Tuesday, January 23, 2007

G.K. Chesterton

I randomly stumbled across this man's profile while browsing Wikipedia. Quite an incredible person. He never graduated college yet he wrote "around 80 books, several hundred poems, some 200 short stories, 4000 essays and several plays" and was critically acclaimed. He's known for his witty remarks and his "Uncommon Sense" approach to philosophy:

Thus when Mr. H. G. Wells says (as he did somewhere), "All chairs are quite different," he utters not merely a misstatement, but a contradiction in terms. If all chairs were quite different, you could not call them "all chairs."

Is he right? My position is that "chair" is a logical (linguistic) construction. It is an approximation. Classifying all chairs together under a concept doesn't mean that they are all the same empirically.

The wild worship of lawlessness and the materialist worship of law end in the same void. Nietzsche scales staggering mountains, but he turns up ultimately in Tibet. He sits down beside Tolstoy in the land of nothing and Nirvana. They are both helpless—one because he must not grasp anything, and the other because he must not let go of anything. The Tolstoyan’s will is frozen by a Buddhist instinct that all special actions are evil. But the Nietzscheite’s will is quite equally frozen by his view that all special actions are good; for if all special actions are good, none of them are special. They stand at the crossroads, and one hates all the roads and the other likes all the roads. The result is—well, some things are not hard to calculate. They stand at the cross-roads.[14]

Again, I disagree. I've never read anything by Tolstoy but I don't agree that Nietzsche is ultimately a Buddhist. (That is what he's saying, isn't it?)

For the great Gaels of Ireland
Are the men that God made mad,
For all their wars are merry,
And all their songs are sad.

He also came up with an economic theory called distributism, in which the ownership of large companies is distributed among a large group of people. Sounds good to me.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Eternal Recurrence from Anaximander

"The beginning and origin of the things that are", Anaximander says, "is the Indefinite [apeiron]. Into that from which the things that are arise, however, they pass away again, as they are obliged to do; for they give satisfaction and reparation to one another for their injustice, as is appointed according to the ordering of time".

I pulled that from R.J Hollingdale's concise Western Philosophy. It got me to thinking about Nietzsche's eternal recurrence. When I raised the idea with my philosophy professor he somewhat dismissively said that it was a mostly psychological concept to get one thinking in terms of absolute meaninglessness - which might be true, but is is really a bad theory of time? What are the arguments against it? I think my professor mentioned something mathematical about how things could recur infinitely and never hit the same old point again. But stretched infinitely, it seems like it would hit that same old point again, and again, and again(even if it's done it once, there's a pretty darn high likelihood it's gonna do it again). Infinity -- such a conundrum.

The comment from Hollingdale immediately proceeding from that is:

These sentences, the earliest surviving complete sentences of Western philosophy, contain, it has been suggested, the ethical judgment that all created things deserve the destruction which is awaiting them, and that Anaximander is thus an ethical pessimist of a kind similar to Schopenhauer.