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Troy Jollimore on Karen Armstrong’s ‘The Case for God’

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Posted on Dec 4, 2009
bookcover

By Troy Jollimore

(Page 2)

But rather than characterizing such a position as a significant concession to the new atheists, Armstrong insists on continuing to regard them as her primary opponents. Moreover, she is unable to hold herself consistently to her own apophatic view. Indeed, passages like the following, in which she relates with apparent approval the reasoning of Athanasius, suggest that on her understanding the apophatic position, rather than discouraging metaphysical speculation, in fact licenses and encourages it:

It was only because we had no idea what God was that we could say that God had been in the man Jesus. It was also impossible to say that God’s substance was not in Christ, because we could not identify the ousia of God; it lay completely beyond our ken, so we did not know what we were denying.

In other words, it is precisely our lack of knowledge of God that enables us to say, well, pretty much whatever we want about God—except, of course, that God was not in Christ (but only an atheist or heathen would want to say that anyway). This is mysticism and metaphysical hand-waving raised to a truly objectionable level. If you do not know what you are denying then you also do not know what you are asserting; our inability to conceptualize cannot, on the one hand, prevent skeptics from denying Christ’s divinity while at the same time allowing the faithful to assert it.

 

book cover

 

The Case for God

 

By Karen Armstrong

 

Knopf, 432 pages

 

Buy the book

Armstrong’s apophaticist’s disavowal of God thus appears to be a conceptual Trojan horse—a sop to the skeptic whose real intent is to permit religious speculation to go on as before, unchecked by rational criticism and debate. The strategy reduces to saying “God isn’t this, God isn’t that” without ever giving a positive account of what God is, while still regarding oneself as justified in talking about and orienting one’s life around God. This is like the debater who responds to every objection by insisting “Well that’s not what I meant” without ever managing to say what he does mean.

Ultimately it is doubtful that apophaticism can be made to work. If the concept of “God” is genuinely empty, as it needs to be if evidence and rational criticism are to be considered irrelevant to God-talk, then in a quite literal sense people who talk about God cannot say and do not know what they are talking about. (If I walk around constantly referring to “bizzers,” and rebuff any request for clarification by saying “I will not place limits on bizzers by defining them, for bizzers transcend all human attempts to come to know them,” I am simply talking nonsense.) In her more radical mode, Armstrong wants to preserve religious talk from questions of truth—in our ordinary sense of “truth”—by draining them of content. But when we lose content we do not only lose truth, we lose meaning as well. The apophatic retort to the skeptic, then, seems to reduce to: “You don’t know what you’re talking about—indeed, I don’t even know what I’m talking about. So how dare you contradict me!”

Moreover, Armstrong’s attempts to find respectable examples of apophaticism sometimes cause her to resort to highly implausible interpretive strategies. Consider what she says about Socrates, for instance:

People did not go to Socrates to learn anything—he always insisted that he had nothing to teach them—but to have a change of mind. Participants in a Socratic dialogue discovered how little they knew, and that the meaning of even the simplest proposition eluded them.

It requires a profound lack of appreciation of Socratic irony to take Socrates’ insistence that he had nothing to teach at face value. Indeed, Armstrong’s account is not even internally consistent: By her own lights it is false that people learned nothing from Socrates, for what they learned was precisely “how little they knew.” The deep point is, once again, that both practice and transformation involve and require belief: One cannot possibly achieve “a change of mind” without changing one’s view of the world—that is, one’s beliefs. Once again we find Armstrong leaning heavily on a naive and unsustainable either-or dichotomy between belief, on the one hand, and practice on the other.

Then again, where would Armstrong be without her unsustainable dichotomies, her black-and-white either-ors? She steadfastly resists the “religion versus science” dichotomy, identifying it as a modernist artifact, but like many intellectual defenders of religion she adores the “religion or science” dichotomy, as formulated by Stephen Jay Gould:

The magisterium of science covers the empirical realm: what is the universe made of (fact) and why does it work this way (theory)? The magisterium of religion extends over questions of ultimate meaning and moral value. These two magisteria do not overlap, nor do they encompass all inquiry. [Gould, “Rocks of Ages,” quoted by Armstrong]

As a secular ethicist, and poet, I cannot help but find this rather offensive: My intellectual career seems not to exist, according to Gould’s simplistic way of carving up conceptual space. (His view that the magisteria “do not overlap” also implies, very implausibly, that empirical matters can have no bearing at all on moral questions.) Armstrong, though, finds it deeply amenable: Of course morality and meaning must fall under religion’s purview! After all, she is almost unable to imagine a conception of meaningful human life that does not ultimately rest on God:

Nor, like Nietzsche, Sartre, or Camus, do [the new atheists] face up to the pointlessness and futility that ensue when people lack the means of creating a sense of meaning. They do not appear to consider the effect of such nihilism on people who do not have privileged lives and absorbing work.


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By garth, April 25, 2010 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment

“Go volunteer at a food bank and leave religion for those who want it.”

Yes, Sir.  Can do, Sir.  Anything else, Sir? 

By the way, what’re you doing getting set off on comments in thread in this blog on Sunday?  You’d think you’d have better things to do, a person of your spiritual integrity.

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By DCambly, April 25, 2010 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment

What a tragic waste of time with all the comments on this article from Dec. 2009.

Other more earthly things such as having a place to live, having food and you are wasting your time arguing about God.

Go volunteer at a food bank and leave religion for those who want it.

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By garth, April 25, 2010 at 10:54 am Link to this comment

Thanks again Shenonymous.  I agree with you thoughts.  I was merely showing my limited exposure to philosophical writings on morals by mentioning the Bible and Science and Health. 
I haven’t read Dante in more than 40 years so I am not on writing terms about hime either.

I found one of Hawton’s works online and I find him to be just what the Doctor ordered for me.  I remember a warning about reading philosophy, and that is, you can understand the words but not the sentences. 
The inferno would I think be based on a Christion Ethic of sin and punishment and might not lead to clearly thought out argument.

To reinforce that point, please read Professor Prothero in the Boston Sunday Globe:

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/04/25/separate_truths/

It’s a short article.

I am reviewing Kohlberg who was influenced by Piaget about human development and morals as wellalong with Horton and Nietzsche.

I don’t think I will have much to add if anything.  From my readings and exposure thus far, however, it will be interesting to see where this goes because most examples I read and heard drop right into the use of hypothetical moral dilemmas to demonstrate a point.  But they also seem to be a way of being didactic about a certain moral suasion, especially Kohlberg’s.

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By Shenonymous, April 25, 2010 at 7:28 am Link to this comment

Good morning, the sun is shining in all its glory, and it is making me
feel grand.

It was Night-Gaunt who mentioned Nietzsche.  I have many books on
and about Nietzsche so he would not be inaccessible for me in terms of
literature.  After reading much of his thought, I wouldn’t say I had
pristine insight.  So I am very willing to dive into that very deep pool.

Hawton is very acceptable to me.  I just receive the fourth book of his,
it was the only copy to be found on Amazon, and relatively expensive
for my slim pocketbook.  His books are not easily found.  This one is
surprisingly thin, a mere 23 pages.  It is a 1947 original issue with the
title, “Why Be Moral?” with a subtitle, “How to decide what is right and
what is wrong without invoking a supernatural law-giver.”  Since it is a
“collector’s” item, anything from 1947 for me would be a collector’s
item, I will commit it to a cd.  I’ll have to hand type it but that is one
facile way to learn the contents.  There is no table of contents, no
index, but chapter titles, small chapters of a page or two are:  Why Be
Moral? Morals and Miracles; Heartless, Witless Nature; The Origin of
Conscience; The Philosophical Attack; Human Nature; Social Hygiene;
New Values for Old; The Pursuit of Truth; Social Feeling; and the final
chapter, The Meaning of Progress.  It seems comprehensive, meaning
an example of whole thought about the subject.

Hawton does not have the drama of Nietzsche, not being the romantic
spirited, but he does not have the translucency either, where at times
Nietzsche is as opaque as a plaster wall but other times crystal clear in
his meaning.  Hawton is a thorough and methodical thinker which
provides thought easy to follow.  Dante, on the other hand, is more
beautiful in my mind than Nietzsche, but then he was a transcendent
poet even though Nietzsche had marvelous transporting ideas.  I
suppose Zarathustra could be envisioned as poetry.  I don’t know, I love
it all, so I will let others decide because for me any track will be
thrilling.

I will spend some time reading up on the Quaker perspective.  From
what has been written here it would seem that view is a highly humane
and reasonable one. 

Seems like if we are to embark on this adventure, a statement of
purpose would be helpful.  A teleological reason often provides the
railing on which to hold as one steps tentatively along a murky
pathway?  And it might help us decide what direction to go, which
great thinker will be our escort.  I wonder if Night-Gaunt would do us
the honor?

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By Clash, April 24, 2010 at 12:13 pm Link to this comment

Hawton, would be fine, although I don’t know when either one of the 2 books I ordered will be delivered. Nietzsche as you suggested Shenonymous could be the first stop, as his philosophy is more intent at getting to the history of moral evolution. To attempt to develop some understanding of this evolution may shed some light on the reason some of us (humans) have such a hard time developing, living within, morals inflicted on us by society. I personally have not come to the conclusion that society and I include myself has yet been able to recognize good from bad or good from evil and or evil from sickness.
One might think that these are easy things to discern from observations in the apparent world, but I would submit that limited perceptions, education and the inculcating force of a mixture of moral and societal mythology, leaves us ill equipped to pass these judgments readily with any consistency.

So, I know very little about the Quaker religion accept for the fact that they promote nonviolence, and peace through their faith. To  

I think you are correct that John Rawls would be a far reach at this point as we first will have to discern the differences between right and wrong, good and bad, and good and evil, before tackling justice, liberty and difference.

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By Shenonymous, April 23, 2010 at 4:39 am Link to this comment

Good morning all,
garth, I do not regret asking for your opinion at all!  You must cease
your penchant for self-effacement.  You have shown to have a fine
mind.  Our minds are pretty much all each of us knows about each
other.  Dante is a great place to start.  A bit long but maybe you could
summarize or suggest a reading.  Some may even be online and easily
accessible.  Morality doesn’t have one place of origin.  Religion is one
that I wouldn’t throw out with the baby, uh…bath water.  I am not a
believer of any religious doctrines but that doesn’t mean I eschew ideas
of morality that one can find within religion.  Most of the notions I have
about morality came from a Christian upbringing.  Goodness,
kindness, caring, justice, ethics, honesty… 

I won’t have time to think about your thought experiment until this
weekend, have to work, but I will print it out and look it over.  It might
be a good way to start this train of thought.  Thanks.

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By garth, April 22, 2010 at 10:15 am Link to this comment

First of all, thank you Tom Edgar for your post.  One thing I hunger for is authenticity.

It is not often that someone asks for my opinion, aside from Night-Gaunt on another thread.  I feel obligated to respond. 

So, thank you Shenonymous.  (I’m sure you’ll regret the invitation after reading my ramblings.)

I have no books to recommend.  I’ve thought about the invitation and all I have to add is “Dante’s Inferno”, the Bible, and “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.”

I have never let my lack of knowledge on a subject dissuade me from entering full throttle into a discussion.  My axiom is: the less you know about a subject the better.  (You might learn more by making an ass of yourself up front.)

My thoughts, however, are these, and they might be sophomoric, but I came up with a thought experiment:

What if you took two societies and had them in different insulated spheres, so to speak, and one acted completely morally while the other acted completely immorally.  What would you think the outcome would be?
In setting up this thought experiment, I realized that the basis for this experiment to bear fruit must entail that each group must have free will.  But still only one is moral and the other is immoral. (Statistics and phsycology be damned with respect to their affect on human decision making.)

My next observation is that Americans are in a moral ball of yarn.  What is right and what is wrong is being scared into us in made for tv news.  All of this links back to information, clear thinking, and decisions. 

What is moral and what is not?  I have a sneaky suspicion that there are only a few moral decisions that make any difference.

In my hum drum existence, I have made several personal moral decisions, i.e., not to eat meat (Why should someone die so that I can eat?)
How can I support the end to this violence against innocent people in Gaza, the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the other countries where the evangelical missionaries of Western Hemisphere have gathered storm?

The issue to me used to be the power of poetry and of the poetic prose of the Bible.  But the words never met the road. 
You can’t legislate morality, so they say, but they do have RICO laws and you can make the enforcement of the them sting.

An older teacher once told me that if I wanted to be effective, I have to maintain discipline.  I had to hit the malefactors where it hurts: keep them after school in detention.

A real start for Morality would be to hold responsible those greedy children of the Universe for what they’ve done. 

The rest can be sorted it out later.

 

See, I tol’ ya.

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By Tom Edgar, April 21, 2010 at 2:35 pm Link to this comment

Oh Heck.  Where to begin.?  I think Quakers, Society of Friends can vary about as much as the average atheist.

They have no dogma, require no set beliefs, have no real ritualism, and have no Pastors/Priests.

My wife never believed in the virgin birth (She came, originally, from Catholicism, Had very little time for the figure of Jesus Christ, and certainly didn’t consider him a son of God.  I’m not sure about her concept of God, but it certainly wasn’t the Biblical one. Others of her Meeting House were of different views, but NEVER was it an issue nor did they proselytise to one another, after all it was not done in the general population. The one binding characteristic is Peace and non violence.

A meeting (service)  can, and often is, conducted seated in a circle, there being none above another,  in total meditative silence.  If anybody is “Moved” to speak on any matter they rise, briefly speak and if another feels prompted to answer may do so.

There was a rift when some left my wife’s Meeting over Homosexuality.  Any voting on serious issues must be 100% (It is God moving from within). Sooner than have a continuous rift those against the Homosexual being considered still a person of God they left.

Missionary work is done without any attempt to convert, indeed it is damned near an obsession that this should not happen.  “By our good works be judged”. Some years ago the Brisbane Meeting owned a small plot in an outer suburb and decided that in the spirit of “Pay the Rent” to the Australian Aborigines they gave it to the aboriginal community which was heavily represented in this low socio economic area.  Since then they have, periodically,
donated funds to further assist.  Never once have they been involved in the management of the community Hall, unless asked.  This seems, to me, a total departure from other “Christian” organisations.

They still see themselves, broadly speaking, as Christians, but often will have Catholics and Buddhists within their circle of friends,. even this avowed atheist is welcome and still they send their news letter, with my wife dead over twelve years.

My wife lay dying in I C in Brisbane with the family and the “Friends” in constant attention.  I can’t recall a single prayer.  Often enough it was a recitation of favourite poems of which my wife loved.
The funeral was “Quaker” of sorts.  In the spirit of the occasion, I spoke of my love and her profound influence on me, then invited others if moved to speak also. Hells bells it must have been the noisiest Quaker send off. Quakers, atheists, Catholics and everything in between had something wonderful to say of her, well she was that kind of woman. For all that not one religious sentiment.

I have a hell of lot of time for them.. As one notable atheist Radio personality, when interviewing a Catholic Priest, said. “Quakers, Bloody good mob them.” He was synchronously joined by Father Paul Collins, who has since left the Church just ahead of being pushed.He was just a bit too advanced in his thinking.

I’m afraid all except “The Thinkers Handbook.” Have disappeared from my possession of Hawton’s works. Even the original of that tome was loaned out, and never returned,  I recently managed to obtain a new (old) copy. His war time stories of the Battle of Britain, in which he was a pilot are also worth reading. I am currently trying to get further books of his. Wonderful man.  Enough I must eat.

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By Shenonymous, April 21, 2010 at 11:00 am Link to this comment

Hawton is very acceptable to me.  I just ordered a fourth book of his
and it was the only copy to be found on Amazon.  But maybe, Tom
Edgar, you and I are the only ones who has his books.  His books are
not easily found.  I would be willing to type a bit from out of the ones I
have if Tom would way what chapters would be most useful then send
copies to anyone who would want it perhaps via the Truthdig email
feature.  Did you know you could email members through the member
page link? 

I think however, if a notable thinker’s view on morality and morals is
chosen, that a synopsis of his/her essential view be presented by the
one who recommends that perspective as a way to start the dialogue. 
What does anyone else think?  garth, we have not heard yet from you.  I
certainly hope you are interested in joining in. 

I do not know much about the Quakers.  Perhaps Tom could give some
account of their basic ways.  I think they are different than the Amish
and Mennonites, who I don’t know much about either.  What is the
Quaker view of morals.  I would think it came from the Bible.  I think
religious perspectives ought to be included even though I don’t
subscribe it is one of the three categories of moral impulses, the one
that seeks guidance from a higher authority.  If we want to understand
the force of morality we cannot leave any frame of mind out.

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By Tom Edgar, April 20, 2010 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment

I’m not really a STUDENT of philosophers so I suppose Eileen Edgar is the best I can nominate.  Seriously Hector Hawton and Lord Russell were my early guides. I’ve been influenced by many in my more than eighty years but most of any wisdom I have gained came from the lips, and mind, of my Quaker wife.

I can think of none better than Quaker thought.  They do at least practice that which I mentioned earlier. Plain speech…. I don’t agree with the religion but with their philosophy, can one find better?

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By Clash, April 20, 2010 at 12:27 pm Link to this comment

You present a structure that is agreeable, and in fairness to Mr. Edgar, garth and Night –Gaunt we should wait for their input, discuss every ones submittal briefly, with the fuel on board, engine running we will on our way. If they prefer not to submit a name I would still have them participate if they are so inclined. I think that it would add a wider perspective to the expedition.

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By Shenonymous, April 20, 2010 at 12:20 am Link to this comment

Your suggestion, Clash, seems to be a logical one.  It occurs to me that
there are already tons of literature, meaning yards and yards of
thought, that represents all three dispositions towards morals.  As an
easy route because of the readily available sources, we might
commence to post a favorite perspective, i.e., such as your reference to
Rawls, or Night-Gaunt’s Nietzsche, or some other classic thinker (from
any era or culture, i.e., Lao Tzu, etc.) on the subject with an open
invitation to give an analysis and opinion of their thought. 

