Table of Contents: Simple Wisdoms Overview
As he himself points out in the 'Phaedrus,' however, Plato never imagined his writings to be any substitute for the personal training and moral development which he believed could only come from personal contact with his student.''@(Greek and Roman Classics. Pg. 330).
One statement at least I can make regarding all those who have written or will write, claiming knowledge of the subjects I pursue -- regardless of how they claim to have acquired it. . . . These writers, in my opinion, can have no real acquaintance with the subject. I have composed no work about it, nor will I ever do so in the future; there is no way of expressing it in words like other studies. Knowledge of it must come after a long period of . . . instruction . . . when, suddenly, like a blaze ignited by a leaping spark, it is kindled in the soul, and immediately becomes self-sustaining.''@(Greek and Roman Classics. Pg. 330. quotation from Plato's Seventh Letter.).
He who learns to be his true self is one who finds out what is good and holds fast to it.
In order to learn to be one's true self, it is necessary to obtain a wide and extensive knowledge of what has been said and done in the world; critically to inquire into it; carefully to ponder over it; clearly to sift it; and earnestly to carry it out.(Confucius. Pg, 123.).
I use my ears widely and follow what is good in what I have heard; I use my eyes widely and retain what I have seen in my mind. This constitutes a lower level of knowledge.@(Confucius. Pg. 23.).
When the people are humble and respectful and frugal in their habits, that shows the teaching of li (the principle of social order). When the people are cultivated in their speech, ready with expressions and analogies, that shows the teaching of prose, or Spring and Autumn. The danger in teaching too much poetry is that people remain ignorant, or too simple-hearted. The danger in the teaching to history is that people may be filled with incorrect legends and stories of events. The danger in the teaching of music is that people grow extravagant. The danger in the teaching of philosophy is that the people become crooked. And the danger in the teaching of Spring and Autumn [a cronicle of political events in the centuries preceding Confucius], is that the people get a sense of the prevailing moral chaos.@(Confucius. Pg. 212.).
What really ruins our characters is the fact that none of us looks back over his life. We think about what we are going to do, and only rarely of that, and fail to think about what we have done, yet any plans for the future are dependent on the past.@(Seneca. Pg. 140.).
The common man has no need of remedy or consolation till the blow strikes; and he dwells on it only at the moment when he feels it. Are we not right when we say that ut us stolidity and lack of imagination that give the common man his patience under present evils, and his profound unconcern with unhappy events in the future; that since his mind is coarse and insensitive, it is less easily penetrated and shaken? If this be so, for God's sake let us set up a school for stupidity. For the best fruit that learning promises is that to which stupidity leads its disciples so gently.@(Montaigne. Pg. 330.).
The mind considers also its great advantage in being so placed that wherever it casts its eyes the heavens are calm around it, in having no desire, no fear or doubt to disturb the air, and no difficulty, past, present, or future, over which its thoughts may not wander scathless. This meditation is much enhanced by a comparison with conditions different from my own. Thus I call up a thousand pictures of those who are carried away and storm-
tossed by fate or by their own errors, and of those others who, more like me, accept their good fortune so negligently and with such indifference. These are the people who really pass their time; they pass beyond the present and what they possess, to make themselves slaves of hope, lured by shadows and vain images that fancy puts before them. . ..@(Montaigne. Pg. 402.).
We do not move forwards, but rather wander, turning this way and that. We return over our tracks. I am afraid that our knowledge is weak in every direction; we do not see far ahead or far behind us. It embraces little, and its life is short in both extent of time and extent of matter:
'Many heroes lived before Agamemnon, but no one weeps for them; they all lie forgotten in darkness.' Horace, Odes, IV,ix,25.@(Montaigne. Pg. 275.).
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day;
fritter and waster the hours in an off-hand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town;
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine,
staying home to watch the rain,
you are young and life is long,
and there is time to kill today.
And then one day, you find
ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run.
You missed the starting gun. And you
run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it's sinking;
racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you're older,
shorter of breath, and one day closer to death.
Every year is getting shorter,
never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught,
or half a page of scribbled lines.
Hanging on to quiet desperation
is the English way.
The time is gone. The song is over.
Thought I'd something more to say.
Roger Waters, Rick Wright, David Gilmour, Nicholas Mason.
[What can serve as a principle of conduct for life?]Perhaps the word 'reciprocity' (shu) will do. Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you.@(Confucius. Pg. 186.).
Confucius denounced or tried to avoid completely four things: arbitrariness of opinion, dogmatism, narrowmindedness, and egotism.@(Confucius. Pg. 164.).
The Master said, 'Yu, have you heard about the six qualities and the six attendant faults? . . . To love benevolence without loving learning is liable to lead to foolishness. To love cleverness without loving learning is liable to lead to deviation from the right path. To love trustworthiness in word without loving learning is liable to lead to harmful behaviour. To love forthrightness without loving learning is liable to lead to intolerance. To love courage without loving learning is liable to lead to insubordination. To love unbending strength without loving learning is liable to lead to indiscipline.@(Confucius. Pp. 144-145.).
Tzu-Kung asked, 'Is there a single word which acan be a guide to conduct throughout one's life?' The Master said, 'It is perhaps the word shu''.[i.e., using oneself as a measure in gauging the wishes of others. Cf. VI.30 and IV.15. It is interesting to note that in V.12 when Tzu Kung remarked that if he did not wish others to impose on him neither did he wish to impose on others, Confucius' comment was that this was beyond his ability.] Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.'@(Confucius. Pg. 135.).
There were four things the Master refused to have anything to do with: he refused to entertain conjectures [cf. 'If a man, without anticipating deception . . . is able to be the first to see it, he must be an able man'(XIV.31).] or insist on certainty; he refusd to be inflexible or to be egotistical.@(Confucius. Pg. 96.).
If men become evil, that is not the thought of their original endowment. The sense of mercy is found in all men; the sense of shame is found in all men; the sense of respect is found in all men. The sense of mercy is what we call benevolence of charity. the sense of shame is what we call righteousness. The sense of respect is what we call propriety. The sense of right and wrong is what we call wisdom, or moral consciousness.'' [ed. about Mencius]@(Confucius. Pg. 282.).
. . . treat your inferiors in the way in which you would like to be treated by your own superiors. And whenever it strikes you how much power you have over your slave, let it also strike you that your own master has just as much power over you.@(Seneca. Pg. 93.).
The gentleman is easy to serve but difficult to please. He will not be pleased unless you try to please him by following the Way, but when it comes to employing the services of others, he does so within the limits of their capacity. The small man is difficult to serve but easy to please. He will be pleased . . .@(Confucius. Pg. 122.).
For the rest, when I wish to size a man up, I ask him how far he is satisfied with himself, and how much what he says and does pleases him. . . . And again: 'What do you think best in your work? Is it this feature or that? Its style, its matter, its originality, its judgement, or its learning?'@(Montaigne. Pg. 306.).
People try to get out of themselves and to escape from the man. This is folly; instead of transforming themselves into angels, they turn themselves into beasts; instead of lifting, they degrade themselves.@(Montaigne. Pg. 405.).
The astonishing magnificance if the cities of Cuzco and Mexico. . .; all these things show they were no way inferior to us in industry either. But as to religious conduct, obedience to the law, goodness, liberality, loyalty, and honest dealing, it was greatly to our advantage that we had not as much as they. By excelling us in these virtues, they ruined, sold and betrayed themselves.@(Montaigne. Pg. 277.).
. . .we have taken advantage of their ignorance and inexperience to bend them more easily to treachery, lust, covetousness, and to every kind of inhumanity and cruelty, on the model and after the example of our own manners.@(Montaigne. Pg. 279.).
Never to wrong others takes one a long way towards peace of mind. People who know no self-restraint lead stormy and disordered lives, passing their time in a state of fear commensurate with the injuries they do to others, never able to relax. . . . To expect punishment is to suffer it; and to earn it is to expect it.@(Seneca. Pg. 196.).
Death you'll think of as the worst of all bad thing, though in fact there is nothing bad about it at all except the thing which comes before it -- the fear of it.@(Seneca. Pg. 187.).
. . .death ought to be right there before the eyes of a young man just as much as an old one. . ..@(Seneca. Pg. 58.).
Would you like to know what lies behind extravagant weeping and wailing? In our tears we are trying to find means of proving that we feel the loss, We are not being governed by our grief but parading it.@(Seneca. Pg. 114.).
Thinking of departed friends is to me something sweet and mellow. For when I had them with me it was with the feeling that I was going to lose them, and now that I have lost them I keep the feeling that I have them with me still.@(Seneca. Pg. 115.).
Supposing someone lost his one and only shirt in a robbery, would yonot think him an utter idiot if he chose to bewail his loss rather than look about him for some means of keeping out the cold and find something to put over his shoulders? You have buried someone you love. It is better to make good the loss of a friend than to cry over him.@(Seneca. Pg. 116.).
There is nothing so great about living -- all your slaves and animals do it.@(Seneca. Pg. 126.).
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 a prize fool if he burst into tears because he didn't live a thousand years ago? A man is as much a fool for shedding tears because he isn't going to be alive a thousand years from now. There is no difference between the one and the other -- you didn't exist and you won't exist -- you've no concern with either period.@(Seneca. Pg. 127.).
You are scared of death -- but how magnificently heedless of it you are while you are dealing with a dish of choice mushrooms! You want to live -- but do you know how to live? You are scared of dying -- and, tell me, is the kind of life you lead really any different from being dead?@(Seneca. Pg. 129.).
The feeling that death is at hand sometimes inspires us of itself with a quick resolve no longer to evade a thing that is quite inevitable. . . . To contemplate death in the future calls for a courage that is slow, and consequently difficult to acquire. If you do not know how to die, never mind. Nature will give you full and adequate . . .*@(Montaigne. Pp. 328-329.).
Tzu-kung asked about government. The Master said, 'Give them enough food, give them enough arms, and the common people will have trust in you.'
Tzu-kung said, 'If one had to give up one of these three, which should one give up first?'
'Give up arms.'
Tzu-kung said, 'If one had to give up one of the remaining two, which should one give up first?'
Give up food. Death has always been with us since the beginning of time, but when there is no trust, the common people will have nothing to stand on.'@(Confucius. Pg. 113.).
If you know not how to die, never trouble yourself; Nature will in a moment fully and sufficiently instruct you; she will exactly do that business for you; take you no care for it.@(Thomas quotation of Montaigne. Pg. 105.).
It is a folly to try to beat death. One second after my heart stops thumping I shall not know or care what becomes of all my books and articles.@(ed. Mencken. Pg. 267.).
Socrates:The difficulty, friends, is not to avoid death, but to avoid unrighteousness, for that runs faster than death.@(Greek and Roman Classics. Pg. 402.).
'Shapes frightening to the sight, Hardship and Death.'[Virgil, Aeneid,VI:277]
Our Virgil perfectly rightly says that they are frightening not in reality, but 'to the sight', in other words that they seem so but in fact are not.@(Seneca. Pg. 191.).
One does not explain away what is already done, one does not argue against what is already accomplished, and one does not condemn what has already gone by.@(Confucius. Pg. 230.).
History without 'interpretation' has come to be seen as a selfdeceptive undertaking, the naive assertion that facts speak for 'themselves,' not for their selector.@(Heilbronner. Pg. 79.).
To the very last no one ever saw Socrates in any particular mood of gaity or depression. Through all the ups and downs of fortune his was a level temperament.@(Seneca. Pg. 192.).
Well, I don't know what's going to happen; but I do know what is capable of happening -- and none of this will give rise to any protest on my part. . . .just as I know that anything is capable of happening so also do I know that it's not bound to happen. So I look for the best and am prepared for the opposite.@(Seneca. Pg. 155.).
Cling, therefore, to this sound and wholesome plan of life: indulge the body just so far as suffices for good health. It needs to be treated somewhat strictly to prevent it from being disobedient to the spirit. Your food should appease your hunger, your drink quench your thirst, your clothing keep out the cold, your house be a protection against inclement weather. . . . Reflect that nothing merits admiration except the spirit, the impressiveness of which prevents it from being impressed by anything.@(Seneca. Pp. 45-46.).
At the battle of Delium [Socrates] was seen to pick up and rescue Xenophon, who had been thrown from his horse. He was observed always to march into battle and tread on ice with bare feet, to wear the same cloak in winter and summer, to outdo all his comrads in the endurance of hardships, and to eat no more at a banquet than at an ordinary meal. He was seen for twenty-seven years to put up with hunger, poverty, the rebelliousness of his children, the clawings of his wife, and finally with calumny, tyranny, imprisonment, fetters, and poison, all without change of demeanour. But if ever this man was challenged to take part in a drinking-bout he would accept as a matter of courtesy and come off best in it out of the whole army. He never refused to play for nuts with the children, or to race with them on a hobby-
horse, and he did this nimbly. For all actions, says philosophy, are equally fitting and equally honourable in a wise man.@(Seneca. Pg. 399.).
We are each of us richer than we think; but we are trained to borrow and to beg; we are taught to make more use off what is another's than our own. No man knows how to stop at the limit of his needs; of pleasure, riches, and power he grasps more than he can hold; his greed is incapable of moderation.@(Montaigne. Pg. 313.).
'In learning, as in all other things, we are addicted to intemperance.'[Seneca, Letters, CVI] And Tacitus is right in praising Agricola's mother for curbing in her son a too fervent appetite for books. . . .
The acquisition of learning is much more dangerous than that of any other food or drink. For with other things, we carry home what we have bought in some vessel; and there we have leisure to examine its value and decide how much of it we shall use, and when. But learning we cannot at the outset put in any other vessel but our minds; we swallow it as we buy it, and by the time we leave the market we are already either infected or improved. There is some that only obstructs and burdens us instead of nourishing us; and some too that, while pretending to cure us, gives us poison.@(Montaigne. Pp. 313-314.).
-q20-The way things are
. . . nothing is burdensome if taken lightly, and nothing need arouse one's irritation so long as one doesn't make it bigger than it is by getting irritated.@(Seneca. Pg. 226).
Here is your noble spirit -- the one which has put itself in the hands of fate; on the other side we have the puny degerate spirit which struggles, and which sees nothing right in the way the universe is ordered, and would rather reform the gods than reform itself.@(Seneca. Pg. 200.).
We are born unequal, we die unequal.@(Seneca. Pg. 182.).
'Teach me,' he said, 'the easy things,' to which his instructor answered, 'these things are the same for every one, equally difficult for all.' Well, imagine that nature is saying to you, 'Those things you grumble about are the same for everyone. I can give no one anything easier.'@(Seneca. Pg. 182.).
Ain't it hard when you wake up in the morning
and you find out that those other days are gone?
All you have are memories of happiness
All your dreams and your lovers won't protect you;
they're only passing through you in the end.
They'll leave you stripped of all that they can get to,
and wait for you to come back again.
Yet still a light is shining
from that lamp on down the hall.
May-be the star of Bethlehem
wasn't a star at all.''
Star of Bethlehem''
-q21-Purpose of life
Behind Confucius' pursuit of the ideal moral character lies the unspoken, and therefore, unquestioned, assumption that the only purpose a man can have and also the only worthwhile thing a man can do is to become as good a man as possible. This is something that has to be pursued for its own sake and with complete indifference to success or failure. Unlike religious teachers, Confucius could hold out no hope of rewards either in this world or in the next.@(ed. Confucius. Pg. 12.).
Therefore if a man is cunning or deceitful in his speech, he is answered by cunning or deceitful speech, and if his wealth comes in by crooked methods, it flows out again by crooked methods.@(ed. Confucius. Pg. 149.).
