Archive for the ‘The limits of philosophy’ Category

reason has short wings

May 29, 2013

…reason has short wings

Dante, Divine Comedy (Paradiso, Canto II)

A bicycle is a useful and good means of transport but can only take us so far. It cannot cross oceans. The rationalist denies the existence of these other continents because his chosen means of transport cannot take him there.

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ll wars are undertaken for the acquisition of wealth; and the reason why we have to acquire wealth is the body, because we are slaves in its service

November 17, 2009

Wars and revolutions and battles are due simply and solely to the body and its desires. All wars are undertaken for the acquisition of wealth; and the reason why we have to acquire wealth is the body, because we are slaves in its service.

Socrates, Plato, Phaedo, 66c

NB the ‘body’ (i.e.physical nature) as cause. This is the problem for ancient Greek philosophy but of course there is little to be done for it. Contrast the Biblical account of the sinful nature as cause which can be transformed and overcome by the Spirit of God in the new birth.

Socrates seems to assume that wealth cannot be gained in peaceful manners too…


I can’t justify it, but it was a deep and sincere prayer – a prayer for strength to subdue my instincts

October 13, 2009

Despite being a critic of religion,  Bertrand Russell’s biographer, Ray Monk, writes that he once prayed on his knees to God in the San Zeno Maggiore, Verona. He was struggling to control his sexual passions. Russell wrote:

I can’t justify it, but it was a deep and sincere prayer – a prayer for strength to subdue my instincts.

Clearly his rationalism wasn’t of much help at that time.

There is nothing so consistent with reason as the denial of reason

September 24, 2009

There is nothing so consistent with reason as the denial of reason. For reason’s last step is the recognition that there are an infinite number of things beyond it. If natural things are beyond it, what can we say about the supernatural?…Reason can be twisted in any direction.

Pascal

‘There is nothing so consistent with reason as the denial of reason’ because reason points beyond itself for an explanation in terms which are not immediately accessibly to reason. Similarly, maths explains many things, but not the existence of itself. Logic is a useful thing, but its basis, why its laws are valid and so on, are not given in logic itself. Many will deny that maths and logic need an explanation in terms of something higher. But this is not proof against the fact that these things are inexplicable in and of themselves.

By the way, Pascal was a mathematician – a brilliant mathematician.

Finding bad reasons for what we already be lieve on instinct

September 16, 2009

…metaphysics is the finding of bad reasons for what we already believe upon instinct.

F. H. Bradley, philosopher

There can be nothing so absurd, but may be found in the books of philosophers

September 16, 2009

For it is most true that Cicero saith of them somewhere; that there can be nothing so absurd, but may be found in the books of philosophers.

Thomas Hobbes

This is what Hobbes calls in man:

…the privilege of absurdity, to which no living creature is subject, but men only. And of men, those are of all most subject to it that profess philosophy.

Leviathan, ch. 5

Claiming to be wise, they became fools… Romans. 1.22

No age has known less than ours of what man is

September 8, 2009

“No age,” writes Heidegger in his Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, “has known so much, and so many different things, about man as ours…And no age has known less than ours of what man is.”

Martin Buber, Between man and Man, p.219

I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark.

September 4, 2009

I am about to take my last voyage, a great leap in the dark.

Thomas Hobbes’ last words

Now comes the mystery.

Beecher, Henry Ward – last words

It is appointed for man to die once and then the judgement. Hebrews 9.27

Intellectual Pride

September 3, 2009

I am quite indifferent to the mass of human creatures; though I wish, as a purely intellectual problem, to discover some way in which they might all be happy. I wouldn’t sacrifice myself to them though their unhappiness, at moments, about once in three months, gives me a feeling of discomfort, and an intellectual desire to find a way out….I live mostly for myself–everything has for me, a reference to my own education. I care for very few people, and have several enemies–two or three at least whose pain is delightful to me. I often wish to give pain, and when I do, I find it pleasant for a moment. I feel myself superior to most people, and only pity myself at rare intervals, when I am tired out. I used to pity myself at all times and deeply. I believe in happiness and I am happy. I enjoy work immensely. I wish for fame among the expert few, but my chief desire–the desire by which I regulate my life–is a purely self-centered desire for intellectual satisfaction about things that puzzle me.

Bertrand Russell, Ray Monk, vol.1., p.120

‘Knowledge puffs up but love builds up’ (1 Cor.8.1)

Happiness not found in great learning

August 26, 2009

I was born in sin; I have lived unhappily, and I die in perturbation. Cause of causes, pity me.

Aristotle (384 – 322 B.C.), attributed, but source unknown.

Yet he had said:

What is the highest of all practical goods? …It is happiness… (it is) the active exercise of the mind in conformity with perfect goodness or virtue.

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics