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 Name that philosopher

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Join date : 2009-05-11

PostSubject: Name that philosopher   Tue 19 May 2009, 4:37 pm

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A quick test of the assertion that enjoyment outweighs pain in this world, or that they are at any rate balanced, would be to compare the feelings of an animal engaged in eating another with those of the animal being eaten.
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 as possible on the earth as on the moon; and if, here as there, the surface were still in a crystalline condition.

You can also look upon our life as an episode unprofitably disturbing the blessed calm of nothingness. In any case, even he who has found life tolerably bearable will, the longer he lives, feel the more clearly that on the whole it is a disappointment, nay a cheat. if two men who were friends in youth meet in old age after the lapse of an entire generation, the principal feeling the sight of one another, lnked as it is with recollections of earlier years, will arouse in both will be one of total disappointment with the whole of life, which once lay so fair before them in the rosy dawn of youth, promised so much and performed so little. This feeling will dominate so decidedly over every other that they will not even think it necessary to speak of it but will silently assume it as the basis of their conversation.

If the act of procreation were neither the outcome of a desire nor accompanied by feelings of pleasure, but a matter to be decided on the basis of purely rational considerations, is it likely the human race would still exist? Would each of us not rather have felt so much pity for the coming generation as to prefer to spare it the burden of existence, or at least not wish to take it upon himself to impose that burden upon it in cold blood.

For the world is Hell, and men are on the one hand the tormented souls and on the other the devils in it.
The story of the Fall is consequently the only thing which reconciles me to the Old Testament; I even regard it as the sole metaphysical truth contained in that book, even though it does appear clothed in allegory. For our existence resembles nothing so much as the consequence of a misdeed, punishment for a forbidden desire.

As a reliable compass for orientating yourself in life nothing is more useful than to accustom yourself to regarding this world as a place of atonement, a sort of penal colony. When you have done this you will order your expectations of life according to the nature of things and no longer regard the calamaties, sufferings, torments and miseries of life as something irregular and not to be expected but will find them entirely in order, well knowing that each of us is here being punished for his existence and each in his own particular way. This outlook will enable us to view the so-called imperfections of the majority of men, i.e. their moral and intellectual shortcomings and the facial appearance resulting thereform, without surprise and certainly without indignation: for we shall always bear in mind where we are and consequently regard every man first and foremost as a being who exists only as a consequence of his culpability and whose life is an expiation of the crime of being born.

The conviction that the world, and therefore man too, is something which really ought not to exist is in fact calculated to instill in us indulgence towards one another: for what can be expected of beings cplaed in such a situation as we are? From this point of view one might indeed consider that the appropriate form of address between man and man ought to be, not 'monsier, sir', but 'fellow sufferer, companion in misery'. However strange this may sound it corresponds to the nature of the case, makes us see other men in a true lilght 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.
You could, to be sure, base on considerations of this kind a theory that the greatest wisdom consists in enjoying the present and making this enjoyment the goal of life, because the present is all that is real and everything else merely imaginary. But you could just as well call this mode of life the greatest folly: for that which in a moment ceases to exist, which vanishes as completely as a dream, cannot be worth any serious effort.
The scenes of our life resemble pictures in rough mosaic; they are ineffective from close up, and have to be viewed from a distance if they are to seem beautiful. That is why to attain something desired is to discover how vain it is; and why, though we live all our lives in expectation of better things, we often at the same time long regretfully for what is past. The present, on the other hand, is regarded as something quite temporary and serving only as the road to our goal. That is why most men discover when they look back on their life that they have the whole time been living ad interim, and are surprised to see that which they let go by so unregarded and unenjoyed was precisely their life, was precisely that in expectation of which they lived....

...and he detested the hollow conformism which he found in the academic establishment of his time. He wrote of the most popular philosopher of his time that (his) emblem should be a cuttle fish creating a cloud of obscurity around itself so that no one sees what it is, with the legend, (in Latin) "fortified by my own obscurity."

Uplifting stuff. And I'm not being entirely sarcastic in saying that. I like philosophy but hate that so much of it does seem like hollow conformism and is purposely obscure. So it's nice that a few philosophers weren't afraid to say so. (Although this one was probably able to solely because he inherited enough money that he never had to worry about getting a job/being accepted by the establishment and indeed, never did have a job.) And there is something positive about the conclusion of 'tolerance, patience, forbearance and charity, which each of us needs and which each of us therefore owes.'

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