Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, March 29, 2019

Quiz Apr 4

Russell, Ayer, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Camus LH 31-33; FL 37-39; AP -119

1. Reading whose autobiography led young Bertrand Russell to reject God? OR, What did he see as the logical problem with the First Cause Argument?

I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day at the age of eighteen I read _____'s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: "My father taught me that the question 'Who made me?' cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question `Who made god?'" That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu's view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, "How about the tortoise?" the Indian said, "Suppose we change the subject." The argument is really no better than that. Why I Am Not a Christian

2. The idea of a barber who shaves all who don't shave themselves is a logical ______, a seeming contradiction that is both true and false. Another example of the same thing would be a statement like "This sentence is ___."

3. A.J. Ayer's ______ Principle, stated in his 1936 book Language, Truth and Logic, was part of the movement known as _____ ______.

4. Humans don't have an _____, said Jean Paul Sartre, and are in "bad faith" like the ____ who thinks of himself as completely defined by his work.

5. What was Sartre's frustrating advice to the student who didn't know whether to join the Resistance?

6. When Simone de Beauvoir said women are not born that way, she meant that they tend to accept what?

7. Which Greek myth did Albert Camus use to illustrate human absurdity, as he saw it?

FL
8. What was the message of The Courage to Heal?

9. The first big outbreak of what occurred in and around Bakersfield CA in the '80s?

10. Andersen says there's a line extending from flying saucer obsessives to what?

11. What is it important to recognize about David Koresh and the Branch Davidians'?

12. Who is both symptom and cause of conspiracism in America?

AP -119
13. How did James the medical student differ from James the humanist?

14. How do analytic philosophers tend to understand philosophy?

15. Emerson tied American Transcendentalism to what philosopher and to what class of ideas?

What did Sartre mean by "freedom"? Inquiring minds want to know how any of us can be really free, when we still have payments to make on the fridge. Well, that's the crux of Sartre's "Roads to Freedom." Isn't it, Mrs. P? -"We'll ask him."



"What was Jean-Paul like?"
-"He didn't join in the fun much. Just sat there thinking..."
  • “Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female — whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.”
  • “Fathers never have exactly the daughters they want because they invent a notion a them that the daughters have to conform to.”
  • “Why one man rather than another? It was odd. You find yourself involved with a fellow for life just because he was the one that you met when you were nineteen.”
  • “Self-consciousness is not knowledge but a story one tells about oneself.”


Albert Camus gave us the Existential version of Sisyphus, and the “fundamental question of philosophy”:
“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer.”










thinkPhilosophy (@tPhilosophia)
Jean-Paul Sartre: more relevant now than ever | Books | The Guardian: theguardian.com/books/2014/oct…

DQ:

1. Have you ever read a book that changed your mind about something important to you? What would you say to Bertrand Russell and J.S. Mill about the First Cause Argument?

2. Are linguistic paradoxes a philosophical problem, or just an amusing quirk of language?

3. Can you give an example of an unverifiable statement that you consider meaningful?

4. What's your "essence" or specific human nature? Did you construct it, or were you born into it? Can your essence change?

5. What does it mean to say that women are made, not born? Do you have particular ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman? Where did those ideas come from? Are there any professions or occupations you think no women or men should enter?

6. Are there any Sisyphean aspects to your daily life? Do they make you unhappy? Do you imagine you'll someday escape them? How?






thinkPhilosophy (@tPhilosophia)
"Why Life Is Absurd" Essay that won an Immortality Project Award - NYTimes.com opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/why…

