Wednesday, July 20, 2011


"Good sense is, of all things among men, equally distributed; for every one thinks himself so abundantly provided with it, that those even who are the most difficult to satisfy in everything else, do not usually desire a larger measure of this quality than they already possess." Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking Truth in the Sciences

"...that the perusal of all excellent books is, as it were, to interview with the noblest men of past ages, who have written them, and even a studied interview, in which are discovered to us only their choicest thoughts." ibid

"For to hold converse with those of other ages and to travel, are almost the same thing." ibid

"I revered our theology, and aspired as much as any one to reach heaven: but being given assuredly to understand that the way is not less open to the most ignorant than to the most learned, and that the revealed truths which lead to heaven are above our comprehension, I did not presume to subject them to the impotency of my reason; and I thought that in order competently to undertake their examination, there was need of some special help from heaven, and of being more than man." ibid

"In the same way I fancied that those nations which, starting from a semi-barbarous state and advancing to civilization by slow degrees, have had their laws successively determined, and, as it were, forced upon them simply by experience of the hurtfulness of particular crimes and disputes, would by this process come to be possessed of less perfect institutions than those which, from the commencement of their association as communities, have followed the appointments of some wise legislator... "I believe that the pre-eminence of Sparta was due not to the goodness of each of its laws in particular, for many of these were very strange, and even opposed to good morals, but to the circumstance that, originated by a single individual, they all tended to a single end." ibid

"... the circumstance that in dress itself the fashion which pleased us ten years ago, and which may again, perhaps, be received into favor before ten years have gone, appears to us at this moment extravagant and ridiculous. I was thus led to infer that the ground of our opinions is far more custom and example than any certain knowledge. Faced with this divergence of opinion, I could not accept the testimony of the majority, for I thought it worthless as a proof of anything somewhat difficult to discover, since it is much more likely that a single man will have discovered it than a whole people." ibid

"Those long chains of reasoning, so simple and easy, which enabled the geometricians to reach the most difficult demonstrations, had made me wonder whether all things knowable to men might not fall into a similar logical sequence." ibid

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Salman Rushdie

“I must work fast, faster than Scheherazade, if I am to end up meaning—yes, meaning—something. I admit it: above all things, I fear absurdity.” – ‘Saleem Sinai’ in Midnight’s Children

“One Kashmiri morning in the early spring of 1915, my grandfather Aadam Aziz hit his nose against a frost-hardened tussock of earth while attempting to pray. Three drops of blood plopped out of his left nostril, hardened instantly in the brittle air and lay before his eyes on the prayer-mat, transformed into rubies. Lurching back until he knelt with his head once more upright, he found that the tears which had sprung to his eyes had solidified, too; and at that moment, as he brushed diamonds contemptuously from his lashes, he resolved never again to kiss earth for any god or man. This decision, however, made a hole in him, a vacancy in a vital inner chamber, leaving him vulnerable to women and history. Unaware of this at first, despite his recently completed medical training, he stood up, rolled the prayer-mat into a thick cheroot, and holding it under his right arm surveyed the valley through clear, diamond-free eyes.” – ‘Saleem Sinai’ in Midnight’s Children

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brian Masters

"The explanation for the crime is simple; it is that the sun was burning Meursault's eyes, branding his forehead, and distorting his vision. As for the reason why he shot the Arab, there simply is none. Meursault's story reminds us that there need not be a reason for everything. Hence Camus's scrupulous avoidance of causal connections in Meursault's vocabulary." - Brian Masters (Camus: A Study, 1974)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bryan Magee

"After a lot of puzzling about this I began to think that perhaps my key mistake was to suppose that what I couldn't concieve of couldn't be. Perhaps there was a difference between what I could think and what could be the case." (Confessions of a Philosopher, 1997)

"To none of these [philisophical] questions would the existence of a God have constituted an answer, and I never felt any inclination, no matter as how young a child, to believe in one... The postulation of a God seemed to me a cop-out, a refusal to take serious problems seriously; a facile, groundless and above all evasive response to deeply disturbing difficulties: it welcomed the self-comforting delusion that we know what we do not know, and have answers that we do not have, thereby denying the true mysteriousness, indeed miraculousness, of what is." (ibid)

"In it [Karl Popper's The Logic of Scientific Discovery] there were many criticisms of logical positivism...but its central and most devestating one was that logical positivism claimed to be first and foremost a scientific view of the world, and yet its central tenet, the Verification Principle, wiped out the whole of science. This criticism, if clinched--and few people today would deny that Popper' book pretty well clinched it--spelled total shipwreck for logical positivism...The only thing that discussion of the meaning of words extends our understanding of is the meaning of words: it does nothing, or next to nothing, to extend our understanding of non-linguistic reality. ..He saw that although unrestrictedly general empirical statements are not verifiable they are falsifiable...This means that scientific laws, although not verifiable, are falsifiable, and that means they can be tested... To count as scientific, a theory must be empirically testable, and since the only form of testing that is logically possible is falsification this means that only statements that are empirically falsifiable can have scientific status. Empirical falsifiability, he concluded, was the criterion of demarcation between science and non-science." (ibid)

