📙 Sophie’s World

— by Jostein Gaarder (1991).

Do please allow me to introduce to you, Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder (by the by, it was published in Norwegian in 1991 and then in English in 1994). It is a novel of sorts that seems to align with Bertrand Russell’s 1945, History of Western Philosophy. I say “of sorts” because essentially I see it as a way — one of many, see e.g.: “Put simply” — of making the key philosophers and their main ideas more accessible to the likes of me.

📙 Sophie’s World
inspired by Bertrand Russell’s:
📙 History of Western Philosophy


REFERENCE

Gaarder, J. (1994). Sophie’s World. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.


The novel centres on Sophie Amundsen, who is introduced to the history of philosophy by one Alberto Knox, a lecturer in philosophy by way of a number of letters and various other, often somewhat cryptic, mediums.

يا صوفيا 🍉 هلا و غلا


Every day, a letter comes to Sophie’s mailbox that contains a few questions and then later in the day a package comes with some typed pages describing the ideas of a philosopher who dealt with the issues raised by that morning’s questions. The philosopher, Alberto Knox, sends her these packages via his aptly named dog, ‘Hermes.’

Sophie’s World, by Jostein Gaarder (1st ed. 1991)
Lets delve, together you and I, into the rabbit hole.

Alberto first tells Sophie that philosophy is extremely relevant to life and that if we do not question and ponder our very existence we are not really living. Then he proceeds to go through the history of Western philosophy. Sophie (and us readers) gets a reasonably coherent extended review from the Pre-Socratics to Jean-Paul Sartre. We get by way of Alberto, key points regarding the Renaissance, Romanticism, and Existentialism, as well as Darwinism and the ideas of Karl Marx. I thought it might be interesting to consider his categorisation, it is stated as being focused on ‘Western’ philosophy so the omission of the other canons is an acknowledged one.

Ancient Philosophy

— The Pre-Socratics
Including: Thales, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Parmenides, Empedocles & Democritus
Socrates, Plato & Aristotle
— Ancient Philosophy after Aristotle
Including: the Cynics, the Epicureans, the Stoics & Plotinus

Catholic Philosophy

— The Fathers
Including: St Augustine & Pope Gregory
— The Schoolmen
Including: St Thomas Aquinas

Modern Philosophy

— From the Renaissance to Hume
Including: Machiavelli, Erasmus, More, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke & Hume
— From Rousseau to the Present Day
Including: Rousseau, Kant, Hegel, Byron, Nietzsche, the Utilitarians, Marx & William James.

I don’t like to paraphrase the following remarks but life ain’t always gunna b nice to you so, here goes, a reviewer at Publishers Weekly (familiarly known in the book world as PW and, they say, “the bible of the book business” has been printing out literary reviews since 1872 and somewhere along the timeline decided to drop the apostrophe) did write something along the lines of this: Regardless of age many readers will be tempted to skip over the somewhat “dryly written” philosophical lessons — which are not particularly integrated with the “more engaging” meta-fictional story line. This reminds me of something Li Yu is said to have said in his Carnal Prayer Mat.


How low contemporary morals have sunk! But if you write a moral tract exhorting people to virtue, [you] will you get no one to buy it.

Which is akin to the marketing adage/joke:


SEX
— Ah! Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about something completely different. . .

Providing a polar opposite perspective is Steven Gambardella. He writes that Sophie’s World has changed the lives of millions of people and is the “red pill of literature.” It is “the best place to start reading about philosophy” and “eloquently captures the wonder of philosophy, the giddiness you feel when you realise you are floating in space.” The rabbit is sketched to be representative of the universe. In the book, we humans are compared to tiny insects in the rabbit’s fur. Some of us burrow down into the warmth of the fur, while the philosophers among us climb to the tops of the hairs “to stare right into the magician’s eyes.” As Gambardella states, it was written by a high school teacher with a passion for the subject, became a bestseller and has now “sold over 40 million copies.”

