are already wise in knowing that we are not wise)?

A "happy pig", if that's what Critias was, or an "unhappy philosopher" -- but Socrates would say just the opposite: an unhappy pig or a happy philosopher, because by the word 'happy' of course he would mean 'the life that is good for man, namely the life in accord with the specific excellence that is proper and unique to man', which is the life of the philosopher, the life of rational moral virtue, not of the human pig.

It is in nowise a sacrifice of happiness to do what is good (unless one is mistaken about what the good for man is, saying the good is x while believing it to really be y) rather than evil (virtuous rather than vicious).

The kingdom and the soul (Plato)

Given Plato's belief that the body is a tomb for the soul, he could accept, if suitably adopted to replace "kingdom of God" with "realm of the (disembodied) soul", e.g. that the poor in spirit (i.e. those who are not attached to this world and all it loves, i.e. to life in the body) are blessed, for their soul is directed towards their soul's true home. In Theaetetus 210a-c, Plato says that a man is better off if he is meek -- i.e. not thinking he knows what he does not know -- rather than presumptuous. Certainly the good man is merciful (It is the evil man who is merciless), and likewise a peacemaker and pure in heart (For Plato this could be the same as "poor in spirit"). As to "those who hunger and thirst for righteousness", if they are understood to be those who thirst to live the life that is the good for man, then Plato would accept that. But as to "those who are persecuted for righteousness sake", Plato maybe would only accept this if it were not possible for that group to "mind its own business", as does the philosopher sheltering behind a wall from a storm (Republic 496a-d). Similarly the Stoics might or might not accept that Beatitudes, dependent on if those propositions are adaptable or not to the Stoic world-picture.

Would Socrates accept the Beatitudes (or at least those that are not indissolubly attached to a world-picture requiring a foundation of faith in the kingdom of God, that is; for although there is a place for faith in Socrates' thinking, its place is not in philosophy)? Not without first putting those propositions to the tests of dialectic, beginning with: What is the meaning of those combinations of words?

Query: Socrates' idea about forgiveness.

Maybe he would argue as Plato argues in the Republic, using his method of tautologies in ethics: If the good man does not forgive, then what does the evil man do -- forgive? ("Blessed are those who forgive, for they shall be forgiven" is not a Beatitude, but it is implied by the Lord's Prayer.)

Aristotle: "Good? Good for what? If you're not clever, you're good for nothing" (Dr. Sloper)

What would Aristotle -- with his notion of "human tools" (or, living instruments) -- think of the proposition "The meek shall inherit the earth"? Would Dickens' Mr. Gradgrind, Bounderby and the other "hard fact men" agree to Jesus' beatitudes? But Socrates might accept the propositions of the Beatitudes -- if the outcome of dialectic were agreement rather than refutation of those propositions. The thesis for discussion might be: "The beatitudes of the Gospels belong to the excellence that is proper to man." Question: is it necessary to share Jesus' world-picture in order to agree to the Beatitudes? (Socrates, Prometheus, Jesus, the Serpent in the Garden, in Augustine's words: the striking contrasts -- but also the consistency.)

That the meek will inherit the earth may be the philosopher's ideal, but that they will is a question of faith. And it seems to me that Aristotle, more scientist than philosopher, was not interested in ideals but only in realities (i.e. in describing and accounting for them).

Meekness, self-knowledge and Socrates

Socrates was meek (he knew himself), a peacemaker (his method was step-by-step agreement in discussion), pure of heart (he sought solely the good), poor in spirit ("so many things I don't need"), merciful ("If the good man is merciless, then what is the evil man!"), and persecuted for doing what is good, as well.


Socrates and Conscience

Query: Socrates' daimon and Seneca's Epistle on Conscience.

No, I have not read Seneca's letter, nor do I even know of its existence. But this I can say, that if by 'conscience' we mean 'something irrational "within us" that directs our acts' ... but we normally mean a bit more than that: 'something irrational "within us" that decides moral right and wrong for us'. As to the first definition, maybe that applies to Socrates' daimon, the "divine sign" that warns him against (i.e. guides him away from) harmful things (It is, I think, what we would call a presentiment); however, as to the second definition, it does not apply -- for Socratic ethics is not irrational, but on the contrary it is a thoroughgoing application of reason to our life (Socratic ethics is not "conscience", but instead: reflection). Note that it is Socrates' reason that tells him that "A good man has nothing to fear either in this world or in any other" (for the only fear man need have is the fear of doing harm, and harm is precisely what the good man does not do), and therefore that if he has lived the life of a good man, "always choosing the better rather than the easier and more pleasant" (cf. Xenophon, Memorabilia iv, 8, 11), he has no reason to fear that death. In a word, Socrates daimon is not his natural conscience, and, no, it is not his divinely directed conscience either! The concept 'conscience' plays no part in his philosophy at all. (Contrast that with the place of conscience in Kant's ethics.)

Aquinas, dictates of conscience (Georges | Dominique Pire)

The sacred union existing between two brother human beings who rediscover themselves as men of true dignity while working together to save a third, rids us of many of the barriers of prejudice, narrow-mindedness, and discrimination that poison human love and sap its strength. We must now have faith in the power of love and set it to work. Let me point out right away that a gesture of brotherly love extended jointly requires no compromise of principle, but on the contrary is justified and indeed welcomed by the right-minded.

