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Month: September 2022

“We are, doubtless, in the main logical animals, but we are not perfectly so. Most of us, for example, are naturally more sanguine and hopeful than logic would justify. We seem to be so constituted that in the absence of any facts to go upon we are happy and selfsatisfied; so that the effect of experience is continually to contract our hopes and aspirations. Yet a lifetime of the application of this corrective does not usually eradicate our sanguine disposition. Where hope is unchecked by any experience, it is likely that our optimism is extravagant. Logicality in regard to practical matters is the most useful quality an animal can possess, and might, therefore, result from the action of natural selection; but outside of these it is probably of more advantage to the animal to have his mind filled with pleasing and encouraging visions, independently of their truth; and thus, upon unpractical subjects, natural selection might occasion a fallacious tendency of thought.” – Charles Sanders Peirce, “The Fixation of Belief”

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“The findings of science entail that the belief systems of all the world’s traditional religions and cultures—their theories of the origins of life, humans, and societies—are factually mistaken. We know, but our ancestors did not, that humans belong to a single species of African primate that developed agriculture, government, and writing late in its history. We know that our species is a tiny twig of a genealogical tree that embraces all living things and that emerged from prebiotic chemicals almost four billion years ago. We know that we live on a planet that revolves around one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of a hundred billion galaxies in a 13.8-billion-year-old universe, possibly one of a vast number of universes. We know that our intuitions about space, time, matter, and causation are incommensurable with the nature of reality on scales that are very large and very small. We know that the laws governing the physical world (including accidents, disease, and other misfortunes) have no goals that pertain to human well-being. There is no such thing as fate, providence, karma, spells, curses, augury, divine retribution, or answered prayers—though the discrepancy between the laws of probability and the workings of cognition may explain why people believe there are. And we know that we did not always know these things, that the beloved convictions of every time and culture may be decisively falsified, doubtless including some we hold today.” – Stephen Pinker, “Science Is Not Your Enemy”

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On the mountains are the thorny elms,
In the low, wet grounds are the white elms.
You have suits of robes,
But you will not wear them;
You have carriages and horses,
But you will not drive them.
You will drop off in death,
And another person will enjoy them.
On the mountains is the k’aou,
In the low wet grounds is the nëw.
You have courtyards and inner rooms,
But you will not have them sprinkled or swept;
You have drums and bells,
But you will not have them beat or struck,
You will drop off in death,
And another person will possess them.
On the mountains are the varnish trees,
In the low wet grounds are the chestnuts.
You have spirits and viands;—
Why not daily play your lute,
Both to give a zest to your joy,
And to prolong the day?
You will drop off in death,
And another person will enter your chamber.
– “Shan yëw ch’oo,” The She King, or, The Book of Poetry (trans. James Legge)

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The sun is in the east,
And that lovely girl
Is in my chamber.
She is in my chamber;
She treads in my footsteps, and comes to me.
The moon is in the east,
And that lovely girl
Is inside my door.
She is inside my door;
She treads in my footsteps, and hastens away.
– “Tung fang che jih,” The She King, or, The Book of Poetry (trans. James Legge)

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The tribulus grows on the wall,
And cannot be brushed away.
The story of the inner chamber
Cannot be told.
What would have to be told
Would be the vilest of recitals.
The tribulus grows on the wall,
And cannot be removed.
The story of the inner chamber
Cannot be particularly related.
What might be particularly related
Would be a long story.
The tribulus grows on the wall,
And cannot be bound together.
The story of the inner chamber
Cannot be recited.
What might be recited
Would be the most disgraceful of things.
– “Ts’ëang yew ts’ze,” The She King, or, The Book of Poetry (trans. James Legge)

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In the wild there is a dead antelope,
And it is wrapped up with the white grass.
There is a young lady with thoughts natural to the spring,
And a fine gentleman would lead her astray.
In the forest there are the scrubby oaks;
In the wild there is a dead deer,
And it is bound round with the white grass.
There is a young lady like a gem.
Slowly; gently, gently;
Do not move my handkerchief;
Do not make my dog bark.
– “Yay yew sze keun,” The She King, or, The Book of Poetry (trans. James Legge)