The red pill and blue pill is a meme representing a choice between taking either a “red pill” that reveals an unpleasant truth, or taking a “blue pill” to remain in blissful ignorance. The terms and concept are taken verbatim from a scene in the 1999 film The Matrix.
rabbit-hole
Run rabbit run, take me into the abyss — the deep and bottomless midnight zone of eye & ur innermost consciousnesses.
Going [reaching || falling] down the rabbit hole
Falling / Going / Reaching down the rabbit hole, is a metaphor for something that transports someone into a ‘troublingly’ (or possibly too ‘wonderfully’) surreal state or situation.
The Persistence of Memory
“The Persistence of Memory”
By Salvador Dalí (1931). One of the most recognisable works of Surrealism [Spanish title: La persistencia de la memoria].
By hook or by crook, let them — these contemporaries of Sappho and idols of Catullus — reach down into your rabbit hole; let Freud & co. sweet-talk you there, bent over, cowering under or splayed out on the psychologist’s faux-leather, mock-Chesterfield couch.
On a tangent of his own Gambardella says that philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom — knowledge is merely instrumental and is applied to get us by — it is thought about thought. Knowledge of philosophy, he argues, allows us to enhance our pleasures and diminish our pains of our own accord. He quotes Seneca as saying:


Without [Philosophical pondering] no one can lead a life free of fear or worry. Every hour of the day countless situations arise that call for advice, and for that advice we have to look to [it].

Me, well I’m a dipper (skinny I wish) and this applies to all that I read and my writings and musings too. The chalice or urn is neither overflowing or bone dry. It is, I submit to you, bang in the middle. The purpose of this book in my view is to encourage us to think for ourselves, question things that are taken as given and doubt dogmas, as Gaarder writes, “my concern [, dear Sophie,] is that you do not grow up to be one of those people who take the world for granted.” I’d take the red over the blue, politically and metaphorically speaking and in relation to the pleasures and pains of love too.

I’ll end with a nod to who I’m guessing was an influence on Gaarder: Bertrand Russell. Russell was an English philosopher and campaigner for freedom (of expression and from authoritarian control). Reassuringly — to me anyway — he said do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once seen as being eccentric.

The History of Western Philosophy


Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.

Bertrand Russell


The fundamental cause of trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell


p.s.
Consider visiting Bidoonism’s page on Philosophy and/or reading her recent reviews of the following works:

Eldridge, R. T. (Ed.). (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gottlieb, A. (2000). The Dream of Reason: a History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Gottlieb, A. (2016). The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy. London: Penguin.

Grayling, A. C. (2019). The History of Philosophy. London: Penguin.

Kenny, A. (1998). An Illustrated Brief History of Western Philosophy. New York: John Wiley & Sons

Russell, B. (1945). A History of Western Philosophy. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

Put simply

&|| succinctly

There is a book which says a fair bit about me — I went a bit ‘Radio Rentals’ (you know what I mean, a stint of, or a stretch at, ‘doolally’) and frenetically purchased the whole series. Of the set, there was this particular one that, for a bit, I totally cherished — it became my bible & my constant companion, my succour & my sanctum sanatorium (sic.[k]) — but after a time and in a cathartic act of getting-the-fuck-over-him, I dispensed with it (alongside its fellow brethren to the large green municipality garbage (no: ‘rubbish’; no “GARBAGE”) skip (bin or tin) beside the house in which I’m obligated to reside in). However, it found its way back to me and I, once more (“for better or for worse”), took it in again. You see, he’d ‘magically’ found high resolution electronic versions of it and all the other titles and sent them to me, as is his way, with artfully articulated apologies and long letters of regret and remorse for, amongst many other things, his self-destructive ways in which I all too often bare the brunt. He too, by the way, is a flipping expert in throwing everything away and beginning anew — he takes so-called “cleansing baths,” the idea being that baptism-like, he’ll rise from the waters shorn of sin and shed of snake oil (he being phoenix-like; the ashes, the lives of those he messes around with). But the things he throws out (with the bath water, so to speak) soon get reintroduced: for escape, he says — and I concur — is a fallacy because, one cannot escape one’s self (he and I both give short shrift to things like near death experiences being anything other than wholly imagined phenomena).

Thomas De Quincey on Opium
“Thou only givest these gifts to man, and thou hast the keys of Paradise, O just, subtle, and mighty opium!” — he’d quote such things to me. . . O Blackest Spot! Are you musing? Yours, your muse.

This is the book:

(DK) The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
DK. (2011) The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited.
As I seek context for its cover quotes, by way of organic light-emitting diodes, it stares luridly back at me, unblinkingly and unrelentingly. It, in my sore eyes, acts as a testament to the truism that knowledge rarely begets bliss. n.b., I’ll be heading out into the dunes real soon.


Mind has no gender.

Mary Wollstonecraft
An English writer and philosopher (1759–1797) who, inter alia, advocated for gender neutrality in all domains of society. “She” alas (not a lass) is almost unique in this anthology. Yet, maybe this whole endeavour is both infantile and futile; and thus a forte of man. But no! The millennia old quest to definitively discover, determine and frame consciousness is too important to be left to mankind alone. That we evidently aren’t represented in this field doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t seek and strive to become so: per ardua ad astra & all a dat.


I think therefore I am.

