The African origin of civilization

Myth or Reality by Cheikh Anta Diop, a review.

I promised to do this at the earliest opportunity and so here we are. For the purposes of this review, we will not dwell on whether the Egyptians were a “black White people”, a “reddish brown white” or whatever other shade of white you can think of. All we will mention here that they depicted their god, Osiris, as black.

Diop argues that the only place or rather to the only people that circumcision/ excision made any sense were those of ancient Egypt. He argues, to these ancients, just as their gods were hermaphrodite, babies too were. So by removing a small part from the male or female organ, these children became male or female. Before circumcision, they were all like gods.

He says the evidence available to us shows the Egyptians were to pray to their gods at minimum 7 times a day. In this respect, the Mohammedians only sought to reduce the burden of the people by making the minimum number of prayer times 5.

He argues because of their settled lifestyle as a result of abundant food supplies along the Nile valley, they had the luxury to worship gods. He also argues these societies were matriarchal. And that patriarchy started with the nomads, that is, almost everyone else except the Egyptians.

From his works, one can arrive at the conclusion that the Bible/ Torah is legend based on the stories the Jews had heard laced with creative imagination.

It’s an easy to read book. Well written. He has attempted to provide documentary support for his many claims from Egyptian frescoes to statements from those who interacted with Ancient Egypt such as Herodotus. It’s a book I would recommend to anyone.

La Mattrie

In Man_ Machine writes, among other things,

Let’s not get bogged down in ·attempts to think about infinity; we aren’t built to have the slightest idea of it; and we’re absolutely incapable of tracing things back to their origin. And it makes no difference to our peace of mind whether matter is eternal or was created, whether there is or isn’t a God. It is stupid to torture ourselves about things that we can’t know and that wouldn’t make us any happier if we did manage to know them.

And elsewhere

I am told to read the works of the defenders of Christianity; but what will they teach me? Or rather, what have they taught me? There’s nothing to them but boring repetitions by zealous writers who add to each other only verbiage that is more apt to strengthen than undermine the foundations of atheism. The arguments that people base on the spectacle of nature aren’t made any stronger by their sheer quantity:

And continues to write

•destroying chance isn’t •proving the existence of a supreme Being, for there may be something that is neither chance nor God—namely, nature, the study of which can only produce unbelievers, as is shown by the way of thinking of all its most successful observers.’

If you haven’t read the book and you have some time in your hands, you should.

Emile or on education

By Jean Jacques Rousseau

This is not a review.

Those who have read the confessions or a little about him know he gave his children out to be raised by others. As such, we could easily dismiss him to be unqualified in telling us how to raise children. But since I didn’t dismiss him, I can say a few things about his lessons.

On practicality in this day, almost impossible. You would need to be  homeschooling and doing nothing else.

Some of the ideas I fully agree with. Don’t introduce religion until they have arrived at the age of reason. Wherever possible use demonstration and not empty words. Expose them to the less fortunate, just enough for them to learn pity but not too much to make them indifferent. Keep them, if possible, away from bad influence. Encourage them to be confident in their teacher, that way they are free to be themselves and not learn early to deceive.

His sentiments about women on the other hand deserve criticism. For example he writes

Unless a beautiful woman is an angel, her husband is the most miserable of men; and even if she were an angel he would still be the centre of a hostile crowd and she could not prevent it.

He continues to write

But ugliness which is actually repulsive is the worst misfortune; repulsion increases rather than diminishes, and it turns to hatred. Such a union is a hell upon earth; better death than such a marriage.

Elsewhere he writes

Your honour is in your keeping, hers depends on others.

The last example I will provide, and there are many more where he tells us the duties of women are tied up with their husbands or fathers. He writes for example

Her honour is to be unknown; her glory is the respect of her husband her joys the happiness of her family.

He asks his readers who between a woman busy with household chores or an author of poems and books will you address with most respect?

Consolation of Philosophy

By Boethius

This book is in five sections [books];

Book 1: The sorrows of Boethius

Book ii: The vanity of fortune’s gifts

Book iii: True and false happiness

Book iv: Good and ill fortune

Book v: Freewill and God’s foreknowledge

Boethius, for those who do not know him, was a Roman consul during the reign of Theodoric the Great. He was born in 480CE and executed in 524CE. He wrote the above tract, while exiled in Pavia, and shortly before his execution by Theodoric.