Cunning words, an ingratiating face and utter servility, these things Tso-ch'iu Ming found shameful. I, too, find them shameful. To be friendly towards someone while concealing one's hostility, this Tso-ch'iu Ming found shameful. I, too, find it shameful.@(Confucius. Pg. 80.).
I am open with my family, to the extent of my powers. I quite freely reveal to them the state of my feelings for them, also my opinion of them, and of everyone else. I make haste to disclose and make myself clear to them; for I wish for no misunderstandings, either in my favour or my disfavour.@(Montaigne. Pg. 150).
Neither grammatical subtleties, nor the ingenious weaving of words and arguments help me there. I want discourses that plunge straight into the heart of the perplexity; his beat feebly about the bush. They are good for the school, the bar, and the pulpit, where we have leisure to doze, and are still in time a quarter of an hour later to pick up the thread of the argument.@(Montaigne. Pg. 166.).
Lying is indeed an accursed vice. We are men, and we have relations with one another only by speech. If we recognized the horror and gravity of an untruth, we should more justifiably punish it with fire than with any other crime.@(Montaigne. Pg. 31.).
. . .I look like a commonplace pygmy when the standard is that of certain past ages when, even if no other stronger qualities were present, it was usual to find a man moderate in his vengeance, slow in resenting insults, scrupulous in keeping his word, neither double-faced nor pliable, nor prone to make his faith conform to the will of others or the turn of the times. I would rather let an affair run to ruin than twist my words to further it. As for this new virtue of pretence and dissimulation which is so highly thought of at present, I hate it mortally. . . .@(Montaigne. Pg. 207.).
-q23-Thinking & talking vs. doing
I will tell you something extraordinary, but I wil tell it just the same: in many matters I find more order and restraint in my morals than in my opinions, and my appetites less depraved than my reason.@(Montaigne. Pg. 181.).
So be it, you have been let down by friends -- for by all means let them keep the name we mistakenly bestow upon them and be called such just to heighten their disgrace; but the fact is that your affairs have been freed for good and all of a number of people on whom all your trouble was being wasted and who considered you insufferable to anyone but yourself. There is nothing unusual or surprising about it at all. To be put out by this sort of thing is as ridiculous as grumbling about being spattered in the street or getting dirty where it is muddy.@(Seneca. Pg. 197.).
. . .if a thing is in your interest it is also in my own interest. Otherwise, if any matter that affects you is no concern of mine, I am not a friend. Friendship creates a community of interest between us in everything. We have neither successes nor setbacks as individuals; our lives have a common end. No one can lead a happy life if he thinks only of himself and turns everything to his own purposes. You should live for the other person if you wish to live for yourself.@(Seneca. Pg. 96.).
. . .the wise man, self-sufficient as he is, still desires to have a friend if only for the purpose of practising friendship and ensuring that those talents are not idle. Not, as Epicurus put it in the same letter, 'for the purpose of having someone to come and sit beside his bed when he is ill or come to his rescue when he is hard up or thrown into chains', but so that on the contrary he may have someone by whose sickbed he himself may sit or whom he may himself release when that person is held prisoner by hostile hands.@(Seneca. Pg. 49.).
. . .the desire lovers have for each other is not so very different from friendship -- you might say it was friendship gone mad.@(Seneca. Pg. 50.).
. . .if you are looking on anyone as a friend when you do not trust him as you trust yourself, you are making a grave mstake, and have failed to grasp sufficiently the full force of true friendship.
Certainly you should discuss everything with a friend; but before you do so, discuss in your mind the man himself. After friendship is formed you must trust, but before that you must judge. . . . Think for a long time whether or not you should admit a given person to your friendship. But when you have decided to do so, wealcome him heart and soul, and speak as unreservedly with him as you would with yourself. 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; but seeing that certain matters do arise on which convention decrees silence, the things which you should share with your friend are all your worries and deliberations. Regard him as loyal, and you will make him loyal. . . . Why should I keep back anything when I am with a friend. Why shouldn't I imagine I'm alone when I'm in his company?@(Seneca. Pg. 35.).
Can you love anyone without making him work hard? Can you do your best for anyone without educating him?@(Confucius. Pg. 125.).
Tzu-kung asked about how friends should be treated. the Master said, 'Advise them to the best of your ability and guide them properly, but stop where there is no hope of success. Do not ask to be snubbed,'@(Confucius. Pg. 117.).
One needs very strong ears to hear oneself freely criticized; and since there are few who can stand it without being stung, those who venture to perform this service for us give us a remarkable proof of their friendship. For it is a healthy affection that dares to wound and offend us for our own good.@(Montaigne. Pg. 359.).
[F]ortune, by accustoming me in my youth to the delicacy of a single and perfect friendship, has in fact given me a certain distaste for other kinds. . . . Also, I find an innate difficulty in giving myself by halves and with reservations, and with that slavish and suspicious prudence that is required of us in the conduct of our numerous and imperfect friendships.@(Montaigne. Pg. 253.).
. . . all those relationships that are created and fostered by pleasure and profit, by public or private interest, are so much the less fine and noble, and so much the less friendships, in so far as they mix some cause, or aim, or advantage with friendship, other than friendship itself.@(Montaigne. Pg. 92.).
For just as my own love for myself is not increases by the help I give myself at need . . . and as I feel no gratitude to myself for any service that I do myself; so the union of such friends, being truly perfect, causes them to lose consciousness of these duties, and to hate and banish from their thoughts these words that imply separation and difference: benefit, obligation, gratitude, request, thanks, and the like. Everything being in effect common between them -- will, thoughts, opinions, goods, wives, children, honour, and life -- and their agreement being that of one soul in two bodies, according to Aristotle's very proper definition, they can neither lend nor give one another anything.@(Montaigne. Pg. 99.).
I have seen people who gather together the whole day and never talk of anything serious among themselves, and who love to play little tricks on people. Marvellous, how can they ever do it!@(Confucius. Pg. 172.).
Stupidity is a bad quality; but to be unable to bear it, to be vexed and fretted by it, as is the case with me, is another kind of disease that is hardly less troublesome; and of this I am now going to accuse myself.@(Montaigne. Pg. 287.).
I enter into conversation and argument with great freedom and facility, since opinions find in me a soil into which they cannot easily penetrate or strike deep roots. No propositon astounds me, no belief offends me, however much opposed it may be to my own. There is no fantasy so frivolous or extravagant that it does not seem to me a natural product of the human mind. Those of us who deny our judgement the right of making final decisions, look mildly on ideas that differ from our own; if we do not give them credence, we can at least offer them a ready hearing. . . .Contradictions of opinion, therefore, neither offend nor estrange me; they only arrouse and exercise my mind. We run away from correction; we ought to court it and expose ourselves to it, especially when it comes in the shape of discussion, not of a school lesson. . . .@(Montaigne. Pp. 287-288.).
The men whose society and intimacy I seek are those who are called well-bred and talented men; and the thought of these gives me a distaste for others. Their kind is, rightly considered, the rarest that we have, a kind that owes almost everything to nature. the purpose of our intercourse is simply intimacy, familiarity, and talk; the exercise of our mind is our sole gain. In our conversations all subjects are alike to me. I do not care if there is no depth or weight in them; they always possess charm, and they always keep to the point. . . .@(Montaigne. Pg. 257.).
You should come down to the level of those in whose company you are, and sometimes feign ignorance. Lay aside your strength and subtlety; in common conversation it is enough to preserve coherence. For the rest, keep close to the ground, if that is what they like.@(Montaigne. Pp. 254-255.).
The learning that could not penetrate their minds has remained on the tips of their tongues. . . . It is very foolish to stifle one's own brilliance in order to shine with borrowed light.@(Montaigne. Pg. 255.).
If one learns from others but does not think, one will be bewildered. If, on the other hand, one thinks but does not learn from others, one will be in peril.@(Confucius. Pg. 65.).