René Descartes
A French thinker (1596–1650) who is considered one of the instigators of modern (Western) philosophy (and a key member of La Ville Lumière), his most noted line: “Cogito, ergo sum,” penned in Latin, is quoted above. I can confirm to you here and now that I am very much alive and mulling over my abject melancholy tonight. Whether or, whether not, you too are thinking thoughts now in the dead of night, one can only speculate.


We only think when we are confronted with problems.

John Dewey
An American philosopher and psychologist (1859–1952) who believed profoundly in democracy, be it in e.g., politics, education or media communication; he once said that is was synonymous with the “ultimate, ethical ideal of humanity.”


Humans are born free, yet everywhere they are in chains.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
A French/Swiss philosopher (1712–1778) who had great influence on the progress of the Enlightenment throughout Europe by way of e.g., his works: “Discourse on Inequality” and “The Social Contract” — cornerstones still of contemporary political and socioeconomic thinking (Rousseau was a member of La Ville Lumière). I am chained to memories of u; i am chained too by patriarchy and an increasingly bellicose and jingoistic society.


Imaginations decide everything.

Blaise Pascal
A French mathematician, physicist, inventor and philosopher (1623–1662). Pascal made important contributions to the study of fluids, concepts of pressure and vacuum as well as writing in support of the scientific method.


To be is to be perceived.

George Berkeley
An Irish philosopher (&c.) (1685–1753) who put forth a a theory which he called “immaterialism” which denies the existence of material substance, instead contending that things like books and pens are only ideas in our minds and exist only because we perceived them to be.


The universe has not always existed.

Thomas Aquinas
An Italian philosopher (1225–1274) who is considered to be the most famous of all medieval Christian philosophers. English philosopher Anthony Kenny contends that Aquinas is amongst the dozen “greatest philosophers of the western world.”


Humans are animals that make bargains.

Adam Smith
A Scottish philosopher and pioneer of political economy (1723–1790). known by some as “The Father of Economics” he is perhaps most famous for his work, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), and the concept of ‘the invisible hand.’


Humans are machines.

Thomas Hobbes
An English philosopher (1588–1679) who’s considered to be one of the founders of modern political philosophy in large part because of his 1651 book Leviathan. This work was seminal in terms of setting out social contract theory.


Humans are the measure if all things.

Protagoras
An Ancient Greek philosopher (c. 490–420 BCE) who is said also to have said, “many things prevent knowledge, including the obscurity of the subject and the brevity of human life.”


Happy is the one who has overcome their ego.

Siddhartha Gautama
An Indian philosopher (c. 563–483 BCE) who was later lionised as the Buddha, he’s said to have said the following string of words: The mind is everything. What you think, you become.


The human is an invention of a recent date.

Michel Foucault
A French social theorist and philosopher (1926-1984) Foucault saw himself as a critic of modernity (see: la-ville-lumiere). Interestingly he was convinced that the study of philosophy must begin through a close and ongoing study of history.


The ends justifies the means.

Niccolò Machiavelli
An Italian thinker (1469–1527) who famously submitted the following: while it would be best to be both loved and feared, the two rarely coincide, and thus, greater security is found in the latter.


There is nothing outside of the text.

Jacques Derrida
A French philosopher (1930–2004), who is considered by some to be rather controversial in relation to his concept of “deconstruction” — a complex and nuanced approach to how we read and understand the nature of written texts. In an egalitarian kind of way he believed that we are all, “mediators and translators.” He said too that he never gave in to, “the temptation to be difficult just for the sake of being difficult.”


Act as if what you do makes a difference.

William James
An American philosopher and psychologist (1842–1910) who is said now to be the “Father of American psychology.” In a seminal work for the field of psychology — Pragmatism (1907, p. 45) — he wrote, “there can be no difference that doesn’t make a difference.”


Life will be lived all the better if it has no meaning.

Albert Camus
A French philosopher (1913–1960) who said, “fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” Even more interestingly, in my humble view, he argued that (hu)man(kind) is the only creature who refuses to be what they are. I dunno m8 but i fink he means we are but animals (dressed in garments) but we seek to act and pretend we are more higher than our baser instincts and our animistic (sum times cannibalistic) tendencies.


Over one’s own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

John Stuart Mill
An English philosopher (1806–1873) who said the following: “Under whatever conditions, and within whatever limits, men are admitted to the suffrage, there is not a shadow of justification for not admitting women under the same.” He’s pretty bloody amazing actually. Not only was he for equality between the genders but he was also an advocate of free speech and the limiting of the powers of authority over the citizenry. . .


