Sunday, February 11, 2018


anthropomorphism: the notion of giving things that are not human, human qualities

mechanomorphism: the notion of giving things that are not mechanical, mechanical qualities

Atheists contend that theists are anthropomorphizing nature when they talk of god and theists contend that atheists are mechanomorphizing god when they talk of nature.

Cost Benefit Analysis

"Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life." 

— Susan David

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Thieve No Longer

"It is a foolish commonplace expression, that without this pretended freedom of will, rewards and punishments are useless. Reason, and you will conclude quite the contrary. " 

If, when a robber is executed, his accomplice who sees him suffer has the liberty of not being frightened at the punishment ; if his will determines of itself, he will go from the foot of the scaffold to assassinate on the high road; if struck with horror he experiences and insurmountable amount of terror, he will no longer thieve. The punishment of his companion will become useful to him, and moreover prove to society that his will is not free.

– Voltaire "Philosophical Dictionary"

Nasir ad-Din Tusi on Labors Divided

Now, since the Man pivots on mutual aid, while cooperation is realized by men undertaking each other’s important tasks fairly and equally, it follows that the diversity of crafts, which proceeds from the diversity of purposes, demands (a measure of) organization; for if the whole species were to betake themselves in a body to one craft, there would be a return of the situation against which we have just been on guard. For this reason, Divine Wisdom has required that there should be a disparity of aspirations and opinions, so that each desires a different occupation, some noble and others base, in the practice of which they are cheerful and contented.

Likewise, it has been ordained that there should be diversity in their states in such matters as wealth and poverty, quickness and stupidity; for if all be wealthy, they will not serve one another, as equally they will not if all be poor: in the first case, this is on account of their being independent of each other, in the second because of inability to pay anything in return for the service of one to another. Again, since crafts vary in nobility and baseness, if all men be equal in the faculty of discrimination, they will choose one class (of employment), whereby the other classes will remain vacant and the desired end will not be realized. This is what the Philosophers mean when they say: ‘If men were equal, they would all perish’.

However, since some are distinguished by correct management and others by superior strength, one group by great dignity of manner and another by abundant capability (while some, devoid of discrimination and intelligence, are virtually tools and instruments for men so endowed), all tasks are determined in the manner as observed; and from each undertaking his own important duty, the ordering of the universe and the organization of Man’s daily life becomes act.

Now, since it is impossible to conceive the species to exist without cooperation, while cooperation without combination is an absurdity, therefore the human species is naturally in need of combination. This type of combination, of which we have already given an account, is called ‘civilized life’. The term is derived from ‘city’, a city being a place of combination for individuals carrying on, by their various trades and crafts, the cooperation which is the means of procuring a livelihood. Just as we said, concerning Economics, that what was meant by ‘household’ was not a dwelling, but the combination of the inhabitants of a dwelling in a particular way: so here also, what is meant by ‘city’ is not the dwellings of the inhabitants of a city, but a particular association between the inhabitants of a city. This is what the philosophers mean when they say that Man is naturally a city-dweller, i.e. he is naturally in need of the combination called ‘civilized life’.

– Nasir ad-Din Tusi "The Nasirean Ethics"

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Politely Declining All Solidarity

Excerpted from the introduction to Vol. VIII of his Études sur la Littérature Contemporaine (1885):

Age teaches doubt, and experience to distrust. Distrust of the word in particular, since words are like the tongue, the best of all things and the worst of all things. A word is the sign of an idea, and it has all the privileges of a thinking being; but how dearly have we to pay for this privilege! It is the tool of science, but it is also the occasion of errors, the source from which prejudices spring; and, to employ a Baconian phrase, it is the artisan of idols. Words make history; words lead the world; there are words that have shaken States to their very foundations, and that have consummated revolutions. There are words for which, even to this day, men divide themselves into parties or to which they sacrifice themselves. There are privileged words, orthodox words, sacred words, before which prudent men bow themselves. Let the fancy seize you some day to ask what is progress? or to insinuate that humanity after all might be only an abstraction, and you will soon perceive that you are thought to be an idiot or a knave.

