Up@dawn 2.0

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Rousseau and Drumpf

Pankaj Mishra's essay in the August 1 New Yorker says Jean-Jacques Rousseau predicted Donald Drumpf, and includes this paragraph of particular interest to us:
Heinrich Meier, in his new book, “On the Happiness of the Philosophic Life” (Chicago), offers an overview of Rousseau’s thought through a reading of his last, unfinished book, “Reveries of a Solitary Walker,” which he began in 1776, two years before his death. In “Reveries,” Rousseau moved away from political prescriptions and cultivated his belief that “liberty is not inherent in any form of government, it is in the heart of the free man.”
Might be worth a look.
Also noted, in "New Scientist":
          Desk job death risk is eliminated by an hour’s walk or cycle.
An hour a day keeps death away. An analysis of data from a million people has found that an hour of moderate physical activity a day is enough to cancel out the deadly effect of working at a desk all day.
The analysis confirmed that too much time spent sitting is deadly, finding that those who sat for more than eight hours a day without doing exercise were up to 60 per cent more likely to die prematurely... (continues)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Walking: A Personal Journey

Walking: A Personal Journey
The Cave

The Tennessee sun radiating off the concrete sidewalk felt like an unguided July tour along the front lines of hell. Red brick stone showcased the ornamental granite inlays constituting the enormous pathways that provide students with an urban ambulatory experience among the beautiful campus green-scape. Freshly-cut grass dashed across my path, dancing in the lone-breeze blowing through the common. Summer school was in at Middle Tennessee State University.

The usual bustle of students rushing to classes during the fall and spring semesters was eerily absent. The only audible sounds were the drone of a distant leaf blower and the chime of the campus bell marking the half-hour. Sweat beaded up on my brow from the heat as I walked towards my first Master of Liberal Arts class. Walking—putting one foot in front of the other would soon prove more than getting from one place to another, as an act of perfunctory necessity.

Although our stroll through Western civilization would mark philosophical footnotes along our worn pages of rote memory, the true edification sprang from the pages of an unassuming text entitled Philosophy of Walking. Suddenly, the conceptual Platonic Forms came crashing down to the ground like a Raphael painting hung on a loose nail; into an Aristotelian reality, where the class made contact with the natural grounding essential to evolutionary bipeds: both feet planted firmly on the Earth’s soil—where progress is made by putting on foot in front of the other. The progress of a well-examined life.

As an undergrad, I learned that one must not only be a student of philosophy, but one must “do” philosophy. Whether this “doing” is framing cogent arguments, asking questions, reading critically, or asking ‘how should we live,’ etc., what better way to “do” a “Philosophy of Walking” than actually do some walking. Boots on the ground, to borrow a loaded phrase. So, from page one, I set out on a literal and figurative journey to “do” some philosophy of walking.

What I found along that path was much more than I bargained for.

Life Driven Purpose

Sometimes the answer is right in front of us, but for some unknown, reason we refuse to acknowledge it.

After decades of doubting my intuitions, confusion, and confirmation bias-based denial, I realized that I was involved with a sociopathic person with manipulative narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Earlier this year I began reading medical literature about pathological NPD and sociopathy. This person checked every box on the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition) under NPD, and displayed all the signs of sociopathic behavior. A person with NPD is highly manipulative, and the tactics are horrendous. Nearly every professional and non-professional victim of NPD stressed that the only thing to do was cut off all communication. After many discussions over the summer with my wife, who was in agreement, we decided to walk away.

Unchained Malady

Then the prisoners would in every way believe that the truth is nothing other than the shadows of those artifacts.  --The Republic, Book VII

I felt an immediate sense of relief—like the prisoner in Plato’s Cave who broke free and turned around. At that moment, one has to assume, prior to the assent, that she discovered that the shadows on the wall were merely images of falsehoods manipulated by puppeteers. At this point, one doesn’t even have to venture out of the cave towards the light of knowledge to see the perpetuated fraud. Simply a new perspective changed the prisoner’s paradigm. The whole charade was erected to keep up the appearances. The shadows are lies passed off as truth. But what to do with the new ‘seeing.’ Once enlightened, there’s no turning under the same pretenses. Change is inevitable.

True freedom lies beyond the cave, and the sight of the light against the dark, damp surroundings commands a journey into the unknown. There’s a burning desire within; steps must be taken.