(DK) The Philosophy Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
— only a fool’d neglect the b’ side.


The life which is unexamined is not worth living.

Socrates
An Ancient Greek philosopher (469–399 BCE) who is considered to be one of the founders of Western philosophy. Interestingly so because he himself wrote nothing. What he did do, however, was persistently ask challenging questions.


Humans are something to be surpassed.

Friedrich Nietzsche
A German philosopher (1844–1900), who amongst other things, believed that so-called religious morality, with its emphasis on kindness, meekness, subservience to a greater good, and a focus on the afterlife rather than the present condition, did not reflect how the world actually works.


The soul is distinct from the body.

Plato
An Ancient Greek philosopher (c.428 – c.348 BCE) and was one of Socrates’ muses. In terms of, “the soul is distinct from the body”. . . I ask: is it though? I mean, like I said about them near death-experiences, you kind of know what to imagine, floating up off of the bed, your life flashing by condensed to a dozen at most vivid events splatters in stark relief. I mean who’s managed to can a soul? Who has actually continued bereft of their blinking body?


Reason lives in language.

— Emmanuel Levinas
A French philosopher (1906–1995) known for his inquiries into existentialism, ethics and ontology.


Truth resides in the world around us.

Aristotle
An Ancient Greek philosopher (384–322 BCE) who said too: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence. We should know tat it is from Aristotle’s writings and teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as the key problems to ponder and moreover, methods of inquiry. As the polymath did make clear: “The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.”


Knowledge is power.

Francis Bacon
An English philosopher (1561–1626) whose work is credited with developing the scientific method hence sometimes being called “the father of empiricism.” For me it is the following words of his that I feel most affinity too: “In order for the light to shine so brightly, the darkness must be present.”


Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.

Voltaire
A French Enlightenment era philosopher (1694–1778) famous for his wit as well as his criticism of religion and his advocacy of freedom of speech. He was a founding member of La Ville Lumière. Tellingly he was fond of saying the following: Those who can make you believe absurdities (e.g., the supernatural) can make you commit atrocities (e.g., coercive indoctrination). This was especially the case, I’ve somewhere read, as an encore to peach soufflé.


The fundamental cause of trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.

Bertrand Russell

Bertrand Russell

RELATED READINGS

Eldridge, R. T. (Ed.). (2009). The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Gottlieb, A. (2000). The Dream of Reason: a History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance. New York: W. W. Norton & Co.

Gottlieb, A. (2016). The Dream of Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Philosophy. London: Penguin.

Grayling, A. C. (2019). The History of Philosophy. London: Penguin.

Kenny, A. (1998). An Illustrated Brief History of Western Philosophy. New York: John Wiley & Sons

Russell, B. (1945). A History of Western Philosophy. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.


End (is nigh) notes
This post ^ is a consequence of summer recess and purdah.

All that glitters

Pyrite / an iron sulfide / FeS2

Please allow me to introduce to you, The Golden Bough: A Study in Magic and Religion, by James Frazer (1st ed. 1890; 2nd ed. 1913). (📙 The Golden Bough.)

You know, when we English Lit. students dream of being writers, we somehow think we’ve something to add to the canon, in some ways, we all have, but the more I dig, the more I scan Project Gutenberg (e t c .),* the more I realise that countless thousands who’ve lived (read, thought, written) and died before I was pushed out into this world, have probably (no ‘definitely’) thought what I think (far more deeply), have set out to articulate what I abstractedly and dreamily plan to one day articulate (& they’ve actually done so in concrete codex form). I feel I’m in the dead calm at the very centre of a tropical vortex –((( it’s wondered off course, North, for I reside in The Pearl; a multi-story complex built beside an artificial lagoon on a peninsula that juts out into the tepid seawater of the Arabian Gulf. Languid in largesse the panoramic view is beset by an unrelenting, near blinding, shimmer — the sun bleaches and becalms vigour. Maritime scenes are confused by midday mirages, mercury in colour — oil money stymies gainful endevour. )))– for I’ve scedules and to-do-lists, ambitions and passions, but I’m laying here listless. And while all is swirling tumultuously around me I’m strapped down by paralysis, I want to write, I want to let it bleed, I so dearly want “writing to be my therapy” as we’d say to each other it would be. We’d say such things in abstract ways mulling over a potential future parting of ways that neither you or I, back then, could seriously contemplate as a possible eventuality. // The whirlpool’s walls tower up indeterminately, they seem to be leaning in, this could be an optical illusion, but more likely it is nature’s way via the force of gravity; you sea, once I had it all; now I’ve nothing at all. \\ They’d say things like “he’s a man of letters” — I’ve read it said — and I’ll update that to be s/he, but yes, in the days before swiping right and switching swiftly between screens, writers on their typewriters (or with paper and gravity aloof pencils), would certainly have been better readers and thus better writers. I was born less than half a dozen years before the millennium, iPads were out before I was into my teenage years. I can’t compare the past to now from knowledge of both, but I’m confident that reading (in say the Victorian/Edwardian way/day) is increasingly a rarity today. On my bloody fucking university campus most key text books are only supplied to us as eBooks (I ain’t even lying . . . I will walk and I will talk).