An old post-
Thursday, April 23, 2015
Oxbridge superstars Bertrand Russell (Cambridge) and A.J. Ayer (Oxford) are the classic 20th century British philosophers on tap in CoPhi today (Russell was actually born in the 1870s and made it to nearly the century mark). We'll squeeze in another Cambridge don, Frank Ramsey, if time allows.
That's a small philosophy pun, PB's Ramsey expert Hugh Mellor is also an expert on time. And it's in marginally bad taste too, given that poor Ramsey's un-Russellian time was tragically short: he lived only to age 26. But as Mellor says, he accomplished far more than most philosophers manage in that fraction of a lifetime, including the "redundancy" theory of truth that (ironically, paradoxically!) implies the gratuity of theories of truth without disavowing truth's centrality to philosophy.
Hugh Mellor on time (he says relax, it’s not tensed”).... Russell @dawn... Russell... Ayer... Logicomix]
So much has been said about Russell, and by him. The truth question was pretty cut-and-dried, he thought, like religion and the pragmatic approach in general. 
  • There isn’t a practical reason for believing what isn’t true. If it’s true you should believe it, if it isn’t you shouldn't… it’s dishonesty and intellectual treachery to hold a belief because you think it’s useful and not because you think it’s true.
  • The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.
  • And if there were a God, I think it very unlikely that He would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence.
  • Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.
  • Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists? [Why I Am Not a Christian... More Russell]
Clearly, "for Russell there was no chance of God stepping in to save humanity." The concept of an Afterlife is, to anticipate the over-zealotry of A.J. Ayer's indiscriminate philosophical wrecking ball, "nonsense." We must save ourselves. (As Carl Sagan would later say, there's no sign of help coming from anywhere "out there" to rescue us.)
Russell said family friend and "godfather" J.S. Mill provided a satisfactory answer to his own early childhood query, posed by so many of us: "What caused God?" If anything in the universe can exist without a cause, why can't the universe itself?
Having settled the question of God to his own satisfaction, he turned full attention to the philosophy of logic and mathematics, to paradox, to set theory, and other conceptual conundra. If something is false when it's true ("This sentence is false" etc.), then it's back to the drawing board for the logicians. It's not even a close shave. (Yes, that's another marginal philosophy pun- this time alluding to Russell's paradox of the barber who shaves only those who shave themselves.) As for the extent of my own interest in set theory and its ilk, I think young Ramsey said it best: "Suppose a contradiction were to be found in the axioms of set theory. Do you seriously believe that a bridge would fall down?" No I do not.
 "How can we talk meaningfully about non-existent things?" That's never really hung me up, nor anyone who appreciates good literature. Either young Russell was not a big reader of fiction, or maybe he thought he had to justify his reading. I'm glad he cared about "the present king of France," but I frankly could care less.
A.J. (“Freddie”) Ayer, with his Verification Principle, loved to detect and discredit nonsense. Good for him, we're choking on it. But he went too far. "Metaphysics" (not to mention "ethics" and "religion") may have been a dirty word, for him, but there's far more sense on earth (let alone in heaven, if a heaven there be) than was dreamt of in his Logical Positivism.
Ayer, by the way, apparently had a Near Death Experience of his own, in his old age. Interesting, in light of his youthful philosophy as exposited in Language, Truth, and Logic, "in every sense" (he admitted while still a relatively young man) "a young man's book, "according to which unverifiable statements are meaningless nonsense.
Old Ayer claimed his premature dalliance with death in no way impinged on his atheism. But an acquaintance reported that “He became so much nicer after he died… not nearly so boastful. He took an interest in other people.” But again, Freddie denied that the experience made him “religious.” [continues here]
  •  …a sentence is factually significant to any given person, if, and only if, he knows how to verify the proposition which it purports to express — that is, if he knows what observations would lead him, under certain conditions, to accept the proposition as being true, or reject it as being false.
  • “Stealing money is wrong” has no factual meaning — that is, expresses no proposition which can be either true or false. It is as if I had written “Stealing money!!
  • No moral system can rest solely on authority. [Or as Russell said: nothing externally imposed can be of any value.]
  • There is philosophy, which is about conceptual analysis — about the meaning of what we say — and there is all of this … all of life.
And with that last insight the former Wykeham Professor of Logic may at last have hit on a profound truth far beyond formal language and pedantic logic. Ayer's greatest moment, for my money:
One of the last of the many legendary contests won by the British philosopher A. J. Ayer was his encounter with Mike Tyson in 1987... Ayer -- small, frail, slight as a sparrow and then 77 years old -- was entertaining a group of models at a New York party when a girl ran in screaming that her friend was being assaulted in a bedroom. The parties involved turned out to be Tyson and Naomi Campbell. ''Do you know who [the bleep] I am?'' Tyson asked in disbelief when Ayer urged him to desist: ''I'm the heavyweight champion of the world.'' ''And I am the former Wykeham professor of logic,'' Ayer answered politely. ''We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.'' nyt He might have been inviting another NDE, right then and there! [Ayer’s "Language, Truth & Logic." archive.org/details/Alfred…]
Every moment of life, especially during the Occupation, was an NDE for the French existentialists, Sartre (& Mary Warnock on Sartre), de Beauvoir, and Camus.
Jean-Paul Sartre, his companion Simone de Beauvoir, and their cohort Albert Camus were Resistance fighters as well as French intellectuals. "Paris needed a philosophy that would give to individuals a belief in themselves and their own powers," says Lady W., and that's what JPS and his cohort tried to give them. That’s important to remember, when considering the extremity of some of their statements. They were up against the wall, with Nazis in the parlor. And they’re on tap today in CoPhi.
  
