Mechanism

A man ever considered with purely earthly respects, appears to be reaching peaks of moral and physical perfection. His skills coalesce delightfully to lead him to that goal. His senses more perfect than in lower species, his memory so amazing, that presents him with various objects, not allowing to be mixed up, his ability to judge, allowing to classify them and compare, his mind, every day discovering new relations between the two, everything works, leading him toward new discoveries, and strengthening his dominance.

Meanwhile, among his conquests and victories, neither the enthralled world, nor established social organizations, nor announced laws, nor fulfilled needs, nor multiplied pleasures are enough for his soul. A desire continues to grow in him that demands something else. He examined, penetrated, tamed and adorned his earthly refuge, but his eyes look for another realm. He became the master of visible and finite nature, but desires the nature invisible and without borders. He took care of things which, the more complex and artificial they are, of the higher caliber they seem. He learned and counted everything, but feels discouraged that he only deals with interests and calculations.

Some inner voice shouts inside of him and tells him that all these things are just a mechanism, more or less brilliant, more or less perfect, but inadequate to be a finale or a limitation of his existence, and that what he took as the goal, was only a number of means.

Benjamin Constant – On religion

Instinct

“There aren’t any standards. The purpose of philosophy is not to help men find the meaning of life, but to prove to them that there isn’t any. It is this insistence of man upon meaning that makes him so difficult. Once he realizes that he is of no importance whatever in the vast scheme of the universe, that no possible significance can be attached to his activities, that it does not matter whether he lives or dies, he will become much more tractable.”
“But it stands to reason that if—”
“Reason, my dear fellow, is the most naive of all superstitions. That, at least, has been generally conceded in our age,”
“But I don’t quite understand how we can—”
“You suffer from the popular delusion of believing that things can be understood. You do not grasp the fact that the universe is a solid contradiction.”
“A contradiction of what?” asked the matron.
“Of itself.”
“How’s that?”
“My dear madam, the duty of thinkers is not to explain, but to demonstrate that nothing can be explained. The purpose of philosophy is not to seek knowledge, but to prove that knowledge is impossible to man.”
“But when we prove it,” asked the young woman, “what’s going to be left?”
“Instinct,” said Dr. Pritchett reverently.

Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged

Convenience

The world is a construct of our sensations, perceptions, memories. Ita is convenient to regard it as existing objectively on its own. But it certainly does not become manifest by its mere existence. Its becoming manifest is conditional on very special goings-on in very special parts of this very world, namely on certain events that happen in a brain.

Erwin Schrodinger

The false alternative


You have heard no concepts of morality but the mystical or the social. You have been taught that morality is a code of behavior imposed on you by whim, the whim of a supernatural power or the whim of society, to serve God’s purpose or your neighbor’s welfare, to please an authority beyond the grave or else next door—but not to serve your life or pleasure.

For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors—between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.

A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose, negate and contradict the fact of his own existence, running blindly amuck on a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but pain.

Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged

Temptation for Immortality

All things in nature have an end; the most beautiful and perfect are the most frail, over which lament philosophers and poets. Why the man was supposed to be different? But why it could not be different?

Feelings and thoughts not only differ from what we call dead matter, but they are diametrically opposite. Conclusions with regards to the spirit, based on an analogy with the matter, have very little or no value. All matter, detached from the experience of sentient beings, has merely hypothetical and non-substantial existence; it is only conjecture to explain our feelings. The spirit, from a philosophical stance, is the only reality that we can prove, and between it and other realities no analogy can be found.

John Stuart Mill – Essays on Religion

Habitual Beliefs of Age or Nation

The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason. To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected. As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find, as we saw in our opening chapters, that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given.

Bertrand Russell – The Problems of Philosophy

Morals

Morals are the only proper subject of philosophy; for these inquiries are practicable and useful, but the discussions about nature are quite the contrary, neither being comprehensible, nor having any use, even if they were clearly understood.

For it would be no advantage to us, even if we could with our very eyes survey the whole world, and the nature of all beings, of whatever kind that is. For we certainly shall not be on that account wiser, or more just or brave or temperate, nay, not even strong, or beautiful, or rich, without which advantages happiness is impossible.

Wherefore Socrates was right in saying that of existing things some are above us, and others nothing to us: for the secrets of nature are above us, and the conditions after death nothing to us, but the affairs of human life alone concern us.

Eusebius – Praeparatio Evangelica

The Year of the Monkey

If it is something which is not in any relation to all things known, such existence can not be established by any reasoning. How do we know that something, which is not associated with other things, exists at all? The whole universe, such as we know it, is a system of relationships; we do not know anything that could not be related. How can that, which is not dependent on anything and not related to anything, form items related to each other and dependent on each other in its existence?

Is either unity or multiplicity. If there is one, how it can cause a variety of things that come from different causes? If they are as many as there are things, how can the latter be related to each other? If it permeates everything and fills the entire space, it can not create them, because there would be nothing to be created.

If deprived of all properties; all the things that arise, should also be free of all properties. So it can not be their cause. If it is different from the properties, how it still creates things having these properties and manifests itself in them?

If it is invariable, all this should also be invariable, as a result can not vary in its nature with the cause. But all the things of the world are subject to changes and decomposition. How, how can it therefore be invariable?

If created the world, there would be no changes or destruction, there should also be no sorrow or unhappiness, right and wrong, given that anything both pure and impure, would have to come from somewhere. If sadness and joy, love and hatred arise in all sentient beings, then he should be able to feel sadness and joy, love and hate, and if it has this ability, how can we say that it is perfect?

If it was the creator, and all beings would have to be its silent followers, how would it be useful to practice virtue? If all deeds are its formation, they must be the same as their perpetrator’s. But if grief and suffering is attributed to another cause, in that case there is something that it is not the cause of. Why, then, would not be without a cause all that there is?

If there is the creator, it works with some purpose or no purpose. If it works with some purpose, you can not say that it is perfect, because the purpose necessarily implies satisfying a want. If it works without the purpose, it is similar to a madman or an infant.

Aśvaghoṣa – Buddhacarita

Corrupted

The streets were mine, the temple was mine, the people were mine, their clothes and gold and silver were mine, as much as their sparkling eyes, fair skins and ruddy faces. The skies were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the World was mine; and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it. I knew no churlish proprieties, nor bounds, nor divisions: but all proprieties and divisions were mine: all treasures and the possessors of them. So that with much ado I was corrupted, and made to learn the dirty devices of this world. Which now I unlearn, and become, as it were, a little child again that I may enter into the Kingdom of God.

Thomas Traherne – Centuries of Meditations

Demythologizing

Some therorize about the end of philosophy because they have lost the meaning of philosophy. Philosophical problems arise and develop as an attempt to understand and explain the whole, that is, the totality of things, or at least as the problematic of the totality. Philosophy remains such if and only if it searches for the perspective of the meaning of the whole. On chthe contrary, the sciences have arisen as rational considerations restricted to the parts or sectors of reality. They have an elaborate methodology and technique of inquiry that changes in function of the structure of these parts, and their value resides in these parts, and hence they are not of value for the whole of reality.

But what purpose is there to philosophizing today, in a world in which science, technology, and politics seem on the whole to divide the power, in a world in which the scientist, the technocrat, the politician become the new magicians moving all the levers? The purpose, in our judgement, remains always the same for philosophy as it has from its beginning, the aim of demythologizing. The ancient myths were those of poetry, of fantasy, of imagination; the new myths are those of science, of technology, and of ideology, that is to say, the myths of power.

Certainly the task of demythologizing is more difficult today than it was with the ancients. The new myths of today are constructed by reason itself, at least in great part, since science and technology would seem to lead directly to the triumph of reason. But it is a reason that, once it has lost the meaning of the totality, the sense of the whole, risks losing even its own identity.

Giovanni Reale – Preface to A History of Ancient Philosophy