Boethius laments his fall from royalty and the impending death over his head. He feels wrongly accused by the senate and also that his other accusers, for lack of a better word or vagabonds. His mistress, Philosophy visits him in Pavia to lighten his burden. She starts by reassuring him that the likes of Zeno, Socrates, Anaxagoras, Seneca were brought to destruction for no other reason than that, settled as they were in my principles, their lives were a manifest contrast to the ways of the wicked.

In his lament he asks philosophy if the cruelty of fortune against him I not plain enough. He asks if the exile is the recompense of his obedience.

On the vanity of Fortune’s gifts, philosophy tells him, her very nature, is caprice. She tells him it is not to humans to lament the gifts of Fortune for these are hers to give and take. Boethius laments the greatest sorrow for him is to have been happy.

Philosophy tells him nothing is wretched, but thinking makes it so and conversely every lot is happy if borne with equanimity.

She tells him

If then, thou art master of thyself, thou wilt possess that which thou wilt never be willing to lose, and which Fortune cannot take from thee. And that thou mayst see that happiness cannot possibly consist in these things which are the sport of chance, reflect that, if happiness is the highest good of a creature living in accordance with reason, and if a thing which can in any wise be reft away is not the highest good, it is plain that Fortune cannot aspire to bestow happiness by reason of its instability.

Philosophy tells him that riches, honesty, beauty are all things from without. That they do not in themselves make one happy. She tells him, for example, it is a true saying that they want most who possess most, and, conversely, they want very little who measure their abundance by nature’s requirements, not by the superfluity of vain display. Philosophy tells him this is true also of power, rank, glory and fame. Philosophy argues that if there were any natural and proper good in rank and power, they would never come to the utterly bad, since opposites are not wont to be associated. She says nature brooks not the union of contraries.

Philosophy tells him thet ill Fortune is of more use to men than good Fortune. She says good fortune when she wears the guise of happiness is always lying, ill fortune is always faithful, since, in changing, she shows her inconstancy. The one deceives, the other teaches.  Lastly she tells, when good fortune goes, she takes her friends but leaves you with thine own and that in true friends, one has found the most precious of all riches.

Philosophy tells him that all created beings seek happiness as their end. She says they seek this end through acquisition of wealth, rank, fame, pleasure, glory. She says all these means do not bring the seeker of happiness to their goal for each of them is accompanied by some want or anxiety. Philosophy tells him this happiness is god. That to be happy or rather to possess happiness is to be godlike. That happiness and good are one and they are found in god.

Following Anslem, she tells him god is the greatest good beyond which nothing can be thought. She tells him god is omnipotent.

Boethius asks if god is omnipotent can he do evil. And Philosophy answers in the negative.

He says, herein is the very chiefest cause of my grief- that, while there exists a good ruler of the universe, it is possible that evil should be at all, still more that it should go unpunished. Philosophy tells him this is not so. That the good are always strong, the bad always weak and impotent; that vices never go unpunished nor virtues unrewarded, that good fortune always befalls the good, and ill fortune the bad.

The argument here is that, if the chief end of all human action is towards good, then, the bad do not achieve this aim. She argues that the good make the doer god. In this sense then, those actions called bad do not attain the aims for which the perpetrators intended.

Philosophy tells him, it is clear Plato’s judgement was true: the wise alone are able to do what they would, while the wicked follow their own heart’s lust, but cannot accomplish what they would. For they go on their willfulness fancying they will attain what they wish for in the paths of delight; but they are very far from its attainment, since shameful deeds lead not to happiness.

To conclude, philosophy argues that freedom of choice is an attribute of reason and that god’s foreknowledge does not in any way interfere with the actions of humans. She argues that knowledge depends not on the thing known but on the faculty of the knower. That god’s foreseeing doesn’t in itself impose necessity, any more than our seeing things happen makes their happening necessary. She argues no creature can be rational, unless they be endowed with freewill. For that which hath the natural use of reason has the faculty of discriminative judgement and of itself distinguishes what is to be shunned or desired.

She argues there is no such thing as chance in a world rule by god. Chance, she says, as defined by Aristotle is when something is done for the sake of a particular end and for certain reasons some other result that the designed ensues.

She tells him god is eternal, that is, god possesses endless life whole and perfect at a single moment. The world, however is everlasting, that is, it has a prolonged existence.

I think, the current breed of apologists would do well if they were to adopt some of the arguments advanced in this book for example those tackling the problem of evil. What they will not be able to prove is what god is, and how this god, whatever they think it is, is the particular Middle Eastern apparition.

