“Paradox is a pointer telling you to look beyond it. If paradoxes bother you, that betrays your deep desire for absolutes.”
Frank Herbert

God Emperor of Dune

some words on philosophy


this excerpt felt more promising when I started reading the article, but I found no satisfaction … except for the trigger point … I feel that, though we may collectively feel we know what’s going on, that it is now how I feel … I feel that we are in an era in which everything is up for grabs … money, law, country, science, society, relationship … there is a more comprehensible list somewhere inside me but I don’t feel like formulating it.

I was also amused by how “scientists struggle to understand how consciousness arises from matter” … that question is valid in a world where matter does not have consciousness … if you change that assumption the question goes away 🙂

Eras in which everything is up for grabs are very rare, and they seem to be highly productive for philosophy. As Gottlieb points out, much of the Western philosophy that still matters to us is the product of just two such eras: Athens in the fifth and fourth centuries B.C. and Western Europe in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries A.D.

It is hard for us to comprehend how totally Western consciousness was transformed during the second of these two periods, precisely because we live in its aftermath. In just a few generations preceding it, every fixed point that had oriented the world for thousands of years began to wobble. The discovery of America destroyed established geography, the Reformation destroyed the established Church, and astronomy destroyed the established cosmos. Everything that educated people believed about reality turned out to be an error or, worse, a lie. It’s impossible to imagine what, if anything, could produce a comparable effect on us today. Even the discovery of alien life in the universe wouldn’t do it, since we have long learned to expect such a discovery, whereas medieval Europeans could never have anticipated the existence of America, or of electricity.

Philosophers are people who, for some reason—Plato called it the sense of wonder—feel compelled to make the obvious strange. When they try to communicate that basic, pervasive strangeness or wonder to other people, they usually find that the other people don’t like it. Sometimes, as with Socrates, they like it so little that they put the philosopher to death. More often, however, they just ignore him.

Even today, cognitive scientists struggle to understand how consciousness arises from matter, though few doubt that it does.

… One of the most popular names for the unexplainable is God: God is how we answer questions about creation and purpose that we can’t answer in any other way. Certainly, both Descartes and Leibniz relied on God to balance the equation of the universe. Without him, they believed, the world did not make sense. The philosophers’ God was not necessarily identical to the God of Christianity, but he had some reassuringly familiar attributes, such as beneficence and providential oversight of the world.

… Spinoza made God so crucial to the world that the distinction between the two collapsed. There could not be two substances in the universe, Spinoza argued, one physical and the other divine, since this involved a logical contradiction. If God and Nature were distinct, then it must be the case that Nature had some qualities that God lacked, and the idea of a supreme being lacking anything was incoherent. It follows that God and Nature are just two names for the same thing, the Being that comprises everything that ever existed or ever will exist.



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