The epitaph on Frank Sinatra's tombstone reads, "The best is yet to come." That may well be, but it won't be booze and broads, glitz and glamour, and the satisfaction of worldly ambitions that were frustrated this side of the grave. So the believer must sincerely ask himself: would I really want eternal life?
At funerals one hears pious claptrap about the dearly departed going off to be with the Lord. In many cases, this provokes a smile. Why should one who has spent his whole life on the make be eager to meet his Maker? Why the sudden interest in the Lord when, in the bloom of life, one gave him no thought? If you have loved the things of this world as if they were ultimate realities, then perhaps you ought to hope that death is annihilation.
I have honestly never eaten a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. So tomorrow I am going to try one. This is in keeping with my maxim, 'No day without political incorrectness.' Each day you must engage in one or more politically incorrect acts. Some suggestions:
Smoke a cigar
Use standard English
Practice with a firearm
Read the Bible
Enunciate uncomfortable truths inconsistent with the liberal Weltanschauung
Read Maverick Philosopher
Think for yourself
Give your baby baby formula
Read the Constitution
Cancel your subscription to The New York Times
Find more examples of politically incorrect things to do
Is the way you interpret Voltaire's saying the way it was originally intended? I'm probably wrong here, but I always took the saying to mean this: a willingness to settle for what is "better" makes it likely that one won't acquire what is "good".
Good, better, best. Positive, comparative, superlative. "The best/better is the enemy of the good" means that oftentimes, not always, the pursuit of the best/better will prevent one from attaining the good. The point is that if one is not, oftentimes, willing to settle for what is merely good, one won't get anything of value. So I suggest that my reader has not understood Monsieur Voltaire's aperçu.
Example.It will come down to Romney versus Obama. If libertarians and conservatives fail to vote for Romney, on account of his manifold defects, then they run the risk of four more years of the worthless Obama. Those libertarians and conservatives will have let the better/best become the enemy of the good. They will have shown a failure to understand the human predicament and the politics pertaining to it. He who holds out for perfection in an imperfect world may end up with nothing.
You give the example of a spouse: try to hold out for a perfect wife, and you'll never marry at all. An example that would fit my reading would be, if one settles for a wife who's merely better than most of the available options, then one's apt to settle for a wife who isn't good. Sometimes it's better to refuse all the available options.
I agree that it is sometimes better to refuse all the available options. If the choice is between Hitler and Stalin, then one ought to abstain!
Maybe a better example would be, imagine I need to install plumbing in my house. Crappy plumbing is almost always going to be better than no plumbing. But should I (say, out of laziness) really settle for that, on the grounds that 'well, it's better than the nothing I had'?
Of course not. Voltaire's point is not that one should settle for what is inferior when something better is available. The point is that one should not allow the pursuit of unattainable perfection to prevent the attainment of something good but within reach. Suppose someone were to say: I won't have any faucets or fixtures in my house unless they are all made of solid gold! You will agree that such an attitude would be eminently unreasonable.
The Voltairean principle as I read it is exceedingly important in both personal life and in politics.
Perhaps you know some perfectionists. These types never accomplish anything because they are stymied by the conceit that anything less than perfection is worthless. I knew a guy in graduate school who thought that a dissertation had to be a magnum opus. He never finished and dropped out of sight.
In politics there are 'all or nothing' types who demand the whole enchilada or none. Some years back, when it looked as if it would be Giuliani versus Hillary, some conservative extremists said they would withhold their support from the former on the ground that he is soft on abortion. But that makes no bloody sense given that under Hillary things would have been worse.
The 'all or nothing' mentality is typical of adolescents of all ages. "We want the world and we want it . . NOW!"
"We consider nothing philosophical to be foreign to us." This is the motto Hector-Neri Castañeda chose to place on the masthead of the philosophical journal he founded in 1966, Noûs. When Hector died too young a death at age 66 in the fall of '91, the editorship passed to others who removed the Latin phrase. There are people who find classical allusions pretentious. I understand, but do not share, their sentiment.