Yu, shall I tell you what it is to know. To say you know when you know, and to say you do not when you do not, that is knowledge.@(Confucius. Pg. 65.).
Even when walking in the company of two other men, I am bound to be able to learn from them. The good points of the one I copy; the bad points of the other I correct in myself.@(Confucius. Pg. 88.).
Hui is no help to me at all. He is pleased with everything I say.@(Confucius. Pg. Pg. 106.).
-q27-Style vs. Substance
There are enough arguments [of verbal tricks] in different parts of my book, either borrowed or imitated. So we must be somewhat on our guard against taking for strength what is only nice phrasing, or for solid what is merely acute, or for good what is only beautiful. . ..@(Montaigne. Pg. 315.).
. . .I reserve, at home, an unusual liberty, both for myself and others. Here there is a truce to ceremony, to waiting on people when they arrive and ushering them out when they depart, and to other such painful behests of our courtesy -- slavish and tiresome customs! Here everyone behaves as he pleases, and comunes with his thoughts if he likes. I remain silent, dreamy, and withdrawn without offence to my guests.@(Montaigne. Pg. 257.).
We are all convention; convention carries us away, and we neglect the substance of things. We hold on to the branches, and let go of the trunk and the body. We have taught the ladies to blush at the mere mention of things they are not in the least afraid to do. We dare not call our parts by their right names, but are not afraid to use them for every sort of debauchery.@(Montaigne. Pg. 190.).
I have no hopes of meeting a sage. I would be content if I met someone who is a gentleman.
I have no hope of meeting a good man. I would be content if I met someone who has constancy. It is hard for a man to have constancy who claims to have when he is wanting, to be full when he is empty and to be comfortable when he is in straitened circumstances.@(Confucius. Pg. 89.).
I have seen very good clowns, also, in ordinary dress and with their ordinary faces, give us all the amusement that their art can provide, while beginners who are not so highly trained, have to flour their faces, dress themselves up, and assume wild gestures and grimaces in order to draw a laugh out of us.@(Montaigne. Pg. 164.).
We perceive no beauties that are not sharpened, pricked out, and inflated by artifice. Such as appear in their pure and natural simplicity easily escape a vision as coarse as ours. Theirs is a sign of delicate and hidden beauty; it needs a clear and purified sight to discover their secret brightness. Is not simplicity, according to us, akin to foolishness and an object of scorn?Socrates sets his mind working with a natural and ordinary motion. A peasant says this, a woman says that.@(Montaigne. Pg. 311.).
Where others seek the reputation for an active and ready mind, I would be praised for my steadiness; what others aspire to gain by some brilliant and noteworthy deed, I claim for the uniformity, consistency, and moderation of my opinions and conduct. 'If there is one quality truly admirable, it is a uniform consistency in our whole lives and in our several acts; and this cannot be maintained by imitating the natures of others and neglecting our own.'[Cicero, De Officiis,I,31.]@(Montaigne. Pg. 220.).
Some of my friends have at times taken it upon themselves to school and lecture me most outspokenly, either of their own accord or at my invitation: a service which, to a healthy mind, surpasses, not only in utility but in kindness, every other office of friendship. I have always welcomed it with the most open arms both of courtesy and gratitude. But to speak of it now in all honesty, I have often found both in their blame and their praise so much false measure that I should not have been much amiss if I had done what according to their notions was wrong instead of what they considered right. Those of us, especially,who live retired lives, exposed only to our own gaze, should have a fixed pattern within us by which to test our actions and, according to this, sometimes hug and sometimes correct ourselves. I have my own laws and my own courts to judge me, and I refer to these rather than elsewhere.@(Montaigne. Pp. 238-239.).
It is a rare life that remains orderly even in private. Everyone can play his part in the farce, and act an honest role on the stage. But to be disciplined within, in one's own breast, where all is permissible and all is concealed -- that is the point!@(Montaigne. Pg. 239.).
'It was Epicurus who said that,' you protest. 'What business have you got with someone else's property?' Whatever is true is my proiperty. And I shall persist in inflicting Epicurus on you in order to bring it home to the people who take an oath of allegiance to someone and never afterwards consider what is being said but only who said it, that the things of greatest merit are common property.@(Seneca. Pg. 59.).
. . .for the actual business of living [the wise man] needs a great number of things. I should like to draw your attention to a similar distinction made by Chrysippus. The wise man, he said, lacked nothing but needed a great number of things, whereas 'the fool, on the other hand, needs nothing (for he does not know how to use anything) but lacks everything.' The wise man needs hands and eyes and a great number of things that are required for the purposes of day-to-day life; but he lacks nothing, for lacking something implies that it is a necessity and nothing, to the wise man, is a necessity.@(Seneca. Pg. 51.).
One good reason, too, why we should endure the absence [of a friend] patiently is the fact that every one of us is absent to a great extent from his friends even when they are around.@(Seneca. Pg. 108.).
If anyone tells me that it is degrading to the Muses to use them only as a plaything and a pastime, he does not know, as I do, how valuable pleasure, sport and amusement are. I am almost prepared to say that any other aim is ridiculous. I live from day to day and, with reverence be it said, live only for myself; my purposes go no further. In my youth I studied out of ostentation; later a little to gain wisdom; now for pleasure; but never for the sake of learning.@(Montaigne. Pg. 263.).
What would you desire in your heart?
The Master said, 'What harm is there in that? After all each man is tstating what he has set his heart upon.'
'In late spring, after the spring clothes have been newly made, I should like, together with five or six adults and six or seven boys, to go bathing in the River Yi and enjoy the breeze on the Rain Alter, and then to go home chanting poetry.'
The Master sighed and said, I am all in favor of Tien.'@(Confucius. Pg. 111.).
In serving your father and mother you ought to dissuade them from doing wrong in the gentlest way. If you see your advice being ignored, you should not become disobedient but remain reverent. You should not complain even if in doing so you wear yourself out.@(Confucius. Pg. 74.).
-q35-Value of Society
Since man's mind is his basic tool of survival, his means of gaining knowledge to guide his actions -- the basic condition he requires is the freedom to think and to act according to his rational judgment.@(Rand. Pg. 107.).
The two great values to be gained from social existence are: knowledge and trade.@(Rand. Pg. 107.).
One should be concerned to ask: Is a given politico-economic system pro-life or anti-life, conducive or inimical to the requirements of man's survival?@(Branden. Pg. 123.).
-q36-Individuals in Society
Since there is no such entity as 'the public,' since the public is merely a number of individuals, any claimed or implied conflict of 'the public interest' with private interests means that the interests of some men are to be sacrificed to the interests and wishes of others. Since the concept is so conveniently undefinable its use rests only on any given gang's ability to proclaim that 'The public, c'est moi' -- and to maintain the claim at the point of a gun.@(Rand. Pg. 88.).
An individualist is, first and foremost a man of reason. It is upon the ability to think, upon his rational faculty, that man's life depends; rationality is a precondition of independence and self-reliance.@(Rand. Pg. 136.).
. . .men who reject the responsibility of thought and reason, can exist only as parasites on the thinking of others.@(Rand. Pg. 136.).
So wherever you notice that a corrupt style is in general favour, you may be certain that in that society people's characters as well have deviated from the true path. In the same way as extravagance in dress and entertaining are indications of a diseased community, so an aberrant literary style, provided that it is widespread, shows that the spirit (from which people's words derive) has also come to grief.@(Seneca. Pg. 216.).
The word 'ethics' comes from the Greek word ethos, meaning primarily, custom or habit, and secondly, character. Ethics is the study of those habits which go to make a good character; it is the study of morals as they relate to the individual.@(Greek and Roman Classics. Pg. 26.).
The seventh science, politics, is the study of morals as a system of behavior in a society. The question in ethics is, 'Is there a set of values by which the individual may act wisely and well?' The question in politics is: 'Is there an integrated system of values as expressed in the power structure of a community which will enable a society to live well?'@(Greek and Roman Classics. Pg. 26.).