First Steps

“Once on his feet, though, man does not stay where he is” (Gros 2).

Arthur Rimbaud’s journeys in Chapter 6 were paced in anger. I understood this on many levels, mostly a passion to escape. But the metaphor of “on your feet” takes on many passengers. It’s a starting point because you have to get on your feet before you can walk, whether it’s literally or figuratively. Underneath it all, there’s that deep instinct to move away from the subversive. Rise up!

So the first steps taken were in the form of a morning 5-mile walk. Like Nietzsche—walking alone. Walking, thinking, and walking, where that ‘light pause’ of writing would converge on the page in carried thought and steeped in decisiveness. The feeling of walking away is both anger and joy, simultaneously. The anger from doubting intuitions, and the joy of finally doing something about the situation. Gros described it as such.

“To walk, to make progress, anger is needed. With him there is always that parting cry, that furious joy” (Gros 47).

That ‘parting cry,’ that first step, is the best! It’s the moment of truth. Rimbaud’s thoughts are short and sharp—all that it requires.

Let’s go, hat, greatcoat, both fists in pockets,
and step outside.
Forward, route!
 Let’s go!

Gros noted that it’s not the idea of going somewhere to explore, it’s the impossibility of enduring the present state of affairs.

“And he walked. Anger is needed to leave, to walk. That doesn’t come from outside. In the hollow of the belly the pain of being here, the impossibility of remaining where you are, of being buried alive, of simply staying” (Gros 48).

Every morning, each step taken felt like progress. The sheer act of movement towards something better was a gift. Each day brought new thoughts and new ideas—new possibilities. The puppeteers scattered in the reflected light, where the shadows of the imagination disappeared under a rude awakening. For the dearly departed, there’s no going back.

But there was something else happening. After two weeks of walking, I felt physically and mentally revived. A new me. I wasn’t just a neighborhood pedestrian wandering aimlessly in the street.

A Strange Pilgrimage

For the first two weeks during my walks, I never ventured beyond the boundaries of my subdivision. My urban encounter with the mild streets of Smyrna, Tennessee, seem like a superficial excursion compared to a Muslim’s once-in-a-lifetime Hajj—a journey to Mecca. But I was putting one foot in front of another, where time was more important than distance. And the need for change was not in the external, but the need for mental reckoning.

“Internal transformation remains the pilgrim’s mystical ideal: he hopes to be absolutely altered on his return. That transformation is still expressed in the vocabulary of regeneration: very often there is a spring, stream or river close to holy places, the lustral element in which pilgrims can immerse themselves, to emerge purified, as it were cleansed of themselves” (Gros 121).

Walking brings about definitive renunciation. As the miles mount, the mind clears. There is a cleansing, a cleansing of self-doubt. Putting in the work, walking; thinking things through gives the self a new purpose—a new direction. Towards the end of the journey, the path becomes clearer; the exit of the cave a little nearer. Progress is made. The feeling is rewarding.

Once you come out of the other side of a pilgrimage, you start looking for the next step. And there are steps, but they are no longer manipulated by puppeteers shadowing your path with illusions. They are brighter steps, brighter days, and clearer thoughts—all discovered by thinking and walking.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Study Guide

Our 20-question exam, with a dozen questions on The Cave and the Light and 8 questions on Philosophy of Walking, will be drawn from the odd-numbered CL questions and the even-numbered PW questions. Questions will be reworded to suit the format, so the best way to study is by re-reading and reflecting on the relevant passages and not by simply memorizing the Qs & As. The correct answers are all to be found here:
GLOSSARY. Abelard, Anaxagoras, Anselm, apatheia, Aquinas, Archimedes, Aristotelian, artistic, Asclepius, Augustine, Bacon, Benjamin, Boethius, Bruno, Calvin, Cicero, Copernicus, Cynics, Darwin, Democritus, Diogenes, Epicurean, Erasmus, Ficino, Gandhi, Hegel, Heraclitus, Hobbes, Huichol, identity, immaterial, James, Jefferson, Luther, Machiavelli, Marx, material, Mill, Nietzsche, Ockham, Origen,  outside, Parmenides, Peripatetic, Platonist, Rimbaud, Rousseau, Seneca, Stoics, Strato, Tertullian, Tibetan, Thoreau, Voltaire, Wordsworth
CL Ch1
1. What was Socrates's "real crime"?