Here’s an extract — the Preface to a follow-on work The Aftermath (1936) the language, I think, is sublime:

When I first put pen to paper to write The Golden Rough I had no conception of the magnitude of the voyage on which I was embarking ; I thought only to explain a single rule of an ancient Italian priesthood. But insensibly I was led on, step by step, into surveying, as from some specular height, some Pisgah of the mind, a great part of the human race ; I was beguiled, as by some subtle enchanter, into inditing what I cannot but regard as a dark, a tragic chronicle of human error and folly, of fruitless endeavour, wasted time, and blighted hopes. At the best the chronicle may serve as a warning, as a sort of Ariadne’s thread, to help the forlorn wayfarer to shun some of the snares and pitfalls into which his fellows have fallen before him in the labyrinth of life. Such as it is, with all its shortcomings, I now submit The Golden Bough in its completed form to the judgment of my contemporaries, and perhaps of posterity.

Here is another one:

The advance of knowledge is an infinite progression towards a goal that for ever recedes. We need not murmur at the endless pursuit:
 
Fatti non foste a viver come bruti
Ma per seguir virtute e conoscenza.
**
 
Great things will come of that pursuit, though we may not enjoy them. Brighter stars will rise on some voyager of the future—some great Ulysses of the realms of thought—than shine on us. The dreams of magic may one day be the waking realities of science. But a dark shadow lies athwart the far end of this fair prospect. For however vast the increase of knowledge and of power which the future may have in store for man, he can scarcely hope to stay the sweep of those great forces which seem to be making silently but relentlessly for the destruction of all this starry universe in which our earth swims as a speck or mote. In the ages to come man may be able to predict, perhaps even to control, the wayward courses of the winds and clouds, but hardly will his puny hands have strength to speed afresh our slackening planet in its orbit or rekindle the dying fire of the sun. Yet the philosopher who trembles at the idea of such distant catastrophes may console himself by reflecting that these gloomy apprehensions, like the earth and the sun themselves, are only parts of that unsubstantial world which thought has conjured up out of the void, and that the phantoms which the subtle enchantress has evoked to-day she may ban to-morrow. They too, like so much that to common eyes seems solid, may melt into air, into thin air.


Foot notes

* Project Gutenberg is the world’s oldest digital library. It places books into the public domain — most are older works that are thus out of copyright. This altruistic endevour began with the efforts of American writer Michael S. Hart in 1971. See for example: 📙 The Golden Bough. A similar project is called The Internet Archive. It provides free access to researchers and the general public. It’s mission is none other than to provide universal access to all knowledge thus far accumulated by human kind. See for example: 📙 Aftermath, a Supplement to the Golden Bough

** “You were not made to live as brutes / But to follow virtue and knowledge.”
— From Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Selfish {self.E}

The Century of the Self

The Century of the Self is a 2002 documentary made and produced by Adam Curtis. It considers the rise of psychoanalysis as a powerful mean of persuasion for both governments and multinational corporations. It consists of four parts:

01. — The Happiness Machine
02. — The Engineering of Consent
03. — The Policemen Inside our Heads
04. — People Sipping Wine

The Trap…

what’s happened to our dreams of freedom?

The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is a 2007 BBC documentary series directed and produced by Adam Curtis (think: Hypernormalisation). It consists of three one-hour episodes which explore the concept and definition of freedom. In short, Curtis argues that today’s idea of freedom is based on a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures.

Episodes

01. — “F**k You Buddy.”
In this episode, Curtis examines the rise of game theory during the Cold War and the way in which its mathematical models of human behaviour filtered into economic thought.
📹  watch episode 1

02. — “The Lonely Robot.”
The second episode underscores the first but develops the theme that the drugs such as Prozac — Happy Pills — are being used to normalise behaviour and make us behave more predictably… more like machines.
📹  watch episode 2

03. — “We Will Force You To Be Free.”
The final episode focuses on the concepts of positive and negative liberty that were introduced in the 1950s by Isaiah Berlin.* Curtis explains how negative liberty might be defined as freedom from coercion, and positive liberty as the opportunity to strive to fulfill one’s potential.
📹  watch episode 3


Bidoonism’s Adam Curtis collection:
📹 Adam Curtis documentaries


P.S.