Let us not speak of tolerance. This negative word implies grudging concessions by smug consciences. Rather, let us speak of mutual understanding and mutual respect. Every man is obliged to act in accordance with his conscience. If my neighbor holds an opinion different from mine, do I have any right to consider him dishonest or evil? Should I not rather believe as a matter of course that he is good and expect him to adhere faithfully to the dictates of his conscience? St. Thomas Aquinas, the prince of all the theologians, wrote in connection with the differences in religious beliefs: "If a man truly believes it wrong to serve Christ, he commits a sin if he serves Him."

(Georges Pire [1910-1969], "Brotherly Love: Foundation of Peace", Nobel Lecture, 11 December 1958. Father Pire begins with a quotation from Newton, "Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.")

I have not quoted this only to criticise Aquinas' words, of course -- and note the Father Pire is talking about brotherly love regardless of the thought-world giving impulse to it (That is what concerned him in his own work) -- although, and here is the rub, that neither conscience nor dogma always direct man towards love rather than hatred.

If we imagine that Socrates' daimon was -- which it wasn't -- his "conscience", then it would be logically possible for his conscience to command him to do what his ethics -- Here I am presuming that "the kind of verification is the kind of language-game", that ethics is rational and objective, that there is truth and falsity in ethics -- forbids him to do. This is because Socrates' daimon would not belong to his ethics (i.e. 'conscience' would not be an ethical concept) -- because ethics is a creation of reason, and conscience is an irrational impulse (We do not call what reason directs us to do an impulse). If by 'conscience' we mean an irrational compulsion, then a person might feel compelled to do -- most anything.

Well but is that what Thomas Aquinas is talking about -- Kant's "moral law within", if I understand it (and I may not)? Or here does 'conscience' = the component of a man's thought-world that directs his moral acts, which may be irrational, it's true -- but may also be religious or philosophical? (I have lost the thread of my thought.)

That account of ethics amounts to "It is wrong for you to do what you believe to be wrong". Certainly we would not say that in practical matters, and if universally (i.e. if both in practical problems and in ethics) the good is the useful, anyone may be wrong about what is and what isn't useful. You can't say 'A is the right thing for me to do because I believe A is the right thing for me to do'; that is no justification. But that is the equation Aquinas' account makes.

That I want to reject the notion of conscience as the justification in ethics is clear.

Variation. "... adhere faithfully to the dictates of his conscience." I would not say that at all, because it says that ethics is irrational. If someone's "conscience" told him that "It is good to harm one's enemies", which is as Plato demonstrates wrong-doing, I would say that person should disobey his "conscience". A human being is not a "beast wanting discourse of reason", blown about by the impulses of instinct -- or dogma. Conscience is not a feeling. The good for man is rational moral virtue; that is the specific excellence that is proper and unique to him. Philosophical conscience is Socratic: conscience is a function of rational reflection. That the good for man is "to love God with one's whole heart and one's neighbor as oneself", the "fundamental principles of Christianity have to be proved true by reasoning, and by no other method".

Albert Schweitzer with Dominique Pire, Gunsbach, Alsace, 1959

Father Pire and Schweitzer, who were friends, in Albert Schweitzer, Letters 1905-1965 [1992], in Gunsbach, Alsace, in 1959.

Schweitzer: "A Christian is one who has the spirit of Christ. This is the only theology." (Thomas Aquinas' words are quoted again in The Story of Father Dominique Pire, as told to Hugues Vehenne / Europe of the Heart: The Autobiography of Father Dominique Pire, as told to Hugues Véhenne [1959], tr. Skeffington (1961), p. 82.) It was not the Father Pire was not a Catholic, a Dominican priest who believed as the Church teaches, but that the merciful Samaritan asked no questions about the belief or non-belief of the man he helped. The Samaritan's love is the spirit of Christ.

Using private contributions from the «hearts of men», he constructed seven «European Villages», each for about 150 people ... [The fifth was in] Spiesen in the Saar (the Albert Schweitzer Village, 1958) ... (Nobel Peace Prize biography, 1958)

Wherein Do We Differ?  by Dominique Pire

After having corresponded for some years with Dr. Albert Schweitzer, I had the delight of making his acquaintance during two days spent at Gunsbach in the month of September, 1959. Here, then, are the four points with which I can summarize our encounter.

First theme -- We must struggle with all our powers against prejudices, whether they arise among nations or among individuals.

Here are a few sentences that I gleaned from my notes of conversations with the great Doctor:

"One must dismiss all useless and unverifiable accusations."
"We must not believe everything we are told about those who do not think as we do."
"Criticism does not make the criticized any better."
"Never launch unfounded rumors against your enemies, nor read motives into them, for the other man is host to the Spirit."

Pursuing the motif: according to him, one state should not, for example, succeed in casting a curtain over such and such another great state by systematically sowing mistrust against it.

Such is the first theme of the Doctor's thoughts on peace.

Second theme -- The great Doctor, as a physician, sage, and thinker, fights with all his might for the avoidance of all atomic experimentation, even when justified by scientific ends. Since I am neither a physician nor a sage, I can myself add nothing to his testimony, but I can give assurance of the primary importance which this theme occupies in his mind.

