Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Quiz July 20

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"?


  • Which requires more personal discipline, for you: sticking rigidly to a daily routine (like Kant) or surrendering to your spontaneity? Which is more productive and gratifying for you? 157
  • Nerval was compelled by an obsession with "fixed ideas" that resulted in his tragic self-destruction. I find walking to be the best way to subdue obsessive rumination, not cultivate it, and thus can't relate to the melancholic/manic variety of walking Nerval apparently suffered from. Can you?
  • "Do we know why we walk?" 152
  • Kant and Nietzsche were both very strange individuals, in their very different ways, and were drawn to very different styles of walking. If they'd each sampled the OTHER style and practiced it a bit more, would they have been less strange? Would they still have been the philosophers they were?
  • "Every day a page to write... at the end of it all, a gigantic oeuvre." 157 Do you have any projects, writing or otherwise, that you try to plug away at every day? Have you experienced success at such a project?
  • "A brisk trot around the block is really just another way of developing the obsession with some idea... Going out for a walk is another matter." 163-4 But can't you "say goodbye to your work" for the duration of a trot too?
  • Have you experienced the "lightness of being, the sweetness of a soul freely reconciled to itself and to the world" during a walk? How long did the feeling last? Did its dissipation disappoint you, or make you distrust the feeling the next time it came?
27-Triumph of the Will: Nietzsche and the Death of Reason
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"?

  • Does the fact that some German soldiers carried Nietzsche's Zarathustra with them discredit Nietzsche? Does Heidegger's affiliation with the Nazis discredit Being and Time
  • "New ideologies sprang up... assert[ing] that what we believe - even if it's a lie" is what matters. 496 But does any thinker ever embrace a lie so casually and straightforwardly, without self-deception?
  • "But the impermanence of everything, including the universe, should be a formula for serenity rather than despair." 497 Agree?
  • "Everything about Socrates is wrong... The dying Socrates became the new ideal..." 498-9 Have we idealized Socrates? Should we take him down from his pedestal? Who would you nominate as the personification of intellectual integrity, if not him?
  • Nietzsche's aphoristic style makes it easy to interpret him as an apologist for "violent warriors," but on closer and more sympathetic inspection such language seems mostly metaphorical and symbolic, his "will to power" a call for self-mastery rather than social domination. Should a philosopher scrupulously avoid language that lends itself to misconstrual?
  • "Darwin's evolution and Ernst Mach's physics had demonstrated to all concerned that there was no heaven above..." Really? 500
  • Do you agree with Herman's interpretation of the lesson of Nietzsche's eternal recurrence? 502
  • Is the elan vital simply a fiction we should reject, or is there some value in the concept?
  • Why were so many well-intentioned intellectuals drawn to the "catastrophic" Russian Revolution? 508-9

28-Common Sense Nation: Plato, Aristotle, and American Exceptionalism
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?

  • Was Jefferson self-consistent in advocating separation of Church and State while also (allegedly) agreeing with Madison about "the moral order of the world"? 520 
  • What do you think of the familiar Jamesian claim that if you "believe that life is worth living, your belief will help create the fact"? 534
  • Is Madison's "healthy gridlock" of countervailing interests still so healthy? Wouldn't some version of the parliamentary system, requiring constructive coalition government, be better? 518
  • Is common sense the right place to start, in philosophy? 521
  • Do our universities pursue Gilman's goal? 525
  • Should philosophers fight against "demoralizing despair," as voiced by Twain and Adams? 526 Do all intellectuals have an ultimate obligation, as Faulkner said, to lift the human heart and offer hope?
  • Where are you on the Tough/Tender spectrum? 528
  • "James's Pragmatism is inherently conservative," though James himself was a progressive liberal. Why do you think Herman makes this claim? Is it true? 531
  • For pragmatists beliefs are rules for action, to be assessed in the light of where action leads us. "What is better for us to believe" comes close to a definition of truth, said James. Do you think we should we call beliefs that lead us well  "true"? (Consider for instance the mountain climber or the train passengers, 532)
A less superficial, more nuanced and scholarly approach to Nietzsche is Walter Kaufmann's Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist, in which "will to power" is understood as "the will to overcome oneself" rather than to dominate and subdue others. He quotes Goethe: "Who overcomes himself, his freedom finds." On a tall mountain peak, after all, it's hard to dominate anyone but yourself.