2. The goal of a virtuous life is ____.

3. What did Socrates express with his reference to Asclepius?

4. From what was Plato absent?

1. Which pre-Socratics said that everything and nothing change, respectively?

2. What's the modern version of Plato's cave?

3. What (from Plato's perspective) should be our slogan?

4. The final escape from the cave is ____.

1. What relationships did Plato but not Socrates attempt to clarify?

2. What Platonic obsession did Pythagoras provoke?

3. What is revealed, according to Plato, in the material world?

4. What two types of graduates did Plato's Academy train?

1. Where does our most vital knowledge come from, according to Aristotle?

2. What role does reason play, for Aristotle, in generating knowledge?

3. What questions do Platonists and Aristotelians, respectively, ask of nature?

4. What's a better word for Aristotle's theory of the mean?

1. What were Plato's and Aristotle's conflicting visions of freedom?

2. Who are Socrates' two main antagonists who argue against his (Plato's) conception of justice?

3. Name one of Plato's communitarian and one of Aristotle's individualist heirs.

4. What are two words that specify the difference between Plato's and Aristotle's conceptions of politics?

1. How did the Hellenistic philosophers want to broaden their inheritance from Plato and Aristotle?

2. What was Antisthenes' critique of Plato's Forms?

3. What were Strato's two crucial decisions?

4. What was Aristotle's alternative to Big Picture thinking?

1. What key Aristotelian principle was embodied by the Great Library at Alexandria?

2. What did Aristotelians have to save, to sustain his assumptions about nature and the universe?

3. What Archimedean claim would Aristotle have rejected, even though his own method implied it?

4. What were Archimedes' last words, and his most famous word?

1. What did Cicero mean by an "Archimedean problem"?

2. Which anti-Roman resistance fighter later chronicled their unparalleled historical achievement?

3. How did Cicero's conception of the republic differ from Plato's?

4. What can a good orator say to his audience, if he's read and mastered his Rhetoric?

1. What was Cicero's posthumous status?

2. What Platonic myth set the stage for Roman disaffection, degeneration, decay, decline, and dissolution?

3. What virtue did Seneca advise the wise to cultivate?

4. William Blake's "eternity in a grain of sand" is a possible  reflection of whose philosophy?

1. What did Plato do for Christianity, and vice versa?

2. How did Origen depart from his teacher Clement?

3. How did Origen view Socrates, in relation to conscience, wrongdoing, Jesus, or the embodied soul?

4. What did Origen do for Christian theology?

1.  Who first made Church and State a cultural issue?

2.  What's the etymology of "religion"?

3. Who asked what Athens has to do with Jerusalem?

4. What did Augustine say about the relation between faith and reason (or rational understanding)?

1. Boethius, an orthodox Catholic, mentions not even a single what in his Consolation of Philosophy?

2. How did "the Irish save civilization"?

3. What are the seven " liberal arts"?

4. How did Abelard reverse Anselm?

1. Bernard was especially offended by Abelard's holding the Church to what?

2. What is the modern evangelical/colloquial term for Bernard's Christian variant on Plato's Myth of the Cave?

3. Gothic churches are the lasting home of what?

4. What was Plato's significance for the school of Chartres and the Gothic mind in general?

1. The Crusades were a "notorious waste of lives and reputations," but what was their unintended positive consequence?

2. Aquinas implicitly repudiated what Averroist idea?

3. Averroism is reflected in what quip by Voltaire?

4. What is Aquinas's most famous aphorism?

1. What Bacon sentence might have been written by Locke or Hume?

2. What moderate realist position did Ockham overturn?

3. What, besides the Roman Emperor Ludwig's autonomy, did Ockham defend?

4. What stunned Adam Smith at Oxford?

1. For Salutati, what's the difference between Aristotelian democracy and a Platonic republic?

2. With what did Renaissance humanism replace the trivium and quadrivium?

3. What were Machiavelli's uncomfortable questions?

4. Who are "history's great heroes"?

1. What secret did Ficino et al think they'd unlocked?

2. What's love's Platonic goal, in the Symposium?

3. What did Renaissance Platonism "realize" about all religions and civilization?

4. To what was Michelangelo's David a tribute?

1. Who did Luther call an "arrogant pagan rascal"?

2. What was Erasmus's "one wish"?

3. Who were Folly's "devotees"?

4. What was the humanists' illusion, for Luther?