Third theme -- The Doctor goes on, and here his idea concretely meets our ideal of the "World of the Heart," on the point that we must dedicate all our powers to the establishment of a humanitarian civilization.

"Terror brings with it counter-terror."
"We should all cover our heads with ashes for whatever occurred during the second war."
"We are all inhuman: one in one sense, another in some other."
"We must achieve a truly humane civilization. Its guiding principle is very simple: human rights. That is a proper basis, for it is humane."

Fourth theme -- Finally, the Doctor ceaselessly develops the theme of God's omnipotence and goodness, upon which each man must ground his trust. I give you some of the thoughts of the great Doctor. We were speaking of peace, of the understanding harmony among all those who are not of the same confession, though believing in God.

"First of all," said the Doctor, "each man must live within his religion, within his 'portion.' Thus one is not uprooted. But we must strive toward godliness of the heart. And thus we can carry the world, which has become estranged from Christianity. In our age, we must attempt more and more to understand the spirit of Christ. Then we must win' the world over to a basic piety. We must read again what Jesus had to say concerning the last judgment (Matthew 25). It is Jesus' last discourse in the Temple, and in it he indicates whereon we shall be judged. We shall be judged on very simple matters: Have we given to eat and to drink such-and-such a one, etc."

The Doctor again said to me:

"We must become again, through religion, through thought, humane beings who no longer will allow themselves collective inhumanities. There is Communism, one will say. But what about the omnipotence of God. Will you leave it in the closet? We must have trust in God."

As you can understand, apart from the second theme, which is appropriate to a scientific mind, everything the Doctor told me is an authoritative confirmation of the program for a "World of the heart."

(Source: In Albert Schweitzer's Realms, a symposium, ed. Roback (1962), iv, 22, p. 201-203)


"I can't help thinking there may be some big truth out there"

Query: what if everyone in the world were blind?

The first thing of course is that we would not know that we were blind. Only the sighted traveler Nuñez in H.G. Wells' story knew that the people in "the valley of the blind" were blind. The blind people did not know that they were blind. They did not have our concepts 'sighted' and 'blind' or a picture of blindness -- i.e. a picture of sightedness. The same is the case in my "Fable of the Born-Blind-People".

"... that there might be some great truth out there", a fellow philosophy student said to us over thirty years ago, because that was what was troubling him -- that there might be such a truth to discover. A truth that no one had as yet seen. (There is such a truth, of course; it is what men have given the name 'God' to. But that is a religious reply, and we were young students of philosophy and wanted a philosophical answer, a proof.)

A truth which no man either had as yet perceived or that man was even able to conceive. What if everyone were not only physically blind but if everyone were also conceptually blind to something ("some great truth out there"). We are limited to five senses and a "bone three fingers high" -- and our life "everywhere cries out that there is more" (Drury). But that sense of things, as much (or more) religious as philosophical, is the sense of wonder (but not of perplexity), but as of at the depth and immensity of the sky -- and of my own very existence (for that must strike each of us individually).

Our fellow student was right, of course, but at that time I replied that I only spoke of true and false propositions -- i.e. at that time, I was trying to free myself of "vagueness and confusion" and metaphor, and did not want to be plunged back into my original confusion, for a few years earlier I had been in the same state as that young fellow. (Of course analytic philosophy was only a step on the way out of that confusion; it was a false view of things, but it did at least promise clarity.)

Query: importance of wonder or wondering in philosophy.

The words 'wonder' and 'wondering (about)' are not synonymous/equivalent in meaning here: 'perplexity' (which is Plato's meaning) does not = 'curiosity'. Why is the sea wine-dark? Why is the dawn rosy-fingered? are not examples of philosophical questions.


Socrates' ignorance, wisdom and the "examined life"

Query: what is Socrates' ignorance?
Query: what is valuable about knowing that one does not know something, i.e. Socratic wisdom?

The self-admitted ignorance of Socrates -- of what value (either as an end in itself or as a means to an end) has it? Not one value only but several: for (1) it keeps you from being misled and misleading others (Xenophon, Memorabilia iv, 6, 1); (2) it shows you what it is that you need to seek to know (Plato, Meno 84c); and (3) it makes you a more modest and gentler dialectician (Plato, Theaetetus 187c, 210a-c), i.e. one willing to admit that you believed yourself to know what you do not know -- because you could not give an account of what you thought you knew to others (Memorabilia op. cit.) that can stand against being refuted. And there may be many more.

Query: why question everything?

In hopes of discovering the truth, or at least that we do not know what we thought we knew (cf. Plato, Theaetetus 187c: "If we go on like this, either we shall find what we are after, or we shall be less inclined to imagine we know something of which we know nothing whatever, and that surely is a reward not to be despised." - Tr. Cornford), or that those who claim to know either do or do not know what they claim to know. "Questioning everything" here means to put all propositions (theses: for a thesis makes a suggestion: "I put it to you that such-and-such is the case.") to the tests (i.e. of reason and experience) of dialectic: to give an accounting which is either agreed to or refuted.

Query: what did Socrates mean when he said his wisdom was not wise?

If your only wisdom is to recognize that you aren't wise -- i.e. that you don't think you know what you don't know -- is that "being a wise man"? If we asked someone for the solutions to mankind's eternal riddles and he replied, "I don't know. But I also don't believe that I know", would we call him "a wise man"? Maybe only disciples of Socrates would say that such a man is wise.