In general, it's probably a mistake to try and extract a consistent socio-political and ethical philosophy from Nietzsche. He's more about personal therapeutics, of which walking is for him the primal therapy. 

As for Jefferson, Madison, and "the moral order" etc., Matthew Stewart's Nature's God is good.
“The impious man is not he who denies the gods of the many,” Epicurus writes to a friend, “but he who attaches to the gods the beliefs of the many about them.” Lord Bacon repeats the message for the benefit of readers like Jefferson: “There is no profanity in refusing to believe in the gods of the vulgar: the profanity is in believing of the gods what the vulgar believe.”
Stewart reminds us that Jefferson was a self-avowed Epicurean and materialist. "Spiritualism" for him is a term of abuse applied mostly to the Platonic tradition.  "Of Jesus he says, 'I am a Materialist; he takes the side of spiritualism.' [But] perhaps Jesus could be interpreted as an Epicurean after all."

In that spirit, we should all read our (Jefferson) Bible.

For more on William James, have I mentioned William James's "Springs of Delight"? Once or twice, maybe. Let me know if you want to borrow/buy a copy (priced to move). Also see William James: Writings, 1902-1910 (and its prequel covering1878-1899)... An Introduction to American Pragmatism... William James's Varieties of Religious Experience (BBC4 In Our Time)... William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism by Robert Richardson
Old post: Peirce, James, Nietzsche, Freud

Hemingway, Thoreau, Jefferson and the Virtues of a Good Long Walk (HuffPo)

...There are, of course, many takes on the virtues of walking. For Thomas Jefferson, the purpose of walking was to clear the mind of thoughts. “The object of walking is to relax the mind,” he wrote. “You should therefore not permit yourself even to think while you walk. But divert your attention by the objects surrounding you.”

For others, like Nietzsche, walking was essential for thinking. “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking,” he wrote in Twilight of the Idols. For Ernest Hemingway, walking was a way of developing his best thoughts while mulling a problem. “I would walk along the quais when I had finished work or when I was trying to think something out,” he wrote in A Moveable Feast. “It was easier to think if I was walking and doing something or seeing people doing something that they understood.” For Jefferson, walking was also “the best possible exercise,” while for Henry David Thoreau, walking wasn’t just a means to an end, it was the end itself... (continues)
“It is the best of humanity, I think, that goes out to walk. In happy hours all affairs may be wisely postponed for this. Dr. Johnson said, ‘Few men know how to take a walk,’ and it is pretty certain that Dr. Johnson was not one of those few. It is a fine art; there are degrees of proficiency, and we distinguish the professors from the apprentices. The qualifications are endurance, plain clothes, old shoes, an eye for nature, good-humor, vast curiosity, good speech, good silence, and nothing too much. Good observers have the manners of trees and animals, and if they add words, it is only when words are better than silence. But a vain talker profanes the river and the forest, and is nothing like so good company as a dog.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Country Life,” 1857
Solvitur Ambulando. ...There was a time in which writers and philosophers wrote poems and paeans to the humble walk, publishing books and essays with titles such as “The Reveries of the Solitary Walker,” “In Praise of Walking,” and “Walking as a Fine Art.” Bipedal locomotion was referred to as “the manly art of walking,” and enrollment in the “noble army of walkers” was encouraged.

Did these long-dead bipedaling boosters know something that modern men do not? While walking’s simplicity may seem like a mark against it, perhaps its rudimentary nature is just the thing to bring us back to life’s much needed basics. Walking upright is part of what makes us human, after all, and who wouldn’t benefit from getting in touch with their humanity a little more often?

Walking is the world’s most democratic activity – it is open to almost everyone, whether young or old, rich or poor. It can be participated in no matter where you are. One can walk to work, stroll around their neighborhood, stride down city blocks, ramble through a parking lot, or saunter over hill and dale. All it takes to begin is placing one foot in front of the other. Despite this accessibility, we probably do less walking these days than ever before in history – the bulk of our day is spent riding, driving, and sitting... (continues)

"Walking is the best possible exercise" - Thomas Jefferson

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