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Logan Hughes
Logan Hughes

What Would Plato Think : 200 Philosophical Que...

At the end of last century, the great classicist Herman Diels of Berlin chased around the world gathering together all the manuscripts he could find of the various Greek commentaries on Aristotle. He published them in the original Greek in some 30 or so volumes totalling 15,000 pages. This vast body of edited but untranslated philosophy is called the Commentaria in Aristotelem Graeca (or CAG for short). Diels himself was particularly interested in the Presocratic philosophers, and although these commentaries come from a much later period, many Presocratic works since lost were still available when they were written. Working through them with a fine tooth comb, Diels hunted for quotations from lost Presocratic works, to such good effect that he was able to find out what many Presocratic philosophers had argued. Much of our knowledge of such thinkers as Heraclitus and Parmenides is due to his research.

What Would Plato Think : 200 Philosophical Que...

The contemporary evolutionary field explores how evolution yields vulnerability to disease and the adaptive value of symptoms. (4 The philosopher set the display of the diverse will's levels in geological time following the model of Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) and like this thinker, accepted specie's extinction. Schopenhauer did not read Darwin, and died one year after publication of The Origen of the Species. (4 He conceived specie's evolution but not as Darwin and Wallace postulated some years later, since the philosopher did not consider interindividual variations and population mathematical analysis. Schopenhauer's approach to evolution is closer to orthogene sis than to natural selection, as he considered each species as a Platonic idea. Accordingly, the pressure to evolve would be relatively independent from the environment. (4

According to Schopenhauer, the will itself in unchangeable: "Hence, no system of ethics is possible which molds and improves the will itself"9 ( 19 on p. 440); "Therefore he (any man) cannot resolve to be this or that, nor can he become other than he is; but he is once for all, and he knows in the course of experience what he is. According to one doctrine (other thinkers) he wills what he knows, and according to the other (with my doctrine) he knows what he wills"1 ( 55 on p. 378); "Seneca says admirably, 'velle non diseituf (willing cannot be taught); whereby he preferred truth to his Stoic philosophers, who taught 'doceri posse virtutem' (virtue can be taught)" (1 ( 55 on p. 379).

A notorious example is 'repression', that the philosopher considered as the cause of madness: "...the origin of madness given in the text will become more comprehensible if it is remembered how unwillingly we think of things which powerfully injure our interests, wound our pride, or interfere with our wishes; with what difficulty do we determine to lay such things before our own intellect for careful and serious investigation; how easily, on the other hand, we unconsciously break away or sneak off from them again. In that resistance of the will to allowing what is contrary to it to come under the examination of the intellect lies the place at which madness can break in upon the mind"11 ( 32 on p. 168-169).

Could Schopenhauer's insights be harmful for someone? I would say no. In my defense I will call Carl Jung (1875-1961) and Max Horkheimer (1895-1973). The former stated that "Schopenhauer expressed that what many thousands had already obscurely felt and thought".13 The latter said that "Schopenhauer exposes the motive for solidarity shared by men and all beings".2 Both questions may be empirically tested.

In order to attack it, they should have protested that they had made every effort to seek Him everywhere, and even in that which the Church proposes for their instruction, but without satisfaction. If they talked in this manner, they would in truth be attacking one of her pretensions. But I hope here to show that no reasonable person can speak thus, and I venture[Pg 54] even to say that no one has ever done so. We know well enough how those who are of this mind behave. They believe they have made great efforts for their instruction, when they have spent a few hours in reading some book of Scripture, and have questioned some priest on the truths of the faith. After that, they boast of having made vain search in books and among men. But, verily, I will tell them what I have often said, that this negligence is insufferable. We are not here concerned with the trifling interests of some stranger, that we should treat it in this fashion; the matter concerns ourselves and our all.