The Socratic method here is this: Don't presume you know what the wise thing to do is -- but instead put what you think it is wise to do to the test of dialectic, even if only by "keeping discourse with oneself". Take counsel, although it be only with yourself, before you act [Although here "words" -- i.e. dialectic -- "are deeds"]. To question step-by-step -- that is the "examined life", and it is contrary to man's natural, self-assured habit (instinct).

Query: what is not being examined in an unexamined life?

The question of how man should live his life, of what the good for man is: what is wisdom for man? To answer the query, then, (1) in Xenophon it is what is required to "Know thyself" or, What is the excellence proper to man that the good man lives in accord with? (2) In Plato's Apology Plato has Socrates say: "goodness and all the other subjects about which you hear me talking" (37e-38a); those other subjects are e.g. "What is piety?", "What is courage?", "What is temperance?" Questions like these are what are not being examined in "the unexamined life".

Query: which virtue do Socrates and Thrasymachus try to define in Book 1 of the Republic?

It's a nice question, and I do not know the answer; whatever the Greek concept is, it does not seem to be equivalent to the English concept 'justice', although right conduct does seem to be what they are talking about, for to do what is right is to be just ... in some contexts, but in other contexts to do what is right may be to be temperate or brave or pious, for there are many excellences -- in this case, moral virtues -- proper to man, not just justice.

Query: where a language has no word for an object, what does it mean?

It may show that a word for the object would play no role in the life of the community, as e.g. the word 'see' in a completely isolated community of blind people. Remember words are tools; they are invented to meet a specific need, and also when they no longer do, they fall into disuse.

Query: what did Wittgenstein mean by the word 'language'?

I guess that this would be the right reply: the logic/"grammar" study of 'language' = the study of 'signs and what gives them meaning'.

Query: does Wittgenstein use emotion in his logic?

That is a very perplexing combination of words. On the one hand, the query might mean: does Wittgenstein talk about the logic ("grammar") of emotion-words (and the answer is Yes)? But on the other hand? Logic is the exclusive, the thoroughgoing, use of reason (as we say, "by definition" -- i.e. by definition, that is, of the word 'logic', the word 'definition' in this case meaning 'a description of how we use a word'). But on the other hand? And here I need more imagination than I can muster. "The limit of philosophy -- is concept-formation", which very often amounts to this: the ability to invent uses ("meanings") for undefined combinations of words.

The Rational and Irrational Souls

Query: you know something is from the soul when it goes beyond logic or reason.

Maybe you could speak of "the rational soul" -- that would be Socrates' sense of the word 'soul'. And "the irrational soul" would be the emotions and everything else irrational. However, you cannot go "beyond logic or reason"; you can only go somewhere else. But, you see, "logic or reason" are to the mind what the five senses are to the body: they are the guide that man has been endowed with (Reason is unique to man among all known life -- but not only is "logic or reason" unique to man, it is also is essential to the excellence that is proper to, i.e. defining of, man). Now, if man casts that guide aside, he is like the man who closes his eyes as he walks along -- and promptly falls into a pit. If "the irrational soul" is allowed to guide man through his life, then where may it not take him, for wherever it takes him there is neither truth nor falsity nor nonsense, but instead there is only seeming to be or not to be true? When man abandons himself to the irrational he ceases to be man: he become instead a small child or an animal.

Like Plato in the Republic, I sound opposed to the poets. That is where my old life has led me, for the youth of my life held quite the opposite view, which indeed was the view of Wittgenstein, and I have learned in my own flesh its folly ... although I recognize that artistic creation is an excellence that is proper to man, and arguably essential to his nature, it is not an ethical excellence ("moral virtue") -- and it is the ethical excellences that must guide our life (i.e. tell us how to live our life) if we are to be good men and women. But is reason or logic an ethical excellence? It is the eyes to the question of what is or is not ethical; without them we wander blindly. "Virtue is knowledge" (The good man is the wise man); you can call the man who is accidentally -- i.e. in ignorance -- good a good man, and indeed we do say that, but if our judgment of the man's acts is not derived from our knowledge of the good, then it may be a wise or a foolish judgment, and there is no way to know which it is; there is only seeming -- i.e. the irrational, and irrationality is not a moral excellence. Whether or not artistic creativity is or is not essential to man, I don't know, but it seems to be a gift that is not widely endowed; cf. absolute pitch in music.

There is nonetheless a relationship between these two propositions: "He only errs who thinks he knows what he does not know" and "Whatever is not done from love is not done as it should be done". However, the second must be kept in check by the first. If you "heart" tells you to do what is not in accord with reason (or, knowledge in ethics), your heart is guiding you towards a false path.

Normally, 'logic' and 'reason' are synonyms, but sometimes by 'beyond reason' is meant 'immoderate' or 'beyond what the reasonable man would do' or as in Macbeth: "I dare do all that may become a man", which is a related idea.

Rationalism versus rationalism

Query: the word 'rational' is the best synonym for which branch of philosophy?

If it isn't rational -- is it philosophy at all? Guided by experience and reason (i.e. logic) -- but judged by reason alone; that is philosophy as we have it from Socrates. Contrast 'rational' with 'Rationalism', however ... Before I might have said in answer to the query: Metaphysics. However, is not Plato's tautological ethics an example of Rationalism?