By elevating the issue of helping others into the central and primary issue of ethics, altruism has destroyed the concept of any authentic benevolence or good will among men.
(Rand. Pg. 43.).
There are two things that make up morality. One is the sense that other people matter: the sense of common loyalty, of charity and tenderness, the sense of human love. The other is a clear judgment of what is at stake: a cold knowledge, without a trace of deception, of precisely what will happen to oneself and to others if one plays either the hero or the coward. This is the highest morality: to combine human love with an unflinching, a scientific judgment.@(Bronowski. Pg. 205.).
for the essence of morality is not that we should all act alike. The essence of morality is that each of us should deeply search his own conscience -- and should then act steadfastly as it tells him to do.@(Bronowski. Pg. 205.).
Different moralities can come from a single ethical system.
The Sophists were more practical. They were interested in human nature and man's actions in the world. they appeared in the Greek world in the fourth century B.C. at a time when Athens was engaged in a life-and-death struggle with Sparta. . . . The great Greek historian, Herodotus, had traveled far and wide and had returned to write of the various customs he had seen in his travels. The Sophists shared his appreciation of foreign cultures. they concluded that every system had its own kind of justice. What the Athenians called law was a product of their traditions. Values nad moral codes varied from culture to culture.@(Greek and Roman Classics. Pg. 322.).
An irrational morality, a morality set in opposition to man's nature, to the facts of reality and to the requirements of man's survival, necessarily forces men to accept the belief that there is an inevitable clash between the moral and hte practical -- that they must choose either to be virtuous or to be happy, to be idealistic or to be successful, but they cannot be both.@(Branden. Pg. 41.).
Since in being moral one can neither be assured of a reward nor guaranteed success, morality must be pursued for its own sake. This is, perhaps, the most fundemental message in Confucius ' teachings, a message that marked his teachings from other schools of thought in ancient China.@(ed. Confucius. Pg. 13.).
-q38-Morality in Society.
The most profoundly revolutionary achievement of the United States of America was the subordination of society to moral law.
. . .the subordination of might to right. The United States was the first moral society in history.
. . . The United States regarded man as an end in himself, and society as a means to the peaceful, orderly, voluntary co-existence of individuals. All previous systems had held that man's life belongs to society. . .. The United States held that a man's life is his by right (which means: by moral principle and by his nature), that such a right is the property of an individual, that society has no such rights, and that the only moral purpose of a government is the protection of individual rights.@(Rand. Pg. 93.).
A 'right' is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundemental right (all the others are its consequences or corolaries): a man's right to his own life. . . .
The right to life is the source of all rights -- and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has noright to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. . . .
Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it.@(Rand. Pp. 93-94.).
What subjectivism is in the realm of ethics, collectivism is in the realm of politics. Just as the notion that 'Anything I do is right because I chose to do it,' is not a moral principle, but a negation of morality -- so the notion that 'Anything society does is right because society chose to do it,' is not a moral principle, but a negation of moral principles and the banishment of morality to social issues.@(Rand. Pg. 101.).
A group can have no rights other than the rights of its individual members.@(Rand. Pg. 102.).
'Rights' are a moral conept -- the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual's actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others. . .. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.
Every political system is based on some code of ethics. The dominant ethics of mankind's history were variants of the altruist-collectivist doctrine which subordinated the individual to some higher authority, either mystical or social. Consequently, most political systems were variants of the same statist tyranny, differing only in degree, not in basic principle. . ..@(Rand. Pg. 92.).
There are two potential violators of man's rights: the criminals and the government.@(Rand. Pg. 95.).
Thus the government's function was changed from the role of ruler to the role of servant. The government was set to protect man from criminals -- and the Constitution was written to protect man from the government.@(Rand. Pg. 95.).
America's inner condradiction was tyhe altruist-
collectivist ethics. Altruism is incompatible with freedom, with capitalism and with individual rights. One cannot combine the pursuit of happiness with the moral status of a sacrificial animal.@(Rand. Pg. 95.).
Just as in the material realm the plundering of a country's wealth is accomplished by inflating the currency -- so today one may witness the process of inflation being applied to the realm of rights.@(Rand. Pg. 95.).
There is no such thing as `a right to a job' -- there is only the right of free trade, that is: a man's right to take a job if another man chooses to hire him. There is no `right to a home,' ony the right of free trade: the right to build a home or to buy it. There are no `rights to afair'' wage or afair'' price' if no one chooses to pay it, to hire a man or to buy his product. There are no 'rights to consumers' to milk, shoes, movies or champagne if no producers choose to manufacture such items (there is only the right to manufacture them oneself). There are no `rights' of special groups, there are no `rights of farmers, of workers, of businessmen, of employees, of employers, of the old, of the young, of the unborn.' There are only the Rights of Man -- rights possessed by every individual man and by all men as individuals.@(Rand. Pg. 97.).
Criminals are a small minority in any age or country. And the harm they have done to mankind is infintesimal when compared to the horrors -- the bloodshed, the wars, the persecutions, the confiscations, the famines, the enslavements, the wholesale destructions -- perpetrated by mankind's governments. Potentially, a government is the most dangerous threat to man's rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims.. . . It is not as protection against private actions, but against governmental actions that the Bill of Rights was written.@(Rand. Pg. 98.).
The proper functions of a government fall into three broad categories, all of them involving the issues of physical force and the protection of men's rights: the police, to protect men from criminals -- the armed services, to protect men from foreign invaders -- the law courts, to settle disputes among men according to objective laws.@(Rand. Pg. 112.).
Anarchy, as a political concept, is a naive floating abstraction: . . . a society without an organized government would be at the mercy of the firtst criminal who came along and who would precipitate it into gang warfare. But the possibility of human immorality is not the only objection to anarchy: even a society whose every member were fully rational and faultlessly moral, could not function in a state of anarchy; it is the need of objective laws and of an arbiter for honest disagreements among men that necessitates the establishment of a government.@(Rand. Pg. 112.).
A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control -- i.e., under objectively defined laws.@(Rand. Pg. 109.).
A private individual may do anything except that which is legally forbidden; a government official may do nothing except that which is legally permitted.@(Rand. Pp. 109-110.).
There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society; the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical self-defence, for the purpose of an orderly, objective, legally defined enforcement. Or, to put it another way, he must accept the separation of force and whim (any whim, including his own).@(Rand. Pg. 110.).
A free nation -- a nation that recognizes, respects and protects the individual rights of its citizens -- has a right to its territorial integrity, its social system and its form of government. . . .
But this right [of sovereignty] cannot be claimed by dictatorships, by savage tribes or by any form of absolutist tyranny. A nation that violates the rights of its own citizens cannot claim any rights whatsoever.@(Rand. Pg. 103.).
Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority. . ..@(Rand. Pg. 104.).
Dictatorship nations are outlaws. Any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany and, today, has the right to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba or any other slave pen. Whether a free nation chooses to do so or not is a matter of its own self-interest, not of respect for the non-existent 'rights' pf gang rulers. It is not a free nation's duty to liberate other nations at the price of self-sacrifice, but a free nation has the right to do it, when and if it so chooses.@(Rand. Pg. 104.).
There are four characteristics which brand a country unmistakably as a dictatorship: one party rule -- executions without trial or with a mock trial, for political offenses -- the nationalization or expropriation of private property -- and censorship.@(Rand. Pg. 105.).
In . . . the Golden Age, government, so Posidonius maintains, was in the hands of the wise. They kept the peace, protected the weaker from the stronger, urged and disuaded, pointed out what was advantageous and what was not. . . . To govern was to serve, not to rule. . . .and a king could issue no greater threat to disobedient subjects than that of his own abdication.@(Seneca. Pg. 163.).