I think a consensus about who or what bearing we take would be a
congenial way to go?  Once we feel we have extracted enough from a
particular one, then another could be suggested.  Yes, I do realize the
interaction could keep this forum going indefinitely.  There might be
alternatives in the future if interest becomes piqued.  Rawls might be a
large first bite, as his Theory of Justice is 624 pages but perhaps a
synopsis of his thought on social justice could be presented and
discussion of those essential ideas.  Also there is much written about
his theories or moral and political philosophy that would give much
food for thought, though primary sources are almost always the better
way to go.  I think we should be open to digression as often a thought
will take an interesting turn.  I am not any more than casually familiar
with Rawls but I would be more than willing to start there as I am
always interested in stretching my understanding.  I have many books
both by Nietzsche and about his thought so I would have a plethora of
resources on that one.  Who shall start the engine?  Will it be Rawls,
Nietzsche, or perhaps Tom Edgar or garth would care to submit a
different name?  Frans de Wall has some far reaching thought, as of
course did Plato and Bertrand Russell and Confucius that are part of the
theoretical moral mosaic.

Another alternative would be to select an anthology of thinkers, such
as The Moral Life by Luper-Foy and Brown, Essays in Moral Philosophy,
Edited by A. I. Melden, The Moral Life, An Introductory Reader in ethics
and Literature by Louis P. Pojman.  Then make selections out of the
many offered.

I too look forward to the expedition.  It has been many years I have
been out of school where I often enjoyed such forays into human
thought.

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By Clash, April 19, 2010 at 7:27 pm Link to this comment

I think one way to proceed could be to examine the motivations you have described. Then we might try to establish a model so that we might examine the benefits of our judgments. For myself, the question of actions and their effect for the common good is the reason for searching, as the benefits of these actions often have unpredictable out comes and are delayed. I will leave the point of departure though in your hands as I am looking forward to the road.

Till then.

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By Shenonymous, April 19, 2010 at 4:30 am Link to this comment

We all make judgments about what is right and wrong and it is the case
that often we don’t agree with each other.  It is natural when we
disagree on particular judgments that we try to cite a higher principle
to justify our judgment against that of the other.  What we search for is
a universal standard that will distinguish our right and wrong actions
that holds for everyone everywhere forever. 

Generally there are three kinds of moral motives:  morals as duty, that
says we are obliged to perform certain actions even if we cannot
foretell any good resulting from them, in the heroic sense.  That is
performing without consideration of consequences.  But then we have
to ask, what is the criteria or even one criterion of rightness? 

Then some propose that only by an appeal to a higher authority can we
know right and wrong behavior, that is to a god, and men have devised
many ways of speaking for a god, created many religions that have
aphorisms or catchphrases that are allegedly to guide one’s actions. 

Thirdly, there is reliance on what is called our moral conscience.  That
is more or less like Socrates’ inner voice that speaks to him (our inner
voice) that counsels us in our actions.  That somehow we are born with
a sense of what is right or wrong, morals exist as ideals in the sense of
Platonic ideals.  They simply exist like the universe exists.

It is too facile to try to put the condition of morals into a few words as
humans have really grappled with their right or wrong conduct for
eons.  I would be willing to confront this topic if anyone would care to
deal with it in an earnest manner, and hopefully with a dose of humor
thrown in but not so much as to derail our trainride of thought.  I think
I fall somewhere between relying on my personal sense of right and
wrong and the ‘moral imperative’ conscience and duty but at the
moment I cannot define it precisely, which would be my motive for
buying the ticket for the journey.  I feel I am in the company of those
who are of good character and unselfish enough to work through such
an examination.

So shall we and if so, how shall we proceed to capture this wild beast
called morality then tame it for domestication?  Shall we use,
uh…borrow, this forum for our pilgrimage?  I don’t think TD would
mind.

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By Tom Edgar, April 18, 2010 at 6:05 pm Link to this comment

I read these “Learned?” dissertations with their lengthy polysyllabic phrases that write at length of so little. But of course that is par for the average Philosopher amateur or, particularly, professional.  I am reminded of my, not so learned, father saying of a particularly verbose Politician.  “He surely loves the sound of his own voice but doesn’t realise nobody else does.”

What is “Morality?”... It varies with the culture, or person.
Christianity can hardly qualify, for the Bible is so full of injunctions to murder for what one would consider minor misdemeanours in any sensible society.

Honor killings in some societies is considered highly moral.  I doubt if any here would agree.

Islam considers male domination of the household as normal and polygamy also.  Illegal in the West. (Whilst, hypocritically, blind eying marital indiscretions) One Indian island community practices polyandry, which would be absolutely anathema in most communities.

Violent acquisition of territory, torturing of other people. Not many nations can claim a moral reasoning for this, but it is perpetrated by many, and the U S A, which preaches morality louder than most, is as large, if not a larger practitioner, of this particular immorality. Some highly placed government official justify, and do not consider it immoral, the ends being justified by the their “Moral” actions. Resorting to violence to settle disputations both internationally, and domestically, in the U S A seems to be “Hard Wired.” into the psyche of so many.  Does this make it “Moral?”. Or is it moral for some but immoral for the others?

So what is the definition of morality, hard wired or not? To paraphrase a little, “Intend no harm. First second and last.” I think is as good a start as any
I regret I haven’t lived up to my lofty aspirations.
I’m only human.

If marital fidelity is considered to be highly moralistic.  Why am I in the tiny minority of the people who have practiced monogamy? Who was hard wired? to be chaste, and who was hard wired to be a profligate? What is more. Who is truly “Moral”?
Who can prove there is any hard wiring, or have I blown a fuse?

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By Clash, April 18, 2010 at 4:31 pm Link to this comment

Greetings; May the day find you well.

Shenonymous;

Thank you, for the U tube link, I, found the art quite inspiring, including the music, it would seem that at some juncture or level if you like, at least one shared vision of this world exists between us. For me this vision is the beginning and corner stone of my search, which reasoning has thus far propelled my thoughts, the hidden or non existent moral code, or maybe better described at this point as thought and emotion uncontrolled, that would allow our species to so disconnect from our selves and the other organisms with which we coexist with in this world. I apologize for the lengthy preamble, but my mind is filled by the paintings of William Turner as I sit here today stealing the time to participate.

After reading the two articles, I find myself requiring more proof that the human brain is hard wired for morality, if this were the case then an argument must be made to why it is so difficult for the child then adult to continue attaining moral balance without extensive care by the imprimer to cultivate those values that the particular society holds as its highest standards. The example used of the hospital, the healthy amoral or immoral person and the sick but morally acceptable person’s seems to leave only more questions than it does answers. Who decides that the healthy person is in fact amoral or immoral? What set of criterion would be used to come to a decision? An even more complicated question, (and please understand that while we have not agreed on boundaries in this discussion I will take for granted that those reading will not assume that any or all of what is said here are values that I hold unless otherwise specified). If evolution is to be held as one of the standards, then why would we not let evolution take its course, and even consider the option presented in this circumstance?

You see as John Rawls presented in A Theory of Justice, we are at the beginning, ghost’s, and a veil exists between us and the society we will enter some time in the future, with no idea to what level of prosperity, talent or luck we will come into the world with. How fair will we be? Can we put aside emotion and treat with the concept of establishing universal moral rules? Many questions to answer and ask before the first axioms can be agreed to.

Night-Gaunt, I agree that we need to discover what morality is, and come to the required agreement so we can move on. To do no aggression is a better definition than, to do no harm. Though then we will need to determine the definitions of aggression and how and were they fit within society. Could in not be said that we aggressively combat disease? Or that doctors the scientific gate keepers of both life and death aggressively combat infant mortality and life prolonging procedures, which in turn throw natural evolutionary laws into a state of imbalance? So, once again we return to the basic concept of society, first define the goals of that society, come to agreement and then go on?

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By Night-Gaunt, April 18, 2010 at 1:59 pm Link to this comment

Certainly Nietzsche in his “Geneology of Morals” is good reading but not easy reading. There was a reason why he thought both the Christian based morals as well as how some of the group morals of democracy and socialism he found anathema to his views of the individual. But he found problems too with the dictatorial for the same reasons. The attack on the individual especially the creative thinker & odd ball like himself, & myself. The general problem is balance of the individual to the group dynamics that make up human civilizations. The individual is important as is the group for without the group we would die off very easily. So balance must be made.

First identification of what morality is then agree upon it 100% then move on from there. Unfortunately with the amoralists and imoralists in our midst like psychopaths who use power as a reason to impose their will. Without humanism to accept differences and not use them as demarcation lines for strife and subjugation of the minority or even majority must be seen and dealt with. Live and let live is a motto I subscribe to. Not all do. Some are of the opinion that their views should be the rule of law or as the Dominionists call it “theonomy” or religious based gov’t which is what they want right here right now. Human life becomes secondary to what they want. Sacrifice of human life becomes necessary for them to accomplish their “Great Commission” in this world. Why? Because with their belief in a human soul then it gives license to do such heinous things as torture and war to get what they want to the flawed, mortal and ultimately corrupt organic body full of lust for the flesh.

Once you have it in your mind to see the world a certain way then your intelligence & skills are utilized to achieve it. The questioning is gone and all there is is punitive action. Couple that with an iron determination and do or die attitude and what do you get? If you are relatively powerless you get human bombs, but if you have the kind of military machine we have you get a dangerous empire where almost no place to hide or be safe from it. Not even in space.

“To do no harm” is a general credo of the Libertarians though I see where self defense is in order and harm sometimes must be done. But to do no aggression, or subversion to cause aggression just might be more applicable in this context.

For one thing we have many “morals” based on a narrow range of what is “good” and what is “evil” just take your pick. Mostly sexual but also how you live and even spend your money is covered! I think we should be able to agree that rape, robbery, murder, torture, graft, subversion and corruption not to forget thee biggest offender—-WAR should top the list if not be the list. However you will find those who see war as being “good” or “evil” and so work it that way. Rather like how we have it now with our GWOT, by any other name still in operation. Those are “good” wars. I agree with Franklin when he said, “there is no good war, nor bad peace.” Some disagree with that even today.

In summation, find points of agreement first then move on further based on that.

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By Shenonymous, April 17, 2010 at 8:59 pm Link to this comment

I wonder, Clash, what universal morality might be?  If it could ever be? 
The ancient contest between the individual and the crowd wages today
as seen in economic perspectives of government.  It was in the distant
past when magic ruled.  It is said that besides Religion and Science,
there is a third great system of thought in the world that coincided with
civilization.  It is still evident in the world today, and that is Magic. 
Before science there was religion and before religion there was magic. 
Pre-logical primitive man was able where we are not to accept
contradictions. Rational explanations were not needed because they
relied more on their imagination and beliefs that resulted from those
fanciful exercises of the mind. 

When we find phenomenon that doesn’t quite fit the categories we have
invented, our human mental process normally conceives a reason as it
seeks equilibrium.  For the primitive human, such creative speculation
paid in much ritual activity and their reasoning frequently was
expressed in the form of ceremony.  Rituals most often were composed
of body movement, dancing, and the savage endowing himself with the
identity of what it was he wanted.  He transformed himself magically
into animals or praying to a supernatural power for extrahuman
strength so he could hunt more favorably.  The theory that it was this
form of ritual that produced the first religious activity is most
convincing to me.  The shaman was the first religious figure who had
access to the world of good and evil spirits.
The practice of magic was to alleviate fear, and to increase strength. 
This power is continues to be felt in modern religion.
http://www.livescience.com/history/061130_oldest_ritual.html
Artifacts thought to be evidence of the first human ritual was
discovered to be about 70,000 years old.  The evolution of human
intelligence is thought to have been concurrent with group ritual.

No, Clash, I didn’t think you were among the ones who see blogging as
“a petty contest.”  None who are left on this very forum I don’t think
are of that stripe. 

I highly think horrors in human society themselves are unending for I
don’t think humankind has progressed far enough to eliminate them
and it is probably in the cards that it is a long way off in the future
before any semblance of true civility will take over.  That is the color of
my cynicism. 

I apologize for any misunderstanding I had of your comments.  I had
cautions that I might have.  My remarks were in response to “Men by
far are not human enough for this simplest of rules, the apparent world
would have to transfigure itself in some dramatic fashion before I
would ever allow myself to be dependent on society again. Then again
maybe you are referring to some distant future?”  I read them wrongly
that you were withdrawn and I see that is not what you meant.

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By Shenonymous, April 17, 2010 at 8:57 pm Link to this comment

I don’t think you asked rhetorically, “would it not be rational to
[examine] each incident before coming to any conclusions with respect
to moral judgments? If we agree that, due to evolution that no two
minds, can have the same capabilities or capacities, then how without
understanding the specific personal underlying conditions can thoughts
and actions be judged?” But rather are looking in earnest for
understanding if not answers. 

I agree it would be rational, and would be the only rational way to
proceed to examine each incident before concluding whether something
was moral or not. And while no two minds can have precisely the same
capabilities or capacities, there are ranges that approximate enough so
that consensus is possible.  It would be the same as judging the flavor
of cheesecake as no two people likely have the same number or
sensing ability of tastebuds.  But that does not preclude close proximity
since we know tastebuds operate fairly similarly in like organisms.  If
that were not the case we would not be able to communicate to the
degree that we do. 

Morality is a system invented by humans for humans who choose to live
in a society that serves as instructions, regulations, or standards of
conduct so there is civility among the members.  It is a given that
humans have a violent nature and are most self-serving as individuals
and often collect in groups to further those efforts.  People who live
alone do not have a use for morals, it is only within the scope of a
society that a code of morals or ethics is necessary.

Yes, do no harm does seem to be the primary, perhaps the only,
universal moral and everything else descends from that.

The thing that I found stunning was the epiphany, the incredible
realization, that when it comes to morals, there are no natural
universals and how we humans must work so hard, must struggle with
all our might to create them, then live by them.

If we want to expand on this topic, there are two reviews of a book by
Marc Hauser, Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense
of Right and Wrong
and a test you may take that gauges your moral
instincts at
http://discovermagazine.com/2007/may/the-discover-interview-marc-
hauser
(you might have to hand copy/paste the address into your browser). 
An interview of the author is part of one article and embedded within
this article is also a link (Read a review) of a critique by philosopher,
Richard Rorty, of Hauser’s book.  A lot of bases are covered.  While I
have about a half dozen other books on the subject, I don’t have this
one and I’ve ordered it.  Since the articles and interview probably
summarize the book enough to start a conversation, this might be a
decent way to go?

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By Clash, April 17, 2010 at 5:50 pm Link to this comment

Good afternoon all;

Garth, “to do no harm” is a rule I would be glad to agree to, though moving from circumstance to circumstance,  I find in this society that it is not always possible, when extending protection to those who are being physically or mentally abused and can not defend themselves, or in self defense if the situation warrants it.

I picked up a feral kitten a couple of years ago; he was about the size of a fist, found him dragging a full size chicken carcass down a dirt road, figured he had what it took so I brought him back to the house, (you see out here small cat’s are prey), he took to riding on my shoulder when he was little, still does. 

Shenonymous;

I have never supposed this was a contest, petty or otherwise. You presented thoughts and purposed questions first, then recent media examples of society’s inability to recognize morality at all, one could I suppose spend hour upon hour researching horrors’ and present them here but that was not the point.

Misunderstanding this time is yours; the anonymity this forum provides is meaningless to me. You could find me if you were so disposed any were people gather to speak their minds on various topics. That my thoughts are formed not only from academic pursuits, but also from perusing life passionately outside off that which is acceptable to your sensibilities, leading you to make accusations of my withdrawal from society, seem to be a heavy handed judgment of those thoughts that were shared. 

So as to the constitution and its interpretation, it would seem that we might have a very basic disagreement in as much as my opinions and experiences of empire are quite different from your own and it is neither my intention nor purpose to attack anyone here over such matters. To your bait “separate oneself from their mother and stand on one’s own two feet (if you have them).”LOL.

Finally your post of 4/17/10, second to last paragraph you understood that which the questions were meant to stir. You see I am a cynic, who doubts the health of the species or that universal morality is possible. I say this as each time one broaches how to start down the path, the idea is met either with sarcasm or ignorance then dismissed. Commonly I find those that say this is the world they are looking for cannot even agree to a definition of terms to start the debate. Maybe we should leave it to the noble few, to impose their will upon us? But no, that’s right that’s what we have now.

I look forward to reading your comments mostly, though questions are in my nature. If I have offended you with these questions it was not my intention.

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By garth, April 17, 2010 at 4:57 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous,

“But Clash does bring up a most important feature of human psychology, that of morals.  Seems like that is a topic this lofty group could tackle.  With the reduction in the religious and with it goes
imposed morality, seems like if we are to be a healthy species, we need to start building ‘universal’ morals.” 

Here’s a start.  I took it directly out of one of your links provided below.

Honor Yourself
Honor Your Word
Honor Your Kin and Kind
Honor Your Earth
Honor Your Silence

I think I’ve learned a lot from growing up around cats. 

Thanks for the link to the beautiful music and art.  Listening to the song and watching the art show was an experience. 

Shenonymous, you and Night-Gaunt are worth reading just for the vocabulary.  I guess the call-to-think are part of your natures.


Part of the link talked about the demise of cats.  That might be the destiny for humans, through self-destruction.  People nowadays seeem to think in the near term only and when the anything distant is mentioned it is 2050 or some such year.
It reminds me of a quote I heard by Zhou Enlai to Nixon during Nixon’s visit to China.  Maybe it’s apocryphal but, Nixon supposedly asked Chou what he thought about the French Revolution.  Enlai supposedly said, “It’s too soon to tell.”

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By Shenonymous, April 17, 2010 at 12:25 pm Link to this comment

Oh, I saw it.  No, not at all, garth. You have certainly often sustained a
dialog and engaged in interaction.  You present thoughtful directions to
explore and I have enjoyed our excursions. I didn’t mean that succinct
comments are always of the hit and run variety.  I occasionally try to be
short and sweet (hahaha), yup, me, the very verbose She.  I even
challenge myself to see just how short, maybe not always so sweet, I
can make it.  And just as occasionally I succeed. 

I read the Daniel Dennett interview.  I have a few of his books and have
found his ideas impressive.  He argues well, doesn’t he?  I agree with
him that the world cannot get rid of religion.  It provides too much
good, for societies need external constraints, playing the role of
conscience when it is in the mode of practicing virtue.  If the bad
portions could be ameliorated it could go a long way towards more
evolution of the human being. Like Christopher Hitchen’s thought, the
way religions have developed to the present they are quite poisonous. 
Some more than others but the demand for unconditional acceptance
of doctrine, interpreted and reinterpreted doctrine at that, or dire
consequences will be the penalty sometimes death.  Thank you for
offering the article.

But Clash does bring up a most important feature of human
psychology, that of morals.  Seems like that is a topic this lofty group
could tackle.  With the reduction in the religious and with it goes
imposed morality, seems like if we are to be a healthy species, we need
to start building ‘universal’ morals.  There are many who say universal
morals are a chimera, are not possible.  But maybe there are if we put
our collective minds to it.  I fully have ‘faith’ that humans can invent a
good life for their numbers.  I am not so cynical that I give up on us,
though I am a cynic I’ve confessed.  Perhaps I don’t want to be a
cynic.

Here is a song by one of my favorite artists for you garth, you might
like it:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwZZf5oB4l4
maybe the beautiful creatures include humans and that we have to do
something about the way things are going in the world?

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By Shenonymous, April 17, 2010 at 10:58 am Link to this comment

Who are you talking to garth?  I don’t think I was chastizing anybody. 
Naw, not me, I never even ever spanked my kids!  I’m so confused! Good
Saturday morning.

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By garth, April 17, 2010 at 10:06 am Link to this comment

Not to change the subject, but check out this Q & A with Daniel Dennet in the Boston Sunday Globe.  It is about the number of non-believers in the clergy.

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2010/04/11/the_unbelievers/

I hope you weren’t chastizing my response to Clash in your first paragraph.  I didn’t mean it to be a pot shot.  I was just expressing what I felt to be a personal truth.

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By Shenonymous, April 17, 2010 at 9:46 am Link to this comment

Taking your comments seriously, Clash, but requiring that I satisfy
myself about what is presented as truth, I checked out all of the links
you provided as an argument that they prove you cannot be judged as
or as not a moral person.  It would seem one could use any reason to
do that, but you offered these and I take it you are inviting comments. 
I don’t find it easy to think through all the large issues that are
presented on these blogs and shrink from making facile hit and run
statements that appear as little triumphs in a petty contest seen in
abundance on this and other like websites.  I ask indulgence for I am
often long-winded, a hazard of long association with academia. 

Far as I can tell you are holding court on a way of life, as an
autonomous individual versus the submersion into a society where the
individual becomes just a face in the crowd.  As Kierkegaard said, “The
crowd is a lie,” as he “rationalized the necessity of being a privileged
rentier (a non-working person).”  Kierkegaard disapproved of the non-
violent revolutionary change in Denmark’s government from absolute
monarchy to a constitutionally constructed one.  So you may be
keeping company with him in the rarified zone.  There is something to
be said about individualism.  I try to follow Emerson’s paean to self-
reliance.  For I think at bottom one must learn to separate oneself from
their mother and stand on one’s own two feet (if you have them).  And
that sentiment would take another whole long dissertation, and has
been by several grand thinkers.

Article 1 is about building more prisons rather than mental health
facilities.  People with mental illness and who have committed crimes
are summarily criticized as “criminalizing everything.”  New York State’s
decision is being used to criticize the entire field. Demonization of the
mentally ill is not a new phenomenon.  One ought to look up the
conditions in England and its inmates of Bedlam.  Or just do a history
of treatment of the mentally ill.  Ms. Barr uses one system out of
hundreds to describe the entire domain. It might be that her criticisms
are true, but she really ought to show more than one example.

The next link is about the Texas practice of execution and George W.
Bush’s attitude that executed 151 men and 1 woman, the Catholic nun
Sister Helen Prejean, who wrote the article criticized that the office of
the state governor is the “last vestige of the divine right of kings”
having the absolute power of life and death.  Her complaint is that
“such power is entrusted to politicians motivated more by expedience
than by conscience.”  The topic of capital punishment is one that does
deserve discussion.  While I do not think capital punishment should be
exercised for everyone found guilty of the crime of murder, I do believe
when there is absolutely no doubt of henious murder, lex talionis is a
just punishment and while there are studies that purport that
executions do not prevent further murder, that they describe barbaric
actions of purported evolved humanity, there is also evidence that it is
a deterrent.  Also reported is that African-Americans sentenced to
death out-number white Americans 54.1% to 43.2%.  This might lead to
the conclusion that there is discrimination against African-Americans. 
The evidence does not support that conclusion.  It is possible that out
of the number of convicted murderers that the same proportions would
yield. 
http://www.heritage.org/Research/Testimony/The-Death-Penalty-
Deters-Crime-and-Saves-Lives
(to access one must copy/past this extra long website address)

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By Shenonymous, April 17, 2010 at 9:34 am Link to this comment

It seems that balanced information ought to be presented when using
private censures as a rostrum for complaint against social life.

Link #3 also discusses mental illness connected with executions and
healthcare cuts, which resembles link #1 in subject matter.  Texas
seems to be the absolute measure, and from my own experience there
it is my judgment Texas harbors many extremist views and takes
extreme actions that may or may not be appropriate.  When they were
not, they have made grave mistakes and should be condemned as
much as the prisoners they condemned.  There is no mitigating excuse
for such errors when it comes to human life, simply because of the
hypocrisy that espouses the absolute value of human life.  Not if that is
not a universal value, it needs to be expressed.
Using prisons as a container for humans just with mental health
problems is a travesty.  But it is not as simple as just stating that.  The
topic begs for deep discussion.

The next example accuses the President of violating the U.S.
Constitution who it is said ordered the assassination of a U.S. citizen
for the “sole purpose of killing him without any trial.”  The target is
Anwar al Awlaki, an expatriate of the US (born in New Mexico) called a
radical Muslim cleric, who who is considered to be an operative of Al
Qaeda and recruiter of members to Al Qaeda for the express purpose of
killing Americans.  Since this is not a regular practice, at least is
shouted as being the first instance of it by the critics, much more
discussion, again, needs to happen before any conclusion would
contain the truth or moral imperative. Whether or not Glenn
Greenwald’s charges cogent will take more than his word for it,
particularly when the Constitution does guarantee the safety of its
citizens against harm from invasion, Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S.
Constitution:
“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a
Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against
invasion…”

The fifth website again reiterates number 4 about the order to kill the
“American Imam,” Awlaki. So I see no furtherance of your docket
against society. 

Retreating from this society, in particular, is of course your choice. 
Whereas you see only, essentially two issues, the incarceration and
shirking of proper treatment of mentally ill persons, and the death
warrant out on Awlaki, I see a great society with many virtues that
other societies only dream of.

What occurs to me is if you are so bent on withdrawing from this
society, why you would participate in a most social forum as Truthdig? 
Is it because of the anonymity it affords you that you feel you really are
not participating in a social domain?  I find it curious.  It is possible
that I misunderstand you completely.

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By garth, April 15, 2010 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous,

I wrote a whole schmear about thanking you and identifying with Mohammed only to have it lost in the shuffle.

I want to thank you for your scholarship and I want recognize your compassion.  I had a pal named “Billie’ who was 18 and I think he awakened me to the bond between human and feline.

I think that the Ancients were much more sensible.

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By Shenonymous, April 14, 2010 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment

Loving my cat of 15 years who I was called upon recently to put to
sleep by reason of old age and disease, but most traumatic for me in
any event, I’ve always been fascinated by his kind of person, felines.

For languid interest check out Scientific American:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-taming-of-the-
cat

Dating from Neolithic times most likely as house cats, cats as pets were
known about 10,000 years ago in Cyprus.

In India, Shasti - Bengali Feline Goddess of childbirth and Protectress of
Children is portrayed riding a cat.

In ancient Egypt, many animals were revered and seen as companions
of the gods or as deities themselves.  The cat in ancient Egypt, or miw,
meaning ‘to see’, was sacred.  The cat was first domesticated about
4,000 years ago in Egypt and brought into the household as catchers of
snakes and various rodents then ascended to become a god.

Mafdet was the first Egyptian feline deity, often seen as a lynx, but the
most famous cat goddess in the world, first revered by the ancient
Egyptians, was Bastet, also known as Bast, Pasch, Ubasti.  Bubasti was
one of the nine tribes of the Bastet.  One of the more intriguing stories
about the cat is about the Bastet:
http://wiki.white-wolf.com/worldofdarkness/index.php?title=Bastet

In case you wanted to know (hahaha) the process of feline
mummification had six steps:
1.  Removal of organs
2.  Body is stuffed with sand or packing material
3.  Feline is placed in a sitting position
4.  Body is wrapped tightly
5.  Faces and designs are painted on wrappings with black ink
6.  No chemicals, only natural dehydration

The literature tell us that cats were “not only protected by almost every
occupant of Egypt, but also by the law. So extreme in fact was the
devotion of the Egyptian culture to the cat, that if a human killed a
feline, either intentionally or unintentionally, that human was sentenced
to death.“  Yikes!  Nor were they allowed by law to be exported. 

Other ancient cultures that held the cat in high esteem:  The Muslim
prophet Mohammed is said to have found a cat sleeping on his robe,
and cut a hole in his robe rather than disturb the sleeping cat

One famous story tells about the Egyptian armies that were “sent out
to recapture cats from foreign lands. The Egyptians were so fond of
their cats that they even surrendered to the Persians, due to their
beloved cats. When the Egyptians were at war with the Persians and the
Egyptians were wearing down the Persian army, a Persian general came
up with a plan. Because he knew of the great love and reverence with
which the Egyptians treated their cats, he ordered his soldiers to
capture as many cats as possible from the city. When they had enough,
they returned to the city of Pelusium and lined up for battle. When the
dust cleared, the Egyptians were horrified at the number of their
terrified cats that were running over the battlefield. Rather than harm
the cats, they surrendered the city to the Persians without a fight. It
was a devastating loss for the Egyptians.”

Among many stories the following one I think cool is the story of the
emperor who, while travelling in a rainstorm encountered a cat on a
porch that waved a greeting to him. Intrigued by this extraordinary
phenomenon, the emperor dismounted and approached the porch. As
soon as he reached the porch, a bolt of lightning crashed down on the
spot his horse was standing and killed it instantly. From that point on,
cats were, in Shinto, worshipped as beneficent and protective kami; if
you walk into a Japanese restaurant, you are sure to find a porcelain
statue of a waving cat protector from harm.

Then the Norse goddess Freya the goddess of Love and Beauty, who is
also a warrior goddess and one of great wisdom and magic is always
seen with a cat..

garth, I submit these stories primarily for you but I think the others
here will enjoy them too.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 14, 2010 at 11:51 am Link to this comment

Cats were god’s “Imp of the Perverse” then the great Self Made One got down to creating humans (take your pick of creation stories in the Bible as to in what order) but unfortunately for Man we became the servants to the real Masters of Earth—-Cats! All hail Bubastis! “Semper Fidelis Felinus.”

Without humanism any idea or philosophy or theosophy of civilization will inevitably become cruel an immoral. History is replete with examples. Amen.

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By garth, April 12, 2010 at 8:27 am Link to this comment

Thank you Clash.

Let me first say that my offering that I have gathered behind Shenonymous, Tom Edgar and Night-Gaunt in their idea of Humanism has put me in the Query Box mainly, what do I think of Humanism?

I would start with the simple dictum, “First do no harm.”

The rest can evolve.

For those who use people and do do harm, then I would suggest that a suitable judgement would be that they are in the darkness.

Magical thinking itself draws us into the past.  Reality asks what do you see now?  Hypnosis or mesmerization is a lie or can be used as a lie.

After the pains and sorrows of survival lead us to a point where we can look outward and inward at the same time see life without judgment that to me is a goal.  It is a step towards reality.


I think creationism has been misiinterpreted.

First, God created cats. Then he rested, only to look down and see a cat staring at him with the look of, “What can you do for me now.”  Many allegorical adventures ensued.
God then created “Mankind” as a God-substitute, a stand-in, so that cats could drive Man crazy instead. 
Now that I have come face-to-face with cats and their needs, I have reached the same conclusion as Pogo, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”

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By Clash, April 11, 2010 at 2:10 pm Link to this comment

1 of 2

“It is not a simple set of rules” this universal morality, so few words for such an infinite set. By what magic does ones personal independence survive if interdependence with the social order is one of the rules? Men by far are not human enough for this simplest of rules, the apparent world would have to transfigure itself in some dramatic fashion before I would ever allow myself to be dependent on society again. Then again maybe you are referring to some distant future? A place in time were magic is dead and reason controls the baser instinct? A time when science is used as proof, not as the poor imitation of nature? A time when men no longer worship power and allow themselves to believe they have the right to murder by political edict?  A beautiful dream of the future, though far enough beyond the horizon to be only a blurred image.

So in as much that the determination of that witch is moral relies predominantly in others perceptions of actions, then would it not be rational to exam each incident before coming to any conclusions with respect to moral judgments? If we agree that, due to evolution that no two minds, can have the same capabilities or capacities, then how without understanding the specific personal underlying conditions can thoughts and actions be judged? Being interdependent with any given society that has passed from the primitive historically shows no proof of the capacity to make the correct moral judgments in simple matters, let alone the more complicated and difficult. http://www.prisonpolicy.org/articles/massdissent040100.html
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17670
http://bipolar.about.com/od/socialissues/a/040628_texas.htm
http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2010/04/10/18644257.php
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article7089899.ece
I offer these links as proof that the state and the culture that supports the societies with in them have no place in judging whether or not I am a moral person or not. As to the future since the words hope, faith and magic as defined here earlier are meaningless we find our selves left to only the now.

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By Clash, April 11, 2010 at 2:08 pm Link to this comment

2 of 2;

Once there was a child, who did not fit, a peaceful child who ran afoul of the system. A wise lady of justice found that this child had broken a moral code of his society. So judgment was passed and the child was given a choice, to live in a cage or to surrender him self to the legions and be instructed in the martial arts. Left without any counsel, the choice was or seemed simple for the child freedom of sorts or a cage. It was not until the child had been trained and sent with the legion to a place were the empire was putting order to a province were the people did not particularly want the influence of the empire, but true to his teachers and his new found comrades he carried out his duty. This he did with skill and cunning winning him the admiration of his comrades and commanders. His decisions, as perceived by others to be moral and loyal. The events that transpired as in any conflict of arms were horrors that would have to be lived with but being judged loyal and moral assuaged any conflict of conscience. When his service ended and he returned to his home, finding that the society found his moral conduct and loyalty aberrant since the emperor had lied to populace and in so doing had committed crimes against the populace, and the provinces.  The man now had no compass for he had depended blindly on a society’s moral code, after being forced to be interdependent upon that society. The man swore angrily to never allow himself to be enslaved by an others rule’s or perceptions of morality.

So the moral of this story (pun intended) one can accept, fulfill and live a society’s moral rules only if the society can be judged moral itself and only if one can recognize the difference.

Many children, and less fortunate men and women have lived this story; it is only one of many stories of the human condition which has existed during the time of plant and conquer were those of less fortunate backgrounds have been forced into servitude for the collective. I will keep my independence even at the cost of the total collapse of society.


Garth;
Shenonymous actually posted the quote by Campbell, I just recycled it in agreement.

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By Shenonymous, April 8, 2010 at 4:00 pm Link to this comment

Humanism does seem to be the more unclouded path.  But it also
seems that independence must not be given up in lieu of
interdependence.  A “magical” blending where the individual does not
have to lose his/her creative spirit, but with a keen vision that he/she
is interdependent on their society I think is the healthiest way.

I have been reading the author Tom Edgar recommended, Hector
Hawton. Thank you so much for talking about this most accessible
philosopher.  I have two of the books and the third one is on its way. 
They are hard to find at prices I can afford and seem to come from
England, the last one from Ireland!  I have read more philosophy books
than I can count (hyperbole).  Hawton’s thought is very clear, lucid, and
much of the philosophers’ jargon is missing which makes not only easy
reading, but easy comprehension.  The Thinker’s Handbook and
Philosophy for Pleasure are the two I’m enjoying presently and the
third, The Feast of Unreason, I am looking forward to receiving soon.  I
have also been rereading the Campbell books over the last few weeks
since he came up in our forum.  I so much enjoyed him years ago and
the pleasure is still as intense once again.  You know, the
archaeology/anthropology domain more or less poohpoohed him when
his writings first came out.  I remember the dismissal.  We were
dazzled anyway.  It pleases me that he took the time to autograph all
four of the Masks of God books.  But none of the superscientists can
hold a candle to the breadth of his scholarship.  They may have more
depth in one area but he was able to take an overarching view, a
synoptic understanding how things connect. 

Animals who become pets come to depend on us.  And once that
dynamic happens it becomes our responsibility to provide as decent a
life as we are able.  I always felt my cat was as much an owner of the
house as I was!  I do feel that little animal did love me.  He showed it in
many ways.  It pleases my psyche to know someone, even an internet
ghost, who attends to cats.  Not that I don’t like dogs.  Other kinds of
pets have never really appealed to me.  I have had dogs.  Wonderful
guys and gals. 