By the word 'Rationalism' we mean 'guided by reason alone -- i.e. not put (or, rather, not even grammatically possible to put) to the test of experience'. Socratic dialectic is not an example of Rationalism, although it is an example of rationalism. Logic is rationalism, and so too is Socratic ethics.

All philosophy is rational according to the definition I offered of 'philosophy' -- namely, 'a philosophy is a rational way of looking at things in the context of logic, ethics, or metaphysics'. But that definition is intended to be descriptive of the texts that the title 'philosophy' has historically been given to, and so it may of course be wrong.

Query: on the contradictions, philosophy.

Wittgenstein spoke of "Moore's Paradox" (contradictions in form versus contradictions in sense). But I will take the query as it if were: "contradictions in philosophy". But if 'a philosophy' is 'a rational way of looking at things in [the context of] logic, ethics, metaphysics' ('Philosophy' itself meaning the full collection of these), then can you speak of the contradictions of philosophers, meaning that one philosopher contradicts another, etc.: do they contradict or are they not even speaking language (i.e. using signs) with the same meaning? Certainly, I think (!), Wittgenstein, Russell, and Moore contradict one another; but do Kant and Aristotle? So it seems that we must not over-emphasize independent frames of reference here: it is too blithe to say that they are not even speaking the same language because, well, B defines 'knowledge' or 'logic' or 'definition' differently from A. You have to look at particular examples! dive down into the deep, not try to generalize from the surface of the water (in which you may see nothing but your own reflection: i.e. your own [vague, all-too-vague] ideas rather than the facts).

Query: religion is not a language-game.

Isn't it? I have no idea, neither what someone might mean by calling religion a language-game or by claiming that it is not one. Wittgenstein did not use his expression 'language game' that way, did he? And if that is what is meant, namely, that Wittgenstein did not make that particular comparison, then, so far as I know, the assertion the query makes is true.


The Origin of our own Ideas

This is something I often wonder about -- although I do not wonder enough at it nor often enough: Who would I be now if I had not been able to get the books I have read? I might be -- I think I certainly would be -- a very different person. And now I want to say: Don't treat this as matter of course (for that would be to think you know what you don't know)! Be deeply struck by it! (And by Schweitzer's remark about the madhouse: "And our gaze must be fixed on the barred windows of a lunatic asylum, in order that we may remember the terrible fact that the mental and spiritual are also liable to destruction.") We are that vulnerable to the educational resources that are available to us and that we know exist, that malleable, like the clay the Lord God formed man out of. "As a man thinks ..." -- that's what can be made of him. And countless things might be made of him. We are so confident in our learning (and it is true that we may have used the tools at hand to maybe hack our way out of a forest of ignorance -- but maybe we have only arrived at a small clearing in the forest; maybe we are still deep inside it. This seems to be the natural condition of man: in the midst of understanding we are in ignorance: the light we can cast is little compared to the darkness we can neither dispel nor, I think, even perceive).

That is all in the realm of "Confess thine ignorance". And on the one hand, there must be gratefulness for whatever learning one has. But on the other, profound perplexity ... For it is not as if one should say: "God, I thank thee that I am not [ignorant] like other men" (cf. Luke 18.10-14)! For am I not as ignorant?

Visiting a village such as this, one gets a new realization of our dependence upon the generations behind us, each of which left more than it found -- more books, more inventions, more discoveries, more universities, more buildings, more factories. ("Quickly Built -- Quickly Abandoned", in Arnold Joy's The Africa of Albert Schweitzer (1948))

And new ideas, e.g. the free-speech rights of ancient Athens and the Enlightenment, but only if the rulers of this world allow them to spread.

Query: for Socrates definition and essential nature mean the same thing.

"To state what the essential nature of a thing is = to state the definition of that thing." But that is only half of the requirements Socrates sets for a definition (according to Aristotle). Better therefore is: to define a thing (actually, a common name) is to state what all instances of that thing have in common that distinguishes that class (or, category) of things from all other things: it is thus not only essential common nature -- but also unique common nature. Note, and note well: that is not a statement of what the essential nature of definition is (!). It is, instead, a definition -- one out of many possible -- of the word 'definition' as Socrates thought it useful to philosophy to define that word. Note also that simply stating a definition does not make that definition universally applicable to our language -- i.e. there may be (and indeed are) many things that cannot be defined by using Socrates' definition of 'definition'. (Why Socrates wanted such definitions in ethics is made clear, at least on Plato's account of Socrates' aim, in Plato's Euthyphro 6d-7d: Socrates seeks universal standards of judgment in ethics.)

Query: what is logic based on? Socrates.

Maybe for Plato, when he was thinking of Forms, you could say that "logic" is based on the Forms; for it is from the Forms that common names may arise. But for Socrates, I don't understand the query. What is Wittgenstein's logic "based on"? The question has no clear meaning (i.e. it seems clear what it is asking about, based on analogies to asking what such-and-such a thing is based on; but it is not clear how the question is -- i.e. can be -- answered; "can" here is logical possibility: what it is defined -- i.e. what criteria the querier has set for a right answer).

Query: (1 pt) some modern areas of study have names based on Greek; mark each of the following areas of study if its name has a Greek origin.

The English language carries its history with it: e.g. the combination of English letters 'ph' as in 'philosophy' and 'physics' marks words as being of Greek origin; the Greek letter is "phi" (Φ). Another example is the combination of English letters 'psy' as in 'psychology' (and 'psyche'); the Greek letter is "psi" (Ψ). Note that philosophy was invented by the classical Greeks; the word 'philosophy' has no equivalent in any other language; that origin is lost by the Italian language spelling 'filosofia', whereas both the German and French languages retain the 'ph' spelling ('Philosophie').

Query: how does Plato use his comparisons to make his arguments?

We mustn't forget that 'analogy' = 'comparison'; whenever possible use the humblest language to express yourself, for the sake of clarity; the word 'analogy' is far too elegant -- i.e. it makes it sound as if you knew more than you do know, whereas its meaning is nothing more than 'A is like B in the specified way', and that is a comparison.

Query: abstract questions, such as do dogs have souls?

What the query appears to be calling "abstract questions" are often (always?) grammatical questions, requiring for their answers conceptual, not factual, investigations [i.e. they are not questions to be answered by investigating man's experience of the world, but only the "grammar" of our language]. The "questions without answers" -- are or are not "abstract questions"? Now I owe you a definition of 'abstract question' ... What are "abstract questions" when they're at home?

Query: running against the wall, Wittgenstein.

That is, running into the wall of our cage -- as if the prison walls of our language were not walls of our own making. Again, language is our tool; we are not its tool, as it were.

Query: questions that cannot be answered are called?

But the word 'called' may mean e.g. (1) 'given the name'; or it may mean e.g. (2) 'classified as' (although there are countless limited-by-human-imagination-only categories, or, classification schemes). And so: (1) 'enigmas'; or (2) misclassified (from the grammatical standpoint), i.e. language having the form of expression 'question-sign', but not the use of question-signs ... if, that is, the "Questions without Answers" do not have that use, for the concept 'question' may be more fluid than I imagine it to be [And now I need examples of kinds of questions!].

Query: questions without answers.
Query: questions without sense.

Well, this is it. This is the question: are our questions without answers ("some great truth out there", as metaphysics) also questions without sense -- i.e. nonsense (mere undefined combinations of words)?

Query: explain philosophy begins with a question.

But it as often begins with someone stating a proposition, e.g. one expressing a doubt, that strikes someone else as not being right or quite right ("denying common sense" and G.E. Moore, for example) -- and then philosophy (or, philosophizing) begins: the proposition is put to the test in dialectic (if only by "keeping discourse with oneself") to be agreed to or refuted.

Did Thales begin with a question or with an assertion? "What is the essential stuff (physis) of the world?" or "I observe that water is the foundation of all things"? Philosophy may begin in confusion, bewilderment, sometimes curiosity, many things; cf. Robert Schumann writing about why someone composes music, e.g. sometimes simply because a piano is open; and Goethe's saying that he had written his poetry because he was bored.


Rationalism as an "asylum for ignorance"

I wonder if Spinoza's metaphysics (i.e. Ethics; see esp. clearly "Of God") isn't a leg-pull, not a crude satire or parody, but irony. That is to say: "Do you wish for there to be God? Very well, we will deduce the existence of God. Immortality of the soul? Then we will deduce immortality -- or its contrary. Whichever you like." Spinoza called God "that asylum of ignorance", although maybe asylum for ignorance would be clearer ('asylum' = 'sanctuary' = 'a place of safety' -- i.e. a place where man's ignorance can safely be hidden: e.g. attributing the cause of any unaccounted for natural phenomena, e.g. earthquakes and lightening, to gods is an example of hiding ignorance). And I wonder if Rationalism -- if Spinoza might not have said the same thing about Rationalism, that it is an asylum for ignorance, that if we don't know something we can select some propositions, e.g. some axioms (as in Plato), and deduce what passes for knowledge of whatever we want to know from them.

If the metaphysics of the Ethics is an example (or, instance) of irony, that would seem to me quite consistent with a particular sub-strain found in many cultures, this sort of mock-serious mocking of pretension. Of course it is very subtle, unlike Pascal's criticism of Rationalism, if it is meant to mock Rationalism, which I don't know if it is.

Spinoza's God as "that asylum of ignorance" -- would be Bonhoeffer's "God as a working-hypothesis". Whereas Rationalism as an asylum of ignorance would be to say: What we don't know we don't know -- but we can pretend we know it. And so maybe it should be Rationalism as an asylum of/for pretense.

Leibniz and Theodicy

Did Leibniz claim that the world had been created, or were the pre-existent monads co-eternal with God? Of course if they were pre-existent, then what is Leibniz's solution to the existence of evil if God is all-good? That God made the best possible world out of the pre-existent monads, not the best imaginable, but --. And this shows that a solution can be at the same time both thoughtful and unsatisfying.

Variation. I can't remember now whether Leibniz argued that the world was or was not created ex nihilo. I think not, that the "pre-existent monads" were eternal with God, having a distinct existence. God simply arranged the monads to make the best world possible, not the best imaginable maybe, but the best possible. That answers the question of how God can be all-good and yet there be evil in the world. It is an example of a solution to a problem that does not satisfy the heart that seeks a solution, because the logically possible ("imaginable") does not correspond to the really possible ("best possible") in the theory -- but why doesn't it?