1. Plato's realm of geometry and number is called what?

2. What Aristotelian assumption was contradicted in October 1604?

3. Why didn't Bruno doubt Copernicus's proposition that the Earth moved?

4. What made Galileo a Protestant hero?

1. Why was Sir Francis Bacon delighted by the eclipse of Aristotelian natural philosophy?

2. What stumped the Cambridge Platonists?

3. Where is Newton's God?

4. Whose version of the social contract treats people like alcoholics?

1. Who called Plato's Republic "nonsense"?

2. What term for a new moral perspective did the 3d Earl of Shaftesbury coin?

3. Where was "the Athens of the North"?

4. What single principle keeps civil society dynamic and expanding, according to David Hume?

1. Who told Rousseau that he'd "lost the habit of walking on all fours"?

2. Rousseau calls our truer, better selves what?

3. When did Kant interrupt his daily post-luncheon walk?

4. Who called Rousseau "the insane Socrates"?

1. Who found "bliss" in the French Revolution?

2. Pending the social contract's imposed submission to the General Will, what was the Romantic cure for commercial corruption?

3. What were Aristotle's three unities?

4. For Shelley the problem with political revolutions was what?

1. How did French peasants and shopkeepers shock the leaders of the revolution?

2. How did Hegel's Idea resemble and differ from Plato's Ideas?

3. How did Marx alter Hegel's "dialectic"?

4. What was of overriding importance to J.S. Mill?

1. What naturalist's Latin American expeditions inspired young Darwin?

2. What was Las Casas's new way of understanding cultural difference?

3.  Who first described nature as a whole in evolutionary terms?

4. What had to come crashing down, in Darwin's wake?

1. What did Maxwell throw into upheaval?

2. What was Mach's Lockean line?

3. What was Einstein's teenage thought-experiment?

4. Bohr's quantum theory exposed what as illusions?

1. Who did Nietzsche consider the most important pre-Socratic?

2. What was Nietzsche's objection to Socrates?

3. Who had a sudden revelation about time during his customary afternoon walk?

4. Who said Heraclitus's vision of Being was "only for the strong"?

1. What bias did de Tocqueville say was built into the American character?

2. How did Jefferson regard Plato's influence on religion?

3. Who called success a "bitch goddess"?

4. What was James's view of Nietzsche?

1. Who did Karl Popper blame for European civilization's 20th century betrayal?

2. What prominent Progressive philosopher/educator does Herman say believed government could help turn men into angels?

3. Who said the only truly progressive policy is a policy of individual freedom?

4. What Russian emigre, praising Aristotle's legacy, said there's one objective reality and that it can only be perceived via the senses?

1. Who does Herman say got "too much Aristotle too soon"?

2. What's the result (ac'ing to H) of "too much Plato"?

3. What familiar environmental slogan does Herman consider Platonic?

4. Current debates over climate change and economic growth reveal our need for what?

PW 1-4
1. What has introduced an invasive "sporting spirit" to the child's play of walking?

2. What does Gros say we escape from, by walking?

3. How did Nietzsche's walks differ from Kant's?

4. How does an expedition change our concept of "outside"?

1. What do long days of slow walking do for you, according to Gros?

2. What did Rimbaud need, to walk and make progress?

3. How do walkers "possess" the world?

4. What is "chatter," and what does it do?

5. In his later years what was Rousseau walking to find?

1. Walking puts us in touch with what?

2. What was the first philosophic treatise on walking?

3. How did Thoreau say we could get off the news-cycle "treadmill"?

4. What did the Lakota love?

1. Pilgrimage emphasizes what wish?

2. Why do you have to walk, according to Huichol mythology?

3. What sedentary distinction does The Cynic "cut through"?

4. What is walking's dominant joy?

1. Nietzsche's walks took him to the pinnacle of what?

2. What concerns did Nietzsche share with Kant?

3. How do urban and country walks differ?

4. What kind of walking yields the greatest "discoveries and joys"?

1. The servant in Promenade de Paris advises against a natural approach to what?

2. "Generalized prostitution" is another name for what, according to Walter Benjamin?

3. Who celebrated walking as testimony to mystical presence?

4. What reconciliation leads to a joyous lassitude?

1.”As if you could kill time without injuring ____,” said ______.

2. Walking promoted what ideal, for Gandhi?

3. Who said sitting put his thoughts to sleep?

4. One who becomes a lung-gom-pa is capable of what?