Perhaps I should import Hector's motto into my own masthead. For it certainly expresses my attitude and would be a nice, if inadequate, way of honoring the man.
Hector's motto is modelled on Terentius: Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto. "I am a human being; I consider nothing human to be foreign to me." One also sees the thought expressed in this form: Nihil humanum a me alienum puto. Hector's motto is modeled on this variant.
Money in my pocket, food in my belly, clothes on my back, a roof over my head, physical and mental health. What does it say about us that the possession of things like these is not success enough? Aim high! Try high! Forget Bukowski.
Visitors do not like being snubbed. If a good thought deigns to make an appearance before the portal of your mind, write it down. Snubbed, it may never come again. But even if it does, will it come clothed in the same felicitous finery of formulation?
"Here is Rhodes, jump here." From Aesop's Fables #209, "The Boastful Athlete." A man who had been off in foreign lands, returns home. He brags of his exploits. He claims that in Rhodes he made a long jump the likes of which had never been seen. A skeptical bystander calls him on his boast: Here's your Rhodes, jump here!
The moral? Put your money where your mouth is. Don't talk about it, do it!
This post is a stub. Perhaps an erudite classicist such as Mike Gilleland could complete it. He would have to do at least the following: dig up all the ancient sources in Greek and Latin; trace the saying in Erasmus and Goethe; comment on Hegel's variation on the saying in the Vorrede zur Philosophie des Rechts, explaining why he has saltus for salta; find and comment on Marx's comment on Hegel's employment of the saying.
Finally, if Alan Rhoda were to rename his cleverly titled weblog Alanyzer -- and I'm not saying he should -- he might consider Hic Rhoda, Hic Salta. He is a very tall man; I'm 6' 1'' and had to look up to see his face when I met him in Las Vegas some years back. To jump over him would be quite a feat.
"First of all, do no harm." Not just for medicos. Also for the benighted politicos who would 'fix' health care. Their approach is a bit like fixing a roof leak by tearing down the house and building a new one.
And don't you just love the way these idiots use 'fix' and broken'? Talk like a first-grader and you'll think like one too. And these fools are our rulers?
It is we who supply the blood that enlivens the spectral vampires that haunt us from our past. A part of mind control is purgation of memory, and without mind control happiness is achieved with difficulty, if at all.
Balık baştan kokar is Turkish for "The fish stinks from the head." Quite apropos of the Obama administration the corruption, incompetence, and stupidity of which boggles the mind. He's done everything wrong. But there is hope: Obama's fiscal irresponsibility and liberty-destroying socialist malfeasance has suffered a massive rebuke in, of all places, the People's Republic of Taxachusetts. Here are the precinct-by-precinct statistics of Brown's win over Coakley in the Bay State. (Perhaps it should be called the Pay State.) The results for Cambridge precinct show a whopping 84% for Coakley (DEM) and a paltry 15% for Brown (GOP). No surprise there, of course. You know what Cambridge is home to.
Maybe not. It all depends on what the meaning of 'is' is.
Seriously, though, this saying is seeing quite a lot of use lately. It is a sort of present-tensed Que sera, sera. Things are the way they are. Don't kick against the pricks. Acceptance and resignation are the appropriate attitudes.
From a philosophy-of-language point of view, what is interesting is the use of a tautological form of words to express a non-tautological proposition. What the words mean is not what the speaker means in uttering the words. Sentence meaning and speaker's meaning come apart. The speaker does not literally mean that things are what they are -- for what the hell else could they be? Not what they are? What the speaker means is that (certain) things can't be changed and so must be accepted with resignation. Your dead-end job for example. 'It is what it is.'
There are many examples of the use of tautological sentences to express non-tautological propositions. 'What will be, will be' is an example, as is 'Beer is beer.' When Ayn Rand proclaimed that Existence exists! she did not mean to assert the tautological proposition that each existing thing exists; she was ineptly employing a tautological sentence to express a non-tautological and not uncontroversial thesis of metaphysical realism according to which what exists exists independently of any mind, finite or infinite.