Leibniz's God. "This was the best God could do given what He had to work with"; God as in Pär Lagerkvist's The Eternal Smile, an old man with rough workman's hand holdings aloft a lantern.


Thoughts apropos of other topics

These are like slips of paper (as was Wittgenstein's Zettel) on which are written notes that should be inserted elsewhere, if everything were ever done, that is, which I don't imagine it ever will be.

Query: messages from the past carried in beams of light.

Lots of pictures can be drawn (i.e. thought/dreamed up), but how to verify any of it? Well, you can't -- if for you to know (verify) what happens/happened when, you would need a way to communicate "faster than the speed of light can deliver messages". The problem is to be present at both ends at the same time, but when the distances between those ends is very large, then the combination of words 'at the same time' has meaning only in the pictures that combination of words suggest to you -- not in anything measurable/testable. ("The picture is there, but what is its application?")

The picture that Stoicism and Christianity do not share - Ethical eschatology

Did the Stoics see that there could never be a good society? Was that why their ideal was a society of good men rather than a good society? Or did they believe that a society of good men would be the only good society -- for what else would a good society look like? A society in which all men had the real possibility to become good men? Man is not born ethical but, if he is to be ethical, must make himself ethical. But it does not follow from that, that all men can -- have the real possibility to -- make themselves ethical. And if all men cannot, then there can only be scatterings of good men.

The limit to there being a good society

There are I think good human beings in every society, but there are no good societies. Nor will there ever be, because that is the nature of man himself: for each child faces the difficulties of developing itself into a good human being. And most of us never become fully good, and some of us, apparently, never become good at all, forever, in our ignorance of the good, choosing vice rather than virtue, for the human condition is this: that the ignorance of man is limitless but his ability to philosophize himself out of that state variable. ((Enforced goodness is compulsory hypocrisy, a fusing of good deeds and evil thoughts; it is not ethics.))

"Evil. Ignorance. What is the difference?" [which word we use, 'evil' or 'ignorant'?] In the context of ethics, it is the same [single] phenomenon we are talking about: choosing what is wrong/bad rather than what is right/good -- if it is a question of choice, which it is not if their perceived good is that at which all things aim.

Falling into sin. Its relation to ignorance.

"Beware of sin," Dutlov repeated ... "we must all die!" (Tolstoy, Polikushka, Chapter xv)

"Why sin? We shall all come to die." (Chapter viii)

It is when we act as we might if we were going to live forever, having forgotten that we must die, or when we live as if what we do were of no importance (as if life were without meaning, which is something that no man knows the answer to), that is when we fall into sin, I think. ("Conceited ignorance", presumption (i.e. presuming that one knows what one does not know), is the root of all evil? I don't know. It needs thought.)

Of course, I still owe us a definition of 'a good society'. For example, is it possible (i.e. logically possible) for there to be a society that is good but that has some or many vicious inhabitants? (A 'good society' would not be at war with its neighbors; it would not seek to steal its neighbors' natural resources; there would be no big distance between rich and poor; things like this?)

In the "Conclusion" of his Quest of the Historical Jesus, Schweitzer uses the expression "ethical eschatology" and says what he believes it must mean for our day, given that -- apart from Catholic Christians -- we don't (and, arguably, can't) share Jesus' apocalyptic-messianic world-picture. (The word 'eschatology' may be defined here as 'the question of the end', of 'last things', meaning both 'the last days of' and the 'final aim of human history'.) The "ethical eschatology" of which Schweitzer speaks is found in his Civilization and Ethics, in his statement that the ethical perfecting both of the individual and of society (for Jesus' kingdom of God is not about only the individual) is what mankind should be longing and working for, because that is the end God has in mind for humanity, or if we set aside the concept 'God', it is in Schweitzer's view nonetheless the highest ideal of development for mankind. The Gospel's "ethical eschatology", which Jesus identified as the father's work (i.e. as a supernatural development), is for our time our own work (i.e. something natural) to create a civilization ruled by ethics rather than by power.

"To create a civilization ruled by ethics ..." But what does our experience of life tell us? It seems to tell us that if God does not bring about the kingdom of God Jesus spoke of, then we are left with nothing but Voltaire's "We must work in our garden", knowing that the weeds will return with each new human being who is born and with each human being who falls away from amending his life toward what is good.

The Medieval view, if I know what it was, and I may not, sees this world as if it were a transit camp, our life here merely a temporary exile from our true home. And so we should not become attached to the things of this world .... When I was at school, when the Soviet Union still existed, we had a teacher who had been a boy in Russia in those days, before emigrating. One day as he was crossing the fields, some of the farmers (peasants) stopped him and asked him if at school he was taught that the earth is round. They shook their heads at his answer. But he told us that for him this life was only like a play, "before we go to join the others who are waiting for us" .... But meanwhile we are here. And if we cannot create the civilization Schweitzer speaks of, we can try to create an outpost of the kingdom of God within ourselves and maybe around ourselves as well.

Children, Language

If you are walking across the countryside and come to a ravine, you needn't use language to think, to reason, about what the best way to get across the ravine is. (Wordless thoughts)

Query: child always asks new meanings of words.

