Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Dying to Surprise You

A man dies and suddenly finds himself at the gates of Heaven.

He immediately sees his wife and two children standing outside the gates looking at him. His wife says,

"When the doctor told us you were fading fast, we all ran home and committed suicide, just so we could surprise you here!"

From a cartoon in The New Yorker

Pessimism's Vested Interests

For most people
it would be very convenient
if God were a rascal.

When In Rome

You become what your companions are.


If you want to make an enemy,
try to change someone.

Less Is More

Whoever lives
content with little
has everything.


We weaken whatever we exaggerate.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

God, Authority, and Moral Agency

Brunner, Buber, Barth, Neibuhr, Bultmann and others like them: The only genuine or adequate basis for morality is a religion that acknowledges the sovereignty of the Lord found in the prophetic religions. Many non-religious people behave morally, but without a belief in God and God's law, there is no ground or reason for being moral. The moral relativism, skepticism, and nihilism rampant in our age is due to the weakening of religious belief by the rise of science. Without God there can be no objective foundation for our moral beliefs. Only a believer perceives that the God recognized in faith, is the only God, and all that is otherwise called good cannot lay claim to this title in its ultimate sense. The Good is always doing what God wills at any perticular moment. Moreover, this moral Good can only be attained by our unconditional obedience to God, the ground of our being. Without God life would have no point andmorality would have no basis. Without religious belief, without the living God, there could be no adequate answer to the persistently gnawing questions: What should I do? How should I live?

Nielsen: But is being willed by God the, or even a, basic criterion for believing that whatever is willed by God is morally good or is something that ought to be done?

Is being willed by God the only or the only adequate criterion for believing that whatever is willed by God is morally good or is something that ought to be done?

The criterion for the goodness of an action or attitude is some measure or test for deciding which actions or attitudes are good or desirable, or at least are the least undesirable of the alternate actions or attitudes open to us. A moral criterion is the standard we use for determining the value of an action, principle, rule, or attitude. We have such a standard when we have relevant considerations for deciding whether something is what it is claimed to be. A basic moral criterion is a test for judging the legitimacy of moral rules or acts or attitudes, and a test that one would give up last if one were reasoning morally.

Also, in asking about the authority for our moral beliefs, we're not asking how we came to have them. Many people get their beliefs from parents, teachers, peers, and so on. They are beliefs which we have been conditioned to accept. But the validity or soundness of a belief is independent of its origin. When someone is asked where they got their moral beliefs, they are probably not asking how they came to believe them, but on that authority they hold those beliefs or for what good reasons or justification they hold them.

They cannot hold them on any authority. Many of us turn to people for moral advice in moral issues, but if we do what we do only because some authority says to, we cannot be reasoning and acting as moral agents. Because to respond as a moral agent, one's moral principle must be one's own deliberate decision and it must be something for which one is prepared to give reasons.

Hence, the fact that God has commanded, willed, or ordained something cannot be a criterion for claiming that whatever is commanded, will, or ordained ought to be done.

While I do not agree with Bultmann et al, a problem I notice about Nielsen's criticism against them is that it implies there is some supervisory obligation or "ought" about about the criterion for obligation itself, which begs the question all over again, as if we "ought" to construe "ought" in a certain way, and let's not mention the construance obligation itself.

Once again: What about that statement itself? "Ought" we believe IT?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Truth's Girlfriend

It is one mark of the truth, that it courts enquiry.

Daniel Wilson

Nature Abhors A Vacuum

For every true belief the mind rejects, it assumes a false one from which the fog of distraction rises to blot out true insight.

The Consolation of Philosophy
Rome, 520 A.D.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What about that statement itself?

Try saying, at least to yourself, "What about that statement ITSELF" any time you hear these grandiose "Who is to judge?", "No one can know THE truth", "Everything's relative" types of philosophical claims and questions.

"What about that statement itself?"

is one the most important questions in philosophy, especially for non-philosophical individuals.

It can make a lot of lights go on, and turn the tables in many situations. The statement

"No one can know the truth" ---is paraded around like that statement itself is the truth, isn't it?

See? You're becoming a streetwise philosopher already!

I have seen non-philosophical people of all ages have eureka moments, even turning points in their lives, just from thinking about this one almost magic question.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Unvarnishing the Truth

One must be honest in intellectual matters to the point of harshness. One must be accustomed to living on mountains---to seeing the wretched ephemeral chatter about politics and national egoism beneath one. One must have become indifferent, one must never ask whether truth is useful or whether it is a fatality. A preference, born from strength, for questions for which no one today has the courage. Courage for the denied. Predestination for the labyrinth. An experience out of seven solitudes. New ears for new music. New eyes for the most distant things. A new conscience for truths which have so far remained silent.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Bonn, 1888


My time has not yet come. Some are born posthumously.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Stating the Unstated

My ambition is to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book. And what everyone else does not say in a book.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Twilight of the Idols
"Expeditions of an Untimely Man"

Immortal Concision

Aphorisms are the forms of eternity.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Twilight of the Idols
"Expeditions of an Untimely Man" 51

Dancing with Philosophers

There is no formula for how much nourishment a spirit requires. But if its taste is for independence, for wandering, perhaps for adventures to which only the swiftest are equal, then it prefers to live free on a light diet, than unfree and stuffed.