  
Warnock seems to find some of Sartre's terms and concepts puzzling: existence precedes essence, "whatever that means!" But I always thought this was one of Sartre's clearer statements: "if God does not exist there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it." And we are it.
  
What did Sartre mean by "freedom"? Inquiring minds want to know how any of us can be really free, when we still have payments to make on the fridge. Well, that's the crux of Sartre's "Roads to Freedom." Isn't it, Mrs. P? -"We'll ask him."
"What was Jean-Paul like?"
-"He didn't join in the fun much. Just sat there thinking..."
[Breaking: guess who's getting back together?!] Got back together...
 Some more extreme Gallic/Existential statements:
  • “So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’ tales!There’s no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS–OTHER PEOPLE!”
  • “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. “Life has no meaning a priori … It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.”
  • “Life has no meaning, the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.”
  • “Words are loaded pistols.”
  • “Life begins on the other side of despair.”
  • “Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being – like a worm.”
  • “There is no love apart from the deeds of love; no potentiality of love other than that which is manifested in loving; there is no genius other than that which is expressed in works of art.”
  • “An individual chooses and makes himself.”
  • “If I became a philosopher, if I have so keenly sought this fame for which I’m still waiting, it’s all been to seduce women basically.”
  • “It is disgusting — Why must we have bodies?”
  • “I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without help, engaged in a world for which I bear the whole responsibility without being able, whatever I do, to tear myself away from this responsibility for an instant.”
  • “Life is a useless passion.”
  • “There is only one day left, always starting over: It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.”
And so it goes. Picture him dropping his verbal cluster-bombs in a dingy Parisian cafe, ringed by his own unfiltered smoke and an adoring cultish audience, all wondering if he and his confreres would live to fight another day. “Useless passion”? Generations of Sartre’s politically (if not metaphysically) free French successors might disagree. But removed from that context, I find these weaponish words hard to love. At least the guy who said hell is other people liked cats.
  • “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.”
  • “She was ready to deny the existence of space and time rather than admit that love might not be eternal.”
  • “A man attaches himself to woman — not to enjoy her, but to enjoy himself. ”
  • “If you live long enough, you’ll see that every victory turns into a defeat.”
  • “I am incapable of conceiving infinity and yet I do not accept finity.”
  • “Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.”
  • “I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.”
  • “Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female — whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.”
  • “Fathers never have exactly the daughters they want because they invent a notion a them that the daughters have to conform to.”
  • “Why one man rather than another? It was odd. You find yourself involved with a fellow for life just because he was the one that you met when you were nineteen.”
  • “Self-consciousness is not knowledge but a story one tells about oneself.”
Some stories ring truer than others though, no? De Beauvoir rings truer than Sartre, most of the time, for me. And Albert Camus with his Sisyphean view of life offers the starkest challenge when he says the ultimate question in philosophy is that of suicide. “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” More coffee! It makes me happy, and it’s the braver choice. But no room for cream, please.
Camus also said
  
  • “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”
  • “There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for.”
  • “I do not believe in God and I am not an atheist.”
  • “Always go too far, because that’s where you’ll find the truth.”
  • “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.”
Albert Camus gave us the Existential version of Sisyphus, and the “fundamental question of philosophy”:
“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer.”
OK, got it. My answer is yes, of course life is worth living. Living’s not always easy, but there’s usually something to show for your hard work. It can be a source of happiness. (And what does Sisyphus do after hours?)
The next question, having consented to live, is how. Politics is supposed to help with that. But in this perpetual season of political discontent, when the polls say all politicians and parties are uniformly scorned by the populace, there have been moments when many of us have wondered if it’s all worth it. Camus felt the same.
“Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people’s anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble – yes, gamble – with a whole part of their life and their so called ‘vital interests.”
Politics was supposed to be all about freeing the people to pursue happiness, Mr. Jefferson said. If it’s hard to imagine Sisyphus happy, it may be harder to expect that from our politics these days. But we must keep on pushing.
Sisyphus, for such a grim figure, has been a ripe source of amusement for a lot of us.






Theists of all kinds have very largely failed to make their concept of a deity intelligible; and to the extent that they have made it intelligible, they have given us no reason to think that anything answers to it.

The existence of a being having the attributes which define the god of any non-animistic religion cannot be demonstratively proved... [A]ll utterances about the nature of God are nonsensical.


[Much later in life, Ayer had a Near Death Experience and wrote about it in an essay he titled "What I Saw When I Was Dead"...]

