Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Brief History of Thought

A Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to LivingA Brief History of Thought: A Philosophical Guide to Living by Luc Ferry

I am enjoying the section on Nietzsche more than I had anticipated. It turns out that most of what I thought about him was attributed to him by third parties. Much like equating Wagner with Hitler, just because Adolf liked the Ring Cycle.

Ferry seems to take delight in pointing out inconsistencies in various philosophers' theories. They are only human, it seems:

“The problem, however, is that I have yet to meet anyone, materialist or otherwise, who was able to dispense with value judgements. On the contrary, the literature of materialism is peculiarly marked by its wholesale profusion of denunciations of all sorts. Starting with Marx and Nietzsche, materialists have never been able to refrain from passing continuous moral judgement on all and sundry, which their whole philosophy might be expected to discourage them from doing.”

From wikipedia:

In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that all things are composed of material, and that all emergent phenomena (including consciousness) are the result of material properties and interactions. In other words, the theory claims that our reality consists entirely of physical matter that is the sole cause of every possible occurrence, including human thought, feeling, and action.

View all my reviews

Friday, May 23, 2014

The Age of Reason

The Age of ReasonThe Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thomas Paine's belief that political freedom would result in the overthrow of organized religion's stranglehold on humankind seems overly optimistic. Nevertheless, he raises a number of questions about religion that many people would acknowledge they have asked at some point in their lives. What impressed me greatly about him was his intellectual honesty and fairness. When he declares that he sees all organized religions as "human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit" he refuses to condemn those that believe otherwise, though he does point out the difference between the person who truly believes and the one who merely professes belief in order to secure power and profit.

"...they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime."

Thomas Paine was a braver man than many. He certainly paid the price for his outspoken courage, being reviled for the ideas he expressed in "The Age of Reason." Only six people attended his funeral in 1809 and the famously tolerant Quakers refused to allow his body to be buried in their graveyard as his will had requested. Perhaps it was payback for this:

"Though I reverence their philanthropy, I cannot help smiling at the conceit, that if the taste of a quaker could have been consulted at the creation, what a silent and drab-colored creation it would have been! Not a flower would have blossomed its gaieties, nor a bird been permitted to sing."

View all my reviews

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My Exciting Life

“Le secret d'ennuyer est celui de tout dire.
(The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.)"

(Sept Discours en Vers sur l'Homme, 1738) ” — Voltaire