A human life is too short for the acquisition by oneself of the wisdom needed to live it well -- or to end it well. And the same goes for the appropriation of the hard-won wisdom of one's predecessors: the brevity of life militates against the needed appropriation as much as against the needed acquisition. So wisdom must come from outside the human-all-too-human if it is to come at all.
Addendum . Dave Bagwill submits the following pertinent quotation from George MacDonald's Diary of an Old Soul for July 15th:
Who sets himself not sternly to be good,
Is but a fool, who judgment of true things
Has none, however oft the claim renewed.
And he who thinks, in his great plenitude,
To right himself, and set his spirit free,
Without the might of higher communings,
Is foolish also--save he willed himself to be.
Philosophy can fuel intellectual pride. And it manifestly does in far too many of its practitioners. But pursued far enough and deep enough it may lead to insight into the infirmity of reason, an insight one salutary benefit of which is intellectual humility. Our patron saint was known for his knowing nescience, his learned ignorance. It was that which made Socrates wise.
When I asked Harry if he uses the Internet to look up old friends, "Let sleeping dogs lie" was his reply. His attitude, qualified, recommends itself.
The friendships of old were many of them mere friendships of propinquity. They were born of time and place and circumstance, and they died the death of distance, whether temporal or spatial or circumstantial. They are relics that can be fingered but not reanimated. They are best left in the boneyard of memory.
The worldly wise live by the probable and not by the possible. It is possible that you will reform the person you want to marry. But it is not probable.
Don't imagine that you can change a person in any significant way. What you see now in your partner is what you will get from here on out. People don't change. They are what they are. The few exceptions prove the rule. The wise live by rules, not exceptions, by probabilities, not possibilities. "Probability is the very guide to life." (Bishop Butler quoting Cicero, De Natura, 5, 12) It is foolish to gamble with your happiness. We gamble with what is inconsequential, what we can afford to lose. So if there is anything about your potential spouse that is unacceptable, don't foolishly suppose that you will change her. You won't. You must take her as she is, warts and all, as she must take you.
The principle applies not only to marriage but across the board.
The onus probandi is on the extremist in matters of belief. Extreme beliefs bear the burden of proof. There is a defeasible presumption in favor of moderate views just as there is a defeasible presumption in favor of traditional ways of doing things. Note the qualifier, 'defeasible.'
Too many of the academic philosophers of consciousness are overly concerned with the paltriest aspects of consciousness, so-called qualia, and work their tails off trying to convince themselves and others that they are no threat to physicalism.
While man's nobility lies in the power of thought whereby he traverses all of time and existence, our materialists labor mightily to make physicalism safe for the smell of cooked onions.
Although the world runs on appearances, a fact well to be heeded by anyone who plans to hang out long in these sublunary precincts, the task of the philosopher is to penetrate seemings, whence we may conclude that it is unseemly for a philosopher to be much concerned with the seemly and the unseemly.
You are sliding down a mountain towards certain death. Your only hope is to grab the rope that is thrown to you. Will you refuse to do so because the rope might break? Will you first inquire into the reliability of the rope or the credibility of the assurances of the one who would be your savior?
People can and ought to be judged by the company they keep, the company they keep away from, and those who attack them.
S. N. counters thusly:
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' (Luke 7.33-4)
God incarnate can safely consort with gluttons and drunkards and the lying agents of the Infernal Revenue Service, but mortal man cannot. So one who does so consort ought to be judged by the company he keeps. The judgment might be along the following lines, "You are morally weak, and you know you are; and yet you enter the near occasion of sin?"
This leads to a question about "Judge not lest ye be judged." How is this NT verse at Matthew 7, 1-5 to be interpreted? Is it to be read as implying the categorical imperative, "Thou shalt not judge others morally"? Or is it to be interpreted as a merely hypothetical imperative, "You may judge others morally, but only if you are prepared to be judged morally in turn and either condemned or exonerated as the case may be"?
The first reading is not plausible. For one thing, one cannot detach the antecedent or the consequent of a conditional in the way one can detach the conjunct of a conjunction. Compare 'If you don't want to be judged by others, don't judge them' with 'You don't want to be judged by others and you don't want others to judge you.' The categorical imperative 'Don't judge them' does not follow from the first. The declarative ' You don't want others to judge you' does follow from the second.
But now a third reading suggests itself to me, one that in a sense combines the categorical and the hypothetical, to wit, "You may judge others morally, but only if you are prepared to be judged morally and condemned by God, since no man is justified before God." This is tantamount to a categorical prohibition on judging.