* “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” This ancient Greek aphorism, preserved in a fragment from the poet Archilochus, describes a thesis put forward by Isaiah Berlin regarding the philosophy of history. Although there have been many interpretations of the aphorism, Berlin uses it to mark a fundamental distinction between human beings who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things and those who relate everything to a central, all-embracing system. Berlin’s extraordinary essay offers profound insights about Tolstoy, historical understanding, and human psychology.


Isaiah Berlin’s essay:
📙 The Hedgehog and the Fox

According to Berlin, humans can be divided into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (he cites: Plato, Dante, Hegel, Nietzsche and Proust), and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be summed up into a single idea (he cites: Aristotle, Erasmus, Shakespeare, and Joyce).

The American Dream
“The American Dream”
— Gabriel H. Sanchez (BuzzFeed, 2018).
The American Dream
“The American Dream”
— Gabriel H. Sanchez (BuzzFeed, 2018).

I perorate

to my sole-mate /

JUST WAR THEORY
Just war theory (Latin: jus bellum justum) is a philosophy (or ‘doctrine’) with a purpose to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. The criteria are split into two groups: “right to go to war” (jus ad bellum) and “right conduct in war” (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war, and the second the moral conduct within war. Just war theory postulates that war, while terrible, is not always the worst option.

ABSURDISM
Absurdism shares some concepts, and a common theoretical template, with existentialism and nihilism. It has its origins in the work of the 19th-century Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. As a philosophy, absurdism explores the fundamental nature of the absurd — the conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life, and the human inability to find any in a purposeless, meaningless or chaotic and irrational universe — and how individuals, once becoming conscious of the absurd, should respond to it. Albert Camus stated that individuals should embrace the absurd condition of human existence.

WESTERN PHILOSOPHY
Western philosophy refers to the philosophical thought and work of the Western world beginning with Greek philosophy of the pre-Socratics such as Thales (c. 624 – c. 546 BC) and Pythagoras (c. 570 – c. 495 BC). Dear reader, as I’ve said many a time. the word philosophy itself originated from the Ancient Greek philosophía (φιλοσοφία), literally, “the love of wisdom” (φιλεῖν phileîn, “to love” and σοφία sophía, “wisdom”).

AESTHETICS
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of beauty and taste, as well as the philosophy of art. It considers subjective values — at times referred to as judgments of sentiment and taste.

HEDONISM
Hedonism is a school of thought that argues pleasure and suffering are the only components of well-being. Ethical hedonism contends that what we should do depends exclusively on what affects the well-being individuals have. Ethical hedonists would defend either increasing pleasure and reducing suffering for all beings capable of experiencing them, or just reducing suffering in the case of negative consequentialism. Hedonism derives from the Greek word for “delight.”

EPICUREANISM
Epicureanism is a system of philosophy based upon the teachings of the ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus. It sees the greatest good to be seeking modest, sustainable “pleasure” in the form of a state of tranquility and freedom from fear (ataraxia) and absence of bodily pain (aponia). Although Epicureanism is a form of hedonism insofar as it declares pleasure to be its sole intrinsic goal, its advocacy of a simple life, make it rather distinct from “hedonism” ^ see up dear reader.

RENAISSANCE HUMANISM
Renaissance humanism was a response to what was subsequently labelled the “narrow pedantry” associated with medieval scholasticism. Let’s be clear, it was — wittingly or otherwise — the questioning of why one should put up with a life constrained and controlled by theocratic dogma. In essence is was was a revival in the study of classical antiquity, at first in Italy and then spreading across Western Europe in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries.


In Greek mythology Sisyphus (Ancient Greek: Σίσυφος) was the king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He was punished for his self-aggrandising craftiness and deceitfulness. His punishment wasbeing forced to roll a huge boulder up a hill only for it to roll down when it nears the top; he was made to repeat this action for eternity. Through the classical influence on modern culture, tasks that are both laborious and futile are therefore described as being “Sisyphean.”

Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_Viatour

Vitruvian Man is Leonardo da Vinci’s own reflection on human proportion and architecture, made clear through words and image. Its purpose is to bring together ideas about art, architecture, human anatomy and symmetry in one distinct and commanding image.

Marcel Proust

[French | 1871–1922]

Proust was a French critic, and essayist who is now best known for his monumental novel: In Search of Lost Time (sometimes known as: Remembrance of Things Past). This was published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927. Today, Proust is considered by critics and writers — e.g., Melvin Bragg and guests — to have been one of the most influential authors of the 20th c.