The argument for freewill is also good though it suffers the weakness all others suffer, that the proponent fails to define what they mean. I think by calling it freedom of choice, the proponent only shifts the burden further for we now must ask for the definition of choice.

I think the arguments against fortune make sense. That because they are her gifts to give, we shouldn’t lament so much when we lose them. I must say I agree with Boethius that the saddest thing in the loss of the gifts of fortune is to have been happy.

Lastly, I recommend this book to both theists and atheists alike. Read it, form your own judgements, but at least read it.

Conclusions of the Territorial Imperative

Usually, at the end of a good book, I prefer to write my thoughts about what I have read. In this case, however, you will allow me to be lazy and let Ardrey talk for himself.

He writes towards the end, and I think the conclusions make sense;
1. We must know that man, while the alpha fish among species, is unique only in his capacity for getting himself into troubles that for other species nature would be compelled to provide
2. We must know that as body and behaviour evolve as a collective enterprise,  so human behaviour like the human body is governed by evolutionary laws comparable to those of any other species
3. We must know that while the human brain exceeds by far the potentialities of that possessed by any other animal species, its psychological processes probably differ not at all from those of other higher animals, and from those of lower animals perhaps as well
4. While granting that the varying cultural achievements of human populations set man apart from other animals, still we must know that such cultures, however complex, simply serve to fill out behavioural patterns, some as ancient as recorded life
5. Man no different from any other animal is a complex of expressions, frequently conflicting, in which no single determinant- territory, society, dominance, sex, economic necessity or single innate need for identity, stimulation or security – holds exclusive or permanent domain.
6. Our capacities for sacrifice, for altruism, for sympathy, for trust, for responsibilities to other than self interest, for honesty, for charity, for friendship and love, for social amity and mutual interdependence have evolved just as surely as the flatness of our feet, the muscularity of our buttocks, and the enlargement of our brains, out of the encounter on ancient African savannahs between the primate potential and the hominid circumstance. Whether morality without territory is possible in man must remain as our final, unanswerable question.

I will add here, contrary to Jean Jacques Rousseau, the capacity for violence is innate but the tools is what we must learn.

I hope this summary doesn’t disappoint all those who were expecting more, Victoria I am pointing at you😀

War and peace

By Count Leo Tolstoy

I will start by a confession. Many times when I write a review of an old book, that I guess many of you must have read, the question that comes to mind is you must be asking where I was when you read them. I wish I knew but I am reading them now and as my very important audience, I have to share with you the joy I draw from such books.

With that behind us, for those interested in what Kutuzov did or did not do, what happened to Helene the socialite the family affairs of Prince Bezukhov or Princess Mary and what led to the ruin of the Rostovs’, you can read the whole novel.

But those lazy ones, who are interested more in the questions of history or human nature, the epilogue will do. In the epilogue he asks what is power, what causes the movement of nations,  such as what led to the movement from the west to the east that ended with the taking of Moscow and the countermovement from East to west that ended in Paris?

The other important question, at least in my view, that he dispenses with is that of freewill. And I do not, for the life of me, know why it isn’t part of the literature in the freewill debate. His explanations are clear and almost irrefutable if not irrefutable.

At the end of the book, I begin to see why Fyodor Dostoevsky, would call him, Tolstoy, one of the greatest writers living. His was a brilliant mind. He combined story telling with psychology in a way that can only be compared to Dostoevsky’s works.

It’s a long read for the fainthearted but it is worth all the time you would take to finish ploughing through it.

The book of the city of ladies

By Christine de Pizan

In this book, Christine is making a case for the equality of the female sex with their male counterparts. To do this, she builds a city to populate with ladies.

In her view, any woman of virtue is a lady. Birth does not necessarily make a person noble but virtue is the highest nobility.

The book reads like the life of the saints, especially in part three where justice is roofing the city.

There have been men, and even recently some catholic priest argued women want to be raped or battered. She gives examples of women who were raped to dishonour them and killed themselves thereafter. Anyone who would think a woman wants to be raped should have his head chopped off. He doesn’t need it.

Does a woman have to be a virgin to be honoured?  Is virginity in women of such great value? In the third part of the book that I have spoken of already, most if not all the women mentioned are virgins or are married but living in chastity, which is the same thing.

It is so full of fable that some people would find taking it seriously impossible. There are so many miracles that are mentioned in it that for me, took away from the very important business of the book.

I also found it a bit disturbing where some of the women mentioned in building of the city are praised for their goodness in overseeing the death of so many people.