Democracy, on the other hand, like its obverse side, Puritanism, had its source in envy, and to pump envy out of it would be to take away its very lifeblood. `There is only one sound argument for democracy.' he went on a bit later in the same piece. `and that is the argument that it is a crime for any man to hold himself out as better than other men, and, above all, a most heinous offense for him to prove it.' The most essential thing about it was that it was `a device for strengthening and heartening the have-nots in their eternal war upon the haves.'26@(ed. Mencken. Pp. 174-175.).
[I]t seems plausible that the network of business enterprises and the economic rights of individuals -- including, above all their right to withhold or offer their own labor as they wish -- may constitute a barrier against, and a counterforce to, the unobstructed expansion of state power; and it is a damning fact that Marxist governments have not yet established -- or even admitted the need for -- such countervailing institutions of any kind.@(Heilbronner. Pg. 145.).
Marxism is the main revolutionary force in the world today, and thereby becomes the natural gravitational center for movements of all kinds that seek to remedy poverty and to express outrage at the manipulation of humanity. Thus cultlike alienated groups, terrorist organizations, liberation armies and the like rally to the banner of Marxism and use its vocabulary to express their demands and aspirations.@(Heilbronner. Pg. 145.).
Thus the world 'develops' or industrializes not according to the exercise of reason or foresight -- frail reeds though these may be -- but by the dictates of capital as self-expanding value. The consequence is a world continuously in imbalance -- monetary imbalance, trade imbalance, resource imbalance, developmental imbalance.@(Heilbronner. Pg. 134.).[Reason and foresight are not necessarily the possessions of the alternatives to capitalismsbw]
A socialist society, to be sharply differentiated from a capitalist one, should be as suffused and preoccupied with the idea of a collective moral purpose as is bourgeois society with the idea of individual personal achievement.@(Heilbronner. Pg. 168.).[As if there were one single moral purposesbw]
The distinguishing characteristic of such tribal mentality is: the axiomatic, the almost `instinctive' view of human life as fodder, fuel or means for any public project.
The examples of such projects are innumerable: `Isn't it desirable to clean up the slums?' (dropping the context of what happens to those in the next income bracket) -- . . . `Isn't it desirable to have an educated public? (dropping the context of who will do the educating, what will be taught, and what will happen to dissenters) -- `Isn't it desirable to liberate the artists, the writers, the composers from the burden of financial problems and leave them free to create?' (dropping the context of such questions as: which artists, writers and composers? -- chosen by whom? -- at whose expense? -- at the expense of the artists, writers, and composers who have no political pull and whose miserably precarious incomes will be taxed to `liberate' that privileged elite? `Isn't science desirable? Isn't it desirable for man to conquer space?'
And here we come to the essence of the unreality -- the savage, blind, gastly, bloody unreality -- that motivates a collectivized soul.
The unanswered and unanswerable question in all of their `desirable' goals is: To whom? . . .not to any of those people whose taxes pay for the support of our subsidized science and public research projects.@(Rand. Pg. 83.).
Progress can come only out of men's surplus, that is: from the work of those men whose ability produces more than their personal consumption requires, those who are intellectually and financially able to venture out in pursuit of the new. Capitalism is the only system where such men are free to function and where progress is accompanied, not by forced privations, but by a constant rise in the general level of prosperity, of consumption and of enjoyment of life.@(Rand. Pg. 64.).
The next time you encounter one of those `public-spirited' dreamers who tells you rancorously that `some very desirable goals cannot be achieved without everybody's participation,' tell him that if he cannot obtain everybody's voluntary participation, his goals had jolly well better remain unachieved -- and that men's lives are not his to dispose of.@(Rand. Pp. 64-65.).
Chi K'ang Tzu asked Confucius about government, saying, 'What would uou think if, in order to move closer to those who possess the Way, I were to kill those who do not follow the Way?'
Confucius answered, `In administering your government, what need is there for you to kill? Just desire the good yourself and the common people will be good. The virtue of the gentleman is like wind; the virtue of the small man is like grass. Let the wind blow over the grass and it is sure to bend.'@(Confucius. Pp. 115-116.).
Now the laws maintain their credit, not because they are just, but because they are laws. This is the mystical basis of their authority; they have no other. And this serves them well. They are often made by fools, and more often by men who, out of hatred for equality, are lacking in equity, but always by men: vain and unstable creators. There is nothing so grossly and widely, nor so ordinarily faulty as the laws. Whoever obeys they because they are just is not, as he should be, obeying them for a just reason.@(Montaigne. Pg. 353.).
`As we once suffered from crimes, so now we are suffering from laws';[Tacitus, Annals,III,XXV.] and yet we have left so much for judges to consider and decide, that there has never been such complete and uncontrolled freedom. . . . There is little relation between our actions, which are perpetually changing, and fixed immutable laws. The most desirable laws are those that are fewest, simplist, and most general; and I even think that it would be better to be without them altogether than to have them in such numbers as we have at present.@(Montaigne. Pg. 345.).
`Medicare' is an example of such a project. `Isn't it desirable that the aged should have medical care in times of illness?' its advocates clamor. Considered out of context, the answer would be: yes, it is desirable. Who would have a reason to say no? And it is at this point that the mental processes of a collectivized brain are cut off; the rest is fog. Only the desire remains in his sight -- it's the good, isn't it? It's not for myself, it's for the others, it's for the public, for a helpless, ailing public . . . The fog hides such facts as the enslavement and, therefore, the destruction of medical science, the regimentation and disintegration of all medical practice, and the sacrifice of the professional integrity, the freedom, the careers, the ambitions, the achievements, the happiness, the lives of the very men who are to provide that `desirable' goal -- the doctors.@(Rand. Pg. 82.).
When a government, be it a monarch or a `democratic' parliament, is regarded as a provider of gratuitous services, it is only a question of time before it begins to enlarge its services and the sphere of the gratuitous (today, this process is called the growth of `the public sector of the economy') until it becomes, and has to become, the instrument of pressure-group warfare -- of economic groups looting one another.@(Rand. Pg. 119.).
The principle of voluntary government financing rests on the following premises: that the government is not the owner of the citizens' income and, therefore, cannot hols a blank check on that income -- that the nature of the propoer governmental services must be constitutionally defined and delimited, leaving the government no power to enlarge the scope of its services at its own arbitrary discretion.@(Rand. Pg. 118).
What difference does it make how much there is laid away in a man's safe or in his barns, how many head of stick he grazes or how much capital he puts out at interest, if he is always after what is another's and only counts what he has yet to get, never what he has already. You ask what is a propoer limit to a person's wealth? First, having what is essential, and second, having what is enough.@(Seneca. Pg. 34.).
It is too easy to inculcate liberality in one who has unlimited means of practising it at others' expense.@(Montaigne. Pg. 270.).
There is a certain type of argument which, in fact, is not an argument, but a means of forestalling debate and extorting an apponent's agreement with one's undiscussed notions. It is a method of bypassing logic by means of psychological pressure. . . .The ad hominem fallacy consists of attempting to refute an argument by impeaching the character of its proponent. Example: `Candidate X is immoral, therefore his argument is false.'
But the psychological pressure method consists of threatening to impeach an opponent's character by means of his argument, thus impeaching the argument without debate. Example: `Only the immoral can fail to see that Candidate X's argument is false.'
In the first case, Candidate X's immorality (real or invented) is offered as proof of the falsehood of his argument. In the second case, the falsehood of his argument is asserted arbitrarily and offered as proof of his immorality.@(Rand. Pg. 139.).
It is especially in the discussions of ethics that one must check one's premises (or remember them), and more: one must learn to check the premises of one's adversaries.
For instance, Objectivists will often hear a question such as: `What will be done about the poor or the handicapped in a free society?'
The altruist-collectivist premise, implicit in that question, is that men are 'their brothers' keepers' and that the misfortune of some is a mortgage on others. The questioner is ignoring or evading the basic premises of Objectivist ethics and is attempting to switch the discussion onto his own collectivist base. Observe that he does not ask: 'Should anything be done?' but: `What will be done?' -- as if the collectivist premise had been tacitly accepted and all that remains is a discussion of the means to implement it.
