“Since we are humans and not trees, we are compelled to be anthropomorphic rather than dendromorphic. The god of a tree will share in the image of a tree; our God will share in the image of a human.” – Harold Bloom, The Book of J
“Did feudalism and chattel slavery reside within the nascent globalizing frame? Did Kant drink coffee? The second question answers the first. Yes, and there’s no reason why we have to choose between these modes of production when thinking macrohistorically, as long as we are specific about what makes both so different. In this effort, it’s especially important to understand that consumption as the auratic telos of ‘trade’—the sweets you eat, the tobacco you smoke—has a pesky habit of mystifying differences in modes of production and unevenness in history (and thus in human lives), with the result that the vast distances between regions are closed into one airtight global space. The movement of commodities like sugar, tobacco, coffee, and cotton from colonies to nation-states; the transformation of European aesthetics to suit the colonial imperial imagination in all its overreach; the emergence of entire legal systems to try to eradicate feudalism (unsuccessfully); the parliamentary decisions to withdraw from the slave trade (unsuccessfully)—these all will disclose the total frame of their own possibility as long as we adopt a version of difference that remains deeply critical and enables us to think the abstract identities through which globalization itself obliquely appears.” –Andrew Cole, “The Function of Theory at the Present Time”
“Mathematics, rightly viewed, possesses not only truth, but supreme beauty, a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show.” – Bertrand Russell, Study of Mathematics
“If all gender is on some level a performance (and it is), then it can be co-opted and perverted by the state. But if it’s also innate on some level (and it is), then we are powerless against whatever it is that enough people decide gender performance should look like. We are constantly trapped by gender, even when we know we are trapped by it. You can’t truly escape something so all-pervasive.” – Emily VanDerWerff, “How Twitter Can Ruin a Life”
“India was the most populous region of the world at the time of the Periplus, as it was the most cultivated, the most active industrially and commercially, the richest in natural resources and production, the most highly organized socially, the most wretched in the poverty of its teeming millions, and the least powerful politically. The great powers of India were the Kushan in the far northwest, the Saka in the Cambay country, the remains of the Maurya in the Ganges watershed, the Andhra in the Deccan, and the Chera, Pandya and Chola in the South. The economic status of the country made it impossible that any one of these should possess political force commensurate with its population, resources and industries. It was made up of village communities, which recognized the military power only so far as they were compelled to do so; and they were relatively unconcerned in dynastic changes, except to note the change in their oppressors.” – The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea (Wilfred H. Schoff, trans. & ann.)
“Chinese annals mention that in the year 165 B. C, a nomadic Turki tribe in northwestern China and owing allegiance to the Chinese emperors, known as the Yueh-chi, were driven out of their territory by the Hiongnu or Tartars, and migrated westward. This displaced numerous savage tribes in central Asia, who in turn moved westward; and thus the great waves of migration were begun which inundated Europe for centuries, overwhelmed the Roman Empire, and long threatened to extinguish white civilization.” – The Periplus of the Erythaean Sea (Wilfred H. Schoff, trans. & ann.)
“A blind musician once claimed that he could detect a hundred different sounds made by cats. Scientists, studying many hours of tape recordings, also insist that the feline vocal repertoire is huge—the most complex of any animal except Homo sapiens.” – Desmond Morris, Catlore
“A tax is not an assessment of benefits. It is a means of distributing the burden of the cost of government. The only benefit to which the taxpayer is constitutionally entitled is that derived from his enjoyment of the privileges of living in an organized society, established and safeguarded by the devotion of taxes to public purposes. Any other view would preclude the levying of taxes except as they are used to compensate for the burden on those who pay them, and would involve the abandonment of the most fundamental principle of government—that it exists primarily to provide for the common good.” – Justice Garman, Arangold Corp. v. Zehnder, 204 Ill. 2d 142 (Ill. 2003) (internal cites and quotations omitted).
“Though there is nothing I would not do to comfort an afflicted person, and I really believe that one should do all one can to show great sympathy to him for his misfortune, for miserable people are so foolish that this does them the greatest good in the world; yet I also hold that we should be content with expressing sympathy, and carefully avoid having any. It is a passion that is wholly worthless in a well-regulated mind, which only serves to weaken the heart, and which should be left to ordinary persons, who, as they never do anything from reason, have need of passions to stimulate their actions.” – Francois Duc De La Rochefoucauld, Reflections; Or, Sentences and Moral Maxims (trans. J. W. Willis Bund and J. Hain Friswell)
“Psychologists have attempted to understand how and why individuals and groups who
usually act humanely can sometimes act otherwise in certain circumstances. A number of
psychological concepts explain why abusive behavior occurs. These concepts include:
Deindividuation. Deindividuation is a process whereby the anonymity, suggestibility, and contagion provided in a crowd allows individuals to participate in behavior marked by the temporary suspension of customary rules and inhibitions. Individuals within a group may experience reduced self-awareness which can also result in disinhibited behavior.
Groupthink. Individuals often make very uncharacteristic decisions when part of a group. Symptoms of groupthink include: (1) Illusion of invulnerability-group members believe the group is special and morally superior; therefore its decisions are sound; (2) Illusion of unanimity in which members assume all are in concurrence, and (3) Pressure is brought to bear on those who might dissent.
Dehumanization. Dehumanization is the process whereby individuals or groups are viewed as somehow less than fully human. Existing cultural and moral standards are often not applied to those who have been dehumanized.
Enemy Image. Enemy image describes the phenomenon wherein both sides participating in a conflict tend to view themselves as good and peace-loving peoples, while the enemy is seen as evil and aggressive.
Moral Exclusion. Moral exclusion is a process whereby one group views another as fundamentally different, and therefore prevailing moral rules and practices apply to one group but not the other.”
– James R. Schlesinger, et al., Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DoD Detention Operations
“A dominion whose well-being depends on any man’s good faith, and whose affairs cannot be properly administered, unless those who are engaged in them will act honestly, will be very unstable. On the contrary, to insure its permanence, its public affairs should be so ordered, that those who administer them, whether guided by reason or by passion, cannot be led to act treacherously or basely. Nor does it matter for the security of a dominion, in what spirit men are led to rightly administer its affairs. For liberality of spirit, or courage, is a private virtue; but the virtue of a state is its security.” – Benedict de Spinoza, A Theological-Political Treatise and A Political Treatise (trans. R.H.M. Elwes)
“The traditional philosophic treatment of politics has been based on an unreal conception of human psychology. As philosophical ethics are grounded not in reality but in the dreams of authors, the resultant politics are equally utopian and useless as guides for the practical challenges of policy making.” – Menachem Lorberbaum, “Spinoza’s Theological-Political Problem”
“The Desires, and other Passions of man, are in themselves no Sin. No more are the Actions, that proceed from those Passions, till they know a Law that forbids them: which till Lawes be made they cannot know: nor can any Law be made, till they have agreed upon the Person that shall make it.” – Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan
“The object of government is not to change men from rational beings into beasts or puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled; neither showing hatred, anger, or deceit, nor watched with the eyes of jealousy and injustice. In fact, the true aim of government is liberty.” – Benedict de Spinoza, A Theological-Political Treatise and A Political Treatise (trans. R.H.M. Elwes)
“The universe, the real universe, might actually be much, much larger than the part we see today, because the velocity of light is finite and therefore we cannot look infinitely far. By looking into the sky with a telescope, we can only see as far as light can have travelled since the beginning of the universe…. it could be that the real universe is an extremely large domain, and that what we are seeing now is perhaps what has been started by some disastrous experiment performed some twenty billion years ago by a post-graduate student in order to test the structure of a vacuum of another universe. Then what happened was that the vacuum was suddenly changed, and the result is our universe.” – Johann Rafelski and Berndt Müller, The Structured Vacuum: Thinking About Nothing
“Some married people report pain or inflammation, and others will tell you that a well-adjusted partner feels no need to touch the other. To me, though, marriage had always seemed more like one of those medical procedures that, once performed, could never be undone.” – Garielle Lutz, “Fathering”