My recent experiences have slightly weakened my conviction that my genuine death, which is due fairly soon, will be the end of me, though I continue to hope that it will be. They have not weakened my conviction that there is no God.

[A few days later he added:] What I should have said is that my experiences have weakened, not my belief that there is no life after death, but my inflexible attitude towards that belief."

[His wife said] "Freddie became so much nicer after he died… not nearly so boastful. He took an interest in other people."




There is philosophy, which is about conceptual analysis — about the meaning of what we say — and there is all of this … all of life.


[Near death, explained]

Not long before his NDE, Ayer had an improbable run-in with prizefighter Mike TysonAyer -- small, frail, slight as a sparrow and then 77 years old -- was entertaining a group of models at a New York party when a girl ran in screaming that her friend was being assaulted in a bedroom. The parties involved turned out to be Tyson and Naomi Campbell.

''Do you know who [the bleep] I am?'' Tyson asked in disbelief when Ayer urged him to desist: ''I'm the heavyweight champion of the world.'' ''And I am the former Wykeham professor of logic,'' Ayer answered politely. ''We are both pre-eminent in our field. I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.''





"If God does not exist there is at least one being whose existence comes before its essence, a being which exists before it can be defined by any conception of it." 


So this is hell. I’d never have believed it. You remember all we were told about the torture-chambers, the fire and brimstone, the “burning marl.” Old wives’ tales!There’s no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS–OTHER PEOPLE!




Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. “Life has no meaning a priori … It is up to you to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose.


Life has no meaning, the moment you lose the illusion of being eternal.


Words are loaded pistols.


Life begins on the other side of despair.


Nothingness lies coiled in the heart of being – like a worm.


There is no love apart from the deeds of love; no potentiality of love other than that which is manifested in loving; there is no genius other than that which is expressed in works of art.


An individual chooses and makes himself.


If I became a philosopher, if I have so keenly sought this fame for which I’m still waiting, it’s all been to seduce women basically.


It is disgusting — Why must we have bodies?


I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without help, engaged in a world for which I bear the whole responsibility without being able, whatever I do, to tear myself away from this responsibility for an instant.


Life is a useless passion.


There is only one day left, always starting over: It is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.

  •  
de Beauvoir:

Why one man rather than another? It was odd. You find yourself involved with a fellow for life just because he was the one that you met when you were nineteen.

One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.


Fathers never have exactly the daughters they want because they invent a notion a them that the daughters have to conform to.


Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female — whenever she behaves as a human being she is said to imitate the male.


She was ready to deny the existence of space and time rather than admit that love might not be eternal.


A man attaches himself to woman — not to enjoy her, but to enjoy himself.


If you live long enough, you’ll see that every victory turns into a defeat.


I am incapable of conceiving infinity and yet I do not accept finity.



I am awfully greedy; I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books, to travel and enjoy myself, to be selfish and to be unselfish… You see, it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.

Self-consciousness is not knowledge but a story one tells about oneself.


Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day.


 Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer.


You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.


There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for.

I do not believe in God and I am not an atheist. [Sounds like (Groucho) Marxism again...]


Always go too far, because that’s where you’ll find the truth.


Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.

Quiz Apr 2

Peirce & James, Nietzsche, Freud LH 28-30; FL 35-36; AP -77; Thoreau, "Walking" (JW).

1. What's the point of James's squirrel story?

2. Who said truth is what we would end up with if we could run all the experiments and investigations we'd like to? (And what's a word his name rhymes with?)

3. What did Bertrand Russell say about James's theory of truth?

4. What 20th century philosopher carried on the pragmatist tradition? What did he say about the way words work?

5. What did Nietzsche mean by "God is dead"? (And what's a word his name rhymes with?)

6. Where did Nietzsche think Christian values come from?

7. What is an Ubermensch, and why does Nigel find it "a bit worrying"?

8. How did Nietzsche differ from Kant but anticipate Freud?

9. What were the three great revolutions in thought, according to Freud?

10. The "talking cure" gave birth to what?

11. Why did Freud think people believe in God?

12. What was Karl Popper's criticism of Freudian psychoanalysis?

FL 35-36
13. Who does Andersen say ought to be important fighters defending reason, but have instead become enablers of Fantasyland?

14. What political scientist defends the veracity of people who say they were abducted by space aliens?

15. What Texas charter school's textbooks teach Genesis as a scientific theory?

16. When did Thomas Jefferson say it was okay for people to believe whatever they want?

AP -77
17. Which of Henry Lee's "freethinking" ancestors influenced the "revolutionary spirit" of early American thought?  