Love is a striking example of how little reality means to us.

Nostalgia… do you want to be dragged there? Then read on.

Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.

As Proust saw it:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.

In Search of Lost Time — a novel of over 4,000 pages — is considered by many to be the definitive modern novel. This is not least because it has influenced directly and indirectly generations of writers, in 1922 Virginia Woolf said, “Oh if I could write like that!” Vladimir Nabokov — author of Lolita and himself considered one of Europe’s most talented writers of prose — said in a 1965 interview, that the greatest prose works of the 20th c. were “Joyce’s Ulysses, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Bely’s Petersburg (see Endnotes), and the first half In Search of Lost Time.”

Lost in Time isn’t exactly easy reading but somehow you can get carried along by them if you can allow yourself to fall int the flow or, you can begin by listening to it in this ten part, ten hour BBC dramatisation:

📻 — In Search of Lost Time

(listening to the radio’s easier on your green eyes Jay; yes Jay, it’s easier on your brown eyes too Jay.)

Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust: Gadfly? Man for the men? A reader of Ruskin

In Search of Lost Time, is compiled in a number of volumes:


And has been republished a great many times…

To somehow summarise the work, many describe it as something of a fictional autobiography by a man whose life almost mirrors that of Marcel Proust. The first forty pages of the novel describe the narrator as a young boy in bed awaiting, and as a middle-aged man remembering, his mother’s goodnight kiss. Though it is not obvious to the reader at the time, these first forty pages also establish most of the themes of the next seven volumes and introduce most of the major characters. The rest of the novel traces the chronology of Marcel’s life over the next fifty years and the lives of his family, friends, and social acquaintances. The novel concludes at a grand party in Paris attended by Marcel and most of the remaining characters.

Because the story is told with two “voices,” that of the narrator as a young boy and also as an older man recalling his youth, it is sometimes difficult to tell Marcel’s age at any particular moment in the novel. The reader must rely on the context of the action.

Two of the novel’s major themes concern Marcel’s frustrated desire to become a writer and his despair at the corroding effect of Time, which makes all human feelings and experiences fade into nothing.

Unhappy love affairs are a leitmotif of the novel.

The best known is that of Charles Swann, which could act as a template for all the rest and is described in “Swann in Love.” The tension and swing of power between lovers and the inevitable disappointment when we achieve the object of our desires is a constant theme throughout the book. (Swann’s love for and pursuit of Odette takes him from the pinnacle ofsmart society to the depths ofsocial rejection and eventual oblivion.)

All the book’s love affairs essentially describe:

the futility of trying to possess or even understand another person

Love is a metaphor for all human experience. According to Proust:

all man’s suffering is caused by his desires [and] achieving those desires only increases the suffering.


Endnotes

1. — Bely

Petersburg
— Andrei Bely

Andrei Bely (1880-1934) was educated at Moscow University where he studied science and philosophy, before turning his focus to literature. In 1904 he published his first collection of poems, Gold in Azure. Petersburg, was published in 1916.

Petersburg is Bely’s masterpiece and it is generally considered to be a vivid, striking story. Bely’s richly textured, darkly comic and symbolic novel pulled apart the traditional techniques of storytelling and presaged the dawn of a new form of literature. This book is considered to have heavily influenced several literary schools, most notably Symbolism, and his impact on Russian writing has been compared to that of James Joyce on the English speaking world.

The novel is set at the heart of the 1905 Russian revolution. In the book. a young impressionable university student, Nikolai, becomes involved with a revolutionary terror organization, which plans to assassinate a high government official with a time bomb. But the official is Nikolai’s cold, unyielding father, Apollon, and in twenty-four hours the bomb will explode. Petersburg is a story of suspense, family dysfunction, patricide, conspiracy and revolution. It is also an impressionistic, exhilarating panorama of the city itself, watched over by the bronze statue of Peter the Great, as it tears itself apart.

2. — Ruskin

The best thing in life aren’t things.

📙 The Magic of Reality

O. J. ( as in, “Oh, Jay!” )

This book really and truly fascinated me:

The examples and illustrations are mind opening and mind blowing, respectively.