"Wishful thinking is incompatible with serious thinking, and anyone who goes in for it is refusing to take part in the pursuit of truth." (ibid)

"As an education in the ways of the world, especially in the more brutal of life's realities, there is no book to surpass it [Machiavelli's The Prince]." (ibid)

"Most of Das Kapital is a history of the Industrial Revolution in England; but it is an argued history, expounding to make a case. I did not emerge a from my reading of it a Marxist: I saw straight away that the Labour Theory of Value, which Marx himself makes foundational to his system, was a metaphysical concept without any real content; and I also rejected from the beginning his belief in the scientific predictability of historical change. Nevertheless my thinking was greatly influenced by Marx; and although that influence diminished the more I thought about his work, it has never disappeared--and nor would I wish it to, for in my opinion he offers insights which are of permanent value. He is also a magnificent writer, full of character--if overly judgmental, Jehovah-like in his wrath and judgment...The world is a different place because of him, not only objectively but also in the way we look at it." (ibid)

"...the unfortunate truth is that all but a handful of people are narrowly provincial in time." (ibid)

"At that level it [quality philosophy] does, I now believe, stand close to great art among the most valuable and important of human concerns, and for a similar reason: both are truth-seeking activities pursued at the deepest level that human beings are capable of penetrating to. Both are trying to see into the ultimate nature of things, the ultimate mystery of existence; and if they fail it is only at the limits of human understanding that they fail. As Schopenhauer put it, the philosopher is doing in abstracto what the artist is doing in concreto." (ibid)

"The greatest gift a formal education can bestow is to develop in us a conception of the world that is not merely an enlargement of our own viewz and attitudes and interests and assumptions; and in the nature of the case we are not able to do this without help from others who are free of our limitations. But from this, alas, it follows that the self-educated can never be more than half-educated, a regrettable but inescapable fact." (ibid)

Albert Camus

"Il n'y a pas amour de vivre sans d├ęsespoir de vivre." - "There is no love of life without despair of life." (L'Envers et L'Endroit, 1937)

"At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise. The primitive hostility of the world rises up to face us across millennia." (The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942)

"The absurd is essentially a divorce. It lies in neither of the elements compared [an irrational universe and the human need for reason]; it is born of their confrontation." (The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942)

"There is a difference between deciding that life is meaningless and deciding that it is not worth living; indeed, Camus's whole work is a clarification of that difference." (Camus: A Study, 1974)

"If this myth is tragic, that is because its hero is conscious. Where would his torture be, indeed, if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him? The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks and his fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus, proletarian of the gods, powerless and rebellious, knows the whole extent of his wretched condition; it is what he thinks of during his descent. The lucidity that was to constitute torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn." (The Myth of Sisyphus, 1942)

"I have simply understood that there is only one way to make oneself equal to the gods: you must be as cruel as they are." - Caligula (Caligula, 1944)

"All our troubles spring from our failure to use plain, clean-cut language. So I resolved always to speak, and to act, quite clearly." - Tarrou (The Plague, 1948)

"Well, personally, I've seen enough of people who die for an idea. I don't believe in heroism; I know it's easy and I've learnt it can be murderous. What interests me is living and dying for what one loves." - Rambert (The Plague, 1948)

"But now that I've seen what I have seen, I know that I belong here whether I want it or not. This business is everybody's business." - Rambert (The Plague, 1948)

"When innocence has its face smashed, a good Christian must either lose his faith or accept smashed faces." - Tarrou (The Plague, 1948)

"If there is a sin against life, it is perhaps not so much to despair of it, but to hope for another life, and thus rob oneself of the implacable grandeur of the life we have." - Albert Camus

"If Christianity is pessimistic as to man, it is optimistic as to human destiny. Well, I can say that, pessimistic as to human destiny, I am optimistic as to man." - Albert Camus

"The consequence of rebellion, on the contrary, is to refuse to legitimize murder because rebellion, in principle, is a protest against death." (The Rebel, 1954)

"at least one part of realism is necessary to every ethic: unadulterated virtue, pure and simple, is homicidal. On the other hand, there must be a part of ethics in all realism, for pure cynicism can also be murderous." (The Rebel, 1954)

For years now, every time I hear a political speech, I am frightened because I hear nothing which sounds human. They are always the same words telling the same lies." (Carnets)

"When a worker shakes his naked fist at a tank and cries that he is not a slave, what are we if we remain indifferent." - Albert Camus in speech regarding 1953 Berlin Uprising (1953)