Once, when Barbara Branden was asked by a student: `What will happen to the poor in an Objectivist society?' -- she answered: `If you want to help then, you will not be stopped.'@(Rand. Pg. 80.).
Like every form of determinism, racism invalidates the specific attribute which distinguishes man from all other living species: his rational faculty. Racism negates two aspects of man's life: reason and choice, or mind and morality, replacing them with chemical predestination.
The respectable family that supports worthless relatives or covers up their crimes in order to `protect the family name' (as if the moral stature of one man could be damaged by the actions of another) -- the bum who boasts that his great-grandfather was an empire-builder, or the small-town spinster who boasts that her maternal great-uncle was a state senator and her third cousin gave a concert at Carnegie Hall (as if the achievements of one man could rub off on the mediocrity of another). . ..@(Rand. Pg. 126.).
Just as there is no such thing as a collective or racial mind, so there is no such thing as a collective or racial achievement. There are only individual minds and individual achievements -- and a culture is not the anonymous product of undifferentiated masses, but the sum of the intellectual achievements of individual men.@(Rand. Pg. 127.).
Like every other form of collectivism, racism is a quest for the unearned. It is a quest for automatic knowledge -- for an automatic evaluation of men's characters that bypasses the responsibility of exercising rational or moral judgment -- and, above all, a quest for an automatic self-esteem (or pseudo-self-
To ascribe one's virtues to one's racial origin, is to confess that one has no knowledge ofthe process by which virtues are acquired and, most often, that one has failed to acquire them.@(Rand. Pg. 127.).
Where is the glory in mere capacity? When the victory rests with you, when all the company lie prostrate around you, slumbering or vomiting, declining all your calls for another toast, when you find yourself the only person at the party still on your feet, when your mighty prowess has enabled you to beat all comers and no one has proved able to match your intake, a barrel is none the less enough to beat you. . . .
Explain, then, why the good man should avoid getting drunk, using facts, not words, to show its ugliness and offensiveness. Prove -- and an easy task it is -- that so-called pleasures, when they go beyond a certain limit, are but punishments. . . .@(Seneca. Pg. 144.).
Let us take the following systems as paradigms: a marble rolling down a bumpy hill; a pocket calculator finding successive digits in the decimal expansion of the square root of 2; a sophisticated program which plays a mean game of chess; a robot in a T-maze (a maze with but a single fork, on one side of which there is a reward); and a human being confronting a complex dilemma.
First, what about that marble rolling down a hill? Does it make choices? I think we would unanimously say that it doesn't, even though none of us could predict its path even for a very short distance. We feel that it couldn't have gone any other way than it did, and that it was just being shoved along by the relentless laws of nature. . . .
Now what about the calculator. . .? What about the chess program? Heree, we might say that we are just dealing with `fancy marbles', rolling down `fancy hills'. . . .
Now let us imagine a robot which has a repetoire of symbols. . . .Now does this robot make choices? Put yourself in that position. If you were trapped inside a marble rolling down a hill and were powerless to affect its path, yet could observe it with all your human intellect, would you feel that the marble's path involved choices? Of course not. Unless your mind is affecting the outcome, it makes no differences that the symbols are present. . . .@(Hofstadter. Pp. 711-712.).
The common content that the mind finds, the synthesis that it makes is always a concept. And a set of concepts coheres and is consistent at its own level. It does not provide certainty for a cruder level, and it does not have to seek certainty in a more refined level. When I take your hand into mine, we are using our hands and not assemblies of atoms: it is simply nonsense to swoon at the thought that so many holes somehow get entangled in a handshake. What we are doing is orderly at its own human level.@(Bronowski. Filfillment of Man. Pg. ).
-q48-Happiness as a guide
To take `whatever makes one happy' as a guide to action means: to be guided by nothing but one's emotional whims. Emotions are not tools of cognition; to be guided by whims -- by desires whose source, nature, and meaning one does not know -- is to turn oneself into a blind robot, operated by unknowable demons (by one's stale evasions), a robot knocking its stagnant brains out against the walls of reality which it refuses to see.
This is the fallacy inherent in hedonism in any variant of ethical hedonism, personal or social, individual or collective. `Happiness' can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. The task of ethics is to define man's proper code of values and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as the ethical hedonists dom that `the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure' is to declare that `the proper value is whatever you happen to value' -- which is an intelectual and philosophical abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and invites all men to play it deuces wild.
The philosophers who attempted to devise an allegedly rational code of ethics gave mankind nothing but a choice of whims: the `selfish' pursuit of one's own whims (such as the ethics of Nietzsche) -- or `selfless' service to the whims of others (such as the ethics of Bentham, Mill, Compte and of all social hedonists, whether they allowed man to include his own whims among the millions of others or advised him to turn himself into a totally selfless `shmoo' that seeks to be eaten by others).@(Rand. Pp. 29-30.).
-q49-What to do.
But [Mencken] had been born `with no more public spirit than a cat,'69 and he decided early on that all attempts to improve those who had no wish for improvement, or to free those for whom liberty would only have been a burden, or to ram virtue down the throats of the `congenitally sinful,' was a complete and utter waste of time. His `true and natural allegiance,' he concluded, `was to the Devil's party, and it has been my firm belief ever since that all persons who devote themselves to forcing virtue on their fellow men deserve nothing better than kicks in the pants.'70 Much later he ventured to formulate this idea scientifically, in what he proposed as Mencken's Law:
Whenever A annoys or injures B on the pretense of saving or improving X, A is a scoundrel.@(ed. Mencken. Pg. 73.).
The yokels out in Iowa,' he growled, neglecting their horned cattle, have a right, it appears -- nay, a sacred duty! -- to peak into my home in Baltimore, and tell me what I may and may not drink with my meals. An out-at-elbow Methodist preacher in Boston sets himself up to decide what I may read. An obscure and unintelligent job-holder in Washington, inspired by God, determines what I may receive in the mails. I may not buy lottery tickets because it offends the moral sentiment of Kansas. I must keep Sunday as the Sabbath, which is in conflict with Genesis, because it is ordered by persons who believe that Genesis can't be wrong. Such are the laws of the greatest free nation ever seen on earth.'58@(ed. Mencken. Pg. 199.).
But I have no right to go on the cathedral steps on Sunday morning when the Catholics are coming out of High Mass and make a speech denouncing them. I don't think there is any such right. Nobody's got a right to be a nuisance to his neighbors.@(ed. Mencken. Pg. 193.).
The consequences of the disappearance of auditory hallucinations from human mentality are profound and widespread, and occur on many different levels. One thing is the confusion of authority itself. What is authority? Rules without gods to guide them are fitful and unsure. They turn to omens and divination, which we shall take up shortly. And as I have mentioned earlier, cruelty and oppression become the ways in which a ruler imposes his rule upon his subjects in the absence of auditory hallucinations. Even the king's own authority in the absence of gods becomes questionable. Rebellion in the modern sense becomes possible.@(Jaynes, Pg. 227.).
Let our aim be a way of life not diametrically opposed to, but better than that of the mob. Otherwise we shall repel and alienate the very people whose reform we desire; we shall make them, moreover, reluctant to imitate us in anything for fear they may have to imitate us in everything.@(Seneca. Pg. 37.).
Our motto, as everyone knows, is to live in conformity with nature; it is quite contrary to nature to torture one's body, to reject simple standards of cleanliness and make a point of being dirty, to adopt a diet that is not just plain but hideous and revolting. In the same way as a craving for dainties is a token of extravagant living, avoidance of familiar and inexpensive dishes betokens insanity. Philosophy calls for simple living, not for doing penance, and the simple way of life need not be a crude one. The standard which I accept is this: one's life should be a compromise between the ideal and the popular morality.@(Seneca. Pp. 37-38.).