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Dropping are the fruits from the plum-tree;
There are seven of them left!
For the gentlemen who seek me,
This is the fortunate time!
Dropping are the fruits from the plum-tree;
There are three of them left!
For the gentlemen who seek me,
Now is the time.
Dropt are the fruits from the plum-tree;
In my shallow basket I have collected them.
Would the gentlemen who seek me
Speak about it!
– “P ’eaou yew mei,” The She King, or, The Book of Poetry (trans. James Legge)

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“There are not only true or false solutions, there are also false questions. The task of philosophy is not to provide answers or solutions, but to submit to critical analysis the questions themselves, to make us see how the very way we perceive a problem is an obstacle to its solution.” – Slavoj Žižek, “Philosophy, the ‘unknown knowns,’ and the public use of reason”

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“The changes in advanced democratic societies, which have undermined the basis of economic and political liberalism, have also altered the liberal function of tolerance. The tolerance which was the great achievement of the liberal era is still professed and (with strong qualifications) practiced, while the economic and political process is subjected to an ubiquitous and effective administration in accordance with the predominant interests. The result is an objective contradiction between the economic and political structure on the one side, and the theory and practice of toleration on the other. The altered social structure tends to weaken the effectiveness of tolerance toward dissenting and oppositional movements and to strengthen conservative and reactionary forces. Equality of tolerance becomes abstract, spurious. With the actual decline of dissenting forces in the society, the opposition is insulated in small and frequently antagonistic groups who, even where tolerated within the narrow limits set by the hierarchical structure of society, are powerless while they keep within these limits. But the tolerance shown to them is deceptive and promotes co-ordination. And on the firm foundations of a co-ordinated society all but closed against qualitative change, tolerance itself serves to contain such change rather than to promote it.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“Withdrawal of tolerance from regressive movements before they can become active; intolerance even toward thought, opinion, and word, and finally, intolerance in the opposite direction, that is, toward the self-styled conservatives, to the political Right—these anti-democratic notions respond to the actual development of the democratic society which has destroyed the basis for universal tolerance. The conditions under which tolerance can again become a liberating and humanizing force have still to be created. When tolerance mainly serves the protection and preservation of a repressive society, when it serves to neutralize opposition and to render men immune against other and better forms of life, then tolerance has been perverted. And when this perversion starts in the mind of the individual, in his consciousness, his needs, when heteronomous interests occupy him before he can experience his servitude, then the efforts to counteract his dehumanization must begin at the place of entrance, there where the false consciousness takes form (or rather: is systematically formed)—it must begin with stopping the words and images which feed this consciousness. To be sure, this is censorship, even precensorship, but openly directed against the more or less hidden censorship that permeates the free media. Where the false consciousness has become prevalent in national and popular behavior, it translates itself almost immediately into practice: the safe distance between ideology and reality, repressive thought and repressive action, between the word of destruction and the deed of destruction is dangerously shortened.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“In endlessly dragging debates over the media, the stupid opinion is treated with the same respect as the intelligent one, the misinformed may talk as long as the informed, and propaganda rides along with education, truth with falsehood. This pure toleration of sense and nonsense is justified by the democratic argument that nobody, neither group nor individual, is in possession of the truth and capable of defining what is right and wrong, good and bad. Therefore, all contesting opinions must be submitted to ‘the people’ for its deliberation and choice.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“Censorship of art and literature is regressive under all circumstances. The authentic oeuvre is not and cannot be a prop of oppression, and pseudo-art (which can be such a prop) is not art. Art stands against history, withstands history which has been the history of oppression, for art subjects reality to laws other than the established ones: to the laws of the Form which creates a different reality—negation of the established one even where art depicts the established reality. But in its struggle with history, art subjects itself to history: history enters the definition of art and enters into the distinction between art and pseudo-art. Thus it happens that what was once art becomes pseudo-art.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“Tolerance cannot be indiscriminate and equal with respect to the contents of expression, neither in word nor in deed; it cannot protect false words and wrong deeds which demonstrate that they contradict and counteract the possibilities of liberation. Such indiscriminate tolerance is justified in harmless debates, in conversation, in academic discussion; it is indispensable in the scientific enterprise, in private religion. But society cannot be indiscriminate where the pacification of existence, where freedom and happiness themselves are at stake: here, certain things cannot be said, certain ideas cannot be expressed, certain policies cannot be proposed, certain behavior cannot be permitted without making tolerance an instrument for the continuation of servitude.” – Herbert Marcuse, “Repressive Tolerance”