I know not who put me into the world, nor what the world is, nor what I myself am. I am in terrible ignorance of everything. I know not what my body is, nor my senses, nor my soul, not even that part of me which thinks what I say, which reflects on all and on itself, and knows itself no more than the rest. I see those frightful spaces of the universe which surround me, and I find myself tied to one corner of this vast expanse, without knowing why I am put in this place rather than in another, nor why the short time which is given me to live is assigned to me at this point rather than at another of the whole eternity which was before me or which shall come after me. I see nothing but infinites on all sides, which surround me as an atom, and as a shadow which endures only for an instant and returns no more. All I know is that I must soon die, but what I know least is this very death which I cannot escape.

Who would desire to have for a friend a man who talks in this fashion? Who would choose him out from others to tell him of his affairs? Who would have recourse to him in affliction? And indeed to what use in life could one put him?

There must be a strange confusion in the nature of man, that he should boast of being in that state in which it seems incredible that a single individual should be. However, experience has[Pg 57] shown me so great a number of such persons that the fact would be surprising, if we did not know that the greater part of those who trouble themselves about the matter are disingenuous, and not in fact what they say. They are people who have heard it said that it is the fashion to be thus daring. It is what they call shaking off the yoke, and they try to imitate this. But it would not be difficult to make them understand how greatly they deceive themselves in thus seeking esteem. This is not the way to gain it, even I say among those men of the world who take a healthy view of things, and who know that the only way to succeed in this life is to make ourselves appear honourable, faithful, judicious, and capable of useful service to a friend; because naturally men love only what may be useful to them. Now, what do we gain by hearing it said of a man that he has now thrown off the yoke, that he does not believe there is a God who watches our actions, that he considers himself the sole master of his conduct, and that he thinks he is accountable for it only to himself? Does he think that he has thus brought us to have henceforth complete confidence in him, and to look to him for consolation, advice, and help in every need of life? Do they profess to have delighted us by telling us that they hold our soul to be only a little wind and smoke, especially by telling us this in a haughty and self-satisfied tone of voice? Is this a thing to say gaily? Is it not, on the contrary, a thing to say sadly, as the saddest thing in the world?

This is what I see and what troubles me. I look on all sides, and I see only darkness everywhere. Nature presents to me nothing which is not matter of doubt and concern. If I saw nothing there which revealed a Divinity, I would come to a negative conclusion; if I saw everywhere the signs of a Creator, I would remain peacefully in faith. But, seeing too much to deny and too little to be sure, I am in a state to be pitied; wherefore I have a hundred time wished that if a God maintains nature, she should testify to Him unequivocally, and that, if the signs she gives are deceptive, she should suppress them altogether; that she should say everything or nothing, that I might see which cause I ought to follow. Whereas in my present state, ignorant of what I am or of what I ought to do, I know neither my condition nor my duty. My heart inclines wholly to know where is the true good, in order to follow it; nothing would be too dear to me for eternity.

For we must not misunderstand ourselves; we are as much automatic as intellectual; and hence it comes that the instrument by which conviction is attained is not demonstrated alone. How few things are demonstrated? Proofs only convince the mind. Custom is the source of our strongest and most believed proofs. It bends the automaton, which persuades the mind without its thinking about the matter. Who has demonstrated that there will be a to-morrow, and that we shall die? And what is more believed? It is, then, custom which persuades us of it; it is[Pg 74] custom that makes so many men Christians; custom that makes them Turks, heathens, artisans, soldiers, etc. (Faith in baptism is more received among Christians than among Turks.) Finally, we must have recourse to it when once the mind has seen where the truth is, in order to quench our thirst, and steep ourselves in that belief, which escapes us at every hour; for always to have proofs ready is too much trouble. We must get an easier belief, which is that of custom, which, without violence, without art, without argument, makes us believe things, and inclines all our powers to this belief, so that out soul falls naturally into it. It is not enough to believe only by force of conviction, when the automaton is inclined to believe the contrary. Both our parts must be made to believe, the mind by reasons which it is sufficient to have seen once in a lifetime, and the automaton by custom, and by not allowing it to incline to the contrary. Inclina cor meum, Deus.[16]

The study of ethics often concerns what we ought to do and what it would be best to do. In struggling with this issue, larger questions about what is good and right arise. So, the ethicist attempts to answer such questions as: 041b061a72


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