I suspect the third reading is the correct one in the context of Christian teaching as a whole. But I'm no theologian.
Jean-Paul Sartre put the following into the mouth of a character in the play, No Exit: "Hell is other people." What then would hell be for philosophers? To be locked in a room forever with a philosopher with whom one has little or no common ground. David Stove and Theodor Adorno, for example. Or Sartre and Etienne Gilson.
Unable to contain her curiosity, Pandora opened her box and a multitude of evils escaped into the world. The blogger, unable to contain his curiosity as to the comments he might receive, opens his combox and a multitude of evils _________________. (You finish the sentence.)
The search for the Real takes us outside ourselves. We may seek the Real in experiences, possessions, distant lands, or other people. These soon enough reveal themselves as distractions. But what about ideas and theories? Are they simply a more lofty sort of distraction? “Travelling is a fool’s paradise” said Emerson. Among lands certainly, but not among ideas?
If I move from objects of sense to objects of thought I am still moving among objects. To discourse, whether in words or in thoughts, is to be on the run and not at rest. But is not the Real to be found resting within, in one’s innermost subjectivity? Discourse dis-tracts, pulls apart, the interior unity.
Noli foras ire, said Augustine, in te redi, in interiore homine habitat veritas. “Do not wish to go outside, return into yourself. Truth dwells in the inner man.”
Weight lifters and body builders in their advanced states of muscular development appear ridiculous to us. All that time and money spent on the grotesque overdevelopment of one's merely physical attributes ___ when in a few short years one will be dust and ashes. But isn't the intellectual equally unbalanced who overdevelops his logical and analytical skills to the neglect of body, emotions, and spirit? Is the intellectual wrestler all that superior to the physical one? Is one kind of hypertrophy better than another? What good is discursive hypertrophy if it is paid for in the coin of mystical and moral and physical atrophy?
Years ago an acquaintance wrote me about a book he had published which, he said, had "made quite a splash." The metaphor is unfortunately double-edged. When an object hits the water it makes a splash. But only moments later the water returns to its quiescent state as if nothing had happened. So it is an apt metaphor. It captures both the immediate significance of an event and its long-term insignificance.
We must learn to accept people's love, good wishes, and benevolence as gifts without worrying whether we deserve these things or not, and without worrying whether we will ever be in a position to compensate the donors. Similarly, we must learn to accept people's hate and malevolence as a sort of reverse gratuitous donation whether we deserve them or not.
We are often unjustly loved and admired. So why should it bother us that we are often unjustly hated and contemned? Try to see the latter as balancing the former.
It may be that moral and intellectual progress is possible only here. After death it may be too late, either because one no longer exists, or because one continues to exist but in a state that does not permit further progress.
It is foolish to think that believers in post-mortem survival could have no reason to value their physical health and seek longevity. Even a Platonist who believes that he is his soul and not a composite of soul and body has reason to prolong the discipline of the Cave. For it may be that the best progress or the only progress is possible only in the midst of its speluncarchiaroscuro.
Philosophia longa, vita brevis. It is precisely because philosophy is long that one ought to extend one's earthly tenure for as long as one can make progress intellectually and morally. And this, whether or not one has the hope that Vita mutatur non tollitur.
Desire leads to the gratification of desire, which in turn leads to the repetition of the gratification. Repeated gratification in turn leads to the formation of an intensely pleasurable habit, one that persists even after the desire wanes and disappears, the very desire without whose gratification the habit wouldn't exist in the first place. Memories of pleasure conspire in the maintenance of habit. The ancient rake, exhausted and infirm, is not up for another round of debauchery, but the memories haunt him, of pleasures past. The memories keep alive the habit after the desire has fled the decrepit body that refuses to serve as an engine of pleasure.
And that puts me in mind of Schopenhauer's advice. "Abandon your vices before they abandon you."
Although the state under leftism is totalitarian and demands conformity and submission in matters of moment, it tolerates and indeed encourages the cultivation of a politically inconsequential individualism of private self-absorption. A people given bread (food stamps and other forms of infantilizing dependency), circuses (mass sporting events), dope (legalization of marijuana), pornography, politically correct propaganda, and such weapons of mass distraction as Twitter and Facebook is kept distracted, enervated, and submissive.
Nowadays it is not religion that is the opiate of the masses, but the dope of Big Government.
Schadenfreude at the death of an enemy presupposes that being dead is an evil state of affairs. The decedent, however, might express, if he could, Schadenfreude of his own: "I have been released from all evils while you remain trapped."