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“A man who sees inaction in action and action in inaction has understanding among men, disciplined in all actions he performs. The wise say a man is learned when his plans lack constructs of desire, when his actions are burned by the fire of knowledge. Abandoning attachment to fruits of action, always content, independent, he does nothing at all, even when he engages in action.” – Bhagavad Gita (trans. Barbara Stoler Miller)

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“Literature helps us, as Nietzsche would have put it, to become what we are. The characters and situations that interest us in literature are for the most part characters and situations that capture aspects of ourselves and our situation. Literature helps us make sense of our lives, helps us to fashion an identity for ourselves.” – Richard A. Posner, “Against Ethical Criticism”

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“Probably a majority of the best English, French, Russian, German, and American novels fall into one of several nonegalitarian classes: novels preoccupied with private themes (as they now strike us) often archaically conceived, such as adultery and manliness (for example, Lawrence, Hemingway, Ford Madox Ford, and Joyce); adventure novels (a class that overlaps the first); novels that despite surface appearances are disengaged from any serious interest in the social or political arrangements of society (which I believe, though cannot take the time here to argue, is true even of Kafka and Camus); novels that disparage the modern project of liberty and equality (for example, Dumas, Scott, Dostoevsky, Waugh, at times Conrad); novels that presuppose an organization of society in which a leisured, titled, or educated upper crust lives off the sweat of the brow of a mass of toilers at whose existence the novelist barely hints (for example, Austen, James, Wharton, Proust, Fitzgerald); novels preoccupied with issues more metaphysical than social (Beckett, Hesse, and much of Melville, Tolstoy, and Mann); novels that defend bourgeois values (Defoe, Galsworthy, Trollope); novels that deal with public themes yet whose ‘take’ on those themes is equivocal or inscrutable (Twain and Faulkner); novels that deal with both social and private themes, yet in which the latter predominate (Stendhal, Flaubert, Bulgakov).” – Richard A. Posner, “Against Ethical Criticism”

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“The classics are full of moral atrocities—as they appear to us today, and sometimes as they appeared to the more enlightened members of the author’s own society—that the author apparently approved of. Rape, pillage, murder, human and animal sacrifice, concubinage, and slavery in the Iliad; misogyny in the Oresteia and countless other works; blood-curdling vengeance; anti-Semitism in more works of literature than one can count, including works by Shakespeare and Dickens; racism and sexism likewise; homophobia (think only of Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida and Mann’s ‘Death in Venice’); monarchism, aristocracy, caste systems and other illegitimate (as they seem to us) forms of hierarchy; colonialism, imperialism, religious obscurantism, militarism, gratuitous violence, torture (as of Iago in Othello), and criminality; alcoholism and drug addiction; relentless stereotyping; sadism; pornography; machismo; cruelty to animals (bullfighting, for example); snobbism; praise for fascism and communism, and for idleness; contempt for the poor, the frail, the elderly, the deformed, and the unsophisticated, for people who work for a living, for the law-abiding, and for democratic processes. The world of literature is a moral anarchy.” – Richard A. Posner, “Against Ethical Criticism”

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