That suggests that many words of our language do not have essential meanings (or, defining common natures), for if they did the child would not be perplexed by occurrences of words in unfamiliar contexts; because the child would, if "the theory of abstraction" were correct, have grasped the essential meaning of any word from the first. (The child, who does think it knows what it does not know, is thus wiser than the grown man who thinks the child should know.)

Query: why do children question everything?

Maybe because they don't think they know what they do not know. Maybe because they would like to know what they do not know (Child in grocery store: "Where do watermelons come from?" -- Mother: "From a kind of tree."). Maybe because they want to know the justification for your bullying them about. Maybe because ...

Query: language is sounds of feelings.

In some cases we might say this; e.g. "Damn you!" -- is this not equivalent to an angry scream? Cf. PI § 244: "the verbal expression of pain replaces crying", and words of anger replace angry screaming (e.g. the screaming of the infant that has not yet learned language).

What do the TLP's "propositions of natural science" look like?

Question: is the following correct? That in the TLP, by "the propositions of natural science" Wittgenstein does not mean what we normally mean, but rather ordinary natural science propositions reduced to statements that are a concatenation logical atoms (which, presumably, we capture as sense data: And then "that language which I alone understand" is the language of my sense data, which, presumably, is different from everyone else's; cf. for "the solipsist is right" (5.62)).

Query: in what ways does nonsense make meaning, and why is it important?

"In what ways does nonsense make sense?" That itself is an example of this: An undefined combination of words may suggest ideas to you that you otherwise might not have thought of. For example, Here we must ask for a definition of 'nonsense', e.g. is the verse of Jabberwocky an example of "nonsense"? Does the TLP use the word 'nonsense' that way -- i.e. is the TLP itself an example of jabberwocky? But the meaning of the verse is explained (i.e. defined) in Lewis Carroll's story: the verse consists of "portmanteau words", and those words are not nonsense. Whereas Wittgenstein maintains that the propositions of the TLP irredeemably are.

Later himself wrote: "Don't be afraid of talking nonsense, but you must pay attention to your nonsense!" (CV p. 56) But how is Wittgenstein using the word -- i.e. the "sign" (ink marks on paper, sounds) - 'nonsense' here? Or, then, another example: All signs are in themselves nonsense (noise, sounds without sense), and so: how do they acquire sense ('sense' = 'meaning') -- i.e. how does mankind create sense out of nonsense? And that leads to, in my view, the first question in philosophy: How to make an objective distinction between sense and nonsense in philosophy? And for that -- and perhaps countless other reasons -- "nonsense" is important.

The Sea Wolf: Forcing reality to conform to theory

I wrote that the meaning of man's life may be found in his rebellion against the values displayed by nature. The character "Wolf" Larsen in London's The Sea Wolf, on the other hand, is the ultimate conformist to the values of nature. Or so I thought at first, but I was not correct. Because Larsen conforms only to the cruel values nature displays -- not to all the values displayed by nature, if altruism/kindness be one such value. And so you could say that the meaning of his life is found in his rebellion against all the non-cruel values displayed by nature.

Larsen, being possessed by the world-picture of materialism ("possessed" because that ideology is just another form of thinking you know what you don't know), believes (and forces reality to conform to his belief) that man is a being driven solely to satisfy its appetites and then die without afterlife -- as if it could only be that if man were endowed with an immortal soul (i.e. spirit in contrast to body) that man could be driven not only by his bodily or even brutish appetites but also by the higher, not-self-serving motives inspired by that soul. As a ship's captain, Larsen's way of command models itself on Satan (as god-like a being as a ship's captain at sea is), encouraging all that is cruel in his men -- encouraging the worse rather than the better in man, lowering man to a beast rather than raising him up to, no, not an angel, but to a human being (i.e. man who realizes in himself something of the excellence that is proper to man). Cervantes: "Everyone is as God has made him, and oftentimes a great deal worse." Larsen aimed to make all men worse, and those he could not make worse, those who rebelled against his rule, he murdered. (If the good man makes men worse, then what does the evil man do to them? Larsen was a man ruled over by an evil ideology.)

By Plato's standard -- i.e. did the ruler make the people (ethically) better? (Gorgias 517b, 518e-519a) -- Larsen was the very opposite of a statesman.

I would say that all that is what least interests me about this book, that the initial collision in the San Francisco Bay, the methods of seal hunting, and the great storm in the sea northeast of Japan (Chapter xvii), everything to do with sailing the schooner -- this is what makes this book wonderful to anyone who is drawn to the sea and sailing and extremes of weather. But of course Larsen's cruelty is essential to the story's setting.

The Sea Wolf is Procrustes, his project is Procrustean, the method Procrustean: to make reality conform with Wolf Larsen's picture of it. Anyone who is too tall, that is to say virtuous, must be cut down (made vicious rather than virtuous), and anyone who is not sufficiently evil must be stretched out (made even more evil), in both cases to fit the mold that is identical with Larsen's picture of how reality must be (And how reality must be is how reality must be made to be -- the first 'must' is ontological, the second moral imperative. Although Larsen denies that there are moral imperatives, what type would this be? -- certainly not practical imperative like raising or lowering the ship's anchor).

You could also say that Wolf Larsen plays god, well, that's if God were the devil.


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