18. More than allowing us to "do whatever," Viktor Frankl's "existenial vacuum" means we are what? 

Walking
19. Wordsworth's servant distinguished the poet's library from his study, which was located where?

20. According to Thoreau, unless we hear what sound of Nature our philosophy is "belated?" 





DQ
  • Kaag quotes Thoreau: "We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake... by an infinite expectation of the dawn..." What do you think that means? Agree? 67
  • Kaag agrees with Thorea that one of walking's greatest gifts is time. How so? Do you feel like you have enough time? 69
  • COMMENT: "The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to taking exercise..." 69
  • Have you ever encountered a UFO? How do you explain others' "close encounters"?
  • Who should select textbooks for primary and secondary education?
  • Do you agree with Jefferson that those with alternative religious beliefs, or NO religious beliefs, do you no harm?
  • Have you ever been involved in an interminable debate that finally ended when someone clarified the definitions of the terms involved? Are most philosophical disputes like that?
  • Can something be true, but then later found to be false? Can a statement that was previously false be made true by events? (Consider: if you'd said "Neil Armstrong walked on the moon" in 1968...)
  • Should we distinguish provisional, falsifiable truth from ultimate truth?
  • Does it really "work" to believe in Santa? Didn't you continue to receive presents after you stopped believing? Is believing in Santa analogous to believing in God?
  • Are words tools, or more like pictures?
  • Is it possible that God is dead for some but not others, in some places and times more and in others less?
  • Are compassion and kindness distinctively religious values? Do you know any kind and compassionate atheists? ("Please allow me to introduce myself...")
  • Should we embrace the irrational and emotional aspects of human nature, or try to overcome them?
  • Is the "unconscious" well-supported scientifically? Does it need to be, in order to be useful to people in coming to terms with their own inner lives?
  • Is Freudian dream symbolism (snakes and caves etc.) profound or silly? Could it be both?
  • Have you ever committed an interesting Freudian slip?
  • What do you think of Freud's account of religion?
  • Your DQs




