Some for renown, on scraps of learning dote, and feel they grow immortal as they quote.
—Edward Young (1683-1765).

Science & Philosophy

Realities of Science

Science In Pursuit Of Truth

Metaphysics, Ontology, and the Like

History of Science

Social Sciences

The Norwoods

Quotes for AGEC 4213

Life

Meaning in Life, Spirituality & Transcendence

Sacrifice

Suffering

From Alexander Pope

Forgiveness and Clemency

Love and kindness

The Golden Rule

Societal Values

The Universe and Man Within It

Happiness

Courage, Virtue, Tranquility, and Inspiration

Love and relationships

Quaker

Lao Tzu

Stoicism

Society

Social Harmony

History of Civilization

Religion

Morality

Morality (Impartial Spectator)

Society and Comedy

Societal Behavior

Individuality

Honesty

People and Culture

Work

Music & Art

Society and Government

Freedom and Liberty

Lao Tzu

Democracy

Activism

Big Business Versus Big Government

Property

Food and Agriculture

Industrialization of Ag

Animal Welfare

Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,(9) Yet cry, If Man's unhappy, God's unjust;

Alexander Pope

Bread

Healthy Eating

Consumer preferences for food

Food and society

Willful Ignorance

Engel’s Curve

Food and religion

Food Processing

Food, agriculture, and politics

GMOs

Organic

Corporations

Pork / Hogs

Cattle

Eggs

Soil

History of agriculture and food

Agriculture

Organic

Sustainability

Food, Ag, and Famine

Food & Obesity

Other

Expert Predictions

Innovation

Economics

Importance of Economics

Recessions, The Great Depression, The Great Recession Bubbles, and Economic Cycles

Money and Finance

Personal Finance

The Poor

Prosperity and Happiness

Liberty, Self-interest, the Harmony of Markets, and Bourgeois Dignity

Capitalism

Industrial Revolution

Participatory Economics

Creative Destruction

Views on Profit-Making

Arbitrage

Government Sponsored Enterprises

Government Spending and Entitlements

Taxes and Public Debt

Antitrust and Market Power

Confiscation, Inequality, & Wealth Redistribution

The Science, Philosophy, & Practice of Economics

Public Goods and Externalities

Regulation: Safety and Quality Standards

Regulation: Other

Behavioral Economics and Paternalism

Law and Governance

Trade

Specialization and Division-of-Labor

American Political Ideologies

American Progressive Politics

Corruption, Morality, and Public Choice

Statism, Tyranny, and Forced Altruism

Socialism and Communism

Anarchism

Oligarchy (rule by the rich)

Fascism

Might is Right

Unintended Consequences

Economists in Academia

Economies of Scale & Manufacturing

Supply and Demand

Education

Writing and Stories

Farm Animal Welfare

Matrona’s Four Children

From the Book

Quotes Supporting Assertions In The Book

Quotes of a Similar Spirit

Advice to College Students

 Science & Philosophy 

Realities of Science

 

Certainly the ideology launched by Francis Bacon in 1620 had a remarkably long shelf life, despite crushing evidence that it is a poor description of what scientists actually do and is exceptionally poor advice on how they should be organized.

—Deirdre N. McClosky in Bourgeois Dignity.  Chapter 41.

 

The same is true of research science. It generates a continually expanding storehouse of knowledge, but only on the condition that the world be assumed to have no inherent meaning of its own.

—Kronman, Anthony. Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan.

 

I would hazard a guess that 90% of great scientists start out as heretics.  The problem is that 90% of scientific heretics are talking nonsense....I was asked how you can tell when a scientific heretic is right rather than mad.  I confessed that, as I’ve grown older, I’m becoming more confused on this point.  The problem is not just that vindicated heretics are rare, but also that the heretic who’s right will be just as partisan—avidly collecting evidence to confirm his idea—as the heretic who’s wrong.

—Matt Ridley writing in The Wall Street Journal.  “Is That Scientific Heretic a Genius—or a Loon?”  November 12-13, 2011.  C4.

 

Every single time they've had a hypothesis of causation from their data that was tested in a clinical trial; without exception the trial failed to confirm the hypothesis. Doesn't mean the hypothesis wasn't true; but the trial found the opposite...So if you like the hypothesis, that one is not reliable; and if you don't like it, the other one is not reliable. Exactly. And literally the investigators who did that Minnesota study—it was finished by 1973 and it was published in 1988 or 1989, which was a year after the principal investigator retired. And I am a journalist and I tracked him down and I asked him: Why did you wait 16 years to publish? And he said: Because we didn't like the way it turned out. A moment of honesty. The assumption is if you don't get the answer you expect, you did the experiment wrong. And that is still the case today.

—Gary Taubes.  November 21, 2011.  Gary Taubes on Fat, Sugar, and Scientific Discovery.  EconTalk.org.

 

...he had been on on virtually everything he had done. But he'd just about demonstrated how he could move up to the very top of his field by claiming a discovery and then kind of moving on to the next experiment and leaving better scientists to clean up the mess after him. And this has been a common theme in everything I've written about. In making declarative pronouncements based on preliminary data, and fighting viciously to get people to believe in you, you can do very well for yourself in these careers. Nobody moves forward by spending their career checking other people's work to see if it was right or not. And actually one of my favorite lines from physics was from this Nobel Prize winner Sam Ting at MIT, who said to me, if I can get this right: To be first and right is good; to be first and wrong is not so good; and to be second and right is meaningless.

—Gary Taubes.  November 21, 2011.  Gary Taubes on Fat, Sugar, and Scientific Discovery.  EconTalk.org.

 

Old men have a weakness for generality and a desire to see structures whole. That is why old scientists so often become philosophers...
—Eugene Wilder

 

The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour, and moral courage which it contained.  That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger at the time.
—John Stuart Mill, 1869 

Experts are often considered tainted. It is an extremely frustrating fact of modern scientific life.
—Michael Specter quoting Anthony S. Fauci in Denialism

In my career in academia, however, I discovered to my dismay that many of my colleagues had little interest in the search for truth, however one might understand or pursue it. To them, their research and publication amounted to a game in which the winning players receive the greatest rewards in salary, research funding, and professional acclaim.

—Robert Higgs, “Truth and Freedom in Economic Analysis and Economic Policy Making.” The Independent Institute.  April 19, 2011.

 

One of my mentors told me that my real mistake was trying to replicate my work.  He told me doing that was just setting myself up for disappointment.

—Jonah Lehrer from “The Truth Wears Off” in The New Yorker (12/13/10)

 

For Simmons, the steep rise and slow fall of fluctuating asymmetry is a clear example of a scientific paradigm, one of those intellectual fads that both guide and constrain research: after a new paradigm is proposed, the peer-review process is titled toward positive results.  But then, after a few years, the academic incentives shift—the paradigm has become entrenched—so that most notable results are now those that disprove the theory...The bias was first identified by the statistician Theodore Sterling, in 1959, after he noticed that ninety-seven percent of all published psychological studies with statistically significant data found the effect they were looking for.

—Jonah Lehrer from “The Truth Wears Off” in The New Yorker (12/13/10)

 

When the experiments are done, we still have to choose what to believe.

—Jonah Lehrer from “The Truth Wears Off” in The New Yorker (12/13/10)

 

My work always tried to unite the truth with the beautiful, but when I had to choose one or the other, I usually chose the beautiful.
—Paul Dirac

Great thinkers are always posthumously productive.
—Graham Farmelo

 

On September 12, 1957, Vicary called a press conference to announce the results of an unusual experiment.  Over the course of six weeks during the preceding summer, he had arranged to have slogans—specifically, “Eat popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola”—flashed for three milliseconds, every five seconds, onto a movie screen…the messages had increased soda sales at the theater by 18 percent and popcorn sales by 58 percent.

The public reacted with fury…

There was a glitch, however.  Researchers tried to replicate Vicary’s findings…but none succeeded.  After five years Vicary confessed that his so-called experiment was “a gimmick.”

—Stroebe, Wolfgang.  May/June, 2012.  “The Subtle Power of Hidden Messages.”  Scientific American Mind.

 

Scientists typically fail to craft simple, clear messages and repeat them often. They commonly overdo the level of detail, and people can have difficulty sorting out what is important. In short, the more you say, the less they hear. And scientists tend to speak in code. We encourage them to speak in plain language and choose their words with care. Many words that seem perfectly normal to scientists are incomprehensible jargon to the wider world. And there are usually simpler substitutes.

—Richard C. J. Somerville and Susan Joy Hassol.  October, 2011.  “Communicating the science of climate change.”  Physics Today.  64(10):48-53.

 

If you get positive results, then I have one major talent, and that is getting published in mainstream journals.

—Yudhijit Bhattacharjee quoting psychologist Daryl Bem.  March, 2012.  “Paranormal Psychologist.”  Discover magazine.  Bem was talking to Charles Honorton, who sought to verify the existence of ESP’s like telepathy.  Note: This illustrates why statistics reported in scientific journals are biased.  If 100 studies are conducted on the ability of people to exhibit telepathy and only two suggest telepathy exists, those are the only two studies that will be published because they are the only ones (out of the 100 studies) that are interesting.  In reality, the probability of telepathy existing is 2%, but according to the journals, it will be 100%. 

 

If I had to guess whether Wikipedia or the median refereed journal article on economics was more likely to be true, after a not so long think I would opt for Wikipedia.
—Tyler Cowen

He referred to inclusive fitness as a cult, not a science.

—Jonah Lehrer.  “Kin and Kind: A fight about the genetics of altruism.”  The New Yorker.  March 5, 2012.  This is Martin Nowak describing how theoretical biologist Robert May described inclusive fitness theory.

 

First, the truth is ridiculed.  Then it meets outrage.  Then it is said to have been obvious all along.  We’re currently in the outrage stage, but we’ll be obvious before long.

—E. O. Wilson remarking on the progress of science and the controversy over his theories of altruism.  As quoted by Jonah Lehrer.  “Kin and Kind: A fight about the genetics of altruism.”  The New Yorker.  March 5, 2012.  This is Martin Nowak describing how theoretical biologist Robert May described inclusive fitness theory.

 

Our submission was rejected without being sent for peer review on the basis that the journal has a policy of not publishing replications.

—Chris French, on why his article showing ESP doesn’t exist, an article replicating a previous study showing ESP does exist, was not published in the same journal.  An illustration of why this journal, the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology should not consider itself scientific.

 

[Science is] the belief in the ignorance of experts.

—Reyman, Richard.

 

Within parapsychology, there is a tendency to accept any positive replications but to dismiss failures to replicate if the procedures followed have not been exactly duplicated.

—Chris French, on why his article showing ESP doesn’t exist, an article replicating a previous study showing ESP does exist, was not published in the same journal.  An illustration of why many “scientific”  journal should not consider itself scientific.

 

Scientists, it’s said, behave more like lawyers than philosophers.  They do not so much test their theories as prosecute their cases, seeking supportive evidence and ignoring data that do not fit—a failing known as confirmation bias.  They then accuse their opponents of doing the same thing.  This is what makes debates over nature and nurture, dietary fat and climate change so polarized.

—Matt Ridley.  March 17-18, 2012.  “A Global-Cooling Theory Gets a Second Chance.  The Wall Street Journal.  C2.

 

A former researcher at Amgen Inc has found that many basic studies on cancer — a high proportion of them from university labs — are unreliable, with grim consequences for producing new medicines in the future.

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 “landmark” publications — papers in top journals, from reputable labs — for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development.

Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated. He described his findings in a commentary piece published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Other scientists worry that something less innocuous explains the lack of reproducibility.

Part way through his project to reproduce promising studies, Begley met for breakfast at a cancer conference with the lead scientist of one of the problematic studies.

“We went through the paper line by line, figure by figure,” said Begley. “I explained that we re-did their experiment 50 times and never got their result. He said they’d done it six times and got this result once, but put it in the paper because it made the best story. It’s very disillusioning.”

—Sharon Begley.  March 28, 2012.  “In cancer science, many ‘discoveries’ don’t hold up.”  Reuters.

 

In 2010, two research teams separately analyzed data from the same U.K. patient database to see if widely prescribed osteoporosis drugs increased the risk of esophageal cancer. They came to surprisingly different conclusions.

One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found no increase in patients' cancer risk. The second study, which ran three weeks later in the British Medical Journal, found the risk for developing cancer to be low, but doubled. Which conclusion was correct?

It is hard to tell, and the answer may be inconclusive. The main reason: Each analysis applied a different methodology and neither was based on original, proprietary data. Instead, both were so-called observational studies, in which scientists often use fast computers, statistical software and large medical data sets to analyze information collected previously by others. From there, they look for correlations, such as whether a drug may trigger a worrisome side effect.

But observational studies, researchers say, are especially prone to methodological and statistical biases that can render the results unreliable. Their findings are much less replicable than those drawn from controlled research. Worse, few of the flawed findings are spotted—or corrected—in the published literature.

"You can troll the data, slicing and dicing it any way you want," says S. Stanley Young of the U.S. National Institute of Statistical Sciences. Consequently, "a great deal of irresponsible reporting of results is going on."

Despite such concerns among researchers, observational studies have never been more popular.

Nearly 80,000 observational studies were published in the period 1990-2000 across all scientific fields, according to an analysis performed for The Wall Street Journal by Thomson Reuters. In the following period, 2001-2011, the number of studies more than tripled to 263,557, based on a search of Thomson Reuters Web of Science, an index of 11,600 peer-reviewed journals world-wide. The analysis likely doesn't capture every observational study in the literature, but it does indicate a pattern of growth over time.

—Gautam Naik.  May 3, 2012.  “Analytical Trend Troubles Scientists.”  The Wall Street Journal.  A1.

 

His conclusion is widely upheld by other scientists: Just because two events are statistically associated in a study, it doesn't mean that one necessarily sets off the other. What is merely suggestive can be mistaken as causal.

That partly explains why observational studies in general can be replicated only 20% of the time, versus 80% for large, well-designed randomly controlled trials, says Dr. Ioannidis. Dr. Young, meanwhile, pegs the replication rate for observational data at an even lower 5% to 10%.

—Gautam Naik.  May 3, 2012.  “Analytical Trend Troubles Scientists.”  The Wall Street Journal.  A1.

Dr. Young of the National Institute of Statistical Sciences takes a more skeptical view. He notes that because the Green study reports on three different variables at once, it introduces errors due to the classic problem of "multiple testing."

Dr. Green acknowledges that her team didn't adjust for multiple testing. She also notes that because information about the patients isn't consistent, "this database may not be the ideal place to look."

—Gautam Naik.  May 3, 2012.  “Analytical Trend Troubles Scientists.”  The Wall Street Journal.  A1.

I’ve been wrong so often, I don’t find it extraordinary at all.

—Roland Coase, at 101 years of age.  Planet Money podcast.  May 8, 2012.  “Noble Laureate: ‘I’ve been…’”.  National Public Radio.

 

20 Things You Didn’t Know About…Science Fraud: The geniuses who fudged data, the cheaters who did it in plain sight, and the frauds who got away with it.

1  What evil lurks in the hearts of scientists? Behavioral ecologist Daniele Fanelli knows. In a meta-analysis of 18 surveys of researchers, he found only 2 percent ’fessed up to falsifying or manipulating data...but 14 percent said they knew a colleague who had.

2  After studying retracted biology papers published between 2000 and 2010, neurobiologist R. Grant Steen claimed that Americans were significantly more prone to commit fraud than scientists from other nations.

3  But when two curious bloggers reanalyzed Steen’s data, they found that American’s aren’t so shifty after all.

 Chinese scientists were actually three times as likely as Americans to commit fraud. (French researchers were least likely to misbehave.)

 If caught stealing someone else’s ideas, scientists have a handy defense: cryptomnesia, the idea that a person can experience a memory as a new, original thought.

6  But there’s no shortage of excuses. In the 1970s the FDA investigated Francois Savery, a doctor who submitted identical data to two drug companies, claiming that they were from two different studies. When confronted, he explained that he was forced to re-create his data sets because he took the original research with him on a lake picnic and lost it when his rowboat capsized.

7  Government authorities later learned that Savery never conducted the studies in the first place—or received a medical degree.

 Even geniuses succumb to temptation. Researchers have found that Isaac Newton fudged numbers in his Principia, generally considered the greatest physics text ever written.

9  Other legends who seem to have altered data: Freud, Darwin, and Pasteur.

10  And Austrian monk Gregor Mendel’s famous pea-breeding experiments—the foundation of modern ideas of heredity—are suspiciously good, matching his theory of genetic inheritance a little too well.

11  One of the most notorious scientific hoaxes remains unsolved. Someone mixed human and orangutan bones, treated them, and planted them to create Piltdown Man, a “missing link” between humans and apes found in 1912. But who?

12  Science historian Richard Milner accuses Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who also fabricated Sherlock Holmes. Doyle lived near the Piltdown site and resented the scientific community for mocking his belief in spiritualism. Opportunity and motive. Elementary!

13  In 1974 immunologist William Summerlin created a sensation when he claimed to have transplanted tissue from black to white mice. In reality, he used a black felt-tip pen to darken patches of fur on white mice.

14  Some researchers still use “painting the mice” to describe scientific fraud.

15  Painting the mice can have serious consequences. In the 1980s, psychologist Stephen Breuning published results from fictitious “trials” of tranquilizers; his findings informed the clinical practices for treating mentally retarded children.

16  Have you no subtlety, sir? In 1981 John Darsee, a rising-star cardiologist at Harvard, faked log entries in a canine heart study in full view of his colleagues.

17  Although many of his papers were later found to have false data, Darsee continued to be cited positively for years (pdf).

18  Write what you know: Harvard evolutionary psychologist Marc Hauser resigned last year after he was found guilty of eight counts of scientific misconduct. Now he’s working on a book, reportedly titled Evilicious: Explaining Our Evolved Taste for Being Bad.

19  The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Research Integrity estimates there are 2,300 cases of misconduct among NIH-funded researchers each year.

20  A role-playing game on the office’s website, called “The Lab: Avoiding Research Misconduct,” has been downloaded 26,000 times since it launched last year. (Try testing your own moral compass here.)

—Eric A. Powell.  “20 Things  You Didn’t Know About…Science Fraud.”  May 8, 2012.  Discover Magazine.  Health and Medicine.

 

Considerable hard data have emerged on the scale of misconduct. A metastudy (D. Fanelli PLoS ONE 4, e5738; 2009) and a detailed screening of all images in papers accepted by The Journal of Cell Biology (M. Rossner The Scientist 20 (3), 24; 2006) each suggest that roughly 1% of published papers are fraudulent. That would be about 20,000 papers worldwide each year.

—Macilwain, Colin. August 1, 2012. “The time is right to confront misconduct.” Nature. Column: World View.

 

Hydraulic fracturing, or 'fracking', a technology that revolutionized the natural-gas industry, has been surrounded by controversy in recent years. So, when environmental experts at the University of Texas at Austin produced a report in February that gave the technique a fairly clean bill of health, they received widespread news coverage, including in the pages of Nature (see Nature 482,445; 2012). The study was billed as an independent analysis. Yet last week it emerged that its lead author is a well-paid board member of an energy company that is actively involved in fracking.

The failure to declare this involvement was an unfortunate mistake to make, not least because the man who made it is a respected senior scientist who headed the US Geological Survey under US presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush — and is therefore experienced enough to understand the role that politics and perception have in sensitive issues such as energy development. Yet Charles 'Chip' Groat, associate director of the University of Texas at Austin Energy Institute, failed to disclose that he holds a significant number of shares in the Houston-based Plains Exploration & Production Company, and that he earned more than US$400,000 from the company last year. In a 23 July statement to Bloomberg news, he said that disclosing his position on the board “would not have served any meaningful purpose relevant to this study”.

—August 2, 2012. “Unfortunate oversight.” Nature. Column: Editorial.

 

Positive results in psychology can behave like rumours: easy to release but hard to dispel. They dominate most journals, which strive to present new, exciting research. Meanwhile, attempts to replicate those studies, especially when the findings are negative, go unpublished, languishing in personal file drawers or circulating in conversations around the water cooler. “There are some experiments that everyone knows don't replicate, but this knowledge doesn't get into the literature,” says Wagenmakers. The publication barrier can be chilling, he adds. “I've seen students spending their entire PhD period trying to replicate a phenomenon, failing, and quitting academia because they had nothing to show for their time.”

—Yong, Ed.  May 16, 2012.  “Replication studies: Bad copy.”  Nature.  News Feature. 485(7398).

 

This study analyzes leading research in behavioral economics to see whether it contains advocacy of paternalism and whether it addresses the potential cognitive limitations and biases of the policymakers who are going to implement paternalist policies. The findings reveal that 20.7% of the studied articles in behavioral economics propose paternalist policy action and that 95.5% of these do not contain any analysis of the cognitive ability of policymakers. This suggests that behavioral political economy, in which the analytical tools of behavioral economics are applied to political decision-makers as well, would offer a useful extension of the research program. Such an extension could be related to the concept of robust political economy, according to which the case for paternalism should be subjected to “worst-case” assumptions, such as policymakers being less than fully rational.

—Berggren, Niclas. June 29, 2011. “Time for behavioral political economy? An analysis of articles in behavioral economics.” The Review of Austrian Economics. DOI: 10.1007/s11138-011-0159-z. Abstract.

 

Much published research on the impact of climate change consists of confirmation bias by if-then modeling, but critics also see an increasing confusion between model outputs and observations. For example, in estimating how much warming is expected, the most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change uses three methods, two based entirely on model simulations.

The late novelist Michael Crichton, in his prescient 2003 lecture criticizing climate research, said: "To an outsider, the most significant innovation in the global-warming controversy is the overt reliance that is being placed on models.... No longer are models judged by how well they reproduce data from the real world—increasingly, models provide the data. As if they were themselves a reality."

—Ridley, Matt. August 4-5, 2012. “How Bias Heats Up the Warming Debate.” The Wall Street Journal. A15.

 

Journals favor rejections of the null hypothesis. This selection upon results may distort the behavior of researchers. Using 50,000 tests published between 2005 and 2011 in the AER, JPE and QJE, we identify a residual in the distribution of tests that cannot be explained by selection. The distribution of p-values exhibits a camel shape with abundant p-values above .25, a valley between .25 and .10 and a bump slightly under .05. Missing tests are those which would have been accepted but close to being rejected (p-values between .25 and .10). We show that this pattern corresponds to a shift in the distribution of p-values: between 10% and 20% of marginally rejected tests are misallocated. Our interpretation is that researchers might be tempted to inflate the value of their tests by choosing the specification that provides the highest statistics. Note that Inflation is larger in articles where stars are used in order to highlight statistical significance and lower in articles with theoretical models.

—Brodeur, Abel, Le Mathias, Marc Sangnier, and Yanos Zylbergerb. June 18, 2012. “Star Wars: The Empirics Strike Back.” Paris School of Economics Working Paper No. 2012-29. Abstract.

 

In a recent paper, historians of economic thought David M. Levy and Sandra J. Peart show that [Paul] Samuelson and other American economics textbook authors of the 1960s and 1970s kept forecasting rapid Soviet growth through their books’ successive editions, even while their own updated numbers clearly showed that the growth forecasts in previous editions had been too high.  In the seven editions of his textbook published from 1961 to 1980, Samuelson kept including a chart indicating that Soviet output was growing faster that U.S. output, and predicting a catch-up in about twenty-five years.  He repeatedly had to move the predicted catch-up date forward from the previous edition because the gap had never actually begun to close.  In several editions he blamed low realized Soviet growth on bad weather.  As late as the 1989 edition, he and coauthor William Nordhaus wrote: “The Soviet economy is proof that, contrary to what many skeptics had earlier believed, a socialist command economy can function and even thrive.”

—White, Larry. 2012. The Clash of Economic Ideas.

 

In sharp contrast to previous studies suggesting that errors account for the majority of retracted scientific papers, a new analysis -- the most comprehensive of its kind -- has found that misconduct is responsible for two-thirds of all retractions. In the paper, misconduct included fraud or suspected fraud, duplicate publication and plagiarism. The paper's findings show as a percentage of all scientific articles published, retractions for fraud or suspected fraud have increased 10-fold since 1975.

—Albert Einstein College of Medicine (2012, October 1). Misconduct, not error, accounts for most scientific paper retractions: 10-fold increase in fraud-related retractions found.ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 5, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2012/10/121001151949.htm


 

Science In Pursuit Of Truth

 

Truth emerges more readily from error than from confusion.

—Francis Bacon. Quoted in: Lauden, Rachel. 2013. Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA (USA). Page ???

 

Only describe, don’t explain.

—Wittgenstein

 

Learning religion is part of human nature. Learning science is a battle against human nature.

—Dominic Johnson, quoted in: The Economist. January 23, 2016. “Religion and psychology: In the hands of an angry God.” Review of book God is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human by Dominic Johnson.

 

The humanists incubated a philosophical revolution by discovering, and cautiously revealing, the world of Greek philosophy; but, for the most part, and excepting Valla, they were too clever to lay their beliefs on the table.

—Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 537.

 

Wisdom seems always a reincarnation or echo, since it remains the same through a thousand varieties and generations of error.

—Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 539.

 

We must speak as the many do, we must think as the few.

—Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 539. Quote is by Nifo, describing how their philosophical beliefs could be stated in public in the religious realm.

 

 

We must clear our minds … from all causes that blind people to the truth—old custom, party spirit, personal rivalry or passion, the desire for influence.

—Muslim scholar Abu al-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni (973 – 1048). Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 243.

 

He took it for granted that the earth is round, noted “the attraction of all things towards the center of the earth,” and remarked that astronomic data can be explained as well by supposing that the earth turns daily on its axis and annually around the sun, as by the reverse hypothesis. He speculated on the possibility that the Indus valley had been once the bottom of a sea.

—Will Durant about Muslim scholar Abu al-Rayhan Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Biruni (973 – 1048). Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 244.

 

 

I would rather discover a single demonstration [of geometry] than win the throne of Persia.

—Will Durant. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece.  Chapter 16: The Conflict of Philosophy and Religion. Page 353.

 

Scientists don’t need to be consistent—only their theories do.

Lykken, Joseph and Marla Spiropulu. May 2014. “Supersymmetry and the Crisis in Physics.” Scientific American.

 

What are the fewest general propositions from which all the uniformities existing in nature could be deduced?
—Paul Dirac, from The Strangest Man by Graham Farmelo 

I heard [someone] say the other day … “The only indisputable truth is to be found in fiction.”

—Panelist on Intelligence Squared [podcast]. December 20, 2013. “An Anatomy of Truth: Conversations on Truth-telling.”

 

Physical laws should have mathematical beauty. 
—Paul Dirac 

…all of Epicureanism can be seen as the derivation of a way of life based only on the evidence that can clearly be established by our eyes and our other Natural faculties. This determination requires the firm rejection of knowledge through faith, divine revelation, universal forms, spirit worlds, or any other source of information which cannot be proved to be true before the tribunal of the faculties which Nature provides.

—Cassius Amicus, on Epicureanism.

 

Nature provides that we require only a very few things (food, water, air, shelter), and it is an illusion to believe that more is required for us to live a life of complete happiness.

—Cassius Amicus, on Epicureanism.

 

I have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones.

—Two-time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling on how he came up with good ideas. Quoted in: Bryce, Nessa Victoria. July/August 2014. “The AHA! Moement.” Scientific American Mind. Page 41.

 

… it is easier for the ignorant than for the learned to be original.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 437.

 

 

Nature calls on us to measure our success in living not by length, but by happiness.

—Cassius Amicus, on Epicureanism.

 

Yet when the study of natural science was at last reborn, it was the once rejected atomic theory that furnished the starting point for modern chemistry, and when modern thinkers began to see the evolutionary processes in human institutions, it was observed that long ago Epicurus had blazed that path of enquiry. Erring with Plato had its pleasure and its profit but also its price, the postponement of scientific progress. Platonic thought had some close affinities with the Stone Age.

—Norman W. Dewitt, on Epicureanism (1947).

 

Since we’re getting attacked equally from both sides, we must be right.

—Scientist Michael Tomasello, on his hypothesis that the main difference between humans and primates is our ability to understand what other people are thinking, which helps makes us an ultrasocial animal. From: Stix, Gary. September 2014. “The ‘IT’ Factor.” Scientific American.

 

…the universe as a whole has always been such as it now is and always will be such. For there is nothing into which the universe can change, and there is nothing beyond the universal whole which can penetrate into the universe whole and produce any change in it.

—Epicurus. Letter to Herodotus.

 

Of all human pursuits the pursuit of wisdom is the most perfect, the most sublime, the most profitable, the most delightful.

—Thomas Aquinas. Quoted in: —Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 972.

 

If at this point one asks why a god who foresees all should have created a man and a woman destined to such curiosity, and a race destined to such heritable guilt, Thomas answers that it is metaphysically impossible for any creature to be perfect, and that man’s freedom to sin is the price he must pay for his freedom of choice. Without that freedom of will man would be an automaton not beyond but below good and evil, having no greater dignity than a machine.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 973.

 

I recommend that they make a concise statement or summary of their opinions, while still pursuing without intermission the study of Nature, which contributes more than anything else to the tranquility and happiness of life.

—Epicurus. Letter to Herodotus.

 

When our mental apprehension is confirmed by additional evidence, or when it is not contradicted by additional evidence, then it produces truth.

—Epicurus. Letter to Herodotus.

 

If you’re not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with anything original. By the time they get to be adults most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened at being wrong…We stigmatize mistakes, and we’re not running educational systems where mistakes are the worst things you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.

—Robinson, Ken. TED talk. November 3, 2009. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ue9sAoFcyOU.


If one is a research worker, one mustn't believe in anything too strongly; one must always be prepared that various beliefs one has had for a long time may be overthrown. 
—Paul Dirac 

If you are receptive and humble, mathematics will lead you by the hand. Again and again, when I have been at a loss how to proceed, I have just had to wait until [this happened]. It has led me along an unexpected path, a path where new vistas open up, a path leading to new territory, where one can set up a base of operations, from which one can survey the surroundings and plan future progress. 
—Paul Dirac 

…when we want to believe something...we search for supporting evidence, and if we find even a single piece of pseudo-evidence, we can stop thinking...In contrast, when we don't want to believe something...we search for contrary evidence, and if we find a single reason to doubt the claim, we can dismiss it

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.

—Louis Pasteur

 

The true conquests, the only ones that leave no regret, are those that have been wrested from ignorance.

—Napoleon Bonaparte wrote, after he conquered Egypt and set about studying it, including the discover of the famous Rosetta Stone.

 

There does not exist a category of science to which one can give the name applied science. There are sciences and the applications of science, bound together as the fruit of the tree which bears it. 

—Louis Pasteur

 

Why do some people get caught by an idea that takes over your life?  I don’t know, but I do know that as long as it doesn’t drive you crazy, it is a blessing.

—Julian Barbour, a physicist, remarking on his forty year quest to discover a universal model of the cosmos.


Such was the advice this extraordinary unemotional man offered to his colleagues: be guided, above all, by your emotions. 
—Graham Farmelo, commenting on Paul Dirac 

It has long been said that the hardest words to say in the English language are I love you. We heartily disagree! For most people, it is much harder to say I don’t know.

—Steven D. Levitt and Stephan J. Dubner. 2014. Think Like a Freak. William Morrow: NY, NY. Page 20.

 

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.
—Rene Descartes

Just as science was at first a form of philosophy, struggling to free itself from the general, the speculative, the unverifiable, so philosophy was at first a form of poetry, striving to free itself from mythology, animism, and metaphor.

—Will Durant. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece.  Chapter 3: The Heroic Age.  Page 140.

 

To be genuinely empirical is to reflect reality as faithfully as possible; to be honorable implies not fearing the appearance and consequences of being outlandish. 
—Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan 

 

Truth cannot be something else or somewhere else.  There cannot be models of it.  It cannot be diagrammed or written out.  It cannot be held as a possession of mind. 
—Steve Hagen

 

As it happens, the word theory is not properly understood by the general public, which tends to think of a theory as a “guess.” Even dictionaries do not properly describe what the word means to scientists.

Properly speaking, a theory is a set of basic rules, supported by a great many confirmed observations by many scientists, that explains and makes sensible a large number of facts that, without the theory, would seem to be unconnected. It is as though the facts and observations are a number of dots representing cities, and lines representing country and state boundaries, distributed higgledy-piggledy on paper, making no sense. A theory is a map that puts each dot and line into the right place and makes a connected and sensible picture out of it all.

Theories are not necessarily correct in every detail, to begin with, and might never be entirely correct in every detail, but they are sufficiently correct (if they are good theories) to guide scientists in understanding the subject the theory deals with, in exploring further observations, and eventually, in improving the theory.

—Asimov, Isaac. 1992. Atom. Truman Talley Books: NY, NY.

 

They who know the truth are not equal to those who love it, and they who love it are not equal to those who delight in it.

—Confucius

 

Great wits are sure to madness near allied

And thin partitions do their bounds divide

—John Dryden (1631-1700). Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official.

 

In established scientific fields of high autonomy, "revolutions" no longer are necessarily at the same time political ruptures but rather are generated within the field themselves: the field becomes the site of a permanent revolution.

—Pierre Bourdieu.  1991.  “The Peculiar History of Scientific Reason.”  Sociological Forum.  6(1).

 

Somewhere, sometime, somebody taught her to question everything—though it might have been a good thing if he'd also taught her to question the act of questioning. Carried far enough, as far as Shelly's crowd carries it, that can dissolve the ground you stand on. I suppose wisdom could be defined as knowing what you have to accept, and I suppose by that definition she's a long way from wise.
—Wallace Stegner, from The Angel of Repose. 

 

I have often asked myself would it have been better if we had not succeeded.  The war perhaps would have ended sooner with less misery and on better terms.  Gentlemen, these questions are all useless.  Progress and science and technology cannot be stopped.
—Carl Bosch, alchemist who helped created chemical warfare during World War I.

Is it not obvious that our contemporary concern with schools of existentialism, say, or with the distinctions among capitalism, communism and socialism, will seem a thousand years hence as incomprehensible to historians of his temper as the eight century’s concern with adoptianism, iconoclasm or the filioque controversy?  The human mind has always worked with the materials it had at hand.  It is risk to judge and condemn the intellectual achievements of one age by the standards of another.  Aristotle was not a fool because he thought the universe consisted of fifty-five concentric hollow spheres—any more than Niels Bohr was a fool when he framed his “solar system” model of the atom…The slower pace of scientific development in the past does not mean that every thinker from Aristotle to Copernicus was an intellectual dwarf.  The modern schoolboy is not greater than Euclid because he knows far more about mathematics.

—Richard Winston in Charlemagne (1960).

 

A married philosopher is a joke.

—Neitzsche

 

When someone holds up a common belief and says it is obvious, I say, well, let’s reverse the thinking on that and see where it gets you.

—Yudhijit Bhattacharjee quoting psychologist Daryl Bem.  March, 2012.  “Paranormal Psychologist.”  Discover magazine. 

 

I guess I could decide it was a fluke…Science is self-correcting.  Reality always bites back.

—Yudhijit Bhattacharjee quoting psychologist Daryl Bem about what he would think if his studies supporting the existence of telepathy was not replicated in other studies.  March, 2012.  “Paranormal Psychologist.”  Discover magazine. 

 

Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.

—Ludwig Wittgenstein

The results of philosophy are the uncovering of one or another piece of plain nonsense and of the bumps that the understanding has got by running its head against the limits of language.

—Ludwig Wittgenstein

 

It is one of the consolations of philosophy that the benefit of showing how to dispense with a concept does not hinge on dispensing with it. 

—Willard Van Orman Quine

 

Physics investigates the essential nature of the world, and biology describes a local bump. Psychology, human psychology, describes a bump on the bump. 

—Willard Van Orman Quine

 

It makes no sense to say what the objects of a theory are, beyond saying how to interpret or reinterpret that theory in another

—Willard Van Orman Quine

 

…but now came the real shock.  The biggest blow to earlier philosophy of science came, oddly enough, from the history of science, and in particular, from Thomas Kuhn’s 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  Now, Kuhn’s target in that book (it was a book about the history of science)…was typically called the “Whig Interpretation,” of the history of science…[which held that] science proceeds cumulatively and inevitably through the linear addition of discovery and argument, based on a background foundation of a set of concepts and assumptions.  This is the kind of science which…you learned, and many people probably still learn, in their science classes.  Namely, science proceeds by putting one brick on top of another brick.  You get a foundation for your science, each experimentalist or theorist adds [another brick of] knowledge and you gradually build, build, build, build. 

Kuhn argued that such is a plausible description only of a part—and in fact the least interesting part—of the development of science.  For while what he will call “normal science” in most historical periods does proceed through the patient accumulation of fact.  Over time, there gradually develops cracks and fissures:  unsolvable problems begin to accumulate in this structure being built by normal science.  When these cracks become grave enough, a scientific revolution takes place, nothing incremental but a sharp break, involving not the addition of one discovery or one little argument, but the wholesale replacement of what he called “the paradigm.”  If you’ve heard the word “paradigm” in your life, it’s probably because it came from this book of Kuhn’s, which made it famous.

In a scientific revolution, the whole paradigm—meaning the fundamental concepts and practices of a science in a period of time—gets rejected.  One paradigm is radically overthrown by another. 

—Lawrence Cahoone describing Thomas Kuhn’s assertions in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida.  2010.  “New Philosophies of Science.”  Lecture 29.  The Teaching Company.

 

If that were true, it would mean there would be no logical inference across paradigms.  Well, this would mean, literally, that there could be no rational argument from the old paradigm to the new one.  The decision to adopt the new one would have to be an irrational leap, or sociologically explained.  And Kuhn is not afraid to say it.  He says, “Most of the time the new paradigm is established when the holders of the old paradigm die off, and young people from graduate schools that have learned the new paradigm: they get jobs, they get tenure…the new paradigm takes hold.” 

—Lawrence Cahoone describing Thomas Kuhn’s assertions in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.  The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida.  2010.  “New Philosophies of Science.”  Lecture 29.  The Teaching Company.

 

The child says something about what happened between Jane and Johnny.  You saw the same thing.  You explain it differently and in a more complicated way.  The child cannot understand your explanation but you can understand the child’s explanation because yours includes…the child’s explanation as a possibility….  This is rational progress, and its why hopefully adults still get to teach their children. 

Rational progress therefore remains conceivable wherever we can articulate within our new improved understanding of things…(an improved understanding of things), and still articulate the older way of understanding, and still explain its inadequacy along with the greater adequacy of the new view: that’s rational progress, and there’s nothing we’ve seen to say that can’t be done.

—Lawrence Cahoone.  2010.  The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida.  Lecture 36: Philosophy’s Death Greatly Exaggerated.  The Teaching Company.

 

Moral philosophy, or the science of human nature, may be treated after two different manners; each of which has its peculiar merit, and may contribute to the entertainment, instruction, and reformation of mankind. The one considers man chiefly as born for action; and as influenced in his measures by taste and sentiment; pursuing one object, and avoiding another, according to the value which these objects seem to possess, and according to the light in which they present themselves…

…other species of philosophers consider man in the light of a reasonable rather than an active being, and endeavour to form his understanding more than cultivate his manners. They regard human nature as a subject of speculation; and with a narrow scrutiny examine it, in order to find those principles, which regulate our understanding, excite our sentiments, and make us approve or blame any particular object, action, or behaviour. They think it a reproach to all literature, that philosophy should not yet have fixed, beyond controversy, the foundation of morals, reasoning, and criticism; and should for ever talk of truth and falsehood, vice and virtue, beauty and deformity, without being able to determine the source of these distinctions. While they attempt this arduous task, they are deterred by no difficulties; but proceeding from particular instances to general principles, they still push on their enquiries to principles more general, and rest not satisfied till they arrive at those original principles, by which, in every science, all human curiosity must be bounded.

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

Be a philosopher; but, amidst all your philosophy, be still a man.

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

Accurate and just reasoning is the only catholic remedy, fitted for all persons and all dispositions; and is alone able to subvert that abstruse philosophy and metaphysical jargon, which, being mixed up with popular superstition, renders it in a manner impenetrable to careless reasoners, and gives it the air of science and wisdom.

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

Happy, if we can unite the boundaries of the different species of philosophy, by reconciling profound enquiry with clearness, and truth with novelty! And still more happy, if, reasoning in this easy manner, we can undermine the foundations of an abstruse philosophy, which seems to have hitherto served only as a shelter to superstition, and a cover to absurdity and error!