96
p. 96

Richard Dawkins (see full profile here) is an English evolutionary biologist, author and professor at Oxford University. His seminal work The Selfish Gene (1976), popularised the gene-centred view of evolution and introduced the term meme. Here are a few extracts from The Magic of Reality that I feel it is okay to share as editable .pdf files:

pp. 12-13 from ‘The Magic of Reality’ (Dawkins, 2011)


pp. 32-52 from ‘The Magic of Reality’ (Dawkins, 2011)


pp. 118-139 from ‘The Magic of Reality’ (Dawkins, 2011)


pp. 246-265 from ‘The Magic of Reality’ (Dawkins, 2011)

Friedrich Nietzsche

[German | 1844–1900]

The problem of how to live a life with meaning has puzzled philosophers since the days of ancient Greece, China, and India. Yet, for Nietzsche, the problem took on a new importance in the aftermath of the Enlightenment and what he saw this as resulting in; the death of god.

It is often said that Nietzsche is a nihilist but, it’s not so simple. In fact, much of his work is concerned with the problem of overcoming nihilism despite all the things (life problems) that drive people towards acting in a nihilistic way.

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster… if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.

Nietzsche’s was focused on this: in an increasingly secular and scientific society we humans could no longer turn to god/religion to find meaning. In the past (or for religious people today( the meaning of everything was assured by God. So, Nietzsche pondered, without the ability to turn to god, where could we find meaning?

Nietzsche argued that there were two fundamental types of morality: “master morality” and “slave morality”. Master morality values pride and power, while slave morality values things like kindness, empathy, and sympathy.

Key point:

Nietzsche believed that the Christian morality, with its emphasis on kindness, meekness, subservience to a greater good, and a focus on the afterlife rather than the present condition, did not reflect how the world actually works.

Instead of relativism, Nietzsche advocates for something that has been called “perspectivism.” Simply put, perspectivism means that every claim, belief, idea, or philosophy is tied to some perspective and that it’s impossible for humans to detach themselves from these lenses in order to learn about objective Truth.

According to Nietzsche perspectivism isn’t the same as relativism because unlike relativism (which says all views are equally valid because they’re relevant to each person) perspectivism doesn’t claim that all perspectives have equal value — some are in fact better than others.

He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

— my why is you J and that is how I can bear the now (which basically is hell).

La Ville Lumière

💀 The dead control the living.

There are various influential French philosophers and the following are amongst the most prominent /

In no particular order /

René Descartes
In his seminal work, Discourse on Method, Descartes defined thought as the essential human quality — “I think, therefore I am” — and sets out one of the key characteristics of the French style of thinking: the deductive mode of reasoning. That is, one which starts with a general, abstract proposition and then works towards a specific conclusion.

The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.

The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as of the greatest virtues.

Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power.

Voltaire
Voltaire was an outspoken advocate of civil liberties, despite the risk this placed him in under the strict censorship laws of the time. Voltaire believed above all in the efficacy of reason. He believed social progress could be achieved through reason and that no authority — religious or political or otherwise — should be immune to challenge by reason. Voltaire frequently made use of his works to criticise intolerance and religious dogma.

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.

Let us read, and let us dance; these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau’s writings on human freedom, equality, popular sovereignty and the return to nature challenged the social and political conventions of 18th‑century French society, and founded the radical republican tradition. His Discourse on Inequality and The Social Contract are cornerstones in modern political and social thought.

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.

Nature never deceives us; it is we who deceive ourselves.

Jules Michelet
Greatest French historian of his time, whose blistering account of the French revolution dwelled on the importance of emotions, myths and symbols; he championed the cause of “the people”, arguing that history is decisively shaped by the interventions of the masses.

He who would confine his thought to present time will not understand present reality.

Jean-Paul Sartre
Sartre confronted all the powerful institutions of his time (the bourgeois state, the Communist party, the university system); his writings on existentialism and Marxism in the post-second world war decades marked the pinnacle of the French traditions of republican universalism and philosophical radicalism.

When the rich wage war it’s the poor who die.

Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.

Simone de Beauvoir
Simone de Beauvoir was well versed in philosophy, politics and social issues. Her seminal work was The Second Sex (1949), which drew on existentialist philosophy to offer a ground-breaking account of women’s oppression. It is a pivotal contribution to modern feminism.

No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.

All oppression creates a state of war.

Claude Lévi-Strauss
An ethnologist who became the most important exponent of structuralism, a philosophical movement that challenged the linearity of Cartesian rationalism by questioning its assumptions about progress and the fixed nature of meaning, and stressing the importance of dissonances and the unconscious in human thinking.

The scientist is not a person who gives the right answers, [they are] one who asks the right questions.

Michel Foucault
Foucault’s theories primarily address the relationship between power and knowledge, and how they are used as a form of social control through societal institutions. His work explored the ways in which modern societies imposed various forms of intellectual and physical control on their citizens, ranging from dominant norms and coercive state controls to medical and sexual practices.

What desire can be contrary to nature since it was given to [us] by nature itself.


Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité