Man a machine

by Julien Offray de La Mettrie is one those books I recommend you read during your December break. He writes somewhere

I do not mean to call in question the existence of a supreme being; on the contrary it seems to me that the greatest degree of probability is in favor of this belief. But since the existence of this being goes no further than that of any other toward proving the need of worship, it is a theoretic truth with very little practical value. Therefore, since we may say, after such long experience, that religion does not imply exact honesty, we are authorized by the same reasons to think that atheism does not exclude it.

or

Let us not lose ourselves in the infinite, for we are not made to have the least idea thereof, and are absolutely unable to get back to the origin of things. Besides it does not matter for our peace of mind, whether matter be eternal or have been created, whether there be or be not a God. How foolish to torment ourselves so much about things which we can not know, and which would not make us any happier even were we to gain knowledge about them!

or

[..]It follows that the study of nature can make only unbelievers; and the way of thinking of all its more successful investigators proves this.โ€

and to end this post, he says about the soul

The soul is therefore but an empty word, of which no one has any idea, and which an enlightened man should use only to signify the part in us that thinks. Given the least principle of motion, animated bodies will have all that is necessary for moving, feeling, thinking, repenting, or in a word for conducting themselves in the physical realm, and in the moral realm which depends upon it.

of men and wokeness

we live in very strange times. or maybe it only happens on the internet. with all the wokeness doing the rounds, group identity, victimhood olympics and cancel culture one always finds themselves walking on glass shells when they are asked to mention who is their favourite anything. you start asking yourself whether you can still listen to R Kelly’s storm is over or do you cancel him; can you read Mencken on religion or will we cancel him because of his racism or cancel Nietzsche for his whip statement? It’s all tricky.

For some reason that I still yet don’t know, many of the works I admire greatly were written by people who are now dead. And for some reason they are mostly male. And with the woke brigade on their cancelling march, they too, might soon be cancelled.

Why am i writing all this? Well, I don’t know but i wanted to share this short essay i found yesterday written by Bertrand Russell before some woke person decides we must cancel him, especially now that people are being cancelled left right and centre.

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a deep ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.
I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy — ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness — that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss.

I have sought it, finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem
too good for human life, this is what — at last — I have found.
With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.
Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart.
Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate the evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.
This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

What I have lived for by Bertrand Russell.

Have a cancel free Sunday.

on national boundaries

In his book, The open sore of a continent, Wole Soyinka asks a question that I think will remain relevant as long as nation states exist.

when is a state?

Hopefully, by the time I finish with this book, we can answer the question when is a state?

At present, I am only interested in sharing a quote or rather a passage questioning the inviolability principle of national borders.

The inviolability principle of national boundaries is therefore a fictitious concept, born out of nothing more substantial than faith, and therefore every bit as questionable for those of the rational world. And even those whose existence is bound by faith, especially of the religious kind, are cautious to deny
specific boundaries to the provinces of heaven, hell, or purgatory. These are left severely to the imagination, free to be adjusted according to population proportions in the hereafter.

When Satan launched his takeover bid against the forces of God, it was, after all, an attempt to unify the celestial provinces, if Milton’s account in Paradise Lost is to be believed. This, however, proved one instance when the unity principle did not prove popular; the cultures, mores, and ethics of heaven and hell were simply incompatible, and a war of separate identities was won by the supposedly good side, while evil, on the side of unity, lost out ignominiously. Clearly the notion of unification for its own sake
and at any price has been faulted even in the metaphysical realms, so where, then, in this entire universe are we to find the philosophy of wholes and parts that endows one, rather than the other, with immutable authority?

The answer is Nowhere. Nowhere at all. It is we, the occupants of the whole or the part who must decide whether it serves our collective interest to stay together or pull apart. And we can only commence by a
recourse to history, the quality of life in the present and the tangible advantages, as well as the projection that we can make into the future, stemming from today’s realities in all fields of our human activity.

What do you think of this position? Does it make sense and what, if taken to its logical conclusion, would it lead to in regards to national boundaries.

On the mind

In Musil’s very readable book, the man without qualities, he writes thus of the mind, and which I find both quite interesting and to provide some pause for though

[…] It analyses a substance and notes that it is a poison in large quantities, a stimulant in smaller ones….. To the mind, good and evil, above and below, are not skeptical, relative concepts, but terms of a function, values that depend on the context they find themselves in. The centuries have taught it that vice can turn into virtues and virtues into vices, so the mind concludes that basically only ineptitude prevents the transformation of a criminal into a useful person within the space of a lifetime.

It doesn’t accept anything as permissible or impermissible, since everything may have some quality that may someday make it part of a great new context. It secretly detests everything with pretentions to permanence, all the great ideals and laws and their little fossilized imprint, the well adjusted character. It regards nothing as fixed, no personality, no order of things; because our knowledge may change from day to day, it regards nothing as binding; everything has the value it has only until the next act of creation, as a face changes with the words we are speaking to it.

And so the mind is the great opportunist, itself impossible to pin down, take hold of, anywhere; one is tempted to believe that all of its influence nothing is left but decay. Man feels dangerously close to repeating the fate of those gigantic primeval species that perished because of their size; but he cannot stop himself.

Ulrich, the man without qualities, sees this whole thing in a comical light and concludes

there is certainly an abundance of mind around, the only thing wrong was that mind itself was devoid of mind.

Happy weekend everyone.

 

I say

With Dresser,

I do not know what truth is, what beauty is, what love is, what hope is. I do not believe any one absolutely and I do not doubt any one absolutely. I think people are both evil and well-intentioned.

On crowding in cities

Men are not made to be crowded together in ant hills, but scattered over the earth to till it. The more they are massed together, the more corrupt they become. Disease and vice are the sure results of over crowded cities. Of all creatures man is least fitted to live in herds. Huddled together like sheep, men would very soon die. Man’s breath is fatal to his fellows. This is literally as well as figuratively true.

Jean Jacques Rousseau