Let us be graceless, and let us dare to say that progress is one of the sophisms to which over-hasty generalisation leads, and that it is only the disguise of an abstract term. The idea of indefinite improvement is borrowed from the exact sciences and from the industrial arts, where each conquest becomes the starting-point for a new acquisition, so that it is impossible to foresee that the human species will ever be arrested in this line of successive enrichments. Furthermore, the general prosperity being dependent upon the state of trade, the improvement of the one will have for its consequence the improvement of the other. Here is therefore, without contradiction, social progress—from a materialistic point of view. From day to day suffering, pain is alleviated, and more numerous enjoyments are put within the reach of our fellow-beings; and this is (it costs me nothing to recognise it) something very considerable. I even confess that this is all that is essential. The error is born when it is thought that what is true in the material and positive order of things, is also true in the moral order; when it is supposed that society increases in rectitude, in equity, in moderation, in purity, in delicacy of sentiment by a necessary evolution and an automatic development. This error springs from another error. Well-being is confounded with happiness, when in reality it is only one of its conditions. Happiness is contentment, which, if it does certainly imply the satisfaction of needs, is nevertheless not the consequence of that satisfaction. Happiness is above all a state of soul, an affair of disposition, the philosophy of life; so much so, that it is possible to be very happy with very few enjoyments, and miserable with the possibility of satisfying any desire. Brought back to its true significance, social progress cannot assure the happiness of a single person, much less of humankind. It is even possible that progress will militate against happiness, contentment being a product of wisdom, and wisdom being the product of an intellectual culture more refined than will be perhaps obtained under democratic levelling. We must therefore make up our minds to this: that men lose on the one hand what they gain on the other, and that history is condemned to remain to the end of the chapter a mass of confusion.

Humanity is another of those general terms that is exchanged like current coin, without any one having ever dreamt of verifying the amount of alloy it contains. It is one of those abstractions that defray our incurable mystical necessities. We have a family, a surrounding, a city, a fatherland, and with these, with our relatives, our friends, our fellow-citizens, we have affinities of race and community of interests. But this is not enough for us. We extend in thought the limits of this relationship—already so wanting in reality—and we take in our thoughts the whole genus homo! then we idealize these data of natural history, we personify it, we establish it as a supernatural power, we pronounce its name with deep feeling, we chant hymns in its praise, we shed ink upon its altars, ink and sometimes blood; the most fervent sacrifice their lives to it on barricades or on the scaffold. In the great shipwreck of creeds, we have transferred to this conception all our needs of faith, hope and love. What do I say? It is Comte himself, it is Positivism, which has charged itself with the task of establishing humanity into an object of worship. The world has got rid of theology and of metaphysics, but it has remained the dupe of a word.

Humanity a great family! Men all brothers! Is not this going very far? Do you feel very distinctly the tie of brotherhood when you meet in a book of travels the picture of a Papuan or even of a Chinaman? Between us, and whispered softly: Does not the godless humanity often resemble a female monkey? [...] Humanity tells me nothing. Where is this humanity seen, where is it found? Amongst the men and women I meet with here how many are there with whom I do not desire to have any closer acquaintance? I cannot sufficiently admire the power of abstraction of those persons who in the exuberance of their sympathies overlook the ugly, the sottish, the vulgar, and pay no heed to what is vicious, vile and atrocious. You would not shake that man’s hand: true—but he is a brother. You send him to the galleys, to the gallows: but he is always a brother! Humanity amuses me, it interests me, but, as a whole, it inspires me neither with respect nor with affection. I decline all solidarity.

– Edmond Henri Adolphe Schérer

Friday, November 10, 2017

Taken Their Place

"I do not agree that the dog in a manger has the final right to the manger even though he may have lain there for a very long time. I do not admit that right. I do not admit for instance, that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America or the black people of Australia. I do not admit that a wrong has been done to these people by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly wise race to put it that way, has come in and taken their place."

– Winston Churchill to the Peel Commission (1937) on a Jewish homeland in Palestine

The Charity of the Poor

When the rich give charity to the poor, it's well publicized. But the charity of the poor to the rich is anonymous. The rich give the poor a little food, drink, shelter, clothes. The poor have given the rich palaces and yachts, almost infinite freedom to indulge their doubtful taste for display.

– Gilbert Seldes "Against Revolution"