The policy of always pronouncing moral judgment does not mean that one must regard oneself as a missionary charged with the responsibility of `saving everyone's soul' -- nor that one must give unsolicited moral appraisals to all those one meets. It means: (a) that one must know clearly, in full verbally identified form, one's own moral evaluation of every person, issue and event with which one deals and act accordingly; (b) that one must make one's moral evaluation known to others, when it is rationally appropriate to do so.@(Rand. Pg. 73.).
`Moral values are the motive power of a man's actions. By pronouncing moral judgment, one protects the clarity of one's own perception and the rationality of the course one chooses to pursue. It makes a difference whether one thinks that one is dealing with human errors of knowledge or with human evil.@(Rand. Pg. 73.).
He knows that one's only practical chance to achieve and degree of success or anything humanly desirable lies in dealing with those who are rational, whether there are many of them or fu
few. If, in any given set of circumstances, any victory is possible at all, it is only reason that can win it.@(Rand. Pg. 53.).
Commitment to reason is commitment to the maintenance of a full intellectual focus, to the constant expansion of one's understanding and knowledge, to the principle that one's actions must be consistent with one's convictions, that one must never attempt to fake reality or place any consideration above reality, that one must never permit oneself contradictions -- that one must never attempt to subvert or sabotage the proper function of consciousness.@(Rand-Branden. Pg. 36.).
And there is a world of difference between, on the one hand, choosing not to do what is wrong and, on the other, not knowing how to do it in the first place.@(Seneca. Pg. 176.).
Philosophy is good advice, and no one gives advice at the top of his voice.@(Seneca. Pg. 81.).[Sympathetic Contract-sbw]
Retire into yourself as much as you can. Associate with people who are likely to improve you. Welcome those whom you are capable of improving. The process is a mutual one: Men learn as they teach. And there is no reason why any pride in advertising your talents abroad should lure you forward into the public eye, inducing you to give readings of your works or deliver lectures. I should be glad to see you doing that if what you had to offer was suitable for the crowd I have been talking about: but the fact is, not one of them is really capable of understanding you. You might perhaps come across one here and there, but even they would need to be trained and developed by you to a point where they could grasp your teaching. `For whose benefit, then, did I learn it all?' If it was for your own benefit that you learnt it you have no call to fear that your trouble may have been wasted.@(Seneca. Pg. 43.).
Each day, too, acquire something which will help you 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. This is what I do myself; out of the many bits I have been reading I lay hold of one.@(Seneca. Pg. 34.).
We should hunt out the helpful pieces of teaching, and the spirited and noble minded sayings which are capable of immediate practical application. -- not far-fetched or archaic expressions or extravagant metaphors and figures of speech -- and learn them so well that words become works.@(Seneca. Pg. 211.).
But travel won't make a better or saner man of you. For this we must spend time in study and in the writings of wise men, to learn the truths that have emerged from their researches, and carry on the search ourselves for the answers that have not yet been discovered.@(Seneca. Pg. 189.).
So long, in fact, as you remain in ignorance of what to aim at and what to avoid, what is essential and what is superfluous, what is upright or honourable conduct and what is not, it will not be traveling but drifting.@(Seneca. Pg. 189.).
So long as you associate with a person who's mean and grasping you will remain a money-minded individual yourself. So long as you keep arrogant company, just so long will conceit stick to you. Cruelty you'll never say goodbye to while you share the same roof with a torturer. Familiarity with adulterers will only inflame your desires. If you wish to be stripped of your vices you must get right away from the examples others set of them.@(Seneca. Pg. 190.).
Turning to the musical scholar I say this. You teach me how base and treble harmonize, or how strings producing different notes can give rise to concord. I would rather you brought about some harmony in my mind and got my thoughts into tune. You show me which are the plaintive keys. I would rather you showed me how to avoid uttering plaintive notes when things go against me in life.@(Seneca. Pg. 153.).
To silently appreciate a truth, to learn continually and to teach other people unceasingly -- that is just natural with me.@(Confucius. Pg. 161.).
Whenever walking in a company of three, I can always find my teacher among them (or one who has something to teach me). I select a good person and follow his example, or I see a bad person and correct it in myself.@(Confucius. Pg. 162.).
To fail to speak to a man who is capable of benefiting is to let a man go to waste. To speak to a man who is incapable of benefiting isto let one's words go to waste. A wise man lets neither men nor words go to waste.@(Confucius. Pg. 133.).
The moral man conforms himself to his life circumstances; he does not desire anything outside his position. Finding himself in a position of wealth and honor, he lives as becomes one living in a position of wealth and honor. Finding himself in a position of poverty and humble circumstances, he lives as becomes one living in a position of poverty and humble circumstances. Finding himself in uncivilized countries, he lives as becomes one living in uncivilized countries. Finding himself in circumstances of danger and difficulty, he acts according to what is required of a man under such circumstances. In one word, the moral man can find himself in no situation in life in which he is not master of himself.@(ed. Confucius. Pp. 111-112.).
Weisheng Mou said to Confucius, `Why are you so self-important and constantly rushing about? Don't you talk a little bit too much?' `It isn't that I want to talk. It's because I have (the present moral chaos).'@(Confucius. Pg. 159.).
For these trials,[Essais the literary term essay derives from Montaigne's use of this word.] therefore, which I am making of it, I take advantage of every kind of occasion. If there is a subject that I do not understand, I try it out for that very reason, sounding the ford from a distance; and if I find the water too deep for my stature, I keep to the bank. And this power of knowing when it cannot cross is a part of its efficacy -- indeed that part of which it is proudest. Sometimes, with a vain and insubstantial subject, I try to see whether my judgment can find some way of giving it body, something on which to prop and support it. At other times I address it to some noble and outworn theme 0, in which it can make no discoveries of its own, the road being so well-worn that it can only walk in others' footsteps. In that case it plays its part by choosing the track that seems to it best; out of a thousand paths it says that this one or that is the best choice.@(Montaigne. Pg. 130.).
Crab: Ah, yes. . . Marvin Minsky said, `When intelligent machines are constructed, we should not be surprised to find them as confused and as stubborn as men in their convictions about mind-matter, consciousness, free will, and the like.'@(Hofstadter. Pg. 722.).
. . .realize that consciousness is a culturally learned event, balanced over the supressed vestiges of an earlier mentality, then we can see that consciousness, in part, can be culturally unlearned or arrested.@(Jaynes. Pg. 398.).
The central assertion of this viw, I repeat, is that each new stage of words literally created new perceptions and attentions, and such new perceptions and attentions resulted in important cultural changes which are reflected in the archeological record.@(Jaynes. Pg. 132.).
Just as the age of modifiers coincides with the making of much superior tools, so the age of nouns for animals coincides with the beginning of drawing animals on the walls of caves or on horn implements.@(Jaynes. Pg. 133.).
. . .it would be wrong to think that whatever the neurology of consciousness now may be, it is set for all time. The cases we have discussed indicate otherwise, that the function of brain tissue is not inevitable, and that perhaps different organizations, given different developmental programs, may be possible.@(Jaynes. Pg. 125.).
I quote from Galt's speech: `Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice -- and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man -- by choice; he has to hold his life as a value -- by choice; he has to learn to sustain it -- by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues -- by choice. A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.'@(Rand. Pg. 23.).
If some men do not choose to think, but survive by imitating and repeating, like trained animals, the routine of sounds and motions they learned from others, never making an effort to understand their own work, it still remains true that their survival is made possible by those who did choose to think and to discover the motions they are repeating. The survival of such mental parasites depends on blind chance; their unfocused minds are unable to know whom to imitate, whose motions it is safe to follow. They are the men who march into the abyss, trailing after any destroyer who promises tthem to assume the responsibility they evade: the responsibility of being conscious.@(Rand. Pg. 23.).
Xerxes was a fool when, lapped in all human delights, he offered a reward to anyone who would invent others. But hardly less of a fool is the man who curtails those pleasures which nature has found him.@(Montaigne. Pg. 395.).
Table of Contents: Simple Wisdoms Overview