'What will be will be' is tautologically true and thus necessarily true. What the sentence is typically used to express, however, is the non-tautological, and arguably false, proposition that what will be, will necessarily be, that it cannot be otherwise. So not only do sentence meaning and speaker's meaning come apart in this case; a modal fallacy is lurking in the background as well, the ancient fallacy of confusing the necessitas consequentiae with the necessitas consequentiis.
Now you know what I think about on those long training runs (3 hours, 18 minutes last Sunday). Running is marvelous for 'jogging' one's thoughts.
Attributed to Voltaire. "The best is the enemy of the good."
Meditation on this truth may help conservatives contain their revulsion at their lousy choices. Obama, who has proven that he is a disaster for the country, got in in part because of conservatives who could not abide McCain.
Politics is a practical business. It is always about the lesser of evils, except when it is about the least of evils. It is not about being ideologically pure. It is about accomplishing something in a concrete situation in which holding out for the best is tantamount to acquiescing in the bad. Political choices are forced options in roughly William James' sense: he who abstains chooses willy-nilly. His not choosing the better amounts to a choice of the worse.
Why, with so many painful losses to my 'credit,' do I continue to submit my aging self to the rigors of tournament chess? Because the strenuous life has a property Bobby Fischer once ascribed to 1. P-K4: it is "best by test."
What I am writing here may be feeble stuff; well, then I am just not capable of bringing the big, important thing to light. But hidden in these feeble remarks are great prospects. (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, p. 65)
It is best avoided with ordinary folk. Serious conversation about matters beyond the mundane demands effort and people resent being made to work. Besides, ordinary folk do not 'believe in conversation' the way some philosophers do. They don't believe that truth can be attained by dialectical means. They might not believe in truth at all, or in its value. Or they may have the notion that 'truth is relative.' Thoughtlessly, many dismiss all thought with 'It's all relative.' So if you try to engage them on a serious topic, they may interpret your overture as an initial move in an ego game whereby you are trying to dominate them, even if that is the farthest thing from your mind. Not believing in truth, they believe in power, and interpret everything as a power ploy and a power play. And this goes double if, like me, you are intense of mien. For your seriousness will appear either threatening or comical to those for whom nothing matters except life's surfaces.
A good maxim, then: Among regular guys be a regular guy.
Do I live up to this admonition? Or am I posturing? Is my posture perhaps a slouch towards hypocrisy?
Well, it depends on how broadly one takes 'join.' A while back, I joined a neighbor and some of his friends in helping him move furniture. Reasonably construed, the motto does not rule out that sort of thing. And being a fair and balanced guy, as everybody knows, I recently joined the Conservative Book Club to balance out my long-standing membership in the left-leaning and sex-saturated Quality Paperback Book Club. (It would be interesting to compare these two 'clubs' in respect of their target memberships -- but that's another post.)
And what if I join you for lunch, or join in a discussion in a chat room? A good while ago, the anonyblogger who ran The Will to Blog, but then lost the will to blog and deleted his site, opined that my motto ought to preclude my being a conservative. But surely one does not join a set of beliefs. One joins a political party, an organization, a church, and the like. Our anonyblogger might have been making the mistake of thinking that an independent thinker cannot arrive at any conclusions, for, if he did, then he would be joining something, and lose his independence.
I do appreciate e-mail, and I consider it rude not to respond; but lack of time and energy in synergy with congenital inefficiency conspire to make it difficult for me to answer everything. I am also temperamentally disinclined to acquiesce in mindless American hyperkineticism, in accordance with the Italian saying:
Dolce Far Niente
Sweet To Do Nothing
which saying, were it not for the inefficiency lately mentioned, would have been by now inscribed above my stoa. My paternal grandfather had it emblazoned on his pergola, and more 'nothing' transpires on my stoa than ever did beneath his pergola.
So time each day must be devoted to 'doing nothing': meditating, traipsing around in the local mountains, contemplating sunrises and moonsets, sunsets and moonrises, and taking naps, naps punctuated on one end by bed-reading and on the other by yet more coffee-drinking. Without a sizeable admixture of such 'nothing' I cannot see how a life would be worth living.