Not fat, but the greatest suppleness and strength is what a good dancer wants from their food. And I don't know what more the spirit of a philosopher could wish to be than a good dancer. For the dance is their ideal, their art, and also the only kind of piety they know, their 'divine service'.

Friedrich Nietzsche 1887

Hot Issues and Cold Showers

I regard profound problems as I do a cold bath. In quickly and out quickly. That one thereby fails to get down deep enough, fails to reach the depths, is the superstition of the enemies of cold water. They speak without experience. Oh! Great cold makes one quick!

Friedrich Nietzsche

Social Butterfly Skeet Shooting

I no longer write anything which does not reduce to despair every kind of person who is 'in a hurry'.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Wisdom Wars

Wisdom is a woman and loves only a warrior.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
"Of Reading and Writing"

Laughing Lions

Courage wants to laugh. Who of you can laugh and be exalted at the same time?

Friedrich Nietzsche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
"Of Reading and Writing"

Dreams of Imprintedness

Whoever writes in blood and aphorisms does not want to be read. They want to be learned by heart.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Thus Spoke Zarathustra
"Of Reading and Writing"

The Diggers Revisited

The good individuals of every age are those who bury the old ideas in the depths of the earth and bear fruit with them, the agriculturalists of the spirit.

Friedrich Nietzsche

Unselfishness' Selfish Motive 1

When they feel they are unselfish, they think there's no reason to bother with truth.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Daybreak 456

Creating Hammers

Real philosophers reach for the future with a creative hand. And for them, everything that has ever existed becomes a means, an instrument, a hammer. Their knowing is creating.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Beyond Good and Evil 211

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Enduring Significance of Stupidity

Imprudence may deceive itself, but it cannot alter the true value of things.

The Consolation of Philosophy
Pavia, 520 A.D.

Consolatio Philosophiae 2

Why then are miserable men in awe
When tyrants rage impotently?
If first you rid yourself of hope and fear
You have disarmed the tyrant's wrath:
But whosoever quakes in hope or fear,
Drifting or losing mastery,
Has cast away his shield, has left his place,
And holds the chain with which he will be held.

The Consolation of Philosophy
Pavia, 520 A.D.

Consolatio Philosophiae 1

I fought many a great battle against the reckless forces of folly.

The Consolation of Philosophy
Pavia, 520 A.D.

The Idea of the Good

The Meaning and Method of Moral Inquiry

It is destiny to decide. Whether choices are free or determined, trivial or momentous, carelessly made or carefully reasoned---in a sense it doesn't matter. The one thing there's no choice about is that we have to choose.

The scope of choice is not all-encompassing, since many choices are made by the natural environment, biology, family situation, the authority of other persons, the structure of society, education, upbringing, and by other influences.

But even though the destiny of these choices is not all-encompassing, it is all-pervasive. As we become reflectively self-conscious, we can choose how to respond to these influences and limitations, how to view this environment of limitations, and to what extent we can use its framework as a ladder on which we ascend to important goals. And in this process we may discover that the limitations themselves extend the scope of our choice, because those limitations exist only by providing an endless set of options which increase the scope of our decisions.

Without the provocation of limits, there could be no opportunity to choose, and therefore no freedom, so that the truth of freedom is necessity, and the necessity of freedom is truth.

I seem to have no legitimate claim against my constraints, since I have barely begun to take advantage of the slack which those limitations provide. Therefore it is my destiny to decide.

But for all we know with science at our disposal, maybe our decisions make no appreciable difference.

Many choices can be trivial in the sense that none of the alternatives seem likely to produce any consequentially different effect as over against other choices. An orange or grapefruit for breakfast, a symphony or an opera, paddleball or tennis. But some choices can make enormous consequential differences, such as in the choice of life vocation, a spouse, or some medical treatment or surgery. And sometimes these major choices are themselves conditioned by previous decisions that seem comparatively trivial. If I had not decided to go to military school, I might not have become acquainted with Austin, which has been my home for over 30 years. So we can never be sure about the consequences of even the options that seem trivial and indifferent when we confront them.

But the claim that one's choices make no significant difference is descriptively false, and is itself a choice that generates incalculable consequences drastically different from those that would conceivably follow from choosing to believe that one's options are in fact very important.

A life guided by rationally directed choice will be very different from one governed by the passive indifference generated by assuming no choice ever makes any difference. Hence, the indifference view is self-contradictory by being an exception to its own claim.