I’m not sure about the having to re-register Night-Gaunt.  It might be
that when the hiatus happened a week or so ago, that one had to re-
register again I don’t know, maybe for a couple of the forums.  You
might email the webmaster.  I’ve had very courteous response when I
have done that.  One good thing, the extra wide format on that forum
has stopped and is now showing up in its usual screen format.  ?????  It
is all a mystery to me.  Another odd thing has surfaced though.  One
of the forums, the one on Israel Crackdown… shows up on my
computer as having 9 pages, while another poster, I’m sure you are
acquainted with him, ITW, says his computer shows only 4 pages. 
Odd, very odd.  I don’t know what to make of it.  Geek city?

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By garth, April 8, 2010 at 12:29 pm Link to this comment

N-G,

Sounds like a call to arms. 

I was thinking mostly of the idea of Humanism as the only rational approach.  I heard a futurist, Paul Saffo on C-SPAN the other day and he said that the old myths like independence will have to give way to a new myth of interdepence if we are to succeed.

The old ideas of a somewhat “magical” religion, seem to be out of reach to rational people.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 8, 2010 at 11:24 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Whats the deal with having to re-register again, for a second time at another site?

“Dutch courage” makes me think of the Dutch when they rebelled against the Spanish Empire and fought for 80 years to be free. They had no hope and it wasn’t what drove them to do the seeming impossible. Indeed they soldiered on machine-like without hope. That is something we need to do in these trying times. But most will go for God, Guts and Guns.

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By garth, April 7, 2010 at 9:37 am Link to this comment

Clash,

Thanks for the great quote from Joseph Campbell.  I think he’s is absolutely right.

Tom,  I also don’t follow celebrity news nor celebrities lives.  What got me was the reaction of the press and their somewhat prurient interest in digging out more information.

If the press did its job on some of the other more inclusive and urgent issues of life and death, poverty and economic justice, we might be a little bit better off.

That’s all I meant by mentioning a story about a golfer.

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By garth, April 7, 2010 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

Thank God(?) for the anonymity provided by this blog.  I’d run and hide if I had to face someone for some of the things I’ve written while full of Dutch courage.

I don’t regret my atacks on some of these evil institutions, just the flailing at other posters, especially the sincere ones.

I feel myself emerging from a kind of self-imposed darkness into a new light after working as a volunteer in this cat rescue operation.  I don’t do much for the guys & gals, but I’ve learned that I might’ve been wearing blinders.  One animal rights activist said that it’s not that the pets don’t love us and that they only need food and shelter.  It’s that they love us too much.

Tom, I think you’re exceptional in the sense that you demonstrate what a regular human being can attain in the way of Humanism.

N-G and Shenonymous, thank you for your reminders of what Humanisn really means.

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By Shenonymous, April 7, 2010 at 6:25 am Link to this comment

I read your post with much empathy, Night-Gaunt and I understood
your feelings as well garth when your mom died.  My Mom suffered
with colo-rectal cancer.  But she died of a heart attack, caused the
doctor is convinced by smoking.  The morning she died, she had gone
out on the porch to have her first-thing-in-the-morning smoke.  She
did not smoke in the house because she knew I didn’t smoke and well
you know…she was very conscious of the comfort of other people.  It
was a cold January morning as it got cold in SoCal that time of year. 
The last thing we said to each other was our usual daily “I love you
Mom,” and she said “I love you, too, (my name)” before my fleeing off
to work.  It was the one thing I was able to remember through all the
sadness, and even today.  She suffered with the cancer for about eight
years.  The radiation and the chemo.  She was a Catholic but I wouldn’t
say very devout, unless you questioned her on it!  I didn’t stress her
with my atheism.  I think she believed she was being punished for
something to suffer so.  That is preposterous because there was never
a better human being, kind and loving and caring. 

I think you are right N-G to keep your beliefs on the back burner out of
respect to your Mom.  Tom’s post about atheists I believe is correct. 
Those who are truly atheists do not need to wear it on their sleeves and
they don’t proselytize. 

It is true there are some sunshine boys in atheism these days, Dawkins,
Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens to name the big glitzy ones.  Of that
group Harris I think is the most convincing but there are several others
who are remarkable thinkers.  When I think about “organized” atheism I
get a creepy feeling.  Atheists are human beings who have a social
need, they get lonely and seek companionship not only physically but
mentally.  Over the millennia atheists have been persecuted almost as
much as any group.  Called heretics and tortured and murdered
throughout history.  So it is perhaps a boon that these famous four and
a few others are bringing the non-believers into the collective
consciousness and eventually, over the generations, people will show
themselves to be less and less able to surrender their minds. 

The problem as I see it is humans must replace the morality factor that
was based on fear for one that is based on coming to the fundamental
conclusion that to be moral is the only way for humans to interact with
each other.  I believe that is the height of humanity to come to that
conclusion.  To do that, we have to come to agreement on what is
moral.  It is not a simple set of rules.

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By Tom Edgar, April 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm Link to this comment

M G… Liver cancer is not a nice way to go. I, very recently, lost my eldest child to it, well in his case he had himself to blame as he had been on methadone for over twenty years, needless to say this treatment for a previous addiction meant normal pain killers were less than efficacious.

Whilst I do feel for you the only thing I suggest is that, as in Rob’s case, don’t let them prolong the agony unnecessarily in the vain hope there will be a recovery.

All you can do is let her know you really do love and care.

I was at the bedside of a very dear friend in her final hours. During WW2 she had been a N Z army nursing lieutenant in Egypt.  She knew she was going and was a strong believer too, notoriously lacking in any sense of humour, which, in the past, had her rebuking me for my heightened sense of the absurd.  Her last words to me were, whilst struggling to breathe.  “Oh Tom, if this is the road to heaven I can’t recommend it.” I replied. “Heck Mollie you have to wait until NOW to crack a joke.”  At least I left her smiling, I could have done nothing better.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 6, 2010 at 11:29 am Link to this comment

I am living and helping to take care of my mother who is a devout Catholic—-she is also dying from cancer. This has all happened only since last April. After going through surgery then 18 weeks of intense chemo- therapy it looked like she might recover. But then 3 wks later in a routine follow up they found a fast growing cancer on her liver. 3 cm in three weeks then 3cm more in 3 wks. Fast cancers are usually easier to treat because they are fast, but no go this time. The liver is riddled with such growths and my mother is tired of the pain etc. I have been very careful to let her know I support her and have done everything possible to minimize my Atheism. Now isn’t the time.

The doctor was astonished three times, 1)treatment cleared out the cancer so fast and thoroughly, 2)another sprang up so fast and 3)it is still growing and not impeded by the present treatments. So I expect her case will appear in someones oncological notes. I am just sorry that my devote mother didn’t get her wish to live for 14 more years. Her reading of one part of the Bible seemed to indicate to her that she would. But now she is ready. It is only a matter of time. Sadly death is part of life and we have the ability to see it and understand it. I know that elephants can too. It is hard but must be done. Sorry to give all this personal data but I do think it is relevant in this context.

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By garth, April 6, 2010 at 8:10 am Link to this comment

Tom Edgar,
Thanks for your post.  I’ve grown accustomed to your posts, and after getting over my own sense of self-righteousness, I have your found your entries to be honest and elucidating. 

With respect to Quakers and your wife, I have realized, after trying to engage a sweet young thing from the Christian Science Religion many years ago that by embracing her beliefs, somehow, the phrase, “People are people” just seemed to be self evident.

I’ve got to go back and read the rest of yout posts.

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By Tom Edgar, April 5, 2010 at 7:51 pm Link to this comment

Damn and damn again I lost a finished letter.

I hadn’t deserted you all.  On the contrary I visited daily, perused the submissions and found they were either incomprehensible, or very elucidating.  The former could be because I am dense or maybe the writer was too obfuscatory.The latter could be when the writer needed no further input from somebody less academically qualified to either add or detract.

Garth. Unexpected courteous plaudit.  I am far from exceptional, different to the average, hopefully.

One little phrase slipped in “Growing in the light.” Have you been, at sometime, influenced, as I was with my late wife, by “Quakers”?  You can’t be a member as “Friends” would, at no time, be adversarial in their approach.

I find this obsession with the activities of celebrities to be a senseless pursuit.  So a fellow, who earns a living walking around pasture that could be used for better purposes with sticks poking white balls in widely spaced holes,& has been unable to control his sexual urges.  This is more important than the deaths brought to children and others of a differing culture or religion? Actually I don’t even know why I write of it other than to point out the absurdity.  I do wonder at the newspapers who headline these situations. I mean it sells neither golf balls nor condoms.

God or Sex? ...Well God, in my book has never been a choice,  and as sex really only occupied a fraction of any given day I guess that in the scheme of things it was still marginally more important, certainly would be more enjoyable, even for a believer.

My previous professional life brought me into regular contact with religious leaders of all denominations.  I can honestly say that they were more often men of virtue and decency than the reverse. Yes I can point to those who were far from decent human beings, and they weren’t all Roman Catholics either. One of the lowest was, originally, a Methodist who left his wife, family and church to become a Televangelist making a lot of money, and enemies too. With his extra curricular activities he should have been good at golf.  Two R C Priests I knew well were the finest I knew along with my dearest friend, a Church of the Nazarene Pastor.  So don’t lump them all together. They are not guilty by association.

This week. Easter week and a period of Christian love. The Sydney Archbishop has blamed dwindling church attendances on atheists and our hatred of God.

Well I fail to see how we can hate something that doesn’t exist. The dwindling of followers is down to them. Atheists do not proselytise. It was also claimed that atheism is a religion. Strange mentality here.  We do not exist as an identifiable entity,  have no edifices where we can assemble for non worshiping nothing in particular, have no liturgy,catechism, procedures, don’t dress in medieval drag wearing funny hats,never go door to door looking for converts, print no tracts, any association is of a very loose nature,only one requirement to be an atheist. Have no belief in a God, any God.

Oh Garth.  I don’t drink, drug, (tobacco included)
never go to the races,don’t play the poker machines, never been into a casino, married to my first sexual partner for forty six years. Couple all those with being an atheist I do have a little difficulty in some circles. Yes different but not exceptional. 

I am reminded of the exchange between Sammy Davis and Ella Fitzgerald.  S.D. “I am an ugly, one eyed, black Jew. How many more strikes can a man have against him.  E.F. “Try being a woman.”

Shalom. Tom E

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By garth, April 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment

Pope Benedict XIV, an ex-Nazi, is now the holy leader of the Pederasts.

The Very (and that’s what they called him), Reverend John O’Connell said on PBS just minutes ago that we are living in different times.  I guess he’s implying that the kids used to love it.  Up the bum that is.

I add that when this happened years ago, single parent teens were fair game for the priests.  A fair skinned, unsure lad could be corn-holed without penalty.

The joker on CBS News yesterday said that the church should not endanger the children.  They wiil and they do and they’ll keep doing it.  You want some, become a priest.

Who’s Bob Sheiffer kidding?  We as a nation have been doing it for years.  The act of pederasty by a priest is nothing new and we should embrace it.  The Poop seems to think so.  But then again, he’s an ex-Nazi.

He’s the direct descendant of Peter.  Hmmmmmmmm.

Now there’s an example of what thinking about God will do for you. But then again, maybe it’s not thinking about God enough and thinking about peter.

It’s wonderful.  Just subtract the will of the people in your evaluation of the worldly activities, and it all becomes chrystal clear.

Thommy Hartmann, Thommy Hartmann, where are you?
I heard Louise Lasker had a sex change.  Is that true.

On the straight side of sex.  (With the priests it’s all about power.  It’s like rape.) How would you like it if the news media were asking you about your sex conquests as in the Tiger Wods interview?  If I had as much sex as this bozos, I’d go into detail. 

Like Al Sharpton when he was followed to a woman’s hair salon by NY news men.  He sat down for the treatment when he noticed the cameras outside.  He walked out front with his hair cutting bib still on and said, “If you want to see how a real man gets his hair cut, come on in.”


Compare God to Sex and tell me who wins.

Now, we’re not talking about God enough.

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By garth, April 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm Link to this comment

I guess that the old sying is wrong. That is, if you take an infinite number of monkeys and place them before an infinite number of typewriters, they will type a phrase or a sentence from Shakespeare. 

I have witnessed so far on this Website, a la Smoliar, that education does not give anyone the freedom from not making sense and not being able to use their God given abilities to think.  In his case it was KMIHT.  What an example of an educated imbecile he was.

Night-What? You have passed that threshold and are accelerating.  I wonder, yes only wonder, if an outfielder of some baseball team would just stand and watch as your “intellectual” home runs leave the grasp of earthly gravity.

Green tea.  Ever try it?

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By Night-Gaunt, April 5, 2010 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment

Actually no, because all of them stopped, even the new ones.It all started after this site overhauled how they operated. I could tell because when I went back to them I found others have posted. But this was after I found forums where the comments were gone! No way to leave any, then later those came back first. Before I was getting way too many notifications, more than what was posted. But now it is working today (4/5/10). All it took was a direct line of communication which seems to be to “report this” to do it. [It could have been another reason too.] At the time I could find no way to contact them otherwise. Perhaps the system I was using. Yes I too found one of the TD’s to be without the normal boarders & was spread too widely.

I have come across “trans-humanism” a while back. It is an interesting idea but one must be careful abt falling into the eugenics trap. I am a proponent of euthenics, put anyone into a better environment and better things have the chance of happening. Religion has that affect on the human organism in the environment of the mind. Protects us from the fear of death yet at the same time stresses one cannot kill ones self to get there for selfish reasons. Most of the time, though martyrs are all around us, some of them are secular. For a good cause they die usually to save others but these days in killing others. A sad state of affairs isn’t it?

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By garth, April 5, 2010 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous,

Thank you for your post.  Your loss of your mother and of your feline friend paralleled mine.  My mother died at her home, and I fell impelled to go and stand in that room.  My cat, Billy, who I later came to refer to as my pal seemed to tell me, through eye communication as I held him, that it’s going to be all-right.  He was right.  I am still growing in the light.


Night-Gaunt and Clash, your arguments bear re-reading. Just as Shenonymous’s posts.  Gracias too all.

Who’d want Life to continue?  If God is the creator, then he made many faces and fewer personalities, still.  Life in America seems to be embedded in the behavior lording it over others, or feeling better off than one’s neighbors, in short, covetousness.

How can one reveal what is truly in them without acting out? 

My sister used to tell me that she answered critics by saying, “Do you pay my bills?  Do I owe you something?”

It cuts to the chase so to speak.

Tom Edgar, I’d like to read your ideas.  You are an exceptional man.

I never thought I’d react that way.  But, thanks to my e-muse, Shenonymous.

Shamltz and syrup, maybe yes, but Civil War America did not consider this time of sentimentality weak.


I am addinf this in part to ut a marker on what I have read before.

Selah, whatever that means

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By Shenonymous, April 4, 2010 at 2:05 am Link to this comment

Good middle of the night, in response to Clash but including Night-
Gaunt…
I have Becker’s book and read it a couple of years ago, then mused
through it a couple of times.  Expressing in my own words his thesis as
I understand it, I was impressed to some degree with the idea that
there is a natural survival mechanism that drives humankind to deny
our impermanence, i.e., mortality.  He goes further to say that as a
response to that instinctive survival is the struggle to triumph through
a kind of masquerade of being heroic, which makes one able to
override the sentence of oblivion.  He argues that this is achieved
through a compromise between being aware of existing in a physically
materialistic world and having a conception of an abstract symbolic
world that assigns meaning, this creates a belief which in effect erases
mortality and produces a nature that is eternal giving a life that has
meaning, purpose, and significance in a sublime nonphysical realm. 
Since this is all contained within the psychology of a person, all the
acts that person commits is his/her project to reach that realm.  This
project is a fabrication, a fiction really, that allows the mind to justify
its life.  Mental illness occurs when the heroic project fails.  Now it does
seem plausible but since we are working with belief systems,
substantial evidence that is how the human psyche works is hard to
come by.  This description of the Vital Lie has given rise to all religions
which promise immorality. 

There is also a fairly recent (1991) secular effort that is loosely
organized called the Extropians.  A visit to the Wikipedia on the word
extropianism is somewhat eyeopening about the extent transhumanism
has developed.  I do not subscribe to such “organized” endeavors and
also found the Ernest Becker Foundation site to be in a similar vein.  I
seem to get a rash at formalized groups, and especially when groups
solicit funds to further their idiosyncratic interests.  But for myself, I
can extract the essence of what he is saying without the elaborate
theory on top of it.

I rather think, however, that Becker himself would eschew such
organizations and seriously felt this “Denial” is the originating motive
for religions, and is the ultimate cause of wars, bigotry, genocide,
racism, nationalism, betrayals, deceptions, all the nasty stuff of which
humans are capable. 

He proposed that religion no longer can compete in a world that is
becoming conditioned to question critically all traditionally formalized
rules that governs human behavior, i.e., customs, morals, and all
institutions.  In his book, he did not think science could solve The
Problem of Man.  He thought it was only through the power of the mind
to understand its ephemeral existence can a better world be brought
about.  I think we, at least those of us who are left here on this forum,
would agree with that. 

The trick will be how to infect the entire world of this enlightenment
(and for myself, without any formal organization)?  Starting small I think
would be the key strategy.  Small groups I can handle just fine.  It sort
of reminds me of that theory of six degrees of separation or the human
web.  That since any two random persons could be connected through
at most five acquaintances, if you can convince another, and get that
person to convince at least two others as a principle of operation, then
sooner than thought, the entire world would be affected.  Or something
like that.

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By Clash, April 3, 2010 at 11:42 pm Link to this comment

Good evening Shenymous.

You did not miss my meaning, although I can see how you might, after re reading what I wrote. Proof would be in making an argument to support that most struggle with the awareness of their mortality every day, when in fact, from my observations of most people’s behavior they do the opposite. Most people I find do push the inevitability of mortality out of their minds. The majority of people rarely are put, or put themselves in the position requiring them acknowledge that fatal condition of possessing life. Being unwilling to do so reflects in the selfish choices made by large segments in the population that affect the well being of the whole.

Mental illness and anxiety may be observed throughout the human collective on a regular basis, though awareness of our mortality probably is not the only cause. I find Becker’s concept that evil arises from selfishness due to awareness of our mortality a bit hard to take seriously, in that the proof, being religious beliefs, self delusion and lack of nurturing imprimers have more to do with “evil,” I think recognizing ones mortality will usually keep one from committing acts that would be considered such.       

Good or Evil, moral or immoral, are acts defined by others who observe our actions in a given circumstance, not to be confused with the essence of our being. It is our imprimers who impart these traits through nurture and education. When lacking any one of those experiences we must rely on learning from our own successes and failures. While this is not always the optimum, we can only endeavor to rise to each circumstance in a way that our consciousness will not come into conflict with our reason and destroy the courage needed to continue.

I will look at the link you provided and as always, till the next time.

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By Shenonymous, April 3, 2010 at 7:44 pm Link to this comment

Seems like for the unusual self-conscious, self-reflecting organism,
humans, that urge you spoke of, Night-Gaunt, is innate and if so, then
wouldn’t it be a natural imperative to seek understanding, and if
natural, then would it not always be there because it assists survival? 

Not quite ‘understanding’ what you mean, Clash, that mortality seems
to be another subjective understanding. No proof of death?  Isn’t that
what is meant by mortality?  Am I missing your meaning?  Are you
saying that most people push the inevitability of mortality out of their
minds for most of their life, that is, ignore this fatal condition?  Denial
of death does manifest in many ways and also seems to be an innate
fear as much as the urge to understand the existence we find ourselves
in.  A Pulitzer book by Ernest Becker, entitled Denial of Death presents
an interesting argument about the “Vital Lie” the repression of the
awareness of our mortality, which motivate much of human behavior
and is at the bottom of anxiety and mental illness.  I recommend
reading it, but reading it with a critical eye.  Which is not to say he has
not presented a brilliant and plausible theory.  Becker theorizes that
evil arises from the selfishness of human beings in the process of
protecting their existence out of the stark awareness of their mortality,
which he regarded as an essential aspect of human nature.  Becker,
who was raised in the Jewish faith and influenced by Sigmund Freud’s
psychoanalysis, argued that the concept of eternal spiritual life was not
“truth,” but was merely another denial of death.  Becker doubted the
basic nature of human was goodness.  I don’t quite agree with his
conclusion that because humans are an organism that selfishness is
the ultimate reaction to the life force and hence basically have an evil
aspect.  I find that to be a subjectively (ala Clash) qualitative judgment. 
I would ask Becker if he were still alive, why would it have to be one or
the other?  Good or Evil.  Why is it not innately human nature to simply
be, to merely exist, and to find their way to survive as do all organisms,
as they are naturally built to, and that goodness and evil are nurtured
into their psyches?  I have a hard time believing either good or evil is
the essential character of the human organism.  What do you say? 

As an afterword, there is an Ernest Becker Foundation that dwells on
multidisciplinary inquiries into human behavior particularly focused on
human violence.  http://www.ernestbecker.org/

Also a fairly decent biographic vignette is offered at the online New
World Encyclopedia about him and his views.

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By Shenonymous, April 3, 2010 at 6:48 pm Link to this comment

Hello Night-Gaunt, I am getting notifications as usual of new postings
on the forums where I am still active.  Is it possible that you
accidentally clicked the “Stop receiving notifications for comments” that
appears on every email notification at the bottom?  Unwittingly I have
done that in the past and had to find the article, and re-check to be
notified on a particular forum.  It does not cancel you out on all forums
on which you participate, though.  Just the one you might have “opted”
out on.

But here is a problem that happens occasionally when I open a forum
to read the new comment.  The page opens up incredibly wide, wider
than my computer! which is a 20 inch iMac.  And I have to scroll way to
the right to see the entire comments. This does not happen on all the
forums, just one at the moment:  The Israel Crackdown Puts Liberal
Jews on the Spot.  I mentioned it on the forum but no one else seems
to have the problem!  Odd.  It affects only the first page of the article
with the latest comments.  Like if you want to see previous pages of
comments, the extra wide problem is not there, the page is normal. 
There seems to be a page conversion when the forum opens up to the
current page where it readjusts itself and all the advertisements get
loaded. 

The old Evita forum did that for a while too but then it stopped after a
week or two and began to open up normal width.  Now that was very
strange. 

There is a Contact Us link at the very bottom of every page that will
link to a page on how to contact them.  I sent an email to the
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to tell him about the problem, and I received
a failure to deliver message back which is weird since that is supposed
to always be a way to report anomalies.  In the past I have sent emails
to the webmaster to which he always replied.  Then I sent an email to
feedback@ truthdig.com and received another failure to deliver
message.  Very peculiar too.  So being persistent because it seemed like
there was a real serious problem, I sent a third email to
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and did not get the failure to deliver message
back this time but did not receive any reply either. I don’t know what is
the deal.  If you want to contact them go to
http://www.truthdig.com/contact/?bn where you will see all the ways
you can contact them. 

The “Report this” does not get really you any responses.  I tried it once
and all you get is a preset programmed thank you response.  If I were
you, I would send a message via the Web Site Technical Feedback
feature at the http address noted above which is on the right side of
the Contact Us page.  You will see once you navigate to it.  Good luck. 
Let us know if the problem gets solved…or not, via this forum and I
will see if I can contact the webmaster on your behalf.

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By Night-Gaunt, April 3, 2010 at 5:33 pm Link to this comment

Neither do I. Life must be lived, the why is really not of any interest unless you believe there is some kind of strans-reality intelligence doing it and have done. I always liked the introduction to both the original Twilight Zone & 1st season Outer Limits for the sentiments I think fit most people. The urge to understand the cosmos around us both externally and internally too. I hope we never lose it. That would be a dark day indeed.

      PLEASE READ THIS


I haven’t been getting notifications of new postings since that overhaul that happened here. Has anyone else? I shall hit “report this” to see if I can reach them. I have found now way of reaching them otherwise.

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By Clash, April 3, 2010 at 10:49 am Link to this comment

Mortality seems to be another subjective understanding, saying most; fiercely struggle with this part of existence is an unfounded statement with no proof. If examined more closely most try to ignore the implications that we are finite and insignificant in this material reality. The struggle to ignore the inevitable, to insulate oneself from this impending consequence of life is more likely to be seen in how the daily life is conducted. The overwhelming majority will not or cannot allow the thought, that it is the inevitable conclusion and preparation for the event is skillfully put out of mind even in this age of enlightenment. To face ones own mortality frequently and with courage quickens the heart, strengthens the resolve to overcome and mediates the hostile and most savage environment. It is ride that counts not the destination. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and not some philosophical axiom, only bestowed on the few who believe them selves to be worthy, even in the most savage environments beauty exists and those who understand will see it. To happiness, if you seek it most likely you will never touch it, for most cannot even recognize it when they stumble upon this state, so fleeting is the emotion it often passes without recognition. Being prepared to meet and understand happiness for what it is should be much more important than seeking.

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life.  I don’t
think that’s what we’re really seeking.  I think that what we’re seeking is
an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely
physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being
and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
    Joseph Campbell - Epigraph The Power of Myth - Chapter 1

I, would not do more than agree strongly with this quote.

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By Shenonymous, March 27, 2010 at 7:06 pm Link to this comment

Funny how meeting reality has a sobering effect, garth.  It has
happened to me a few times in my life.  Like when my mom died
sometime that morning after I had gone to work and found her when I
arrived home one evening after work one cold day in January 1995.  I
can still feel the hole in my heart.  She was such a good mom.  She had
died alone. Which I knew on reflection many times afterward is how we
will all die.  Then recently I had to make the decision to put my cat to
sleep who had been a friend for 15 years.  A really good boy of a cat
and just a gentle and loving soul.  Holding on to him as he passed
away was probably the hardest thing I had to do in my life, more
painful than bearing my twin children.  For some odd reason, the pains
of birth are quickly forgotten, at least for most women. 

Holes left in the heart from experiencing our mortality are most
agonizing.  The pain of giving the death penalty to my cat put
everything in stark perspective when told about a colleague’s daughter
who was walking one day down a sidewalk and a part of a dilapidated
building fell on her killing her instantly.  She was a beautiful teenager. 
A freak event.  Her mom, was probably the most brave person I ever
knew and as she told me about her loss I knew I shook inside so that
the entire universe felt it. 

Our mortality.  That single impulse is what most of us most fiercely
struggle with.  And how the struggle comes out in how we conduct our
daily lives is often staggering.  Some of the people of the world who
are locked in war and their entire country on fire is, when thought
about, ironically most chilling and sorrowful.  We could go on
indefinitely describing what people do to make it through their life.  I
often wonder what beauty they see in life.  Not to feel, hear, or see
beauty is a truly sad thing for a human, since it seems humans are the
only creatures that can.  In the final analysis, the sum total of a life is
dependent upon what one can actually do to mediate the hostile
environment humans find themselves in then how one reacts to their
own mediation.  Seems to me the most important thing humans can do
is to touch that happiness Plato says all men (and women) seek. 
Touching it may be the closest one can come to it. 

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life.  I don’t
think that’s what we’re really seeking.  I think that what we’re seeking is
an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely
physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being
and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.”
      Joseph Campbell - Epigraph The Power of Myth - Chapter 1

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By Clash, March 27, 2010 at 7:05 pm Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt;
First I would explain or elaborate on the ideas presented in the post to California’s water problems, it was not my intent to put forward that regression is the answer to systemic change, barbarism, nor primitive regression is to be understood as progress. Sense of humor also got the best of me sorry.

So, as to the system that we find ourselves either immersed in of or surrounded by, the system of plant and conquer, its subsystems being governance, religion, education and martial force, the structure that the majority of the species finds itself controlled, indoctrinated, and corrupted by should be re examined. Reason would allow the understanding that those theorems purposed, absence of violence, preparations for long term survival, compassion for the natural world, and the progress of the species are the goal. So, when we examine the system and it subsystems do we find that the rule’s when followed and applied will conclude at the goals? If not, then the question to be answered, is there a system that will? If such a system exists what does it look like?  Will the species be able to recognize it as a collective? Are the rules in such a system beyond the understanding of the majority of the species?  This is the understanding that is required.

With the understanding that this leaves many if not infinite possibility’s to chance in the evolutionary progress of the species, the ideas presented here are those only that pertain to the talking monkey’s existence as a collective, and its ability to live up to the definition of human.

Shenonymous;

Welcome, I am glad you decided to join in again. The paradox of the system that holds the collective to its purpose has been one of the thoughts in our discourse, and whether or not collective change as defined above is a theorem or not, given the axioms, the rule’s of inference and the multitude of theorems, if not will the collective be capable of recognizing that it isn’t? If recognized, then is there the will to abandon the present system?

The application of gene therapy is interesting, though it would be possible to envision that some might not understand, as their perceptions might lead them to hysteria due to the history of eugenics, as applied in a less enlightened time. Interesting though as it relates to the discussion here, in that the system as it stands is deficient in the education and nurture of the collective’s children and its response to violence committed against all those that appear weak. Meaning that only those with the propensity to lose self control and commit acts of degradation, violence would need to be upset.

But if we don’t survive, do you think the universe would care?  I personally think not, as to “knowing” one can only be on the path.

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By Shenonymous, March 27, 2010 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

I have enjoyed for days Night-Gaunt and Clash’s cultured conversation.
I have been pre-occupied in other TD quarters in a cosmic fight with
members who would do me in.  It was a comedy show really.  One
woman against 12!  But it is nearly over and has become pedestrian. 
Your conversation is much more sophisticated.  I was glad you kept it
going. It is one of the better forums ever on TD.  Hopefully none of the
zombies will show up and spoil it. 

Clash presented an intriguing question: “if people as found in collective
social groups, some how become less human and prefer to be lead no
matter who is leading the thought comes to mind , how does an
intellectual compassionate culture allow this to happen? ...Studying
human nature, it is a wonder the collective exists at all.”

I’ve been reading a book, “Human Nature, Fact and Fiction,” you might
find good reading that possibly offers relevant answers given by ten
writers, some scientists, others humanities academics and others
psychologist.  Both mind and body are represented. 

It does seem an imperative for this generation to redefine the word
human given the expansion of consciousness about the world and our
place in it that has come with the advent of the earth shrinking
Internet.

I think you are right, Clash, Pessimism can be over come easily without
cloistering ones self from the world, but by moving through this reality
with no fear no apprehension of that which is beyond control; this is
becoming my understanding of that which knowledge is.

You provide an interesting analogy between the artist and the
astronomer. It seems to fit both Night-Gaunt and myself, both artists
and both very fascinated by the nature of the universe.  This is one of
the few forums where I will admit to my deepest interests.  The
amalgam of art and science for me is the way to trip through a hostile
environment such as is the earth’s with one’s sanity intact. 

How perceptive of Darwin the way Night-Gaunt so neatly puts it.  “...the
dead ends couldn’t adapt to the changes…”  Their rigidity was
programmed in with their genes and yes they did succumb.  What N-G
is talking about is environmental affect where it must be remembered
that it is also the nature built in to organisms that will also determine
its survival ratio.  Gene therapy that is going on today is going to be a
factor in the future whether we like it or not.  I was scathed elsewhere
for bringing up genetic engineering as a way to root out violent
behavior and through a lack of reading skills thought I was saying one
thing when I was in fact saying just the opposite.  Which I believe is
part of the answer to Clash’s statement, “it is a wonder the collective
exists at all.”  Ill-conception and misunderstanding is not the way of
progress, it is the reverse, regress.  The very stuff Night-Gaunt speaks
about, wars, and how they are started.  In a savage state of mind where
understanding is minimum.  To stop trashing our fellow human beings
could be a model to stop trashing the universe.  As cleaning house
begins at home.  Unified we could then turn our sites to corporations
and beat them at their game?

But if we don’t survive, do you think the universe would care?  It would
be lesser without us as we see its beauty, but it would not care.  Other
beings in the universe might just see its beauty as well. As I think
aesthetics is not the sole province of humans that have the mind to
appreciate beauty.  There just might be other minds in as much or even
greater appreciation?  “We” will never know, will we?

garth, I have not forgotten your interests.  I respect your inquisitivity
and actually have similar curiosities.  As Socrates once said, perhaps we
could travel the mental road together and find some better way to think
about them?  I need to regroup my brains from the other forums.  And
am just reacting here to what is easier and more gentle to think about.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 26, 2010 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment

Yes if we stop these wars and start thinking of ourselves as all on this rock in deep space maybe we can prepare. We could scan the sky for asteroids (only 0.01% right now), make long term preparations for when one of the mega-volcanoes will explode, take care of our biosphere and stop trashing it are some of the means we can protect our selves on this earth. Right now the corporate model rules and profit is the bottom line not survival or long term protection of our rights or our lives. We may not survive because of it.

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By Clash, March 22, 2010 at 1:30 pm Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt;

Given that most cannot or would not prepare for a disaster (extinction level event) which cannot be foretasted with any true accuracy, does that not leave only the events within the control of the system were the given set rules seem to be set so that no change is possible? That is to say that the axiom of the string is the status quo and all existing rules, though they seem infinite, prevent the system from moving beyond the axiom. So if the system is not able to change by the use of the rules set forth to create the systems structure, then would it not be rational to remove the system and its rules and replace it with a system whose axiom is change, and rules that allow change, so the axiom is flexible enough to change? That is at present the rules that support the status of the civilized world disallow the change that will be required for survival, as the status quo is not sustainable.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 22, 2010 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment

Yes the dead ends couldn’t adapt to the changes, they were too rigid in their ways of survival in one kind of ecosystem then another came along and they couldn’t cope. We can run into that same thing. It happened about 70,000 to 75,000 years ago when the mega-volcano Mt.Toba exploded in Indonesia and humanity died out all over the world and almost in Africa. The tigers too had a bottleneck and almost were gone. Humanity is doing it now being the 6th extinction in progress. If we change the climate too much the end could reach us as well. The explosion of the mega-volcano in Yellowstone would do the same today. We are not prepared to survive it.

If religion is the key to survival then it will continue as a major trait. If it starts to fail then it will become a minority trait or we will be extinct. Such are the cold hard numbers.

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By Clash, March 20, 2010 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment

Good afternoon all:
So, if people as found in collective social groups, some how become less human and prefer to be lead no matter who is leading the thought comes to mind , how does an intellectual compassionate culture allow this to happen? Why are they so wrapped up in daily life if their civilization and culture has so much depth? Studying human nature, it is a wonder the collective exists at all.

As one who was and may still be part of the “ruble” of people were survival has been harsh, it has only been the recent individual desire to add knowledge to the wisdom gained by surviving circumstance, that has allowed the self, the “I” to recognize the definition of the term human. Pessimism can be over come easily without cloistering ones self from the world, but by moving through this reality with no fear no apprehension of that which is beyond control; this is becoming my understanding of that which knowledge is.

Evolution is a double edged sword; it may lead down the path to further existence of a species or down just another dead end. The species, talking monkey, has either an easier path or has its troubles compounded by the three pounds of mass it carries above its shoulders, neither faith nor educated conjecture by those living now will probably ever know what the outcome will be.   

The strange loop for today; the artists’ conception of the expanding mind resembles closely the astronomers’ conception of the expanding universe. The connection of these two thoughts creates some interesting questions.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 18, 2010 at 11:42 am Link to this comment

I have found books by both Campbell & Fuller but they are not easy reading. Fuller is the more technical but fascinating none-the-less. I’ve got three of Campbell‘s books, but have only read one of them & browsed the others. Like you Garth I saw the interviews on PBS. His knowledge of myths and psychology of whole peoples enthralled me. Still do. It is as much a part of us as the need to reproduce.

It can open you up to a wider world.

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By garth, March 18, 2010 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

Joseph Campbell said in one of his PBS interviews that he was dining in a restaurant in NYC and witnessed a family who’s father was Babbit incarnate.
It was the accusation that got me at first, but then I thought about this wealth of knowledge and his ability to relate it to everyday life, if even in a minor observation. 
I wondered about how many times I had been re-acting some behaviors of some yet unread character in a novel.
Somehow, your comparing me to Ivan, or as I call them, the Brothers Karamazoo, leaves me on a rung that is one step higher than the one I relied on yesterday.

That’s a kind of unique perception I admire, if only because when I read it, I was nineteen again when no obstacles stood in my way. I hadn’t met Reality.

Thanks again.

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By garth, March 18, 2010 at 7:08 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous,

I greatly appreciate your responses to my post.  I am seriously interested in pursuing these ideas.  Perhaps, mainly because I don’t readily grasp them nor their import and relation to reality.
I watched Joseph Campbell in a series of interview on PBS, I correct myself, it was about 30 years ago. 

I saw Krishnamurti on a local cable interview.  He seemed challenginging to conventional thinking, but he also seemed reaffirmed my thinking that no system of belief answers all the questions satisfactorily enough to enable us to drop the angst and go through life skipping, singing, “Zippety-doo-dah.” 
Challenges bring up more questions.

I’d like to hear more about your paper on Jason and I’d like to hear about Buckminster Fuller.

Thanks you.


I have to run to get ready for a meeting with a friend.

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By Shenonymous, March 18, 2010 at 12:02 am Link to this comment

As I said I would…
Joseph Campbell. It was some time ago, but memorable. I was enrolled
in a graduate seminar when he came to visit the Comparative Religion
class.  There was a huge assembly and Campbell spoke about the
voyage of Jason and the metaphor of the number three.  Boats,
promises, three islands, the three graces, so forth.  There was
something I saw and after the lecture we had an opportunity to speak
with him and I questioned him about some allusion to what the three
boats meant.  His thesis was that every element had a symbolic
meaning.  I cannot recall exactly what it was but I have the paper I did
and would have to dig it up, maybe tomorrow I will.  He was very
gracious and acknowledged that he had not thought of it and enjoyed
what I concluded.  We talked a bit more.  I certainly beamed.  He signed
the set of books The Masks of God and I went happily on my way.  It
was a totally satisfying experience.

I have to dig around my mind to remember the Krishnamurti lectures as
it was a long time ago also, about 1981.  He said, “Truth is a pathless
land and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any
religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned,
unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor
should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along
any particular path.”  I only have a sense of those experiences at the
moment.  He struck me as being a realist who learned to attend to his
thoughts and to work at eliminating self-deception.  I was drawn to his
view of meditation as seeing, watching, listening it never starts and
never ends.  I haven’t learned his lessons as well as I should. 

Your satiric mythology is more a personal point of view and a kind of
dreadful vision at that.  It may express some truthful commentary
about the nature of the politics of the world as it has been and has
affected you, but it is not one that ought to drive a pessimism. What
you describe is the world of change.  Real pessimism is one’s own
relation to their finite existence.  A study of human nature throughout
history would reveal why the collective behaves in the decayed way it
does today.  I think, though, you already know this.

Viewing people as individuals or as a collective leads to different
conclusions about human nature, I think.  It is often a fallacy to
characterize either in narrow ways.  I would agree that people as a
collective prefer to be led because as individuals this is the easy way to
get through life.  The world as they find it, as we find it, is really a
hostile environment and surviving is a struggle.  It is a pity because it is
their training or lack of it that lets them grow to be so constantly
wrapped up in daily life.  They are not equipped to be the full human
they were born into. Or conditions into which they individually find
themselves are so harsh they have to be more concerned with survival
than not.  Such as those people in the bloody Middle East, or the
bloody streets of Mexico City.  It would not be an elitism to call them
as part of the ‘rubble’ of people.  If anyone raises their head above it is
always amazing.  I know of no intellectual Middle Eastern writer or one
from Mexico City.  I don’t know what that means or if my experience
has just been very limited.  Who comes to mind are Jorge Luis Borges
(Argentinian who suffered disillusionment and became disgusted with
politics) and Salman Rushdie (India, who highly criticizes Islam also
suffered disgust with society).  It seems to be The Condition of the
world, disgust with politics.

To do the subject justice would take more time than I can give at the
moment.  And I cannot tell if you are really interested or just have a
passing interest to continue.  The subject is not a simple matter, but I
would be willing to indulge in further talk.  There are other forums that
provide more immediate excitement, I’m sure.

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By Shenonymous, March 17, 2010 at 1:05 pm Link to this comment

Hello, garth.  I am not ignoring your last two posts.  They are both
remarkable.  Preoccupied with a couple of projects at home and another
forum, I now have to go off to do some much needed errands and
won’t be back until late this evening.  I wish to respond more properly. 
I had a wonderful experience with Joseph Campbell, but I only attended
some open air gatherings with Krishnamurti in Ojai, California.  I did
have an amazing encounter with Buckminster Fuller that is recountable
as well.  It seems you are experiencing some existential moments, I
might be wrong. If so, though, I think reflective people do that, often. 
It takes a lot of energy to keep it from falling into a habitual
melancholia.  It almost reminds me of Raskolnikov, which is maybe
exaggerated and can pull one into an undercurrent that is hard to
disengage.  Maybe Ivan of the Brothers… is a more suitable image.  The
feeling of despair has almost an addictive quality.  I think Night-Gaunt
has expressed similar feelings, but perhaps, again I don’t recall
correctly.  I admit to it but I’ve willed myself to be more optimistic even
though I occasionally feel a futility.  Like Night-Gaunt I am involved,
one could say passionately, with the arts and philosophy, creating my
own best view of the universe and my place in it.

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By garth, March 17, 2010 at 11:32 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous, you say,
“Most behavior is learned except those three that better guarantee a persistence of the species, securing food, sex for procreation, and self-protective measure from life-threatening dangers.”

I remember learning that suckling was the only human insinct.  All the rest are learned.
But I also can remember my first sexual experiences and I think that I was amazed as much as the girl was. It all came naturally. So I can agree with your second point as well. 
The third point seems obvious, too.  But holding life itself so dear to one’s heart, for most part, seems to beg the question. Is this all there is?
And I think therein lies the rub.
In most Indian tribes as it has turned out in the translations of their tribal histories, the name that is to be translated “human” is the name of the tribe itself. And this can be extended to interpretations of the Bible.

The Navajo recently objected to the name of one of their tribe who was killed in Afghanistan being reported in the news becuase it was against tribal culture—You do not mention the names of the dead.

I think that this human existence can, at times, nay many times, feel very flat.  The motivating idea that there is something else, another dimensional coordinate, that can only be experienced metaphysically seems to me that it would be very enticing.

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By garth, March 17, 2010 at 10:03 am Link to this comment

First off, Shenonymous, I would appreciate it for my own interest’s sake if you expanded on your meeting with Joseph Campbell and your encounter (for lack of a better word) with Krishnamurti. 

As Campbell said in one of his interviews on PBS with Bill Moyers about 20 years ago that this age might require a new mythology.  And you said, “I would be interested in any reasonable argument that offers a different account.”

Well here it is:

In the beginning God created Samuel Bush.  He begat Prescott Bush, who, under the guidance of international monetary powers, helped to fight the forces of Communism by helping to enable Adolph Hitler come to power. 
Presoctt begat George H.W. Bush who proved to be a lame right-wing undercover babbler (a CIA operative who might’ve brought down Nixon (he was Deep Throat) and might’ve been involved in the assassination of JFK.  He appears in a picture in front of the Texas Book Depositoy on November 22, 1963, for those who remember dats.)  G. H. W. was not considered very bright by Prescott possibly because suffered from some disease of the nervous system.  And George H.W. begat George W.

With the power of George W.‘s appointment to the Presidency and his stealing of the next election, George W. (et al) gave us the world we know today.  George became untouchable (in the good sense).  He was impervious to all mortal challenges and fought the darkness.

Barack (Cain) slew Abby (Hillary) and continues to this day to be a reflection George W. Bush.  He continues to fight the darkness even though he is one of the darker hue, which all the more demonstrates the Americans are superior in all aspects of Life.

Protestantism has become Ignorantism.  Catholicism has become Diddlerism.  The hope of a Jewish state, Israel, has become just another power player in the struggle for a winced at idea of Truth, Justice, and greatest of all: the tie between America and the City of London finaciers.

“Now, this is to all the lonely people, thinking that life has passed them by…..”


I think we’re in Genesis III. 

I heard Thom Hartmann interview a right-wing home schooler.  It became clear that these people don’t care what you think and what you know.  They are for invoking chaotic thinking.

Now, I believe, that most people like to be lied to, but I also believe there is a limit.  The Truth, even if it is as common as gravity will one day walk up and smack ‘em right in the face.

What happened to the ad, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”  Well the parallel for Democrats to Republicans should be, “Countrymen don’t let countrymen act crazy.”

And it was anno Georgio, 10.

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By Shenonymous, March 17, 2010 at 8:34 am Link to this comment

All evolutionary.  Meaning a selection among survivors.  Most behavior
is learned except those three that better guarantee a persistence of the
species, securing food, sex for procreation, and self-protective
measure from life-threatening dangers.  Therefore, it is true that
behavior has high command to buttress one’s survival and as collective
behaviors move the entire species, for the species’ survival.  To say
‘nothing more’ is self-evident. 

I argue that belief in invisible spirits is a natural inclination arising out
of natural curiosity.  That when humans in their primitive state began
to question their own existence as well as the existence of the entire
universe, that motivated the physical evolution of human
consciousness.  Originally that consciousness developed in response to
supplying the life supporting conditions that would further the species
and wondering about the world beyond that is a by-product.  Thinking
is not bounded and when time is afforded where survival is not an
immediate issue, idle time, wondering about one’s own existence, now
that is natural.  The wondering is what is natural, not the conclusion of
supernatural involvement. 

The fact that a variety of forms of beliefs in supernatural causes and
influences have appeared (as religions), which at last count numbers 22
major discrete, and 12 not listed as major.  These lists do not note the
uncountable schisms within each.  When answers are not
forthwithcoming about enormous ideas such as existence or the
universe, storytelling evolved.  It is hypothesized by anthropologists
that storytelling is the first art, and it seems, logically, that is right. 
Once speech and language developed among humans, it seems a
natural behavior to fantasize about existence.  What is most interesting
is that the research (from the Brittanica) shows 16% of the world’s
humans are non-religious that includes atheist, agnostic, secular
humanistic and those who answer none.  The count is 1.1 billion.  An
astounding number given there are about 6 billion people in the whole
world.  But half of that group say they believe in a supernatural being,
are theistic, but are non-religious, not a member of any religion.  The
New World Encyclopedia also offers a concise but thorough description
of religion and its various traditions.  Paganism 6.3% of the world
population, Neopaganism (.02%), and all ethnoreligionism or tribal
religion, counts for 4%. are all those religions not included in the
Abrahamic traditions or the religions of India. 

Thinking about paganism which predates the Abrahamic religions and
the Vedic tradition of India, creative answers would naturally offer
comforting support to existential questions of which the collective
knowledge had not yet accumulated to provide.  Since all human minds
that are healthy, work pretty much the same, having and using similar
logical structures, it is not surprising that similar conclusions
developed world-wide as plausible storytelling from puzzling about the
universe and one’s place in it but based on scant information available. 
Unless one brings preconceived notions of supernaturalism to an
investigation, it seems to be impossible not to see that religious belief
systems evolved out of natural human curiosity. 

I would be interested in any reasonable argument that offers a different
account.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 16, 2010 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment

I was just making an observation. To me it is all evolutionary. When and if it becomes detrimental to believe in invisible spirits that rule all space-time then those of us who have no such natural inclinations make become the dominate inter-species variation. Behavior is an important component of survival as much as any other adaption. Nothing more.

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By garth, March 15, 2010 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

Quote,
“There are exceptions, if breeding is a business, or if one is too poor to pay for the service which can be unaffordable.  I’ve paid as much as fifty dollars.

Breeding a type of cat is not what I am into, as far as I can tell so far, but we do offer reduced rates as low a $20 for the spaying, neutering of a cat.

$7500 of grants went to the spaying and neutering of cats who are living in housing project in South Boston.  The cat people got reduced rates. The problems of not neutering and especially spaying cats are numerically unbelievable.

But to get to your point of Cyborgs.  Here, yuou you,ve got me.  I don’t know what Cyborgs or cyberspace is all about.
Here we have Tom Edgar claims who claims be an 80 year old in Australia. Night-gaunt claims to be a loner with leanings toward acquring knowing here in USA, and you claim to be, well I’ll just leave it at that, you claim to be.  You are undefinable.

I am trying to be whatever drives me at the keyboard.

I guess, if the spirit for the new world is to get out of the way, then, here’s to the Cyborgs and CyberSpace. 

However, I think the meaning of the inkling of the difference betwwen th Boomers and the Millenials, or whatever they have been calledcan be revealed if you ever try to listen to their music.

It’s all for them.

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By Shenonymous, March 15, 2010 at 11:12 am Link to this comment

Not completely sure, garth, but I think you and I have may have
reached a disinclination to quarrel.  I will interpret it that way.  Your
CRM (cat rescue mission) is admirable.  I agree that irresponsible
people are the problem, not just for the population of cats, but for
nearly every problem humans face, save natural disasters.  I have
always had my pets neutered and believe, as you do, that they should
be.  There are exceptions, if breeding is a business, or if one is too
poor to pay for the service which can be unaffordable.  I’ve paid as
much as fifty dollars. Being too poor might say a person is not able to
afford a cat at all, but that is not the reality as strays are often adopted
by families, sometimes as pets but often as ratcatchers and feed the
cats whatever scraps they have.  Feral cats more or less have their own
form of birth control, not too pleasant to go into, but it seems the
males of the species kill off what is perceived to be competitor kittens. 
Or the cats simply die off because nature does not provide enough
food sources.  They do a service though in keeping the population of
food critters down.  When I lived in a rural area I used to see some of
these feral cats.  Sometimes the local animal control would catch them
but mostly not.  Since rabies could be carried by wild animals I never
got any closer than an observation.  All of my cats were indoor bound
and never had the opportunity to breed.  I lost my last and best cat just
recently.  He reached the age of 15 and had developed kidney disease. 

Thank you, I have checked out Ian Mitroff.  As a specialist in crisis
management and prevention, I was surprised to learn he was a regular
consultant to Fortune 500 companies.  It seem his advice has not been
taken as those companies are part of the causes of much of the
financial disaster in this country.  Aren’t they?  I am an admirer of
systematic thinking and find I fall into that kind of thought
automatically when faced with solving problems. 

Thinking about his consideration about cyborgs, I don’t think humans
will really have a problem knowing what is human when the “age of
cyborgs” reaches its bloom.  Physically impaired humans already are
being merged with cybernetics with replaced limbs that work.  The
question for me is if a cyborg can be outfitted with a mind and if so,
what kind of mind would it be?  Would it simply be a cloned mind of its
programmer? 

I like Mitroff’s philosophy that we ought to make the world a more
ethical place than the way we find it.  His pragmatism that is based in a
belief in a supernatural being is not something I would adopt, but I do
believe there is excellent reason for a pragmatic approach to life that is
efficient, utilitarian, and essentially fair.  Reading the explanation of his
pragmatism on his website, it seems that the two choices his Creator
gave to William James is short.  If that Creator gave the third choice
(rounding out the systematic approach) of a Universe completely devoid
of evil without being devoid of choice and actions, that would make a
difference in the degree of excellence achieved, is the one I would
choose.

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By garth, March 15, 2010 at 9:03 am Link to this comment

Shemnonymous,

I quote, “I am ready for evidence to be produced, and wish there was something to blame for the ugliness in the world..”

I went on a cat rescue mission this week for 19 cats.  The females in the group if left unattended would produce thousands of unwanted kittens in their lifetimes.  In my visit to one household, it struck me like a punch in in the stomache that cats are not the problem, we are—the people.

Irresponsible people are the problem.  And for the most part they are ignorant of what they are doing, and as I confess I was one of them in the past, one who gave in to his emotions but didn’t take any account to the fact that these are fur-people as one volunteer calls them, and they are living, sentient, unique beings.
I have come to the realization that a talk about the existence of “a” God or God is futile.  I am not ready to say that it leads no where, but I will say it does draw out the fissures in logical argument, critical thinking.  (Check out Ian Mitroff.)

My latest idea, as a result of Night-Gaunt’s polemic, is that the minute you impose language onto the proof of the existence of a superanatural existence, you run into trouble.


Spay or neuter your pets.  The Catholic-Protestant Christian Hegemony would like you to remain ignorant.
They love the Mother-child image.

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By Shenonymous, March 15, 2010 at 3:21 am Link to this comment

There were a few days that TD went under repair.  A few of us were
unnerved enough to write to the TD webmaster.  They were
exceptionally polite and returned emails and explain their upgrading
and apologies.  It does seems to be much faster in operation. 

When I see atheism capitalized I think of a group who wish to become a
group, a collective.  I get much email from such organizations as the
Brights, Unitarians, and other freethinkers.  They seem nice enough and
always respectful.  I tend to be a loner and feel the essence of atheism
is countercollective.  I don’t join groups.  I seem to have an allergic
reaction to groups as I hate groupthink.  It tends, I think, to increase
yeasaying and interfere with thinking clearly.  Making atheist friends
who are independents, however, is not a problem and I have a few who
are intelligent and productive human beings, and we have mutual
respect and satisfying conversations without being intrusive.  Many
people are very lonely and seek extended company.  I don’t fault them
at all.  It is their need.  I just don’t happen to need a group surrounding
my beliefs. 

I think atheists do have beliefs.  Humans cannot operate without
beliefs. They, atheists, we, believe there is no reliable or justifiable
evidence that a supernatural being exists and interacts in human life,
or any life for that matter, that is responsible for the ‘creation’ of the
universe.  I am ready for evidence to be produced, and wish there was
something to blame for the ugliness in the world.  But for me there
isn’t any such entity.  ‘Knowing’ there is nothing to blame except
human action, my action, gives a firm ground to be a moral person.  To
be a moral person is something one has to conclude freely as the best
possible life and then it is real morality without duress.  This is a belief
I have and it guides my life.

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By Tom Edgar, March 14, 2010 at 9:53 pm Link to this comment

N G Are you really atheistic?  It isn’t spelled with a higher case A mid sentence.  Do you really think having an absence of belief in something that doesn’t have corroborative and supporting evidence a sign of mental instability?

I will admit we non believers are in the minority,  probably destined to stay there in spite of so many joining the religion free. I prefer to think we, as an ill defined group, are at the end of that old “Saw” You can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Whilst believers are in the group. “Most of the people can be fooled most of the time.” Hope I’ve recalled that correctly

That religion, in all its forms and sects, continues is so well epitomised by the words attributed to St Thomas Aquinas.  Give me the child, and I will give you the man. Religion persists because of indoctrination from the cradle.  If you are told that 2 + 2 = 4 it stays with you.  Many people around the world never had the concept of numbers and all the tables were as of nothing so they didn’t understand the equation until others taught them.  Arabians advanced mathematics by introducing the O to the West, who until then had no idea how to use it. Now, computer wise, we are back to 1+1+1+1+1.

So do I consider religionists to be deficient mentally? Not as a generalisation,except in the area of religious belief, when there is no evidence to support belief in a God(s) it can be the only conclusion.

Should any theist be capable of producing supportive evidence then, I hasten to add, if I rejected that verifiable evidence I would have to admit to being deficient in intellect.

Until that day, in the area of religion, I feel I am vindicated. .

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By Night-Gaunt, March 14, 2010 at 8:55 pm Link to this comment

It matters only to ourselves.

Did everyone else lose the comments in all forums for several days? It came back for me during the weekend.

For those who found their Atheism justified by those who claim psychological reasons for religion. But as some kind of dementia or minimal psychosis are wrong. Why else would it rule the world? If it is a successful strategy for survival then it isn’t an illness. Wouldn’t it be logical to deduce that Atheists like myself are the ones with the congenital mental deficiency? It is the behavioral part of evolution at work is the only conclusion I can reach.

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By Tom Edgar, March 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm Link to this comment

That last posting somehow lost the final paragraphs
and for the life of me I can’t recall what they were about. I know it was something about never being in a state of humility. and accolades for my wife who had more knowledge than most Academics, without a degree to her name. Guess it doesn’t matter anyway.

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By Tom Edgar, March 5, 2010 at 3:04 pm Link to this comment

Academic qualifications?

Some years ago, when for two years I lectured at a Tertiary Establishment, to diploma standard, I was both part time, and temporary, the regular part time lecturer had been taken by U.N. to South America for two years.

The two other full timers one of twenty four years experience, and the other a friend and highly qualified medical photographer, had been lecturing as the 2IC for ten years.  We were all told that we would have to go to the Teacher’s college to gain a Teaching Diploma or be reduced in status, or even dismissed, the Principal would be replaced by a student I had just graduated who was being, even then, placed on Staff. I would add that none of us had the paper qualifications we taught.

Today the full and part time Staff number eleven to our three, teaching annually the same amount of students.

My daughter a BSc in environmental studies gained her degree after returning to High School at age 21, thereafter to University. She served ten years, becoming the State’s Senior Officer for endangered species. As she was a Graduate she, at all levels,  earned much more than other workers doing the same job.

Rosie’s lifelong passion however is painting.  Resigning her position she pursues her art dream having had several successful showings.  However she is pragmatic too, and this year has entered University to gain a B A in fine Arts.  Said to me. “My C V will look impressive and to the @#$#$^ the only thing that really counts is. Are you qualified? It doesn’t matter that Raphael and Constable. weren’t.”

Is this apropos of nothing at all?  In defence I could say No, but so often I wish that my early life
included education in the classics and Latin instead of gleaning, what little knowledge I have, from others.
I have learned from the uneducated much more than from academics. But the academics, to my mind, when coupled with intelligence,(Both are not necessarily synonymous)can impart learning so much easier.

Karen Armstrong’s latest book and maybe I shouldn’t comment at this stage,  I am only into the early chapters. Seems to me to epitomise that of Academia that counters any of my favourable leanings towards book learning. Yes it is well written, as are all her books. So far, and it really is early days,  it is, forgive the vernacular,about Crap. I’m sorry my age is catching up fast, I am becoming a little
intolerant, must guard against it.

Night Gaunt and Garth et al.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 5, 2010 at 12:08 pm Link to this comment

Failure is only bad if we don’t learn from them to do better and eventually succeed. I find humility gets easier the longer I practice it.

Yes and interesting link. The problem of recursion appears in the God created everything scenario. Because once we reach the point to where we ask the inevitable, logical question, “what created god” we are told no one. (Otherwise it goes infinitely back with one god creating another in series.)  Then the question is well if god isn’t created then why can’t the universe be so too? Take out the extra unneeded step. Then it becomes the theater of the absurd & it dead ends in a conflagration of impossibles in tangled knots. Of god can do anything and only a creator can create etc. When there are no limits then it is useless to discuss it further. Logic vs illogic. Fun but ultimately of no consequence in the greater scheme of things.

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By garth, March 5, 2010 at 11:50 am Link to this comment

I didn’t know we were at war. I apologize.  I think I’ll need to use a little self-control and defer. 

Aum, I stand corrected. I sometimes type phonetically.

I second what Tom edgar said about you. 

Sometimes, I don’t listen to my more sane internal monologues and revert to being a bomb-tosser. 

I checked out your link.  Very interesting.

Humility is a tough pill to swallow.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 5, 2010 at 11:18 am Link to this comment

I do it all the time. On a forum concerning Ayn Rand I got into it again with another regular on the forum who blames Nietzsche for the Nazis—literally. So we go back and forth. I have to actually do some research with him i.e. SnoopDopeyDog who has much invective and insults laced with his vitriol and narrow, self serving research. (He is active at Amazon I just found out.) No matter what he does or says I am better than him in how I respond. No petty insults etc. And will remain so for someone must do it.

After a point I stop when I see I covered what I could and for the others to read. I don’t expect him to change his mind or tune. It just isn’t within how the human mind tends to work. So I do it for myself and all others who read it as anyone should and would. I can’t expect most everyone to be like me, or agree with me either. But I can promote the better aspects of me as I see it. All while making sure I am not boasting nor posturing to others. A difficult task to be sure. However I refuse to shut up or talk down to people as I want them to never to talk down to me. Otherwise a-literacy will remain one of our most pressing problems in this country. Without pushing limits we will go no where.

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By Shenonymous, March 5, 2010 at 12:45 am Link to this comment

Tom Edgars, your long experience, professionalism, and keen observation of
life has given you an enviable place within any society, this forum in particular. 
I blush at your words about me.  I yam what I yam, scrappy, scrawny, and
feisty….and and can’t help that I’m educated up the wazoo.  But there are a lot
of others on these forums who are too.  But that fact does not diminish my
accomplishments.  Making sense is my profession and avocation.  I’ve been at
this pursuit of excellence in thinking and writing racket for a long time.  I
taught public school for about a decade to put myself through school, worked
through all the degrees one ought to get and then some and secured a great
job that has been long and satisfying.  There are quite a few people I respect
and love, particularly my kids.  But some people don’t like my centrist attitude,
mainly because they can’t figure out which side of the fence I’m on and they
just want to add one more warm or cold body to their fold.  I’m not on any side
except the one that helps real people not be a vehicle to fulfill ideologies.  I
think of myself as a liberal but I am not enamored with partisan politics as I
think it is detrimental to and sours the soul (not one of those ghostly souls, I
mean the mind, which is kind of ghostly in a way).  I am outspoken and they
think I have a conceit, that I don’t really have, for to know me is to love me, but
I do seem to rub a few the wrong way.  So be it and amen.  Too many years on
this good earth to care.

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By Tom Edgar, March 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm Link to this comment

Is an autodidact a lousy pupil with an awful teacher?
Or a brilliant student, never bored, with a
tutor that is adaptable?  I guess it really isn’t all that much different to the class room situation, could be either.

A teacher, I told my students can only do several things. Show you what others have found to be true.
Then guide you in the direction of how to learn.
The inquiring mind needs no teacher, a good book will do.  But a good Teacher can both ease and speed the learning.

Now whilst I have taught at secondary, and lectured at tertiary in my own professional area, I have no qualifications.  Sometimes I was imparting book learning that would have absolutely no relevance to their future work, and often enough, the subject matter I had only read up in the twenty fours before the lecture.

I honestly think it a waste of my time reading much of those verbal clashes just lately.  Whilst I remain literally transfixed by She’s, sometimes lofty, and erudite academic responses, followed by plunges deep into the bawdy Bronx.  Fascinating.  I learn so much. I’m not sure what it is I,m learning, or if it is even knowledge worth having.  But, as they say. Any learning is no load to carry.

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By Shenonymous, March 4, 2010 at 3:30 pm Link to this comment

Some people like Ooom, others like Aum. 

Actually the Asian world is much more fit to deal with technology, whereas
Westerners are better at the analytical.  One is holistic (the Eastern mind) the
other extols the individual (the West).  There are categorical mistakes regarding
belief systems that have caused havoc in our education system and then in
religion and politics as well because of this misconception.  Of course to round
out one’s ability to think with precision, learning to make better technological
distinctions by the American or European mind on the one hand, and the ability
to make intricate analyses by the Chinese or Asian mind on the other would
give both the best in terms of synoptic insights.

The adult autodidact can discipline him/herself to stay with a course of study
with results of excellence, in the Greek sense of arete.  There many brilliant
autodidactics throughout history, Leonardo, William Blake, Frank Zappa who
said (with whom I disagree but he had a stunning mind that I can still
appreciate) “Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our
mediocre educational system.” He too enjoyed being the crank. Others include
the incredible composer Arnold Schoenberg, as well as one of my contemporary
favorites Danny Elfman.  Christopher Hughes, winner of Mastermind,
International Mastermind, Brain of Britain, Geodesic Dome Builder, Buckminster
Fuller.  And David Bowie, actor, etc., Ernest Hemingway, Michael Faraday,
chemist and physicist and Joseph Campbell, just to name a few.  Oh, not to
forget, Socrates, Descartes, Thomas Edison, Malcolm X, and yes, ugh, Rush
Limbaugh (you have to go where the path takes you, oh well). To offset
Limbaugh I will add Eric Hoffer, the original observer of the True Believers in
the world, both past and present.  The list is much longer, but these give a
good idea whose company you keep Night-Gaunt.  Bravo.  I hope you do have
a satisfying job.  Some company would be better for it if you did.  You say, “I
think we can all get along if the whole God thing is put in the background…” 
I’d would just tweak it a bit and say “get along better.”

If you were going to be a teacher, garth, (I teach teachers), you would have
needed to learn to go the extra mile.  Mathematical recursion is one use of the
concept but there is linguistic recursion.  I had mentioned the classic
mathematical usage in an earlier post, but we are talking about how recursion
is used in language.  That must have escaped your notice.  I see you are not
into a truce, garth.  Perhaps you cannot transcend the business of your mouth. 
Okay.  You can dance in the corner by yourself since you obviously do not
understand the word ‘grace.’  It has become boring to keep verbally sparring
with you and to keep taking your childish insults.  But to put some closure on
the concept of recursion, at least on my side, you might take a look at
http://www.ling.upenn.edu/~dringe/CorpStuff/Thesis/IntroSyntax.html#detour

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By garth, March 4, 2010 at 10:45 am Link to this comment

The real wonder about recursive language is that it has led us to where we are now.

If you Google recursive language, you’ll see a series if mathematical proofs where the domain is logically defined and the result is within the doamin. 

However, what the casual observer misses, is the logical existence of implication and inference.  Within the domain lurks a question for the scientifically curious, to which the result would land outside the defined domain.

For example, take the natural nunmbers, 0, 1, 2, etc.  One can apply the basic arithmetic laws of multlipication, addition, subtaction and arrive at a member of the domain.
However, to jump ahead in mathematical thought to squares and square roots,skipping division, they came upon the problem of, “What is the square root of two?”

This was not answered until the development of logarithms.
Pure though, which I am sure, you find absolutley foreign in this day in age without wikipedia. 

Read then think is my motto.

Sheepo, I have no reason to feel appeased by your claim that you are working and your insinuation that I am not.  This is work.  And, in a manner,  speaking to your Yob. My Sicilian brother-in-law belittled my first choice of careers, teacher, by declaring that I have the answer book.

I am glad, however, that Night-Gaunt came to the rescue to restart his ‘dialogue’ with “Ooom”.

Slip-shod is what I can call it.  “Humphrey Bumphrey” or what’s-his-name of Columbia recently touted his book on Amnerican Unversities.  To paraphrase the book, U.S. universities are the greatest, not because of their under-graduate instruction but because of their sciencific-technological break-throughs, such as the laser, the Joy Buzzer and the Dribble Glass.

It’s no wonder that most of the faculty of American Universities have been overwhelmed in numbers by scholars from the outside.  We no longer provide the classrooms atmospheres where studizens can question, As Sheepo shows, you mouth off, and you go along to get along.

Watch your wikipedia!

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By Night-Gaunt, March 4, 2010 at 10:18 am Link to this comment

One of the nice things about being self taught is that you go at your own speed with what you can handle. (But always with the option to push the levels of difficulty.) But at the same time no sheepskin on the wall and it is harder to use it to get a job. I was never good at it myself and that was when things were far better in 2002!

I think we can all get along if the whole God thing is put in the background an becomes personal again instead of global in your face that we are seeing growing now. Even a fundamentalist can keep it to themselves and live by its strict tenants. [There are dilemmas of the forced imposition upon others that many fundamentalists (of any kind) seem to demand to do. That can’t be allowed to happen.]

Civility in the era of fomenting talk show howlers is hard. Where the mistaken idea that if you are boorish that is a sign of honesty. I would say yes it is but not a good kind. One better left unsaid in a land of politeness.

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By Shenonymous, March 4, 2010 at 5:00 am Link to this comment

Good morning garth, your breath might not be fresh, but it isn’t as bad as it
has been.  There is a new mouthwash on the market called Attitude.  I’m so
bloated with myself that I levitate.  Snide is my trump suit and is something I
re-learned (from my adolescence) to be right here on TD from those too
inadequate, or conditioned, to make relevant comments, who, instead, resorts
to name-calling.  Once a street fighter always a street fighter no matter how
enlightened one becomes.  It is genetic.  It is emotional.  I truly am sorry you
are out of work.  It seems to be the lament of too many Americans.  All we are
left with is hope.  I use the word ‘seem’ when things are not absolute, as little
is, but ‘appear’ to be a certain way.  TD had another fine mind who was out of
work for four months but he did find a job and all of us were joyful (so was his
wife!).  One can also get an education from that famous school everyone goes
to (hard knocks). 

I am turning the page.  Without “seeming” to be, you are tenacious and do
show signs of courage.  A bit pitbullish, but pit bulls can be charming if found
in positive channels.  Strunk and White are also good sources for good writing
habits.  I don’t think there are shortcuts to “good” thinking.

Night-Gaunt, I never heard of cheese by-the-way (I know, I know…a small and
lame joke… it is an early Thursday morning).  For an autodidact (impressively,
you have admitted that a few times), you show an excellent grasp, of a lot of
things.  My mom, unable to go to school, was autodidactic.  She saved her
money, bought a set and read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica and the 11th
Edition of Webster’s Dictionary.  Can you imagine?  These are old editions but I
still have them.  That kind of passion is infectious.  She put me through the
schooling she missed.  Then when she couldn’t anymore, I took over.  It never
ends.  And like goat’s milk blue cheese, reading and education can cure many
things.  Unlike penicillin, whether self taught or formal, education will never
find its time is past.  If you have not read it already, as I imagine you are as
voracious a reader as I am and I eat books as if they are going out of style (an
affliction I caught from my Ma), and I find pleasure in bibliographies which
could be considered weird, you might take a look at Six Impossible Things
Before Breakfast, Wolpert.  Among a few things, he cogitates about the topic of
this forum.  It is my view that the notion of god is in transition and our culture
is in the middle of it.  Being in the middle of a change is often a very
uncomfortable, and could be a painful position as understanding life is on terra
infirma.  Did you happen to catch Neil deGrasse Tyson and the NOVA about
Pluto?  Finding water on the moon?  I think you mentioned you were fascinated
by SETI once.  Humans are at the precipice of becoming space travelers just like
StarTrekkers.  What a person believes is a function of what they come to know. 
Because I am ignorant, I don’t believe space travel will answer, definitively, the
questions of how and why of the universe.  “Seems” like within the space of our
lives, which is by comparison very short, humans must come to their own
conclusion from the amount of knowledge they can absorb. 

Good day all, I’m off to offer more knowledge to others, and myself.  And to you
garth, I offer… a truce.

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By Night-Gaunt, March 3, 2010 at 10:24 pm Link to this comment

Penicillin comes from a fungus that grows on the cheese by-the-way. Discovered in 1920 it saved millions of lives and its time is past.

“I think your writing style revolves mainly around your prickly somewhat inflammable nature that cloaks itself in pseudo-learning that is conducted in most classrooms.  That reveals a foundation built upon a thin sheet of ice.”-Garth

You must understand that is a declarative sentence without foundation. You have nothing to back up your statement which I see constantly on such forums. In order to show you have some cerebration behind it, pony up the data—-please?

I can be described as an autodidact an claim no college credentials unlike Shenonymous. But if you really are willing to take her on then do so. Back up what you say you see. Don’t react in such a negative way unless it is a defensive reaction against some one who knows more than you do. Then it becomes an ego thing. No one will condemn you unless you do it first. Please think. The more you do the easier it becomes and the deeper you will go. I know it happens to me. I’m nothing special I just have a monomaniacal need to study. [Exacerbated by my LSD experience in 1985. It can enhance things too.]

This kind of behavior I had in school though was unaware of it at that time. I have never had an interest in religion beyond anthropological and mythological means. Still do. It is powerful and the majority of humans have a genetic predisposition to it. A few don’t, like myself and there are those that waver between the two. Any thoughts on that Garth? This is part of the subject matter here.

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By garth, March 3, 2010 at 1:58 pm Link to this comment

By Shenonymous, March 3 at 5:02 pm #

Gargling Garth - Academics don’t work every day but when they do, usually 3 days out of 5, they work long and hard all day for 120 students a day, and the other two days they grade student work, prepare new lectures, attend faculty meetings, work on presentations at state and national meetings, work on publishing, such is the life.  We work our bare asses off, garth, how about you? 
You seem to spend an interminable amount of time on Truthdig and on the character of asses.  You also appear to be one of the non-employed Truthdippers.  One of the politico scavengers?  5 Yups.  Among other subjects, I teach critical thinking which, based on your performance on this forum, you
would not get through.  I’d have to zero you out.  Today is IRS day, tax prep. 
So I’m squeezing you in between the matos and the flowers, oh and a couple of other forums. 
———————————————————————-
Yes, gargling was a practice I learned in hygiene.  Breath is one of those tell tale signs of a considerate teacher.  That is , one who actually realized that others make judgements about you rather than you always making judgements of them.

I am sure you critical thinking emphaizes the critical or should I say name-calling aspect in place of the thinking.

Maybe a little less time on the Truthdig and more time preparation might lead to a more successful school year.

If you are as dogmatic and close-minded in your class, I could probably fake it to make it, but in the end I’d probably be short changed.

Read Elmore Leonard’s “Ten Rules of Writing.”  Unless you can write in the dialect, skip it entirely.

Your strong suit is snision (snide remarks) and bloation (one who is full of oneself).

I am not unemployed.  I am between jobs.  You know, Import/export, that sort of thing.

Warn your students.  Or plcace an asterisk next to your class listing.  I am sure remedial education might be in your future.

I am not sure what you meant by the following:

“You seem to spend an interminable amount of time on Truthdig and on the character of asses.”

I think that many things “seem” to you.


Another: “One of the politico scavengers?”

I’d have to zero you out.  Today is IRS day, tax prep.
———————————————————————
Don’t forget the contractor who tried to cheat the IRS out of their percent of his income who said, “Did you ever hear of Live and let live?”  To which they replied, “Did you ever hear of Danbury, Connecticut?

You’re starting to bore me.


And that’s a good thing.

TTFN

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By Shenonymous, March 3, 2010 at 1:02 pm Link to this comment

Gargling Garth - Academics don’t work every day but when they do, usually 3
days out of 5, they work long and hard all day for 120 students a day, and the
other two days they grade student work, prepare new lectures, attend faculty
meetings, work on presentations at state and national meetings, work on
publishing, such is the life.  We work our bare asses off, garth, how about you? 
You seem to spend an interminable amount of time on Truthdig and on the
character of asses.  You also appear to be one of the non-employed
Truthdippers.  One of the politico scavengers?  5 Yups.  Among other subjects,
I teach critical thinking which, based on your performance on this forum, you
would not get through.  I’d have to zero you out.  Today is IRS day, tax prep. 
So I’m squeezing you in between the matos and the flowers, oh and a couple of
other forums. 

Your Spanish ?????  Hokey doaky, and giggles.  Spics and dagos got along fine
in my home town.  Why some of mah bffs were Spics (they still are).  We even
had a Spic Catholic Church in Spanish Town.  Weeze didn’t segregate.  They ate
spaghetti and we ate tamales.  Well Italians wanted to phase into American
society and da granparents no no allow speaka Eyetalian inna da house.  It has
got to be my lunchtime.

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By garth, March 3, 2010 at 12:48 pm Link to this comment

Shenonymous,
Please excuse my rhyme in Spansih in answer to your old Italian proverb.  Somewhere in my distant memory, a voice told me that Italians do not like be answere in the Spanish language, or was it vice versa?
At any rate, having grown up in a section of the city called “Guinea Gulch” which was under the influence of the Irish Catholic Church, the mob members in Revere and the North End of Boston, the only phrase I recall is, “El capo di tutti capi.” Italian was not encouraged and it died out.
The Spanisha speakin’ “spics,” as they were called, came in the mid-1960s and early-1970s.

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By garth, March 3, 2010 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

Too Soon.  Your response, it too soon.  As my Southern Grandma used to say, “I need to lie down.”
You must be free today. No?

Thanks for pointing the translation out to me. You’re right I missed it.  I went right to the Eyetralian. However, I doubt that is applicable.  I think you’ve got a hair accross you Arse and you seem to unable to get to it.
I would’ve loved to have taken a class in whatever you teach.  With time on my hands, your pontification and your ability in perfusion, (the cross between the melding persuasion and delusion.) might enable me gradually approach the end.

And who can ask for more?

Pardon my lack of in languages, but all I can think of is:
entre los matos and entro los flores
hay une nidito de ruisenores.
Unos son grandes, grandes grandones.
otros son chicos chirriquirone.


Which are you?

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By Shenonymous, March 3, 2010 at 10:33 am Link to this comment

Laugh laugh garth, you continue to gargle. Gargling Garth, now there’s a kind
of funny alliteration to it.  Henceforth, you are knighted Gargling Garth!  You
may even call yourself that!  You might get a spell checker. 

If you had a working brain you would have seen that I told you exactly what the
Eyetalian saying was, exactly in the sentence right before the Aw, gee, gosh,
garth.  Do you have only one eye?  I realize it is really dark where your head
resides.  Wipe your ass and maybe you will see better.  So sad, those like you
who try to be sophisticated but just can’t get a grip.

Yup, five yups is mine!  I get lazy saying yup the required number of times.  I
do four yups sometimes and maybe one yup. I do nups too!  I yam a street
fighter coming from that crass Italian family.  We don’t have the word quit in
our vocabulary.  Every time we tried or even said the word, Gramma would hit
us with that wooden spoon.

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By garth, March 3, 2010 at 10:13 am Link to this comment

Quite a linguistic tic, “5 yups.”  Did you arrive at that yourself?

I tend to agree with Tom Edgar.  Get back to whatever it was you were talking about.  God or not-God, it’s all the same.
————————————————————————-
She:
You might be fmart, but so are many others. You might hold sway over this corner of this lttle corner of an up unitl now, unexplored area of electronic communication called a blog, but you do reveal something of who you really you are.
Writing for oneself is a plague.

You bring up an interesting point. Why do you bother?

With you, I like it.  I enjoy it.  It’s like an avocation.

To “thimk” that I am drawing you out with your quotations like, “coloro che passate
la maggior parte del tempo sopra, sono quello che gradite il meglio!”  This quote tells me that I might learn something about the Itralians, as the Irish in Medford, MA used to call them.


BTW what does that mean, you moron?  It is rude to use a quote and not explain to us guineas what an Italian quote means.

In answer to Night-Gaunt, with whom I feel a distant kinship: I like to attack from the point of Not-Knowing-Anything-About-the-Argument.  I just blast insults and acrimony.  Let the dust settle.
But you, Shenonymous….............
It’s up to you to ignore my posts.  If you have the grapes.

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By Shenonymous, March 3, 2010 at 9:36 am Link to this comment

garth, my name is rather long and perhaps your acumen cannot get past four
letter words very well.  We could do a Gertrude Steinism but it would be way
above your head (which I think is stuck in a very dark place).  You continue to
sound like a gargling zombie in a very dark place attempting to sound
intelligent.  Tain’t goingta happen, you simply call me names although you rose
a little bit out of the grave with your incrementally better assessment of Mailer. 
Now see here, notice I am not calling you names!  I am only saying what you
sound like.  For all I know you are one of those precocious apes that Jane
Goodall is working with or one of dear Koko’s pets. 

Yeah, I knows dem Sicilians, symbiotically and familially, my udder Gramma.
She ran around smacking every one with a wooden spoon.  Yeah, there is great
spumoni in Naples.  M’Granpap was Calabreze and they are considered the
crappiest of Eyetalianos, a worst temper and more hot-headed than even the
Sicilians.  My other Grandad was Greek and they are even worse than the
Eyetalians.  5 Yups,  I inherited all their bad genes.  Come to think of it garth,
you must really like me in spite of all your petty adolescence, you spend an
awful lot of time taking me to task.  If you haven’t heard it before, there is an
old adage, “those who you spend the most time on, is the one you like the
best!”  Aw, gee, gosh, garth.  Here it is in my best Eyetalian:  coloro che passate
la maggior parte del tempo sopra, sono quello che gradite il meglio!

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By garth, March 3, 2010 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

Shenonymous, (For some reason I have an aversion to addressing you by name.)

You should return to the academic setting as a student and do some post-doctoral work.  I pass this along, “If they can make penicillin out of rotten cheese, they can make something out of you.”

My sister married a Sicilian; by brother, a Neoplolitan.  One older brother observed that my sister was better off because the Sicilian will stab in the back, but the Neapolitan will stab and twist.”

I think your writing style revolves mainly around your prickly somewhat inflammable nature that cloaks itself in pseudo-learning that is conducted in most classrooms.  That reveals a foundation built upon a thin sheet of ice.

Re: Norman

You might be right about him, but I think he offerred those who read him something to think about.  His best work might have his first, “The Quick and the Dead”, and in later years, his writing seemed to deteriorate as the books grew larger, but I ask you, what have you written lately?
As far as “Why We Are In Vietnam’ he dwells on the technological mumble-jumble of the era.  Certainly, a young “Arcade girl” like yourself would find it passe and Boooooring.
But that was what it was like leading up to and during the War in Vietnam.  (I’d guess you have not experienced war.)
You might want to look it up, since you show an inordinate lack of knowledege of what is going on around you.

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By Shenonymous, March 2, 2010 at 4:13 pm Link to this comment

You are only good for name calling, garth.  You are still a freshman, aren’t you? 
5 Yups, I knew it.  You write like one and I bet you are a 50-year old
“professional” freshman, at least in your thinking.  I’ve known a few like you. 
You are a type.  Ah too bad.  Your questions are pitifully naive.  You need much
more college ejumakashun to even stand against the firing squad wall with me
as they raise their smart guns.  Ka pow!  Especially about the causes of war. 
(It’s plural by the way).  Don’t fool yourself in thinking you know more than I
do… about anything, it’d be a mistake.  Better men than you have made that
mistake.  Ahs don’t smoke, but I get the feeling you do.  FYI:  One of
m’grammas was born in Naples. And ahs do dream… about dreaming.  Did you
notice the recursive there, garth?  Ah guess somebody listens to me since I’ve
been at this teaching thing for a couple of decades, tenure and all that ya know
in a publish or perish environment. 

Norman Mailer was overratingly overrated.  He will get a mention in the
encyclopedia of literature for his odd writing style but that is about all.  By
morality standards, he doesn’t make the grade.  But I can easily see from your
writing style why he would appeal to you. 

Since you don’t seem like the cardigan kind, superglue a patch to your
forehead, garth, give up drugs, and redream old dreams.  Are you saying the
person doesn’t seep into their writings?  Yeah, they do.  Don’t you know that
every artwork an artist makes is a self-portrait?  But I was also critiquing his
style as well as his mental frame of reference.  He wasn’t admitted to the Beat
Generation enclave at first, he had to weasel himself in.  Which he did on the
back of his idol, Burroughs, who he could never really surpass, and some
pseudo intellectuals did find his style to their appetite. Pseudo nihilistic.  He
ingratiated himself and they let him in… like a pet. He never got with the karma
thing or the satori act of reaffirmation of doing good (you might take a hint and
apply it to yourself, garth).  But the real intellectuals did not like his work.  Well,
some do and some don’t in just about everything, so no biggie.  Except he
wasn’t a giant.

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By Tom Edgar, March 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm Link to this comment

The conversation is, once again, deteriorating into personal invective.  This is always because no constructive argument is capable of being made.

I tried to see where the justification for reference to knowledge of war could be made but have put this down to the American obsession that war and violence are the deciding factor for all differences either national or domestic.

As for that preceding smug Mailer’s “Why are we in Vietnam.” It should have been What is our excuse for invading a foreign country yet again.”  Seems to have a continuing recurrent theme. Older men sending gullible young ones to do what they are too frightened to do themselves.

I have nothing against Pacifists who have never been to war, nor for those who actually have. I despise those who haven’t been involved in armed conflict, and even more those who have,who then gleefully, with artificial patriotic and religious fervour, send others to their deaths.

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By garth, March 2, 2010 at 10:32 am Link to this comment

I probably know more about the cause of war than you do.  You weren’t eligible, or were you?

You’ve demonstrated that intellectual blather can gain a certain level of support, epecially among your students both here and in your supposed classroom.

Intellectual honesty is the catch phrase.  Does your work stand under the scrutiny that made American Universities the greatest in the world?  Or are you a fraud that slips quietly under the radar, by intellectual misdirection.  Do you stand for anything?

Who listens to you?

Norman Mailer, as other artists, have borne the weight of criticism from fakirs like you.  In freshman courses, we learn, at least I did, that we are studying the writings, not the person, of these geniuses.

So, sew on an elbow patch to your cardigan sweater, take up smoking a pipe, and dream on.  You are SHENONYMOUS!

When you walk in a dream but you know you’re not dreaming, Signorie,  Scusa me but you see back in old Napoli, it’s Amore.

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By Shenonymous, March 1, 2010 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment

Nobody really expected you to get what the recursion conversation was
about, garth.  As for my, what did you say?, lard encased feet, lol!  Very lame of
you.  Surely you can do better than that!  Besides, you missed the several
recursive statements made in my last post, lol again.  Do find the quote(s) you
claim I used from Wikipedia about recursive language.  You won’t find it.  I am
much more of a scholar than Wikipedia.  Wiki is for the average pedestrian
minded who can’t grind through real research.  Having unlimited post-
graduate and faculty access to all academic libraries and data bases, it is
amusing to read someone such as yourself treading water in the world of the
intellect, flailing around out of your league.  It just so happens recursion is a
topic of discussion in the syllabus I constructed for classes and I provide a
handy bibliography for students’ convenience.  lol again. 

Since your usual inchoate thinking doesn’t allow you to be too articulate, it is
unclear what it is about Mailer you are wanting me to “get through.”  Too bad
an egotistical Norman Mailer kind of activist isn’t alive today.  It might be that
he was the kind of intellectual the Democratic Party desperately needs now. 
Maybe in this political climate he would have been just another orator in the
wind.  His view that fascism is more natural than democracy may
psychologically speaking be right.  His quasi theory that we learn to be fascists
in infancy always being told what to do, how to live, what you may or may not
do develops in the individual as they grow into elitists who couldn’t care less
for the common population seems to hold some water where egalitarian
democracy can be considered to be an evolutionary learned behavior when
humanity realized that one cannot really survive very well alone without the
security of life within a society.

Mailer, however, had some mental problems in having feeble ‘committed’
relationships among others, having been committed to the famous Bellevue for
a few days after stabbing one of his six wives.  One wonders whether it wasn’t
because of his fascination with William Burroughs.  His spectre is also a
commentary that morality or its lack thereof is not dependent on one’s ability
to think and write mainstream books.  An interesting dichotomous
characteristic of humans.  That he was able to write a book (The Armies of the
Night) with a chapter such as Why Are We in Vietnam? is a function of the
development of recursive thought in prehistoric humankind.  The story about a
schizoid, DJ, would presently be off to Vietnam and Mailer’s attention to what
he perceives to be the motives and actions of the foreign policy of America and
Western expansion, really the tail end of 19th century imperialism let us not
forget, as a political ethos.  Mailer recursively glosses the major crises he finds
in the modern world in order to bore deeper for knowledge of self and society
which was mirrored in reality by his active participation in national events
including involvement in political life albeit unsuccessfully.  Also recursively it
is said that Mailer was an observer of himself observing major public events in
the US.  But then I shall discontinue on this line of thought since you are unable
to fathom what exactly it is I am talking about and since I slather around in
lard, I will slather on outta here.

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By garth, March 1, 2010 at 4:42 pm Link to this comment

By Shenonymous, March 1 at 7:55 pm #


Good thing Tony is dead, garth, for I’d kick him in the groin with my pseudo-intellectual boots.
————————————

I don’t think you could’ve lifted your boots with your lard encased feet that high.

Anyhoo, nice work on wikipedia with recursive language. As for it’s relation to war, you might try reading, “Why We Are in Vietnam” by Norman Mailer.  Note the title is not, “Why Are We in Vietnam.” 
For some black-hole intellectual like you it might not mean much, but since it was written by Mailer, an intellectual himself, it might have a shot at someting getting through.

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By Shenonymous, March 1, 2010 at 3:55 pm Link to this comment

Good thing Tony is dead, garth, for I’d kick him in the groin with my pseudo-
intellectual boots.  Undoubtedly he died of being kicked in the groin with some
pseudo-intellectual boots?  Aw heck, that’s what boots are for… to kick fools in
the groin.  You talk as if you have much pain in your groin, garth.  Can you still
walk, upright?  I’d wager you are unable to demonstrate what it would be to
demonstrate having a working brain.  You really are tiresome, ho hum, yawn, and
triple infinitely boring.  It must be awful for you to know how awful you are.  To
better understand yourself you might try understanding yourself.  Are you aware
how recursively incoherent your comments are, garth?  M’thinks you try to
degrade me because you feel so inadequate.  Well… you are inadequate.

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