Beginnings and endings
dharmo hi tesam adhiko viseso // dharmena hinah pasubhih samanah
Epicurus (341–270 BC)
Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able, and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?
Michael Sprinkler on Erich Heller: Modern philosophy frequently has made the fantastic distinction between the life of the mind and life in the world, but always at a frightful cost to itself and to the world. It is this entirely artificial distinction that Erich Heller wishes to expose in all its falsity when he reminds us, contrary to a certain tradition of apology among some of Heidegger's American interpreters, that it was precisely in the name of thinking and philosophy that Heidegger supported the accession to power of Hitler and the Nazis: ...
it was not the private person Martin Heidegger but unmistakably the author of Being and Time who accepted in 1933 the office of Rector of Freiburg University, prematurely vacated by a scholar thought to be less fit to lead the academic revolution, the Gleichschaltung, that the new rulers demanded. Unmistakably the author of Being and Time, for again and again, in speeches, pronouncements, and official letters he verbally behaved as if with the arrival of Hitler Being had unexpectedly and triumphantly returned to Time, choosing as its vessel the German nation in the manner of Jehovah's once electing the Jews... Michael Sprinkler, The Tragic Vision: Erich Heller and the Critique of Modernism; Salmagundi, No. 52/53 (1981)
Every account that we give of the “meaning” of a Platonic text is incomplete, and corresponds to some perspective or another. This is not because the truth is perspectival or radically historical, but because it always exhibits itself in a determinate manner. I agree with Strauss that we can find the truth within a given determination. But there is no end to the number of determinate appearances of truth. Differently stated, there are truths, not the truth... Essays in Philosophy (Ancient) (2013) p. 57
Bernard Yack: But Fustel de Coulanges’s efforts have no more broken the spell of Rousseau's rhetoric than Volney's. Demonstrations of historical inaccuracy, however well documented, rarely have much effect on the longing to escape modern limitations that the Rousseauian perspective on classical antiquity inspires. Critics like Volney and Fustel de Coulanges assume that a false reconstruction of the past sours the Rousseauian's appreciation of the present, when it is more often the case that it is an analysis of the present that produces the need to distort the past The Longing for Total Revolution; p 79
Simone Weil on violence: The man who is the possessor of force seems to walk through a non-resistant element; in the human substance that surrounds him nothing has the power to interpose, between the impulse and the act, the tiny interval that is reflection: The Iliad, or the Poem of Force; 1940
Mary Catherine Bateson: The timing of death, like the ending of a story, gives a changed meaning to what preceded it: With a Daughter's Eye: A Memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson (1984)
What philosophy is about is not Truth… The cultural role of philosophy is not to deliver truth but to build the spirit of truth, and this means never to let the inquisitive energy of mind go to sleep, never to stop questioning what appears to be obvious and definitive, always to defy the seemingly intact resources of common sense, always to suspect that there might be "another side" in what we take for granted, and never to allow us to forget that there are questions that lie beyond the legitimate horizon of science and are nonetheless crucially important to the survival of humanity.. All the most traditional worries of philosophers - how to tell good from evil, true from false, real from unreal, being from nothingness, just from unjust... man from animal, mind from body... - all of them boil down to the quest for meaning; and they presuppose that in dissecting such questions we may employ the instruments of reason, even if the ultimate outcome is the dismissal of reason... Philosophers neither sow nor harvest, they only move the soil. They do not discover truth; but they are needed to keep the energy of mind alive... (ibid, p 135)
... it is hard to see how Heidegger, despite his distinction between Geschichte and Historie, (history as lived vs history as an object of inquiry) makes it possible for man to take a responsible stand toward history. One must seriously question the adequacy of the resolute acceptance of tradition - i.e., what happens - as a criterion for human conduct. An ontology which cannot assist man in his struggle to preserve himself from his own actions runs the risk of Nihilism, which I regard as the consequence of the claustrophobia of complete immanentism masquerading as freedom. (The Quarrel Between Poetry and Philosophy, p 147)
Wherever philosophy renounces the authority of reason to choose ends or values in a way not vitiated by passion or history, by the urgency of the flesh or the transience of taste, a vacuum is created in our lives that must necessarily be filled by unreasonable, and indeed by insane or absurd, ideologies. In sum, if it is true that ours is an age of nihilism, the cause lies in the fact that what we regard as progress in our understanding of "how to be reasonable' ' is actually retrogression or decay…. I am not suggesting that reason has nothing to do with counting and inferring, or that it is entirely independent of history. The problem is to do justice to the richness and complexity of man's rational nature, to avoid a denatured conception of reason…
When courage and justice are sundered from wisdom and moderation, they cannot serve as the basis for a rational political philosophy, but give birth to ideology instead...The severance of the heart from the head, whether directed by the head or the heart, leads neither to integrity nor resolve, but only to a meaningless death. Philosophy and Ideology: Reflections on Heidegger; Social Research, Vol. 35, No. 2 (1968), p. 261-2; 285
A. J. P. Taylor: In the state of nature which Hobbes imagined, violence was the only law, and life was 'nasty, brutish and short'. Though individuals never lived in this state of nature, the Great Powers of Europe have always done so." (The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918)
Hannah Arendt: totalitarian solutions may well survive the fall of totalitarian regimes in the form of strong temptations which will come up whenever it seems impossible to alleviate political, social, or economic misery in a manner worthy of man… It may even be that the true predicaments of our time will assume their authentic form – though not necessarily the cruelest – only when totalitarianism has become a thing of the past. The Origins of Totalitarianism (1948) p 592-593
Iris Murdoch: Freedom, we find out, is not an inconsequential chucking of one’s weight about, it is the disciplined overcoming of self. Humility is not a peculiar habit of self-effacement, rather like having an inaudible voice, it is self-less respect for reality and one of the most difficult and central of all virtues... Existentialism, in both its Continental and its Anglo-Saxon versions, is an attempt to solve the problem without really facing it: to solve it by attributing to the individual an empty, lonely freedom, a freedom, if he wishes, to 'fly in the face of the facts'. What it pictures is indeed the fearful solitude of the individual marooned upon a tiny island in the middle of a sea of scientific facts, and morality escaping from science only by a wild leap of the will. But our situation is not like this..
Karl Marx: Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo: Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1843)
Waller R. Newell: Contrary to Heidegger’s absorption of all political motivations into “technology,” the Nazis did not carry out the Holocaust because they had developed the technology - they developed the technology because they wanted to carry out the Holocaust. One has to think through why... At bottom, it is hard to imagine a more fundamental lack of moderation than Heidegger’s equation - shared by Kojève - of democracy and totalitarianism on the grounds that the technological dynamo of modernization has swallowed up all such distinctions between better and worse regimes and rendered them naive.. Kojève’s Hegel, Hegel’s Hegel, and Strauss’s Hegel; in Timothy Burns & Bryan-Paul Frost; Philosophy, History, and Tyranny; 2016: pp 244-249
Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri: Many of the concepts dear to postmodernists and post-colonialists find a perfect correspondence in the current ideology of corporate capital and the world market. The ideology of the world market has always been the anti-foundational and anti-essentialist discourse par excellence. Circulation, mobility, diversity, and mixture are its very conditions of possibility... Differences (of commodities, populations, cultures, and so forth) seem to multiply infinitely in the world market, which attacks nothing more violently than fixed boundaries: it overwhelms any binary division with its infinite multiplicities: Hardt and Negri Empire, p 150 (2000) (One of postmodernism’s most subtle manoeuvres has been to present such tendencies as liberating and progressive - comment on the above citation, by David Hawkes, Ideology, p 11)
Bulle Shah (1680-1757):