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

Here therefore we may divide all the perceptions of the mind into two classes or species, which are distinguished by their different degrees of force and vivacity. The less forcible and lively are commonly denominated Thoughts or Ideas. The other species want a name in our language, and in most others; I suppose, because it was not requisite for any, but philosophical purposes, to rank them under a general term or appellation. Let us, therefore, use a little freedom, and call them Impressions; employing that word in a sense somewhat different from the usual. By the term impression, then, I mean all our more lively perceptions, when we hear, or see, or feel, or love, or hate, or desire, or will. And impressions are distinguished from ideas,

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

This proposition, that causes and effects are discoverable, not by reason but by experience, will readily be admitted with regard to such

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

Hence we may discover the reason why no philosopher, who is rational and modest, has ever pretended to assign the ultimate cause of any natural operation, or to show distinctly the action of that power, which produces any single effect in the universe.

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

The most perfect philosophy of the natural kind only staves off our ignorance a little longer…

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

All reasonings may be divided into two kinds, namely, demonstrative reasoning, or that concerning relations of ideas, and moral reasoning, or that concerning matter of tact and existence.

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

As an agent, I am quite satisfied in the point; but as a philosopher, who has some share of curiosity, I will not say scepticism, I want to learn the foundation of this inference. No reading, no enquiry has yet been able to remove my difficulty, or give me satisfaction in a matter of such importance. Can I do better than propose the difficulty to the public, even though, perhaps, I have small hopes of obtaining a solution? We shall at least, by this means, be sensible of our ignorance, if we do not augment our knowledge.

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

In reality, all arguments from experience are founded on the similarity which we discover among natural objects, and by which we are induced to expect effects similar to those which we have found to follow from such objects. And though none but a fool or madman will ever pretend to dispute the authority of experience, or to reject that great guide of human life, it may surely be allowed a philosopher to have so much curiosity at least as to examine the principle of human nature, which gives this mighty authority to experience, and makes us draw advantage from that similarity which nature has placed among different objects. From causes which appear similar we expect similar effects. This is the sum of all our experimental conclusions.

It is only after a long course of uniform experiments in any kind, that we attain a firm reliance and security with regard to a particular event.

For all inferences from experience suppose, as their foundation, that the future will resemble the past, and that similar powers will be conjoined with similar sensible qualities.

—David Hume in An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

 

Almost everything that distinguishes the modern world from earlier centuries is attributable to science, which achieved its most spectacular triumphs in the seventeenth century.

—Bertrand Russell

 

Undoubtedly we have no questions to ask which are unanswerable. We must trust the perfection of the creation so far, as to believe that whatever curiosity the order of things has awakened in our minds, the order of things can satisfy. Every man’s condition is a solution in hieroglyphic to those inquiries he would put. He acts it as life, before he apprehends it as truth. In like manner, nature is already, in its forms and tendencies, describing its own design. Let us interrogate the great apparition, that shines so peacefully around us. Let us inquire, to what end is nature?

—Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Nature.

 

Whenever a true theory appears, it will be its own evidence. Its test is, that it will explain all phenomena.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Nature.

 

Nature never wears a mean appearance. Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection. Nature never became a toy to a wise spirit. The flowers, the animals, the mountains, reflected the wisdom of his best hour, as much as they had delighted the simplicity of his childhood.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Nature.

 

…science often asks us to be really interested in inanimate things…some realms of science consider extremely inanimate issues—astrophysicists trying to discover planets in other solar systems, for instance. Science often requires our social, hominid brain to be passionate about some pretty unlikely subjects.

—Sapolsky, Robert M. September 2012. “Super Humanity.” Scientific American.

 

We are unmatched in the animal kingdom when it comes to remembering the distant past, when it comes to having a sense of the future. These skills have limits, however. Traditionally our hunter-gatherer forbearers may have remembered something their grandmother was  told by her grandmother, or they may have imagined the course of a generation or two that would outlive them. But science sometimes asks us to ponder processes that emerge with time spans without precedent. When will the next ice age come? Will Gondwana ever reunite? Will cockroaches rule us in a million years?

—Sapolsky, Robert M. September 2012. “Super Humanity.” Scientific American.

 

…knowledge truth and reality are timeless, because deduction is timeless. What makes deduction work, so to speak, the reason why the conclusion of a deductive argument is a necessary consequence of the truth of its premise is because the conclusion is already implicit in the premises. It is merely an accident that we have to draw the conclusion—the conclusion was already in the premises.

—Goldman, Steven. 2007. “Lecture 17: Time, Change, and Novelty.” Great Scientific Ideas That Changed the World. The Teaching Company. Roughly fifteen minutes into the lecture.

 

That is a very interesting fact about science: sometimes theories are accepted on the basis of relatively modest empirical evidence…and others like the atomic theory of matter…can have a growing body of evidence and function within scientific explanation for decades and still be controversial.

—Goldman, Steven. 2007. “Lecture 19: The Cell Theory of Life.” Great Scientific Ideas That Changed the World. The Teaching Company. Roughly nineteen minutes into the lecture.

 

Beware the irrational, however seductive.  Shun the “transcendent” and all who invite you to subordinate or annihilate yourself….  Picture all experts as if they were mammals.  Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity.  Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.  Suspect your own motives, and all excuses.  Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.

—Hitchens, Christopher. 2001. Letters to a Young Contrarian. Page 140.

 

Politics requires answers in Yes or No, and philosophy deals only in Yes-and-No.

—Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company.

 

I would rather discover a single demonstration [ in geometry] than win the throne of Persia.

Democritus (460-370 BC). Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Chapter 16: The Conflict of Philosophy and Religion. Page 354.

 

Nothing is so easy as to deceive one's self; for what we wish, that we readily believe.

Democritus (460-370 BC)

 

 

 

 

 


 

Metaphysics, Ontology, and the Like

 

Geshe Rabten told us to subject the texts we studied to rational scrutiny and critique, but he also insisted that the authors of those texts were fully enlightened beings.  It dawned on me that we were not expected to use logic and debate to establish whether or not the doctrine of rebirth was true.  We were only using them to prove, as best we could, what the founders of the tradition had already established to be true.

—Stephen Batchelor in Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist

 

“What,” I asked, “within the very depths of us, moves us to religion?  It is because life presents itself as an unresolved question.  Existence strikes us as a mystery, as a riddle.  This experience reverberates through us, issuing in the sounds, 'Why?' and 'What?'  The various religions of the world are systematic formulations of the answers to these questions.”

—Stephen Batchelor in Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist


I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this. 
—Emo Phillips 

I TOO AM AN EPICUREAN.

—Jefferson, Thomas. Letter to William Short on October 31, 1819.

 

Recent research, however, supports the idea that consciousness is a conversation rather than a revelation, with no single brain structure leading the dialogue.

—Melinda Wenner Moyer.  November/December 2011.  “Something’s Wrong With This Picture.” Scientific American Mind.  Page 12.

 

To be is to be the value of a variable. 

—Willard Van Orman Quine

 

Our acceptance of an ontology is, I think, similar in principle to our acceptance of a scientific theory, say a system of physics

—Willard Van Orman Quine

 

...humans, perhaps uniquely, can generate mental models of our circumstances that enable us to anticipate future changes and concoct coping strategies.  We use our working memory to hold mental representations of situations.  We can envision a fantasized scenario and compare this image with a model of our current state.  By doing so, we can simulate strategies to reduce the difference between where we are and where we want to wind up in the future, giving us a key evolutionary advantage.  We might mentally rehearse ways to out-compete others, for instance, for a mate or a job promotion.  The combination of consciousness, self-awareness, and explicit problem solving is what enables us to learn things not relevant to our evolutionary past.

—David C. Geary in Scientific American Mind. "Primal Brain in the Modern Classroom." September/October, 2011. Pages 45-49.

 

Brain-imaging studies and other experiments indicate that giving up our intuitions and grasping Newton’s insights does not come easily, even for college students.

—David C. Geary in Scientific American Mind. "Primal Brain in the Modern Classroom." September/October, 2011. Pages 45-49.

 

I do not define time, space, place, and motion as being well-known to all.  Only I must observe, that the vulgar conceive those quantities under no other notions but from the relation they bear to sensible objects.

—Isaac Newton in Principia

 

In fact, one has to think that the philosopher’s job is more central than ever.  While it is true that over the centuries philosophy has been diminished as more and more fields…have gradually split off from philosophy…the problem of integrating the knowledge of those fields and of the other fields of everyday life…the job of integrating this and seeing them in a common context, is greater than ever.  The attempt to know the world in ourselves, to know what is true, good, and beautiful, remains a philosophical job.  Nobody else is taking it up. 

So, the alternative to philosophy would be essentially to stop wondering.  To stop asking questions that go beyond the methods and intellectual boundaries of the many contexts of our lives:  family life, the sciences, our business, entertainment, our local civic obligations, technology.  Each of these spheres and in each of these spheres human beings interact and ask questions.  But it’s only when they step outside that, they ask questions about, “Is this sphere good, is it what it should be, is it what it ought to be, how may I to understand the relationship between these different parts of my life and our lives?”

So the choice is either, as Aristotle knew long ago, to accept our unreflective, uncoordinated—often contrary—beliefs, or to ask ourselves if they are true and how they hang together.  If you ask those questions and try to answer them, you’re doing philosophy. 

It may be that we are just not built for cognitive rest.  Perhaps we never have been since we ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  Human beings are condemned to ask questions beyond and about what they do and what they experience.  When we do that, again, we’re doing philosophy. 

So the journey of modern thought is not over.  Perhaps it’s just beginning. 

—Lawrence Cahoone.  2010.  The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida.  Lecture 36: Philosophy’s Death Greatly Exaggerated.  The Teaching Company.

 

Even the boldest of us have but seldom the courage for what we really know.

—Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Twilight of the Idols.  Maxims and Arrows: p1 s2.

 

Although the Matrix if fictional, our mind runs on its own type of virtual reality. The brain creates a model of the world that we assume is accurate most of the time. Yet in numerous instances, it is not. Visual illusions vividly illustrate the brain’s mistaken interpretations. In some cases, it makes false assumptions about the world, distorting our perception.

Recent work has revealed neural activity in the brain underlying—or corresponding to—several types of illusory perceptions. Instead of siply seeing what is there, therese findings suggest we are perpetually re-creating the world around us using the Matrix inside our head.

…The world does not passively impose itself on our mind; rather it has to be actively interpreted.

…we have no direct contact with reality. Our brain is always abstracting and interpreting the world around us. Even when we know the true nature of an illusion, this insight often does not change our experience. As far as the brain is concerned, if an event is an illusion, it might as well be real.

—Hood, Bruce. September/October 2012. “Re-creating the Real World.” Scientific American Mind.

 

History of Science

 

The term statistics entered the English language I think around 1780…

—Weinberger.  February 17, 2012.  “Weinberger on Too Big To Know.”  EconTalk.

 

Around the third century B.C. Aristotle and other ancient Greek philosophers put us on the right track, employing measurement to help learn about the world. Muslim scholars later pioneered the basics of testing and observation, the foundations of the scientific method, perhaps more than 1,000 years ago. Among the others who helped to refine the process were Roger Bacon, who fostered the use of inductive reasoning in the 1200s; Galileo, who put Bacon’s ideas into practice in the late 1500s and early 1600s; and René Descartes, Francis Bacon and Isaac Newton, who built on the method shortly before and during the Enlightenment of the 1700s—to name a mere handful.

—DiChristina, Mariette. September 2012. “Out of Bounds.” Scientific American.

 

Art, literature, and philosophy first strengthened [the influence of religion], and then weakened it…Protagoras doubted, Socrates ignored, Democritus denied, Euripides ridiculed the gods; and in the end Greek philosophy, hardly willing it, destroyed the religion that had molded the moral life of Greece.

—Will Durant. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece.  Chapter 8: The Gods of Greece. Page 201.

 

 

Social Sciences

 

 

If you do not contradict yourself frequently you are nothing more than a cliché.

—F. Bailey Norwood

 

One social scientists contends the only injustice is a violation of property rights while another contents property itself is injustice.

—F. Bailey Norwood

 

 

Religion

 

 

Human life is subject to constant disruption that cannot be acommodated in purely contractual terms.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 178.

 

The acts that stir our wonder and admiration, and the great tragic gestures put before us by art and literature, remind us that there is another world behind our daily negotiations. It is a world of absolutes, in which the ruling principles are creation and destruction, rather than agreemnt, obligation, and law.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 178.

 

The covenant demands that each person honor his obligations and receive his rights. But no one has a right to forgiveness, and no one, in the scheme of the covenant, is obligated to offer itg. Forgiveness comes, when it comes, as a gift. True, it is a gift that must be earned. But it is earned by penitence, contrition, and atonement—acts that cannot be terms of a contract ...

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 182.

 

... faith is not the same thing as religion. It is an attitude to the world, one that refuses to rest content with the contingency of nature.

——Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 192.

 

Many people who might call themselves agnostics or even atheists live the life of faith, or something like it—in an attitude of openness toward meanings, recognizing the sacramental moments, and giving thanks, after their fashion, for the gift of the world. Yet they adhere to no religion. so what different does religion make? The heart of religion is ritual, and it is a mark of religion that its reituals are meticulous.

——Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 192.

 

All deities reside in the human breast.

—Blake, William. Proverbs from Hell

 

The gods we stand by are the gods we need and can use, the gods whose demands on us are reinforcements of our demands on ourselves and on one another.

—James, Williams. 1902. The Varieties of Religious Experience

 

I believe that the practice of compassion and love—a genuine sense of brotherhood and sisterhood—is the universal religion. It does not matter whether you are a Buddhist or Christian, Moslem or Hindu, or whether you practice religion at all. What matters is your feelings of oneness with humankind.

—Fourteenth Dalai Lama. 2002. How to Practice The Way to a Meaningful Life. Page 12.

 

All religions are born in the mind of a crazy person. It is the job of reasonable people to take those nuggets of lunacy and transform them into something useful for society.

—Me

 

Man is quite insane. He wouldn’t know how to create a maggot, and he creates gods by the dozen.

—Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592.

 

Religion, as I have been considering it, does not describe the natural world but the Lebenswelt, the world of subjects, using allegories and myths in order to remind us at the deepest level of who and what we are. And God is the all-knowing subject who welcomes us as we pass into that other domain, beyond the veil of nature. ... The life of prayer rescues us from the Fall, and prepares us for a death that we can meaningfully see as a redemption, since it unites us with the soul of the world.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 198.

 

“How happy are the astrologers!” exclaimed Guicciardini, “who are believed if they tell one truth to a hundred lies, while other people lose all credit if they tell one lie to a hundred truths.”

—Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 528.

 

Averring his inability to accept either popular Christianity or scholastic theism, [William] James, toward the close of his book, writes: “Does God really exist? How does he exist? What is he? Are so many irrelevant questions. Not God, but life, more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying life is, in the last analysis, the end of religion. The love of life, at any and every level of development, is the religious impulse.

—Epstein, Joseph. September 27-28, 2014. “Human Nature and the Fruits of Faith.” Review of William James 1902 book, Varieties of Religious Experience. The Wall Street Journal. C13

 

There are no living Christians today. I know this because Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom,” (Matthew 16:27, 28) so if you believe in the Bible, then you believe the world has already ended. It is not only impossible that you are a living Christian today, but it is impossible that you exist.

—Anonymous

 

What is the difference between Noah’s flood and a school shooter?

—Anonymous

 

Gods were assimilated with humans, humans with animals and plants, the transcendent with the immanent, and the visible with the invisible. This was not simply self-indulgent make-believe, but part of the endless human endeavor to endow the smallest details of life with meaning. Ritual, it has been said, creates a controlled environment in which, for a while, we lay aside the inescapable flaws of our mundane existence. Yet by so doing we paradoxically become acutely aware of them. After the ceremony, when we return to daily life, we can recall our experience of the way things ought to be. Ritual is therefore the creation of fallible human beings who can never fully realize their ideals.

—Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood.

 

Question from audience:... why do we need a god?

Answer from Armstrong: We probably don’t. Buddhists do fine without one. A god, again, is an example of how inept our theological thinking is. I don’t think we do need a god, but some people find it helpful. God is only a symbol of transcendence. That’s where our theology is weak. … We hear about god for the first time, very often, when we first learn about Santa Claus, and over the years our idea of Santa Claus develops … our religion gets stuck at this rather infantile level. … I think that transcendence is a fact of life, but transcendence … means something we can never describe or know.

—Armstrong, Karen. October 12, 2014. “Karen Armstrong on Religion and the History of Violence.” Intelligence Squared.

 

Jesus copied Pythagorus. Pythagorus was said to have

 

been the son of the god Apollo

his mother was called "virgin"

said to have returned from the dead, 3 days after his death

said to have appeared two places at once

the ability to control waters and the wind

preached that you should love your enemies

believed that possessions got in the way of truths

gathered disciples and lived in a communal lifestyle

 

—...Mlodinow, Leonard. 2002. Euclid’s Window. Free Press.

It was not merely that the average Greek accepted miracle stories—of Theseus rising from the dead to fight at Marathon, or of Dionysus changing water into wine: such stories appear among every people, and are part of the forgivable poetry with which imagination brightens the common life.

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 195.

 

Learning religion is part of human nature. Learning science is a battle against human nature.

—Dominic Johnson, quoted in: The Economist. January 23, 2016. “Religion and psychology: In the hands of an angry God.” Review of book God is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human by Dominic Johnson.

 

The findings at Gobekli Tepe suggest that we have the story backward—that it was actually the need to build a sacred site that first obliged hunter-gatherers to organize themselves as a workforce, to spend long periods of time in one place, to secure a stable food supply, and eventually to invent agriculture.

—Elif Batuman. December 19 & 26, 2011. “The Sanctuary.” The New Yorker magazine.

 

If I could lay hold on that god who, out of a thousand men whom he has made, saves one and damns all the rest, I would tear and rend him tooth and nail as a traitor, and would spit in his face.

—A 1247 weaver of Toulouse. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 735.

 

The power of Christianity lay in its offering to the people faith rather than knowledge, art rather than science, beauty rather than truth. Men preferred it so.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 737.

 

I place my conscience above any scripture. You may argue: there are evil people in the world, and perhaps even they follow their own conscience. If that is the case then scripture may be needed to prevent the evil from following their evil conscience. I don’t know. What I do know is that the only way I could become evil is if I betrayed my conscience and followed the words of apocalyptic prophets who spoke millennia ago.

—Me

 

If I governed a nation of Jews, I should restore the Temple of Solomon. Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.

—Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, after he signed an agreement making Catholicism the major, but not the only, religion of France.

 

Some people today argue that religion is primarily a source of violence, conflict, and social discord. Historically, however, religion has played the opposite role: it is a source of social cohesion that permits human beings to cooperate far more widely and securely than they would if they were the simple rational and self-interested agents posited by the economists.

—Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: NY, NY. Page 38.

 

Actually, to become a professor or a clergy member in Europe even a hundred years following Spinoza’s death, you had to have your denunciation of him ready. That was part of the oral exam, knowing where he’d made his mistakes. And this meant that everyone was reading Spinoza; they had to read him in order to denounce him, so he was radicalizing Europe, and in about a hundred years they were ready for the Enlightenment.

—Rebecca Goldstein’s acceptance speech for the 2011 Humanist of the Year award. Published in The Humanist. November-December, 2011. Pages 12-16.

 

Civilizations come and go; they conquer the earth and crumble into dust; but faith survives every desolation.

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 3.

 

People say, “What’s wrong with moderate religion?” And there are those nice folks who go to church on Sunday simply to take part in their neighborhoods. And here’s the problem with that. Moderate religion is religion where people do a little bit of cherry-picking. They take the best bits of religion and some of the more embarrassing or difficult or barbaric bits they leave to one side. Unkind people would call that hypocrisy. On the other end of the scale, however, are those who take their religion very seriously—extremists we call them. The point about the extremists is that they’re the most honest of the people who have religious views, because they commit themselves to what their tradition tells them. They stay closest to the texts. Now if that’s real religion, if that’s honest religion, the world is better off without it. And if the world is better off without the true or honest form of religion, why not put the hypocrites in with them too.

—A. C. Grayling. November 15, 2011. Intelligence Squared Debates. Motion: The World Would Be Better Off Without Religion.

 

An opinion poll conducted in 2005 showed that three out of four Americans believe in the existence of paranormal phenomena. Other work has revealed that about one in three of us claim to have experienced the supernatural.

—Richard Wiseman. January/February, 2012. “Wired for Weird.” Scientific American Mind.

 

EPICURUS's old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?

—Hume, David. 1776. Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

 

Knowledge

 

 

I would rather find a single explanation than become the King of Persia.

—Democritus

 

Question with boldness the existence of a God; Because, if there is one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

—Thomas Jefferson

 

 

And harassed by the body“s overwhelming weight, the soul is in captivity unless philosophy comes to its rescue, bidding it breathe more freely in the contemplation of nature, releasing it from earthly into heavenly surroundings.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LVI. Penguin Classics. Page 12

 

 

Mind

 

 

The man who insists on seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides.

—Henri-Frederic Amiel

 

To understand the most important ideas in psychology, you need to understand how the mind is divided into parts that sometimes conflict.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis. 2006. Basic Books.

 

This finding, that people will readily fabricate reasons to explain their own behavior, is called “confabulation.” Confabulation is so frequent in work with split-brain patients and other people suffering brain damage that Gazzaniga refers to the language centers on the left side of the brain as the interpreter module, whose job is to give a running commentary on whatever the self is doing, even though the interpreter module has no access to the real causes or motives of the self“s behavior.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis. 2006. Basic Books.

 

 

Art

 

 

Our musical culture, I suggested, requires us to respond to a subjectivity that lies beyond the world of objects, in a speace of its own. Music addresses us as others address us ... music addresses us from beyond the borders of the natural world.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 175.

 

The life of prayer rescues us from the Fall, and prepares us for a death that we can meaningfully see as a redemption, since it unites us with the soul of the world.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 198.



The Norwoods

 

Norwood’s don’t cry, they hate Karate, and they don’t do permits!

Corbett Norwood 2014.

 

Quotes for AGEC 4213

 

This is not a number game, it’s a quantity game.

—Ryan Daddy from TV show Party Down South (2014).

 


 

 Life

 

Meaning in Life, Spirituality & Transcendence

 

 

He who knows only one religion knows none.

—(Friedrich) Max Muller (1823-1900), an English philologist and philosopher.

 

And remember, that truth which once was spoken: to love another person is to see the face of God.

Les Miserables, the musical (2012).

 

God, is one mortal helping another. We make our own divinity through our behavior toward others.

—Pliny the Younger. Quoted in: Whitmarsh, Tim. Battling the Gods.

 

She fell upon her knees, with her head on her bed, her hands clasped over her head, full of anxiety and tremors, and, although a gypsy, an idolater, and a pagan, she began to entreat with sobs, mercy from the good Christian God, and to pray to our Lady, her hostess. For even if one believes in nothing, there are moments in life when one is always of the religion of the temple which is nearest at hand.

—Hugo, Victor (2012-12-31). The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Hapgood Translation, Unabridged) (Kindle Locations 7848-7849). e-artnow. Kindle Edition.

 

—My facebook on 12/2/13

 

I did not want to continue living like this…searching for my external sources of gratification to very temporarily boost my self-esteem.

—Cassassuce, Florence, who accomplished extraordinary things but still suffered from depression. Source: Crocker, Jennifer and Jessica J. Carnevale. September/October 2013. “Letting Go of Self-Esteem.” Scientific American Mind. Page 27.

 

If you are wondering, “Do I have worth?” “Do I have value?” the answer is not yes, no or maybe. The answer is simpler: change the subject.

—Crocker, Jennifer and Jessica J. Carnevale. September/October 2013. “Letting Go of Self-Esteem.” Scientific American Mind. Page 33.

 

I have no kind of faith, because I believe no one—no one but myself … It’s just because men believe others, and do not believe themselves, that there are different faiths. I also believed others, and lost myself as in a swamp—lost myself so that I had no hope of finding my way out. Old Believers and New Believers, and Judaisers and Hlysty, and Popovtsy and Bezpopovsty and Avstriaks and Molokans and Skoptsy—every faith praises itself only and so they all creep about like blind puppies. There are many faiths, but the spirit is one—in me, and in you, and in him. So that if everyone believes himself, all will be united; everyone be himself and all will be as one.”

—An old man who refused to pray and cross himself like the others, in: Tolstoy, Leo. 1899. Resurrection. Oxford World’s Classics. Page 456.

 

If you don’t behave as you believe, you will end by believing as you behave.

—Fulton Sheen.

 

The more original a human being is, the deeper is his anxiety.

—Kierkegaard.

 

Revere the gods; watch over human beings. Our lives are short. The only rewards of our existence here are an unstained character and unselfish acts.

—Marcus Aurelius in Meditations. Book Six. 30.

 

So don't waste your mind on nursery rhymes

Or fairy tales of blood and wine

It's turtles all the way down the line

So to each their own til' we go home

To other realms our souls must roam

To and through the myth that we all call space and time

—Sturgill Simpson in Turtles All the Way Down

 

Happily for Jean Valjean that he had been able to weep. That relieved him, possibly. But the beginning was savage. A tempest, more furious than the one which had formerly driven him to Arras, broke loose within him. The past surged up before him facing the present; he compared them and sobbed. The silence of tears once opened, the despairing man writhed.

He felt that he had been stopped short.

Alas! in this fight to the death between our egotism and our duty, when we thus retreat step by step before our immutable ideal, bewildered, furious, exasperated at having to yield, disputing the ground, hoping for a possible flight, seeking an escape, what an abrupt and sinister resistance does the foot of the wall offer in our rear!

To feel the sacred shadow which forms an obstacle! The invisible inexorable, what an obsession!

Then, one is never done with conscience. Make your choice, Brutus; make your choice, Cato. It is fathomless, since it is God. One flings into that well the labor of one's whole life, one flings in one's fortune, one flings in one's riches, one flings in one's success, one flings in one's liberty or fatherland, one flings in one's well-being, one flings in one's repose, one flings in one's joy! More! more! more! Empty the vase! tip the urn! One must finish by flinging in one's heart.

—Hugo, Victor (2010-12-16). Les Misérables (English language) (p. 907). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

 

If we may believe the traditions, Mohammed, unlike most religious reformers, admired and urged the pursuit of knowledge. “He who leaves his home in search of knowledge walks in the path of God … and the ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 235.

 

I wanted the whole world or nothing.

—Charles Bukanski

 

Love says 'I am everything'. Wisdom says "I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows.

—Maharaj, Nisargadatta. 1973. I Am That.

 

If a Greek is stirred to the remembrance of God by the art of Pheidias, or an Egyptian  by worshiping animals, or another man by a river or a fire, I have no anger for their divergences, only let them note, let them remember let them love.

—Durant, Will, quoting Maximum as he defended pagans' use of idols against Christian scolding.. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 10.

 

I don’t know how to describe the exact feeling but it was close as I’ve ever known to peace.

—Levi King, describing his feelings moments after murder of two strangers for no apparent reason than the psychological need to kill. Quoted from: The Killer Speaks. Season 1. Episode 1.  15:45.

 

There is no conclusion. What has concluded that we might conclude in regard to it? There are no fortunes to be told and no advice to be given. Farewell.
—William James, on his deathbed 

Whether it is called nobility, virtue, or divinity, and whether or not God exists, people simply do perceive sacredness, holiness, or some ineffable goodness in others, and in nature.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

The object of this belief is to cheer one up and give one courage to face the future after a misfortune or catastrophe.  It does this by leading one to think that the catastrophe is necessary for the ultimate good of the people.

—Paul Dirac, on religion, from The Strangest Man by Graham Farmelo

 

"I didn't understand what the meaning of life was," he said. "I still don't, but I thought that everyone else did, that there was this big secret that everyone was in on that I wasn't. I thought everyone understood why we were here, and that they were all secretly happy somewhere without me."

—Kulze, Liz. March 8, 2013. “The Existential Pain of Being Young, White, and Affluent.” The Atlantic. Accessed March 8, 2013 at http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/03/the-existential-pain-of-being-young-white-and-affluent/273471/.

 

...if scientific analysis were conclusively to demonstrate certain claims in Buddhism to be false, then we must accept the findings of science and abandon those claims.
—Dalai Lama, from The Universe in a Single Atom.

 

They protested their respect for Islam’s holy books, but they argued that where it or the Hadith contradicted reason, the Koran or the traditions must be interpreted allegorically; and they gave the name kalam or logic to this effort to reconcile reason and faith. It seemed to them absurd to take literally those Koranic passages that ascribed hands and feet, anger and hatred, to Allah; such poetic anthropomorphism, however adapted to the moral and political ends of Mohammed at the time, could hardly be accepted by the educated intellect.

—Will Durant on the Mutazilites or the Seceders, participants of religious debates that began the Moslem Enlightenment in 757. Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 244.

 

Of this one thing make sure against your dying day—that your faults die before you do.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter XXVII. Penguin Classics. Page 73.

 

Posterity is for the philosopher what the ‘other world’ is for the man of religion.

—Diderot. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation.  Part IX.  The Age of Voltaire. Page 641.

 

Life is a succession of tasks rather than a cascade of inspiration, an experience that is more repetitive than revelatory, at least on a day-to-day basis. The thing is to perform the task well and find reward even in the mundane … I’ve grown suspicious of the inspirational. It’s overrated. I suspect duty — that half-forgotten word — may be more related to happiness than we think. Want to be happy? Mow the lawn. Collect the dead leaves. Paint the room. Do the dishes. Get a job. Labor until fatigue is in your very bones. Persist day after day. Be stoical. Never whine. Think less about the why of what you do than getting it done. Get the column written. Start pondering the next.
—Cohen, Roger. June 12, 2015. “Mow the lawn.” New York Times. Opinion.

 

“What is death, after all?” pursued Gringoire with exaltation. “A disagreeable moment, a tollgate, the passage of little to nothingness. Some one having asked Cercidas, the Megalopolitan, if he were willing to die: ‘Why not?’ he replied; ‘for after my death I shall see those great men, Pythagoras among the philosophers, Hecataeus among historians, Homer among poets, Olympus among musicians.’”

—Hugo, Victor (2012-12-31). The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Hapgood Translation, Unabridged) (Kindle Locations 7659-7662). e-artnow. Kindle Edition.

 

‘Tis a philosopher’s death, and I was destined thereto, perchance. It is magnificent to die as one has lived.”

—Hugo, Victor (2012-12-31). The Hunchback of Notre Dame (Hapgood Translation, Unabridged) (Kindle Locations 7659-7662). e-artnow. Kindle Edition.


To see the eclipses of the Sun and Moon; to see the capture of wild elephants and snakes; and to see the poverty of the wise, is to see that the power of fate is always supreme.
—Hindu proverb 

We're only human when we grieve.

—unknown

 

I know the world's a broken bone,
but melt your headaches, call it home.
—Panic! At The Disco, from Northern Downpour on the Pretty.Odd. album. 

Our hearts have room for all sorts of contradictions.

—Theodor Fontane

 

Disciples and devotees…what are most of them doing? Worshipping the teapot instead of drinking the tea!

—Wei Wu Wei

 

Why are you unhappy?

Because 99.9 percent of everything you think, and of everything you do, is for yourself—and there isn’t one.

—Wei Wu Wei

 

Play your part in the comedy, but don't identify yourself with your role.

—Wei Wu Wei

 

—Wei Wu Wei

 

—Wei Wu Wei

 

A Christian might have argued that this was because the voice of the internal spectator was that of conscience or the diety, but Smith had made it perfectly clear that it was the voice of an entirely fictitious being, an imaginary person who we invoke in difficult ethical situations to help us clarify our sense of ethical propriety and allow us to act in a way we ourselves could approve of.

—Nicholas Phillipson in Adam Smith speaking of Adam Smith and his concept of the impartial spectator (page 270).

 

One often hears that we need God in order to be good, in order to ground morality or in any case in order to enforce morality.  What reason could one have for being good, the thinking goes, if there isn’t the great police officer upstairs ready to give you a summons?  Spinoze demonstrates a grand and high-minded, noble, and transcendent view of how we can live our lives on purely secular grounds.  And that’s why he was so despised, why he was so feared, why he had to be condemned, why he was called Satan’s emissary on earth, why his Theological-Political Treatise was describe over and over again as a book forged in hell.  Other great philosophers said things just as radical...But what Spinoza does is not just argue against the rationality of beliefs that anchor a religious point of view.  He also inspires us with a secular point of view.  He inspires us with secular visions.

—Rebecca Goldstein’s acceptance speech for the 2011 Humanist of the Year award.  Published in The Humanist.  November-December, 2011.  Pages 12-16.

 

...there is a kind of ethics in hardcore rational epistemology, in demanding good grounds for one’s beliefs, and holding one’s beliefs to high standards.  There’s also an ethical vision that comes out of the recognition that we are fatherless, and in accepting responsibility for the world’s ills.  There is no ultimate, supernatural force that’s going to right the wrongs.  We have to do it for one another.  We’re all in this Confraternity of the fatherless together, which places tremendous responsibilities on us.  It demands that we be grown-ups. 

—Rebecca Goldstein’s acceptance speech for the 2011 Humanist of the Year award.  Published in The Humanist.  November-December, 2011.  Pages 12-16.

 

Oh Lord, how heavy thine honor is to bear.

—Thomas Becket, before being killed by Henry II’s Normal nobles in the movie Beckett.

 

Their joy was to be in solitude, and they assured me that they never had enough of being alone; and so they disliked visits, even from their relations.

—Saint Theresa of Avila (1515-1582) in Saint Theresa: The History of Her Foundations.

 

Nemoto believes in confronting death; he believes in cultivating a concentrated awareness of the functioning and fragility of the body; and he believes in suffering, because it shows you who you really are. When asked whether he believes that happy people are shallower than those who suffer, first he says that there are no such people, and then he things for a moment and says that his wife is one. Is she less profound as a consequence of her serenity? Yes, he says, perhaps she is.

—MacFarquhar, Larissa. June 24, 2013. “Last Call: A Buddhist monk confronts Japan’s suicide culture.” The New Yorker.

 

When Heracleitus applies to ethics these four basic concepts of his thought—energy, change, the unit of opposites, and the reason of the whole, he illuminates all life and conduct. Energy harnessed to reason, wedded to order, is the greatest good. Change is not an evil but a boon; “in change one finds rest; it is weariness to be always toiling at the same things and always beginning afresh…The mutual necessity of contraries makes intelligible and therefore forgivable the strife and suffering of life. “For men to get all they wish is not the better thing; it is disease that makes health pleasant; evil, good; hunger, surfeit; toil, rest.” He rebukes those who desire an end of strife in the world; without this tension of opposites there would be no “attunement,” no weaving of the living web, no development. Harmony is not an ending of conflict, it is a tension in which neither element definitely wins, but both function indispensably (like the radicalism of youth and the conservatism of old age)…“Strife is the father of all and the king of all; some he has marked out to be gods, and some to be men; some he has made slaves, and some free.” In the end, “strife is justice.”; the competition of individuals, groups, species, institutions, and empires constitutes nature’s supreme court, from whose verdict there is no appeal.

—Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation.  Part II.  The Life of Greece.  The Heroic Age.  On Heracleitus of Ephesus. Page 147.

 

…there is nothing in the world which can bring a prince renown and honor like the sword, so he would be a despised creature before all men if he did not love it and seek his sole glory therein.

—Kaiser Frederick William I’s instructions to the instructors of his son, who would later be known as Frederick the Great. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation.  Part IX.  The Age of Voltaire.  Chapter XIII: Frederick and Maria Theresa. Page 439.

 

Besides what I have read in many places, I have seen by experience the great blessing which it is for a soul to continue making progress in the practice of obedience.  In this, I believe, lies the secret of continually making progress in virtue and covering the progress with humility: in this lies our security from the doubt, which it is well for us mortals to be exposed to during this life, whether we are wandering from the path of heaven...Because if they had really given themselves up to this holy obedience, and yielded their judgement to it, seeking to have no other opinion than that of their confessor, or, if they are in Community, that of their Superior, the devil ceases to assail them with his incessant disquietudes, because he finds that he comes off loser rather than the gainer thereby.

—Saint Theresa of Avila (1515-1582) in Saint Theresa: The History of Her Foundations.  (I do not identify with this statement, but I think it reflect the religious zeitgeist of the Medieval age.

 

Oh greatness of God!  And how Thou shewest Thy power in giving boldness to an ant!  And how, O my Lord, it is not Thy fault, but the fault of our cowardice and pusillanimity that those who love Thee do not carry out great works!  Because we never make revolutions without being full of a thousand fears and cautiousness, therefore, Thou, O my God, dost not work Thy wonders and great deeds.

—Saint Theresa of Avila (1515-1582) in Saint Theresa: The History of Her Foundations.

 

Well, then, why doesn’t nature equally invite all of us to do the same thing for ourselves?  Either a joyful life (that is, one of pleasure) is a good thing or it isn’t.  If it isn’t, then you should not help anyone to it—indeed, you ought to take it away from everyone you can, as being harmful and deadly to them.  But if you are allowed indeed obliged, to help others to such a life, why not first of all yourself, to whom you owe no less favour than to anyone else?  For when nature prompts you to be kind to your neighbours, she does not mean that you should be cruel and merciless to yourself.

—Thomas More in Utopia, 1516.

 

...to decrease your own pleasure in order to augment that of others is a work of humanity and benevolence, which never fails to reward the doer over and above his sacrifice.  You may be repaid for your kindness, and in any case your consciousness of having done a good deed, and recalling the affection and good will of those whom you have benefited, gives your mind more pleasure than your body would have drawn from the things you forfeited.

—Thomas More in Utopia, 1516.

 

My mother thinks that we are all spirits, and that we’ve all lived before, that it’s a dance, without end.  How terrible that would be!  To never have any rest, any peace—for it all to go on forever, and ever, and ever and ever and ever and ever.  That would be hell, Mary.  Wouldn’t that truly be hell?

—line by Archduke Rudolph (1858-1889), the crown prince of Austria, Hungary, and Bohemia in the movie The Crown Prince.  Spoken shortly before his suicide pact with his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera.

 

I believe that in a free marketplace of ideas the voice of humanism will prevail, because it makes more sense than other transreligious perspectives. To do so, we must learn the same tools of influence as our detractors. The present popularity of ideology over individual compassion, of the claims of superiority by one religion or denomination over others, of the compartmentalization of the saved and the unsaved, and of the efforts to coerce public prayer in schools do not serve the self-interest of anyone — humanist or other. Most of the matters on the conservative agenda do not, in my opinion, serve the best interests of society. The failure of humanists is not in substance but in failing to believe with conviction. As we fail to care enough about the value of what we believe to share it forcefully and effectively with others, we contribute by our inaction to sleeping parochialism.
—Gordan Gamm, in What I Believe.

Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of love.  He naturally dreads, not only to be hated, but to be hateful; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of hatred...Neither can we be satisfied with being merely admired for what other people are admired.  We must at least believe ourselves to be admirable for what they are admirable.  But, in order to attain this satisfaction, we must become the impartial spectators of our own character and conduct.

—Adam Smith.  The Theory of Moral Sentiments.  Part III.  Chapter II.

 

The universe allows us to experience both misery and merriment,  as the latter cannot exist without the former, and for this the universe is benevolent.  Because we eventually become desensitized to merriment but not misery, the universe must slay us even as we beg to live.  For this, the universe is merciful.

—F. Bailey Norwood

 

I’m not seeking to be understood anymore: I want to understand.  I’m not asking to be loved: I want to love.

—Saint Claire of Assisi speaking to Saint Francis of Assisi in the movie Brother Sun, Sister Moon.

 

Nature's engineering feat that exceeds all else,

is the ability of man to deceive himself.

—F. Bailey Norwood in Matrona's Four Children

As the vigneron takes grapes to make it wine,

a thought can turn earth absurd to earth sublime.

—F. Bailey Norwood in Matrona's Four Children

 

The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between the profusion of matter and of the stars, but that within this prison we can draw from ourselves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness.
—Andre Malraux

 

In 21st-century America, there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, or apparently well-adjusted people who believe not just that they can speak to God but that he hears and answers them…Some of her subjects admit to asking God where to get a good haircut and pouring him his own cup of coffee at the breakfast table.  Others speak of intense spiritual experiences in ways that are difficult to explain as self-delusion.

—Barton Swaim discussing the book When God Talks Back (by T. M. Luhrmann) in The Wall Street Journal.  “That Voice Sounds Familiar.”  April 3, 2-12.  Bookshelf.  A13.

 

With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
—Steven Weinberg

 

For centuries, theologians have been explaining the unknowable in terms of the not-worth-knowing.
—H. L. Mencken

 

Nevertheless it is possible that some such story was used to make the adventure digestible for the common Greek; men must have phrases if they are to give their lives.

—Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation.  Part II.  The Life of Greece.  The Heroic Age.

 

Guyuk asked [Pope] Innocent IV the obvious questions: How do you know whom God absolves and to whom He shows mercy?  How do you know that God sanctions the words you speak?  Guyuk pointed out that God had given the Mongols, not the pope, control of the world from the rising sun to the setting sun.  God intended for the Mongols to spread his commandments and his laws through Genghis Kahn’s Great Law.  He then advised the pope to come to Karakorum with all of his princes in order to pay homage to the Mongol Kahn.

—Jack Weatherford in Genghis Kahn and the Making of the Modern World.  2004.  Page 263.  Three Rivers Press: NY, NY.

 

In its true sense Religion is the most fundamental of the soul's impulses, the impassioned love of life, the feeling of its preciousness, the desire to foster and further it.  In that sense every thinking man must be religious; in that sense Religion is a perpetually self-renewing force, the very nature of our being.  In that sense I have no thought of assailing it, I would make clear that I hold it beyond assailment.

—Upton Sinclair in The Profits of Religion.

 

To die for an idea is to place a pretty high price on conjectures.
—Anatole France

Reasoning rarely engenders moral judgment; rather it searches to explain or justify an intuition after the fact.
—Gerd Gigerenzer in Gut Feelings

Everybody believes in something and everybody, by virtue of the fact that they believe in something, use that something to support their own existence.
—Frank Zappa

 

The average man, who does not know what to do with his life, wants another one which will last forever.
—Anatole France

Absolute faith corrupts as absolutely as absolute power.
—Eric Hoffer

I don't know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn't.
—Jules Renard

 

In some ways his immersion in a sacred book has sustained him through life. “You were taught very early on that there was someone there looking after you, someone you could rely on, someone you could talk to.  You knew his words.  They were in your mind.”  But there was another side to it.  The authority of the church with this book in its hand also became a source of fear.  “It is not just awe and reverence; it is fear.  People are fearful of being seen to be doing something wrong.  There are lots of people that go through life without ever expressing themselves or their feelings, and it is sad to see that.”

The reverence for the minister, the man in the pulpit explicating the supremacy of the Bible, remains potent.  “The church is a refuge from the realities of life,” Macaulay says, “but there is also something else, which is a wee bit more sinister.  Domination is a factor.  The power of some of these preachers to really control their congregation.  That has always been there.”

—Adam Nicolson.  “The Bible of King James.”  National Geographic.  December, 2011.

 

I had great respect for shamans—and I still do.  I have always believed there is an important component of medicine that involves suggestion, ritual, and belief—all ideas that make scientists scream.

—Ted Kaptchuk, an acupuncturist interviewed by Michael Specter.  “The Power of Nothing.”  The New Yorker.  December 12, 2011.

 

Kaptchuk practiced acupuncture for half his adult life.  But he stopped twenty years ago.  Despite the popularity of acupuncture, clinical studies continually fail to demonstrate its effectiveness—a fact that Kaptchuk doesn’t dispute.  I asked him how a person who talks about the primacy of data and disdains what he calls the “squishiness” of alternative medicine could rely so heavily on a therapy with no proven value.

Kaptchuk smiled broadly.  “Because I am a damn good healer,” he said.  “That is the difficult truth.  If you needed help and you came to me, you would get better.  Thousands of people have.  Because, in the end, it isn’t really about the needles.  It’s about the man.”

—Ted Kaptchuk, an acupuncturist interviewed by Michael Specter.  “The Power of Nothing.”  The New Yorker.  December 12, 2011.

 

The Hitchens he knew, Goldberg says, loved wine and friendship and debating the existential questions.  As to his early death, Hitchens told NPR he had been “dealt a pretty good hand by the cosmos, which doesn’t know I’m here and won’t know when I’m gone.

—from a piece about Christopher Hitchens, quoting Mr. Hitchens.

 

The whole universe is change and life itself is but what you deem it.

—Marcus Aurelius

 

What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow: our life is the creation of our mind.

—Buddha.

 

But [Thomas] Jefferson’s approach to redacting the Bible involved something more radical than translation.  He literally snipped out everything supernatural: miracles, the Virgin birth, the resurrection.  The result was his own, non-mystical account of the life of Jesus.

The Economist magazine.  December 17, 2011.  “The faith (and doubts) of our fathers.”

 

We were never more free than during the German occupation. We had lost all our rights, beginning with the right to talk. Every day we were insulted to our faces and had to take it in silence. Under one pretext or another, as workers, jews, or political prisoners, we were deported en masse. Everywhere, on billboards, in the newspapers, on the screen, we encountered the revolting and insipid picture of ourselves that our oppressors wanted us to accept. And, because of all this, we were free. Because the nazi venom seeped even into our thoughts, every accurate thought was a conquest. Because an all-powerful police tried to force us to hold our tongues, every word took on the value of a declaration of principles. Because we were hunted down, every one of our gestures had the weight of a solemn commitment. The circumstances, atrocious as they often were, finally made it possible for us to live, without pretense or false shame, the hectic and impossible existence that is known as the lot of man. Exile, captivity, and especially death (which we usually shrink from facing at all in happier times) became for us the habitual objects of our concern. We learned that they were neither inevitable accidents, nor even constant and exterior dangers, but that they must be considered as our lot itself, our destiny, the profound source of our reality as men. At every instant we lived up to the full sense of this commonplace little phrase: “man is mortal!” And the choice that each of us made of his life and of his being was an authentic choice because it was made face to face with death, because it could always have been expressed in these terms: “rather death than…

—Jean-Paul Sartre in La Republique Du Silence (1944)

 

To live a happy, meaningful life, you must at some point decide whether you are going to be a participant in life or an observer of human life. 

The essence of participating human is to create conflict where none exists.  Peaceful college campuses contrive football games where men armor themselves and collide at full speed for no logical reason.  Hannibal created and spread myths about his divinity both to intimidate the Romans and—in case he emerged victorious—to become a demigod.  Bastiat became the founder of modern economics because knowledge was lacking and its provider would be crowned.  Saint Francis loved unconditionally because so much love was conditional.  The key is that all fight largely for the fight; there is no other reward.  For life to have meaning it must accomplish something.  To accomplish, there must be something inferior that is made superior due to human effort.  Perfection, satisfaction: these only stand in the way of a virtuous life.  Eve did not bite the apple because she was tricked by a snake.  She ate because she was bored.  Yet, participating human cannot admit his cause is ultimately pointless, and so affiliation and myth emanate.  Every Alabama student and alumni were victorious when "their" team won the national championship.  Roman citizens considered Augustus to be their father, almost literally.  Saint Francis performed miracles, because there is nothing spectacular about a stinky, barefooted man simply wandering around, begging for food.

The observer, on the other hand, cannot participate in the fight because in his perennial reading, listening, and watching, he sees that humans create conflict solely for the purpose of conflict.  He sees this over and over, in different places, times, and forms—but it is all the same.  He records the creation of affiliation and myth out of nothing, because nothing is empty and human lives cannot remain empty.  One becomes a visitor to another team's football game, a chronicler of an ancient history that can never be altered, and so he never feels the urgency in which participating human is called to fight.  The observer's happiness in life comes from the observation.  If history, sport, politics, war, literature, and science of every kind are not interesting to the observer, then he is left with nothing, and his life empty.

Both can be happy, and one is no more virtuous than the other.  There is on peculiarity readers must beware, though.  One can transform from a participating human to an observer.  Indeed, many do in the latter stage of their life.  The observer cannot become a participant though.  His foot-tracks are covered.  Unless the story of mankind is his pleasant companion, the observer is cursed with perennial loneliness.

The participant can always find a new cause.  The observer is stuck with the universe he is given.  I am one of these observers, and though I grow fonder of the human story the more I learn, I do know that if it forsakes, all is forsaken.

—F. Bailey Norwood

 

The Hindus were among the first to conceive of life as a journey—a grand journey—…The individual in life ideally moves through various stages of development, and those stages of development begin with Brahmacharya…the student stage.  The first 25 years of a students’s life, ideally devoted to studying all knowledge and understanding the sacred texts of Hinduism.  After that, Grihastha, that is, the householder stage.  Notice that’s age 25 to about 55, in which the individual establishes a family and becomes devoted to providing for others, for raising children, and so that key portion of one’s life is dedicated to society and fulfilling one’s social responsibility.  But then there’s the prospect of liberation here, and in the third of the stages, Vanaprastha, the individual is encouraged to sever his or her ties with society and to move off into a realm of solitude, in which one searches in the most serious manner possible one’s connection with truth, with the divine, and so the term literally means “forest hermit”…This solitary seeker of truth…must begin with leaving all family and responsibilities behind in a quest for self-knowledge…in this journey…the third stage is necessary.  Necessary for what?  For attaining the fourth stage…: Sannyasa…the meaning of Sannyasa, it means saintliness, and it depends on the result of Vanaprastha…because one could wander about in the forest for a very long time and not attain this kind of self-realization or self-knowledge of what is true, good, noble, right, just…One has to attain a certain wisdom…

—Dennis Dalton.  Power Over People: Classical and Modern Political Theory.  Lecture One: The Hindu Vision of Life.  The Teaching Company.  1998.

 

When my husband died, because he was so famous and known for not being a believer, many people would come up to me-it still sometimes happens-and ask me if Carl changed at the end and converted to a belief in an afterlife. They also frequently ask me if I think I will see him again. Carl faced his death with unflagging courage and never sought refuge in illusions. The tragedy was that we knew we would never see each other again. I don’t ever expect to be reunited with Carl. But, the great thing is that when we were together, for nearly twenty years, we lived with a vivid appreciation of how brief and precious life is. We never trivialized the meaning of death by pretending it was anything other than a final parting. Every single moment that we were alive and we were together was miraculous-not miraculous in the sense of inexplicable or supernatural. We knew we were beneficiaries of chance. . . . That pure chance could be so generous and so kind. . . . That we could find each other, as Carl wrote so beautifully in Cosmos, you know, in the vastness of space and the immensity of time. . . . That we could be together for twenty years. That is something which sustains me and it’s much more meaningful. . . . The way he treated me and the way I treated him, the way we took care of each other and our family, while he lived. That is so much more important than the idea I will see him someday. I don’t think I’ll ever see Carl again. But I saw him. We saw each other. We found each other in the cosmos, and that was wonderful.

—Ann Druyan, wife of Carl Sagan.  Piece in the Skeptical Inquirer.  November / December, 2003.

 

I think we’re just machines.  I think we’re just made of matter…but for me, that doesn’t make me feel that we’re any less special.  It makes me think, what a wonderful thing, that a collection of matter created by a process of evolution lasting billions of years: how wonderful that this process and that these little collections of matter are able to produce [an artists’] water colors and Bach’s preludes.  I can live with that.

—From Radiolab podcast.  “Talking to Machines.”  Season 10.  Episode 1.

 

While death-priming made religious participants more certain about the reality of religious entities, non-religious participants showed less confidence in their disbelief.

Science Daily.  “Death Anxiety Increases Atheists’ Unconscious Belief in God.”  April 2, 2012.

 

People will be thankful if I compress into four theses such an essential and such a new insight. I thereby make it more easily understood; I I hereby challenge contradiction.

First Proposition. The grounds upon which "this" world has been designated as seeming, rather establish its reality,—another kind of reality cannot possibly be established.

Second Proposition. The characteristics which have been assigned to the "true being" of things are the characteristics of non-being, of nothingness;— the "true world" has been built up out of the contradiction to the actual world: a seeming world in fact, in as far as it is merely an illusion of moral optics.

Third Proposition. To fable about "another" world than this has no meaning at all, unless an instinct of calumniation, disparagement, and aspersion of life is powerful in us: if that be the case we take revenge on life, with the phantasmagoria of "another," a "better" life.

Fourth Proposition. To separate existence into a "true" and a "seeming" world, either in the manner of Christianity, or in the manner of Kant (who was a wily Christian at last), is only a suggestion of decadence,—a symptom of deteriorating life . . . That the artist values appearance more than reality is no objection against this proposition. For here "appearance" means reality once more, only select, strengthened, and corrected reality . . . The tragic artist is no pessimist,—he rather toys yea, even to all that is questionable and formidable; he is Dionysian . .

—Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Twilight of the Idols.  Maxims and Arrows: p2 s2.

 

…If happiness is activity in accordance with virtue, it is reasonable that it should be in accordance with the highest virtue; and this will be that of the best thing in us.

…the activity of philosophic wisdom is admittedly the pleasantest of virtuous activities; at all events the pursuit of it is thought to offer pleasures marvellous for their purity and their enduringness, and it is to be expected that those who know will pass their time more pleasantly than those who inquire. And the self-sufficiency that is spoken of must belong most to the contemplative activity. For while a philosopher, as well as a just man or one possessing any other virtue, needs the necessaries of life, when they are sufficiently equipped with things of that sort the just man needs people towards whom and with whom he shall act justly, and the temperate man, the brave man, and each of the others is in the same case, but the philosopher, even when by himself, can contemplate truth, and the better the wiser he is; he can perhaps do so better if he has fellow-workers, but still he is the most self-sufficient…

If reason is divine, then, in comparison with man, the life according to it is divine in comparison with human life.

the life according to reason is best and pleasantest, since reason more than anything else is man. This life therefore is also the happiest.

—Aristotle (2009-06-27). Nicomachean Ethics (Kindle Locations 2978-2984). Cybraria LLC. Kindle Edition.

 

Psychologists often approach personality by measuring basic traits such as the “big five”: neuroticism, extroversion, openness to new experiences, agreeableness (warmth/niceness), and conscientiousness…But psychologist Dan McAdams has suggested that personality really has three levels, and too much attention has been paid to the lowest level, the basic traits.  A second level of personality, “characteristic adaptations,” includes personal goals, defense and coping mechanisms, values, beliefs, and life-stage concerns (such as those of parenthood or retirement) that people develop to succeed in their particular roles and niches…

The third level of personality is that of the “life story.”  Human beings in every culture are fascinated by stories: we create them wherever we can…It’s no different with our own lives.  We can’t stop ourselves from creating what McAdams describes as an “evolving story that integrates a reconstructed past, perceived present, and anticipated future into a coherent and visualizing life myth.  Although the lowest level of personality is mostly about the elephant, the life story is written primarily by the rider.  You create your story in consciousness as you interpret your own behavior, and as you listen to other people’s thoughts about you.  The life story is not the work of a historian—remember that the rider has no access to the real causes of your behavior; it is more like a work of historical fiction that makes plenty of references to real events and connects them by dramatizations and interpretations that might or might not be true to the spirit of what happened.

From this three-level perspective, it becomes clear why adversity might be necessary for optimal human development.  Most of the life goals that people pursue at the level of “characteristic adaptations” can be sorted…into four categories: work and achievements, relationships and intimacy, religion and spirituality, and generativity (leaving a legacy and contributing something to society)…Because human beings were shaped by evolutionary processes to pursue success, not happiness, people enthusiastically pursue goals that will help them win prestige in zero-sum competitions.

At the third level of personality, the need for adversity is even more obvious: You need interesting material to write a good story.  McAdams says stories are “fundamentally about the vicissitudes of human intention organized in time.”  You can’t have a good story without vicissitudes, and if the best you can come up with is that your parents refused to buy you a sports car for your sixteenth birthday, nobody will want to read your memoirs.  In the thousands of life stories McAdams has gathered, several genres are associated with well-being.  For example, in the “commitment story,” the protagonist has a supportive family background, is sensitized early in life to the sufferings of others, is guided by a clear and compelling personal ideology, and, at some point, transforms or redeems failures, mistakes, or crises into a positive outcome, a process that often involves setting new goals that commit the self to helping others.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

Klavdia Vavilova: Where did you get it from, Yefim, those fairy tales…about the International of Kindness? The International is founded on the blood of workers and peasants. People swallow gunpowder for it, and become very spiteful. Fighting, marching, lice! Lice, fighting, and marching. It sends your head spinning.

Yefim: If you take fairy tales away from people, how would you explain to them for what they should live for?

Klavdia Vavilova: People don’t need fairy tales. What they need is the truth, for which one wouldn’t hesitate to die.

Yefim: To die? And what about living?

—From movie Commissar (1967), a Russian film banned by the Soviet government for more than 20 years.

 

As it is with a play, so it is with life—what matters is not how long the acting lasts, but how good it is. It is not important at what point you stop. Stop wherever you will—only make sure that you round it off with a good ending.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVII. Penguin Classics. Page 130.

 

 

It is in no man’s power to have whatever he wants; but he has it in his power not to wish for what he hasn’t got, and cheerfully make the most of the things that do come his way … Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We’ve been using them not because we needed them but because we had them. Look at the number of things we buy because others have bought them or because they’re in most people’s houses. One of the causes of the troubles that beset us is the way our lives are guided by the example of others; instead of beig set to rights by reason we’re seduced by convention. There are things that we shouldn’t wish to imitate if they were done by only a few, but when a lot of people have started doing them we follow along, as though a practice became more respectable by becoming more common.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter CXXIII. Penguin Classics. Page 227.

 

You know the difference, Lucillus, between the postures people adopt in climbing up and descending a mountain; those coming down a slope lean back, those moving steeply upwards lean forward, for to tilt one’s weight ahead of one when descending, and backwards when ascending, is to be in league with what one has to contend with. The path that leads to pleasures is the downward one: the upward climb is the one that takes us to rugged and difficult ground. Here let us throw our bodies forward, in the other direction rein them back.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter CXXIII. Penguin Classics. Page 230.

 

 

Glory’s an empty, changeable thing, as fickle as the weather. Poverty’s no evil to anyone unless he kicks against it. Death is not an evil. What is it then? The one law mankind has that is free of all discrimination. Superstition is an idiotic heresy: it fears those it should love: it dishonours those it worships. For what difference does it make whether you deny the gods or bring them into disrepute? These are the things which should be learnt and jut just learnt by heart.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter CXXIII. Penguin Classics. Page 231.

 


 


Sacrifice

 

Exploring this distinction at the heart of “sacrificing to” will reveal two features that are essential to sacrifice: ritual and violence. Ritual and violence are opposing responses to the same anxiety of rejection … Self-sacrifice for another individual, value, or collective seems key to much of ethical life and political organization … moral drama resides in the conflict between self-transcendence and self-love.

—Halbertal, Moshe. 2012. On Sacrifice. Princeton University Press.

 

Paris is well worth a mass.

—Henry of Navarre, after he converted from being a Huguenot to a Catholic, so that he might be accepted by Paris and thus become the new French king. Sometime between 1590 and 1593. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1961. The Age of Reason Begins. The Story of Civilization series. Page 363.

 

Suffering

 

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,—

They kill us for their sport.

—Shakespeare in King Lear

 

...one might indeed consider that the appropriate form of address between man and man ought to be, not monsieur, sir, but fellow sufferer, compagnon de misères. However strange this may sound it corresponds to the nature of the case, makes us see other men in a true light and reminds us of what are the most necessary of all things: tolerance, patience, forbearance and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes.

—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics)

 

Terrible things happen in this world. And the only comfort we get is that we didn’t cause them.

—The Leftovers [HBO series]. Season 2. Episode 6. 53:40.

 

IF the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering then our existence is the most illadapted to its purpose in the world: for it is absurd to suppose that the endless affliction of which the world is everywhere full, and which arises out of the need and distress pertaining essentially to life, should be purposeless and purely accidental. Each individual misfortune, to be sure, seems an exceptional occurrence; but misfortune in general is the rule.

—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Kindle Locations 623-626). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

 

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him; a vapor, a drop of water, suffice to kill him. But when the universe has crushed him man will still be nobler than that which kills him, because he knows that he is dying, and of its victory the universe knows nothing.

—Pascal. Quoted in: Will and Ariel Durant. The Age of Louis XIV. The Story of Civilization. Page 64

 

... the god“s gifts and griefs we humans by necessity must endure, for the yoke like on our neck.

—Matanaira in Hymn to Demeter in Homeric Hymns.

 

If you imagine, in so far as it is approximately possible, the sum total of distress, pain and suffering of every kind which the sun shines upon in its course, you will have to admit it would have been much better if the sun had been able to call up the phenomenon of life as little on the earth as on the moon; and if, here as there, the surface were still in a crystalline condition.

—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Kindle Locations 724-725). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition

 

Jon: What kind of god would do that?

Melisandre: The one we’ve got.

—Game of Thrones. Season 6. Episode 9

 

The universe is designed to make us suffer, but that doesn“t mean we have to make each other suffer.

—Me

 

Do you not see what sort of life nature promised us, when it decided that the first thing human beings do at their birth should be to cry?

—Seneca in Consolation to Polybius in Hardship and Happiness. Page 84.

 

I“d gone crazy, couldn’t you tell? / Threw stones at the stars but the whole sky fell.

—Isakov, Gregory Alan. The Stable Song. That Sea, The Gambler [album].

 

Slave 1: Do you really believe in gods?

Slave 2: Of course.

Slave 1: What’s your proof?

Slave 2: The fact that I’m cursed by them. Won’t that do?

Slave 1: Well, it’s good enough for me

—Aristophanes. The Knights. 424 BC

 

The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.

——Horace Walpole

 

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.

—Soren Kierkegaard

 

Alas, that I was not born one of these!

—Pharoah Ptolemy II, whose gout and excessive wealth and power made him miserable, made this remark while looking out the window and seeing a beggar lying lazily in the sun. Source: —Durant, Will. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece. Page 586.

 

The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.

—Aurelius, Marcus (121 AD – 180 AD). The Emperor’s Handbook. A new translation of Meditations. Book 6. 52.

 

But damn your happiness! So long as life's full, it doesn't matter whether it's happy or not. I'm afraid your happiness would bore me.

—Jane Smily in A Thousand Acres

 

Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be.

—John Stuart Mill

 

Happiness is a mystery like religion, and should never be rationalized.

—G.K. Chesteron

 

Happiness is like Coke - something you get as a by-product in the process of making something else.

—Aldous Huxley

 

It“s because I take God so seriously that I can“t bring myself to believe in him. In that way, it’s really a sign of respect.

—Julia Sweeny. Quoted in Scientific American. January 2017. Page 19.

 

You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation…and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else.

—HERMAN HESSE, Wer lieben kann ist glücklich.


 

From Alexander Pope

 

Force first made conquest, and that conquest, law;

Till Superstition taught the tyrant awe,

Then shared the tyranny, then lent it aid,

And gods of conquerors, slaves of subjects made;

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle III.

 

So drives self-love through just and through unjust,

To one man’s power, ambition, lucre, lust:

The same self-love, in all, becomes the cause

Of what restrains him, government and laws.

For, what one likes if others like as well,

What serves one will, when many wills rebel?

How shall he keep, what sleeping or awake,

A weaker may surprise, a stronger take?

His safety must his liberty restrain:

All join to guard what each desires to gain.

Forced into virtue thus, by self-defence,

Even kings learn’d justice and benevolence:

Self-love forsook the path it first pursued,

And found the private in the public good.

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle III.

 

For forms of government let fools contest:

Whate’er is best administer’d is best:

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle III.

 

Thus God and Nature link’d the general frame,

And bade self-love and social be the same.

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle III.

 

Who thus define it, say they more or less

Than this, happiness is happiness?

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle IV.

 

Condition, circumstance, is not the thing;

Bliss is the same in subject or king.

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle IV.

 

Say first, of God above, or man below

What can we reason, but from what we know?

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle I.

 

Modes of self-love the passions we may call:

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle 2.

 

On life’s vast ocean diversely we sail,

Reason the card, but passion is the gale;

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle 2.

 

The monk’s humility, the hero’s pride,

All, all alike find reason on their side;

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle 2.

 

Lust, through some certain strainers well refined,

Is gentle love, and charms all womankind

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle 2.

 

Envy, to which the ignoble mind’s a slave

Is emulation in the learn’d or brave;

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle 2.

 

The same ambition can destroy or save,

And makes a patriot as it makes a knave.

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle 2.

 

If white and black blend, and unite

A thousand ways, is there no black or white?

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle 2.

 

 

 

Forgiveness and Clemency

 

Repentance for wrongdoing is the saving grace of life.

—Democritus

 

To keep from becoming angry with individuals you must forgive all at once: the human race should be granted a pardon.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC – 65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

 

Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got.

—R. Brault (it is said)

 

Gandhi saw his theory through to its ultimate conclusion. Nonviolence meant not only loving your enemies, he maintained, but realizing that they were not your enemies at all. He might hate the systemic and military violence of colonial rule, but he could not allow himself to hate the people who implemented it. “Mine is not an exclusive love. I cannot but love Muslims or Hindus and hate Englishmen, for if I loved merely Hindus and Muslims because their ways are on the whole pleasing to me, I shall soon begin to hate them when their ways displease me, which they may well do any moment. A love that is based on the goodness of those whom you love is a mercenary affair.”

—Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood.

 

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own.

—Marcus Aurelius in Meditations. 2:1.

 

It became clear to him that all the dreadful evil he had been witnessing in prisons and jails, and the quiet self-assurance of the perpetrators of the this evil, resulted from men attempting what was impossible: to correct the evil while themselves evil. Vicious men were trying to reform other vicious men, and thought they could do it by using mechanical means. And the result of all of this was that needy and covetous men, having made a profession of this pretended punishment and reformation of others, themselves became utterly corrupt, and unceasingly corrupt also those whom they torment. Now he saw clearly whence came all the horrors he had seen, and what ought to be done to put an end to them. The answer he had been unable to find was the same that Christ gave to Peter. It was to forgive always, everyone, to forgive an infinite number of times, because there are none who are not themselves guilty, and therefore none who can punish or reform.

—Tolstoy, Leo. 1899. Resurrection. Oxford University Press: NY, NY. Pages 480-481.

 

When one forgives, two souls are set free.

—Unknown

 

I apply not my sword, where my lash suffices, nor my lash where my tongue is enough. And even if there be one hair binding me to my fellow men I do not let it break; when they pull I loosen, and if they loosen I pull.

—Will Durant quoting Muawiya, the Umayyad caliphate, which lasted from from 661 to 750. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 193.

 

If a man foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall come from me.

—The Buddha. Quoted in: Will Durant. The Story of Civilization. Our Oriental Heritage. Page 429.

 

I think there is nothing more glorious than when those who are at the pinnacle of society grant pardon for many actions, but seek pardon for none.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

 

Anyone who recalls how often he’s been falsely suspected, how many of his own appropriate actions bad luck has made look like wrongs, how many people he came to like after hating them, will be able to avoid becoming angry instantly, at least if he says to himself, each time he’s offended, “I myself have made this mistake also.”

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

 

To keep from becoming angry with individuals you must forgive all at once: the human race should be granted a pardon.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC – 65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

 

Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got.

—R. Brault (it is said)

 

Only by cultivating the virtue of wholeness

      And by returning injury with kindness

      can there be true harmony.

Therefore, one of deep virtue always gives

      Without expecting gratitude.

Although the subtle Way of the universe

      Holds no favoritism or partiality,

      It always supports those who are naturally virtuous.

—Lao Tzu. Tao Teh Ching. 59. Translated by Hua-Ching Ni. Seven Star Communications: Los Angeles, California. 1979.

 

One of the most robust and consistent findings in the research literature is that people who are more self-compassionate tend be less anxious and depressed. The relationship is a strong one, with self-compassion explaining one-third to one-half of the variation found in how anxious or depressed people are. 

—Neff, Kristin (2011-04-19). Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind (p. 110). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

… Gandhi saw his theory through to its ultimate conclusion. Nonviolence meant not only loving your enemies, he maintained, but realizing that they were not your enemies at all. He might hate the systemic and military violence of colonial rule, but he could not allow himself to hate the people who implemented it. “Mine is not an exclusive love. I cannot but love Muslims or Hindus and hate Englishmen, for if I loved merely Hindus and Muslims because their ways are on the whole pleasing to me, I shall soon begin to hate them when their ways displease me, which they may well do any moment. A love that is based on the goodness of those whom you love is a mercenary affair.”

—Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood.

 

 

When you wake up in the morning, tell yourself: The people I deal with today will be meddling, ungrateful, arrogant, dishonest, jealous, and surly. They are like this because they can’t tell good from evil. But I have seen the beauty of good, and the ugliness of evil, and have recognized that the wrongdoer has a nature related to my own.

—Marcus Aurelius in Meditations. 2:1.

 

It became clear to him that all the dreadful evil he had been witnessing in prisons and jails, and the quiet self-assurance of the perpetrators of the this evil, resulted from men attempting what was impossible: to correct the evil while themselves evil. Vicious men were trying to reform other vicious men, and thought they could do it by using mechanical means. And the result of all of this was that needy and covetous men, having made a profession of this pretended punishment and reformation of others, themselves became utterly corrupt, and unceasingly corrupt also those whom they torment. Now he saw clearly whence came all the horrors he had seen, and what ought to be done to put an end to them. The answer he had been unable to find was the same that Christ gave to Peter. It was to forgive always, everyone, to forgive an infinite number of times, because there are none who are not themselves guilty, and therefore none who can punish or reform.

—Tolstoy, Leo. 1899. Resurrection. Oxford University Press: NY, NY. Pages 480-481.

 

When one forgives, two souls are set free.

—Unknown.

 

One of the things that makes the Jesus of the New Testament such a tantalizing character is that it’s never clear what he’s telling us. Everything can be read two ways. When he calls on his followers to forgive all debts, refuse to cast the first stone, turn the other cheek, love their enemies, to hand over their possessions to the poor—is he really expecting them to do this? Or are such demands just a way of throwing in their faces that, since we are clearly not prepared to act in this way, we are all sinners whose salvation can only come in another world—a position that can be (and has been) used to justify almost anything.

—Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Melville House: NY, NY.

 

... the greatest generals--Alexander, Caesar, Belisarius, Saladin, Napolean--found clemency a mighty engine of war.

--Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 108.

 

However many people you slaughter you cannot kill your successor.

--Seneca to Nero. Quoted in Campbell, Robin. 2004. Seneca: Letters from a Stoic. Introduction. Penguin Books: NY, NY. Page 12.

 

The most beautiful of people are imprisoned within the ugliest of bodies; their potential for truth is hidden by their spontaneous lies; and their true greatness is subdued by ugly deeds. Look into their beauty and you can only forgive their sins.

—F. Bailey Norwood.

 

Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns get passed on, generation after generation. Bread the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.

—Yehuda Berg.

 

For each person perceives all other goods in proportion to their own good fortune, expecting them to be greater or less accordingly, but all expect to derive the same benefit from clemency.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Clemency. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

 

I apply not my sword, where my lash suffices, nor my lash where my tongue is enough. And even if there be one hair binding me to my fellow men I do not let it break; when they pull I loosen, and if they loosen I pull.

—Will Durant quoting Muawiya, the Umayyad caliphate, which lasted from from 661 to 750. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 193.

 

If a man foolishly does me wrong, I will return to him the protection of my ungrudging love; the more evil comes from him, the more good shall come from me.

—The Buddha. Quoted in: Will Durant. The Story of Civilization. Our Oriental Heritage. Page 429.

 

Love and kindness

 

One with wholeness of virtue

      has an unconditioned mind.

He regards the mind of all being

      As his own mind.

      He is kind to the kind.

      He is also kind to the unkind,

      For the subtle nature of the universe is kind.

—Lao Tzu. Tao Teh Ching. 49. Translated by Hua-Ching Ni. Seven Star Communications: Los Angeles, California. 1979.

 

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.

—George Washington Carver

 

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson

about a battle that goes on inside people.

 

He said, "My son, the battle is between

two "wolves" inside us all.

 

One is Evil.

It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed,

arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies,

false pride, superiority, and ego.

 

The other is Good.

It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

 

The grandson thought about it for a minute

and then asked his grandfather:

"Which wolf wins?"

 

The old Cherokee simply replied,

"The one you feed."

 

—A Native American Metaphor

 

I think there is nothing more glorious than when those who are at the pinnacle of society grant pardon for many actions, but seek pardon for none.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

 

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

 

one might indeed consider that the appropriate form of address between man and man ought to be, not monsieur, sir, but fellow sufferer, compagnon de misères. However strange this may sound it corresponds to the nature of the case, makes us see other men in a true light and reminds us of what are the most necessary of all things: tolerance, patience, forbearance and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Kindle Locations 771-774). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

 

In an interview with Bill Maher last month, Senator Cory Booker nicely defined patriotism by contrasting it with mere tolerance. Tolerance, he said, means, “I’m going to stomach your right to be different, but if you disappear off the face of the earth I’m no worse off.” Patriotism, on the other hand, means “love of country, which necessitates love of each other, that we have to be a nation that aspires for love, which recognizes that you have worth and dignity and I need you. You are part of my whole, part of the promise of this country.”

—David Brooks. April 5, 2016. “How Covenants Make Us.” The New York Times.

 

Wash yourself clean. With simplicity, with humility, with indifference to everything but right and wrong.

—Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations. 7:31.

 

You must respect the body you are trying to heal.

—Malcolm Gladwell. August 10, 2016. Revisionist History [podcast].

 

The most sublime act is to set another before you.

—Blake, William. Proverbs From Hell.

 

The feeling is mutual.

—Answer given by Cesar Chavez to a reporter’s question, “What accounts for all the affection that farm workers show you in public?”

 

The Golden Rule

 

I might best set down this model for a prince to imitate: let him wish to treat his fellow-citizens as he wishes the gods to treat him.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Clemency. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

 

 Zigong: “Is there any single word that could guide one’s entire life?”
   Master: “Should it not be reciprocity? What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”
—Analects of Confucius

 

 

A person who starts being friends with you because it pays him will similarly cease to be friends because it pays him to do so.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 49.

 

"Teach me the Torah while I stand on one foot."

Of course Hillel, too, saw that the heathen was scoffing, but calmly and patiently he said:

"You want to learn a great deal quickly, don't you? Very well, I shall teach you the Torah while you stand on one foot. This is our Holy Torah: 'What is hateful to you, do not do unto others.'"

The heathen forgot that he had come only to jeer.

"Does it mean that the heathens and the Jews and all of us are brothers? Does it mean that we must be kind to one another like brothers?" asked the heathen, wonderingly.

"That's it, my son. That's the meaning of the whole Torah. All the rest is only an explanation of that. Go, go, my son. Go and study it," said Hillel kindly.

"When may I come for another lesson?" asked the heathen humbly.

—Hillel the Elder (110 BCE – 10 CE), who was a famous Jewish sage who helped begin and develop the Talmud.

 

I have often thought of them since my return to my own people, and am happy to think that they prefer living in their own country to coming out to ours and driving us from it, as many of the whites have already done. I think with them, that wherever the Great Spirit places his people they ought to be satisfied to remain, and be thankful for what He has given them, and not drive others from the country He has given them because it happens to be better than theirs. This is contrary to our way of thinking, and from my intercourse with the whites, I have learned that one great principle of their religion is to do unto others as you wish them to do unto you. Those people in the mountains seem to act upon this principle, but the settlers on our frontiers and on our lands seem never to think of it, if we are to judge by their actions.

—Blackhawk. 1955. The Autobiography of Black Hawk.

 

 

“…One theory before this had been that big brains make language possible, but I believe it was the opposite—that the need for language created big brains.”

…he counted five crucial mechanisms that drove cooperation in highly social species like ours. The first mechanism is Tit for Tat, or direct reciprocity…Next comes the much more advanced mechanism of indirect reciprocity or reputation…the third mechanism as “spatial selection”—interaction born of living in proximity…The fourth is multilevel selection, involving larger groups like towns, bribes, or companies…The fifth mechanism is a version of the familiar kin selection, the tendency to cooperate with blood relations.

—Ohlson, Kristin. December, 2012. “Cooperative Instinct.” Discover Magazine.

 

So what is really built into the person is a strategy: Play tit for tat.  Do to others what they do unto you.  Specifically, the tit-for-tat strategy is to be nice on the first round of interaction; but after that, do to your partner whatever your partner did to you on the previous round.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

 

 

 

Vengeance and gratitude are moral sentiments that amplify and enforce tit for tat.  Vengeful and grateful feelings appear to have evolved precisely because they are such useful tools for helping individuals create cooperative relationships, thereby reaping the gains from non-zero-sum games.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

An individual who had gratitude without vengefulness would be an easy mark for exploitation, and a vengeful and ungrateful individual would quickly alienate all potential cooperative partners.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

In theory, feudalism was a magnificent system of moral reciprocity, binding the men of an endangered society to one another in a complex we  of mutual obligation, protection, and fidelity.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 564. Refers to feudalism in the High Middle Ages.

 

… judging by what we know of the original conditions of Christianity from the teachings expressed in the Gospels, it would appear that the chief methods of distortion used by other religions had been foreseen and that warnings against them had been clearly stated. It was straightforwardly said against the priestly caste that none could be the teacher of another (‘Do not call yourselves fathers and teachers’). Against the attribution of sacred knowledge to books it was said that what is important is the spirit and not the letter, that man ought not to believe in human traditions, and that all the laws and the Prophets, that is all those books in which the writing is considered sacred, lead only to the fact that we should do to others as we would wish them to do to us.

—Tolstoy, Leo (1828-1910). What Is Religion, Of What Does Its Essence Consist?

 

 

We want to play tit for tat, which means starting out nice and being a pushover, and we want to cultivate a reputation for being a good player.  Gossip and reputation make sure what goes around comes around—a person who is cruel will find that others are cruel back to him, and a person who is kind will find that other others are kind in return.  Gossip paired with reciprocity allow karma to work here on earth, not in the next life.  As long as everyone plays tit-for-tat augmented by gratitude, vengeance, and gossip, the whole system should work beautifully.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

…oxytocin orchestrates the kind of generous and caring behavior that every culture endorses as the right way to live—the cooperative, benign, pro-social way of living that every culture on the planet describes as "moral." The Golden Rule is a lesson that the body already knows, and when we get it right, we feel the rewards immediately.

This isn't to say that oxytocin always makes us good or generous or trusting. In our rough-and-tumble world, an unwavering response of openness and loving kindness would be like going around with a "kick me" sign on your back. Instead, the moral molecule works like a gyroscope, helping us to maintain our balance between behavior based on trust and behavior based on wariness and distrust. In this way oxytocin helps us to navigate between the social benefits of openness—which are considerable—and the reasonable caution that we need to avoid being taken for a ride.

—Zak, Paul J. “The Trust Molecule.”  April 28, 2012.  The Wall Street Journal. C1.

 

But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.

The Christian Bible. Exodus: 23-25. New International Version.

 

Tit-for-tat, or returning favors for favors and harms for harms, is not just the rational outcome of repeated interaction but also the foundation of biblical morality and an almost universal moral rule among human societies.

—Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: NY, NY. Page 37.

 

There was a certain doctor who disagreed with us, but it proved to be a great opportunity for helping the people understand the light and the spirit. He denied that the light existed in everyone, especially in the Indians, so I called an Indian and asked him if, when he lied or did to someone else what he wouldn’t accept from them or did any wrong, there was something in him that told him this, something that told him that he should not do these things, and told him off for doing them. And he said there was such a thing in him.

—George Fox. Quoted in: Truth of the Heart: An anthology of George Fox. Selected and annotated by Rex Amber. Page 29. This quote is from Fox’s American diary of 1672.

Societal Values

 

Led by Katherine Dahlsgaard, we read Aristotle and Plato, Aquinas and Augustine, the Old Testament and the Talmud, Confucius, Buddha, Lao-Tze, Bushido (the samurai code), the Koran, Benjamin Franklin, and the Upanishads—some two hundred virtue catalogues in all.  To our surprise, almost every single one of these traditions flung across three thousand years and the entire face of the earth endorsed six virtues:

1.     Wisdom and knowledge

2.     Courage

3.     Love and humanity

4.     Justice

5.     Temperance

6.     Spirituality and transcendence

—Martin Seligman.  2002.  Authentic Happiness.  Free Press: NY, NY.

 

...the best determinant of global self-esteem from childhood to adulthood is perceived physical attractiveness.

—David C. Geary in Scientific American Mind. "Primal Brain in the Modern Classroom." September/October, 2011. Pages 45-49.

 

The offspring of a toad is a toad and the offspring of a merchant is a merchant.

—A historical saying in Japan. Quoted in: Lauden, Rachel. 2013. Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History. University of California Press: Berkeley, CA (USA). Page 54.

 

I think that today if, perhaps not the renowned villain Nero, but some common place entrepreneur, wanted to make a pond of human blood for the diseased rich to bathe in, as prescribed by their learned doctors, he would be able to arrange it all unhindered so long as he respected the accepted and appropriate forms. Thus he would not compel people to lose blood, but would put them in a position such that their life was at risk unless they did.

—Tolstoy, Leo (1828-1910). What Is Religion, Of What Does Its Essence Consist?

 

When a young man kills much meat, he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he things of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. We can’t accept this … So we always speak of his meat as worthless. This way we cool his heart and make him gentle.

—A Ju/’hoansi (Buchman) describing the ‘insulting the meat’ custom, as quoted in The Dobe Ju/’hoansi by Richard Borshay Lee.

 

To these is then added, also as a result of reflection, a source of pleasure, and consequently of suffering, available to him alone and one which preoccupies him beyond all measure, indeed more than all the rest put together: ambition and the sense of honour and shame – in plain words, what he thinks others think of him.

—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Kindle Locations 679-681). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.


 

 

The Universe and Man Within It

 

The world is in your hand or at your throat.
—The Strokes, from Razor Blade on the First Impressions of Earth album. 

What a Chimera is man! What a novelty, a monster, a chaos, a contradiction, a prodigy! Judge of all things, and imbecile norm of the earth; depository of truth, and sewer of error and doubt; the glory and refuse of the universe. Who shall unravel this confusion?

—Pascal. Quoted in: Will and Ariel Durant. The Age of Louis XIV. The Story of Civilization. Pages 63-64.

 

How hollow is the heart of man, and how full of excrement! … We would never travel on the sea if we had no hope of telling about it later … We lose our lives with joy provided people talk about it … Even philosophers with for admirers.

—Pascal. Quoted in: Will and Ariel Durant. The Age of Louis XIV. The Story of Civilization. Pages 64.

 

The universe has placed us into an absurd world. So what’s the problem with man developing absurd beliefs to deal with it?

—F. Bailey Norwood

 

Man lives two lives. Besides his life in the concrete is his life in the abstract. In the former he struggles, suffers and dies as do the mere animal creatures. But in the abstract he quietly reflects on the plan of the universe as does a captain of a ship on the chart. He becomes in this abstract life of calm reasoning a deliberate observer of those elements which previously moved and agitated his emotions. Withdrawing into this serene contemplation, he is like an actor who has played a lively part on the stage and then withdraws and, as one of the audience, quietly looks on at other actors who are energetically performing.

—Schopenhauer in The World as Will and Idea.

 

Terrible things happen in this world. And the only comfort we get is that we didn’t cause them.

--The Leftovers [HBO series]. Season 2. Episode 6. 53:40.

 

Faint not, poor soul, in God still trust,

Fear not the things thou suffer must;

For, whom he loves he doth chastise,

And then all tears wipes from their eyes.

—William Bradford (one of the Pilgrims) written towards the end of his life.

 

IF the immediate and direct purpose of our life is not suffering then our existence is the most ill-adapted to its purpose in the world: for it is absurd to suppose that the endless affliction of which the world is everywhere full, and which arises out of the need and distress pertaining essentially to life, should be purposeless and purely accidental. Each individual misfortune, to be sure, seems an exceptional occurrence; but misfortune in general is the rule.

—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Kindle Locations 623-626). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him; a vapor, a drop of water, suffice to kill him. But when the universe has crushed him man will still be nobler than that which kills him, because he knows that he is dying, and of its victory the universe knows nothing.

—Pascal. Quoted in: Will and Ariel Durant. The Age of Louis XIV. The Story of Civilization. Page 64.

 

Picture a number of men in chains, and all condemned to death; each day some are strangled in the sight of the rest; those who remain see their own condition in that of these their fellows, looking at one another with sorrow and without hope, each awaiting his turn. This is the picture of the condition of man.

—Pascal. Quoted in: Will and Ariel Durant. The Age of Louis XIV. The Story of Civilization. Page 65.

 

I was not, I was, I am not, I care not.

—Note on a tombstone from ancient Rome. Quoted in: Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. The Story of Civilization. Page 389.

 

Now I need never fear hunger, need never pay rent, and am at least free from gout.

—Note on a tombstone from ancient Rome. Quoted in: Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. The Story of Civilization. Page 389.

 

Communities do not endure without sacrifice.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 183.

 

You can’t play God without being acquainted with the Devil.

—From Westworld. Season 1, Episode 2.

 

Question with boldness the existence of a God; Because, if there is one, he must more approve the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.

—Thomas Jefferson

 

… the god’s gifts and griefs we humans by necessity must endure, for the yoke like on our neck.

—Matanaira in Hymn to Demeter in Homeric Hymns.

 

If you imagine, in so far as it is approximately possible, the sum total of distress, pain and suffering of every kind which the sun shines upon in its course, you will have to admit it would have been much better if the sun had been able to call up the phenomenon of life as little on the earth as on the moon; and if, here as there, the surface were still in a crystalline condition.

—Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays and Aphorisms (Classics) (Kindle Locations 724-725). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

 

We have rooms in ourselves. Most of them we have not visited yet. Forgotten rooms. From time to time we can find the passage. We find strange things … old phonographs, pictures, books … they belong to us, but it is the first time we have found them.

—Murakami, Haruki. A Japanese novelist. Quoted in: Koch, Christof. May / June 2014. “Keep it in Mind.” Scientific American Mind.

 

It’s hard to know how people select a course in life … The big choices we make are practically random.

—Twersky, an economist. Quoted in: Brooks, David. November 25, 2016. “Does Decision-Making Matter?” Editorial. The New York Times.

 

One discussion turned on the question, "What is the greatest misery?" A Greek philospher answered, "an impoverished and imbecile old age"; a Hindu replied, "A harassed mind in a diseased body";  Khosru's vizier won the dutiful acclaim of all by saying, "For my part I think the extreme misery is for a man to see the end of life approaching without having practiced virtue."

--Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 145. On Persian culture in antiquity.

 

Jon: What kind of god would do that?

Melisandre: The one we’ve got.

Game of Thrones. Season 6. Episode 9.

 

We spend the first half of our lives wishing we looked like someone else and the second half wishing we looked like our former selves.

—Helferich, Gerard. September 3-4, 2016. “Life in the Fourth Quarter.” Book review. C7.

 

All deities reside in the human breast.

—Blake, William. Proverbs from Hell.

 

The worship of God is, Honoring his gifts in other men, … and loving the greatest man best. Those who envy or calumniate great men hate God, for there is no other God.

—Blake, William. Proverbs from Hell.

 

We must ensure that what has been granted for an unspecified period is always available, and when we are summoned, we must hand it back without complaint: it is a very poor kind of debtor who starts lashing out at his creditor.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia. Seneca is referring to death, and not being excessively distressed at death.

 

Our minds need frequent prompting to love things on the understanding that we are sure to lose them, or rather that we are already losing them: you should treat all of fortune’s gifts as coming without a guarantee.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

 

You were born for this, to suffer loss, to perish, to hope and to fear, to upset others and yourself, to dread death and yet also desire it, and, worst of all, never to understand your true condition.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

 

… imagine me coming to give you advice as you were being born: “You are about to enter a city shared by gods and men, one that embraces everything, is bound by fixed, eternal laws, and ensures that the revolving heavenly bodies carry out their duties untiringly. There you will see countless stars twinkling; you will see the universe filled with the light of a single star, the sun on its daily course marking out the periods of day and night, and on its annual course demarcating summers and winters more evenly … But in that same place there will be thousands of afflictions of body and mind, wars, robberies, poisons, shipwrecks, climatic and body disorders, bitter grief for those dearest to you, and eath, which may be easy or may result from punishment and torture. Think it over and weigh up what you want: to reach the one set of experiences you must run the gauntlet of the other. You will reply that you want to live, of course … So live on the terms agreed.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia in Hardship and Happiness. Pages 24-26.

 

It is no problem being a slave if, when you grow tired of being someone else’s property, you can cross over to freedom with a single step. Life, you are dear to me, thanks to death! Think what a blessing a timely death can be, and how many people have been disadvantaged by living too long.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

 

You know what you figure out in the middle of [an acid] trip? That all these assumptions and preconceived notions of who you are, they’re all bullshit. You’re just an organism who is trying to find normalcy by repeating patterns.

—Rogan, Joe. November 5, 2015. “The Psychedelic Warrior.” Rolling Stone. Page 48.

 

There are dreams that cannot be / And there are storms we cannot weather.

Les Miserables, the musical.

                                           

The body and its parts are a river, the soul and dream and mist, life is warfare and a journey far from home, lasting reputation is oblivion.

—Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations. 2:17.

 

Dear is my sleep, but more to be mere stone,

            So long as ruin and dishonor reign.

            To see naught, to feel naught, is my great gain;

Then wake me not; speak in an undertone.

—Michelangelo. Quoted in: —Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 644.

 

What a liberation to realize that the ‘voice in my head’ is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that.

—Eckhart Tolle

 

Well it's hard to find a reason, when all you have is doubts,

Hard to see inside yourself when you can't see your way out,

Hard to find an answer when the question won't come out.

Oh everyone's filling me up with noise,

I don't know what they're talking about,

Everyone's filling me up with noise,

I don't know what they're talking about,

Everyone's filling me up with noise,

I don't know what they're talking about,

You see all I need's a whisper in a world that only shouts.

—Lyrics to Whispers by Passenger.

 

The stars would love nothing more than to reveal your future this week, but unfortunately, they're just large luminous balls of plasma held together by gravity in space..

—Horoscope from The Onion. September 17, 2013. Aries: March 21  - April 19.

 

Here our highest good is pleasure.

—Motto hung over the entrance to Epicurus’ gardens. From Greenblatt, Stephen. 2012. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern. W. W. Norton & Company.

 

The universe is designed to make us suffer, but that doesn’t mean we have to make each other suffer.

—F. Bailey Norwood

 

When there are no more good leaders to fight for, you must still fight for good.

—F. Bailey Norwood

 

Do you not see what sort of life nature promised us, when it decided that the first thing human beings do at their birth should be to cry?

—Seneca in Consolation to Polybius in Hardship and Happiness. Page 84.

 

… there is nothing more inconsistent than for someone to be upset because he was granted such a brother for too short a time, and yet not rejoice that at any rate he was granted him.

—Seneca in Consolation to Polybius in Hardship and Happiness. Page 84.

 

 

Faith is man’s conscious relationship with the infinite universe, from which he derives guidance for his activity. And because genuine faith is never irrational, or incompatible with existing knowledge, its characteristics can be neither supernatural nor senseless…

—Tolstoy, Leo (1828-1910). What Is Religion, Of What Does Its Essence Consist?

 

 

It used to be that we adapted to the environment like all the other animals did, and we left as little impact on the environment. Now, what we’ve done is create a human environment in which we’ve embedded nature. We are the dominant force of change on the planet. And for one mammal to be able to generally vex and bother every plant and animal on every continent and in every ocean: that is a level of niche building that really is unknown on the planet.

—Ackeman, Diane. September 8, 2014. “Diane Ackeman: ‘The Human Age’.” The Diane Rehm Show. WAMU. NPR.

 

I’d gone crazy, couldn’t you tell? / Threw stones at the stars but the whole sky fell.

—Isakov, Gregory Alan. The Stable Song. That Sea, The Gambler [album].

 

Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.
—William Hazlitt

 

To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.
—Homer Simpson 

Being asked what was very difficult, he answered, in a famous apophthegm, “To know thyself.”

—Will Durant. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece.  Chapter 3: The Heroic Age.  Page 137.

 

Farewell my friends, the truths I taught hold fast.

—Epicurus, in his last few hours.

 

Act, speak, and think like a man ready to depart this life in the next breath. If there are gods, you have no reason to fear your flight from the land of the living, for they will not let any harm come to you; and if there are no gods, or they are indifferent to the affairs of men, why wish to go on living in a world without them or without their guidance and care? But in fact, there are gods, and they do care about me…

—Aurelius, Marcus (121 AD – 180 AD). The Emperor’s Handbook. A new translation of Meditations.

 

I have lived; I have completed now the course

That fortune long ago allotted me

—Virgil in the Aeneid. IV:653.

 

Life is not complex. We are complex. Life is simple, and the simple thing is the right thing.

—Oscar Wilde

 

The only true serenity is the one which represents the free development of a sound mind.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LVI. Penguin Classics. Page 111.

 

When one has lost a friend one’s eyes should be neither dry nor streaming. Tears, yes, there should be, but not lamentation .. Let us see to it that the recollection of those we have lost becomes a pleasure to us .. You have buried someone you loved. Now look for someone to love. It is better to make good the loss of a friend than to cry over him … Let us reflect then, my dearest Lucilius, that we ourselves shall not be long in reaching the place we mourn his having reached. Perhaps, too, if only there is truth in the story told by sages and some welcoming abode awaits us, he whom we suppose to be dead and gone has merely been send on ahead.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXII. Penguin Classics. Page 114.

 

And harassed by the body’s overwhelming weight, the soul is in captivity unless philosophy comes to its rescue, bidding it breathe more freely in the contemplation of nature, releasing it from earthly into heavenly surroundings.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LVI. Penguin Classics. Page 122.

 

What is death? Either a transition or an end. I am not afraid of coming to an end, this being the same as never having begun, nor of transition, for I shall never be in confinement quite so cramped anywhere else as I am here.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LVI. Penguin Classics. Page 124.

 

Slave 1: Do you really believe in gods?

Slave 2: Of course.

Slave 1: What’s your proof?

Slave 2: The fact that I’m cursed by them. Won’t that do?

Slave 1: Well, it’s good enough for me.

—Aristophanes. The Knights. 424 BC.

 

I remember being on the kitchen floor just crying, praying to God for him to make me normal. That’s how I looked at it: “If it’s this bad for me to be this way, why did God make me? I wish I were dead.”

—Remarks by an interviewee in: Morris, Alex. September 11, 2014. “The Forsaken.” Rolling Stone magazine.

 

Life would be restricted indeed if there were any barrier to our imagination.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LVI. Penguin Classics. Page 109.

 

The truth of the matter is that everything that is original is irreplaceable.

—Igor Stravinsky in An Autobiography

 

The world is a tragedy to those who feel, but a comedy to those who think.
—Horace Walpole 

Only the shallow know themselves.
—Oscar Wilde

 

This is a strange, rather perverse story…a story about us, people, being persuaded to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about.

—Jackson, Tim describing modern consumers in a TED talk. Available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZsp_EdO2Xk&feature=em-share_video_user.

 

There are rich and poor in Homer as in life; society is a rumbling cart that travels an uneven road; and no matter how carefully the cart is constituted, some of the varied objects in it will sink to the bottom, and others will rise to the top; the potter has not made all the vessels of the same earth, or strength, or fragility.

—Will Durant.  1939.  The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece.  Chapter 3: The Heroic Age.  Simon and Schuster: NY, NY.

 

I ask none to live for me, nor do I live for any others. 
—Ayn Rand in Anthem  

Poor creatures, why did we give you to King Peleus,

A mortal doomed to death…

You immortal beasts who never age or die?

So you could suffer the pains of wretched men?

There is nothing alive more agonized than man

Of all that breathe and crawl across the earth.

—Zeus speaking to Achilles’ three horses, two of which are immortal, in The Iliad. Book 17. Translated by Robert Fagles. Penguin Classics.

 

 

No one is so ignorant as not to know that some day he must die. Nevertheless when death draws near he turns, wailing and trembling, looking for a way out. Wouldn’t you think a man an utter fool if he burst into tears because he didn’t live a thousand hears ago?

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVII. Penguin Classics. Page 127.

 

… life itself is slavery if the courage to die be absent.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVII. Penguin Classics. Page 129.

 

 

It was my Stoic studies that really saved me. For the fact that I was able to leave my bed and was restored to health I give the credit to philosophy.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVIII. Penguin Classics. Page 131.

 

Nature in her unlimited kindness to us has so arranged things as to make pain either bearable or brief.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVIII. Penguin Classics. Page 132.

 

More, I think, is not to be hoped from metaphysics. It does not seem likely that the first principles of things will ever be known. The mice that must be in some little holes of an immense building know not whether it is eternal, or who the architect is, or why he built it. Such mice are we; and the Divine Architect who built the universe has never, that I know of, told his secret to one of us…

—Letter from Voltaire to the young Frederick the Great. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation.  Part IX.  The Age of Voltaire.  Chapter XIII: Frederick and Maria Theresa. Page 444.

 

When we remember we are all mad, the mysteries disappear and life stands explained. 
—Mark Twain 

We did not come into existence for pleasure.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

Chance is a more fundamental conception than causality.

—Max Born, as quoted in The Drunkards Walk (p.195) by Leonard Mlodinow

 

Music is essentially useless, as life is.
—George Santayana

We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are.
—Anais Nin

 

Sulla, this is one of Musonius' beautiful and memorable insights— that in order to protect ourselves we must live like doctors and be con¬tinually treating ourselves with reason. One must not, after using rea¬son to treat illness of the soul, discard it, the way we discard hellebore after using it to treat illness of the body. We must instead allow reason to remain in the soul, where it will collect and guard decisions requir¬ing good judgment. The power of reason should be compared to nutri¬tious food rather than to drugs, since along with health it produces good behavior in those who practice it. But words of advice and warn¬ing administered when a person's emotions are at their height and boil¬ing over accomplish little or nothing. They are like the smelling-salts given to epileptics who fall down: they revive them but do not cure the disease. [Plutarch, Moralia 453 D-E (Loeb VI, W. C. Helmbold): "On Controlling Anger." The speakers in this dialogue are Sextius Sulla, Plutarch's friend, and C. Minicius Fundanus, a friend of Pliny the Younger. Fundanus is speaking to Sulla about Musonius.]

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

Man is an evasive beast, given to cultivating strange notions about himself.  He is humiliated by his simian ancestry, and tries to deny his animal nature, to persuade himself that he is not limited by weaknesses nor concerned in its fate.  And this impulse may be harmless, when it is genuine.  But what are we to say when we see the formulas of heroic self-deception made use of by unheroic self-indulgence.

—Upton Sinclair in The Profits of Religion.


We think in generalities, but we live in detail.
—Alfred North Whitehead

 

I believe evolution has favored both good and bad traits, and any number of adaptive roles in the world have selected for morality, cooperation, altruism, and goodness, just as any number have also selected for murder, theft, self-seeking, and terrorism.

—Martin Seligman.  2002.  Authentic Happiness.  Page xiii.  Free Press: NY, NY.

 

"Oh, dear!" moaned Jack; "what an unhappy lot is mine! Why, dear father, did you not make me out of tin—or even out of straw—so that I would keep indefinitely."

"Shucks!" returned Tip, indignantly. "You ought to be glad that I made you at all." Then he added, reflectively, "everything has to come to an end, some time."

—Baum, L. Frank (2010-06-21). The Complete Wizard of Oz Collection (With Active Table of Contents) (Kindle Locations 5185-5188). Bedford Park Books. Kindle Edition.

 

"It seems strange," said he, as he watched the Tin Woodman work, "that my left leg should be the most elegant and substantial part of me."

"That proves you are unusual," returned the Scarecrow. "and I am convinced that the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed."

—Baum, L. Frank (2010-06-21). The Complete Wizard of Oz Collection (With Active Table of Contents) (Kindle Locations 5270-5273). Bedford Park Books. Kindle Edition.

 

Empty handed I entered

The world

Barefoot I leave it

My coming, my going --

Two simple happenings

That got entangled.

—poem by Zen master Kozan Ichikyo shortly before his death. Taken from: Martyn-Hemphill, Amelia. June 12, 2013. “A Better Way to Die.” The Atlantic.

 

The man who insists on seeing with perfect clearness before he decides, never decides.
—Henri-Frederic Amiel

To understand the most important ideas in psychology, you need to understand how the mind is divided into parts that sometimes conflict.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

This finding, that people will readily fabricate reasons to explain their own behavior, is called “confabulation.”  Confabulation is so frequent in work with split-brain patients and other people suffering brain damage that Gazzaniga refers to the language centers on the left side of the brain as the interpreter module, whose job is to give a running commentary on whatever the self is doing, even though the interpreter module has no access to the real causes or motives of the self’s behavior. 

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

Why should I alone be depreived of my rights?  The heavens are permitted to grant bright days, then blot them out with dark nights; the year may decorate the face of the earth with flowers and fruits, then make it barren again with clouds and frost; the sea is allowed to invite the sailor with fair weather, then terrify him with storms.  Shall I, then, permit man’s insatiable cupidity to tie me down to a sameness that is alien to my habits?

—Anicius Boethius.  533 CE.  The Consolation of Philosophy.

 

There is nothing divine about morality; It is a purely human affair
—Albert Einstein

 

When we grow older we hope—with a little philosophy—we ask more reflectively, and in a larger less ego-centric way: not just what’s the meaning of my life, but what’s the meaning of our lives.  What’s the meaning of existence?  What’s it all about?...But we do have to ask the question, does life have meaning, and the answer to that might be no.  After all, there are some things that simply don’t have any meaning at all.  There are some rocks in my garden, right now, that I know are absolutely meaningless.  And it might well be that human life is something more like my rocks…full of sound and fury, but signifying nothing.

—Jay Garfield.  The Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual Traditions.  2011.  Lecture 1: The Meaning of the Meaning of Life.  The Teaching Company.

 

There’s two big dimensions that we need to consider when we pose the big question of the meaning of life…one I’m going to call the personal dimension, and one I’m going to call the collective or the relation dimension. 

When we ask the question in the personal dimension, we’re asking the question: If I simply think of myself, as an individual, worrying about my own life, in what does the meaning of my life consist?  We might have a number of different kinds of answers to that.

We might say, a meaningful life for me is a life of reason.  That is it’s a life led reflectively, thoughtfully, where I make my choices in an informed way, where I’ve got good reasons for the things that I do, where I can look back at my life and I can say, “Yes, I did the right things, and I did them for the right reasons.”

On the other hand, it might be that I say, for me, a meaningful life is a life of faith, where I find faith in some higher value, some spiritual value, and am able to accommodate myself and my concerns to what I see as my dictates of the higher spiritual value.  That’s possible.

On the other hand, I might say, that what makes my life meaningful is that I’m able to lead it naturally, in harmony with my own nature, in harmony with the nature that I find around me, where I think of myself fundamentally as an organism and I try to shed social excretions, get back to my natural way of being, and live that way…

I might say, for instance if I’m a Confucian or an Aristotelian, that what gives my life meaning, is that it’s a social life.  That I’m a member of a culture, a member of a society, a member of a family. 

Or perhaps I could say with Nietzsche…that what makes my life meaningful as an individual is that I live an independent life.  That I’m the author of my own life.  I create it as a piece of art, and I don’t worry the demands of others, the demands of society around me, or external values: I make my own values, and I make myself, and that kind of autonomy and individuality is what gives my life meaning….

But beyond this individual dimension there’s a second, social dimension…the dimension of connectedness.  And in that dimension we need an account of what our relationships are to each other, to the broader world, to the universe, to our society, in order to answer the question: what is the meaning of life?

On this dimension we might ask the question: are we primarily independent agents in voluntary association with one another…when we think about society, is it a group of individuals and get together and say, let’s form a society and make some agreements, as we might see in the social contract dimension, where we see government and social institutions as constituted and legitimated by the wills of individuals.

Or it might be that we are essentially social beings, and that is what our fundamental nature is.  And when we think about ourselves as individuals, that’s no more appropriate than to think of my hand as an individual instead of as a part of my body…Do we choose our roles in society, or does society give us our roles?

Or, is our context not primarily social but natural?  Are we fundamentally animals living within an ecosystem, and what gives our lives meaning is our connection to other animals and plants in that broader ecosystems.

Or, as the Stoics might have it, are we simply tiny parts of a very vast cosmos, and we need to think of ourselves relationally, and in relation to the whole.

—Jay Garfield.  The Meaning of Life: Perspectives from the World’s Great Intellectual Traditions.  2011.  Lecture 1: The Meaning of the Meaning of Life.  The Teaching Company.

 

 

When a stupid man is doing something he is ashamed of, he always declares that it is his duty.
—George Bernard Shaw
(Addendum from Bailey: doesn't this apply to smart men also?)

Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.
—Soren Kierkegaard

For where the constitutions of living beings are different, there also the acts and the ends are different. In those animals, then, whose constitution is adapted only to use, use alone is enough: but in an animal which has also the power of understanding the use, unless there be the due exercise of the understanding, he will never attain his proper end. Well then God constitutes every animal, one to be eaten, another to serve for agriculture, another to supply cheese, and another for some like use; for which purposes what need is there to understand appearances and to be able to distinguish them? But God has introduced man to be a spectator of God and of His works; and not only a spectator of them, but an interpreter. For this reason it is shameful for man to begin and to end where irrational animals do, but rather he ought to begin where they begin, and to end where nature ends in us; and nature ends in contemplation and understanding, in a way of life conformable to nature. Take care then not to die without having been spectators of these things.

Epictetus (2011-08-09). Discourses and Enchiridion (Illustrated, Annotated) (Kindle Locations 274-281).  . Kindle Edition.

 

True Happiness, great satisfaction, cannot be found by man in any form of "practical" life, no, not in the fullest and freest exercise possible of the "moral virtues," not in the life of the citizen or of the great soldier or statesman. To seek it there is to court failure and disappointment. It is to be found in the life of the onlooker, the disinterested spectator; or, to put it more distinctly, "in the life of the philosopher, the life of scientific and philosophic contemplation." The highest and most satisfying form of life possible to man is "the contemplative life"; it is only in a secondary sense and for those incapable of their life, that the practical or moral ideal is the best. It is time that such a life is not distinctively human, but it is the privilege of man to partake in it, and such participation, at however rare intervals and for however short a period, is the highest Happiness which human life can offer. All other activities have value only because and in so far as they render this life possible.

Aristotle (2005-07-01). Ethics (Kindle Locations 241-246). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

 

 

The chief aim of their constitution is that, as far as the public needs permit, all citizens should be free to withdraw as much time as possible from the service of the body and devote themselves to the freedom and culture of the mind.  For in that, they think, lies the happiness of life.

—Thomas More in Utopia, 1516.

 

I cannot tell you how often I have received comments from my former students…that went out into the work-world and write to me, “You know, when you read that passage from Marx on alienated labor, I confess it didn’t mean all that much to me.  But now—now that I worked in the corporate world, for example—now I know what Marx is talking about.  Because when he uses the term that work is external to me, and that I cannot identify with it, I cannot put myself in that process of work, that the product which I create is not part of me and I cannot feel myself as part of that product, now finally I feel that.  And sometimes people will write to me a year after they’ve graduated, sometimes ten or twenty years…and as they write back to me their refrain is this: why is it I have spent so much of my life, so many of my hours engaged in an activity that I’ve come to hate, why should I feel the activity itself cannot be part of me

—Dennis Dalton.  Power Over People: Classical and Modern Political Theory.  Lecture Ten:  Marx’s Critique of Capitalism and the Solution of Communism.  The Teaching Company.  1998.


Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
—Soren Kierkegaard

Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.
—Soren Kierkegaard

The truth is always a compound of two half-truths, and you never reach it, because there is always something more to say.
—Tom Stoppard

The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
—Oscar Wilde

The determined scholar and the man of virtue will not seek to live at the expense of injuring their virtue. They will even sacrifice their lives to preserve their virtue complete

—Confucius

 

I am tired.  I can control nothing.  I am master of nothing.  Not my life, not my death.  I am in the hands of the gods like any moral.  And if the gods have sent someone to save the world, I am not that one.

—Augustus in the movie Augustus played by Peter O’Toole.

 

Not all motivation is instrumental. Some is identity. One cannot grant the economists that all of life is instrumental without descending into a Benthamite nightmare of corrupted purpose.
—Deirdre N. McClosky in The Bourgeois Virtues

 

As a politician I see no other way.  As a man, I could never do it.

—Character playing Seneca in Nero: The Decline of the Empire

 

In sheer numbers, the brain is just beaten by the Milky Way with its 200 billion or more stars, but they are spread across 100,000 light years, not packed into a one-and-a-half-litre capacity skull.

—Alun Anderson.  The World in 2002.  “Brain Work.”  The Economist magazine.

 

OH WOW.  OH WOW.  OH WOW.

—Last words of Steve Jobs.  As reported by The Wall Street Journal.  December 24-25, 2011.  A15.

 

And just like a map of Texas remains remarkable stable over many decades—it doesn’t change with each new pothole in a Dallas street—human self-identity remains stable over a lifetime, despite constant changes on the micro level of proteins and cells.  As an individual grows, matures, changes in many minute ways, the conscious self’s identity remains intact, just as Texas remains Texas even as new skyscrapers rise in the cities, farms grow different crops and the Red River sometimes shifts the boundary with Oklahoma a bit.

—Laura Sanders.  February 11, 2012.  “Emblems of Awareness.”  Science News.

 

 

 

 

Luck is as essential to greatness as will or intelligence.  If a great man fails to have luck we never know it, because his greatness remains only potential.

—Richard Winston in Charlemagne (1960).

 

I was now a happy human being.  I possessed the soul of a poet and the heart of youth, all houses began to open to me.  I flew from circle to circle.

—Hans Christian Andersen.  Quoted on Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast.  February 27, 2012.  “The Fairy Tale Life of Hans Christian Andersen.

 

Man is not and should not conceive him or herself as the lord of being, but as the shepherd of being.

—Martin Heidegger

 

Among so many conflicting ideas, the honest man is confused and distressed.  Since one must take sides one must might as well choose the side which is victorious.

—Napoleon Bonaparte, in a letter to his brother, concerning the conquering of his Corsican homeland by the French.


 

The most astounding fact is the knowledge that the atoms that comprise life on Earth the atoms that make up the human body are traceable to the crucibles that cooked light elements into heavy elements in their core under extreme temperatures and pressures. These stars, the high mass ones among them went unstable in their later years they collapsed and then exploded scattering their enriched guts across the galaxy guts made of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and all the fundamental ingredients of life itself. These ingredients become part of gas cloud that condense, collapse, form the next generation of solar systems stars with orbiting planets, and those planets now have the ingredients for life itself. So that when I look up at the night sky and I know that yes, we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts is that the Universe is in us. When I reflect on that fact, I look up – many people feel small because they’re small and the Universe is big – but I feel big, because my atoms came from those stars. There’s a level of connectivity. That’s really what you want in life, you want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant you want to feel like a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you That’s precisely what we are, just by being alive…

—Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson in a Time magazine interview in 2012.  But for goodness sake, see the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9D05ej8u-gU.

 

Say first, of God above, or man below

What can we reason, but from what we know?

—Alexander Pope in Essay on Man, Epistle I.

 

To live alone, one must be an animal or a God—says Aristotle. The third case is wanting: one must be both—a philosopher.

—Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Twilight of the Idols.  Maxims and Arrows: p1 s2.

 

How is it? Is man only a mistake of God? Or God only a mistake of man?

— Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Twilight of the Idols.  Maxims and Arrows: p1 s7.

 

We must by all means stretch out the hand, and attempt to grasp this surprising finesse, that the worth of life cannot he estimated. It cannot be estimated by a living being, because such a one is a party—yea, the very object—in the dispute, and not a judge; it cannot be estimated by a dead person for a different reason. —For a philosopher to see a problem in the worth of life, is really an objection to him, a mark questioning his wisdom, a folly.—What?

—Nietzsche, Friedrich.  Twilight of the Idols.  Maxims and Arrows: p2 s2.

 

http://www.icanhasinternets.com/2011/10/mind-blown/

 

 

 

 


 

Happiness

 

 

Was Flaubert right when he wrote that stupidity, selfishness and good health “are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost”?

—Mattix, Micah. April 11, 2015. “Lessons from Pangloss.” A book review of Happiness by Frederic Lenoir. The Wall Street Journal. C6.

 

Life is not fair. Get revenge upon life by choosing to be happy anyway.

—F. Bailey Norwood

 

Henry Ford, after he made his first billion dollars, was asked how much more he wanted. He said he wanted just a little more.

—Steven Hagen in Buddhism Plain and Simple, page 36.

 

 

Twin studies show that from 50 percent to 80 percent of all the variance among people in their average levels of happiness can be explained by differences in their genes rather than in their life experiences.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

The unsettling implication of Pehlham’s work is that the three biggest decisions most of us make—what to do with our lives, where to live, and whom to marry—can all be influenced (even if only slightly) by something as trivial as the sound of a name.  Life is indeed what we deem it, but the deeming happens quickly and unconsciously.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

 

We live in a culture where we’re taught to see freedom as the maximization of  choice. But this is not true freedom at all. In fact, it’s a form of bondage. True freedom doesn’t lie in the maximization of choice, but, ironically, is most easily found in a life where there is little choice.

—Steven Hagen in Buddhism Plain and Simple, page 38.

 

...about a third of the variation in people’s happiness is heritable.  That is along the lines of, though a little lower than, previous estimates on the subject.

The Economist.  “Transporter of delight: The genetics of happiness.”  October 15, 2011.  pages 90-91.

 

Alas, that I was not born one of these!

—Pharoah Ptolemy II, whose gout and excessive wealth and power made him miserable, made this remark while looking out the window and seeing a beggar lying lazily in the sun. Source: —Durant, Will. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece.  Page 586.

 

The dictator’s life was ended not by any of the assassins whom he feared, but by his own poetry. In 367 his tragedy, The Ransom of Hector, received first prize at the Athenian Lenaea. Dionysius was so pleased that he feasted with his friends, drank much wine, fell into a fever, and died.

—Will Durant. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece.  Chapter 19: Philip. Page 473.

 

The happiness of those who want to be popular depends on others; the happiness of those who seek pleasure fluctuates with moods outside their control; but the happiness of the wise grows out of their own free acts.

—Aurelius, Marcus (121 AD – 180 AD). The Emperor’s Handbook. A new translation of Meditations. Book 6. 52.

 

The world is a strange place and the number of happy people very small.

—Catherine the Great

 

A happy life must be to a great extent a quiet life, for it is only in an atmosphere of quiet that true joy dare live. 

—Bertrand Russell

 

As Rick Hanson, author of The Buddha’s Brain, says, “our brain is like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones.” We tend to take the positive for granted while focusing on the negative as if our life depended on it. 

Neff, Kristin (2011-04-19). Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind (p. 111). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

If all our happiness is bound up entirely in our personal circumstances it is difficult not to demand of life more than it has to give. 

—Bertrand Russell

 

Moreover, those respondents who had most strongly feared they were going to die in the earthquake were also most likely to indicate a shift from extrinsic to intrinsic  goals…People who pursue intrinsic goals have more success in heading off anxiety associated with death than those who chase material things…The elders who reported having fulfilled more of their intrinsic goals were the least anxious about death and most satisfied with their life.  In contrast, respondents who reported the greatest attainment of extrinsic goals indicated the most despair and the least acceptance of death…Intrinsic life goals and the creation of meaning appear to be central to coping with our mortality…members of the group focused on meaning in life showed substantial increases in their scores on measures of meaning, peace and faith, along with decreases in anxiety and desire for death.  The members of the group focused on social support showed no statistically significant changes.

—Wielderman, Micheal W.  July/August, 2012.  “Mortal Thoughts.”  Scientific American Mind.

 

Nothing mattered except states of mind, our own and other people’s, of course, but chiefly our own.

—John Maynard Keynes remarking on the philosophy of G. E. Moore.  Sylvia Nasar.  Grand Pursuit.  2011.  Page 239.

 

Give me health and a day, and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Nature.

 

DUBNER: Stumbling on Happiness was published in 2006.

DUBNER: You write quite explicitly in the beginning of the book that Stumbling on Happiness is not a self-help book. This is not a guide to being happy, right? But I’m curious: do many people still read it looking for some kind of a happiness formula?

GILBERT: Well I assume they do, and that’s probably the source of any bad reviews– is people who are horribly disappointed because they expected one thing and got the other. On the other hand, I get a lot of email from people who say, “I know this wasn’t meant to be a guide about happiness. But by understanding more about how my mind works, it indeed has helped me achieve greater happiness and fulfillment in my life.” So I’m delighted that happens even though that wasn’t my intention.

DUBNER: Okay, so ignoring that the book is not meant to be any kind of prescription for happiness, if someone does want to learn a shortcut or two for being happy, I’m curious what you tell people, because surely you get asked that.

GILBERT: Look, the answer to your question, what are the shortcuts, could fill many books. And it does. But if you asked me to stand on one leg and say in just a sentence what’s the single–

DUBNER: Like Hillel.

GILBERT: Like Rabbi Hillel, what’s the single, dominating factor in human happiness? I would pull up my leg and say, “We’re a social creature: care about and be interactive with other human beings.”

—Transcript of Freakonomics podcast: “How to Make a Smart TV Add.” August 20, 2015. Dan Gilbert is a psychologist and author of Stumbling Upon Happiness.

 

...an astounding 50 percent of the differences among people’s happiness levels can be accounted for by their genetically determined set points...Perhaps the most counter-intuitive finding is that as the chart shows, only about 10 percent of the variance in our happiness levels is explained by differences in life circumstances or situations...our pie chart illustrates the potential of the 40 percent that is within our ability to control, the 40 percent for room to maneuver, for opportunities to increase or decrease our happiness levels through what we do in our daily lives and how we think.  This is terrific news.  It means that all of us could be a great deal happier if we scrutinized carefully what precise behaviors and thoughts very happy people naturally and habitually engage in.

—Sonja Lyubomirsky.  2008.  The How of Happiness.  Pages 20-22.  The Penguin Press: NY, NY.

 

"...But damn your happiness! So long as life's full, it doesn't matter whether it's happy or not. I'm afraid your happiness would bore me."
—Jane Smily, in A Thousand Acres 

Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be.
—John Stuart Mill 

When I have been contemplating the happiness of my own situation respecting temporals, and comparing it with those of inferior classes, I have felt my heart touched with compassion. But when, on the other hand, I have looked at the situation of those much above me, and considered how unhappy they would think themselves if reduced to mine, it has led me to the conclusion that there is a more equal distribution of happiness than one might, at a casual glance, imagine.

—Margaret Woods, 1818. Quoted in: Cargill, Larry. 1986. Page 33. Daily Readings from Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern.


Happiness is a mystery like religion, and should never be rationalized.
—G.K. Chesteron 

Happiness is a maybe, but can always be found in  Magpie nest.

—French proverb. Note that Magpies build the nest high above ground, usually out of reach. Quoted in: Paterson, Isabel. 1917. The Magpie’s Nest. New York: John Lane Company.

 

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne

Happiness is like Coke - something you get as a by-product in the process of making something else.
—Aldous Huxley 

Life as we find it is too hard for us; it entails too much pain, to many disappointments, impossible tasks.  We cannot do without palliative remedies.  We cannot dispense with auxiliary constructions, as Theodor Fontane said.  There are perhaps three of these means: powerful diversions of interest, which lead us to care little about our misery; substitutive gratifications, which lessen it; and intoxicating substances which make us insensitive to it.  Something of this kind is indispensable.

—Sigmend Freud in Civilization and its Discontents

 

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, compassion, and gratitude.

—Bradley, Robert. A student of mine in 2013.

 

All men, brother Gallio, wish to live happily, but are dull at perceiving exactly what it is that makes life happy: and so far is it from being easy to attain happiness that the more eagerly a man struggles to reach it the further he departs from it, if he takes the wrong road; for, since this leads in the opposite direction, his very swiftness carries him away.

—Seneca in On a Happy Life. 

 

 

When we are considering a happy life, you cannot answer me as though after a division of the House, “This view has most supporters,” because for that very reason it is the worse of the two.  Matters do not stand so well with mankind that the majority should prefer the better course: the more people do a thing the worse it is likely to be.

—Seneca in On a Happy Life

 

…how far more endurable what I have feared seems to be than what I have lusted after.

—Seneca in On a Happy Life

 

 

For no one can be styled happy who is beyond the influence of truth, and consequently, a happy life is unchangeable, and is founded upon a true and trustworthy discernment—for the mind is uncontaminated and freed from all evils only when it is able to escape not merely from wounds but also from scratches, when it will always be able to maintain the position which it has taken up, and defense it even against the angry assaults of fortune…what mortal that retains any traces of human origin would wish to be tickled day and night, and, neglecting his mind, to devote himself to bodily enjoyments?

—Seneca in On a Happy Life

 

Add to this, that pleasure visits the basest lives, but virtue cannot co-exist with an evil life; yet some unhappy people are not without pleasure, nay, it is owing to pleasure itself that they are unhappy, and this could not take place if pleasure had any connection with virtue…

—Seneca in On a Happy Life

 

Anything you’re good at contributes to happiness.

—Bertrand Russell

 

 


 

Courage, Virtue, Tranquility, and Inspiration


I would say act like a man of thought and think like a man of action.

—Henri Bergson. 1937. Speech at the Descartes Conference in Paris.

 

When is it ever wrong to do the right thing?

—Holzricher, James [guest], a whistleblower of corporate misconduct. September 4, 2013. “The Cost of Truth.” The Story. Phoebe Judge [producer]. Dick Gorden [host].

 

Live for yourself and your fellow creature. I [nature] approve of your pleasures while they injure neither you nor others, whom I have rendered necessary to your happiness … Be just, since your goodness will attract every heart to you. Be indulgent, since you live among beings weak like yourself. Be modest, as your pride will hurt the self-love of everyone around you. Pardon injuries, do good to him who injures you, that you may … gain his friendship. Be moderate, temperate, and chaste, since lechery, intemperance, and excess will destroy you and make you contemptible.

—D’Holback. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation. Part IX. The Age of Voltaire. Page 706.

 

When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master, but lies at the mercy of fortune.

—Spinoza, Baruch de. Quoted in: Ayan, Steve. January/February 2015. “And Live Happily Ever After.” Scientific American Mind. Page 49.

 

Let’s make our mistakes slowly.

—Dwight D. Eisenhower, as quoted in David Brooks’ The Road to Character

 

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

—Anne Frank

 

If everything seems under control, you aren't moving fast enough.

—Mario Andretti

 

Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, as in being able to remake ourselves.

—Gandhi, Mahatma. Quoted in: Effendi, Rena and Tom O’Neill. July 2015. “In the Footsteps of Gandhi.” National Geographic.

 

Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

You should, I need hardly say, live in such a way that there is nothing which you could not as easily tell your enemy as keep to yourself.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 35.

 

That wonderful, and now almost extinct Christian community, the Shakers, has an old expression that nicely reflects the wisdom of redirecting attention. Their motto is: hands to work, and hearts to God.

—Muesse, Mark. Chapter 9. Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company.

 

You ask me to say what you should consider it particularly important to avoid. My answer is this: a mass crowd. … there is not one of them that will make some vice or other attractive to us.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 41.

 

It is difficulties which show what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. For what purpose? you may say. Why, that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.

—Epictetus (55-135 AD). Discourses and Selected Writings. Translated by George Long.

 

Being fearless, undaunted, and bold—these are the products of courage. And how else could these become someone“s qualities more effectively than if he would become firmly convinced that death and pain are not evils? For death and pain are things which derange and frighten those who have been convinced that they are evils. Philosophy alone teaches that they are not evils.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD)

 

Why do you stand there? What are you looking for? Do you expect the god himself to come and speak to you? Cut out the dead part of your soul, and you will recognize the god.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD)

 

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.

—Ralph Sockman

 

What is it to bear a fever well? Not to blame god or man; not to be afflicted at that which happens, to expect death well and nobly, to do what must be done: when the physician comes in, not to be frightened at what he says; nor I'd he says you are doing well, to be overjoyed.

—Epictetus. 108 AD. The Discourses.

 

Recommend virtue to your children; it alone, not money, can make them happy. I speak from experience.

—Beethoven

 

The uninitiated imagine that one must await inspiration in order to create. That is a mistake. I am far from saying that there is no such thing as inspiration; quite the opposite. It is found as a driving force in every kind of human activity, and is in no wise peculiar to artists. But that force is only brought into action by an effort, and that effort is work

—Igor Stravinsky in An Autobiography

 

When everyone is against you, it means that you are absolutely wrong— or absolutely right.

—Albert Guinon

 

Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.

—Arthur Schopenhauer

 

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.

—Walter Bagehot (English economist and journalist; 1826-1877)

 

I have not yet begun to fight.

—John Paul Jones, father of the American Navy, in response to a British captain asking if he surrendered.

 

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance

 

Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.

—Palmer, Parker J. 2015. The Quaker Tradition: Broken into Wholeness. Keynote Address at 2015 Gathering of Friends General Conference at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina (July 9, 2015).

 

They adapted themselves to a circumstance like melting ice.

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching. 15.

 

Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.

—Epictetus. Discourses and Selected Writings. VIII.

 

The secret to having it all is knowing that you already do.

—Unknown. From The Art of Ancient Knowledge Facebook page

 

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.

—Eckhart Tolle.

 

I am a soldier, and am unable to weep or to exclaim on fortune’s fickleness.

—Shakespeare in Henry VI

 

To love only what happens, what was destined. No greater harmony.

—Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. 7:57

 

It is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.

—Charlotte Bronte. 1947. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 30.

 

Beware good luck: fattening hogs think themselves fortunate.

—German proverb.

 

I would say act like a man of thought and think like a man of action.

—Henri Bergson. 1937. Speech at the Descartes Conference in Paris.

 

When is it ever wrong to do the right thing?

—Holzricher, James [guest], a whistleblower of corporate misconduct. September 4, 2013. “The Cost of Truth.” The Story. Phoebe Judge [producer]. Dick Gorden [host].

 

Live for yourself and your fellow creature. I [nature] approve of your pleasures while they injure neither you nor others, whom I have rendered necessary to your happiness … Be just, since your goodness will attract every heart to you. Be indulgent, since you live among beings weak like  yourself. Be modest, as your pride will hurt the self-love of everyone around you. Pardon injuries, do good to him who injures you, that you may … gain his friendship. Be moderate, temperate, and chaste, since lechery, intemperance, and excess will destroy you and make you contemptible.

—D’Holback. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation.  Part IX.  The Age of Voltaire. Page 706.

 

This is a moment of suffering.

Suffering is a part of life.

May I be kind to myself in this moment.

May I give myself the compassion I need.

—Neff, Kristin. 2011. Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind. HarperCollins e-books.

 

Feasts must be solemn and rare, or else they cease to be feasts.

—Aldous Huxley, 1929. Quoted in: Lapham’s Quarterly. Food. Summer 2011. “The Midas Touch.”  Page 20.

 

It belittles us to think of our daily tasks as small things, and if we continue to do so, it will in time make us small. It will narrow our horizon and make of our work just drudgery.

—Laura Ingalls Wilder from her newspaper column As a Farm Woman Thinks. 1923. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. Summer 2011. Page 101.

 

My dream—my fantasy—is that one day in the future everyone on the planet will stop at noon and say, ‘Peace and Love’.

—Ringo Starr in Rolling Stone. August 10, 2017. Page 30.

 

Life is to be lived, not controlled, and humanity is won by continuing to play in face of certain defeat.

—Ralph Ellison, 1952. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. Spring 2016. Page 21

 

When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master, but lies at the mercy of fortune.

—Spinoza, Baruch de. Quoted in: Ayan, Steve. January/February 2015. “And Live Happily Ever After.” Scientific American Mind. Page 49.

 

Cease to hope and you will cease to fear.

—Hector, a Stoic writer, quoted in: Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 40.

 

For about 10 years I’ve suffered from primary progressive multiple sclerosis. This is not the form of MS that you read about in optimistic articles. It is relentless, and it doesn’t go into remission or on vacation. It concentrates on the limbs and rarely affects the brain. There’s no treatment. However, I’m not in pain and I’m not in Syria. I can read; I breathe without assistance. I can talk and think. This is a picnic. It may not always be thus.

—Weller, Anthony. April 10, 2015. “Paralyzed From the Neck Down.” The Wall Street Journal. A13.

 

If he does that, he would be the greatest man in the world.

—King George III of Great Britain, when it was suggested that George Washington retire when the Revolutionary War ended (which he did).

 

There are two kinds of people in the world: Givers and Takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.

—Marlo Thomas

 

Let’s make our mistakes slowly.

—Dwight D. Eisenhower, as quoted in David Brooks’ The Road to Character.

 

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

—Anne Frank

 

My son, I commend thee to the most high God … Do his will, for that way lies peace. Abstain from shedding blood … for blood that is spilt never sleeps. Seek to win the hearts of thy people, and watch over their prosperity; for it is to secure their happiness that thou art appointed by God and me. Try to gain the hearts of thy ministers, nobles, an demirs. If I have become great it is because I have won men’s hearts by kindness and gentleness.

—Saladin’s death-bed instructions to his son in 1193. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 602. Refers to feudalism in the High Middle Ages.

 

Even fools seem smart when they are quiet.

—Proverbs 17:28

 

The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.

—Randy Pausch. The Last Lecture.

 

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

—Gandhi, Mahatma. Quoted in: Effendi, Rena and Tom O’Neill. July 2015. “In the Footsteps of Gandhi.” National Geographic.

 

If everything seems under control, you aren't moving fast enough.
—Mario Andretti 

 

There’s no starting over, no new beginnings—time races on

You just, gotta keep on keepin on

First Aid Kit. “My Silver Lining.” Stay Gold [album]. June 10, 2013.

 

If you put up with the crimes of a friend, you make them your own.

—Roman proverb in classical antiquity.

 

There are two kinds of people in the world: givers and takers. The takers may eat better, but the givers sleep better.

—Marlo Thomas.

 

Others are affected by what I am, and say, and do. So that a single act of mine may spread and spread in widening circles, through a nation or humanity. Through my vice I intensify the taint of vice throughout the universe. Through my misery I make multitudes sad. On the other hand, every development of my virtue makes me an ampler blessing to my race. Every new truth that I gain makes me a brighter light to humanity.

—William Ellery Channing. The Father’s Love for Persons.

 

Our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world, as in being able to remake ourselves.

—Gandhi, Mahatma. Quoted in: Effendi, Rena and Tom O’Neill. July 2015. “In the Footsteps of Gandhi.” National Geographic.

 

Let man be noble,

Helpful and good.

For that alone

Marks him off

From all beings

That we know ….

Quite unfeeling

Is Nature:

The sun shines

Upon the base and the good;

And upon the lawbreaker

Gleam, as upon the best,

The moon and the stars.

Winds and streams,

Thunder and hail,

Roar on their way,

And snatch up

And sweep before them

One after another ….

By eternal, ironclad

Great laws

Must we all,

Of all existence,

Fulfill the round.

But man alone

Can do the impossible;

He distinguishes,

Chooses, and judges;

He can to the fleeting moment

Give duration.

He alone can

Reward the good,

Punish the bad,

Heal and save.

And to the erring and straying

Bring wise counsel.

Let the noble man

Be helpful and good.

—Goethe in Wanderjahre

Each day, too, acquire something which will help you to face poverty, or death, and other ills as well. After running over a lot of different thoughts, pick out one to be digested thoroughly that day.

—Seneca. Quoted in: Campbell, Robin. 2004. Seneca: Letters from a Stoic. Introduction. Penguin Books: NY, NY. Page 18..

 

Shakespeare will never be made by the study of Shakespeare.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

You should, I need hardly say, live in such a way that there is nothing which you could not as easily tell your enemy as keep to yourself.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 35.

 

Perhaps the hardest part of meditation practice is facing your own mind. Being alone with your own thoughts can be terrifying, which is why many people avoid it at all costs.

—Muesse, Mark. “Chapter 3: Expectations—Relinquishing Preconceptions.” Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company.

 

Breathing also reminds us of our collective dependence on our fellow human beings. [A] great 20th century physicist mathematically demonstrated that with each breath we inhale at least one molecule breathed by virtually every human being—indeed, every living being, human or not—who has ever lived.

—Muesse, Mark. “Chapter 6: Breathing—Finding a Focus For Attention.” Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company.

 

One way to reduce our suffering, then, is to align our minds with reality. Believing that pain shouldn’t happen to us is delusional. It’s inconsistent with the nature of the world. When pain makes its appearance, it does us not good to protest or panic.  We’re better served by simply accepting its advent.

—Muesse, Mark. Chapter 7. Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company.

 

You may be familiar with the old tell, claimed by both Sufi and Jewish traditions of an ancient king who asked his wise-men to construct a single sentence that would sober him when he was happy and would cheer him when he was sad. The expression they offered him was: this, too, shall pass.

—Muesse, Mark. Chapter 9. Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company.

 

That wonderful, and now almost extinct Christian community, the Shakers, has an old expression that nicely reflects the wisdom of redirecting attention. Their motto is: hands to work, and hearts to God.

—Muesse, Mark. Chapter 9. Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company.

 

It is important to expect nothing, to take every experience, including the negative ones, as merely steps on the path, and to proceed.

—Ran, Dass.

 

‘What progress have I made? I am beginning to be my own friend.’ That is progress indeed. Such a person will never be alone, and you may be sure he is a friend to all.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 40.

 

You ask me to say what you should consider it particularly important to avoid. My answer is this: a mass crowd. … there is not one of them that will make some vice or other attractive to us.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 41.

 

It’s normal to feel pain in your hands and feed, if you’re using your feet as feet and your hands as hands. And for a human being to feel stress is normal—if he’s living a normal human life. And if it’s normal, how can it be bad?

Marcus Aurelius in Meditations. 6:33

 

… if you wish to be loved, love.

—Hector quoted by Seneca in: Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 49.

 

If you pray a thing may

And it does come your way

Tis a long way from being your own.

—Publilus, quoted by: Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 47.

 

But you have your choices.

And these are what make man great,

his ladder to the stars.

—Mumford & Sons.

 

I think he knows where he stands, and I don't think he's going to make any very large plans. He's a pompous, unimpressive little fellow, and he would be of no account at all—if only he didn't have some right to the use of that name. That alone won't get him very far, but it has proved annoying.

—Mark Antony, in a letter to a friend regarding Caius Octavius Thurinus, who later became Caius Julius Caeser, and even later become Augustus. From: Boye, Brendan. August 15, 2014. “The Truths of History.” The Wall Street Journal. C7.

 

"I shall advance," he said, "till He, the invisible God who marches before me, thinks proper to stop."

—Durant, Will, quoting Constantine the Great on his growing empire. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 4.

 

A demographer calculates that 93 percent of all the human beings who ever existed on Earth—more than 100 billion people—have vanished before us.

—Salopek, Paul. December 2013.  “Out of Eden.” National Geographic.

 

If there’s any message I’m trying to send to younger people, it’s the songs. You gotta do the work. I’m asked, “How did you write so many songs?” I was just trying to write another one. Then you look up, and there’s a lot of them.

—Tom Petty, quoted in: Fricke, David. August 14, 2014. “Tom Petty’s Rock & Roll Refuge.” Rolling Stone. Pages 44-47, 66.

 

Ah my friend, if you and I could escape this fray

And live forever, never a trace of age, immortal,

I would never fight on the front lines again

Or command you to the field where men win fame.

But now, as it is, the fates of death await us,

Thousands poised to strike, and not a man alive

Can flee them or escape—so in we go for attack!

Give our enemy glory or win it for ourselves!

—Sarpedon in The Iliad. Book 12.374-381. Translated by Robert Fagles. Penguin Classics.

 

It is difficulties which show what men are. Therefore when a difficulty falls upon you, remember that God, like a trainer of wrestlers, has matched you with a rough young man. For what purpose? you may say. Why, that you may become an Olympic conqueror; but it is not accomplished without sweat.

—Epictetus (55-135 AD). Discourses and Selected Writings. Translated by George Long.

 

Nothing, to my way of thinking, is a better proof of a well ordered mind than a man’s ability to stop just where he is and pass some time in his own company.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 33.

 

Nothing in excess (motto inscribed on the temple of Apollo at Delphi, attributed to Solon).

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 118.

 

You’re only as tall as your heart will let you be / And you’re only as small as the world will make you seem.

Never Shout Never [band / musician]. “On the Brightside.” The Summer EP.

 

Being fearless, undaunted, and bold--these are the products of courage. And how else could these become someone's qualities more effectively than if he would become firmly convinced that death and pain are not evils? For death and pain are things which derange and frighten those who have been convinced that they are evils. Philosophy alone teaches that they are not evils.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

It is not possible to live well today unless you treat it as your last day.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

If you accomplish something good with hard work, the labor passes quickly, but the good endures; if you do something shameful in the pursuit of pleasure, the pleasure passes quickly, but the shame endures.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

Why do you stand there? What are you looking for? Do you expect the god himself to come and speak to you? Cut out the dead part of your soul, and you will recognize the god.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

Bad luck borne nobly is good luck.

—Aurelius, Marcus (121 AD – 180 AD). The Emperor’s Handbook. A new translation of Meditations.

 

In the end, what would you gain from everlasting remembrance? Absolutely nothing. So what is left worth living for? This alone: justice in thought, goodness in action, speech that cannot deceive, and a disposition glad of whatever comes, welcoming it as necessary as familiar, as flowing from the same source and fountain of yourself.

—Aurelius, Marcus (121 AD – 180 AD). The Emperor’s Handbook. A new translation of Meditations.

 

Old age, believe me, is a good and pleasant thing.

It is true you are gently shouldered off the stage, but then you are given such a comfortable front stall as spectator.

—Confucius

I have observed that not the man who hopes when others despaire, but the man who despairs when others hope, is admired by a large class of persons as a sage.

—John Stuart Mill in 1828. Source: Shermer, Michael. October 5-6, 2013. “Menace to the Planet?” The Wall Street Journal. C10.

 

I’ve never had any shame in quitting.  I’ve quit economic theory, I’ve quit macroeconomics—I’ve pretty much quit everything that I’m bad at....If I were to say one of the single best explanations for how I managed to succeed against all odds in the field of economics: it was by being a quitter.  Ever since the beginning, my mantra has been: fail quickly.  If I started with 100 ideas, I’m lucky if two or three of those ideas will ever turn into academic papers.  One of my great skills as an economist has been to recognize the need to fail quickly and the willingness to jettison a project as soon as I realize its likely to fail.

—Steven Levitt

 in Freakonomics Podcast.  Episode: the upside of quitting.  September 29, 2011.

 

Anyone who recalls how often he’s been falsely suspected, how many of his own appropriate actions bad luck has made look like wrongs, how many people he came to like after hating them, will be able to avoid becoming angry instantly, at least if he says to himself, each time he’s offended, “I myself have made this mistake also.”

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

 

I hope that while so many people are out smelling the flowers, someone is taking the time to plant some.
—Herbert Rappaport

It’s better to feel pain, then never feel at all. The opposite of love’s indifference.

The Lumineers. Stubborn Love [song].

 

I have discovered that all human evil comes from this, man’s being unable to sit still in a room.

—Blaise Pascal. Quoted from: Hagan, Steve. 2007. Meditation: Now or Never. Harper One: NY, NY.

 

To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quite, still; but if I think I am going to achieve stillness at some future date, I have destroyed the possibility of stillness. It is now or never.

—Jiddu Krishnamurti

 

It was on my fifth birthday that Papa put his hand on my shoulder and said, 'Remember, my son, if you ever need a helping hand, you'll find one at the end of your arm.' 
—Sam Levenson 

The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority. 
—Ralph Sockman 

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true. 
—James Branch 

Is there not modesty, fidelity, justice? Show yourself superior in these, that you may be superior as a man.

—Epictetus. 108 AD.  The Discourses.

 

What is it to bear a fever well? Not to blame god or man; not to be afflicted at that which happens, to expect death well and nobly, to do what must be done: when the physician comes in, not to be frightened at what he says; nor I'd he says you are doing well, to be overjoyed.

—Epictetus. 108 AD.  The Discourses.

 

Recommend virtue to your children; it alone, not money, can make them happy.  I speak from experience.

—Beethoven

 

The uninitiated imagine that one must await inspiration in order to create.  That is a mistake.  I am far from saying that there is no such thing as inspiration; quite the opposite.  It is found as a driving force in every kind of human activity, and is in no wise peculiar to artists.  But that force is  only brought into action by an effort, and that effort is work

—Igor Stravinsky in An Autobiography

 

For no one is worthy of a god unless he has paid no heed to riches.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter XVIII. Penguin Classics. Page 69.

 

 

When everyone is against you, it means that you are absolutely wrong— or absolutely right. 
—Albert Guinon 

To change one's life, start immediately, do it flamboyantly, no exceptions.
—William James 

Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.
—Arthur Schopenhauer 

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else. 
—Emily Dickinson 

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.
—Walter Bagehot (English economist and journalist; 1826-1877) 

I have not yet begun to fight.
—John Paul Jones, father of the American Navy, in response to a British captain asking if he surrendered.

All genius is heterogeneous; a great man is a sum of many men;—let the soul give its selves a voice, and it will speak in dialogue.

—Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company.

 

To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men—that is genius.  Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost, and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance

 

Suppose someone becomes angry with you. You, by contrast, should challenge him to match you in kindness.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

 

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance

 

You’re imaginary, you’re not real.

—Fiona Apple to an audience, trying to control her anxieties.  Rolling Stone.  April 12, 2012.  P. 5

 

…God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.  A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise shall give him no peace.  It is a deliverance which does not deliver.  In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance

 

…it is our nature to be unconstrained by nature.

—Sapolsky, Robert M. September 2012. “Super Humanity.” Scientific American.

 

Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron strong.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance

 

It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance

 

If I know your sect, I anticipate your argument.  I hear a preacher announce for his text and topic the expediency of one of the institutions of his church.  Do I not know beforehand that not possibly can he say a new and spontaneous word?  Do I not know that, with all this ostentation of examining the grounds of the institution, he will do no such thing?  Do I not know that he is pledged to himself not to look but at one side—the permitted side—not as a man, but as a parish minister?  He is a retained attorney, and these airs of the bench are the emptiest affectation.  Well, most men have bound their eyes with one or another handkerchief, and attached themselves to some one of these communities of opinions.  This conformity makes them not false in a few particulars, authors of a few lies, but false in all particulars.  Their every truth is not quite true.  Their two is not the real two, their four not the real four…

— Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance

 

…strength of body is nobility only in beasts of burden, strength of character is nobility in man.

—Democritus (460-370 BC). Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Chapter 16: The Conflict of Philosophy and Religion. Page 354.

 

I’m spending the morning waiting for my car in the repair shop. Four men in flannel (I missed the flannel memo) and I sit around smelling tires and inhaling exhaust fumes while an enchanting little fairy is in constant motion around her daddy. She climbs on him, giggles, turns around, and then she’s back to twirling on the tile.

She’s bouncing and spinning around in her pink frilly skirt. Her black cable knit tights are sagging around her tiny knees, and her puffy coat makes her arms stand out further than is natural. To top off the ensemble is a shiny crystal tiara. It’s been tacked down to her head with what appears to be about 60 haphazard bobby pins.

She’s probably four years old. So little, so vulnerable. She doesn’t seem concerned about it as she sings about teapots and ladybugs in her black Mary Janes. I feel myself tear up as I watch her. I tear up as I watch him watch her. She could not possibly know at four what impact this man, his character, or his words will have on her for years to come. And, maybe he doesn’t know either.

So, to all the daddies with little girls who aren’t old enough yet to ask for what they need from you, here is what we wish you knew:

1. How you love me is how I will love myself.

2. Ask how I am feeling and listen to my answer, I need to know you value me before I can understand my true value.

3. I learn how I should be treated by how you treat my mom, whether you are married to her or not.

4. If you are angry with me, I feel it even if I don’t understand it, so talk to me.

5. Every time you show grace to me or someone else, I learn to trust God a little more.

6. I need to experience your nurturing physical strength, so I learn to trust the physicality of men.

7. Please don’t talk about sex like a teenage boy, or I think it’s something dirty.

8. When your tone is gentle, I understand what you are saying much better.

9. How you talk about female bodies when you’re ‘just joking’ is what I believe about my own.

10. How you handle my heart, is how I will allow it to be handled by others.

11. If you encourage me to find what brings joy, I will always seek it.

12. If you teach me what safe feels like when I’m with you, I will know better how to guard myself from men who are not.

13. Teach me a love of art, science, and nature, and I will learn that intellect matters more than dress size.

14. Let me say exactly what I want even if it’s wrong or silly, because I need to know having a strong voice is acceptable to you.

15. When I get older, if you seem afraid of my changing body, I will believe something is wrong with it.

16. If you understand contentment for yourself, so will I.

17. When I ask you to let go, please remain available; I will always come back and need you if you do.

18. If you demonstrate tenderness, I learn to embrace my own vulnerability rather than fear it.

19. When you let me help fix the car and paint the house, I will believe I can do anything a boy can do.

20. When you protect my femininity, I learn everything about me is worthy of protecting.

21. How you treat our dog when you think I’m not watching tells me more about you than does just about anything else.

22. Don’t let money be everything, or I learn not to respect it or you.

23. Hug, hold, and kiss me in all the ways a daddy does that are right and good and pure. I need it so much to understand healthy touch.

24. Please don’t lie, because I believe what you say.

25. Don’t avoid hard conversations, because it makes me believe I’m not worth fighting for.

It’s pretty simple, really. Little girls just love their daddies. They each think their daddy hung the moon. Once in a while when you look at your little gal twirling in her frilly skirt, remember she’ll be grown one day. What do you want her to know about men, life, herself, love? What you do and say now matters for a lifetime. Daddies, never underestimate the impact of your words or deeds on your daughters, no matter their age.

Home  Uncategorized  What Little Girls Wish Daddies Knew

 

 

WHAT LITTLE GIRLS WISH DADDIES KNEW

 December 14, 2013  taralee73  131 Comments ↓

http://tarahedman.com/girls-daddies-knew/

 


 

Love and relationships

 

THE CIVIL WARS LYRICS

"Poison & Wine"

 

You only know what I want you to

I know everything you don't want me to

Oh your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine

You think your dreams are the same as mine

Oh I don't love you but I always will

Oh I don't love you but I always will

Oh I don't love you but I always will

I always will

 

I wish you'd hold me when I turn my back

The less I give the more I get back

Oh your hands can heal, your hands can bruise

I don't have a choice but I'd still choose you

 

Oh I don't love you but I always will [x7]

I always will [x5]

 

"Is there, my love, anything in the world left you to desire?" "Yes," he said," Habiba." The dutiful wife sent for Habiba, presented her to Yezid, and retired into the obscurity of the harem. One day, feasting with Habiba, Yezid playfully through a grape pit into her mouth;  choked her, and she die in his arms. A week later Yezid died of grief.

--Will Durant On the deep love Yezid II (717-724), one of the Umayyad caliphates, had for the slave girl Habiba. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 195.

 

When you enter a sick man's room, bear in mind your manner of sitting, reserve, arrangement of dress, decisive utterance, brevity of speech, composure, bedside manners...self-control, rebuke of disturbance, readiness to do what has to be done.

—Hippocrates

 

Death

 

I was not, I was, I am not, I care not.

—Note on a tombstone from ancient Rome. Quoted in: Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. The Story of Civilization. Page 389

 

Now I need never fear hunger, need never pay rent, and am at least free from gout.

—Note on a tombstone from ancient Rome. Quoted in: Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. The Story of Civilization. Page 389.

 

We must ensure that what has been granted for an unspecified period is always available, and when we are summoned, we must hand it back without complaint: it is a very poor kind of debtor who starts lashing out at his creditor.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia. Seneca is referring to death, and not being excessively distressed at death.

 

Our minds need frequent prompting to love things on the understanding that we are sure to lose them, or rather that we are already losing them: you should treat all of fortune’s gifts as coming without a guarantee.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

 

You were born for this, to suffer loss, to perish, to hope and to fear, to upset others and yourself, to dread death and yet also desire it, and, worst of all, never to understand your true condition.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

 

... imagine me coming to give you advice as you were being born: “You are about to enter a city shared by gods and men, one that embraces everything, is bound by fixed, eternal laws, and ensures that the revolving heavenly bodies carry out their duties untiringly. There you will see countless stars twinkling; you will see the universe filled with the light of a single star, the sun on its daily course marking out the periods of day and night, and on its annual course demarcating summers and winters more evenly … But in that same place there will be thousands of afflictions of body and mind, wars, robberies, poisons, shipwrecks, climatic and body disorders, bitter grief for those dearest to you, and eath, which may be easy or may result from punishment and torture. Think it over and weigh up what you want: to reach the one set of experiences you must run the gauntlet of the other. You will reply that you want to live, of course … So live on the terms agreed.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia in Hardship and Happiness. Pages 24-26.

 

It is no problem being a slave if, when you grow tired of being someone else’s property, you can cross over to freedom with a single step. Life, you are dear to me, thanks to death! Think what a blessing a timely death can be, and how many people have been disadvantaged by living too long.

—Seneca in Consolation to Marcia

 

There are dreams that cannot be / And there are storms we cannot weather.

—Les Miserables, the musical.

 

What is death? Either a transition or an end. I am not afraid of coming to an end, this being the same as never having begun, nor of transition, for I shall never be in confinement quite so cramped anywhere else as I am here.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LVI. Penguin Classics. Page 124.

 

No one is so ignorant as not to know that some day he must die. Nevertheless when death draws near he turns, wailing and trembling, looking for a way out. Wouldn’t you think a man an utter fool if he burst into tears because he didn’t live a thousand hears ago?

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVII. Penguin Classics. Page 127.

 

Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born? I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.

—Walt Whiman. 1855. Discourses on the Condition of the Great. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 147.

Quaker

 

All my days I grew up among the sages, and I have found nothing better for a person than silence …

—Talmud. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 363.

 

If a Greek is stirred to the remembrance of God by the art of Pheidas, or an Egyptian by worshipping animals, or another man by a river or a fire, I have no anger for their divergences; only let them note, let them remember, let them love.

—Maximua, defending the use of idols in pagan worship against Christian scorn. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 10.

 

In whatever work you do to make a living speak the truth, act on the truth, do what is just and right in all your actions, in all your practices, in all your words, in all your buying, selling, exchanging and commercial dealings with people. Let truth be your first concern and put it into practice.

—George Fox. Truth of the Heart: An Anthology of George Fox. Selected and annotated by Rex Amber. Page 81.

 

Once you hear the details of a victory it is hard to distinguish it from a defeat.

—Jean-Paul Sartre, 1951. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. Spring 2016. Page 86.

 

 

We can’t find out who we are until we let go of who we think we are … we need the Light within because there is darkness within where the Light needs to shine.

—Griswold, Robert. The Role of the Personal Ego in Meeting and Its Effect on Spiritual Communion.

 

Let us then try what love can do to heal a broken world.

—William Penn. 1693.

 

… there is a more equal distribution of happiness than one might, at a casual glance, imagine.

—Margaret Woods, 1818. Dailey Readings: From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Edited by Linda Hill Renfer. 1988. Page 33.

 

Wholeness  does  not  mean  perfection.  It  means  embracing  brokenness  as  an

integral part of life.

—Palmer, Parker J. 2015. The Quaker Tradition: Broken into Wholeness. Keynote Address at 2015 Gathering of Friends General Conference at Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, North Carolina (July 9, 2015).

 

Nonviolence is not a weapon of the weak. It is a weapon of the strongest and bravest.

—Gandhi, Mahatma. Quoted in: Effendi, Rena and Tom O’Neill. July 2015. “In the Footsteps of Gandhi.” National Geographic.

 

Individuals can resist injustice, but only in community can we do justice.

—Jim Corbett, Sanctuary as a Quaker Testimony.

 

We will aim for the transparency of heart; we will never manipulate each other’s consciences, or try to force other members of our Religious Society into our own scheme of things. No one will seek a procedural victory, or a formulation for faith and practice, or the advancement or postponement of a concern, which leaves someone else defeated.

—Seeger, Daniel E in 1985. Dailey Readings: From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Edited by Linda Hill Renfer. 1988. Page 14.

 

Three years earlier, in March 1965, Doc told the White House that, no, he could not accept an invitation to a joint session of Congress where the president was introducing the Voting Rights Act. Doc had worked tirelessly for the legislation, but his heart led him to Brown Chapel in Selma, Alabama. There he delivered a eulogy for Reverend James Joseph Reeb, a white man who had become a Quaker social worker in the Boston tenements before joining SCLC’s campaign. While marching for civil rights, Reeb was attacked and murdered on the streets of Selma.

 

Doc began the eulogy with lines from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

 

“And if he should die,

Take his body, and cut it into little stars.

He will make the face of heaven so fine

That all the world will be in love with night.

 

“These beautiful words… so eloquently describe the radiant life of James Reeb. He entered the stage of history just thirty-eight years ago, and in the brief years that he was privileged to act on this mortal stage, he played his part exceedingly well. James Reeb was martyred in the Judeo-Christian faith that all men are brothers. His death was a result of a sensitive religious spirit. His crime was that he dared to live his faith; he placed himself alongside the disinherited black brethren of this community.…

 

“Naturally, we are compelled to ask the question, Who killed James Reeb? The answer is simple and rather limited, when we think of the who. He was murdered by a few, sick, demented, and misguided men who have the strange notion that you express dissent through murder. There is another haunting, poignant, desperate question we are forced to ask this afternoon.… It is the question, What killed James Reeb? When we move from the who to the what, the blame is wide and the responsibility grows.

 

“James Reeb was murdered by the indifference of every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained glass windows.…

 

“He was murdered by the irresponsibility of every politician who has moved down the path of demagoguery, who has fed his constituents the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. He was murdered by the brutality of every sheriff and law enforcement agent who practices lawlessness in the name of law. He was murdered by the timidity of a federal government that can spend millions of dollars… in South Vietnam, yet cannot protect the lives of its own citizens seeking constitutional rights. Yes, he was even murdered by the cowardice of every Negro who tacitly accepts the evil system of segregation, who stands on the sidelines in the midst of a mighty struggle for justice.

 

“So in his death, James Reeb says something to each of us, black and white alike—says that we must substitute courage for caution, says to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered him, but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murder. His death says to us that we must work passionately, unrelentingly, to make “ the American dream a reality, so he did not die in vain.…

 

“So in spite of the darkness of this hour, we must not despair.”

 

“… We must not become bitter nor must we harbor the desire to retaliate with violence; we must not lose faith in our white brothers who happen to be misguided. Somehow we must still believe that the most misguided among them will learn to respect the dignity and worth of all human personalities.…

 

“So we thank God for the life of James Reeb. We thank God for his goodness. We thank God that he was willing to lay down his life in order to redeem the soul of our nation. So I say—so Horatio said as he stood over the dead body of Hamlet—‘Good night sweet prince: may the flight of angels take thee to thy eternal rest.’”

—Excerpt From: Tavis Smiley & David Ritz. “Death of a King.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/4lFqV.l

 

Life is meant to be lived from a Center, a divine center. Each one of us can live such a life of amazing power and peace and serenity, of integration and confidence and simplified multiplicity, on one condition—that is, if we really want to.

—Thomas R. Kelly. 1941. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page 1.

 

Let us accustom ourselves to pity the faults of men, and to be truly sorry for them, and then we shall take no pleasure in publishing them.

—Wm. Crouch. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page 3.

 

What is primary for friends is our direct experience of the Divine … the essence of Quaker spirituality is right listening.

—Irwin Abrams. 1987. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page 3.

 

… people are the most tangible evidence of God’s Kingdom and most deserve our attention.

—Arthur Rifkin. 1987. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page 4.

—??????. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page ????.

—??????. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page ????.

—??????. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page ????.

—??????. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page ????.

—??????. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page ????.

—??????. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page ????.

—??????. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page ????.

—??????. From Daily Readings From Quaker Writings Ancient & Modern. Page ????.

 

 

 

[George Fox] felt a covenantal relationship with the creatures and therefore bound to consume moderately and work with the creatures responsibly. He mentions the creatures being “in their covenant,” probably referring to God’s blessing of the creatures and promise to preserve the creation.

—Gwyn, Douglas. 2014. A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation. Quaker Press of Friends General Conference. Page xvi.

 

 

 

We have indeed dominated the earth and subdued it in selfish, exploitative, and ruinous ways. But we cannot mend our ways by pretending that we are just one of the species. We have God-given abilities that increasingly dominate life on the planet, for good or for ill.

—Gwyn, Douglas. 2014. A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation. Quaker Press of Friends General Conference. Page xvii.

 

We do not live a sustainable life alone. We are sustained by relationships that nourish our spirits and by communities that both encourage us and challenge us to live more faithfully into the measure of light we have been given.

—Gwyn, Douglas. 2014. A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation. Quaker Press of Friends General Conference. Page 19.

 

What is it to “wait upon the Lord”? It is to put one’s entire being at the disposal of the divine mind and will. It is a readiness to be God’s witness in word and action. These traits mark Quaker worship as a prophetic spirit … Quakerism is prophetic and moral, because it has a social dimension, a concern for justice and peace.

—Gwyn, Douglas. 2014. A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation. Quaker Press of Friends General Conference. Page 21-22.

 

War was then rated the highest and noblest work of kings; unwarlike rulers were despised, and three such in England’s history were deposed. If one may venture a slight anachronism, a natural death was a disgrace that no man could survive.

—Durant, Will. 1957. The Reformation. The Story of Civilization. Page 29. Refers to England in the 14th century.

 

Hence the relationship of man to God is direct, and requires no intermediary; any claim of Church or priest to be a necessary medium must be repelled. In this sense all Christians are priests, and need no ordination.

—Durant, Will. 1957. The Reformation. The Story of Civilization. Page 29. Refers to the theology of Wycliff. in the 14th century.

 

It is true that Quaker prophetic ministry has consistently augured for social progress. Quaker ministry has been the work of both women and men, rich and poor. Arising from their experience of prophetic worship and ministry, Friends became standard bearers for more equal relations between women and men, religious freedom, the abolition of slavery, racial justice, civil rights, prison reform, and more. They made these contributions not through great visions for the future, but through deep insight and stubborn faithfulness. Early and traditional Friends appear at last as much like conservatives as they do progressives. But they were neither. They advocated for a more just and peaceful society. But most of all, they stood still in the light, day by day, spoke truth from that place, and let the powers make their decisions in response. And some things have changed.

—Gwyn, Douglas. 2014. A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation. Quaker Press of Friends General Conference. Page 33.

 

Love is his name, Love is his nature, Love is his life.

—Sarah Blackborow. 1658. A Visit to the Spirit in Prison.

 

Nothing is more pathetic than people who run around in circles, “delving into the things that lie beneath” and conducting investigations into the souls of the people around them, never realizing that all you have to do is to be attentive to the power inside you and worship it sincerely To worship it is to keep it from being muddied with turmoil and becoming aimless and dissatisfied with nature—divine and human. What s divine deserves our respect because it is good; what is human deserves our affection because it is like us. And our pity too, sometimes, for its inability to tell good from bad—as terrible a blindness as the  kind that can’t tell white from black.

—Marcus Aurelius in Meditations. 2:13. A New Translation, with an Introduction, by Gregory Hayes. 2002. The Modern Library: NY, NY.

 

It’s because I take God so seriously that I can’t bring myself to believe in him. In that way, it’s really a sign of respect.

—Julia Sweeny. Quoted in Scientific American. January 2017. Page 19.

 

Quaker faith and practice is rooted in a living experience and deep understanding of Christ. But the light we may understand as Christ abides in people everywhere. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, pagans, nontheists, atheists—all have access to this transforming, enlightening, saving presence … The more attuned we become to the light within ourselves, the more we recognize it in widening varieties of people. Our belief that the same light enlightens all kinds of people invites new friendships; it calls us to mutual respect and  cooperation between women and men, different races, classes, and cultures. It prohibits us from resorting to violence—physical, verbal, emotional—to solve our conflicts.

—Gwyn, Douglas. 2014. A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation. Quaker Press of Friends General Conference. Page 9.

 

In this receptive state of mind, let the real concerns of your life emerge. Ask yourself, “What is really going on in my life?” but do not try to answer the question. Let the answer come. You can be specific: “What is happening in my relationshipos, my work, my meeting, in my own heart and mind?” And more specifically still, ask: “Is there anything here that makes me feel uncomfortable, uneasy?” As we gradually become aware of these things, we are beginning to experience the light.

—Gwyn, Douglas. 2014. A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation. Quaker Press of Friends General Conference. Page 14.

 

But people being strangers to the covenant of life with God, they eat and drink to make themselves wanton with the creatures, devouring them upon their own lusts, and living in all filthiness, loving foul ways and devouring the creation; and all this in the world, in the pollutions thereof, without ‘god; and therefore I was to shun all such.

—Fox, George. From his journal. Quoted in: Gwyn, Douglas. 2014. A Sustainable Life: Quaker Faith and Practice in the Renewal of Creation. Quaker Press of Friends General Conference. Page xv.

 

 

It controlled the prices and qualities of goods traded in by its members, and established such a reputation for integrity that the name Easterlings (men from the East), which the English gave them, was adopted by the English as meaning sterling worth, and was in this form attached to silver or pound as meaning trustworthy or real.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 618. Refers to feudalism in the High Middle Ages, and how honesty and integrity can be good for business. This story is similar to how the name Quaker Oats was not chosen because the business was owned or operated by Quakers, but because Quakers had earned such a high reputation for honesty, fair prices, and integrity, the name itself bestowed upon the product greater value.

 

You know quite well, deep within you, that there is only a single magic, a single power, a single salvation…and that is called loving. Well, then, love your suffering. Do not resist it, do not flee from it. It is your aversion that hurts, nothing else.

—HERMAN HESSE, Wer lieben kann ist glücklich. Über die Liebe.  Neff, Kristin (2011-04-19). Self-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind (p. 109). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

 

 

Such Sufis were distinguished only by their simplicity of life, their piety and quietism, very much like the early Quakers …

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 259. Note: Sufis are a mystic branch of Islam.

 

Denied access to the university and the professions, Quaker work in the world was focused on commerce. The Quaker position in favour of fixed-price trading was influential but also gained them a reputation for honesty.

—Dandelion, Pink. 2007. An Introduction to Quakerism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. Page 79.

 

Scott Baker introduced the idea of a ‘commonwealth’ at his factory, whereby all those working there had a share of the decision-making and the profits, but in general Quakers have moved away from such direct involvement with industrial capitalism.

—Dandelion, Pink. 2007. An Introduction to Quakerism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. Page 79.

 

The light, which light is the life in Christ,

will also show you your condition, what is in your heart;

loving it, the light will change you and purify you,

as you repent, carrying your cross.

Believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.

—John 12:36

 

…the heart of all mysticism is a sense of the insufficiency of a merely historical faith.

— Yungblut, John. 1974. Quakerism of the Future: Mystical, Prophetic, & Evangelical. Pamphlet 194. Pendle Hill.

 

 

 

The mystical faculty, whether developed or not, resides in all men and women by virtue of our shared humanity.

—Yungblut, John. 1974. Quakerism of the Future: Mystical, Prophetic, & Evangelical. Pamphlet 194. Pendle Hill.

 

Coming of age amidst this uncertainty was a young man from a Puritan family in Leicestershire, George Fox. Born in 1624, Fox was by his own account an unusually solemn, pious youth. He was tormented by the claims of the competing groups around him, convinced that if he made the wrong choice in faith, a just and jealous God would damn him. So he embarked on a kind of spiritual pilgrimage, seeking out both clergy and laypeople with reputations for piety, yet, as he put it, “none spoke to my condition.” 

Fox was certain that God spoke directly to him. As he described it later: “when all my hopes . . . were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could tell what to do, then, Oh then, I heard a voice which said, ‘There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition.’”     

—(2011-01-25). Quaker Writings: An Anthology, 1650-1920 (Penguin Classics) . Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

 

By the time of George Fox’s death in 1691, Quakerism’s survival was no longer in question. In 1689, Parliament instituted religious freedom. While Quaker scruples against bearing arms, swearing oaths, and paying tithes to the established church still caused problems, Quaker worship was now legal. Second- and third-generation Friends, generally more prosperous than most of their neighbors, found themselves respectable. On    (2011-01-25). Quaker Writings: An Anthology, 1650-1920 (Penguin Classics) . Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

 

Paradoxically, the era of quietism was also one of innovation in Quaker attempts to influence the larger world. Although war in Pennsylvania ended peace with Native Americans, Friends shifted their attention to attempting to defend Indian rights. English Friends became pioneers in humane treatment of the mentally ill. English and American Friends were at the forefront of prison reform movements. And Quakers were at the heart of the eighteenth-century antislavery movement. By 1784, Friends had ruled that no member could own a slave and that Friends who did own slaves must free them unconditionally. American Friends John Woolman and Anthony Benezet are recognized as central to eighteenth-century antislavery, while British Friends were at the heart of the movements to abolish first the slave trade in 1807 and then slavery in the British Empire in 1833.    (2011-01-25). Quaker Writings: An Anthology, 1650-1920 (Penguin Classics) . Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

 

As evangelical Friends innovated and transformed themselves, a liberal Quaker renaissance was emerging in the late nineteenth century. It had two sources. One was the Hicksite wing of American Quakerism. While rejecting revivalism and pastors, American Hicksites were receptive to other changes, significantly relaxing the rules on dress, amusements, and marriage to non-Quakers. By the 1880s, most identified themselves as liberal Protestants and reached out to Unitarians and other religious liberals. A parallel movement began in the London yearly meeting in the 1880s. A turning point came at a conference in Manchester in 1895, after which it was clear that liberal Friends would have the upper hand. In turn, by the early twentieth century, a small but influential group of liberal American Gurneyite Friends, led by Haverford College professor Rufus Jones, had emerged.    (2011-01-25). Quaker Writings: An Anthology, 1650-1920 (Penguin Classics) . Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

 

While differing on some issues, these liberals shared certain fundamental views about Christianity and Quakerism. They embraced modernist, critical study of the Bible. They emphasized the love and mercy of God, envisioning the death of Christ not as an atoning sacrifice but as an ultimate act of love. They became adherents of the Social Gospel, arguing that Quakerism required social activism on behalf of the poor and disadvantaged. While embracing modern life, however, they also embraced the Quaker past.    (2011-01-25). Quaker Writings: An Anthology, 1650-1920 (Penguin Classics) . Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Lao Tzu

 

As soon as the world regards something as beautiful,

Ugliness simultaneously becomes apparent

As soon as the world regards something as good,

Evil simultaneously becomes apparent

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching.  2.

 

 

The guidance of the Universal One

Of natural wholeness is therefore:

Empty your mind.

Enjoy good health.

Weaken your ambitions.

Strengthen your essense.

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching.  3.

 

Loss is not as bad as wanting more.

—Lao Tzu

 

Thirty spokes together make a wheel for a cart.

      It is the empty space in the center

      Which enables it to be used.

Mold clay into a vessel;

      It is the emptiness within

      That creates the usefulness of the vessel.

Cut out doors and windows in a house;

      It is the empty space inside

      That creates the usefulness of the house.

Thus, what we have may be something substantial,

      But its usefulness lies in the unoccupied, empty space.

The substance of your body is enlivened

      By maintaining the part of you that is unoccupied.

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching.  11.

 

Many words lead one nowhere.

Many pursuits in different directions

            Bring only exhaustion.

Rather, embrace the subtle essence within.

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching.  5.

 

 

 

He, too, dissolves all consciousness of self

            and lives as the universe

By putting himself behind others

            he finds himself foremost

By not considering his own personal ends,

            his personal life is accomplished

He finds himself safe, secure and preserved.

Because he does not hold a narrow concept of self,

            his true nature can fully merge

            with the one universal life.

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching.  7.

 

They adapted themselves to a circumstance

            like melting ice.

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching.  15.

 

To know constant renewal is to have achieved clarity.

If one does not know constant self renewal

            and thus acts foolishly,

            disaster will soon occur.

Knowing constancy in renewing oneself,

            one can extend the duration of one’s life.

If one can deeply understand the extension of life’s duration,

            one is able to contain all things within oneself.

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching.  16.

 

Everyone seems so clever and self-assured,

I alone appear unlearned and original,

            insistent upon a different direction

            than other people pursue.

I alone value taking my sustenance

            from the Mother.

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching.  20.

 

Because he does not flaunt his brightness,

            he becomes enlightened.

Because he is not self-important,

            he becomes illustrious.

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching.  22.

 

One of natural, integral virtue

   Is good at helping all people impartially.

Thus, no one is abandoned.

Because he is good at protecting and preserving all things,

   nothing is ever thrown away.

This is called “embodying the light of the subtle truth.”

—Lao Tzu. Tao The Ching.  27.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One with wholeness of virtue

      has an unconditioned mind.

He regards the mind of all being

      As his own mind.

      He is kind to the kind.

      He is also kind to the unkind,

      For the subtle nature of the universe is kind.

—Lao Tzu. Tao Teh Ching. 49. Translated by Hua-Ching Ni. Seven Star Communications: Los Angeles, California. 1979.

 

 

 

Only by cultivating the virtue of wholeness

      And by returning injury with kindness

      can there be true harmony.

Therefore, one of deep virtue always gives

      Without expecting gratitude.

Although the subtle Way of the universe

      Holds no favoritism or partiality,

      It always supports those who are naturally virtuous.

—Lao Tzu. Tao Teh Ching. 59. Translated by Hua-Ching Ni. Seven Star Communications: Los Angeles, California. 1979.

 

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.

—Buddha.


Stoicism

 

… on the day on which he becomes proof against pleasure he also becomes proof against pain.

—Seneca. On a Happy Life.

 

… nothing is good except what leads to fairness, and self-control, and courage, and free will. And nothing bad except what does the opposite.

—Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. 8:1.

 

Five years down there at the least. I’m leaving the world of technology and entering the world of Epictetus.

—James B. Stockdale, after he was ejected from his fighter plane after being shot down in Vietnam, and floated down to his enemies, surely to be captured and tortured. From How to be a Stoic.

 

Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.

—Epictetus. Discourses and Selected Writings. VIII.

 

When a man is prey to his emotions, he is not his own master, but lies at the mercy of fortune.

—Dutch philosopher Baruch de Spinoza. Quoted in: Ayan, Steve. January/February 2015. “And Live Happily Ever After.” Scientific American. Page 49.

 

The secret to having it all is knowing that you already do.

—Unknown. From The Art of Ancient Knowledge Facebook page.

 

If you conquer yourself, then you will conquer the world.

—Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho. Quoted in: Baumeister, Roy F.  April 2015. “Conquer yourself, conquer the world.” Scientific American.

 

If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor; if according to people’s opinions, you will never be rich.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter XVI. Penguin Classics. Page 65.

 

...we must not get rid of poverty, but of the opinion of poverty, and then we shall be happy.

—Epictetus. 108 AD.  The Discourses.

 

He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.
—Socrates 

Don’t let your imagination be crushed by life as a whole. Don’t try to picture everything bad that could possibly happen. Stick with the situation at hand, and ask, “Why is this so unbearable? Why can’t I endure it?” You’ll be embarrassed to answer.

—Marcus Aurelius. Meditations.

 

Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.

—Eckhart Tolle.

 

Nothing gets us into greater troubles than our subservience to common rumour, and our habit of thinking that those things are best which are most generally received as such, of taking many counterfeits for truly good things, and of living not by reason but by imitation of others…

—Seneca in On a Happy Life

 

In a great crush of people, when the crowd presses upon itself, no one can fall without drawing someone else down upon him, and those who go before cause the destruction of those who follow them.  You may observe the same thing in human life: no one can merely go wrong by himself, but he must become both the cause and adviser of another’s wrong doing.

—Seneca in On a Happy Life

 

I am a soldier, and am unable to weep or to exclaim on fortune’s fickleness.

—Shakespeare in Henry VI

 

Meanwhile, I follow nature, which is a point upon which every one of the Stoic philosophers are agreed: true wisdom consists in not departing from nature and in molding our conduct according to her laws and model.

—Seneca in On a Happy Life

 

As a prokopton I pledge to follow these precepts and rules of conduct:

I. The most important thing in my life is the practice of virtue, in order to live in accordance to nature.

“Pleasure is not the reward or the cause of virtue, but comes in addition to it; nor do we choose virtue because she gives us pleasure, but she gives us pleasure also if we choose her.” (Seneca, On the Happy Life, IX)

II. I will not be discouraged by setbacks in my practice. I will get up in the morning and try again.

“When faced with anything painful or pleasurable, anything bringing glory or disrepute, realize that the crisis is now, that the Olympics have started, and waiting is no longer an option; that the chance for progress, to keep or lose, turns on the events of a single day.” (Epictetus, Enchiridion, 51.2)

III. I will do my best to behave ethically, regardless of the popularity of my opinions and actions.

“I will do nothing because of public opinion, but everything because of conscience.” (Seneca, On the Happy Life, XX)

IV. I will be concerned for the welfare of all humanity, regardless of people’s gender, ethnicity, religion, or political persuasion.

“Labor not as one who is wretched, nor yet as one who would be pitied or admired; but direct your will to one thing only: to act or not to act as social reason requires.” (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, IX.12)

V. I will reject nationalism and any other kind of parochial view of humanity. My creed is that of cosmopolitanism.

“I will view all lands as though they belong to me, and my own as though they belonged to all mankind.” (Seneca, On the Happy Life, XX)

VI. I will refrain to the best of my abilities from judging people’s actions, especially without forming a good opinion as to their motivations.

“Someone bathes in haste; don’t say he bathes badly, but in haste. Someone drinks a lot of wine; don’t say he drinks badly, but a lot. Until you know their reasons, how do you know that their actions are vicious?” (Epictetus, Enchiridion, 45)

VII. I will cultivate true friendships because they are important for a eudaimonic life.

“Ponder for a long time whether you shall admit a given person to your friendship; but when you have decided to admit him, welcome him with all your heart and soul. Speak as boldly with him as with yourself.” (Seneca, Letters to Lucilius, III.2)

VIII. I will treat everyone kindly and with respect.

“I will be agreeable with my friends, gentle and mild to my foes: I will grant pardon before I am asked for it, and will meet the wishes of honorable men half way.” (Seneca, On the Happy Life, XX)

IX. I will do my best to contribute to discourse about important matters, while at the same time avoiding to lecture people or become overbearing.

“Be silent for the most part, or, if you speak, say only what is necessary and in a few words. Talk, but rarely, if occasion calls you, but do not talk of ordinary things — of gladiators, or horse-races, or athletes, or of meats or drinks — these are topics that arise everywhere — but above all do not talk about men in blame or compliment or comparison. If you can, turn the conversation of your company by your talk to some fitting subject; but if you should chance to be isolated among strangers, be silent.” (Epictetus, Enchiridion, 33)

X. I will follow a simple, largely vegetarian diet, because it is healthy (and thus helps the practice of virtue), it has a lower impact on the environment, and it reduces needless pain and suffering in the world.

“Just as one should choose inexpensive food over expensive food, and food that is easy to obtain over food that is hard to obtain, one should choose food suitable for a human being over food that isn’t. And what is suitable for us is food from things which the earth produces: the various grains and other plants can nourish a human being quite well. Also nourishing is food from domestic animals which we don’t slaughter.” (Musonius Rufus, Lectures, 18a)

XI. I will cultivate an attitude of indifference toward material possessions.

“Whatever I may possess, I will neither hoard it greedily nor squander it recklessly.” (Seneca, On the Happy Life, XX)

XII. I will adopt a reasonably minimalist life style.

“On the whole, we can judge whether various household furnishings are good or bad by determining what it takes to acquire them, use them, and keep them safe. Things that are difficult to acquire, hard to use, or difficult to guard are inferior; things that are easy to acquire, are a pleasure to use, and are easily guarded are superior.” (Musonius Rufus, Lectures, XX.3)

XIII. I will remind myself that just as we ought to endure the blows that Fortuna delivers, so we ought to enjoy the gifts she bestows.

“It does good also to take walks out of doors, that our spirits may be raised and refreshed by the open air and fresh breeze: sometimes we gain strength by driving in a carriage, by travel, by change of air, or by social meals and a more generous allowance of wine: at times we ought to drink even to intoxication, not so as to drown, but merely to dip ourselves in wine: for wine washes away troubles and dislodges them from the depths of the mind, and acts as a remedy to sorrow as it does to some diseases.” (Seneca, On the Tranquility of Mind, XVII)

 

The Stoic Pledge from Massimo at https://howtobeastoic.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/the-stoic-pledge/

 

 

The highest good is immortal: it knows no ending, and does not admit of either satiety or regret: for a right-thinking mind never alters or becomes hateful to itself, nor do the best things ever undergo any change, but pleasure dies at the very moment when it charms us most—it has no great scope, and therefore it soon cloys and wearies us, and fades away as soon as its first impulse is over.  Indeed, we cannot depend upon anything whose nature is to change.

—Seneca in On a Happy Life

 

To love only what happens, what was destined. No greater harmony.

—Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. 7:57.

 

Look at who they really are, the people whose approval you long for, and what their minds are really like. Then you won’t blame the ones who make mistakes they can’t help, and you won’t feel a need for their approval.

—Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. 7:62.

 

Joy for humans lies in human actions. Human actions: kindness to others, contempt for the senses, the interrogation of appearances, observation of nature and of events in nature.

—Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. 8:26.

 

… pain is neither unbearable nor unending, as long as you keep in mind its limits and don’t magnify them in your imagination.

—Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. 7:64.

 

It is weak and silly to say you cannot bear what it is your fate to be required to bear.

—Charlotte Bronte. 1947. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 30.

 

What follows from this? That you should have a double thought, like the man of whom we have spoken, and that if you act externally with men in conformity with your rank, you should recognize, by a more secret but truer thought, that you have nothing naturally superior to them. If the public thought elevates you above the generality of men, let the other humble you and hold you in a perfect equality with all mankind, for this is your natural condition.

—Blaise Pascal. 1660. Discourses on the Condition of the Great. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 36.

 

There is not wealth enough in the whole world to satisfy gamblers.

—Somadeva. 1070. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016.

 

Beware good luck: fattening hogs think themselves fortunate.

—German proverb.

 

Has anyone supposed it lucky to be born? I hasten to inform him or her it is just as lucky to die, and I know it.

—Walt Whiman. 1855. Discourses on the Condition of the Great. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 147.

 

 

This world is a zero; on its own, it’s worth nothing; joined to heaven, a great deal. Indifference to its variety constitutes good sense—the wise are never surprised. Our life is arranged like a play, everything will be sorted out in the end. Take care, then, to end it well.

—Baltasar Gracian. 1647. The Pocket Oracle and Art of Prudence. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 171.

 

In misfortune we usually regain the peace that we wree robbed of through the fear of that very misfortune.

—Marie von Ebner-Eschenback. 1880. Quoted in Lapham’s Quarterly. IX:3. Summer 2016. Page 200.

 

 

 

Society


Social Harmony

 

Human sociability is not a historical or cultural acquisition, but something hardwired into human nature.

—Francis Fukuyama in The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution.

 

…the reason you should do things for other people, at bottom, is selfish. There’s no real difference between selfish and selfless if you understand how the world works.

—Clinton, William Jefferson. April 8, 2013. “Bill Clinton.” The Colbert Report at the Clinton Global Initiative University Meetings. Comedy Central.

 

“Group selection,” he said, “brings abut virtue, and—this is an oversimplification, but—individual selection, which is competing with it, creates sin.  That, in a nutshell, is an explanation of the human condition.

—Howard W. French quoting E.O. Wilson. “E.O. Wilson’s Theory of Everything.”  The Atlantic.  November, 2011. Pages 70-82.

 

Both society and conflict have existed for as long as there have been human beings, because human beings are by nature both social and competitive animals.

—Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: NY, NY. Page 25.

 

“Within groups, the selfish are more likely to succeed,” Wilson told me in a telephone conversation.  “But in competition between groups, groups of altruists are more likely to succeed.  In addition, it is clear that groups of humans proselytize other groups and accept them as allies, and that that tendency is much favored by group selection.”  Taking in newcomers and forming alliances had become a fundamental human trait, he added, because “it is a good way to win.”

—Howard W. French quoting E.O. Wilson. “E.O. Wilson’s Theory of Everything.”  The Atlantic.  November, 2011. Pages 70-82.

 

Without customs and shared beliefs to breathe life into democracy and the market, we are reduced to the Darwinian struggle of atomistic and selfish actors that many on the left rightfully see as inhuman.

—Mario Vargas Llosa.  November 8, 2011.  “Literature and the Search for Liberty.”  The Wall Street Journal.  A19.

 

The biggest cultural predictor that you will be trusting, trustworthy, generous, fair, and so on is the extent to which you come from a market-oriented society. People from traditional societies, from tribal societies, from non- or pre-market societies, and from socialist societies are not nice.

—Brennan, Jason [interviewee]. November 2, 2014. Rob Montz Interviews Jason Brennan About Why Capitalism Is Good and Socialism Sucks. Rob Montz [interviewer]. Accessed November 7, 2014 at http://reason.com/blog/2014/11/02/rob-montz-interviews-jason-brennan-about.

 

Thank God that he made you so much abler, stronger, to help your brother; but take care lest your poorer brother do not someday have to help you, when you are crippled, or ill, or disabled.

—Dr. Keil of Aurora commune.  1856.  Reference: Charles Nordhoff.  American Utopias.  1875.

 

“We are as prosperous and as happy as any one; we have here all we need.”

As all work for the common good, so all are supplied from the common stores.  I asked the purchasing agent about the book-keeping of the place; he replied, “As there is no trading, few accounts are needed.  Much of what we raise is consumed on the place, and of what the people us no account is kept.  Thus, if a family needs flour, it goes freely to the mill and gets what it requires.  If butter, it goes to the store in the same way.  We need only to keep account of what we sell of our own products, and of what we buy from abroad, and these accounts check each other.  When we make money, we invest in land.”  Further, I was told that tea, coffee, and sugar are roughly allowanced to each family.

Each family has either a house, or apartments in one of the large houses.  Each has a garden patch, and keeps chickens; and every year a number of pigs are set apart for each household, according to its number.  These are fed with the leavings of the table, and are fattened and killed in the winter, and salted down.  Fresh beef is not commonly used.  If any one needs vegetables, he can get them in the large garden.  There seemed to be an abundance of good plain food everywhere.

In fact there is little room for poetry or for the imagination in the life of Aurora.  What is not directly useful is sternly left out.  There are no carpets, even in Dr. Keil’s house; no sofa or easy chairs...no books, except a Bible and hymn-book, and a few medical works; no pictures—nothing to please the taste; no pretty out-look, for the house lies somewhat low down.  Such was the house of the founder and president of the community; and the other houses were neither better nor much worse.  There is evidently plenty of scrubbing in-doors, plenty of plain cooking, plenty of every thing that is absolutely necessary to support life—and nothing superfluous.

—Charles Nordhoff.  American Utopias.  1875.  This passage concerned the Aurora commune.

 

When our corn is getting ripe, our young people watch with anxiety for the signal to pull roasting ears, as none dare tough them till the proper time. When the corn is fit to use, another great ceremony takes place, where feasting and returning thanks to the great spirit for giving us corn.

—Blackhawk. 1955. The Autobiography of Black Hawk.

 

…the human capacity for cooperation is double-edged. It is not only the foundation of social trust and peaceful living but also what makes for the most successful acts of aggression between one group and another. Like chimpanzees, though with more deadly refinement, human beings are distinguished by their ability to harness the virtues of altruism and solidarity, and the skills of rational reflection, to the end of making brutal and efficient warfare against rival groups. What modern society needs, therefore, is not more cooperation but better-directed forms of cooperation.

—Seabright, Paul. 2004. In the Company of Strangers: A Modern History of Economic Life.

 

In our view, the competitive edge that led to the rise of the ants as a world-dominant group is their highly developed, self-sacrificial colonial existence. It would appear that socialism really works under some circumstances. Karl Marx just had the wrong species.

—Holldobler, Bert and Edward O. Wilson. 1994. Journal to the Ants. The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.

 

The history of philosophy is essentially an account of the efforts great men have made to avert social disintegration by building up natural moral sanctions to take the place of the supernatural sanctions which they themselves have destroyed.

—Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company.

 

Socrates proposed to prove that if a man were intelligent, he would see that those same qualities which make a man a good citizen—justice, wisdom, temperance, courage—are also the best means to individual advantage and development.

—Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company.

 

TO understand Plato one must remember the Pythagorean motif: harmony is the heart of Plato’s metaphysics, of his psychological and educational theory, of his ethics and his politics. To feel such harmony as there is, and to make such harmony as may be,—that to Plato is the meaning of philosophy.

—Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company.

 

Breathing also reminds us of our collective dependence on our fellow human beings. [A] great 20th century physicist mathematically demonstrated that with each breath we inhale at least one molecule breathed by virtually every human being—indeed, every living being, human or not—who has ever lived.

—Muesse, Mark. “Chapter 6: Breathing—Finding a Focus For Attention.” Practicing Mindfulness: An Introduction to Meditation. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company.

 

If there is any lesson which shines out through all the kaleidoscope of history, it is that a political system is doomed to early death if its charter offer no provision and facility for its own reform. Plasticity is king. Human ideals change, and leave nations, institutions, even gods, in their wake. “Law and order in a state are” not “the cause of every good”;[42] they are the security of goods attained, but they may be also the hindrance of goods conceived.

—Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company.

 

Truth is a social value, and has its justification only in that; if untruth prove here and there of social value, then untruth is just.[45]

—Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company.

 

Justice means, for politics at least, that each member of society is minding his natural business, is doing that for which he is fitted by his own natural capacity. Injustice is the encroachment of one part on another; justice is the efficient functioning of each part. Justice, then, is social coördination and harmony.

—Durant, Will. 1917. Philosophy and the Social Problem. The Macmillan Company.

 


 

History of Civilization

 

Climate did not draw civilization to Greece; probably it has never made a civilization anywhere.

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 3.

 

It is as difficult to begin a civilization without robbery as it is to maintain it without slaves.

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 10.

 

A nation is born stoic and dies epicurean.

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 21.

 

Much of the social history of the Western world over the past three decades has involved replacing what worked with what sounded good.

—Thomas Sowell

 

Civilization is always older than we think; and under whatever sod we tread are the bones of men and women who also worked and loved, wrote songs and made beautiful things, but whose names and very being have been lost in the careless flow of time.

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 27.

 

Few nations have been able to reach intellectual refinement and esthetic sensitivity without sacrificing so much in virility and unity that their wealth presents and irresistible temptation to impecunious barbarians. Around every Rome hover the Gauls; around every Athens some Macedon.

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 470.

 

History does not repeat itself, save perhaps in terms of the emotions that drive human beings to behave in certain ways: love, anger, fear. And thus there are certain patterns of human behavior, but history never repeats itself in terms of events. Each event is unique, as is each era in human history, and as is each new interpretation of the past that arises within each era. Historical interpretation is always linked to specific eras. Always try…to think of history as neither a single straight line or as a circle…but instead as a spiral…We are separate from all past events and thus unique, but we are also linked to them in a multidimensional time-stream of which we are a part.

—Stoler, Mark A. 2012. The Skeptics Guide to American History [lectures]. Lecture 24. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company: Chantilly, Virgnia.

 


 

Religion

 

The gods we stand by are the gods we need and can use, the gods whose demands on us are reinforcements of our demands on ourselves and on one another.

—James, Williams. 1902. The Varieties of Religious Experience.

 

I believe that the practice of compassion and love—a genuine sense of brotherhood and sisterhood—is the universal religion. It does not matter whether you are a Buddhist or Christian, Moslem or Hindu, or whether you practice religion at all. What matters is your feelings of oneness with humankind.

—Fourteenth Dalai Lama. 2002. How to Practice The Way to a Meaningful Life. Page 12.

 

All religions are born in the mind of a crazy person. It is the job of reasonable people to take those nuggets of lunacy and transform them into something useful for society.

—F. Bailey Norwood

 

The Trump presidency has convinced me that we are living in a post-Christian America … I think the fact that so many people voted for [Donald Trump] means that there aren’t that many good Christian people left in rural America. God is gone from these people.

—Jason Isbell in Rolling Stone. August 10, 2017. Page 26.

 

Religions are not for separating men from one another; they are meant to bind them.

—Gandhi, Mahatma. Quoted in: Effendi, Rena and Tom O’Neill. July 2015. “In the Footsteps of Gandhi.” National Geographic.

 

Man is quite insane. He wouldn’t know how to create a maggot, and he creates gods by the dozen.

—Michel de Montaigne 1533-1592.

 

In all our dealings we are not only I and you but also he or she; in other words, an agent in the eyes of the spectator, an object of judgment, including judgment made by our selves. And this too is the inescapable result of the I-You relationship. In seeing myself as a you in your eyes, I am lifted outside myself, to adopt the attitude of the spectator: and I demand the same of. You. The impartial spectator comes into being as a kind of shadow of our relation; he is “the third who walks always beside you,” in whose eyes we are both being judged. This sentiment too “overreaches” itself, and points to the horizon of our world. Nor should this surprise us. For the sense that we are judged in all our dealings is the heart of religion.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 81.

 

… faith is hard; and when the question “why” most troubles us, we press more firmly on the snake that wriggles underfoot.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 191.

 

But faith is not the same thing as religion. It is an attitude to the world, one that refuses to rest content with the contingency of nature.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 192.

 

Many people who might call themselves agnostics or even atheists live the life of faith, or something like it—in an attitude of openness toward meanings, recognizing the sacramental moments, and giving thanks, after their fasion, for the gift of the world. Yet they adhere to no religion. So what difference does religion make? The heart of religion is ritual, and it is a mark of religion that its rituals are meticulous.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 192.

 

The afterlife, conceived as a condition that succeeds death in time, is an absurdity. … Religion, as I have been considering it, does not describe the natural world but the Lebenswelt, the world of subjects, using allegories and myths in order to remind us at the deepest level of who and what we are. And God is the all-knowing subject who welcomes us as we pass into that other domain, beyond the veil of nature. … The life of prayer rescues us from the Fall, and prepares us for a death that we can meaningfully see as a redemption, since it unites us with the soul of the world.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 198.

—Scruton, Roger. 2014. The Soul of the World. Page 81.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“How happy are the astrologers!” exclaimed Guicciardini, “who are believed if they tell one truth to a hundred lies, while other people lose all credit if they tell one lie to a hundred truths.

—Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 528.

 

Most men are harassed and buffeted by life, and crave supernatural assistance when natural forces fail them; they gratefully accepts faiths that give dignity and hope to their existence, and order and meaning to the world; they could hardly condone so patiently the careless brutalities of nature, the bloodshed and chicaneries of history, or their own tribulations and bereavements, if they could not trust that these are parts of an inscrutable but divine design. A cosmos without known cause or fate is an intellectual prison; we long to believe that the great drama has a just author and a noble end.

—Durant, Will. 1957. The Reformation. The Story of Civilization. Page 3.

 

Averring his inability to accept either popular Christianity or scholastic theism, [William] James, toward the close of his book, writes: “Does God really exist? How does he exist? What is he? Are so many irrelevant questions. Not God, but life, more life, a larger, richer, more satisfying life is, in the last analysis, the end of religion. The love of life, at any and every level of development, is the religious impulse.

—Epstein, Joseph. September 27-28, 2014. “Human Nature and the Fruits of Faith.” Review of William James 1902 book, Varieties of Religious Experience. The Wall Street Journal. C13.

 

There are no living Christians today. I know this because Jesus said, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and will then repay every man according to his deeds. Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom,” (Matthew 16:27, 28) so if you believe in the Bible, then you believe the world has already ended. It is not only impossible that you are a living Christian today, but it is impossible that you exist.

—Anonymous

 

What is the difference between Noah’s flood and a school shooter?

—Anonymous

 

 

Gods were assimilated with humans, humans with animals and plants, the transcendent with the immanent, and the visible with the invisible. This was not simply self-indulgent make-believe, but part of the endless human endeavor to endow the smallest details of life with meaning. Ritual, it has been said, creates a controlled environment in which, for a while, we lay aside the inescapable flaws of our mundane existence. Yet by so doing we paradoxically become acutely aware of them. After the ceremony, when we return to daily life, we can recall our experience of the way things ought to be. Ritual is therefore the creation of fallible human beings who can never fully realize their ideals. 

—Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood.

 

Historians of religion tell us that absolutely anything can become a symbol of the divine, and that such epiphanies occur in every area of psychological, economic, spiritual, and social life.

—Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood.

 

Yet, whenever a fundamentalist movement is attacked, either with violence or in a media campaign, it almost invariably becomes more extreme. It shows malcontents that their fear is well-grounded: the secular world is really out to destroy them.

—Armstrong, Karen. Fields of Blood.

 

Religious stories establish a secret spirit police.

—Brian Boyd.  2009.  On The Origin of Stories.  Page 64.

 

Shankar Vedantam

Don's lawyer said that if members believed the angels were real, that was on them. As Don told me many years later--

Don Lowry

People believed what they wanted to believe. You cannot dissuade them. Most members believed the angels lived forever in a never-never-land called retreat. We told them they live forever. They never grew old. Does that tell you anything? Huh?

Shankar Vedantam

Wait, you're surprised that they believed you?

Don Lowry

Yeah. Yeah. And it helped them. I mean, it made them happy. So, big deal.

—From This American Life. Episode 571. “The Heart Wants What It Wants.” Don Lowry was a  con-man who posed as a woman establishing a distant relationship with men through letters, in return for payment. He became a millionaire letting people believe what they wanted to believe. The “angels” here were not heavenly angels but the women corresponding to men.

 

I don’t think any of us deserve to go to heaven…I think the only way any of us get into heaven is God’s grace.

—Rick Warren, being interviewed by Jake Tapper on This Week (ABC).  April 8, 2012.

 

Question from audience: … why do we need a god?

Answer from Armstrong: We probably don’t. Buddhists do fine without one. A god, again, is an example of how inept our theological thinking is. I don’t think we do need a god, but some people find it helpful. God is only a symbol of transcendence. That’s where our theology is weak. … We hear about god for the first time, very often, when we first learn about Santa Claus, and over the years our idea of Santa Claus develops … our religion gets stuck at this rather infantile level. … I think that transcendence is a fact of life, but transcendence … means something we can never describe or know.

—Armstrong, Karen. October 12, 2014. “Karen Armstrong on Religion and the History of Violence.” Intelligence Squared.

 

Jesus copied Pythagoras

Pythagoras (570 – 495 BC) was said to have

     been the son of the god Apollo

     his mother was called “virgin”

     said to have returned from the dead, 3 days after his death

     said to have appeared two places at once

     the ability to control waters and the wind

     the ability to walk on water

     preached that you should love your enemies

     believed that possessions got in the way of truths

     gathered disciples and lived in a communal lifestyle

Source: Mlodinow, Leonard. 2002. Euclid’s Window. Free Press.

 

… in Greece  he became a god of wine, the nourisher and guardian of wine; he gban as a goddess of fertility, became a god of intoxication, and ended as a son of god dying to save mankind … the Titans captured him, cut his body into pieces, and boiled them in a caldron. Athena, like another Trelawney, saved the heart, and carried it to Zeus; Zeus gave it to Semele, who, impregnated with it, gave to the god a second birth under the name of Dionysus.

Mourning for Dionysus’ death, and joyful celebration of his resurrection formed the basis of a ritual extremely widespread among the Greeks. In the springtime, when the vine was bursting into blossom, Greek women went up into the hills to meet the reborn god. For two days they drank without restraint, and like our less religious bacchanalians, considered him witless who would not lose his wits. They marched in wild procession, led by the Maenads, or mad women, devoted to Dionysus; they listened tensely to the story they knew so well, of the suffering, death, and resurrection of their god; and as they drank and danced they fell into a frenzy in which all bonds were loosed. The height and center of their ceremony was to seize upon a goat, a bull, sometimes a man (seeing in them incarnations of the god); to rear the live victom to pieces in commemoration of Dionysus’ dismemberment, then to drink the blood and eat the flesh in a sacred communion whereby, as they thought, the god would enter them and possess their souls. In that divine enthusiasm they were convinced that they and the god became one in a mystic and triumphant union … and knew that now they would never die.

… the rulers of Athens tried to keep the cult at a distance, but failed; all they could do was to adopt Dionysus into Olumpus, Hellenize and humanize him … For a while they won Dionysus over to Apollo, but in the end Apollo yielded to Dionysus heir and conqueror, Christ.

…But through all forms the basic idea of the mysteries remained the same; as the seed is born again, so may the dead have renewed life; and not merely the dreary, shadowy existence of Hades, but a life of happiness and peace. When almost everything else in Greek religion had passed away, this consoling hope, reunited in Alexandria with that Egyptian belief in immortality from which the Greek had been derived, gave to Christianity the weapon from which to conquer the western world.

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 187-188.

 

It was not merely that the average Greek accepted miracle stories—of Theseus rising from the dead to fight at Marathon, or of Dionysus changing water into wine: such stories appear among every people, and are part of the forgivable poetry with which imagination brightens the common life.

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 195.

 

Superstition is one of the most stable of social phenomena; it remains almost unchanged through centuries and civilizations, not only in its bases but even in its formulas

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 197.

 

Mr Johnson’s own research into 186 preindustrial cultures found that moralising religious beliefs were more prevalent in larger and more complex societies; these were more likely to be policed, use money and pay taxes. Others have noticed that religious kibbutzim in Israel are thriving, whereas secular socialist ones are in decline. The fact that moralising religious beliefs are more prevalent in more complex societies does not prove that one caused the other. But the striking number and variety of examples add credence to Mr Johnson’s theory.

The Economist. January 23, 2016. “Religion and psychology: In the hands of an angry God.” Review of book God is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human by Dominic Johnson.

 

Learning religion is part of human nature. Learning science is a battle against human nature.

—Dominic Johnson, quoted in: The Economist. January 23, 2016. “Religion and psychology: In the hands of an angry God.” Review of book God is Watching You: How the Fear of God Makes Us Human by Dominic Johnson.

 

In ancient Greece, members of the Dionysian cult would demonstrate their religious devotion by tearing apart the flesh of a live animal, and then eating it raw, believing the body of Dionysus was present in the flesh, and his blood was in the wine they drank. Scripture from this cult states, "He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood will not be made one with me, or I with him, and he shall not know salvation." This verse probably sounds family to many Christians.(A1) The idea of food being the substance of a god has a long history. Why did they do this? Dionysus was the god of many things, including wine, ritual madness, and ecstasy. So, I guess if you want to curry the favor of Dionysus, you would get drunk and go mad.

—From one of my lectures. Quote taken from: Albala, Ken. Food: A Cultural Culinary History [lectures]. The Great Courses. The Teaching Company.

 

 

 

 

The findings at Gobekli Tepe suggest that we have the story backward—that it was actually the need to build a sacred site that first obliged hunter-gatherers to organize themselves as a workforce, to spend long periods of time in one place, to secure a stable food supply, and eventually to invent agriculture.

—Elif Batuman.  December 19 & 26, 2011.  “The Sanctuary.”  The New Yorker magazine.

 

In spite of a hell so horrid even in description, what crowds of abandoned criminals fill our cities! … Are condemned thieves and murders either atheists or skeptics? Those wretches believe in a God … Does the most religious father, in advising his son, speak to him of a vindictive God? … His constitution destroyed by debauchery, his fortune ruined by gambling, the contempt of society—these are the motives that the father employes.

—D’Holback. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation.  Part IX.  The Age of Voltaire. Page 705.

 

 

I know nothing so indecent, and so injurious to religion, as these vague declamations against reason on the part of some theologians. One would say, to hear them, that men cannot enter into the bosom of Christianity except as a flock of beasts enters a stable, and that one has to renounce commone sense to embrace our religion or to persist in it. To establish such principles, I repleat, is to reduce man to the level of the brute, and place falsehood and truth on an equal footing.

—Diderot. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation.  Part IX.  The Age of Voltaire. Page 639.

 

 

—Diderot. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation.  Part IX.  The Age of Voltaire. Page 639.

 

But we must think of the superstitions, apocalypses, idolatery, and credulity of medieval Christians, Moslems, and Jews with the same sympathy with which we should think of their hardships, their poverty, and their griefs. The flight of thousands of mean and women from “the world, the flesh, and the Devil” into monasteries and nunneries suggests not so much their cowardice as the extreme disorder, insecurity, and violence of medieval life. It seemed obvious that the savage impulses of men could be controlled only by a supernaturally sanctioned moral code. Then, above all, the world needed a creed that would balance tribulation with hope, soften bereavement with solace, redeem the prose of toil with the poetry of belief, cancel life’s brevity with continuance, and give an inspiring and ennobling significance to a cosmic drama that might else be a meaningless and intolerable procession of souls, species, and stars stumbling one by one into an inescapable extinction.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 732.

 

The greatest gift of medieval faith was the upholding confidence that right would win in the end, and that every seeming victory of evil would at last be sublimated in the universal triumph of the good.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 732.

 

Christ was to this age no “gentle Jesus meek and milk,” but the stern avenger of every mortal sin … Many mystics claimed to have had visions of hell … Most Christians believed that all Moslems—and most Moslems [Mohammed excepted] believed that all Christians—would go to hell hell; and it was generally accepted that all “heathen” were damned.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 733-734.

 

Very many folk, considering the wicked life of monks and friars, nuns and secular clergy, are shaken by this; nay, oftentimes, they fail in faith, and believe in nothing higher than the roofs of their houses, not esteeming those things to be true that have been written concerning our faith, but believing them to have been written by the cozening invention of men, and not by God’s inspiration … They despise the sacraments … and hold that the soul has no existence; neither do they … fear hell nor desire heaven, but cling with all their hearts to transitory things, and resolve that this world shall be their paradise.

—St. Bernard, circa 1420. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1957. The Reformation. The Story of Civilization. Page 16.

 

If I could lay hold on that god who, out of a thousand men whom he has made, saves one and damns all the rest, I would tear and rend  him tooth and nail as a traitor, and would spit in his face.

—A 1247 weaver of Toulouse. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 735.

 

The power of Christianity lay in its offering to the people faith rather than knowledge, art rather than science, beauty rather than truth. Men preferred it so.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 737.

 

Most Native American cultures stress that myths are not stories created by humans but truths revealed by suprahuman powers. To remind the listeners that reciting a myth is a sacred, powerful process, some storytellers preface the myths with special phrases … Words themselves are thought to have the power to reintegrate myth into today.

—Brown, Joseph Epes (with Emily Cousins). 2001. Teaching Spirits: Understanding Native American Religious Tradiations. Oxford University Press. Pages 16.

 

From Diognetus I learned to shun trivialities; to doubt the claims of wonder-workers and wizards about spells and exorcisms…My father taught me…to avoid being superstitious toward the gods…

—Aurelius, Marcus (121 AD – 180 AD). The Emperor’s Handbook. A new translation of Meditations.

 

I place my conscience above any scripture. You may argue: there are evil people in the world, and perhaps even they follow their own conscience. If that is the case then scripture may be needed to prevent the evil from following their evil conscience. I don’t know. What I do know is that the only way I could become evil is if I betrayed my conscience and followed the words of apocalyptic prophets who spoke millennia ago.

—F. Bailey Norwood

 

More often, on the contrary, it is Religion breeds

Wickedness, and that has given rise to wrongful deeds.

—Lucretius (100 – 50 BC). The Nature of Things. Translated by A. E. Stallings. Penguin Classics.

 

Or here on earth whose causes they can’t fathom, they assign

The explanation for these happenings to powers divine.

—Lucretius (100 – 50 BC). The Nature of Things. Translated by A. E. Stallings. Penguin Classics.

 

All this for fair and favourable winds to sail the fleet along!—

So potent was Religion in persuading to do wrong.

—Lucretius (100 – 50 BC). The Nature of Things. Translated by A. E. Stallings. Penguin Classics.

 

Wilson was particularly unsparing of organized religion, likening the Book of Revelation, for example, to the ranting of “a paranoid schizophrenic who was allowed to write down everything that came to him.”

—Howard W. French.  “E.O. Wilson’s Theory of Everything.”  The Atlantic.  November, 2011. Pages 70-82.

 

The most famous legend about [Jemima Wilkinson] was that she would walk on water. A test was set up. Opponents claimed she had a platform just beneath the surface to stand on; others claimed it had been taken away by the opponents before the time of the test. At the appointed time, Wilkinson asked her supporters if they doubted her ability to walk on water. They said they did not, and with that Wilkinson felt no further need to prove her divinity and turned back from the water’s edge.

—Dandelion, Pink. 2007. An Introduction to Quakerism. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK. Page 78.

 

The isles of science and philosophy are everywhere washed by mystic seas. Intellect narrows hope, and only the fortunate can bear it gladly. The Medieval Jews, like the Moslems and Christians, covered reality with a thousand superstitions, dramatized history with miracles and portents, crowded the air with angels and demons, practiced magical incantations and charms, frightened their children and themselves with talk of witches and ghouls, lightened the mystery of sleep with interpretations of dreams, and read esoteric secrets into ancient tomes.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 416.

 

 

Take a view of the Royal Exchange in London, a place more venerable than many courts of justice, where the representatives of all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mahometan, and the Christian transact business together, as though they were all of the same religion, and give the name of Infidels to none but bankrupts; there the Presbyterian confides in the Anabaptist, and the Churchman depends upon the Quaker’s word. At the breaking up of this pacific and free assembly, some withdraw to the synagogue, and others to take a glass. This man goes and is baptized in a great tub, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; that man has his son’s foreskin cut off, and causes a set of Hebrew words—to the meaning of which he himself is an utter stranger—to be mumbled over the infant; others retire to their churches, and there wait the inspiration of heaven with their hats on; and all are satisfied.

If one religion only were allowed in England, the government would very possibly become arbitrary; if there were but two, the people would cut one another’s throats; but, as there is such a multitude, they all live happy, and in peace.

—Alan Charles Kors.  2001.  Voltaire and the Triumph of the Enlightenment.  Lecture 4: Philosophical Letters, Part II.

 

 

If I governed a nation of Jews, I should restore the Temple of Solomon.  Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. 

—Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, after he signed an agreement making Catholicism the major, but not the only, religion of France.

 

That’s the reason, in the book, that we don’t really think much about government solutions.  Because these things cross borders.  Temptations are everywhere.  You have to somehow find ways yourself.  There is certainly room for social support, and that’s an important thing.  Twelve-step groups work in part because of social support.  People who go to churches—I’m not religious myself, but you can’t deny the evidence that people who are religious have much better self-control, and they get that because of these rules.

—John Tierney, interviewed by Katherine Mangu-Ward in Reason, “Triumph of the Willpower,” March, 2012.

 

I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this on my own but since they throw me out, I go happily.

—Baruch Spinoza, it is said, made this remark after being excommunicated.

 

If you have a monopoly on God, you can get away with anything.
—Sabrina Rubin Erdely.  “Church Sex Crimes.”  Rolling Stone.  September 15, 2011.

 

Some people today argue that religion is primarily a source of violence, conflict, and social discord. Historically, however, religion has played the opposite role: it is a source of social cohesion that permits human beings to cooperate far more widely and securely than they would if they were the simple rational and self-interested agents posited by the economists.

—Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: NY, NY. Page 38.

 

…collective action begins to break down as the size of the cooperating group increases…Religion solves this collective action problem by presenting rewards and punishments that greatly reinforce the gains from cooperation in the here and now.

—Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: NY, NY. Page 38.

 

Mental models and norms that help human beings cooperate and thus survive may be generated rationally, as the economists assert. But religious beliefs are never held by their adherents to be simple theories that can be discarded if proved wrong; they are held to be unconditionally true, and there are usually heavy social and psychological penalties attached to asserting their falsehood.

—Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: NY, NY. Page 38.

 

Actually, to become a professor or a clergy member in Europe even a hundred years following Spinoza’s death, you had to have your denunciation of him ready.  That was part of the oral exam, knowing where he’d made his mistakes.  And this meant that everyone was reading Spinoza; they had to read him in order to denounce him, so he was radicalizing Europe, and in about a hundred years they were ready for the Enlightenment.

—Rebecca Goldstein’s acceptance speech for the 2011 Humanist of the Year award.  Published in The Humanist.  November-December, 2011.  Pages 12-16.

 

In every human society people hold beliefs and perform actions. So they must come by these beliefs in some way, and they must have some way of deciding how to act.  For most people throughout history these processes are neither long nor complex, nor conscious.  There are authorities that lay down what is true and what is right.

The most powerful and ubiquitous of these authorities is tradition—what anthropologist William Sumner called the “folkways,” whereby people simply think and act as their forbears did.  Any departure from these patterns is viewed with suspicion; often it will be condemned as immoral.

A philosopher who carries on the work of Socrates is one who refuses to defer unthinkingly to any of these authorities.  Why should I believe this? one asks.  Why should I do that?  What do you mean by that term?   Where is your evidence?  What is your argument?  Socrates greatest legacy is to tell us that such questions are always in order.

When Rene Descartes, writing in 1638, championed the scientific outlook by praising those who use their own reason rather than putting their faith in old books, he was continuing Socrates’ work.  The astonishing achievements of modern science are the fruits of this attitude.

—Emrys Westacott writing in The Humanist.  “Will the Next Great Corrupters Please Rise?”  November-December, 2011.  Pages 37-38.

 

...being too good a Christian was at times as big a problem as not being Christian enough.
— Michael Frassetto in The Great Medieval Heretics, discussing the relationship between the Medieval Catholic Church and its laity.

 

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.
—Sir Richard Francis Burton

 

I would be willing to wager that if I cared to come out and announce that I had a visit from God last night, and to devote such literary and emotional power as I possess to communicating a new revelation, I could have a temple, a university, and a million dollars within five years at the outside.  And if at the end of five years I were to announce that I had played a joke on the world, some of my followers would convince the faithful that I had been an agent of God without knowing it, and that leadership had now been turned over to him.

—Upton Sinclair, from The Profits of Religion

I’ve always been of the opinion, and again I can’t prove it, because we don’t have the evidence, that in the dark age crisis, if you had prayed to the saints—to the icons in your town—and the Arabs had sacked your town, you probably would question the validity of this type of worship.  On the other hand, if you were lucky to be in Thessalonica or Odessa and you had paraded your icon around and the invaders left, well then you were probably inclined to see that the icons worked.  And it probably came down to such considerations for many people in dark age.

—Kenneth Harl in The World of Byzantium. Lecture 16: The Iconoclastic Controversy.  Lectures published by The Teaching Company.

 

Civilizations come and go; they conquer the earth and crumble into dust; but faith survives every desolation.

—Durant, Will. 1939. History of Civilization. Part 2: The Life of Greece. Page 3.

 

...the daily recurring phenomena, which to us, who know them to be the result of certain well-ascertained laws of nature, are so familiar as to excite no remark, were, to the early Greeks, matter of grave speculation, and not infrequently of alarm.  For instance, when they heard the awful roar of thunder, and saw vivid flashes of lightning, accompanied by black clouds and torrents of rain, they believed that the great god of heaven was angry, and they trembled at his wrath.  If the calm and tranquil sea became suddenly agitated and the crested billows rose mountains high, dashing furiously against the rocks, and the threatening destruction to all within within their reach, the sea-god was supposed to be in a furious rage.  When they beheld the sky glowing with the hues of coming day they thought that the goddess of the dawn, with rosy fingers, was drawing aside the dark veil of night, to allow her brother, the sun-god, to enter upon his brilliant career.  Thus personifying all the powers of nature, this very imaginative and highly poetical nation beheld a divinity in every tree that grew, in every stream that flowed, in the bright beams of the glorious sun, and the clear cold rays of the silvery moon; for them the whole universe lived and breathed, peopled by a thousand forms of grace and beauty.

—E. M. Berens in The Myths and Legends of Ancient Greece and Rome

 

For if men could perceive there is a set limit to their troubles, they would, with some reason, have strength enough to resist religion and prophets’ threats. But now, since we must fear that, when we die, we will be punished for eternity, there is no means, no possibility,[110] of fighting back.

—Lucretius. On the Nature of Things.  Sometime in first century, BC.

 

Let’s perform a mental experiment to test how culture can “make all the difference.”  No fair using hindsight.  Suppose that in a very backward country—call it R—the established church decides to clean up the liturgy by eliminating some old corruptions in the holy texts.  A group of believers, themselves stupidly conservative in every way, rejects the new liturgy: they are not interested in the application of thought to textual criticism.  Which of the following does your social theory predict?  (1)  The establishment is hostile to these Old Believers.  (2)  The Old Believers retreat into self-imposed isolation.  Outcome?  Either (3), the Old Believers sink into poverty and obscurity, on account of (1) and (2).  Or (4), the Old Believers go on to become the dominant force in the country’s economy for the next two centuries, on account of (1) and (2).

The bizarre scenario played out in seventeenth-century Russia gives the correct answer to our quiz: (1) and (2); then not ( 3), but (4), as Alexander Gerschenkron explained in Russia in the European Mirror (1970).  The example does not refute Lande’s vague hypothesis of “culture.”  But it shows as difficult what he things is easy: to tell who will win.  The Old Believers in Russia were the only successfully bourgeois portion of Russian society in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, except for an occasional Jew and a good mayh of what Landes calls by the Greek name “metics” (metoikoi, “people beyond the household,” noncitizen workers, in Russian mainly Germans).

There was nothing easy or inevitable about this.  Some minorities do well when the establishment tries to crush them—witness the Old Believers, but also the overseas Chinese, and of course the European Jews, sometimes.  But some badly treated minorities just do badly—witness Gypsies in Eastern Europe and American blacks under segregation, and European Jews, sometimes.

—Deirdre N. McClosky in Bourgeois Dignity.  Chapter 39.

 

Religious and artistic practices, from the Owerri Igbo of Nigeria’s constructing mbari houses over years but leaving them immediately to decay as soon as the construction has ended, to Lorenzo Ghiberti’s half-century of work on Florence’s Baptistery doors, still there for all to admire more than a half millenium later, are nothing if not complex and improbable—and also, I suggest, part of the behaviors as adaptive to humans as the waggle-dance is to honeybees. 

—Brian Boyd.  2009.  On The Origin of Stories.  Page 35.

 

In science, however, “God did it” is not a testable hypothesis.  Inquiring minds would want to know how God did it and what forces or mechanisms were employed (and “God works in mysterious ways” will not pass peer review).

—Michael Shermer. December, 2011.  “Sacred Salubriousness: Why Religious Belief Is Not The Only Path To A Healthier Life.”  Scientific American Mind.

 

People say, “What’s wrong with moderate religion?”  And there are those nice folks who go to church on Sunday simply to take part in their neighborhoods.  And here’s the problem with that.  Moderate religion is religion where people do a little bit of cherry-picking.  They take the best bits of religion and some of the more embarrassing or difficult or barbaric bits they leave to one side.  Unkind people would call that hypocrisy.  On     the other end of the scale, however, are those who take their religion very seriously—extremists we call them.  The point about the extremists is that they’re the most honest of the people who have religious views, because they commit themselves to what their tradition tells them.  They stay closest to the texts.  Now if that’s real religion, if that’s honest religion, the world is better off without it.  And if the world is better off without the true or honest form of religion, why not put the hypocrites in with them too.

—A. C. Grayling.  November 15, 2011.  Intelligence Squared Debates.  Motion: The World Would Be Better Off Without Religion.

 

Humanism also differs from all supernaturalist religions in centering its long-term aims not on the next world but on this. One of its fundamental tenets is that this world and the life in it can be improved, and that it is our duty to try and improve it, socially, culturally, and politically.  The humanist goal must therefore be, not technocracy, nor theocracy, not the omnipotent and authoritarian state, nor the welfare state, nor the consumption economy, but the fulfillment society.  By this I mean a society organized in such a way as to give the greatest number of people the fullest opportunities of realizing their potentialities—of achievement and enjoyment, morality and community.

—Sir Julian Huxley.  January / February, 1962.  “The Coming New Religion of Humanism.  The Humanist.

 

...other studies have used twins research to examine all kinds of behaviors and attitudes...for example...suggesting that genetic factors somehow set the stage for criminal behavior.  Another study found that the strength of an individual’s religious fervor was significantly shaped by heredity.

—Peter Miller.  “A Thing or Two About Twins.”  National Geographic.  January, 2012.

 

An opinion poll conducted in 2005 showed that three out of four Americans believe in the existence of paranormal phenomena.  Other work has revealed that about one in three of us claim to have experienced the supernatural.

—Richard Wiseman.  January/February, 2012.  “Wired for Weird.”  Scientific American Mind. 

 

Religions seem to know a great deal about our loneliness.  Even if we believe very little of what they tell us about the afterlife or the supernatural origins of their doctrines, we can nevertheless admire their understanding of what separates us from strangers and their attempts to melt away one or two prejudices that normally prevent us from building connections with others.

—Alain de Botton.  Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believers Guide to the Uses of Religion as printed in The Wall Street Journal on February 18-19, 2012, Sections C1-C2.

 

The church does more, however, than merely declare that worldly success doesn’t matter.  In a variety of ways, it enables us to imagine that we could be happy without it.  Appreciating the reasons why we try to acquire status in the first place, it establishes conditions under which we can willingly surrender our attachment to it…It is the genius of the Mass to confront these fears…If the Mass has done its job and we are awake to its lessons, it should succeed by its close in shifting us at least fractionally off our accustomed egocentric axes.

—Alain de Botton.  Religion for Atheists: A Non-Believers Guide to the Uses of Religion as printed in The Wall Street Journal on February 18-19, 2012, Sections C1-C2.

 

An ancient Greek military strategist…writing three hundred years after Hannibal, made the following observation, “Soldiers are far more courageous when they believe that they are facing dangers with the good will of the gods; for they themselves are watchful, each man, and they look out keenly for omens of sight or sound, and an auspicious sacrifice for the whole army encourages even those who have private doubts
—Richard Miles in Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Chapter 10. 2011.


...Hellenistic armies apparently developed their esprit de corps based on the mystic of their leaders who could be seen as having almost supernatural powers as they were granted triumphs by the gods.
—Richard Miles in Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Chapter 10. 2011.


...the claim to divine endorsement was the key development of Hannibal’s campaign against the Romans, and certainly played to the expectations of Hannibal’s Celtic allies whose chieftans were often accompanied by bards, who eulogized their deeds in song.
—Richard Miles in Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Chapter 10. 2011.

...in the writings of the later historian Cassius Dio, “The equation between successful leadership and divine sanction is made explicit.” Dio attributes Hannibal's ability to predict future events to the fact that he understood divination by the inspection of entrails. At those critical moments when confidence in their mission had begun to ebb away from his troops, Hannibal seems to have ensured that some evidence of divine favor was presented by which the stock of Carthaginian self-belief was replenished and the troops were reminded that they were literally following in the footsteps of Heracles [or, Hercules] and his army. 
—Richard Miles in Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Chapter 10. 2011. 

What made Hannibal such a potent threat was not merely his military might, but the challenge that he presented to the previously successful Roman model of territorial conquest and incorporation. The relentless divine associations attributed to the Carthaginian general by his literary entourage represented something far more potent than mere self-indulgence. Hannibal was intent on setting now a clear alternative, not only to Roman political hegemony, but also to the Roman mythology by which that hegemony was justified.

—Richard Miles in Carthage Must Be Destroyed. Chapter 10. 2011. 

 

One of the volunteers, Mike Clayton, a former preacher from Seminole, Okla., reads out of the Bible from Isaiah 61:5: "The son of the foreigner will come and tend your vines."

Then he adds: "Well, a few days ago, myself and my son got off a plane ... and I got to watch as I handed my son ... a pair of pruners, and I took a picture as he walked out there. He fulfilled scripture. ... Is the Bible true? Is all this happening? I saw it with my own eyes."

—Lourdes Garcia-Navarro .  March 7, 2012.  “Christians Provide Free Labor On Jewish Settlements.”  All Things Considered.  NPR.

 

"We take the Bible and we look at those things and we see that one of the exciting things for us is that prophecy of scripture is being fulfilled," Waller says.

Many evangelical Christians believe that the end of days and the coming of the Messiah will center around Israel. And they interpret the foundation of the Jewish state as biblical prophecy becoming reality.

It's a hugely emotional issue for the Christians who come. They believe it is their duty to help Jews expand their control over Judea and Samaria — the biblical names for what is now the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

—Lourdes Garcia-Navarro .  March 7, 2012.  “Christians Provide Free Labor On Jewish Settlements.”  All Things Considered.  NPR.

 

We humbly recognize that God may not tell his people the date when Christ will return…[there is] no new evidence pointing to another date for the end of the world…

—Eyder Peralta.  March 9, 2012.  “Doomsday Prophet Camping Says Predictions Were ‘Incorrect and Sinful’”.  National Public Radio.  Quote is from Harold Camping, after he claimed the world would end on May 21, 2011, and when he was wrong, changed the date to October 21, 2012.

 

The primitive man, unable to understand his being, much less the unity of all life, felt himself absolutely dependent on blind, hidden forces ever ready to mock and taunt him. Out of that attitude grew the religious concepts of man as a mere speck of dust dependent on superior powers on high, who can only be appeased by complete surrender. All the early sagas rest on that idea, which continues to be the LEIT-MOTIF of the biblical tales dealing with the relation of man to God, to the State, to society. Again and again the same motif, MAN IS NOTHING, THE POWERS ARE EVERYTHING.

—Emma Goldman in Anarchism and Other Essays.

 

This is no fringe phenomenon.  In 2006, the Pew Foundation reported that 26% of Americans said they had had a direct revelation from God…Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life sets out to teach people how to know God as a best friend.  It has sold more than 30 million copies, making it the best-selling hardback book in American history apart from the Bible…

—T. M. Luhrmann.  “Houses of Worship.”  The Wall Street Journal.  April 6, 2012.  A11.

ou

 

 

 

 

 

Among renewalist evangelicals I spoke to during a decade of research, I often encountered people who felt a little foolish about this at first. As one man remarked about his first real attempt: "I thought, 'I have lost my marbles. I am actually talking to the ceiling and thinking that that will do something.'"

And yet people also report that when they pray in this way, they begin to experience God's presence in a personal way, something that is comforting and empowering. Research, including my own, shows they tend to be less stressed and less lonely than others.

—T. M. Luhrmann.  “Houses of Worship.”  The Wall Street Journal.  April 6, 2012.  A11.

 

Most of the more than 30 evangelical Christians interviewed by Luhrmann recalled one or a few times when they heard God’s voice or had a holy vision.  But hallucinatory experiences don’t affect just the religious.

Surveys conducted over the last century find that 10 to 15 percent of U.S. and British adults report having been startled by briefly hearing a voice when alone or seeing something that could not be seen by others.  About three-quarters of bereaved adults acknowledge having heard, seen or otherwise sensed their departed partners.

—Bruce Bower in Science News (April 7, 2012) discussing a book by T. M. Luhrmann called Houses of Worship.

 

Almost half of American adults, for example, have changed religious affiliation at least once during their lifetime, and most do so before age 24…once people enter adulthood they tend to stick with one category, retaining either faith in God or the absence thereof…

Recent research suggests, however, that this is not the whole story.  By studying the correlations among thousands of individuals’ religious beliefs and measures of their thoughts and behaviors, scientists have discovered that certain personality types are predisposed to land on different spots of the religiosity spectrum.  Genetic factors account for more than half of the variability among people on the core dimensions of their character, which implies that a person’s feelings regarding religion also contain a genetic component.

…religious individuals tend to display agreeable and conscientious behaviors.  For example, religious people are inclined to show cooperation in laboratory experiments and to volunteer in real life.  They also endorse healthy lifestyles that reflect self-control such as low alcohol, drug and tobacco use.

…In a way, we are born to be inclined toward religion or atheism.  Does God call us?  For some of us, the answer is yes: through our genes, parents, acquaintances and life events.

—Saroglou, Vassilis.  May/June, 2012.  “Are We Born to Be Religious?”  Scientific American Mind.

 

Tools from the earliest Neolithic period, about 10,000 years ago, include instruments clearly designed for fighting.  One might think that the influence of pacific Eastern religions, especially Buddhism, has been consistent in opposing violence.  Such is not the case.  Whenever Buddhism dominated and became the official ideology, war was tolerated and even pressed as part of faith-based state policy.  The rational is simple, and has its mirror image in Christianity: Peace, non-violence, and brotherly love are core values, and a threat to Buddhist law and civilization is an evil that must be defeated.

—E. O. Wilson.  “Is War Inevitable?”  Discover Magazine.  June, 2012.

 

EPICURUS's old questions are yet unanswered. Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? then is he malevolent.  Is he both able and willing?  Whence then is evil?

—Hume, David.  1776.  Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion.

 

I think that evil remains an insurmountable problem for the belief that our universe is somehow governed by an omnipotent, omniscient, and beneficent creator.  I think the horrors of this life shows [us] that it is not and cannot be the role of value in the universe.  But I also think that’s just as well. 

The picture of an omnipotent and beneficent rule of the universe is often assumed to support our notions of value.  But there are many ways in which that picture is a threat for notions of value…a ruler who guided everything to the good first of all would have to manipulate our choices toward the good.  That alone threatens the notion that values are that something we act upon in free choice. 

Moreover, a good that is ultimately inevitable is one that one need not strive for, if God is going to make sure everything comes out right, no matter what I do, it doesn’t matter what I do.  Why try for a cure for cancer, if that’s part of God’s plan, it’ll be there.  If it’s not, I’d be trying to work against God.  I’d be trying to make something worse by producing such a cure. 

If something’s inevitable, striving for it is of no value: in the end, it’s only because everything is not guaranteed to come out right, I think that value has the value it has.  To picture the universe as guided toward inevitable goodness by an omnipotent, omniscient, and all-perfect being is thus not to give it value from on high, but a way to rob it from value from below. 

—Patrick Grim.  2005.  Questions of Value.  Lecture 16: Life’s Horrors.  The Teaching Company.

 

A few days ago I asked why not become religious, if it will give you a better life, even if the evidence for religious beliefs is weak? Commenters eagerly declared their love of truth. Today I’ll ask: if you give up the benefits of religion, because you love far truth, why not also give up stories, to gain even more far truth? Alas, I expect that few who claim to give up religion because they love truth will also give up stories for the same reason. Why?

One obvious explanation: many of you live in subcultures where being religious is low status, but loving stories is high status. Maybe you care a lot less about far truth than you do about status.

—Robin Hanson.  May 8, 2012.  “Storiesd Are Like Religion.”  Overcomingbias blog.

 

But if we tried to converse with the ancients about God, we would find a much larger chasm separating us.  I can think of no other concept that has undergone so dramatic a deformation…you can’t literally listen to to God or literally sit beside Him, but these would be strange claims indeed to the original monotheists.  The Old Testament Jehovah, or Yahweh, was quite definitely a super-man (a He, not a She) who could take sides in battles, and be both jealous and wrathful.

—Daniel C. Dennett.  2006.  Breaking the Spell.  Viking: NY, NY.

 

In religion, however, the experts are not exaggerating for effect when they say they don’t understand what they are talking about.  The fundamental incomprehensibility of God is insisted upon as a central tenet of faith, and the propositions in question are themselves declared to be systematically elusive to everybody.

—Daniel C. Dennett.  2006.  Breaking the Spell.  Viking: NY, NY.

 

One of the things that makes the Jesus of the New Testament such a tantalizing character is that it’s never clear what he’s telling us. Everything can be read two ways. When he calls on his followers to forgive all debts, refuse to cast the first stone, turn the other cheek, love their enemies, to hand over their possessions to the poor—is he really expecting them to do this? Or are such demands just a way of throwing in their faces that, since we are clearly not prepared to act in this way, we are all sinners whose salvation can only come in another world—a position that can be (and has been) used to justify almost anything.

—Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Melville House: NY, NY.

 

World religions, as we shall see, are full of this kind of ambivalence. On the one hand they are outcries against the market; on the other, they tend to frame their objections in commercial terms—as if to argue that turning human life into a series of transaction is not a very good deal. What I think even these few examples reveal, though, is how much is being papered over in the conventional accounts of the origins and history of money.

—Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Melville House: NY, NY.

 

Some lodge in the village makes a feast daily to the great spirit…everyone makes his feast as he sees best, to please the great spirit, who has the care of all beings created. Others believe in two spirits: one good and one bad, and makes feasts for the bad spirit to keep him quite. If they can make peace with him, the good spirit will not hurt them. For my part, I am of the opinion that so far as we have reason, we have a right to use it, in determining what is right or wrong, and should pursue that path which we believe to be right, believing that whatever is, is right. If the great and good spirit wished us to believe and do as the whites he could easily change our opinions, so that we would see and think and act as they do.

—Blackhawk. 1955. The Autobiography of Black Hawk.

 

 

Morality

 

He who dispenses charity in private is greater than Moses.

—Talmud. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 361.

 

Devotion to what is right is simple, devotion to what is wrong is complex and admits of infinite variations. It is the same with people’s characters; in those who follow nature they are straightforward and uncomplicated, and differ only in minor degree, while those that are warped are hopelessly at odds with the rest and equally at odds with themselves.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter CXXII. Penguin Classics. Page 225.

 

For people abstain from forbidden things far more often through feelings of inhibition when it comes to doing what is wrong than through any will to do good …

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXXVIII. Penguin Classics. Page 143.

 

I think that today if, perhaps not the renowned villain Nero, but some common place entrepreneur, wanted to make a pond of human blood for the diseased rich to bathe in, as prescribed by their learned doctors, he would be able to arrange it all unhindered so long as he respected the accepted and appropriate forms. Thus he would not compel people to lose blood, but would put them in a position such that their life was at risk unless they did.

—Tolstoy, Leo (1828-1910). What Is Religion, Of What Does Its Essence Consist?

 

 

You know, we deplore what happened to the elephant—it was brutal!—there’s no doubt about it; but we have to put it in context. These men—these men who ran this industry—were upstanding, moral, high-minded people who didn’t think they were doing anything wrong.

—Smith, Dick [interviewee] on the trade in elephant tusks that was once conducted in his hometown of Deep River, Connecticut. Quoted in: Joyce, Christopher. August 18, 2014. “Elephant Slaughter, African Slavery and America’s Pianos.” National Public Radio.

 

One of the Connecticut buyers who sailed to Zanzibar was Ernst Moore, who worked for Pratt, Read. Moore spent years in the trade, and it made him wealthy, but he grew to hate it. He wrote a book called Ivory: Scourge of Africa. Yet, says Conniff, quoting Moore's book, "He is the one who also said, 'Our lives were so crammed with our business and adventure that we were perfectly content to take what we had and make the best of it.' "

— Joyce, Christopher. August 18, 2014. “Elephant Slaughter, African Slavery and America’s Pianos.” National Public Radio.

 

My research indicates that a small set of innate moral intuitions guide and constrain the world’s many moralities, and one of these intuitions is that the body is a temple housing a soul within.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

If the process of the universe is inherently opposed to the ethical order, it follows that the ethical order is inherently opposed to the process of the universe.  In this state of things the position of humanity would be very unfortunate.

—Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse in Social Evolution and Political Theory (1911, page 10).  The Columbia University Press.

 

So, if we can’t get our philosophy exactly “right” it’s because we know that knowledge of the world is fallible, probabilistic, and tentative.  The fallibility of our knowledge requires we admit that everything we know may actually be wrong.  Accepting this requires humility and, at the same time, courage to stand up for what we best believe without dogmatism or fear of being wrong.

A recent study found that one of the biggest differences between social and religious liberals and their conservative counterparts is that liberals have a better ability to hold views in an ambiguous, adaptive manner.

...as Samuel Bulter said, “Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.”

—Michael Werner writing in The Humanist.  “How Humanists Get It Right.”  November-December, 2011.  Page 39.

 

I can't help feeling that if justice is observed, mercy is forever unneeded.
—Wallace Stegner, from The Angel of Repose

 

And yet, as Darwin knew, altruism is everywhere, a stubborn anomaly of nature.  Bats feed hungry brethren; honeybees commit suicide with a sting to defend the hive; birds raise offspring that aren’t their own; humans leap onto subway tracks to save strangers.  The ubiquity of such behavior suggests that kindness is not a losing life strategy.

—Jonah Lehrer.  “Kin and Kind: A fight about the genetics of altruism.”  The New Yorker.  March 5, 2012. 

 

Our bloody nature, it can now be argued in the context of modern biology, is ingrained because group-versus-group competition was a principal driving force that made us what we are.  In prehistory, group selection (that is, the competition between tribes instead of between individuals) lifted the hominids that became territorial carnivores to heights of solidarity, to genius, to enterprise—and to fear.  Each tribe knew with justification that if it was not armed and ready, its very existence was imperiled…

Any excuse for a real war will do, so long as it is seen as necessary to protect the tribe.  The remembrance of past horrors has no effect…

Once a group has been split off from other groups and sufficiently dehumanized, any brutality can be justified, at any level, and at any size of the victimized group up to and including race and nation…

…War and genocide have been universal and eternal, respecting no particular time or culture…

—E. O. Wilson.  “Is War Inevitable?”  Discover Magazine.  June, 2012.

 

…war is not a primordial biological “curse.”  It is a cultural innovation, an especially vicious, persistent meme, which culture can help us transcent.

—John Horgan.  “War Is Not Inevitable.”  Discover Magazine.  June, 2012.

 

… one’s life should be a compromise between the ideal and the popular morality.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 35.

 

Moral arguments are much the same: Two people feel strongly about an issue, their feelings come first, and their reasons are invented on the fly, to throw at each other.  When you refute a person’s argument, does she generally change her mind and agree with you?  Of course not, because the argument you defeated was not the cause of her position; it was made up after the judgment was made.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

Why, then, are rare and expensive furnishings sought rather than those that are readily available and inexpensive? Because the good and noble things are misunderstood, and instead of pursuing things that really are good and noble, thoughtless people pursue things that only seem to be good, just as insane people confuse black things with white. Thoughtlessness is very close to insanity.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

…raised in a strict environment, the ancient Spartans were thought to be and in fact were the best of the Greeks, and they made their very poverty more enviable than the king of Persia's wealth.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

Being sick harms the body only; living in luxury harms both the soul and body, by making the body weak and powerless and the soul undisciplined and cowardly. Surely luxurious living fosters injustice because it also fosters greed.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

No one can acquire many things without being unjust.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

 

The person who lives luxuriously would also be entirely unjust, inasmuch as he would shrink from performing tasks he ought to undertake on behalf of his own city, if performing them meant abandoning his luxurious lifestyle...Because it is responsible for injustice, luxurious living must be completely avoided.

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

 

—Rufus, Musonius (30-100 AD) Musonius Rufus. Translated by Cynthia King. Self-Published and available at Amazon.

 

 

That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow; this, in a few words, is the entire Torah; all the rest is but an elaboration of this one, central point.

—Analects of Confusius

 

From rape to robbery and even to theft, evolution has made violence and antisocial behavior a profitable way of life for a small minority of the population.

—Raine, Adrian [interviewee]. June 2013. “CSI, Science.” Shermer, Michael [interviewer]. Scientific American. Page 90.

 

“Cooperation is the fundamental principle of evolution,” Nowak says today. “Without it, you don’t get construction or complexity in life. Whenever you see something interesting, like the evolution of multicellular creatures or human language, cooperation is involved.”

—Ohlson, Kristin. December, 2012. “Cooperative Instinct.” Discover Magazine.

 

"Every nation, convinced that it alone knows what wisdom is, despises the folly of all the others," remarked Helvétius, one of the Enlightenment figures Mr. Pagden so admires. But it was only in free Europe that we find a passion for traveler's tales and for investigating the lives of other cultures as well as criticizing our own. At the moment when every other culture illustrated Helvétius's broad claim about insularity and close-mindedness, Europeans were curious, outward-looking and inquisitive. "Persian Letters" was a best seller in the France of 1721. Did anyone outside write a book called "French Letters"?

 

Mr. Pagden thinks that it is the enlightened who have taught us to behave altruistically toward distant people we have never meet. He admits that caritas is a Christian virtue but then solemnly explains to us that Christians merely practiced it so as to increase their credit with God. On the very same page we learn of Diderot's complaint that theatergoing Parisians wept over the fate of Phaedra but, as Mr. Pagden puts it, "never gave a single thought to the plight of African slaves." Mr. Pagden fails to note that William Wilberforce and his Christian supporters got the slave trade eliminated.

—Minogue, Kenneth. June 8-9, 2013. “When the Lamps Went On.” The Wall Street Journal. C6.

 

Ultrasociality—living in large cooperative societies in which hundreds or thousands of individuals reap the benefits of an extensive division of labor—evolved independently at least four times in the animal kingdom: among hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps); termites; naked mole rats; and humans.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

 

I would jump into a river to save two brothers, but not one.  Or to save eight cousins but not seven.

—Comments by a drunken J. B. S. Haldane when he and his drinking buddies discovered the inclusive fitness theory.  It is unclear whether he was speaking for the theory or making sarcastic comments about it.  Either way, its incongruence with our intuitive morality suggests it to be a bad theory. 

Jonah Lehrer.  “Kin and Kind: A fight about the genetics of altruism.”  The New Yorker.  March 5, 2012.  This is Martin Nowak describing how theoretical biologist Robert May described inclusive fitness theory.

 

...the logarithm of the brain size [of animal species] is almost perfectly proportional to the logarithm of the social group size.

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

But what is freedom? Freedom from what? There is nothing to take a man's freedom away from him, save other men. To be free, a man must be free of his brothers. That is freedom. This and nothing else.
—Ayn Rand in Anthem

The word "We" is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.
—Ayn Rand in Anthem

…the human capacity for cooperation is double-edged. It is not only the foundation of social trust and peaceful living but also what makes for the most successful acts of aggression between one group and another. Like chimpanzees, though with more deadly refinement, human beings are distinguished by their ability to harness the virtues of altruism and solidarity, and the skills of rational reflection, to the end of making brutal and efficient warfare against rival groups. What modern society needs, therefore, is not more cooperation but better-directed forms of cooperation.

—Seabright, Paul. 2004. In the Company of Strangers: A Modern History of Economic Life.


What is my joy if all hands, even the unclean, can reach into it? What is my wisdom, if even the fools can dictate to me? What is my freedom, if all creatures, even the botched and the impotent, are my masters? What is my life, if I am but to bow, to agree and to obey.
—Ayn Rand in Anthem

Half a century later Milgram’s obedience studies still resonate.  They showed that it does not take a disturbed personality to harm others.  Healthy, well-adjusted people are willing to administer lethal electric shocks to another person when told to do so by an authority figure...Milgram’s subjects seemed willing to deliver shocks sufficient to kill a person simply because they were asked to do so by a gray-coat lab assistant in a science experiment...65 percent, continued administering shocks to the maximum, 450-volt level...When subjects sat in the same room as the learner and watched as he was shocked, however, the percentage of obedient teachers went down to 40..And it went below 20 percent when two other “participants”—actually actors—refused to comply...it tells us that individuals are not narrowly focused on being good followers.  Instead they are more focused on doing the right thing...Evidence suggests that we enact an authority figure’s wishes only when we identify with that person and his or her goals.  In essence, obedience is a consequence of effective leadership.  followers do not lose their moral compass so much as choose particular authorities to guide them them the ethical dilemmas of everyday life.  Obedient peopel are not mindless zombies after all.

—Stephen Reicher and Alexander Haslam.  November/December 2011.  “Culture Of Shock.”  Scientific American Mind.  Pages 57-61.

 

Biology rules out invariably unstinting altruism...Yet if unconditional altruism is impossible, conditional cooperation exists.  But how could it establish itself?...have come to accept the need for multilevel selection theory, which rests on one key postulate:  “Selfishness beats altruism within single groups.  Altruistic groups beat selfish groups.”

—Brian Boyd.  2009.  On The Origin of Stories.  Page 52.

 

...stories have multiple origins and functions, but among them not least is that they have so often discouraged defection and aided cooperation.

—Brian Boyd.  2009.  On The Origin of Stories.  Page 64.

 

...other studies have used twins research to examine all kinds of behaviors and attitudes...for example...suggesting that genetic factors somehow set the stage for criminal behavior.  Another study found that the strength of an individual’s religious fervor was significantly shaped by heredity.

—Peter Miller.  “A Thing or Two About Twins.”  National Geographic.  January, 2012.

 

…there is a baffling indeterminacy in history.

—Joel Mokyr.  The Enlightened Economy: An Economic History of Britain 1700-1850.

 

The enemy attacked us, we killed a great many of them.  Now, all is quite.  I could not be happier.

—Napoleon Bonaparte in a letter to his brother after killing and wounding hundreds of French citizens as they tried to reinstate the monarchy.

 

“This question ‘why family?’ was only the beginning.  ‘Why family?’ led him to a bigger question: why does anybody help anybody?  If you think about Darwin’s idea (survival of the fittest) think about what that really means.  It means if you are a creature you have two big important jobs.”

“You gotta survive and you’ve gotta be fit.”

“Right.  Fitness means: how many babies can you make?  And so if you do some stupid, hair-brained thing [act of altruism], that means you can’t stay alive, or you can’t make babies…that doesn’t make any sense.”

“Right.”

“And yet, wherever you look in nature…”

“You see creatures doing this.”

“From bacteria.”

“Insects.”

“Birds.”

“Bees.”

“Ants and wasps.”

“Fish.”

“I’ll give you an example.  There’s a species of amoeba called  xxxx, which usually the amoeba usually lives on its own—it’s a single celled organism—in the forest.  But when resources are low, what it does is send out its chemical signal, and all the other amoeba…”

“They start sending out signals…”

“And they start crawling until they all meet, and they become one slug, which is now a single organism.”

“And this slug begins to crawl until it finds a place that’s windy and sunny, at which point…”

“It stops, and the top twenty percent of the slug—the top twenty percent of the amoeba, the slug—begin to create out of their own body, a stalk, which hardens, and they die while doing so.  But the stalk allows the bottom eighty percent to climb up the stalk and to create an orb at the top of the stalk…”

“And from there, all the amoeba that aren’t, you know, dead, can catch a wind…”

“To better pastures.”

“It’s like a dandelion.”

“So what’s happened is, that the top twenty percent have really sacrificed themselves for the back eighty percent: and that’s an amoeba…

—various voices on the Radiolab podcast.  Season 9.  Episode 1.  “The Good Show.”

 

 

“…the coccolithophores are not doing very well.”

“Well, they’ve got a couple of tricks up their little calcified sleeves.  Sometimes when a virus enters, the coccolithophores will send out a chemical signal…”

“They’re saying, ‘Hey, it’s too late for me…”

“but save yourselves…and initially this signal is pretty weak in the water but as more and more coccolithophores are infected the chorus of this chemical beacon grows louder and louder…”

“And so the other cells hear these messages…”

“And they change by messing with their DNA a little bit and they go from having those white shields on the outside to having these jaggedy scales…”

“Which we think might be impenetrable…”

“Well, why aren’t they scaly all the time?”

“Because when they’re scaly, they can’t be the best Coccolithophores they can be.  They just don’t grow as well.”

“So [being] scaly is an adaptation against the virus.”

“Exactly.”

“And then finally, if all else fails…”

“Program cell death.”

“The Coccolithophores just commit suicide.”

“It just shuts down and kills itself to prevent propagation of viruses.”

—various voices on the Radiolab podcast.  March 5, 2012.  “A War We Need.”  Below is a Coccolithophore bloom, which occur when the Coccolithophores are shedding their white shields.  This picture was taken from space off Brittany, France.  Coccolithophores are microscopic plant-like creatures.

 

 

…if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas—to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to—then things will make a lot more sense...people's moral arguments [are] mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

For millions of years, therefore, our ancestors faced the adaptive challenge of forming and maintaining coalitions that could fend off challenges and attacks from rival groups. We are the descendants of successful tribalists, not their more individualistic cousins.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

When groups compete, the cohesive, cooperative group usually wins. But within each group, selfish individuals (free riders) come out ahead...A gene for suicidal self-sacrifice would be favored by group-level selection (it would help the team win), but it would be so strongly opposed by selection at the individual level that such a trait could only evolve in species such as bees, where competition within the hive has been nearly eliminated and almost all selection is group selection.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

Asking people to give up all forms of sacralized belonging and live in a world of purely "rational" beliefs might be like asking people to give the Earth and live in colonies orbiting the moon.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

…if you are trying to change an organization or a society and you do not consider the effects of your changes on moral capital, you're asking for trouble. This, I believe, is the fundamental blind spot of the left. It explains why liberal reforms so often backfire, and why communist revolutions usually end up in despotism....Conversely, while conservatives do a better job of preserving moral capital, they often fail to notice certain classes of victims, fail to limit the predations of certain powerful interests, and fail to see the need to change or update institutions as times change.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

We all get sucked into tribal moral communities. We circle around sacred values and then share post hoc arguments about why we are so right and they are so wrong. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science, and common sense, but in fact everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

If you are thinking about a business decision you are significantly more likely to lie than if you were thinking from an ethical frame.

—Psychologist on the Planet Money podcast. “Why People Do Bad Things.” April 17, 2012.

 

Why are some people very selfish and others very altruistic? Previous studies indicated that social categories like gender, income or education can hardly explain differences in altruistic behavior. Recent neuroscience studies have demonstrated that differences in brain structure might be linked to differences in personality traits and abilities. Now, for the first time, a team of researchers from the University of Zurich headed by Ernst Fehr, Director of the Department of Economics, show that there is a connection between brain anatomy and altruistic behavior.

University of Zurich (2012, July 11). The more gray matter you have, the more altruistic you are. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 13, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­.

 

We [humans] can follow extraordinarily complex scenarios of social interaction and figure out if a social contract has been violated (and are better at detecting someone cheating than someone being overly generous.) And we are peerless when it comes to facial recognition: we even have an area of the cortex in the fusiform gyrus that specializes in this activity.

The selective advantages of evolving a highly social brain are obvious. It paved the way for us to fine-tune our capacities for reading one another’s mental states, to excel at social manipulation, and to adeptly deceive and attract potential mates and supporters. Among Americans, the extent of social intelligence in youth is a better predictor of our adult success in the occupational world than are SAT scores.

—Sapolsky, Robert M. September 2012. “Super Humanity.” Scientific American.

 


 

Morality (Impartial Spectator)

 

We need to set our affections on some good man and keep him constantly before our eyes, so that we may live as if he were watching us and do everything as if he saw what we were doing.

—Seneca quoting Epicurus in: Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Penguin Classics. Page 56.

 

How much scope there would be for renown if whenever we were sick we had an audience of specators! Be your own spectator anyway, your own applauding audience.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXVIII. Penguin Classics. Page 136.

 

 

And we should, indeed, live as if we were in public view, and think, too, as if someone could peer into the inmost recesses of our hearts—which someone can!  For what is to be gained if something is concealed from man when nothing is barred from God?

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). Letters from a Stoic. Letter LXXXVIII. Penguin Classics. Page 140.

 

 

…the tendency to project your feelings onto others does not extend to people who are very different from you, even when the feelings otherwise overwhelm your judgments.  This might reveal a surprising limit to our ability to empathize with people we differ from or disagree with.

Science Daily.  “Empathy Doesn’t Extend Across the Political Aisle.”  April 2, 2012.  Refers to study: Ed O’Brien and Phoebe C. Ellsworth.  “More than skin deep: Visceral states are not projected onto dissimilar others.”  Psychological Science.  2012.

 

Generosity, humanity, kindness, compassion, mutual friendship and esteem, all the social and benevolent affections, when expressed in the countenance or behavior, even towards those who are not peculiarly connected with ourselves, please the indifferent spectator upon almost every occasion…We have always, therefore, the strongest disposition to sympathize with the benevolent affections.

—Adam Smith in A Theory of Moral Sentiments

 

A further way to reduce an obsession with the self and the problems that fixation generates, is to use a technique called self-distancing. Using this strategy, you see yourself from the perspective of a third-party observer, the proverbial “fly on the wall,” rather than from inside your own head…The results suggest that creating mental distance from an emotional situation buffers us from the slings and arrows of fortune.

— Crocker, Jennifer and Jessica J. Carnevale. September/October 2013. “Letting Go of Self-Esteem.” Scientific American Mind.

 

Why should we be more ashamed to weep than to laugh before company? We may often have as real occasion to do the one as to do the other. but we always feel that the spectators are more likely to go along with us in the agreeable, than in the painful emotion.

—Adam Smith in A Theory of Moral Sentiments

 

In the steadiness of his industry and frugality, in his steadily sacrificing the ease and enjoyment of the present moment for the probable expectation of the still greater ease and enjoyment of a more distant but more lasting period of time, the prudent man is always both supported and rewarded by the entire approbation of the impartial spectator, and of the representative of the impartial spectator, the man within the breast. The impartial spectator does not feel himself worn out by the present labour of those whose conduct he surveys; nor does he feel himself solicited by the importunate calls of their present appetites. To him their present, and what is likely to be their future situation, are very nearly the same: he sees them nearly at the same distance, and is affected by them very nearly in the same manner. He knows, however, that to the persons principally concerned, they are very far from being the same, and that they naturally affect them in a very different manner. He cannot therefore but approve, and even applaud, that proper exertion of self-command, which enables them to act as if their present and their future situation affected them nearly in the same manner in which they affect him.

—Adam Smith in A Theory of Moral Sentiments

 

Society and Comedy

 

[Comedy is] … a tube that transports something really ugly into something that’s still ugly but a little bit of funny to it.

—Joey “CoCo” Diaz. December 24, 2018. The Joe Rogan Experience. Episode #1220—Joey Diaz.

 

Societal Behavior

 

In the feudal regime, where the judges and executors of civil law were usually illiterate, custom and law were largely one. When question rose as to law or penalty, the oldest members of the community were asked what had been the custom thereon in their youth. The community itself was therefore the chief source of law. The baron or king might give commands, but these were not laws; and if he exacted more than custom sanctioned he would be frustrated by universal resistance, vocal or dumn.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 566. Refers to feudalism in the High Middle Ages.

 

Homo Sapiens are basically a bunch of sheep that got nuclear weapons and atomic power.

—Yuval Noah Harari. September 25, 2015.  “Yuval Noah Harari on the myths we need to survive.” Intelligence Squared.

 

… you can turn your back on civilization if you like, but you’re not necessarily going to escape the social contract.

—Keizer, Garrett. Spring 2016. “Solidarity and Survival.” Lapham’s Quarterly. Volume IX, Number 2: Disaster. Page 201.

 

From an interview with cognitive scientist Steven Sloman by Vox.com’s Sean Illing, April 16:

Illing: How do people form opinions?

Sloman: I really do believe that our attitudes are shaped much more by our social groups than they are by facts on the ground. We are not great reasoners. Most people don’t like to think at all, or like to think as little as possible. And by most, I mean roughly 70 percent of the population. Even the rest seem to devote a lot of their resources to justifying beliefs that they want to hold, as opposed to forming credible beliefs based only on fact.

Think about if you were to utter a fact that contradicted the opinions of the majority of those in your social group. You pay a price for that. If I said I voted for Trump, most of my academic colleagues would think I’m crazy. They wouldn’t want to talk to me. That’s how social pressure influences our epistemological commitments, and it often does it in imperceptible ways.

Illing: This is another way of saying that we live in a community of knowledge.

—in Wall Street Journal. April 17, 2017. A17.

 

Whoever wishes to found a state and give it laws, must start with assuming that all men are bad and ever ready to display their vicious nature whenever they find occasion for. If their evil disposition remains concealed for a time, it must be attributed to some unknown reason; and we must assume that it lacked occasion to show itself; but time … does not fail to bring it to light … The wish to acquire is in truth very natural and common, and men always acquire when they an; and for this they will be praised, not blamed.

—Machiavelli. Quoted in: Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 557.

 

An unconscious relationship is more powerful than a conscious one.

Soren Kierkegaard

 

 

It seems clear to me that the desire of dominating one’s fellows and asserting superiority is natural to man, so that there are few so in love with liberty that they would not seize a favorable opportunity of ruling and lording it. Look closely at the behavior of the indwellers of the selfsame city; mark and examine their dissensions, and you shall find that the object is preponderance rather than freedom. Those, then, who are the foremost citizens do not strive after liberty, though that be in their mouths; but the increase of their own sway and pre-eminence is really in their hearts. Liberty is a cant term with them, and disguises their lust of superiority in power and honor.

—Guicciardini (16th century Italy) Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 546.

 

Guicciardini [16th century Italy] was one of thousands in Renaissance Italy who had no faith whatever; who had lost the Christian idyl, had learned the emptiness of politics, expected no utopia, dreamed no dreams; and who sat back helpless while a world of war and barbarism swept over Italy; somber old men, emancipated in mind and broken in hope, who had discovered, too late, that when the myth dies only force is free.

—Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 546.

 

So in Renaissance Italy civilization was of the few, by the few, and for them. The simple common man, named legion, tilled and mined the earth, pulled the carts and bore the burdens, toiled from dawn to dusk, and at evening had no muscle left for thought. He took his opinions, his religion, his answers to the riddles of life from the air about him, or inherited them with ancestral cottage; he let others think for him because others made him work for them. He accepted not only the fascinating, comforting, inspiring, terrifying marvels of traditional—which were daily reimpressed upon him by contagion, inculcation, and art—but he added to them, in his mental furniture, the demonology, sorcery, portents, magic, divination, astrology, relic-worship, and miraclemongering that composed, so to speak, a popular metaphysics unauthored by the which, which deprecated them as a problem sometimes more troublesome then unbelief.

—Durant, Will. 1953. The Renaissance. The Story of Civilization. Page 525.

 

My death needs to mean something … Fix society. Please.

—Alcorn, Leelah. A transgender 17-year-old who wrote this message and then committed suicide by stepping into the path of a tractor-trailer. Quoted in: Tulsa World. “News Briefs.” January 25, 2015. A6.

 

The fox barks not when he would steal the lamb.

—Shakespeare in Henry 6th

 

But, for a kingdom, any oath may be broken

—Shakespeare in Henry 6th

 

Tears, then for babes; blows and revenge for me.

—Shakespeare in Henry 6th

 

Why, what is pomp, rule, reign, but earth and dust?

And, live we how we can, yet die we must.

—Shakespeare in Henry 6th

 

… and seem a saint, when most I play the devil

—Shakespeare in Richard III

 

Anne: O Wonderful, when devils tell the truth!

Gloster: More wonderful, when angels are so angry.

—Shakespeare in Richard III

 

Now is the winter of our discontent

Made glorious summer by this sun of York

—Shakespeare in Richard III


I wasted time, and now time doth time waste me.

—Shakespeare in Richard III

 

 

 

How much more broadly the norm of appropriate actions extends than the rule of law!

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

 

The greatest playwright of the 20th century … his leading character says, “My drama lies entirely in this one thing: In my being conscious, that each one of us believes himself to be a single person.” But it’s not true. We are many people …  so with one person we are one person, and with others we’re somebody different, and all the time we are under the illusion of being one and the same person with everybody … Now you see my tragedy.”

—Panelist on Intelligence Squared [podcast]. December 20, 2013. “An Anatomy of Truth: Conversations on Truth-telling.”

 

The world can be a bewildering place, but not if you see it as a righteous war between whites and blacks, between straights and gays. The neo-Nazis are not the first group to discover that war is a force that can give an empty life meaning, even a race war.

—Brooks, David. August 15, 2017. “How to roll back fanaticism.” The New York Times.

 

If you let a creature develop in a world with laws that themselves have been through some interesting selection process, then that creature will be different from one in a world with different institutions.

—Robert Kurzban quotes in the Wall Street Journal.  November 5-6, 2011.  C4.

 

To begin with, we don’t have a good theory of social behavior from which to start.

—David Weinberger, discussing the difficulties of taking enormous amounts of data and and using it to predict the future of the world.  December, 2011. “The Machine That Would Predict The Future.”  Scientific American.  Pages 52-57.

 

The human is born to give and receive assistance—anger to destroy. The one wants to form associations, the other, to secede; the one wants to be of benefit, the other, to do harm; the one wants to aid even strangers, the other, to assault even the nearest and dearest. Human beings are prepared even to sacrifice themselves for the sake of others’ advantage; anger is prepared to plunge into danger, provided it drags the other down.

—Seneca, Lucius Annaeus (4 BC –65 AD). On Anger. From Anger, Mercy, Revenge. 2010. The University of Chicago Press. Translated by Robert A. Kaster.

 

Comedian Tom Shillue said it perfectly after our third beer at a local tavern: “The only people hurt by racism these days are the racists.” And thank God for that.

Even actual racists must crawl back under their rocks, knowing that if you express racism you are destroyed, never your target of derision.

—Gutfeld, Gregg. 2012. The Joy of Hate. Crown Forum: NY, NY.

 

We should still study and celebrate the creative genius of individuals. Nevertheless, we need to recognize that the psychology of creativity also involves the groups in which creators developed their work, whose boundaries they seek to extend and through which they have their sway. “I did it my way” may be an appealing anthem for great creators, but as with Frank Sinatra, their success generally also requires promoters, producers, and an approving public.

—Haslam, Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno, and Tom Postmes. July/August 2014. “Creativity is Collective.” Scientific American Mind. Page 32.

 

…public opinion, which is always more fearful than the law…

—Will Durant. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece.  Chapter 13: The Morals and Manners of the Athenians. Page 201.

 

To find the answer, the Hopkins researchers undertook a massive study. They followed nearly 800 kids in Baltimore — from first grade until their late-20s.

They found that a child's fate is in many ways fixed at birth — determined by family strength and the parents' financial status.

The kids who got a better start — because their parents were married and working — ended up better off. Most of the poor kids from single-parent families stayed poor.

—Summers, Juana. August 7, 2014. “Rich Kid, Poor Kid: For 30 Years, Baltimore Study Tracked Who Gets Ahead.” National Public Radio.

 

There is not a lot to be gained from asking people why they like something because they don’t bloody know.

—Francis McGlone, former Unilever scientist. Page 150 of Michael Moss’s book Salt, Sugar, and Fat.

 

Human beings are rule-following animals by nature; they are born to conform to the social norms they see around them, and they entrench those rules with often transcendent meaning and value. When the surrounding environment changes and new challenges arise, there is often a disjunction between existing institutions and present needs. Those institutions are supported by legions of entrenched stakeholders who oppose any fundamental reform.

—Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: NY, NY.

 

On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in the small Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid, set himself on fire in a protest against the local culture of corruption.  That singular act set into motion a popular revolution that burned across the Arab world, leading to uprisings that overthrew decades of dictatorial rule in Egypt, Libya, and beyond, upending forever the balance of power in the world’s most oil-rich region.

What model would have been able to foresee this?

—David Weinberger.  December, 2011. “The Machine That Would Predict The Future.”  Scientific American.  Pages 52-57.

 

Biologists have termed humans ultrasocial.

—Brian Boyd.  2009.  On The Origin of Stories.  Page 15.

 

The main way that we change our minds on moral issues is by interacting with other people...When discussions are hostile, the odds of change are slight...But if there is affection, admiration, or a desire to please the other person, then [one] tries to find the truth in the other person's arguments.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

When he was very close to the end [of his life, a nurse] brought over a glass of water and a little dropper they’d been using to moisten his mouth. And she told us each to take the dropper and give him some water and say our names close to his ear so he’d know who was giving him each bit of water. As a ritual it felt comforting, and sad, and vaguely religious … I had no idea how badly we’d needed a ritual that moment until [the nurse] gave us one.

This American Life. Episode 423: Death and Taxes. April 25, 2014.

 

Language is a social art.

—Willard Van Orman Quine

 

     For many in the modern humanities and social sciences, there is no human nature, only the constructions of local culture, and to think otherwise can only endanger hopes for changing what we are and do.

     This position is confused.

—Brian Boyd.  2009.  On The Origin of Stories.  Page 19.

 

...acceptance matters for social animals as much as do oxygen and food.

—Brian Boyd.  2009.  On The Origin of Stories.  Page 103.

 

This is the foundation of all of social science, the foundation of religion, the foundation of war. Social psychologists like me come along and say, "Yeah, people are the actors on the stage, but you'll have to be aware of what that situation is. Who are the cast of characters? What's the costume? Is there a stage director?" And so we're interested in, what are the external factors around the individual -- the bad barrel? And social scientists stop there, and they miss the big point that I discovered when I became an expert witness for Abu Ghraib. The power is in the system. The system creates the situation that corrupts the individuals, and the system is the legal, political, economic, cultural background. And this is where the power is of the bad-barrel makers.

So if you want to change a person, you've got to change the situation. If you want to change the situation, you've got to know where the power is, in the system. So the Lucifer effect involves understanding human character transformations with these three factors. And it's a dynamic interplay. What do the people bring into the situation? What does the situation bring out of them? And what is the system that creates and maintains that situation?

—Zimbardo, Philip. February 2008. “The psychology of evil.” TED talk.

 

Evolution has allowed humans to develop our singular capacity for culture because culture helps us track changes in the environment more rapidly than genes do.  Genetic change normally takes many generations to pervade a population; culture can enable advantageous options to spread rapidly in a single generation and to be passed on to successive generations.

—Brian Boyd.  2009.  On The Origin of Stories.  Page 25.

 

When a person cannot deceive himself, the chances are against his being able to deceive others.

—Mark Twain.

 

But when man found that the best means of survival, for individual as well as species, was social organization, he expanded the hunting pack into a system of social order in which the instincts once so useful in the hunting stage had to be checked at every turn to make society possible. Ethically every civilization is a balance and tension between the jungle instincts of men and the inhibitions of a moral code. The instincts without the inhibitions would end civilization; the inhibitions without the instincts would end life. The problem of morality is to adjust inhibitions to protect civilization without enfeebling life.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 819.

 

 

Nature naturally produces thieves, the envious, forgers, murderers; they cover the face of the earth; and without the laws which repress vice each individual would abandon himself to the instincts of nature, and would think only of himself…

—Letter from the young Frederick the Great to Voltaire. Source: Will Durant in The Story of Civiliation.  Part IX.  The Age of Voltaire.  Chapter XIII: Frederick and Maria Theresa. Page 445.

 

 

The secret of getting away with lying is believing it with all your heart.

—Elizabeth Bear.

 

“Do you think she means it?”

“Of course.  All the best liars mean what they say...until they’ve said it.”

—Dialog between two senators in Nero: The Decline of the Empire.

 

Jerry, just remember: it’s not a lie if you believe it.

—George Castanza.

 

…the desire for recognition ensures that politics will never be reducible to simple economic self-interest.

—Fukuyama, Francis. 2011. The Origins of Political Order. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux: NY, NY. Page 45.

 

We need to change the way the public thinks about it. Okay, well that might be where it gets quixotic, one would think. I don't think so. I think you can change the way the public thinks about these things and I think you could do it very quickly. You can look at examples of it. Look at the way the pork industry changed the way people think about pork from a fatty heart-attack waiting to happen to 'the other white meat.' Or the way the egg industry changed the image of the egg as a high cholesterol food that was bad for you to 'the incredible, edible egg.' They just got methodical about it. The non-profit sector has remained utterly silent about these issues. It has no anti-defamation mechanism like other communities have, so it takes punches to the face in the media all the time and doesn't respond. It has no legal defense fund mechanism the way the Mexican-American community, the African-American community, the gay and lesbian community do, so its First Amendment rights are constantly trampled. It has no, you know, pork-the-other-white-meat advertising campaign where it actually tries to tell the media what overhead actually is. And it doesn't organize itself. There is no database where all 10 million people who are employed in the non-profit sector are listed and you could punch a button in order to get them to advocate on behalf of themselves. So we just need to do those things. And I'll tell you where my faith in the ability of us to change this comes from. One thing, like if we could change the way people think about pork, we could absolutely change the way they think about charity. But secondly, I happen to be gay. And I'm 52 years old now. And when I came out to my parents when I was 21, they were totally depressed and they thought: you'll never have a normal life and you'll never have a family and you'll never have children. Well, it's 30 years later; I'm married to a wonderful man that I've been with for 12 years; I have three beautiful children; they are our own biological kids. I could not have dreamed that that kind of change would have happened in the United States in the course of those 30 years. But it has. If we can make that kind of change on something as polarizing as gay rights and gay marriage, we can absolutely get people to think more rationally about charity.

—Pallotta, Dan [interviewee]. June 17, 2013. “Pallotta on Charity and the Culture of the Non-Profit Sector.” EconTalk.org. Russell Roberts [host]. Library of Economics and Liberty.

 

When you enter a sick man's room, bear in mind your manner of sitting, reserve, arrangement of dress, decisive utterance, brevity of speech, composure, bedside manners...self-control, rebuke of disturbance, readiness to do what has to be done.

—Will Durant. 1939. The Story of Civilization Part II: The Life of Greece.  Chapter 15: The Advancement of Learning. Page 347.

 

Gossip creates a non-zero-sum game because it costs us nothing to give each other information, yet we both benefit by receiving information...When people pass along high-quality (“juicy”) gossip, they feel more powerful, they have a better shared sense of what is right and what’s wrong, and they feel more closely connected to their gossip partners...a second study revealed that most people hold negative views of gossip and gossipers, even though almost everyone gossips....many species reciprocate, but only humans gossip, and much of what we gossip about is the value of other people as partners for reciprocal relationships

—Jonathan Haidt in The Happiness Hypothesis.  2006.  Basic Books.

 

Whenever a way is found to suppress free riding so that individual units can cooperate, work as a team, and divide labor, selection at the lower level becomes less important, selection at the higher level becomes more powerful, and that higher-level selection favors the most cohesive superorganisms.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

All of our life is nothing but a mass of habits.

—William James

 

Scientists are discovering that habits are simply an extreme form of learning, a behavior that’s so familiar we no longer need to think about it.

—Jonah Lehrer in The Wall Street Journal.  February 18-19, 2012.  C12.

 

The other prediction, of course, is that as countries conquer disease, the intelligence of their citizens will rise. A rise in intelligence over the decades has already been noticed in rich countries. It is called the Flynn effect after James Flynn, who discovered it. Its cause, however, has been mysterious—until now. If Mr Eppig is right, the near-abolition of serious infections in these countries, by vaccination, clean water and proper sewerage, may explain much if not all of the Flynn effect.

When Dr Lynn and Dr Vanhanen originally published their IQ data, they used them to advance the theory that national differences in intelligence were the main reason for different levels of economic development. This study turns that reasoning on its head. It is lack of development, and the many health problems this brings, which explains the difference in levels of intelligence. No doubt, in a vicious circle, those differences help keep poor countries poor. But the new theory offers a way to break the circle. If further work by researchers supports the ideas of Mr Eppig and his colleagues, they will have done the world a good turn by providing policymakers with yet another reason why the elimination of disease should be one of the main aims of development, rather than a desirable afterthought.

The Economist.  “Disease and Intelligence: Mens sana in corpore sano.”  July 1, 2010.

 

 

But actions actually speak louder than words. In one study, researchers actually made up a new fantastical figure called the Candy Witch, who gives you a toy in exchange for some of your Halloween candy. (My inner child loves and hates this witch!) They found, understandably, that kids who were told that such a being existed and then were actually able to complete the candy-for-toy exchange had a higher level of belief that those who merely heard the tale. The proof of the Tooth Fairy is in the cash under your pillow, am I right?

The Economist.  “Disease and Intelligence: Mens sana in corpore sano.”  July 1, 2010.

 

 

But if this was what the ancients called liberty, they admitted as compatible with this collective freedom the complete subjection of the individual to the authority of the community. You find among them almost none of the enjoyments which we have just seen form part of the liberty of the moderns.

All private actions were submitted to a severe surveillance. No importance was given to individual independence, neither in relation to opinions, nor to labor, nor, above all, to religion. The right to choose one's own religious affiliation, a right which we regard as one of the most precious, would have seemed to the ancients a crime and a sacrilege.

—Benjamin Constant in The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of Moderns.  1816.  Quoted in The Wall Street Journal.  May 12-13, 2012.  A13.

 

All movements go too far.

—Bertrand Russell

 

The truism that abusive childhoods lead to troubled adulthoods is as valid in Beijing as Baltimore. That’s the conclusion of a study recently published in the journal Children and Youth Services Review.

In a first-of-its-kind survey of 2,690 inmates in the Chinese capital’s 11 jails, 90 percent reported they were victims of at least two of five forms of childhood abuse: emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional neglect, or physical neglect.

—Jacobs, Tom.  July 2, 2012.  “In China, Adult Criminals Were Abused Kids.”  Pacific Standard.

 

Anthropology has shown us just how different and numerous are the ways in which humans have been known to organize themselves. But it also reveals some remarkable  commonalities—fundamental moral principles that appear to exist everywhere…

One of the reasons that human life is so complicated, in turn, is because many of these principles contradict one another.

—Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Melville House: NY, NY.

 

Rather than seeing himself as human because he could make economic calculations, the hunter insisted that being truly human meant refusing to make such calculations, refusing to measure or remember who had given what to whom, for the precise reason that doing so would inevitably create a world where we began “comparing power with power, measuring, calculating” and reducing each other to slaves or dogs through debt.

—Graeber, David. 2011. Debt: The First 5,000 Years. Melville House: NY, NY.

 

We’ll kill everyone who has fought against us.

—Abu Anas, faction leader in the Syrian revolt, who led the siege of Azaz and wants to establish an Islamic state in Syria. Quoted in: Anderson, Jon Lee. August 27, 2012. “The War Within.” The New Yorker.

 

To describe the role of these developments in the growth of entitlements, the usual dyad of dependence/independence is too crude. We must take account of a third term—interdependence—and the principle of reciprocity that undergirds it. When I do something for you that you would be hard-pressed to do for yourself and you respond by helping me with something I find difficult, we depend on one another and are the stronger for it.

Well-functioning societies are replete with relations of this sort and often use them as models for public policy. But the move from small groups to large-scale collective action makes a difference. Reciprocity becomes extended not only demographically and geographically but also chronologically. Political communities exist not just for the here and now but for future generations as well. Many of our entitlement policies rest on the idea of interdependence extended through time—in other words, on an intergenerational compact.

To be entitled to something under such a compact is not necessarily to be dependent on it—at least not in a way that should trouble us. Consider a nongovernmental example. If I use my life savings to purchase a retirement annuity, I have a legally enforceable expectation of receiving over time the stream of income specified in the contract. I am entitled to these payments, and I certainly "depend" on them to fund my living expenses when I am no longer working.

I would make a similar argument about the Earned Income Tax Credit, which supplements the earnings of low-wage workers. Since the Ford administration, both political parties have usually agreed on the proposition that people who work full-time, year-round, should not live in poverty, and neither should their families. To the extent that market wages do not suffice to meet this standard, the public sector should step in to fill the gap. Though these low-wage workers are not self-sufficient, they are not dependent either, because dependency is a matter of character, not arithmetic.

It is acceptable for society to help those adults who are doing their best to provide for themselves but cannot manage to do so. Our worry focuses on those who could be doing more to help themselves but choose not to do so. That is the kind of dependence that troubles us.

But what about means-tested programs such as Medicaid, eligibility for which depends on status (such as poverty) rather than activity (such as work)? Do they increase dependence?

Again, consider the low-wage worker in a full-time job that does not provide health insurance. Given current costs in the market, that worker is in no position to purchase insurance for himself. So he has three options: he can go without needed health care, seek charity care delivered through the voluntary sector, or participate in public programs financed mostly by taxpayers with higher incomes.

Having the government help him out with life's essentials does not contribute to dependence. Indeed, one could argue that it does just the reverse, by rewarding work. There is no necessary relation between the growth of means-tested government benefits and the increase in the kind of dependence we care about from a moral point of view.

—Galston,  William A. September 1-2, 2012. “They’re Part of the Civic Compact.” One of two articles addressing the question: are entitlement’s corrupting us? The Wall Street Journal. C1.

 

…modern society is an opportunistic experiment, founded on a human psychology that had already evolved before human beings ever had to deal with strangers in any systematic way. It is like a journey to the open sea by people who have never yet had to adapt to any environment but the land.

—Seabright, Paul. 2004. In the Company of Strangers: A Modern History of Economic Life.

 

About two years after the break-up of the Soviet Union I was in discussion with a senior Russian official whose job it was to direct the production of bread in St. Petersburg. “Please understand that we are keen to move towards a market system,” he told me. “But we need to understand the fundamental details of how such a system works. Tell me, for example: who is in charge of the supply of bread to the population of London?” There was nothing naïve about his question, because the answer (“nobody is in charge”), when one thinks carefully about it, is astonishingly hard to believe. Only in the industrialized West have we forgotten just how strange it is.

—Seabright, Paul. 2004. In the Company of Strangers: A Modern History of Economic Life.

 

Another politically important form of affection is identification with a leader.  This is what [David] Hume calls “imaginary interest,” whereby individuals attach themselves psychologically to a leader whom they will never meet and from whom they can expect no material benefits.  Quasi-erotic fixation on prominent individuals may sometimes inspire acts of personal foolhardiness or courage.  But it usually has less dramatic effects.  For instance, it allows devotees to live national events vicariously, to feel involved in large affairs.

—Holmes, Stephen. “Chapter 17: The Secret History of Self-Interest.” Beyond Self-Interest. Edited by Mansbridge, Jane J.

 

Each of us has within us the mind of a monarch, wanting to be granted complete freedom of action but not wanting it to be used against him.

 

Food isn’t about Nutrition
Clothes aren’t about Comfort
Bedrooms aren’t about Sleep
Marriage isn’t about Romance
Talk isn’t about Info
Laughter isn’t about Jokes
Charity isn’t about Helping
Church isn’t about God
Art isn’t about Insight
Medicine isn’t about Health
Consulting isn’t about Advice
School isn’t about Learning
Research isn’t about Progress
Politics isn’t about Policy

The above summarizes much of my contrarian world view.  (What else should go on this list?) When I say “X is not about Y,” I mean that while Y is the function commonly said to drive most X behavior, in fact some other function Z drives X behavior more.  I won’t support all these claims here; for today, let’s just talk politics.

High school students are easily engaged to elect class presidents, even though they have little idea what if any policies a class president might influence.  Instead such elections are usually described as “popularity contests.”  That is, theses elections are about which school social factions are to have higher social status.  If a jock wins, jocks have higher status.  If your girlfriend’s brother wins, you have higher status, etc.  And the fact that you have a vote says that others should take you into account when forming coalitions – you are somebody.

Civics teachers talk as if politics is about policy, that politics is our system for choosing policies to deal with common problems.  But as Tyler Cowen suggests, real politics seems to be more about who will be our leaders, and what coalitions will rise or fall in status as a result.  Election media coverage focuses on characterizing the candidates themselves – their personalities, styles, friends, beliefs, etc.  You might say this is because character is a cheap clue to the policies candidates would adopt, but I don’t buy it.

The obvious interpretation seems more believable – as with high school class presidents, we care about policies mainly as clues to candidate character and affiliations.  And to the extent we consider policies not tied to particular candidates, we mainly care about how policies will effect which kinds of people will be respected how much.

For example, we want nationalized medicine so poor sick folks will feel cared for, military actions so foreigners will treat us with respect, business deregulation as a sign of respect for hardworking businessfolk, official gay marriage as a sign we accept gays, and so on.

This perspective explains why voters tend to prefer proportional representation, why many refuse to vote for any candidate when none have earned their respect, and why so few are interested in institutional reforms that would plausibly give more informed policies.  (I’m speaking on such reform at a Trinity College symposium Monday afternoon.)

In each case where X is commonly said to be about Y, but is really X is more about Z, many are well aware of this but say we are better off pretending X is about Y.  You may be called a cynic to say so, but if honesty is important to you, join me in calling a spade a spade.

—Hanson, Robin. September 21, 2008. “Politics isn’t about Policy.” overcomingbias.com [blog]. Accessed November 26, 2012 at http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/09/politics-isnt-a.html.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Individuality

 

Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom.

—Albert Einstein. Quoted in: Haslam, Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno, and Tom Postmes. July/August 2014. “Creativity is Collective.” Scientific American Mind. Page 32.

 

Historically, abuses have been most rampant—and body counts have run the highest—when the individual is sacrificed for the good of the group. It happens when people are judged by the skin of their skin, or by their gender, or by whom they prefer to sleep with, or by which political or religious group they belong to, or by any other distinguishing trait our species has identified to differentiate among members instead of by the content of their individual character.

 

Honesty

 

The Jew … prided himself on his reproductive ability and his children; his most solemn oath was taken by laying his hand upon the testes of the man receiving the pledge; hence the word testimony.

—Durant, Will. 1950. The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. Page 381.

 

 

 

People and Culture

 

Custom is king.

—Herodotus (484 – 425 BC).

 

The concept of linear time has deep roots in Western society … Dominant American culture has even laid this preference for straight lines onto the natural landscape … linear time has generate the myth of progress …  A core perspective and an accompanying human problem in linear time is the reality that the straight line of time does not support the experience of a center … people oriented toward both past and future are likely to be distracted from the human and spiritual possibilities inherent in being in the now … In contrast to the linear concepts of time, most Native American traditions follow the example of nature and perceive that cyclical, not linear, processes of change are inherent in all forms and patterns of nature.

—Brown, Joseph Epes (with Emily Cousins). 2001. Teaching Spirits: Understanding Native American Religious Tradiations. Oxford University Press. Pages 10-12.

 

Many tribes believe that these renewal ceremonies, farm from being mere New Year’s celebrations, are responsible for sustaining life … We can see an extension of this belief in hunting cultures, in which humans assumed the sacred responsibility for taking the life of living beings and so became partners, or links, in the cyclical chain of life and death—they believed that there would be life again. The implications of such beliefs to spiritually meaningful concepts of death are of the greatest importance and offer alternatives to the linear understanding of death as “the end of time.”

—Brown, Joseph Epes (with Emily Cousins). 2001. Teaching Spirits: Understanding Native American Religious Tradiations. Oxford University Press. Pages 13.

 

 

The difference between the most dissimilar characters, between a philosopher and a common street porter, for example, seems to arise not so much from nature, as from habit, custom, and education. 
—Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations

Nobody outside of a baby carriage or a judge's chamber believes in an unprejudiced point of view. 
—Lillian Hellman 

If a dread of not being understood be hidden in the breasts of other young people to anything like the extent to which it used to be hidden in mine—which I consider it probably- as I have no particular reason to suspect myself of having been a monstrosity—it is the key to many reservations.

—Charles Dickens in Great Expectations

 

It was cooperation, then, whether in the form of monogamous pairs, nuclear families or tribes, that enabled humans to succeed when all our fossil ancestors and cousins went extinct. In fact, cooperation may be the greatest skill we have acquired during the past two million years—one that enabled our young genus to survive through periods of environmental change and stress and one that may well determine our geologically young species’ future.

—Edgar, Blake. September 2014. “Powers of Two.” Scientific American. Page 67.

 

In fact, humans have evolved rapidly and remarkably in the past 30,000 years. Straight, black hair, blue eyes and lactose tolerance are all examples of relatively recent traits.

—Hawks, John. September 2014. “Still Evolving (After All These Years).” Scientific American. Page 86.

 

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.
—Leo Tolstoy 

To be in health is the best thing for a man; the next best, to be of form and nature beautiful; the third, to enjoy wealth gotten without fraud; and the fourth, to be in youth’s bloom among friends.

—Simonides of Ceos, a Greek poet (556-468 BC)

 

It may sound depressing to think that our righteous minds are basically tribal minds, but consider the alternative. Our tribal minds make it easy to divide us, but without our long period of tribal living there'd be nothing to divide in the first place. There's be only small families of foragers—not nearly as sociable as today's hunter-gatherers—eking out a living and losing most of their members to starvation during every prolonged drought.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

What was the secret ingredient that gave religious communes a longer shelf life? [Richard Sosis] found one master variable: the number of costly sacrifices that each commune demanded from its members. It was things like giving up alcohol and tobacco, fasting for days at a time, conforming to a communal dress code or hairstyle, or cutting ties with outsiders...Why doesn't sacrifice strengthen secular communes? Sosis argues that rituals, laws, and other constraints work best when they are sacralized...when secular organizations demand sacrifice, every member has a right to ask for a cost-benefit analysis...Irrational beliefs can sometimes help the group function more rationally, particularly when those beliefs rest upon the Sanctity foundation.

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 

 

Hiving comes naturally, easily, and joyfully to us. Its normal function is to bond dozens or at most hundreds of people together into communities of trust, cooperation, even love. These bonded groups may care less about outsiders than they did before their bonding...But is that really such a bad thing overall, given how shallow our care for strangers is in the first place?

—Jonathan Haidt.  2012.  The Righteous Mind. 


As it is this disposition which forms that difference of talents, so remarkable among men of different professions, so it is this same disposition which renders that difference useful. 
—Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations

The American poet Wallace Stevens once wrote, "After the final 'no' there comes a 'yes'/And on that 'yes' the future world depends." There were many no's before the emergence of a global consensus to abolish chattel slavery, before the consensus that women must have the right to vote, before the fever of the nuclear­arms race was broken, before the quickening global recognition of gay and lesbian equality, and indeed before every forward advance toward social progress. Though a great many obstacles remain in the path of this essential agreement, I am among the growing number of people who are allowing themselves to become more optimistic than ever that a bold and comprehensive pact may well emerge from the Paris negotiations late next year, which many regard as the last chance to avoid civilizational catastrophe while there is still time.

—Gore, Al. June 18, 2014. “The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate.” Rolling Stone. Page 87.

 

How long will it take? When Martin Luther King Jr. was asked that question during some of the bleakest hours of the U.S. civil rights revolution, he responded, "How long? Not long. Because no lie can live forever....How long? Not long. Because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."

And so it is today: How long? Not long.

—Gore, Al. June 18, 2014. “The Turning Point: New Hope for the Climate.” Rolling Stone. Page 87.


...nowhere in the ethnographic literature is there any description of what real people did that is not shot through with the signs of a universal human nature...anthropologists routinely conduct research that can only be done because in crucial ways the differences between us and the peoples we study are not in fact very great; yet because everybody likes to hear that “they” are different from “us”, anthropologists dwell on the differences.

—Donald E. Brown in Human Universals, page 5.

 

Lies, truth: it’s irrelevant. The best story wins.

—Character of Leonardo da Vinci in Da Vinci’s Demons. Season 1. Episode 5.

 

...From 1915 to 1934 American anthropologists established three fundamental principles about the nature of culture: that culture is a distinct kind of phenomenon that cannot be reduced to others (in particular, not biology or psychology), that culture (rather than our physical nature) is the fundamental determinant of human behavior, and that culture is largely arbitrary.

—Donald E. Brown in Human Universals, page 6.

 

There can surely be nobody so petty or so apathetic in his outlook that he has no desire to discover by what means, and under what system of government, the Romans succeeded in less than 53 years, in bringing under their rule almost the whole of the inhabited world—an achievement which without parallel in human history.

—Polybius (220-118 BC).  The Rise of the Roman Empire.

 

The trouble with the world is that the stupid and cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt.

—Bertrand Russell.  However, Bailey’s experience with economists suggests Russell’s comment is not always true.

 

There are two features of a lot of ideologies that make them deadly.  One of them is demonizing...The other is if your ideology promotes some utopia—and often they’re linked, because it’s usually some demonic group that stands in the way of your utopia...

—Steven Pinker in an interview with Ronald Bailey.  February, 2012.  “The Decline of Violence.”  Reason magazine. 

 

For people raised in the same culture with the same opportunities, differences in IQ reflected largely differences in inheritance rather than in training or education.

—Peter Miller.  “A Thing or Two About Twins.”  National Geographic.  January, 2012.

 

It was as if it didn’t matter in which family the twins had been raised.

—Peter Miller.  “A Thing or Two About Twins.”  National Geographic.  January, 2012.

 

…most of the cells in the human body are not human at all.  Bacterial cells in the human body outnumber human cells 10 to one.  Moreover, this mixed community of microbial cells and the genes they contain, collectively known as the microbiome, does not threaten us but offers vital help with basic physiological processes—from digestion to growth to self-defense.

So much for human autonomy.

<