==
Falling Out With Superman
Istumbled upon Friedrich Nietzsche when I was 17, following the usual trail of existential candies -- Camus, Sartre, Beckett -- that unsuspecting teenagers find in the woods. The effect was more like a drug than a philosophy. I was whirled upward -- or was it downward? -- into a one-man universe, a secret cult demanding that you put a gun to the head of your dearest habits and beliefs. That intoxicating whiff of half-conscious madness; that casually hair-raising evisceration of everything moral, responsible and parentally approved -- these waves overwhelmed my adolescent dinghy. And even more than by his ideas -- many of which I didn't understand at all, but some of which I perhaps grasped better then than I do now -- I was seduced by his prose. At the end of his sentences you could hear an electric crack, like the whip of a steel blade being tested in the air. He might have been the Devil, but he had better lines than God.
I was sold. Like those German soldiers in World War I who were found dead with copies of ''Thus Spake Zarathustra'' in their pockets, I hauled my tattered purple-covered copy of the Viking Portable Nietzsche with me everywhere. It was with me when I dropped out of college after a semester to go work in a shipyard, with me years later when, sitting on a knoll on a tiny island off Vancouver, I decided to wake up from my dream of total escape and go back to school. I read him to elevate myself, to punish myself, to remind myself of the promises I had broken. He was the closest thing I had to a church.
Eventually, I stopped going to church. There were various reasons for this, some of them good and some of them not; I couldn't sort out which was which then, and can't now. Maybe it was just satiation. The philosopher John Searle once told me that reading Nietzsche was like drinking cognac -- a sip was good, but you didn't want to drink the whole bottle. I'd been pounding Nietzsche by the case.
So I left Nietzsche alone on his mountaintop. But as every lapsed believer knows, you never wholly escape the church. Nietzsche had come to stand for something absolute and pure, like gilded Byzantium or Ahab's whale; he represented what I imagined I might have been. He had become a permanent horizon.
Oddly, during this long, strange love affair, I avoided learning much about Nietzsche's life. Maybe this was because I had turned him into a shrine -- after all, totems have no history. I knew only the superficials: that he was a desperately lonely man, poor and largely unread, plagued by bad health, who went mad at the age of 44.
Then, last summer, I planned a trip to Switzerland. As a highlight, I decided to visit Sils-Maria -- the small village near St. Moritz where Nietzsche spent seven summers and wrote many of his masterpieces. The tourist soon won out over the iconoclast: now that I was going to stand where the Master stood, I couldn't pretend I didn't care about how he lived, what people he liked, what he wore. So I immersed myself in various biographical accounts: ''Nietzsche in Turin,'' Lesley Chamberlain's psychologically penetrating book about the philosopher's final year; Ronald Hayman's challenging ''Nietzsche: A Critical Life''; and a book that only a Nietzsche cultist would consume, ''The Good European: Nietzsche's Work Sites in Word and Image.''
It wasn't the grand narrative of his life but the details that stayed with me. The joke photograph in which he and his friend Paul Ree posed in a cart over which Lou Salome, the 21-year-old woman with whom he was timidly, desperately in love, held a whip. Nietzsche in the Caligari-shadowed last days of his sanity, once again turning himself into a character in an unhappy novel, lamenting that a journey was ''perhaps the most unfortunate I have made'' simply because he had climbed aboard the wrong train. The fact that he liked ''Tom Sawyer.'' The solicitude of an old female friend who tried to buck him up but was unable to teach him not to let everything wound him. The visitor who simply reported how much he liked Herr Nietzsche, the lonely, earnest professor with the bad eyes.
This wasn't the Nietzsche I remembered. The philosopher I had worshiped was an uncanny hybrid, simultaneously a terrifying Old Testament prophet and a 19th-century free spirit. To be sure, much of Nietzsche -- maybe the best of him -- was as lucid, critical and quick-footed as Stendhal. Yet it was the monstrous doctrines at the heart of his thought -- the Overman, the Eternal Recurrence -- that had drawn me; they hypnotized me because I couldn't figure out whether they were coming from man or some frightening gospel. Now that I understood how much of Nietzsche's work was an attempt to turn his personal torment into something lasting, I realized that perhaps those enigmatic pronouncements were best seen not as antitruths handed down from on high, but as words he whispered to himself, beacons he lighted in the darkness to cheer himself up. What was great in Nietzsche was not, I began to see, his holiness, maybe not even his wisdom. It was his courage.
Then I went to Sils.
Sils-Maria is a bland one-horse resort village under spectacular mountains between two crystalline lakes. Terminally respectable Swiss burghers polish their vacation homes; tourists (''They climb mountains like animals, stupid and sweating,'' Nietzsche wrote) fill the hotels. The Nietzsche-Haus stands near the center. In his day it was a tea and spice shop whose owner rented an upstairs room to Nietzsche; now it is a museum. In front of the tidy white-and-green building stands a sculpture of a large black eagle -- one of the companions that consoled Zarathustra in his last loneliness. On a gray afternoon I pulled open the door and climbed the stairs to his room.
No one was there. I looked in. A small, low-ceilinged room, walls of knotty pine. A lumpy-looking bed. A small table with a green silk cover. A washbasin. A single window, looking out onto a patch of the forest.
We go to literary shrines to touch things. We run our fingers along the writing table, we furtively step over the red velvet rope and finger the water jug by the edge of the bed. Yet to feel the pedestal is to call the very idea of the pedestal into question. Which is why there is something comic in all pilgrimages: while Don Quixote holds loftily forth, Sancho Panza steals the ashtray.
But as I ran my fingertips along the knotty pine, it all rose up: the indelible words that had been created here; the misery of the man who had shivered out his life in this room; and all the years I had spent charting my course by a dream. Standing outside in the hallway, I was surprised to find myself beginning to weep, like the most breast-heaving pilgrim.
A familiar voice, very old and once sacred to me, protested. I could not pity Nietzsche. It was a betrayal of everything he had believed. He had railed against pity. Compassion was for the hearth-huddlers, the followers, those who lacked the strength to turn themselves into ''dancing stars.'' The last temptation of the higher man, Nietzsche had taught, was pity; on its far side was a roaring, Dionysian, inhuman laughter.
I could recite this chapter and verse, but I had never been able to live it. It was the most alien and terrifying of Nietzsche's teachings. Still, long reverence pulled me up short. Here, of all places, I must feel no pity.
But my heart won the war. Maybe it was resignation -- the final acceptance that I was not going to forge myself into a new shape. Maybe it was weariness with a doctrine, with all doctrines, that sounded delirious but that couldn't be used. Whatever it was, I stopped fighting. Yes, part of Nietzsche would always stand far above the tree line, and I would treasure that iciness. But I had to walk on the paths where I could go.
Still confused, I stood in the doorway. And then, as a gift, the following words came into my head, words spoken by Zarathustra to his disciples, disciples that Nietzsche himself never had. ''You revere me; but what if your reverence tumbles one day? Beware lest a statue slay you. You say you believe in Zarathustra? But what matters Zarathustra? . . . Now I bid you lose me and find yourselves; and only when you have all denied me will I return to you.''
I took a last look at the room. Then I walked out the door. 