Adapted from Reconstruction of the Christian Revelation Claim, by Stuart Hackett

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Comfortable Deceptions

What people hate is not being deceived, but the bad hostile consequences of certain kinds of deception.

In a sense they want the truth. They want the agreeable life-preserving consequences of truth. But they are indifferent to pure knowledge, which has no immediate consequences. They are even hostile to possibly damaging and destructive truths.

Friedrich Nietzsche
"On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense"
(a fragment published posthumously)

Nature Gone Wild

She threw away the key. And woe to the calamitous curiosity which might peer just once through a crack in the chamber of consciousness and look down, and sense that humanity rests upon the merciless, the greedy, the insatiable, the murderous, in the indifference of its ignorance---hanging in dreams on the back of a tiger.

In view of all this, where in the world does the urge for truth come from?

Friedrich Nietzsche
"On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense"
(a fragment published posthumously) 1873

The Tadpole Channel

The constant fluttering around the single flame of vanity is so much the rule and the law that almost nothing is as incomprehensible than how an honest and pure urge for truth could make an appearance among human beings.

They are deeply immersed in illusions and dream images. Their eye glides only over the surface of things and sees "forms". Nowhere does their feeling lead into truth, but contents itself with the reception of stimuli, playing, as it were, blindman's bluff on the backs of things.

Friedrich Nietzsche
"On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense"
(a fragment published posthumously) 1873

Bonfire of the Evanescent

That arrogance which goes with knowledge and feeling, which shrouds the eyes and senses in a blinding fog, therefore deceives humanity about the value of existence by containing the most flattering evaluation of knowledge itself. Its most universal effect is deception.

Friedrich Nietzsche
"On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense"
(a fragment published postumously) 1873

A 1-Minute Intellectual History

How miserable, now shadowy and flighty, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect appears in nature. There have been eternities when it didn't exist. And when it's done for again, nothing will have happened.

Because this intellect has no further goal that would lead beyond human life.

It's human. And only its owner and producer gives it such importance, as if the world pivoted around it.

Friedrich Nietzsche
"On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense"
(A fragment published posthumously)

Retroactive Indicative

In some remote corner of the universe, poured out and glittering in innumerable solar systems, there once was a star on which clever animals invented knowledge.

That was the most arrogant and mendacious minute of world history.

Yet only a minute.

After nature had drawn a few breaths, the star grew cold, and the clever animals had to die.

Friedrich Nietzsche
"On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense", 1873, posthumously

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Few and the Many

The hope of society is that with the preservation of so many blanks one may also protect a few in whom humanity culminates. Otherwise it makes no sense at all to preserve so many wretched human beings.

Friedrich Nietzsche
Notes, 1873, VI, 336 f.

Hoisted by a Petard

I did try to establish a heresy of my own. And when I had put the last touches on it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.

G. K. Chesterton
Orthodoxy, 1959

Beautiful Loser

"This beautiful world history is a chaotic pile of garbage."

Friedrich Nietzsche
Notes, 1873

Alternative Religion

"Deification of success is truly commensurate with human meanness."

Friedrich Nietzsche
Notes, 1873

Many Counselors

"In the natural order of things, there are always several geniuses who spur each other to action."

Friedrich Nietzsche
"Homer's Contest", 1872

Monday, June 12, 2006

Personalism from a Virtue

"Every great virtue kindles a new greatness."

Friedrich Nietzsche
"Homer's Contest", 1872

Retro Jealousy

"Even a dead man can still spur a live one to consuming jealousy."

Friedrich Nietzsche
"Homer's Contest", 1872

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

You Owe! You Ought! You Must!

"What the philosophers call character is an incurable disease. An imperative ethics is one that deals with the symptoms of the disease, having the faith while it fights them that it is getting rid of the real origin, the basic evil."

-Friedrich Nietzsche
"On Ethics", 1868

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Pleasure and Inquiry

Faith does not offer the least support for a proof of objective truth. Here the ways of humans part. If you want to work for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe. If you want to be a devotee of truth, then inquire.

-Friedrich Nietzsche
In a letter to his sister
Bonn, 1865

In A Letter To My Sister

"As for your principle that truth is always on the side of the more difficult, I partly agree.

But it's hard to believe that 2 times 2 is not 4. Does that make it true?

Is it really so difficult to just accept everything you've been brought up on, and what really comforts and elevates humanity?

Is that more difficult than to strike new paths, fighting the habitual, experiencing the insecurity of independence and the frequent wavering of one's feelings and even one's conscience, proceeding often without any consolation, but always with the eternal goal of the good, the true, and the beautiful?

After all, do we have to have a view of God and the world that makes us feel the most comfortable? Do we seek rest, peace,and pleasure in our inquiries?

No. Only truth. Even if it's the most repulsive and ugly truth."

Friedrich Nietzsche
In a letter to his sister
Bonn, 1865