NYT... Gary Kamiya is executive editor of the online magazine Salon.com.
==
by John Kaag  (excerpt)
I often tell my students that philosophy saved my life. And it’s true. But on that first trip to Sils-Maria—on my way to Piz Corvatsch—it nearly killed me. It was 1999, and I was in the process of writing a thesis about genius, insanity, and aesthetic experience in the writings of Nietzsche and his American contemporary Ralph Waldo Emerson. On the sheltered brink of my twenties, I’d rarely ventured beyond the invisible walls of central Pennsylvania, so my adviser pulled some administrative strings and found a way for me to escape. At the end of my junior­ year he handed me an unmarked envelope—inside was a check for three thousand dollars. “You should go to Basel,” he suggested, probably knowing full well that I wouldn’t stay there.
Basel was a turning point, a pivot between Nietzsche’s early conventional life as a scholar and his increasingly erratic existence as Europe’s philosopher-poet. He had come to the city in 1869 as the youngest tenured faculty member at the University of Basel. In the ensuing years he would write his first book, The Birth of Tragedy, in which he argued that the allure of tragedy was its ability to harmonize the two competing urges of being human: the desire for order and the strange but undeniable longing for chaos. When I arrived in Basel, still a teenager, I couldn’t help thinking that the first of these drives—an obsessive craving for stability and reason that Nietzsche termed “the Apollonian”—had gotten the better of modern society.
The train station in Basel is a model of Swiss precision—beautiful people in beautiful clothes glide through a grand­ atrium to meet trains that never fail to run on time. Across the street stands a massive cylindrical skyscraper, home to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the most powerful financial institution in the world. I exited the station and ate my breakfast outside the bank as a throng of well-suited Apollos vanished inside on their way to work. “The educated classes,” Nietzsche explained, “are being swept along by a hugely contemptible money economy.” The prospects for life in modern capitalist society were lucrative but nonetheless bleak: “The world has never been so worldly, never poorer in love and goodness.” (continues)
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Old post-
Peirce & James, LISTEN: Robert Talisse on Pragmatism (PB)... Podcast... Also see "On a Certain Blindness in Human Beings" and "Sentiment of Rationality/Dilemma of Determinism"

The essence of belief is the establishment of a habit; and different beliefs are distinguished by the different modes of action to which they give rise.
Charles Sanders Peirce's quote #1 

Image result for william james quotes


DQ
1. Will there ever be an end of science, or a complete catalog of truths?

2. Do you agree that a "distinction without a (practical) difference" is irrelevant, and that truth and falsehood are practically the same if you can't specify the difference? 

3. When James said truth is what works, did he mean what works for me, now? Or for us, on the whole and in the long run? Does this matter, practically? Does it bear on Bertrand Russell's criticism?

4. Do you think of words as tools for expressing your ideas and feelings, communicating with yourself and others, and generally "coping"... or as mental photographs that copy the world? Could they be both? What would it be like to have no words? (Could you even think about that, or about anything?) Do words ever get in the way of thought, or distort it?

5. What makes an idea valuable to you?

6. What's the difference between a fiction and a lie? Can fiction convey truth?
==
William James would agree:



Marco Rubio said in last night's (11.10/15) GOP debate: "Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less philosophers." William James would disagree. We need more philosophical welders, business-people, people generally... so we need more philosophers.

An old post-
April 21, 2015
It's Peirce and James (and Vandy's Robert Talisse on the pragmatists and truth)...

Through the years I've written repeatedly and delightedly on PeirceJames, and Nietzsche@dawn, especially WJ.


I’m not especially pleased with Nigel Warburton’s take on James, true enough to the letter but not at all to the spirit of his pragmatic conception of truth. More on that later. At least he gets thesquirrel right.



               
Here's what James actually said, about the squirrel and about pragmatism's conception of truth:
...Mindful of the scholastic adage that whenever you meet a contradiction you must make a distinction, I immediately sought and found one, as follows: "Which party is right," I said, "depends on what you PRACTICALLY MEAN by 'going round' the squirrel. If you mean passing from the north of him to the east, then to the south, then to the west, and then to the north of him again, obviously the man does go round him, for he occupies these successive positions. But if on the contrary you mean being first in front of him, then on the right of him, then behind him, then on his left, and finally in front again, it is quite as obvious that the man fails to go round him, for by the compensating movements the squirrel makes, he keeps his belly turned towards the man all the time, and his back turned away. Make the distinction, and there is no occasion for any farther dispute. You are both right and both wrong according as you conceive the verb 'to go round' in one practical fashion or the other."
Altho one or two of the hotter disputants called my speech a shuffling evasion, saying they wanted no quibbling or scholastic hair-splitting, but meant just plain honest English 'round,' the majority seemed to think that the distinction had assuaged the dispute.



I tell this trivial anecdote because it is a peculiarly simple example of what I wish now to speak of as THE PRAGMATIC METHOD. The pragmatic method is primarily a method of settling metaphysical disputes that otherwise might be interminable. Is the world one or many?—fated or free?—material or spiritual?—here are notions either of which may or may not hold good of the world; and disputes over such notions are unending. The pragmatic method in such cases is to try to interpret each notion by tracing its respective practical consequences. What difference would it practically make to anyone if this notion rather than that notion were true? If no practical difference whatever can be traced, then the alternatives mean practically the same thing, and all dispute is idle. Whenever a dispute is serious, we ought to be able to show some practical difference that must follow from one side or the other's being right... Pragmatism, Lecture II
==
Truth, as any dictionary will tell you, is a property of certain of our ideas. It means their 'agreement,' as falsity means their disagreement, with 'reality.' Pragmatists and intellectualists both accept this definition as a matter of course. They begin to quarrel only after the question is raised as to what may precisely be meant by the term 'agreement,' and what by the term 'reality,' when reality is taken as something for our ideas to agree with...
Pragmatism asks its usual question. "Grant an idea or belief to be true," it says, "what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone's actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth's cash-value in experiential terms?"
The moment pragmatism asks this question, it sees the answer: TRUE IDEAS ARE THOSE THAT WE CAN ASSIMILATE, VALIDATE, CORROBORATE AND VERIFY. FALSE IDEAS ARE THOSE THAT WE CANNOT. That is the practical difference it makes to us to have true ideas; that, therefore, is the meaning of truth, for it is all that truth is known-as...
...truth is ONE SPECIES OF GOOD, and not, as is usually supposed, a category distinct from good, and co-ordinate with it. THE TRUE IS THE NAME OF WHATEVER PROVES ITSELF TO BE GOOD IN THE WAY OF BELIEF, AND GOOD, TOO, FOR DEFINITE, ASSIGNABLE REASONS... 
Certain ideas are not only agreeable to think about, or agreeable as supporting other ideas that we are fond of, but they are also helpful in life's practical struggles. If there be any life that it is really better we should lead, and if there be any idea which, if believed in, would help us to lead that life, then it would be really BETTER FOR US to believe in that idea, UNLESS, INDEED, BELIEF IN IT INCIDENTALLY CLASHED WITH OTHER GREATER VITAL BENEFITS.
'What would be better for us to believe'! This sounds very like a definition of truth. It comes very near to saying 'what we OUGHT to believe': and in THAT definition none of you would find any oddity. Ought we ever not to believe what it is BETTER FOR US to believe? And can we then keep the notion of what is better for us, and what is true for us, permanently apart?
Pragmatism says no... Pragmatism, Lec. VI

This is a contentious and contestable view, admittedly, but it is not the caricatured reduction to whatever is "expedient" in a situation James's critics (like Bertrand Russell) made it out to be. It's more like Richard Rorty's invitation to an open and ongoing conversation between all comers with something to contribute. It is decidedly not a "Santa Claus" philosophy of truth.

James may have been wrong about truth, but (to paraphrase A.C. Grayling's comment on Descartes) if he was, he was interestingly, constructively, engagingly, entertainingly, provocatively wrong.

Besides, he's the best writer in the James family (sorry, Henry) and possibly the best writer in the entire stable of American philosophers. I call him my favorite because he's the one I'd most like to invite to the Boulevard for a beer. Unfortunately he didn't drink. (Too bad they don't serve nitrous oxide.) Also, unfortunately, he died in 1910. Read his letters and correspondence, they humanize his philosophy and place his "radical" views in the context of their genesis: the context of experience, and of life.

They also counter my friend Talisse's hasty semi-assent to Nigel's outrageous misreading of the pragmatists as missing "a sense of awe and wonder." James had it in spades, and so did Dewey and Peirce in their own ways. Likewise Rorty, who did not like being called a "relativist" and who would not agree that "Nazism and western liberal democracy are the same." Not at all.

But, I do think Talisse does a good job of summarizing James's rejection of "truth-as-correspondence" as an unhelpful formula, once you move past trivial matters like catching the bus. He's also correct in pointing out James's interest in religion as rooted in the lives and experience of individuals, not particularly in God, heaven, the afterlife and so on. He psychologizes and naturalizes religion. It's mostly about life on earth, for Jamesians, not (again) about Santa.